This week, as we entered a week deemed Holy by both Jews and Christians, I prepared my home for Passover and The Feast of Unleavened Bread. I thought a lot as I cleared yeast from my home.
It was just about this time last year when we decided to step away from our synagogue for a time and go on sabbatical. I've shared briefly about that time with you all. At the end of what turned out to be 70 days of time spent in deep prayer, study and continual seeking, we were asked to step away permanently. We were hurt and shocked and angry at the time. We didn't see how on earth something that could be so hurtful could be an answer to earnest and heartfelt prayer. Hurt, after praying as deeply as we'd done, is always a time of testing. We had to grow up fast, beyond our hurt and repeat several times daily : "I don't understand, but I will trust You." And it meant we had to stop being emotional and look rationally at what had taken place and why.
In the end, this time has proven to be an enormous blessing. Yes, really. Despite the hurt, despite the losses we gained so much more. We've had a marvelous year in so many ways, both spiritually and personally speaking.
The night before we received our answer, I was awake in the wee hours of morning. Not unusual, except this particular time I could not go back to sleep. Instead I got up and began to write in my journal about the sabbatical, about going back to synagogue, about a visit that had been requested unexpectedly and in an unpleasant sort of way. As I wrote that morning, I could see Christ hanging on the cross, beaten, bloodied, dying for me. And yet, while He hung there, the vision changed. I began to see what Christ had really done in His time of ministry. He'd shaken the very foundations of formally organized 'religion' and made it plain that there was a huge difference between the legalistic views of man and the faith filled walk of a man who loved God as Father. Breaking boundaries that divided man from God and opening the pathways to a personal relationship, that was what Jesus was all about. He'd hung Religion on that cross to die...Faith wasn't, it isn't, about corporate worship, though there are many churches of many denominations who would have you believe that is so. That was a huge revelation to me and it shook me up as well. It is a far more radical thought than any I'd ever had before.
I am not about to bash church, synagogue or any denomination. Just because we humans lose sight of what it's all about doesn't mean that it's useless. It just means that we might misuse it for our own purpose, our own agenda. And that includes the clergy, the rabbi, the pastor who are also human, stumbling along in their own faith walk. Christianity is about forgiveness, about loving others, about coming to God as an individual and then sharing that same communion of Spirit with others who are in or beginning the same relationship with God.
This past week a group of women and I had a discussion about why I was doing the things I did for this Holy Week. We each shared what we believed, what we gained from interpretation of scripture and so on. We didn't agree 100%. We are of several different denominations, but we grasped one thing solidly. In the end, it was a time of realization for us all that at the root of what we do, why we live as we believe, is Jesus Christ. That one fact was the root from which we all grew in our own faith walk, different as they were. And that, I think, is just what Jesus Christ intended.