Stone by Stone

The stones of this place are amazing. The history practically leaps out of them. From the time of the patriarchs and matriarchs and prophets to the time of Jesus, and down through centuries of one Empire and nation after another, there are stones to mark each and every transfer of power. It's an impressive city, one that inspired to the heights and depths of emotion and faith. It's all so remarkable, all so seemingly eternal, and yet all so truly temporary.

Jesus said as much as he stood in front of the Temple with the disciples. They were going on and on about how amazing and intricate it all was, when he commented, "The days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

Christians through the centuries have understood this statement as his prediction of the Temple's destruction in the year 70 when the Emperor Titus carried out the demolition as punishment for what is called the Great Jewish Revolt. And that may be true - the Temple had already been destroyed once already, when the ancient Israelite kingdom had been conquered by the Babylonians. There had been several rebellions against Roman rule already, and Jesus knew what the Romans were capable of. But I think that there's a more permanent meaning to this observation.

Layer after layer of history fills this place. Politics often works to prioritize one layer over another, but the one enduring truth is that every layer has been followed by another. That is no less true of the present as it was in the past.

That's not an excuse for inaction, a justification for passivity, simply because injustice and evil are the one thing that seem to be consistent. Instead, it should be the very encouragement we need to build something more permanent. As a Christian, I call it by the name of the kingdom of God. But unlike any earthly kingdom, unlike a theocracy, this building is made of living stones, the people of this place so full of horror and wonder.

We have spent ten days as a group building those relationships with each other. I hope that we have also done the same with the many people with whom we've come in contact. Working for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a noble goal. Endeavoring to end Occupation and terror and to tear down walls is a righteous enterprise. But this is only a start; it is only the strength of living stones knit together that can bring about the peaceable kingdom.

One thing is certain: these walls of dead stone will come down.