Zionistas Meet Judsonistas

Ancient Testimony - Isaiah 2:1-5

December 12, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

We are in a life and death struggle between the forces of flow and the forces of fortress, which makes today a great day for a sermon on Zion.  Not the Zion of Zionism but of Zionistas: those who really mean it when we say we want water to flow in the desert.

We start by understanding what scripture means by Zion.  Originally, it meant sayon, or a place of dryness—and into this place came the great fantasy rivers, the waters of which converged to care for the people of the desert.  “Zion” changed over time and usage to mean a physical place, Jerusalem, and then became the land of Israel.  Even in Jerusalem today, any guide will tell you that Zion is in the holy of holies of the Temple Mount unless it is actually on a small hill to the south thereof.  In other words, when Zion is conceived as a physical place, it tends to cause a lot of contention and trouble.  When Zion is understood more spiritually, let’s say in the way of the Kabbalah, it is a spiritual point from which reality emerges.  For those who follow our kind of Zionist faith, we side with the Kabbalah.  We know there was a place of dryness and we know the waters showed up.  God provided.  God converged and flowed water to the desert.  When mocked by our oppressors, Zionistas sing the great song at the river of Babylon.  Come on, they say, Sing us one of the great songs of Zion.  But how can we, we respond?  Zion is the longing of a wandering people for a safe homeland.  It is not a place to be defended but a spirit to be experienced.  Moreover, Zion is any place that is perfect or ideal in its dealings with its people and its God.  You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionista, one who longs for perfect dealings with others and with God.  You also don’t have to be Christian to understand the meaning of a living stone or a corner stone, which is the way Christians move the word Zion along.  From the convergence of the great rivers, to Jerusalem, to the people and land of Israel, it is now the experience of Jesus, the presumed Messiah, the one who is a living stone, not one that can be fortressed or defended in any way.  So if you want to understand Zion, be very careful not to let it be any one place.  If you want to understand Zion, understand just how thirsty you are for right relationship with God and each other.

Today is a good day for Zionistas.  The thirst is powerful.  The wrong relationships are in abundance.  Hearts break, as Elizabeth Edwards dies young of breast cancer.  We also break because she was done wrong.  We are forced to remember the Supreme Court 5-4 decision which made George Bush the president.  Wronged relationships abound.  We even have anniversaries for them.  Then there are WikiLeaks.  And tax cuts going to the same people who want to decrease the deficit.  Rumblings of nuclear power in Korea and Pakistan.  Ongoing war in Afghanistan.  The defeat of the defeat of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, for now.  Defeat of the Dream Act, for now.  Return of deportations to Haiti, where a cholera epidemic is so severe that Sarah Palin has made an inspirational appearance.  Haiti joins the United States in experiencing a serious political impasse.  Leadership doesn’t lead.  We also have climate change inaction in Mexico.  Pam Geller arrived in Manhattan on Tuesday to tell downtown that we need a Walmart and not a community center near Ground Zero.  Many of our friends are in full silo, full exasperation, shaking our heads while protecting our hearts with as much numbness as we can find.  These are not the habits of Zionistas or Judsonistas, but they are certainly in full flower.  The words overwhelmed and defeated come to mind. And we find it very easy to identify with the wandering Israelites who were desperately afraid that their God was a loser God.  They became so desperately afraid that they began to misinterpret Zion as a place of fortress.  We need to be very careful that we keep the stone living and not become people of the stacked stone.

War is what Zionism does.  It decides to protect what little water it has.  It stops the great flow of the great rivers to all the earth.  You can be a Chinese Zionist or an American Zionist or a Judsonite Zionist.  You can stop the word of God in its track and hunker down.  Evidence?  Empty chairs at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony as an activist continues to languish in jail, suffering the fact that his protest caused the death of many others.  Perhaps he understands the price of justice in an oppressive world better than most?  Perhaps he understands Christmas, when Jesus comes to challenge the way the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?  How the strong have power that they don’t mind using against the weak?  How isms—whether they be capitalism or socialism or communism—think they are in charge of people?  Christmas comes along to say, no, the powerful are not in charge; the vulnerable are.

We seem to be over the pat down crisis of last weekend, which is a mercy.  As Malcolm Muggeridge said in 1966, “In the eyes of posterity it will inevitably seem that, in safeguarding our freedom, we destroyed it.”  Zionistas understand.  We see how Zion took over as an idea that needed to be protected rather than a stream of connection needing to be joined.

Rather than let Christmas be a sacred blur, as the isms pound their lies into our minds and bodies, we might instead remind ourselves today of what Zion really means. It is the convergence of the great rivers.  It is the flow of God’s power to God’s people.  Nothing is more important than that flow.  When it is stopped in wrong relationship with each other and with the divine, catastrophe results.  Koreans think about bombs and Pakistanis do the same.  Afghanis stone women… and I do mean stone.  They apparently have forgotten the Living Zone, which is God’s hope for all people.  By the way, the cornerstone, the living stone, doesn’t have to be Jesus; instead, it can be the flow of the great rivers to the desert.  Having said that, there is no reason to apologize for Jesus.  He is one flow of the great rightness of relationship.

Three action steps and I am done.  One way to stick with the flow is to practice kindness. Kindness, says Barbara Taylor, is the ability to bear the vulnerability of others, and therefore of oneself.  Be kind.

Second, pay attention to the hive, and open the hive to more and more participation.  Why?  Because when you close down the hive, you not only kill it, you start to build a fortress.  You become a dead stone in a desert that will soon kill you as well.  Pay attention to the hive.

Finally, if kindness and hive are not enough for you, and you want to think longer-term, do this: imagine yourself the keeper of great seeds.  Heirloom seeds.  The kinds that the fortress people are destroying in their sick hopes to protect themselves and their kind.  As Dan Barber said to Krista Tippett this morning, “Select and preserve seeds for flavor.”  Do that agriculturally, politically, economically, and spiritually.  Select for flavor.

What Zionistas do is trust the flow.  We take the longest, most convergent view.  We dare to see links and patterns where people say there are none.  When we watch the water flow, we remember just how glad we are that Jesus was born.

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