Heart and Stone

StreetofJerusalemSo the Jerusalem scene we are offered in Mark’s Gospel is not so far from home this weekend as violence spreads across the capital of France.  It will only fuel the divisions of East and West.  As Ghandi said:  ‘An eye for an eye leaves us both blind.’  Such violence is also seen on the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere in Palestine, so often, over the setting up of stones.  Stone walls, new settlements, the demolition and re-building of old homes. With each violent act we take another step away from understanding each other and refuse to see our neighbour as our sister and brother.  What is it that they want? Another war?  And what do they want after the war?  And what will they do with those whose determination rises above even their own?  The lights and glamour of the city are bright in the minds of Jesus’ disciples as they exit the temple.  Only Jesus is able to see through the lies that the temple has attempted to sell to them.  There is a way of walking in a city, you may have noticed them, purposeful, focussed and absent.  Do not interrupt my gaze or step in my way.  Whatever city it is, there are those who walk as if they are elsewhere, their destination more important than their surroundings.  And when I have the chance to walk in a city I tend to walk slowly, meandering on purpose.  There is another way to see these stones as we pass them by.  What is it that we don’t see that Jesus does?  Are we able see through the advertising hordings that seek our attention and in every window that we pass?  Must we leave our thoughts behind as we take to the streets?  So many stones, so many buildings so many walls, so many opportunities to cover the reality with offers of unrealistic dreams.  The cries of those in need diminished in our minds by these bright stones.  As the disciples leave the temple the bright stones catch their attention and the injustice they have just witnessed inside slips their mind.  For Jesus, these stones are temporary, an earthly establishment.  The Kingdom of God is permanent and it is a kingdom of the heart.  These stones will fall away, but the heart will endure forever.  You can hear the cry of the city if you train your ears and eyes to go beyond the bright lights clamouring for our attention.  We need a guide.  We need a Mis-Guide.  You can buy a mis-guide to Exeter.  It allows you to explore that city in exceptional ways and shows you places and things you would never have seen following the traditional tourist route.  So successful it was, they produced the Mis-Guide to Anywhere.  A friend bought me a copy a few years ago.  It mis-guides you around, exploring your own place in creative ways.  Let the children decide the route of your meandering or superimpose the map of one place over another, following the wrong map in the right place.  These things help us to break our normal focus.  They lead us on paths untrodden.  They may enable us to see our place through the eyes of another, and perhaps through the eyes of Jesus.  In solidarity with the people of Paris, perhaps we ought to superimpose a map of Paris or a map of Jerusalem over our valley and walk to each of the points where blood was shed and violence happened and to pray for the peace of Paris and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as we pray for peace in our hearts.  And these stones will fall away as the bright lights become dim and the truth is left before us.  So much that we are shown is not the truth.  Jesus saw it in the temple.  Saw it for what it was.  An opiate for the people, to subdue them as much as the Roman occupation subdued the people in the land they occupied by allowing them to retain and practice their religion.  So too, the ruling class held the people under their domination and treated them as second class.  Oscar Wilde is reputed to have said:  ‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.  The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.’  If only we might allow ourselves to be guided in order to see it. But Jesus saw it, and saw that the temple was where the power and domination was held.  With the devastating non-violence of the events of Good Friday he overturned their systems of injustice and exposed the heart of stone and exchanged it for a heart of love.

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