With Passover the great story of the Jewish people is recalled one more time. It is a story of bondage and of resistance, and ultimately it is a story of freedom. I love this story. Deeply. Of the stories of our Western religious heritage it is the one I find most tells me who I am, and what I might be.
And I love it even knowing the likelihood that not a word of it is history. The best of contemporary scholarship, at least among those with no dog in the hunt, is that there was no Egyptian captivity, no Moses, no 40 years wandering and no military assault on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Rather more likely there was among other peoples living in that area we now call Israel and Palestine, a rag tag band of refugees from various conflicts and abuses that cobbled together a community in the hill country. A small kingdom grew there, not really a lot different than any of the others in that area. Until, that is, the Babylonian armies marched through. As often happened in those days, we're talking the sixth century before our common era, the conquerors took the cream of the local crop, the artisans, the poets, the intellectuals and carried them captive to Babylon.
It was there, in the Babylonian captivity that they began to weave together the stories we now know as the Exodus. Actually, I love this story even more for not being so much a history lesson as the aspiration, as the dream of a crushed and dominated people seeking an identity and then in that creating out of their own human imaginations and hearts something quite wonderful. And yes, the story has lots of tribal shadows, including dreaming vengeance on their enemies. As something also so human, I find warnings in that for myself, as well.
All together a great song was composed by those waters of Babylon, the beginning of a universal message, a hint at a deepest knowing that in fact, we are all born to some great promise, something beautiful and common. By the shores of the Euphrates they dreamed Zion into being. And then with the fall of Babylon to yet another empire, they returned to that hard land near the Dead Sea, and began a tradition which included in it at first as a very small light, just a flickering candle, really, a dream of human unity before the face of a universal god. Along the way it becomes a song of intimacy.
Which brings me to us, to our liberal religious experience. It is another dreaming of Zion, or rather a continuation, one more step toward a wisdom way for the human heart. But also, I hope we all see our telling of this good news still has the contours of that old Exodus story.
Today I might sing it this way. We're still to some degree in bondage; it seems pretty obvious. Bound by old resentments of wrongs done us, as well as our grasping after things that do not serve, but which we cling to all the same. From that many hurts continue, the bondage of the human heart continues. And at the same time, wonderfully, truthfully, we are already launched on the way to our freedom, toward Zion. We have by grace and our own actions taken those steps toward release from those things that bind us. We are continuing on, making our life a journey, a pilgrimage toward something holy. And in a truest sense of all, we have never been bound. As we look into our heats as they are, we can see all that is necessary for full lives, joyful lives, sacred lives. Everything necessary is already here, right here in mind numbing abundance. We are, in a truest sense possible, already in Zion.
I dream of Zion. We dream of Zion. This dream manifests as a spiritual center, this place, this community, where we can look deep into our hearts, and from which, renewed and inspired, we can act in this world with more skill and grace than would otherwise be possible. We are a rest for the weary, and we are a goad for those who need a push to action.
Our call is to something great, to a new possibility, to a new Zion.
Let us live into that possible world.
Follow James Ishmael Ford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jamesiford