For whatever reason, Jerusalem is as important today as it has been for at least three thousand years – when David made it the city of monotheistic people like us.
For while Jerusalem has always been a small city, having no great resources, no great port, and never having been the capitol of any truly significant empire, it has always remained important in being at the crossroads.
A crossroads between the world of men and their funny little gods, and the world of God and his funny little men.
It is fascinating to me that our ancient gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ began its life in such a place.
A place which itself marked a crossroads. A crossroads which itself was marked by a cross.
A cross which bore a man. A man his followers’ saw to be the fulfillment of all that Yahweh had ever said. A man so good that some wondered out loud if he really was real – even before he was crucified.
It is fascinating to me that our family of the Holy Spirit — began not in a place which no longer exists, but in a place which still exists in much the same way it always has.
As if in some mysterious way that unpeaceful city is a living sign that our human condition isn’t different today than it ever has been.
An eternally torn city which cries out, “We’re still us, and we’re still here, and we cannot save ourselves.”
And it’s true.
Our church was born below a cross, in a crossroads of time and space. In that first time when the people of the world were beginning to understand what we now know for sure: The Human Race is bigger than one self, bigger than one family, bigger than one village, bigger than one tribe, and bigger than one civilization.
In the second chapter of Acts we are told that the believers which gathered to hear Peter speak in Jerusalem came from 17 different nations.
People from what Africa , Asia and Europe .
How cool is that?
How cool is that: to think that in his lifetime Jesus had a bigger vision of the scope of humanity than we modern people might typically expect from an ancient villager.
How cool is that: that Jesus the Man would have seen the many faces of humanity while he lived, so that when he died on the cross, he would have known that his sacrifice was for all of us – not just people who looked like himself.
Yes, Jesus knew what the word “universal” meant – not just in the abstract mind of a God-Man, but from the everyday experience of a citizen of this World. And so did his earliest followers.
From the beginning they understood that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was bigger than “just a Jewish thing.”
It was bigger than just a “ Western Asia thing.”
It was bigger than just a “First Century thing.”
They knew that this Good News wasn’t just for them alone.
They knew that Jesus Christ was to be the light to enlighten the nations, and that their JOB, their VOCATION, was to spread that light.
And they knew it because – well – that is what Jesus commissioned them to do.
Yes he did.
Now many folks doubt whether this all really happened. Whether any of this Easter stuff is the real deal.
Well, despite the doubts I often feel, as a citizen of this highly skeptical Western empire we call “the Modern World,” I truly do believe that the most honest explanation for what really happened in those days after Easter morning was that Jesus did in fact appear to them. That He did in fact communicate with them in a real way. And that He did in fact send those early believers off into the world to spread the peace and spirit of the One True God.
The more I study the holy scriptures, and study about the holy scriptures, and study about the history of the men and women who dedicated entire lives to the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the more I hear the song of the Holy Spirit in my own heart of prayer and contemplation – the more I have to accept that this stuff is True.
Indeed, it is Truth.
Now many of us are like Pilate. We say to ourselves and to one another, “What is Truth?” As if we doubt whether even the Truth itself can exist.
And of course many of us are delusional. We are needy and we want to think positively, and we do have a desire to believe that extraordinary things are possible.
And yet, while all of these caveats are true, if you’re at all like me, you also say to yourselves and to one another, “Yes, but there must be Truth.” There must be something which simply Is. And which not only Is, but gives essence to everything else which is. There really must be some ground to this universe.
Well, I believe that there is such a thing as Truth.
I believe that there is such a thing as truth-telling.
And I accept that there is such a thing as mystery.
I have come to testify today on behalf of Jesus that this Good News of his is not something that was merely invented in a period of religious hallucination by good hearted people a long time ago.
It is not something that was merely built up over time, layer upon layer by men and women of kind spirit.
It simply is what happened. It simply is what is still happening.
And while religion comes and goes; while language itself comes and goes; and while puritans, preachers, and popes will all go into the ground; before all things were, God Is.
I believe that in the mysterious but still human person of Jesus Christ, God Came To Be With Us.
And while Jerusalem may still be a political cornerstone for world peace, the cornerstone of eternal peace is the Son of the God of Peace who died on a cross, in a crossroads town.
While I always hesitate to blindly accept things people say are true — my spiritual blindness has been overwhelmed by the testified vision of millions of people, through thousands of years in hundreds of languages; who are all saying the same thing:
“Behold: God came to be one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In accordance with the prophets of Israel , he was born, lived and died as the Truly Good Man, in obedience to the loving mind and will of God. In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus offers the most perfect understanding that humans can ever have — of what the immortal and invisible God of love is really all about. And in Him we can not only begin to understand but also share in the mind and life of God … in a process which starts today, and goes on, like God, forever.”
My friends, Richmond may or may not be at the crossroads of this world. But you and I are at the crossroads of these worlds.
Therefore it matters very much whether or not we choose to translate what we have come to know about the living God not only for our own use as individuals, but for the rest of the world: a world which is desperately lacking in peace, love, truth, healing, and reconciliation.
You who have met the risen Lord, by whatever means you have, to whatever degree you have, look at his Good News today.
He is saying to You: Receive the Holy Spirit; Go out there and be my agent in the world; Forgive one another – use the power of Grace and heal; And as you do, breathe my Spirit on others, as I have breathed it on you.”