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The Jerusalem we can all call home

At a time when the concept of “home” is too often fraught with conflict, as in Jerusalem today, today’s contributor reflects on the idea of a deeper sense of home we each share with all humanity.

Coming home to a place of safety, comfort, and belonging is one of life’s most precious feelings, a feeling that’s universally recognized and valued. But what if one person’s sense of home seems to clash with another’s?

I was thinking about that while listening to the glorious words of a song performed a cappella by a group of Jewish men filmed singing on a hilltop in Israel:

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“We’ve come home
We’ve come home
To a land of our own
After 2000 years, we are home.”
(Kippalive, “We are home”)

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It’s hard not to feel a resonance with these simple words if, like me, you have Jewish parents who described not having a “home” called Israel to flee to when faced with the approaching Holocaust in pre-World War II Berlin.

But then I try to mentally put myself in the shoes of Palestinians in Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank listening to the same song. How would the words resonate with them? Clearly, the Jewish people aren’t the only ones with a heartfelt sense of attachment to the Holy Land, especially when it comes to Jerusalem. Christian and Muslim Arabs have lived there for generations. And, as a Jewish scholar recently put it, Jerusalem is also “a spiritual home for Christians and Muslims worldwide” (Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr, “Jerusalem,” Dec. 14, 2017, divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/jerusalem).

Over the years, I’ve found prayer to be a helpful, healing approach during times of tribulation. So I’ve been praying about this sense of conflict surrounding that most precious of things – home – too. There’s a sense of home my heart deeply desires for all to know and experience. It’s a purely spiritual sense, that has no physical location associated with it.

I believe this is the kind of home referred to in the Glossary of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” in which Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, the author of this book, offers a spiritual interpretation of Bible terms. Included there is a spiritual sense of the word “Jerusalem,” which simply says, in part, “Home, heaven” (p. 589).

In writing Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy intended its timeless message to speak to all humanity. So it seems to me that this spiritual sense of Jerusalem is the most profound and tangible experience of feeling “at home” available to any of us: a concrete awareness of unconditional peace and well-being, stemming from our true nature as the cherished, spiritual offspring of divine Love. Each of us can experience this spiritual sense of being at home in eternal Love as we, through prayer, come to realize and feel what it means to be wrapped in God’s care.

When we experience such uplifted thought, it feels like a homecoming – much like in a story I love in the Bible. Christ Jesus tells of a prodigal son who asked his father for his inheritance, which he then wasted (see Luke 15:11-32). Destitute, he humbly returned home, where he was met by his father, who ran to embrace him despite the mistakes he’d made.

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Such spiritual homecomings aren’t a one-time event. Fresh prodigal moments await us whenever our hearts have invested their hope for happiness or health on a material basis, only to find that the well of hope has run dry, still unrealized. Then we humbly seek, and gratefully yield to, God, divine Spirit. Such spiritual stirrings may not be the return to a physical place we’ve dreamed of. But each time we glimpse more of our eternal nature as a child of God, we feel the warm glow of coming home to where we truly, spiritually belong.

Seeing the political, often violent, tumult that continues to occur in the Middle East, it’s tempting to echo a sense of lament. But God’s healing message of love is always coming to all of us (regardless of who we are), urging us to come home to the recognition of our shared dwelling place – in universal, spiritual unity.

Adapted from an editorial in the March 12, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.