I turned 20 in 1972. Somehow, in that year of moving out of my teens, I must have felt some necessary transition. Whatever the cause, I got the urge to read all the way through the Bible, cover to cover: the creation myths; the twists and turns of Old Testament characters; the tortuous law; the romances; Psalms and the wisdom literature; the histories; the prophets, great and small; the gospels, letters and finally that wild apocalypse at the end. What a slug it seemed at the time!
There were ups and downs of interest. I know I spent a lot of time in Proverbs, punctuated with prayers for wisdom. I have always been blown away by the crystal calls to social justice of the minor prophets, especially Amos. And Paul’s ego was very annoying (Was I struggling with my own?). But I will never forget that one particular passage captured me and brought me home.
Somewhere in the middle of Jeremiah, there are several chapters sometimes referred to as The Little Book of Comfort. In chapter 31: 33-34 it says:
33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts . . . No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord (read Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source),’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Something in those words gripped my soul.
Hebrew scripture was written, of course, for the Hebrew people from a particular cultural and historical perspective. It has the trappings of time and place and the personal limitations of any individual author. But like all good scripture, the universal Truth of it breaks out of those limitations and speaks where and when it will.
We live in a time that demands that breaking out. Few in the postmodern world can accept or live entirely or exclusively within the narrow strictures of any particular religious tradition. We are simply too aware of the variety of paths, the spiritual journey of all the great traditions. We are cognizant of the human and institutional flaws that have inevitably tainted each – the flaws that reflect, simply, the struggle of our own hearts, the urge of ego toward power and domination through intimidation, force and fear. We may choose to live in one house, but we will be engaging, dialoging and welcoming across the global community.
And on any given day, in any given body of scripture, when we mine with an open heart, the gems show themselves. Somehow when I encountered this diamond, I knew I had found my home – or, of course, it had found me. Somehow the vision and realization that words don’t matter; that names for Creator/Spirit/Mind/Source are inconsequential; that our hearts at their core are true beyond teaching and language; somehow that message took me completely apart and put me back together, all in an instant.
Humpty Dumpty, of course, has fallen off the wall many times – at least daily – since that encounter. But hold back the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Let me fall. Let us all fall until the last speck of clay is shattered and polished off that diamond of our hearts, and all that is left are the words love, justice, peace and compassion, shining with gentle brilliant welcome, reaching beyond voice to all we encounter.
There is fruit on the Tree of Life. Its bark is studded with diamonds, a gem in every leaf.
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