A Word from Joel - July 10, 2024

“Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David…David occupied the stronghold and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him.” 
2 Samuel 5:7, 9-10

This is the very first utterance in scripture of the word “Zion.” The story of Zion ends
better than it begins, which is something we can say about the Biblical narrative as a
whole. The Bible is not a story about getting back to the way things used to be. It’s a
story about moving toward a future that is better than anything we’ve known thus far.
The God of scripture is not nostalgic for days gone by but is instead leading us toward a
future in which everyone belongs.

When David takes Jerusalem, there were people already living there. This is a theme
that comes up again and again in the Bible and throughout history to the present day,
that people who believe they’ve been chosen by God conquer, displace, and diminish
the humanity of indigenous people. It’s not enough to defeat them, the winners
dehumanize and seek to annihilate them. Another word for this is genocide. Whether it’s
the Canaanites of ancient Israel, the Jebusites in Jerusalem, the native Americans in
our country, Rwandans in the 1990s, Jews throughout history, most horrifically in the
Holocaust, or the war in Gaza right now, the pattern is eerily similar. It keeps repeating
itself only with different characters. Can we change this story and live into a better one?
The story of Zion begins in bloodshed and exclusion, but it’s also the site of Israel’s
golden years until the Babylonian exile. Then in repentance and humility, the prophets
paint a vision of a future Zion where old wrongs are righted, and everyone belongs.
Jesus picks up on this prophetic vision. Jesus isn’t seeking to restore the good old days
of David. Rather he pushes us forward to a day when religion is no longer an excuse to
kill and exclude but rather a source of unity and blessing for all people.

How do we get there? That is the question of our time. How do we get to a future where
oppression ceases, and everyone belongs? Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveal
that you cannot get there through more violence and exclusion. We’ve tried that path,
and it never works. The only way forward is through inclusion, forgiveness and love not
just for the people like you but for people unlike you, even for your enemies. It’s a
radical vision that few people embrace. Even those of us who call ourselves followers of
Jesus rarely commit to his way of love. But it’s not too late. Though we resist giving up
the ways of violence, exclusion, and genocide, God remains committed to freeing us
from these destructive ways and dwelling with us. Our hope is not a restoration of days
gone by but a future of mutual liberation, and God is pulling us toward that day.

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