Bishop Wright: 0:00
We’ve got to ask ourselves is my heart getting broad or is my heart shrinking? One of the greatest indicators, the best indicators, the clearest indicator that you’re actually in a relationship with this God of all the worlds that we know by many names is is your heart being broadened? Do you have more room in your heart today for people who are different from you, who worship different from you, that love differently than you do? Do you have more or less?
This is For People with Bishop Rob Wright. Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s devotion and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Good morning, bishop.
Bishop Wright: 0:55
Your devotion this week you called irrevocable and it’s based off of Romans, chapter 11, where Jesus is doing a new thing. Paul’s recounting that we do a new thing through Jesus and in your devotion you say Paul’s responding to the question if God is doing a new thing in Jesus, are the people of Israel now replaced and abandoned?
Bishop Wright: 1:25
Yeah, yeah, very timely, huh.
Yeah, like, oh, my goodness gracious, like it actually hit me as it got punched. And today we’re recording on a day that the Episcopal Church and many other churches across the world have called for a time of prayer and fasting. So I’m just curious if we can talk about the new thing and then really turn our attention to what’s going on in today’s time.
Bishop Wright: 1:49
No, the new thing, in a funny way, is the old thing. Right and really quick. What we’re seeing in Gaza, what we’re seeing in Israel, is an old thing, better covered on a 24 hour news cycle, but it’s an old, old thing. This is a sibling rivalry, this is a family dispute, and it always was so. When Paul, a Jew who’s met Christ on a dusty road and whose life has changed, is now saying in his letter to the Romans that the gifts of God to the people of Israel are irrevocable, he’s trying to work with the idea that if God does a new thing, does God abandon the old thing? And there’s a lot to say there, I think, for our purposes and with our time constraints. I think what we need to remember that God can do more than we can ask or imagine, and so it’s almost like sometimes, when we think about God and when we think about God’s way to love and breaths of love, it’s like we think somehow, or we project on to God, that God somehow can’t walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. Right Is that God starts something in a particular way and then that thing begins to grow and to morph, and yet God is intertwined in the whole enterprise. So Father Abraham, as we like to call him, the patriarch of the faiths, abraham, starts a thing because he steps out in faith with God, and out of Abraham, an imperfect being trying to stay in relationship with a wonderful and perfect all-knowing God, ends up being the seed of three Abrahamic faiths right, the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians. And so what we’re seeing today in the news and have seen for many years my whole lifetime, almost 60 years is this family dispute over land, over respecting the dignity of people, of the claims on the land, of who has the truth in terms of the word of God and the revelation of God. And so look what we’re doing to each other in the name of the God of love.
Well, we know, the human family expands even beyond those of the Abrahamic faiths. Right, I just Bishop. It’s a hard thing for me because I, instead of watching the news, I have found myself kind of pulling back.
Bishop Wright: 4:56
I’m actually I’m sorry, it’s hard and emotionally charged, and so I find myself just praying. And then I think to myself oh gosh, but am I shirking responsibility for my human family? What more can I be doing? And then I think to myself well, the problem is is that so many people stick their own noses in other people’s business. So where’s the line, bishop? Where’s the line between putting our faith into action and sticking our head in the sand?
Bishop Wright: 5:36
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, you know we live in an unusual time when the pain and suffering across the world ends up, you know, in our pocket, in our devices or in our television screen as we eat dinner. And so, as Becca Stevens said, a guest on this podcast some time ago, when I, when I start to get sort of immersed globally, you know I begin to be tempted to despair, I’m overwhelmed. But when I begin to think a little bit locally and and see those things that are on the ground, moving, or things that I can actually participate in and make better because of my commitment to God through Christ Jesus, then somehow, you know, the hope thing starts to sort of turn in my gut, and so that’s what I would say. You know, I was with Somaya Khalifa, who’s an Egyptian Muslim here and a leader of the Islamic community in the Metropolitan Atlanta area, the other day, and we were at a benefit for an organization that is deeply committed to increasing the literacy of children in Atlanta’s most impoverished sort of neighborhoods, and that gave me a little bit of hope. In that I was, and there were a lot of words that we exchanged about, you know, what’s going on in the news with Israel and Gaza. There was a just, a knowing embrace and an analogous to our time. We were there to do a good thing, which both of our faiths say we should do, and we were collaborating and bearing witness. As a Christian Muslim, as soon as the strategy and terror strike happened in Israel, I reached out to our friend Rabbi Peter Berg of the temple and, just as a human being just said, I don’t know what it’s like today for you to stand up in front of your congregation and to try to encourage hope and faith and create a space for grief and loss and anger and all of that, but I just want you to know I’m standing with you. So what we can do when we’re tempted to being overwhelmed by these global events is to double down locally, is to find a way to exercise our faith, our compassion, our humanity locally, understanding that you know it’s a big bank account and you can make deposits from any branch, right, you can make deposits from the American branch to this great global bank of goodwill. So that’s what I would say is that you know, if you feel like you’re tempted to being overwhelmed, disoriented, despair, figure out how to shoehorn into your calendar some opportunity for good work along those lines reach out to a Muslim brother or sister, reach out to a Jewish brother or sister, find a way to you know, to do good work and, to you know of goodwill, host a dinner. I mean, I think we’ve seen a killing already in America that we believe is a hate crime a landlord generated violence, stabbed a woman and she’s in critical condition as of this morning and murdered a six-year-old boy because they happen to be Muslim. And so I think what we’ve got to realize is that while this thing, this horrible thing in every dimension, is happening far away, its tentacles are long, and so we really are and have an opportunity to be active wherever we are right now by saying things like what St Paul is saying is that God’s gifts to the Jewish people are irrevocable, and my understanding of God through Christ does not diminish their understanding of the God of Israel and also the God who revealed God’s self to the Prophet Muhammad. And so I think what what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to ask ourselves is my heart getting broad or is my heart shrinking? One of the greatest indicators, the best indicators, the clearest indicator that you’re actually in a relationship with this God of all the worlds that we know by many names is is your heart being broadened? Do you have more room in your heart today for people who are different from you, who worship different from you, that love differently than you do? Do you have more or less? Are you shrinking? Are you expanding? I think this is the question.
Well, it’s a great question, great advice and great wonderings, and we’ll be right back after a short break.
Bishop Wright: 10:26
Hi listeners, thank you for listening to For People. A space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And now back to For People.
Welcome back, bishop. I’m mindful of conflict and oftentimes when, when things do happen on such a large scale and impact so many I mean impact the world over I think people feel like that. They have a personal stake in what’s going on, and you also highlighted that it has long tentacles. I think sometimes we’re apt to join factions, we want to join sides and, as you were talking earlier, it strikes me if we’re not building community, we’re tearing it down. If we’re joining a faction, that means I don’t know that that’s of God, it’s of ourselves, and so I love your suggestion about going local and maybe holding a party and bringing people together of different backgrounds. I don’t know, it was just something that hit me before the break.
Bishop Wright: 11:40
Yeah, I mean hold a prayer party. I mean people love to eat, get some people together for a meal and do nothing but pray. Find a way to give. I mean send some money. I mean, right now we’ve just heard from the Archbishop of Jerusalem and what we know now is that, as Israel endeavors to go into Gaza, there are children who are severely disabled in hospitals and seniors who are in hospitals, who cannot be relocated. And so from our Archbishop, who’s on the ground there, who is not a Jew and who is not a Palestinian, he is saying that there’s great need on the ground and he is saying that it doesn’t fit into neat packages here, right, and so do you have some compassion to find, you know, those in great need? Obviously, there’s great need on every side, but everybody in Gaza is not a criminal and everybody in Israel is not supportive of the notion that we should just bulldoze our Palestinian neighbors. So I think that what we’ve got to do in our community, I think, is to find the middle as much as we can Look. The factions are so tempting, and I think this is one of the reasons why we’ve got to be really asking ourselves, you know, do I love the religion or do I love the God that the religion seeks to uphold? And so, if we love the God, there’s nothing godly about killing innocent people at a rock concert. Neither is there anything godly about bulldozing children with American-made weaponry right in Gaza. So I think what we’ve got to figure out is is that what is godly? And you know, right now, again, my whole lifetime, you know we’re so deep into this scramble and scratch for land and safety. And both, both citizens of Israel and the citizens of Gaza and of Palestine, they both deserve safety, they both deserve security, they both deserve a good night’s sleep, they both deserve, you know, a high quality healthcare. They both, both, both, both, both, both. And somehow, from the very founding and beyond the founding of the state of Israel, you know, the Palestinian people have been diminished, they have been colonized. You know their living looks like more like an open air prison than anything else. And so, you know, while I am completely and categorically against terrorism and all of its functions, I do know that riot and rage are the expressions of the unheard. And you know, I do know that that’s a very sticky, sticky subject. I do know that even President Carter, you know, some years back, wrote a book about this and was roundly criticized, this man that we uphold as fair-minded and wonderful, because if you begin to talk about that, you wade into very polarizing conversations, or potential for polarizing conversations and yet he did a really good job, I think, affirming the fact that Israel deserves safety and security, a place where they can raise children and grandchildren, and there’s just the music of laughter and all the very best things that a nation state and the government can provide, and so do the Palestinians. But somehow, when we say that second part, somehow we get into trouble. And so I think that the people of faith whatever the faith is and of goodwill have got to be as concerned about Palestinian brothers and sisters as they are about our Jewish brothers and sisters, and I think that’s the only way we can go forward is if we’re willing to go. You know, I noticed that we have said you know, in political statements, politicians of every side have said I stand with Israel. It would be a better statement, in my humble opinion, if we said I stand with Israel and I stand with Palestine.
Yeah, yep, I agree.
Bishop Wright: 16:11
Which is not standing with terrorists.
It’s not, it’s not, it’s not, and that’s what breaks my heart. You know you’re right. Again. I’m back to the long tentacles thing. Even many of the colleges I live in Florida and there are Jewish students who have been conscripted to go back to fight. They can’t even finish college because they’re being brought back. And you know there are more Jewish people who live in New York City than they do even in Israel or Jerusalem, at least.
Bishop Wright: 16:44
I just, and yet, and? And we’re not a Christian nation, we’re a nation comprised of so many incredible, wonderful human beings. I, oh my gosh, but the conflict is real. So when you see, when you see people judging a per another person by what’s happening million miles away, it’s just not helpful and it just to me, it compounds the problem and it makes society worse for it. And I think God is crying, god is weeping.
Bishop Wright: 17:19
Well, this is it. And so when you talked about factions, that was such a wonderful word to throw into the mix, because I think it’s we’re all tempted to it. I mean, you know, on the laughable side of things, you know we’re tempted to our own football loyalties. You know, as far as I’m concerned, god roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers and that’s just how it is and that’s funny and that’s playful and we can, we can even bond around that we can have our sort of healthy, you know, sort of disagreements and have some laughter and a slap on the back with that kind of stuff. You know, I’m ex-Navy and so I I’m always texting when army and Navy play with some other friends. Now my son is in the army, so now I got to divide an household, so I got, I got real trouble. But you know, and that’s all fun, but it’s not fun when we’re talking about people’s right to existence, when we’re talking about people’s right to medical care. We’re talking about people’s right to dignity and freedom and access to moving around etc. It’s not funny and it’s not cute at all. And you know, I think this is why you know St Paul. You know, while he has been used by some as as as a support for their anti-Semitism. You know, I don’t see that. I see that. I see St Paul, who was a Jew, and a zealous Jew, when he meets Jesus, the risen Christ, you know, on his road to Damascus. I don’t see him as now saying you know, somehow my Jewish faith is illegitimate. Now I see him having an experience and I see him, through two thirds of the New Testament, trying to articulate this new thing that happened to him, right, and inviting people into that, so so, so, without a very nuanced understanding of that, what we end up in is a religious competition and that gives birth to all the unhealthy sort of versions of how we can be together as human beings. And then there’s the Muslim piece, and then there’s other pieces, and we see this in other quarters of the world and it’s all terribly tragic and God, indeed, must be weeping to think that I am love and this is what my, my beloved human creation has decided. You know, this is how they have decided to be, in response to me, the God of love. Or what they have decided to do is to use me as a foil right For other sort of lustful appetites, lust for land and lust for power and those sorts of things, which is actually, you know, closer to the truth. So what can we do? I think what we can do is and I think this is one of the reasons why I would say that that I can continue, in good faith, to commend a deeper relationship with God, and that is, I want more people to be on God’s side. So if I’m on God’s side, right, if I’m on God’s side even in this conflict right now, if I’m on God’s side, let’s start really, you know, at the in minutiae level, if I’m on God’s side in my marital dispute, then that’s going to create in me a capacity to listen and to hear and to apologize and to make amends right and perhaps change behavior, amend behavior. And if I’m on God’s side you know, at work and there is a coworker or a colleague that I’m having problems with, then, being on God’s side, I get to see, even though I have legitimate disputes, perhaps I get to see the dignity of that person that I struggle to even be cordial to. And if I’m on God’s side, then I’ve got to create in myself the capacity to do God’s sort of conflict, you know process, which is to pray for those right that I struggled to love, pray for those who abuse me, even despitefully, use me, criticize me, if I’m on God’s side. So if I’m on God’s side, right, then I’ve got to hold. You know, we move out to the macro now. Then I’ve got to hold up the dignity of the Jewish people and I’ve got to hold up the dignity of the Palestinian people and I’ve got to figure out, you know, what a two-state solution looks like, whether there are safety, dignity, resources for all. And every time, you know even Jewish people who’ve tried to do that, and Palestinian people. They’ve been killed by their own. Let us not forget that. And so what we know is that you know we’re in a real struggle. No platitudes will do. No platitudes will do. And I think, as I was looking around the internet on Sunday past, you know, I listened to lots of really eloquent, articulate people. Preachers struggle, struggle to make any sense, you know, because platitudes and niceties will not do. This is a blood dispute and sadly, I think it’s going to cost us more suffering and more blood before we can get to a place where we might be able to finally have a conversation. So what breaks my heart is terrorism in all its forms, and what breaks my heart is that there are people who think that terrorism is their only way to be heard. And what breaks my heart is to think about Jewish and Palestinian children now who, because of this, are going to be set at odds for another generation Right. What breaks my heart is to think that now, when Israel uses its immense strength, largely supplied by American resources and American weaponry, it’s going to roll into Gaza and even those Palestinians who were not formally a part of Hamas will now be recruited for Hamas, because Hamas will say look at the brutality. And the cycle goes on and on and on again. So I think where we are now really is if we have the courage to stare it right in its face is we’re just in the midst of a heartbreak. And for, I mean, who am I? But for Netanyahu to say we’re going to eradicate Hamas? It makes for fine rhetoric, but it’s ridiculous on the ground and practically and we learn this with the Taliban it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. Why not choose another goal? Why not choose something that would really distinguish that land, both sides of those fences, as holy, which would be a peace, some kind of peace, some kind of forbearance, some kind of something that doesn’t look like vengeance dressed up in righteousness.
A new Jerusalem.
Bishop Wright: 24:57
Yeah, which is articulated in Scripture and which is extended to all. Which is extended to all.
So, bishop, just to close us out, could you just maybe share how we might pray by praying with N4?
Bishop Wright: 25:13
So of course I’ll pray, and some will say you know people of lots of different kinds of faith to speak of peace right now is ridiculous. And yet I think the faith community is being asked right now to be ridiculous in its hope and work for peace in a world that seems so irretrievably broken. And so that’s the prayer, so eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword or tank or machine gun is drawn except for the sword of righteousness, no strength known there but the strength of love and of forgiveness, and of mercy and of forbearance. We pray so mightily. Spread abroad your spirit, that spirit that all peoples, all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one God who is love. Let God be dominion and be majesty and be glory and be power, now and forever, working through us wherever we find ourselves. That is our prayer, and we pray it in the many names of God, and I pray it in the name that I know best Jesus of Nazareth, amen.
Amen. Bishop, thank you and listeners, thank you for tuning in to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.