It was good to be back among the gathered Hope community on Sunday morning, after three weeks of travelling in Jordan and Jerusalem. I really appreciated the stories that Mike shared with us of grandfathers and justice. His comments resonated deeply for me with his comments after the juxtaposition of luxurious relaxation by the Dead Sea and stories of occupation in Jerusalem.
On my Friday in Jerusalem I went for a morning walk before the conference sessions were to begin. The mood was different than on our other days. There were a lot of soldiers around, and barricades near all the gates to the Old City. Some people seemed to be walking in and out, paying no attention to the barriers or the guns. Others were being stopped and asked for papers. And then some, like me, were confused about whether or not we could walk inside. I approached one block and asked if I could walk in the Old City today. “Of course” was the response and in I went, as the man ahead of me was stopped and made to show his passport. Later that day our convenor asked one of our local contacts why there had been so much extra security. The response was a simple, “It’s just Friday.”
Here my own boundaries of what is ‘normal’ were challenged. And I wondered what it meant that I, a visitor, could easily access the Old City, when many locals were stopped for checks on the way to their places of worship and Friday rest.
“I’m not an expert in your story.”
In Jerusalem, people were willing and ready to share their stories of life with a complete stranger who was sitting near them in a cafe, walking past their store, or asking them directions on the street. Sometimes these conversations made me feel awkward or angry, sometimes I couldn’t help but smile. But each story was a privilege. These don’t make me an expert in the experiences of Palestinians in a divided Holy City, but they help me to see differently both in that place and also in my own Australian context.
I am not an expert in any story but my own- and sometimes perhaps not even there! But I can empower you to be the expert in your own story by really listening to you and respecting what you share with me and allowing myself to be challenged and changed by the experiences that have shaped you.
“It is not my job to tell you what it just and unjust. It’s my job to bring you to a person who I have found to be the most truthful, a person who has brought me to communities where I have been confronted with my own justice and injustice.”
My own understandings of justice and injustice are so shaped, so moulded by the lens of my own experiences- the culture and family and religion that I have grown up within, the education that I have received, my own stories of grace and trauma. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t struggle to understand what justice is. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to live as best I can in the footsteps of the One who will help me to cross the boundaries of my own experiences into other spaces and truly listen. But this Risen Crucified One will keep challenging me to cross over, to listen, and to be faithful to the relationships that stories begin and communities cement.
Am I ready to listen?
Am I ready to be challenged and changed by stories that will name me differently to how I name myself?
For that is the path that Jesus lays out before me and all who would follow after him.