“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” – Romans 10:8b
A couple of years ago, I started the practice of reciting a portion of the ancient Jewish prayer, the Shema. Traditionally, it is said every morning and evening, with the right hand covering the eyes to help concentrate on the message of the Shema, conscious of God’s unity and the unity that underlies all existence. I learned the first few words in Hebrew, trying to hear how Jesus might have sounded as he said the prayer. Allowing the words to sink into my being, I say, “Shema Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” I can imagine Jesus offering this prayer, knowing its truth, and drawing strength from it. Starting and ending almost every day with these words has been a comfort and blessing to me in these crazy times.
In his letter, Paul affirms that in the Lord there is neither Jew nor Greek. For those of us who share this belief, we are called to be together in his name in good times and bad. This call across the centuries seems so important these days when Christian stands against Christian in heart-breaking division, all in the name of the Lord of all.
Keeping the Word of God within has given me unimagined peace and afforded a deeper and broader perspective on life than what I get from the words slung around by politicians and fanatics. It has also given me the strength to speak about my faith, a difficult thing for me in the past.
The Word of God is not only within, but also without—“the word is near you.” Knowing that I do not live in a vacuum but rather in a world filled with divine presence has been transformative. Feeling the love of God flowing through me and everyone (whether they recognize it or not) and everything around me fills me with hope, and it is well with my soul.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” Keep us ever mindful of whose we really are, blessed Lord, and hear us when we call your name. Amen.