Think of modern-day Israel and you quickly think of Division: different tribes, separate faiths, clashing cultures. Visit and you soon come face to face with the gash stretching 500 miles up and down the land, the Wall physically dividing the peoples.

The Divisions continue even within the religions: Sunni, Shi'a and Druze Muslims; Reform, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews; Orthodox, Roman and Protestant (here 'Evangelical') Christians. But I doubt there has ever been a time where one group hasn't laughed at or distrusted 'Them' seeking sanctuary in the more familiar 'Us'.

Even the land itself joins in, with the African Rift Valley hitting the Syrian Steppe and the Egyptian Saharan Ridge systems, which has thrown up the distinctive landscape, and the differing climates.

And, so I've been learning on this trip, this was definitely the case in Jesus' day. Not just a deep enmity between the Samaritans and Jews (which was what made the 'Good Samaritan' and the '(Samaritan) Woman at the Well' two of the most shocking events to Jesus' followers). But tension too with their Roman overlords, and foreign imported pagan deities. This was not a land of peace then, with Monty Python's fictitious "People's Front of Judea" being rather closer to the truth than I guess they realised.

But here I've realised just what a different dynamic Jesus introduces. Without fanfare late one afternoon, after teaching a very large crowd for hours near the lake of Galilee, he blesses just a handful of rolls and a couple of sprats, divides it up, and provides supper for up to 10,000 people. This miracle has been celebrated in the "Church of the Multiplication" by that lake for centuries since. To me, this is just one tiny example of how God multiplies, despite our amazing ability to divide. 2,000 years ago, Jesus took just a boy's packed lunch and provided enough food for thousands of people to eat and be full. Today, Jesus provides His Holy Spirit to all believers: no limit on numbers (not just 144,000); no limit on geography (not just at holy sites); no need for us to be ritually clean (as Jesus has taken all our 'stains'). 

What power is needed for reconciliation? No authority or earthly power can force it. It's a gift of the heart and mind, gradually testing and trusting. "God is love" is said so often it's become a cliché. But we believe that God is the source of all love, and we who our made in His image, can be generous or mean with it. It is this God-sourced power that can reconcile if we are open to give it to others. Do I multiply or divide? What do you do?
AuthorJonathan Clark