"Thus says the Lord God: I am about to take the stick of Joseph (which is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with it; and I will put the stick of Judah upon it, and make them one stick, in order that they may be one in my hand." - Ezekiel 37:15-28
I have one brother who is two years older than I am. Growing up, we fought like animals.
I can't recall what we were fighting about but I do remember it broke our parents' hearts.
Once, while my brother and I were slugging away at each other, my mother got between us. She was yelling, "Stop, stop!" But it's hard to be obedient when you're bent on beating the tar out of your brother. Seeing my brother distracted by our mother's pleading, I swung. However, instead of punching him… I (accidentally)… hit… my mother.
If heaven holds any ranking of sin, hitting your mother is way up on the list, definitely in the top five. On the other hand, it put a speedy end to the fight.
The family history of Israel is fraught with fraternal conflicts, leadership failures, willful disobedience and eventually a divided, quarreling nation that broke God's heart. Domestic trouble like that is what sends prophets like Ezekiel into action. Zeke has a vision of God patiently healing the cracked the family tree. For Christians the vision is fulfilled in Jesus, by whom mother God threw herself into the middle of human discord, taking far more than a punch, to expose and arrest the hostility that plagues us.
Christians are characterized by many things: kindness, patience, generosity; but wouldn't it be nice if, when people heard the word "Christian," they thought "Oh you mean those people who are all about peace, non-violence, conflict resolution and brotherly love?"
My brother and I are now on much better terms. Mom makes light of the aforementioned incident. However, as a Christ-follower, albeit a foolish one, the significance is not lost on me.
Healing God, may we live the words of Paul: "For Christ is our peace. He has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." Ephesians 2: 14
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.