Often when one discusses peace in the Middle East someone will inevitably say, "Those people have been fighting forever." Today's first reading reminds us of how wrong they are on several levels.
Firstly, "those people" are not all the same. Today we begin reading the Book of Ezra which recounts the story of Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who not only authorized but supported the construction of the Second Temple for the people of Israel, after the Babylonian Captivity.
Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.
It would be 20 years later under the Persian King Darius that the temple would be completed and would remain until its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD. This is the temple Jesus would have visited. Historian refer to the years between 516 BC and 70 AD as the second temple period.
Today if you ask a person from Iran or parts of Afghanistan who they are, they will will still proudly identify themselves as Persian, a term that goes back to Pars, in the time of Cyrus the Great.
It is all to easy for us to remember history only as a series of wars, and conquests. Even when we teach American History, we tend to go from war to war: revolutionary war, civil war, WW I , WW II, Korea, Vietnam,etc.
As Christians we should be a people of hope, the people who keep alive the memory of the good, the signs of God's grace and action in the world. This week as we read the Book of Ezra let it remind us that peace is possible. Or put more simply, with God all things are possible.