Reading the Dead Sea Scrolls

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.         
Yesterday Beth and I visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston. One fragment I kept coming back to was from a scroll of the Psalms, likely written in the First Century. It was written in Hebrew, except that the name of God was written in an older language that the ancients thought was the “original language” of scripture. God’s name was too holy to write in ordinary, everyday language. I can recognize it. So there’s one word in the scroll that I can actually read.

I’m reading a scrap of parchment that’s two thousand years old! Actually reading and understanding it. True, I’m only understanding one word of it— but that single word dances on the page every time it occurs. (It occurs a lot.) It draws me in, has me reading whole lines, the whole piece of parchment, knowing only the translation provided but not the individual words, except one. The rest is mystery. In fact even that one word is mystery. Isn’t that just like all my prayers? After all my words and thoughts, all I really know is… “God.” The rest I take on faith.

Reading this text, I am connected to an ancient soul, reading what he wrote. He reaches out to me across twenty centuries. Somehow, gazing at that word, in his handwriting, I feel the presence of the writer himself. And also the Mystery. In that little bit of ink I feel held in the same hands, the same Awe, as the writer. In all our various languages and religions, in all that we do not understand or share, there is this that we have in common: “the LORD.” The Holy One. We are one in God. The mystery is too great for us to be able to use it to divide us. It connects us.

Maybe all our prayers ultimately boil down to our most primitive language, whatever tongue is before and beneath the one we utter. Maybe every prayer is actually just: “Thou!” The rest is mystery; and even what we say is too holy to describe.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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