Sierra de la Espada

It can be challenging tracking down where certain events took place and also the driving can be challenging too, but the views in the mountains – the only challenge there is to keep one’s eyes on the road while taking in the view!

One of the clues as to the position of the massacre is a ridge called the Barranco de los Muertos. In typical fashion the Muslims had grouped together to avoid slaughter, forced conversions or exile in the interior mountainous regions. The initial unsuccessful attempt was from Segorbe in the South but the forces were repelled. Then an army was assembled from the north at Onda and advanced on Alcudia de Veo and then beyond. This was a European army, with the backing of king and pope and viewed as a crusade. ‘All eyes in Europe’ were on this crusade and when eventually they were brutally vanquished it was proclaimed that finally all European territory was free of Muslims.

sierra de la espada

With a bottle of wine in hand Gayle and I drove as close to the area of the final bloodshed and found a place to pull off the road. Pouring wine on the ground (blood speaks, but the blood of Jesus speaks louder and calls for reconciliation now and eschatologically) we spoke forgiveness to the region.

Years ago I would have wanted to be able to defend such actions and prove that they make a vital difference. Now I hope I am less defensive and simply accept that they do. If the giving of a cup of cold water can seemingly make a record that is assessed in the age to come then I think pouring out wine symbolically probably does so too.

PS to Xativa / Alcala

After we visited Xativa and the day before we visited Alcala our friend Noe had a visit to his house at 10.00pm. It was a mechanic that he has both used to service his car and has befriended. The mechanic was coming on behalf of the Iman from the local mosque, asking if Noe would take part in a TV program from Moroccan TV on the relationship of Muslims and Christians in Spain! Noe was unable to take part, but the main pastor of the church took his place. The venue chosen was the church building and the backdrop the director wanted was the dove on the wall with the ‘Come Holy Spirit’ enscribed on it. Fernando was able to be both clear and reconciliatory, with one of the key people asking for him to pray for him after the recording.

Would that have happened if we had not gone to Xativa or pursued what God has put in our path? Was it a coincidence? Thankfully we will never be able to prove it one way or another. But it is so sweet when such coincidences happen after prayer – and they do seem to happen quite regularly. So here is to sweet regular coincidences!!

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Alcala de la Jovada

Thanks to google here is a satellite view of where we went a few days ago. About an hour’s drive and the birth place of Al Azraq and the place where the treaty was made that came to an end and Xativa (last post) was attacked and captured by Jaime I. Beautiful drive up to just over 2,100ft elevation, but to think of making this kind of journey pre-tarmac roads and cars!! Not for me, in spite of the views!!

Alcala de la Jovada

There were Muslims of north African and Arabic background, but there were also Muslims who were living in the land prior to the invasion and who converted. By the time of Jaime (13th Century) and certainly by the time of the Expulsions (early 17th century) those being attacked were being attacked by other citizens in the land. It can only be described as a civil war. The Muslims were also, by the main, the stewards of the land, their care and work is amazing. Drive today and you can see the wonderful terraces for irrigation from the Moorish era. We understand that there are more stones involved in the terracing in Spain than in the Great Wall of China!! Plants and vegetables were introduced and grown – would we have huge paddy fields for rice (paella) across the Valencia comunidad had it not been for the Muslim influence?

We understand then that there was a strong element of civil war and of sin against the land in driving off the stewards from the land (as well as economically not very clever!!).

When we went to Xativa Gayle had an image of a specific Muslim leader, who she described to Noe. Immediately he responded with that is ‘Al Azraq’. Born in Alcala, to a mixed Christian / Muslim marriage. He and Jaime had a relationship that genuinely seemed to have respect for each other, hence the treaty. In all of this it would be naïve to suggest one party was good and the other bad – and think of Solzhenitsyn’s wisdom of the good / evil line never running between us but through each of us – but the breaking of the treaty does seem to be what is triggering the response in the Dayesh video. We consider Al Azraq a man of peace, and (now you can choose to stop reading!!) that in some way he was ready to receive an apology from us, and to release the land.

In these situations it is so hard to describe what goes on, and much harder to put a theological spin on it. What really happens? Who / what is being addressed? I draw a blank on it all. If we accept that the resurrection creates a time-warp (an ‘end’ event taking place somewhere between the beginning and the end, hence even graves in Jerusalem being emptied before their time!!) and that the land holds the record of what has taken place, it is not surprising that there are strange events that take place.

In Alcala we came to the statue and prayed. Gayle even gave the statute a kiss of peace on the cheek to acknowledge that our apology had been received. She said it was as real as kissing anyone on the cheek.

A meeting – many years after the event, but not too late!!!

Alcala Team

Off home – the views are not bad!! A couple of days later Gayle and I drove north to another site… the content of the next post. Talk to you soon!!

Alcala Home

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The punishment did not fit the crime

Not been a lot of posting going on here as we have been fairly occupied and also continuing to research. Our most recent journey out with Noe, Loli (Calpe) and Craig (Oliva) was to Xativa. It is around 45 minutes from our home and we have driven past it many times en route to Madrid but never stopped there. It caught our attention when I found a video released by Dayesh over a year ago. In it they said they would never forget Al-Andalus (Spain & Portugal) and then named three cities: Toledo, Cordoba and Xativa. We were intrigued why Xativa, a town of 30,000 inhabitants does not seem that significant. However…

Xativa from the Castle

Historically the city was a stronghold for all the ruling people over centuries as once established there control was reasonably easy for a wide area. In Roman times the main route from Cadiz, Cordoba and on to Rome, as well as from Cartagena came through Xativa.

Xativa Cathedral

There are the inevitable situations such as the Cathedral built over the previous Mosque site, a well-documented episode of hundreds of Muslims being dragged to the door of the Cathedral in 1521 and given the choice of baptism (conversion) or death. All of that makes it a significant place but perhaps no more than any other place.

A while back Gayle and I went to La Muela where a major brutal massacre had taken place. The military force involved in this came from Xativa. Significant in that it led to the capture of the ‘last king of the Moriscos’. But we think there was something deeper. First a step forward in time and away from the Expulsion era.

In the Spanish war of succession as to which family would have the throne of Spain, the French Bourbons or the Austrian Hapsburgs. Eventually the Bourbons gained the throne. At one stage in Xativa they placed a portrait of the Bourbon king but upside down to show disrespect. The result was that Felipe (1707) with a strong force besieged the city, massacred those who defended it, deported many of the residents and burned the city. Punishment beyond the crime! Back to our era – or to the 13th century!

A Muslim ruler Al Azraq had a treaty with Jaime I of Aragon which resulted in peace as far as Xativa was concerned. Underneath this there were tensions. In response to violence against Muslims by some of the Christian population, some Muslims went and stole some mules. This act of retaliation Jaime took to be the Muslims breaking the treaty so now no longer believed he was bound by it. He now took force against Xativa and took it. A punishment that went beyond the crime.

We consider this is the root to the ‘we will not forget Xativa’. A betrayal. Our prayer was into the forgiveness for this. The night before we travelled there both Gayle and I had major battles over our sleep. I never, as far as I remember, have war dreams, but one after another was about shootings, snipers and even deception and seeking to make false treaties. Gayle was convinced that there was a former Moorish leader we were to meet and described his clothing. Once we dug into this it was undoubtedly Al Azraq, whose mother was a Christian. We sensed that even in the mess of the history he was willing to listen and accept our apology. (Not sure what that really means, but we will in the next few days make another trip to his birth place and where the treaty was made.)

The town welcomed us in the Spirit. Maybe now the door is closed there to Dayesh.

In closing a few thoughts:

  • betrayal opens the door to murder
  • Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread and wine – he overturned this betrayal leading to murder by laying down his life.

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Why not other spheres?

In a recent post from a few days ago I suggested that the media, education and the arts might be best placed to help lead to a new scenario, opening space where believers and non-believers alike can imagine and work to a new future. I might be mistaken, I could be too pessimistic about, for example, politics, business or one of the other aspects of society. I hope I am, but where we are wedded to an-shackled consumerism it is difficult to be optimistic.

2008 supposedly brought about the (banking) crisis, but was it a crisis or a blip? It really depends on who one asks. For those, such as the youth of Spain, a crisis of enormous proportions, for those who received yet again a bonus for their ‘work’ in the economic realm the word ‘crisis’ surely has no meaning.

Consumerism seems to be the root issue with what is wrong. ‘I saw, it was to be desired, I took, I ate…’ Words so profound in ancient culture and if anything more profound today. Entrance to the land that was apportioned, strict laws about debt, restrictions about moving boundaries, and partial resets every 7 years and a major one every 70 years. Enjoy but live within boundaries. An economics that does not stipulate boundaries is not a biblical economics – and in the case of Israel a state enforced boundary.

Suppose you are harvesting your crops. Then do not harvest all the way to the edges of your field. And do not pick up the grain you missed. Do not go over your vineyard a second time. Do not pick up the grapes that have fallen to the ground. Leave them for poor people and outsiders. I am the Lord your God.

A business model that is based on maximising profits is hard to justify biblically. Do not harvest to the edge of the field. From all business ventures there was legislation that gave from those businesses provision for the marginalised and the immigrant. All backed up by God’s authority!

Jesus’ team building had at its heart a strategy of how to lose money. Not some arbitrary loss but set in motion to break any love of money and to give a path of freedom to those who needed it from that. Thankfully even Judas found that path, even if he did not realise it due to being overwhelmed in sorrow.

A new economics is called for biblically, not a simple step of occupying the current ‘mountain’. If to be able to successfully ‘buy and sell’ (trade) is the mark of the beast perhaps there is an economy being called for that is deeper than that, based not on commodity but on life? Everything that flows from a resurrection based faith has to be life-giving.

Money is not evil, the love of money is the (or ‘a’) root of evil. Yet money itself is problematic. How much exists? How can a stock market lose x-billion or gain x-billion in a day? If I lose 20euros I have lost it, someone else finds it and they gain 20euros. The money is not ‘lost’. That makes sense, but money in the big scheme of things does not make sense. Run your private accounts on the less-than-500 year old system that we have and see if you are allowed to become rich or face a prison sentence.

Have someone loan you 1000 euros (it is a loan as you sign to ‘I promise to pay the bearer 1000 euros upon demand’, though legally the loan money is yours to do with what you wish).
From that loan to you, you can now loan someone 900 euros (and charge interest)
Then loan the next person 810 euros, the next 729 euros and so on (this is the banking system…)

After simply 10 times of doing this you will have loaned out 5.5k and still have almost 400euros left.

Imagine doing that over a week… you had nothing, you are loaned 1000 euros and have had enough money to loan out 5.5k. At the beginning of the week you were broke, at the end of the week you are the source for countless others, could invest ‘your’ remaining 400 euros, or have a (or 2 or 3) nice meal(s) out and start again the next week, meanwhile each person who you loaned to will be paying you interest… who would have believed that was possible?

What prompted such a system? The financing of war was the main ingredient. So much war is to do with establishing new boundaries.

Sadly the system is based on debt, and debt is based on how the present relates to the future.

This is what we have… I am not saying the creativity involved is evil, and I am thankful that good / evil are not the only two biblical categories but the very important ‘fallen’ category is there too. Yet the more fallen, or the more persistent something is to lean in that direction the harder it is to see something redemptive enter. Can we see something redemptive enter the economic realm? All things are possible, but this is why I suggested the arts, education and the media might be the areas where we can see a leverage effect take place. And the media maybe against all odds until recently might have been another area for pessimism, so that should give us a faith boost for the economic realm.

To all those who follow Christ whose context is the economic / money / business realm a big respect to you as you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but live out your lives and values in the light of the cross.

Footnote: do not try at a private level to work your finances along the banking loan model. I think prison might be the context that could lead you to.

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Keep you here

Some readers will know Phil Townsend. I first met Phil some 19 or so years ago. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the oesophagus we have been praying for Phil, Lynne and the family. A while back Phil’s brother, Stuart, wrote a song that came out of the situation that they then recorded. Profound and moving.

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