Rector's Ramblings - October 12, 2023
The Hamas attack on Israel this week was terrorism of the worst kind. The stories and images coming out of the towns they attacked are heart-breaking, to say the least. People going about their ordinary day were gravely injured and killed without warning and without mercy. The reports of atrocities are in the process of being confirmed, but it is already clear from what we can see with our own eyes that these acts were born out of hatred and evil.
There are those who will want to attach caveats to moments like this because of the long history of conflict in this region. Indeed, we’re talking about literal biblical roots to some of the dynamics, and a century of what we might call modern history influencing what is happening and why. The contemporary political scene also adds to the layers as experts will no doubt study what has happened and what will happen in the near future. I am reminded of the refrain we heard on our pilgrimage to the Holy Lands a few years ago: “It’s complicated.” On that trip we met with Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and we were always reminded by those working for peace that there are no easy solutions to the problems in the Middle East, especially in Israel. There may be an instinct to want to add caveats to conversations, but I hope that we all would agree that assaults on the innocent have no place in our world.
Terrorism of this sort is contrary to everything we know and value. My heart has broken for those who are affected by this heinous attack, as well as for those innocent victims of the continuing violence. I know yours has too. There is no justification for attacking civilians, especially children. There will continue to be new innocent victims every day that the conflict drags on. That is why war of any kind is so terrible. War isn’t hell, it’s something worse than hell. So said the TV theologian, Hawkeye Pierce: “There are no innocent bystanders in hell. War is chock full of them...”
This is one of those times that we feel powerless to do something. Maybe we are experiencing fear for the future, as another conflict risks spreading and impacting more people, and maybe even us or those we love. It feels as if there is nothing we can do. But we can do something. Prayer is our foundation, but we can do even more. We can actively work to shine light on the places in our own hearts and communities where hatred may grow, seen or unseen. Making peace with those we disagree with, even while we disagree can prevent the worst outcomes to living in community on any scale. Solidarity across the boundaries and borders of our various identities and constituencies creates a similar inoculating force for peace. And that is what we’re called to, daily, by the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
You can also share resources, if you are so called, with the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, whose ministries include Palestinian Christians, and serves all persons in the name of Christ. Diocesan outreach efforts include a hospital in Gaza which is in dire straits since this latest conflict began. Gifts can be sent via The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
On Friday evening, I will join with Temple Beth Tefilloh and others from our community at St. Marks’s in Brunswick at 6:30 pm. They have invited the community to join them for prayer as they offer their regular Friday evening Shabbat service in a space with room for more attendees. Our Jewish and Palestinian friends and neighbors are hurting wherever they are in the world, and coming alongside them to grieve and pray is a good starting place. I hope some of you can be there, too. Let us all pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
God of peace, we pray for the people of Palestine and Israel in these perilous and dangerous times.
For all who are fearful for the safety of their loved ones and themselves, we pray that the assurance of unfailing love, even in the midst of danger, settles upon them. Shelter them from despair and protect them from harm.
For all who are wounded, we pray they find healing.
For all who have died, we pray they find rest.
For all who grieve, we pray they find comfort.
For leaders on all sides, we pray for a renewed will to lay down arms, for the strength to put the grievances and wrongs suffered by their people to rest, and for the conviction to embrace a path of reconciliation and peace that preserves the rights and dignity of all of your children.
God of mercy, help us to remember there is no border that can separate us from your great love and protection, no stone that can sound the well of your deep mercy.
God of justice, we pray with hopeful hearts that your beloved children of the Holy Land will be spared a future of sustained violence and unrest and that a recognition of the humanity of all people will prevail.
We ask all this in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
– American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
Photo Credits: Peace plate via Dreamstime.com; enemies stone is an original photo from Tent of Nations in the occupied Palestinian territory.