A Prayer For A War-Torn Land

I haven't written or posted anything online about the horrifying conflict that is taking place between Israel and Hamas.  I feel like whatever I write, or post will offend some people or that my words might be misconstrued. 

But my heart is heavy today, so I will write what I am feeling.

What follows is a reflection I made after a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem: 

I'd like to reflect on my visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in the northern suburbs of Israel on Mt. Herschel.

The meaning of the words yad vashem in English is "everlasting name" and comes from Isaiah 56:5, which reads:

"To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever."

The 2-3 hour tour through Yad Vashem is an incredibly sobering and heart-wrenching experience.  Walking through the exhibits, you feel like you are traveling deeper into darkness.

I have found myself being brought to tears of repentance as I read the way that Christians all over the world twisted Scripture and did violence to the Gospel to justify not only their participation in the Holocaust but also their indifference to it.

How that must have wounded the heart of Christ!

But as hard as it is to believe that people claiming to follow Jesus would be a part of something so inhuman and so antithetical to what Jesus taught and lived by example, it's even harder to accept that we're still turning a blind eye to suffering...

And in so doing, we wound the heart of Christ anew.

When we turn our hearts to stone against refugees from tyranny, war, and persecution... we wound the heart of Christ.   

When we are ambivalent at best and indifferent at worst to the plight of people who are even now the victims of genocide because of the actions of evil dictators or racial and religious hatred... we wound the heart of Christ.

When we consume and consume with little thought to the effects our cheap and plentiful goods have on the developing world... we wound the heart of Christ.

When we turn away from neighbors of ours who are different--in skin color, religion, politics, beliefs, or class... we wound the heart of Christ.

When we keep the Gospel bottled up and decide who gets to hear it, who gets to accept it, and who gets to journey with us as we follow Jesus... we wound the heart of Christ.

We are called to greater things.  The kingdom of God demands it of us.

As our band of pilgrims journeys home, we do so filled with memories of a land still torn and divided by old hatreds and ancient wounds.  We are filled with sorrow at the lack of peace but with defiant hope that God will one day heal this Holy Land again.

And we also return with a new sense of purpose from having our feet covered in the dust of the land where our faith was born.  We are called to be peacemakers. We are called to embody the kingdom of God and be the hands and feet of Christ.  

That reflection is steeped in my experiences in Israel and my friendships there. I've had the privilege of journeying to the Holy Land on twelve occasions, and I hope to go there again soon.  I love that land, and I pray for it's peace continuously.  

Along with my Jewish friends and acquaintances, I  have met Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Arabs, and Druze in my travels there, too.  I have always been welcomed with warmth and hospitality, and I've also learned some important lessons. 

Most people in this troubled region simply want to live in peace.  As my good friend Erez once said, "This is good land. There's enough for everyone here."

The Majority of Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, and Druze alike all want to flourish to watch their children grow up without the threat of violence.  They long for the same things that all of us long for, and yet the lives they wish to lead are often thwarted by those who want nothing more than to retain their power at any cost. 

But in the face of horrific violence, carnage, terrorism, and war, the vast majority become seemingly irrelevant.  

I recently read an excellent quote from Sister Constance FitzGerald: 

Our experience of God and our spirituality must emerge from our concrete historical situation and because our time and place in history bring us face to face with profound societal impasse. Here God makes demands for conversion, healing, justice, love, compassion, solidarity, and communion. Here the face of God appears, a God who dies in human beings and rises in human freedom and dignity. 

My prayer today is that there will be an end to the carnage, violence, and the hatred that causes it.  

I pray that those who believe terrorism, barbarism, and violence against the innocent are justified by a distorted view of religion will see their path leads to a loss of their humanity and is an affront to God.  

I pray that those who believe nothing short of total destruction of the other is the only path to peace will repent and seek a new way to co-exist.  

I pray that the land I have grown to love will one day be a scion of mutual understanding, tolerance, inclusivity, and abundance for all.  Because that is the vision we see throughout the Hebrew scriptures, a vision that has yet to be realized. 

God is still in the resurrection business, and I hold on to the defiant hope that resurrection is possible in this troubled part of our world. 

May these prayers become a reality.  And may the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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