Today’s Word from Karl Olsen…
Surely, God is weeping. God’s desire for all to experience abundant life sometimes seems to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps it’s the explosions—or the tears of grief.
Until recently, this spring had been a time of religious celebration in Israel and Palestine. Last month Jewish Israelis finished observing Passover just as Palestinian Protestants and Catholics celebrated Easter, followed later by Orthodox Christian Easter celebrations in early May. Muslims’ month-long Ramadan feast has been underway, and both Western and Orthodox Christians are in Eastertide, the period of remembering the paschal promises of forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.
This statement opens a recent Sojourners magazine article. But, in Israel and Palestine (an area about the size of New Jersey) age-old conflicts have once again become violent, bringing political and religious disagreements, historical and current, to the forefront. With Israelis and Palestinians having generational and Biblical claims to the area, land is prominent in the discussion. In the midst of conflict (especially religious conflict, it seems), it is hard to see through the eyes of “the other” and also to recognize your own hubris. It’s that way for me, too often. Discussing this, I feel as if I’m dancing in a minefield. I’ll get my best dance shoes on.
Just a bit of background. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are siblings, in a sense. The three religions are traced back to Abraham. Judaism and Christianity stem from Abraham’s second son, Isaac, and Islam to Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael. God promised to make their descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky or the dust of the earth. We are all considered to be children of Abraham.
As family histories go, this one is pretty messy. There are many sources you could read. Jews, Muslims and Christians have all endured persecutions spanning generations. Some feel it is historical religious histories that should hold sway in the discussions in Israel and Palestine. Others demand political realities be foremost, and that the two sides would be best served if there were an equal division of land, power, economics, political recognition and representation. The situation is more than difficult, and I would not presume to tell you that I have “the answer.” Sharper minds and more thorough historians have weighed in on this issue.
But I think we can agree that this would not fit God’s description of “abundant life” that all three traditions share. To live a daily life where there are many restrictions on movement, where rockets may fall, where your house may be bulldozed or bombed, and you fear for the lives of your descendants—your dust or your stars—this is not abundance. The trial of having to put on my mask to go to the store pales in comparison. As Christians, we pray. And as we’ve heard in church lately, we work and advocate for justice and peace. It is true that you cannot really have the latter without the former. And God would have us do nothing less for our brothers and sisters, all created in God’s divine image.
For me, as a Christian, I cannot ignore this situation in a land where hundreds of Trinity pilgrims have journeyed over the years, and so much of our history resides. I must, at the least, pay attention. It’s worth the time. Prayer and devotion to a resolution are powerful tools. So, I offer today a song by the country/rock singer/songwriter Steve Earle. Jerusalem is a title track for his album from 2002. I’m not willing to parrot the TV anchor in the song who says “it’s always been that way, there’s nothing we can say or do.” I have to hold on to hope. And, difficult as it is sometimes, I do. So, I’ll be working and praying for resolution, for justice, and for peace. Click HERE to listen.