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  • Pastoral Letter – Israel and Palestine

    Rev. Will Burhans

    October 10, 2023

    In the story of our Savior’s birth, at the beginning of his days, his parents fled to Egypt because of a massacre of Jewish children at the hands of Rome. To tell the story, Matthew quotes from Jeremiah referencing another massacre in an earlier century:

    “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning,

    Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,

              because her children are no more.” – Matthew 2:18

    And here we are in 2023 witnessing from a distance and with dismay the fraying fabric of the Holy Land as many Rachels again weep for their children because they are no more. The tragedy of Jewish life lost in hatred and war continues.

    As Israel furiously responds to the indiscriminate violence against them with ever greater violence in retaliation, we also witness from afar and with dismay the many Fatimas of Palestine weeping for their children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more. They too have been weeping for generations. And the cycle of a thousand years continues.

    Jesus, our focal point of Divine presence, arises out of the Jewish people, taught by them of the great capacity for love to transform illness, division, and hate. Is it too much to hope that His Spirit could eventually prevail here? What do we do but pray and pay attention? Pray that the war will be briefer than is expected and that some new vision of how to be together differently this time might emerge. Pray that in the soil of this war there might be seeds of a new day when there is no more occupation of land and no more terror of innocents and Israeli and Palestinian children may live peaceably with one another.  Pray and pay attention. Pay attention to how antisemitism and anti-Muslim responses might surface in our own communities (or hearts) and how we can support our Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Pay attention to history and humbly consider that we are not above what’s happening but complicit in the violence of occupied territories and terror practices that “massacre innocence”.

    There is a prayer called the Universal Prayer of Peace that certain communities across the globe have committed to praying every day at noon. This might be a good time for us to take up the practice. At least for this day. It is prayed like this:

    Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth,

    Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust,

    Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.

    Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen.


    Rev. Will Burhans