May 20, 2018
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
John 15:26 – 16:15
“O my people. I will put my Spirit within you,
and you shall live,
and I will place you on your own soil;
then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,
says the LORD.”
- Ezekiel 37:13-14
I feel it’s part of my calling as a Christian pastor, to respond to today’s events in Jerusalem and along the border of the Gaza territory. As most of you are aware, today, May 14, 2018, the United States government opened its official Embassy to the State of Israel within the city of Jerusalem. This opens a new and morally very dangerous chapter in relations between the US and the diverse people who live in that long-troubled part of the world.
Some of you may remember the day in 1948 when the Jewish State of Israel was declared. In the aftermath of the horrible European Holocaust, when Nazis and other fascists had murdered and enslaved many millions of Jews and other minorities they despised, the nations of the world gradually came to recognize the modern State of Israel as a safe homeland for the world’s Jews.
It would be wrong for us today to forget that the modern State of Israel was achieved by terrorism. Jews pursuing the dream of “Zion” attacked the British forces who were charged by the United Nations with maintaining peace in the Holy Land on behalf of all its inhabitants. Those “Zionists” bombed and otherwise murdered British and other international civilians for the sake of their cause. Also, the “Zionists” began evicting hundreds of thousands of native residents from their homes, many of whom had inherited those homes from generations going back 1,800 or more years.
Then, in 1967, as the power of the Israeli military grew, military forces of the neighboring nation of Jordan launched attacks to try to stop the Israeli conquest of Arab lands. The Israelis defeated those Arabs and captured the entire city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem has long been held holy not only by Jews, but by Christians for more than 1,900 years and by Muslims for more than 1400 years. Since 1967, the Israelis have tightened their hold on Jerusalem, unjustly forcing out native residents, denying the heritage of its many non- Jewish natives. Sadly, the State of Israel stooped from being a refuge for oppressed people to instead oppressing its neighbors.
As we Christians read our Bibles, we try to somehow hold together the Old Testament stories and theology of conquering the Promised Land for God’s sake, on the one hand, with gentle Jesus telling his followers to leave lands and homes for the sake of our heavenly calling, on the other hand. I would lean heavily toward Jesus’ way.
You are probably aware of TV preachers and prominent Christians who call for defeating and driving out or exterminating anyone standing in the way of the State of Israel. I cannot square that with following the teachings of Jesus.
Also, you have probably heard about “holy sites” in Jerusalem, which some Christians feel we must protect at all costs. The truth of almost all of these “holy sites,” churches and the like, is two-fold: first, they have been protected, for well over a thousand years, mostly under Muslim rule; and second, these sites have little or nothing to do with the actual earthly life of Jesus— they were built hundreds of years after his time there. They have absolutely nothing to do with the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ, who said about Jerusalem,
“Do you see these great buildings?
Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
- Mark 13:2
Wajahat Ali, an attorney and writer, a Pakistani-American Muslim from California, says about Jerusalem, “you go to the most contested real estate on Earth, the most holy real estate for three Abrahamic religions, and you expect to find God in Jerusalem. Of course, God is there, but the reason why I said that is I don't feel the presence of God. I see people like at a Halloween party, wearing the costume and the masks. But instead of seeing the spirituality and the lessons of Abraham, I see people who have completely missed the mark. And I feel that land and bricks and mortar are not worth the blood of a single person, whether they be Jewish, Christian or Muslim. And so I feel like God has a dark joke that He played upon His believers. He goes, ‘You guys are going to be invested in this region, but this is really a lemon. There are more important things at play.’”
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.