Tag Archives: Israel

19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day II.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

Reflection – True Leadership
Jeremiah denounces the bad leadership of the kings of Israel who divided and scattered the people, a leadership that destroyed nations and drove their citizens into exile. In contrast, the Lord promises a shepherd-king who will ‘execute justice and righteousness in the land’ and gather the flock as one.

Only in Christ have we seen the example of a leader truly after God’s heart. In him we encounter a loving, humble servant who does not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. He comes to serve, rather than be served, and his followers are called to do the same.

Today, the Middle East is experiencing the loss of its people to exile as
‘righteousness and justice’ are becoming scarce commodities, not only there but throughout the world. Yet leaders, both in the world and in the Church, have a responsibility to bring together rather than to scatter or divide. The more faithfully Christians emulate the servant
leadership of Christ, the more division in both the world and the Church will be overcome. As we work for righteousness, justice and peace for all, we witness humbly to the shepherd-king, and draw others into his presence.

Readings

Jeremiah 23:1-6 He shall reign as king and deal wisely
Philippians 2:5-11 Who… did not regard equality with
God as something to be exploited.

Go and do
(see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Focus on a number of examples of where you consider good leadership to be evident. Try to identify the shared principles of leadership in these examples and consider how they can be encouraged in the work of creating unity.
Local: Invite a local leader to a gathering of the churches in your area to hear more about their work and to find out how you can best support and encourage them.
Personal: Find out about or refresh your memory on the circle of concern and circle of influence and consider how you can best exercise your personal leadership this week to help the cause of unity.

Prayer:
Just and righteous God,
we confess before you that we often covet worldly models of leadership.
Help us to seek our Lord Jesus Christ
not in the palaces of the powerful
but in the humble manger.
May we emulate him in his meekness
and become servants to each other
in obedience to you.
We pray in the name of Christ,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns forever in glory.
Amen.
Verse / Poem
It was the day of the strong men
the day when truth retired, redundant
because lies had more glitz,
and justice disabled, mocked,
in the name of a golden god
cast from melted down lives.

And then came the pestilence.
and the day of the servant
ubiquitous, anonymous,
in nursing home and ICU,
and the temple profligate with treasure
in cylinders of breath.


Questions
Global: How have you seen the Church follow Jesus’ pattern of leading through service?
Local: What Christian leader (either local or national) do you admire for the ability to inspire unity and a concern for justice? What qualities enable that person to lead effectively?
Personal: When have you been inspired to take the lead in seeking justice or working towards unity?

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A historic tragedy in the Holy Land.


Dormition Abbey - covered in anti-Christian graffiti on several occasions

Dormition Abbey – covered in anti-Christian graffiti on several occasions

Source: Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes on his Facebook page today: This Christmas, let’s not romanticise the Holy Land. Instead let’s hear the cry of Palestinian Christians who are facing a historic tragedy unfolding in real time. Christians have been a continuous presence in the Holy Land for 2,000 years. Today, they face attempts by fringe, radical groups to drive them away. The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and I make this urgent appeal in today’s Sunday Times:

Christmas is a time when we think about the land of the Bible. We hear readings and sing carols that name Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. These are places that are familiar to billions of Christians, whether they have visited them or not. But we should not romanticise them – and especially not this Christmas.

Last week, leaders of churches in Jerusalem raised an unprecedented and urgent alarm call. In a joint statement, they said Christians throughout the Holy Land have become the target of frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups.

In a joint statement they described “countless incidents” of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, and attacks on Christian churches. They spoke of holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians as they go about their worship and daily lives.

The Romanian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem was vandalized during Lent in March this year, the fourth attack on that holy place in a single month. During Advent last December, someone lit a fire in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsamene, the place where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified. Usually a place of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world, it’s thought the vandal took advantage of the lack of visitors due to the pandemic.

These tactics are being used by such radical groups “in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land”, the Jerusalem church leaders said in their statement.

It is for this reason that when you speak with Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem today you will often hear this cry: “In fifteen years’ time, there’ll be none of us left!”

This crisis takes place against a century-long decline in the Christian population in the Holy Land. In 1922, at the end of the Ottoman Era, Christians in the Holy Land were estimated to number 73,000; about 10% of the population. In 2019, Christians constituted less than 2% of the population of the Holy Land: a massive drop in just 100 years.

In Israel, there is some increase in the overall numbers of Christians. The imminent reopening of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Jaffa, which has been closed for over 70 years, is encouraging.

But in East Jerusalem, the central place for pilgrimage and the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – where Christ is believed to have been crucified – there is steady decline. Church leaders believe that there are now fewer than 2,000 Christians left in the Old City of Jerusalem.

This is the land that 2.5 billion Christians worldwide recognise as the birthplace of the church. Yet Christians, who have been a continuous presence there for over 2,000 years, are too often obscured and even forgotten beneath the competing perceptions of the geopolitics of the Middle East. The Christian presence punches above the weight of its numbers.

A recent study by the University of Birmingham estimates that the tourism industry generated by the Christian heritage of the Holy Land brings over $3 billion into the region’s economy. The Palestinian Christian population is a highly educated population that contributes beyond its numbers to high-tech industries, hospitals and church-based schools. Christians are good news for the region!

Christians in Israel enjoy democratic and religious freedoms that are a beacon in the region. But the escalation of physical and verbal abuse of Christian clergy, and vandalism of holy sites by fringe, radical groups, are a concerted attempt to intimidate and drive them away.

Meanwhile the growth of settler communities, and travel restrictions brought about by the Separation Wall, have deepened the isolation of Christian villages and curtailed economic and social possibilities. All of these factors have contributed to a steady stream of Palestinian Christians leaving the Holy Land to seek lives and livelihoods elsewhere – a historic tragedy unfolding in real time.

It does not have to be this way. This trend can be reversed – but action must be taken fast. We encourage governments and authorities in the region to listen to church leaders in their midst: To engage in the practical conversations that will lead to vital Christian culture and heritage being guarded and sustained. The time for action is now!

Over the Advent period, it’s tempting to be seduced by cosy visions of the Christmas story – twinkling stars, exotic visitors, a painless birth of a baby who doesn’t cry. The reality would have been much different: this is a story of God’s embrace of humanity in all its messiness.

The first Christmas tells us of God coming into our world among ordinary lives of human struggle. It foregrounds a refugee family, against the backdrop of a genocide of infants. There’s not much about lullabies and cuddly farm animals.

So let’s get real this Christmas. When we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, or “Once in Royal David’s City”, let’s hear the voice of the church of the Holy Land – and thank them for their gift to all of us. Let’s pray for their flourishing and their future: a future intertwined with the future prosperity and common good of all communities.

Woven through the first Christian story is a message of hope and of good news for all people – a small light that can never be put out. Whatever your religion or belief, may you know the peace and joy of the Christ-child this Christmas.

The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd Hosam Naoum, Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem

  • Text from Independent Catholic News 20.12.2012

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2 April: Good Friday

Here is Christina Rossetti’s meditation on Good Friday. The reference to a stone and a rock being struck goes back to Exodus 17; see below.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Christina Rossetti

So the people were thirsty there for want of water, and murmured against Moses, saying: Why didst thou make us go forth out of Egypt, to kill us and our children, and our beasts with thirst? And Moses cried to the Lord, saying: What shall I do to this people? Yet a little more and they will stone me.

And the Lord said to Moses: Go before the people, and take with thee of the ancients of Israel: and take in thy hand the rod wherewith thou didst strike the river, and go. Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink.

Moses did so before the ancients of Israel: And he called the name of that place Temptation, because the chiding of the children of Israel, and for that they tempted the Lord, saying: Is the Lord amongst us or not?

Exodus 17: 3-7

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13 March: Jeremiah at the city gate (Gates III)

Thus saith the Lord: Go, and take a potter’s earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests: And go forth into the valley of the son of Ennom, which is by the entry of the earthen gate: and there thou shalt proclaim the words that I shall tell thee. And thou shalt say: Hear the word of the Lord, O ye kings of Juda, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring an affliction upon this place: so that whoever shall hear it, his ears shall tingle: Because they have forsaken me, and have profaned this place: and have sacrificed therein to strange gods, whom neither they nor their fathers knew, nor the kings of Juda: and they have filled this place with the blood of innocents. And they have built the high places of Baalim, to burn their children with fire for a holocaust to Baalim: which I did not command, nor speak of, neither did it once come into my mind.

Therefore behold the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Topheth, nor the valley of the son of Ennom, but the valley of slaughter. And I will defeat the counsel of Juda and of Jerusalem in this place: and I will destroy them with the sword in the sight of their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and I will give their carcasses to be meat for the fowls of the air, and for the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city an astonishment, and a hissing: every one that shall pass by it, shall be astonished, and shall hiss because of all the plagues thereof. And I will feed them with the flesh of their sons, and with the flesh of their daughters: and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege, and in the distress wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives shall straiten them. And thou shalt break the bottle in the sight of the men that shall go with thee. And thou shalt say to them: Thus saith the Lord of hosts: even so will I break this people, and this city, as the potter’s vessel is broken, which cannot be made whole again: and they shall be buried in Topheth, because there is no other place to bury in.

Thus will I do to this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof: and I will make this city as Topheth. And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Juda shall be unclean as the place of Topheth: all the houses upon whose roofs they have sacrificed to all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings to strange gods.

Jeremiah 19:1-14

Poor Jeremiah: the Lord wanted the end of child sacrifice in Jerusalem, just outside the city gate. Had it been going on ever since the Holy Land was taken by the children of Israel?

Jeremiah seems to have used the city gates for his symbolic gestures. There would always be people coming and going, perhaps ready to spend time watching whatever might be happening by the gateway. But a people that could allow human sacrifice does not need a prophet’s gesture to become broken; the society is not based on trust and equality if children can be chosen for sacrifice. It cannot be made whole again without great repentance.

So what do I need to repent of? What idols am I unwittingly sacrificing to?

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28 August: Saint Augustine on Love I.

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica

Yesterday we celebrated the mother; today the son, Saint Augustine of Hippo. Here is the opening of his sermon on love, his text being 1John 4:4-12.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome [the false spirits]: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

To all the faithful seeking their own country, this world is as the desert was to the people of Israel. They wandered, seeking their own country: but with God for their guide they could not wander astray. Their way was God’s bidding. For where they went about during forty years, the journey itself is made up of a very few stations, and is known to all. They were delayed because they were in training, not because they were forsaken. By temporal work we are exercised, and by the temptations of this present life we are trained.

And so, if you would not die of thirst in this wilderness, drink charity. It is the fountain which God has been pleased to place here lest we faint on the way: and we shall more abundantly drink thereof, when we have come to our own land.

Now to speak of the words of the lesson, what other thing heard ye but concerning charity? For we have made an agreement with our God in prayer that if we would that He should forgive us our sins, we also should forgive the sins which may have been committed against us. [Matthew 6:12.] Now that which forgives is none other than charity. Take away charity from the heart and hatred possesses it, it knows not how to forgive. Let charity be there, and she fearlessly forgives, not being hindered.

As for this whole epistle of Saint John: see whether it commends anything else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it might come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity becomes hateful? It is by charity that other things come to be rightly loved; then how must itself be loved!

 

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A Speaker on Israel and Palestine in Canterbury

Jeff.speaker

Jeff Halper at St Paul’s Church, 7:30pm Monday 21st May

Richard Llewellin, former Bishop of Dover, writes:

A very remarkable Israeli Jew, called Jeff Halper, is coming to speak in Canterbury during a visit to the UK. 

Having watched the demolition of a Palestinian home for what he considered no good reason, he started the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions.  This organisation has rebuilt countless numbers of Palestinian homes demolished by the Israeli authorities (some of which have been then demolished for a second, or even a third, time!). 

Jeff Halper is larger-than-life, an excellent speaker, and has very good things to say about the future of Israel and Palestine.  He is speaking at St Paul’s Church, Canterbury, on Monday, 21 May at 7:30 PM, and you will not be disappointed at his talk if you can manage to come and listen to him.’

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31 May: The Visitation: Mary, Mother of God.

 

360px-Church_of_the_Visitation_IMG_0637On the feast of the Visitation, here is Fr Austin’s reflection on Mary, mother of God, and what that means for us.

When God chose to become part of Creation through the Incarnation, the motherhood of Mary was already implied. The Church says nothing about the course of her life from the day it began until the Annunciation. What happened during that time, what it meant to start life full of Grace we don’t know. It will have been ordinary, if only because ostentation and grace do not belong together.

Scripture does not primarily tell us of the dignity of Mary by recounting facts about her physical motherhood of Jesus, or say that Mary is Mother of God as a consequence of a physical event. It tells us what Mary did, and this shows her importance and dignity. Luke shows us Mary, becoming through free consent one who is blessed. Because the divine motherhood is described from the start, not simply as a biological event, but as taking place through a free, personal and grace-inspired act of faith, Mary is seen not simply with a private relationship to Jesus, but as inserting her into the wider story of redemption. She appears as a figure in history, like Abraham and other characters in the historical dialogue between God and Israel. We are simply told that this person was asked, and replied: be it done… Because of her consent, the Word became flesh, and Mary is Mother of God.

God created the world, and so everything belongs. But this creation can stand forever distant, or it can belong. Which of the two possibilities is actually realised is not finally decided by the fact of creation; it is only decided in the course of history. God created a world of free persons, and so a drama develops between God and the world. For God is not the only one who is active, producing the drama as though through puppets. God creates in freedom, so there actually does arise a dialogue between a free God and free human beings. From God’s point of view it is a dialogue always open; we can act freely as long as our history lasts, we can freely choose to respond in any way we like.

From a natural point of view God is free to choose to respond in whatever way; we do not know God will act in our regard. God could dissociate from us, or invite us closer. Happily, everything is very different from that. God has spoken clearly, definitively and irrevocably. This word has been spoken into creation, and it will not return to the Father without achieving its purpose. God’s intention has become flesh in our world. God has determined that the world itself shall be taken into eternal mercy, and that it now has a destiny that transcends its own natural one. Judgement is not God’s last word, but compassion; not isolation but intimacy.

The Word was made flesh because a girl of our race, listened, was apprehensive but cooperative and said yes, freely. This is the way God chose to become part of creation. Of course, Mary’s consent her willingness freely given is itself the fruit of grace. Yet though all this is the fruit of grace, yet it remains Mary’s own freely given consent. When God gives gifts they become precisely what is our own, completely identified with us. God gifts me with the ability to love worthily, yet with a love that is truly mine! It is as much mine as my life – since it is gifted from the same source.

Mary’s motherhood is by the grace of God alone, and her own free act, inseparably; and since this belongs intrinsically to the story of Redemption, it gives Mary a real relationship with us, since we are living within the history of redemption. To praise her motherhood is not to honour something belonging to her private life, but in the light of the context of the Incarnation, she is also mother to us.

Saint Francis tells us we are all mothers of the Lord – we have conceived through word and sacrament, now bring him to birth by the way you live.

AMcC.

 

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3 April: Adam and Eve and Immigration to the Promised Land.

refugees-welcome

Yesterday we heard in Ezekiel’s prophecy how God would bring his people back to the Holy Land of Israel. Doug’s reflections on migration follow on very well from that reading.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people: and will bring you into the land of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:12

A cultural battle has been waged on both sides of “the pond”, playing itself out in politics.  First, in the U.K. there was Brexit, and in the U.S. there was the Executive Order of the newly elected President halting immigration of refugees from seven specific nations.

British and Americans proudly view their homelands as the Promised Land, if you will.  While many contend the common factor shared by Brexit and the Muslim Ban, is xenophobia, the bad feelings towards foreigners may not be based in fear, but in the belief that natural born citizens have rights that should not be, but are being, unfairly usurped by newcomers.

Place of birth does not guarantee virtuousness nor righteousness.  In Saint Ambrose’s writings on Paradise, he uses scripture to validate this claim.

As Saint Ambrose tells us, Adam was not native to the garden.  We see in Genesis 2:7-8 that it was after he was formed from the dust of the earth, then he was placed in the garden…making Adam the first refugee immigrating to a better place.

Eve on the other hand, was a native of Paradise, created from the rib of man (Genesis 2:22).

And, it was Eve, the native, who sinned first, and consummated the Fall of Man by deceiving Adam, the immigrant.

“You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt “(Leviticus 19:34).

DW.

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January 13: Faith is not an Overcoat

pilgrims.wet (640x229)

Was it their overcoats or their hearts burning within them (Luke 24:34) that kept these pilgrims warm in Krakow?

Here is a thought to dwell on, when I get ready to go out on these cold winter’s days, up here in the Northern hemisphere. But it applies even in the warm, sunny South, and actualy comes from Friar Francesco Patten OFM,  the Custos, or guardian, of the shrines in the Holy Land.

Franciscanism entered into me partly because I have the name [Francesco] and partly because my family taught me that the faith is not an overcoat but the core, sustaining life.

+   +   +   +   +

The Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land come from many nations. They support the local Church in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as welcoming pilgrims. They rely on our support.

Pray for Peace on Jerusalem and on all the lands of the Bible.

See: www.theholylandreview.com

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