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A Devotion From Pastor Alexa

I tossed and turned last night, with images of Hamas insurgents parachuting into a festival in Israel on a Jewish holiday weekend ever before my mind’s eye. I think about the roughly 200,000 people in Gaza displaced by the escalated violence; about the fact we learned from World Relief that, on average, people spend 20 years in Refugee camps before arriving in their receiving country. These hostilities will affect our entire world for at least 20 years. This conflict, between Israel and Palestine, has been going on since 1948, when the Jewish people were granted a homeland already inhabited by another people, the Palestinians. The Jewish people needed a homeland because of a war started by Hitler’s antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s. We are here at this moment because of hateful beliefs, actions, and systems from 90 years ago - by hatred sowed into the fabric of our world long before that. 

Rev. Amy Butler, former pastor of Riverside Church in New York City, has shared in many settings that she preaches “with a Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” Those without ears to hear might think she is saying that she preaches ‘political’ sermons, and might have all kinds of criticism about that. But, those with ears to hear will understand that there is no true hope without contending with the reality of the pain, suffering, violence, and despair that the world faces us with on a daily basis. 

What need is there for hope without the known reality of despair? Can we know the full, true power of love when we do not recognize the destructive violence of hate? 

Hope is born out of situations of despair, because despairing situations clarify what is needful. What is needful, what we dream of, what we hope for, is a world without violence, a world with true peace, a world where Palestinians and Israelis can not only coexist, but delight in one another’s presence and work together toward collective flourishing. We dream and hope for a world in which children are not caught in crossfires because there are no crossfires. We dream and hope for a world in which there is no terrorism because there is no desperation, no disaffected people, no grievances left unresolved and unreconciled. 

The hopeful are not in need of hope, the healthy not in need of a doctor (Mark 2:17). Hope is offered to the despairing, the suffering, the oppressed, the marginalized, the downtrodden. We must, as people of faith, find hopefulness in the face of all that ails us, of all that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy the well-being of any who find themselves part of the global community. We must, as people of faith, proclaim good news in the face of bad news. 

My hope rests on the promise that God is with us, that God incarnated themself in Jesus Christ, risking themself for our sake, for our salvation, for our redemption. My hope rests on the promise that God does not leave us to ourselves, but is intimately at work in each and every place; God’s presence being especially potent in the places where violence and hatred take place, as God works to heal, resist, redeem, and restore all that is lost and seemingly destroyed forever. My hope rests on the imagery that God has given us in our holy scriptures of a new world to come, a new Jerusalem, where there will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old things have passed away and the new has come. In that world to come, Christ will be our light, and we will no longer live in darkness - all will be made clear, and nothing will be hidden from our sight. Please pray with me:

Holy One, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May it start with me. Amen.

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