No Judgments, Just Jesus

Rev. Franz Rigert – A Pastoral Response to War in the Holy Land

Dear friends,
Yesterday morning, I attended an interfaith breakfast in Milwaukee. Jewish, Muslim and Christian friends sat together and shared deep sorrow for all the people of the Holy Land. We acknowledged the raw emotions so many of us feel following the horrific Hamas attacks, the hostage taking, the ruthless killing of innocent people, and the ensuing military buildup and declaration of war. 

Leaders of the three Abrahamic religions humbly acknowledged this was a moment of sighs too deep for words. And so, we shared the bond of lamentation – profound sadness for such brutal destruction, death, and devastation to Palestinians and Israelis alike. So much anger turned to rage. So much resentment turned to revenge. So much hopelessness in the very land of Isaac, Ishmael and Jesus.

We wondered what to say to the people of our respective faith traditions, many of whom have family or friends in the Holy Land. At times, it seems, we need to sit with the Psalmist’s prayers of lamentation:
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.” (Psalm 130:1)
“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in the times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
“My soul is in deep anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3)
This doesn’t feel like the right time to weigh in on the complicated economic, religious and geopolitical issues that have contributed to this long and intractable conflict. The idea of a two-state solution, while once a hoped-for possibility, seems light-years away. Perhaps it is best at this moment to acknowledge that the actions of any militia or government may reflect the views of some, but surely not all, of their people. Many Israelis and many Palestinians refuse to hold extreme positions, and instead pray for a spirit of compromise that could lead to a respectful and peaceful coexistence. 

This feels like a time to mourn together, and to find solidarity and solace in prayers for all who anguish. 

This feels like a time to advocate not for one side or the other, but for the humanitarian relief of all who have suffered greatly and are in critical need of food, water, shelter and security. 

This feels like a time to acknowledge that although there are no easy solutions, there are good and faithful Palestinians and Israelis who long for the day when tolerance, peace and neighborly love will be the way of life in the Holy Land. 

So where is God in all of this? The Rev. Seth Ethan Carey, my sister Gretchen’s gifted pastor at First Congregational UCC in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, wrote this: 
“God is amidst the rubble in both Israel and Palestine; God is there cradling the innocent children caught in the crossfire; God dwells with the hostages that are paraded through the streets, keeping a spark of hope alive in them; God abides in Jewish, Muslim and Christian houses of prayer, wherever people cry out for peace.”

Shalom. As-salaam Alaikum. Peace be upon you.
The Rev. Franz Rigert – Conference Minister


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