A Kairos Moment with Israel

We have been talking a lot about Kairos moments and learning circles in church over the past couple of weeks. We are being challenged to watch for the times and places where God breaks into our everyday lives in a way that grabs our attention.

Pastor Dave suggested that we ask two questions: What is God saying to us? What does God want us to do about it?

For me, the thing I have had a hard time ignoring over the past week or two is the horrible war that is going on in Gaza right now. Israel has first bombed and now invaded Gaza in an effort to stop the rocket attacks from Hamas on Israel’s cities. It is a horrible, intractable conflict that is having a devastating effect on both Palestinian and Israeli communities and families. Terror attacks like those launched by Hamas are never justified. But neither is the occupation by Israel of Palestinian communities, let alone the degree of devastation of their attacks on Gazan neighborhoods. I am trying to figure out what God is saying to me in this situation.

With that in mind, I have been going through the learning circle process that has been introduced to us this summer. To that end, I have made an effort to observe what is going on – to learn about not only the history of the conflict, but about the Palestinian people I don’t know much about, either Muslims or Christians. Then I have taken time to reflect on what life is like there for all concerned, as well as on the words of the Torah and the prophets about how Israel was asked by God to order their lives, with hospitality to strangers, widows and orphans and with justice. I have reflected on the words of Jesus about how we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even love our enemies. I have engaged in discussion with Jan and others to improve my understanding of the situation and to learn how I am involved with the conflict, via my citizenship in a democracy which has provided humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and almost unlimited military and diplomatic support to Israel.

As a result of that process, I have been coming to the conviction that God is not happy with how any of his children are behaving in this conflict. I am afraid that God must be especially disappointed in the behavior of his Chosen People, who are steadily forcing Abraham’s other descendants out of the land they both rightfully claim. Jim Dietvorst reminded us on Sunday of Martin Luther King’s statement that “Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can put out darkness”. Violence cannot stop violence – it only displaces or defers violence. A different response, a different strategy is needed. My sense is that God is asking us to try justice and mercy rather than force and violence.

But what does God want me/us to do about it? How am I to make my repentance real and demonstrate changed behavior? This conflict is 5000 miles away and involves people with whom I have no direct connection. I have a historic affinity for the Jewish people and affirm their right to the homeland that has been established for them in Israel. But I am also learning that I also have an affinity and connection with many Palestinians – especially the Christians, both Lutheran and Orthodox – who are being systematically displaced. They have been calling out to their Christian brothers and sisters around the world to advocate for justice for them, especially as the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and restrictions on movement make their daily lives increasingly difficult.

I am now beginning to plan, account and act as I sense God is calling to me through these brothers and sisters. While it is somewhat helpful to make charitable donations to ease their increasing poverty, or to buy handcrafts from Bethlehem to help them economically, my sense is that being an active US citizen and calling on my elected officials, both in Congress and the White House, to press for an immediate ceasefire and an end to this invasion is a greater contribution. I believe that as unjustified as Hamas’ rocket attacks on Israel are, they are unlikely to stop until there is a more just distribution of land and resources in this very small territory. I don’t know what the endgame will be, but I believe that I can plan with others in my country, and act in such a way as to use the power of the US to advance peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. After all, this is where Jesus first called us to seek the Kingdom of God.

What is happening in your life, in your community, in your world, that God wants you to pay attention to?

Lord of the Nations,

Make us instruments of your peace, from our homes, to our schools and businesses, to our cities, our nation, and throughout the world. Help us to listen and reflect, but also to plan and act to advance your purposes. Amen

Dave Erickson-Pearson

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