Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7, NIV
Like practically everyone, I am the farthest from an expert on the Middle East and what is happening in Israel and Gaza that you will find. What gives me odd comfort, though, is speaking with people I assume to have deeper knowledge about it, and they’re just as lost as I feel. This week, I spoke to an American rabbi who lived in Israel, has spent a lot of time there since, and has read copious amounts of books on the varied explanations for what is happening there, each with suggestion after suggestion for how to make the violence stop. The rabbi’s takeaway? “The more I know about it, the less I know what to do about it.”
Still, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, telling us that our efforts of peacemaking will pledge and proclaim our unshakable personhood as children of God. So, I pray.
God of peace, Parent and Partner of the Prince of peace, Giver of the Spirit of peace that dwells within each of us and intercedes with sighs too deep for words when we cannot find peace, our hearts are broken to the core. In this twenty-first century global community that we’ve been pulled from the cosmos to live in together, there is no escaping the violence unfolding hour after hour, day after day in the Middle East. Dances have become dirges. Humans have become hostages. Killing begets killing, anger is stoked to the point of madness, and everyone, everywhere is presented with a sudden, serious choice of which side to stand on.
None of it makes sense. And, like children, we rage against what doesn’t make sense. It’s infuriating. It’s killing us. We are helpless, and we hate it.
Hear our prayer, O God. Help us to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Hold us close as we hold in that breath. Hold us steady as we let it out, making space in our mind, body, and spirit for truth that brings us hope.
The truth is that You made us in your image that craves community, that demonstrates covenantal living over contractual co-existence regardless of the time or context, and that celebrates reconciled relationships no matter how distant we have strayed from You and from one another. Given that truth informing our very being, we are made to be fundamentally incapable of making sense of the nonsensical, of forming justifications for unjustifiable violence. Thank you for that beautiful limitation, O God.
With non-anxious breathing, we rise to our continued calling to make peace in the absence of it however we can. In the noisy gongs of hatred and clanging cymbals of fear that breed war and violence, make us instruments of Your peace. Divert us from temptations to pick the right side and to settle on the correct solution to his mess, which risk a descent into indifference. That is not us, nor what You created us to emulate.
Steep us instead in the truth. That there is no sense to be made of this. That we are not made to be peacekeepers at any cost, but peacemakers above all else. That we are put on this earth in this moment to love one another. And that peace is not only Your desire for this whole world that you so love, but what You mean to be our destiny of interwoven existence across our misunderstood differences. May it be so, and may it begin with us. Shalom. Salaam. Peace. Amen.