Monday, June 9, 2014

Prayers for peace

(This is an adapted version of the text I used at Pilgrim Uniting Church in the prayers for others in the service on Pentecost Sunday)

On the day of Pentecost, we are told that Jews from many different places – a symbol for the whole world at the time – had gathered for the Festival of Shavuot.
The word Pentecost means fifty. The number fifty points to fullness, to ripeness, to a time that is ready for something to happen.

There is a remarkable gathering that took place on Pentecost Sunday I wanted to let you know about, that recognizes that this is indeed a time more than ready for something to happen.

President Abbas & President Peres
When Pope Francis visited the Middle East last month, he secured a promise from Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join him at the Vatican to pray for peace on Pentecost Sunday. Jewish chief rabbis, the Muslim mufti of Jerusalem, and some Christian leaders also joined the gathering for prayer. These leaders, religious and political, committed to join together to pray for a resolution, and for peace, and a way for both nations - Palestinian and Israeli - to live side by side, with peace and justice and reconciliation and equality. They want to see Jerusalem as a shared city between three religions and two states.

Bishop Munib Younan

What the Pope has done is very symbolic, and unprecedented. One religious leader (Bishop Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and President of the Lutheran World Federation) expressed it this way, ‘We have a role to teach our people: to love the neighbour, so that Israelis will see the image of God in me, a Palestinian, and that I will see the image of God in the Israeli’. 

Following the prayers, the Pope and the two Presidents, planted an olive tree in a symbolic call for peace. The Vatican called the event 'a pause from politics', and affirmed that not everything is decided by politics alone. 

Let us join our spirits in prayer with those who have prayed on Pentecost Sunday in the Vatican, for peace, justice, reconciliation and equality in Israel, and for many other places around the world where the seeds of peace are yet to be planted, and where the gift of peace is yet to bloom, and where the flowers of peace have been trampled underfoot.

After a time of silence, I will light the peace lamp, made by people in a small Christian village in Israel. The workshop where the peace lamps are produced provides employment for more than 20 men and women, who would otherwise need to leave their village and seek employment elsewhere. It is hoped that a peace lamp will be placed in every church in the world, and unite people of faith in a common prayer for peace in the Holy Land.

Let us offer our own prayers for peace.
A silence is held for silent prayers.

Lighting of the candle in the peace lamp.


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