“stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high”
“you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”
Between the words from Luke, in the Gospel reading and acts, these two recordings of the final words of Jesus before he ascends are words that ring out this Ascension Sunday amid the violence and unrest in the Holy Land.From Bethany, where Jesus ascended, less than a kilometre from the Temple Mount, our God, as we believe, left us with the message of peace, blessing, and readiness with an encouragement knowing that this message was entering a place of conflict.
This week, amid the noise of protests, rocket fire and police brutality, sit innocent people. Some of who are Anglican Christians incidentally.The violence and unrest between Israel and Palestine this week has been a tough watch, particularly through our modern eyes where the complex history and politics eludes a lot of the commentary that we read and see.
The world is literally divided in the recognition of the Palestinian state, by the line of money. Officially at least, the wealthy Western Nations aligned with Israel and most of the rest of the world with Palestine.The narrative drawn through our social media channels may well be varied, and there are provocative and aggressive action from both sides. But make no mistake, the disregard for the existence in dwelling and faith towards the Palestinian people over the years has been utterly shameful. The systematic displacement of people from their homes is an act of invasion that has been conducted through wealth, arrogance and political force.
But this latest escalation of violence during Holy Festivals cuts deep into the lives and the hearts of innocent civilians. Underhand military tactics, police brutality and the suppression of the freedom of press are a feature of this conflict, as well as rocket attacks sent in return and while we each try to grasp the clarity of the situation one thing is clear. Those who lose the most, are the men women and children of the downtrodden. For example the Al Jazeera media building that was destroyed yesterday was also a multi purpose building meaning that the homes of many Palestinians were destroyed at the same time.
Today, the reports of mass rocket fire from the other side of course are also both horrifying and upsetting. This story is one replicated time and time again, and this is why our collective voice and our prayers for peace are needed.
When we speak of wishing peace, it is at times like this where we pray for it on behalf of others. It is our role to speak truth and justice and to replicate that in our own place. This morning Rev. Helen spoke of how when it comes to truth it is important to both say and live out truth. How plaques on a wall are meaningless without action and representation for the issues that we hold as truth. In this way, we as a Church we continue to look towards the ways that we can do this together.
In our own place. Yesterday was our Diocesan Synod, our meeting of governance, we met and together we put forward two key issues that we as a Church can make a material difference in our ministry and mission.At the previous Synod we declared climate change as an emergency of our time. A committee was established and at this Synod, that committee presented its recommendations which were implemented noting the need to work with indigenous voices as we address how our Churches can become more conscious of our buildings, our land and our footprint. This will be done through support to parishes through Diocesan resources and staffing. The other issue that was raised as a priority, was the issue of housing. We acknowledged that our city is divided through the line of wealth leaving vulnerable populations on the margins of our society. From this Synod, a committee will be established much like the Climate Change committee before it, to address this issue so that our actions reflect our words of truth.
Our progress, no matter how incremental it may feel at times, is something that we hold fast to.
Today, we remember that:
Jesus did not ‘rise above’ the troubles of the people.
Jesus did not leave behind something that was unfixable.
Jesus spent time with the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, the rejected and the homeless.
When conflicts arise and when social situations require our voices and actions, our perspectives as Christians should always be centred on the example that our God shared with us in Jesus Christ. Our truth does not excuse violence against ordinary people, it is always to side with the oppressed, the victims caught up in systemic and political mess.
In the modern world, warfare is no longer indiscriminate like it once was perhaps, and the killing of innocent civilians is determined by risk and consequence. It is a considered factor of action.Therefore our truth is in peace, and peace that surpasses human weakness.
A peace that rests in the love of humanity no matter how flawed.A peace that declares our God, our mother of creation, who paved the path before our feet with love.
A love indiscriminate, a love of compassion and solidarity.
A love beyond our awareness.
Let us take that peace into our world.