Sunday, November 18, 2012

All the Children of Abraham

"I believe that one fine day / all the children of Abraham / will lay down their swords / forever in Jerusalem."

What a day it's been!  From beginning to end: a full day, a rich day of conversation and prayer.  This morning, our honored guest in worship was Imam Tahir Anwar of the Islamic Center in San Jose.  His honesty and humor--in equal measure--spoke to the pain in his community and the hope of something better.  In my 23 years of ministry, it was the first time I've welcomed a Muslim cleric to preach.  And it was a huge honor, a deeply satisfying privilege.

The Imam spoke eloquently of his prayer practice: what it means to pray five times a day, to deliberately seek God's counsel and praise God's name.  He spoke of the awareness that comes with discipline, the sense of God's presence, God's encouragement, God's blessing.  I pray for him tonight--and for his community in the South Bay--that their prayers may be meaningful, powerful, inspiring through the night and into this week of thanksgiving.

This afternoon, Rabbi Paula Marcus and I gathered a delegation of Jews and Christians determined to travel together to Israel and Palestine next summer.  It's not an easy time to be considering such a violence escalates in Gaza and Southern Israel.  The purpose of our going, of course, is to meet with peacemakers and support their faithful and creative efforts.  Throughout our meeting this afternoon, I thought of those we've met during travels the past few years: Zoughbi Zoughbi and Usama Nicola in Bethlehem; Nomika Zion in Sderot; Ghassan Manasra in Nazareth; Dana Peleg in Tel Aviv; Daoud Nasser in the West Bank.  I pray for them tonight, in their towns and cities, with their loved ones: May God bless them with safety and sustenance, and with a new sense of vision even in the midst of darkness.  Let peace dwell in the hearts of the faithful.

And then, this evening, our new Interfaith Youth Group: Jewish and Christian teens, struggling together, growing together, even singing together.  I'm so pleased with the depth and sincerity of these kids: the ways they talk to one another and engage ideas and explore texts.  Rabbi Eli Cohen and I lead the group together: and the kids pick up on our collaboration, I think, and the gifts available in our respect for one another.  Tonight, we read the Parable of the Good Samaritan--exploring all kinds of meanings and wrestling with our own commitments to mercy and neighborliness.  I pray for these teens too tonight, that they might come to trust the Spirit's presence within and honor it with their own love and tenderness.

Throughout this day, hour to hour, I'm drawn to the news from Gaza, from Sderot, from Jerusalem--and saddened, worried by it.  These are more than points on a map, now, but communities I've visited, people I've come to respect and know.  I'm disturbed that politics seems to fuel this new wave of violence, and anxious for friends and colleagues.  Steve Earle's anthem to peace ("Jerusalem") rings through me, in me...draws me to prayer, to my knees, to a deeper commitment.

All this is on my mind, and in my heart, as I close my eyes tonight.  "The drums are drumming again / and I can't stand the sound."  God of all, Lord of love--sing your world a lullaby tonight, a lullaby of peace and kindness, a love song of courage and compassion, a sweet melody of forgiveness.  Have mercy on us, forgive us, and turn our hearts to you.  Amen.