All that is happening—all the reports and the devastating details coming from Israel and Gaza—all of this is weighing on each of us to varying degrees, I am sure. And it is weighing especially on those who have loved ones who are caught in the conflict and the cycles of violence, and to those who have Palestinian and Jewish connections. My heart and my thoughts are with you. I can’t say I know how you feel, but I can try to imagine how I would feel, and I hope that this community can offer a collective embrace and support you in ways that are helpful and refrain from thinking that we can find the perfect words of consolation. I doubt that they exist.
Words themselves are tricky, especially at a time such as this.
• It is dangerous—especially for those of Jewish and Muslim faith—it is dangerous, here in this country, to speak of the sources, the causes of what is happening without being accused of justifying the horrors we witness.
• It is tempting, in quickly distinguishing the “good” side from the “evil” side—to accuse and all too often literally attack imagined representatives of those determined to be on the side of “evil.”
• It is all too easy to hide from the horrors of what is happening in research–reading opinion pieces and bits and pieces of history and strident social media posts—seeking to construct an informed, if sometimes cynical opinion about the centuries-long conflict “over there” and thereby dismissing any engagement with the reality as being hopeless, sufficiently satisfied that one now has proper perspective.
There is something in me that resists the writing and sharing of these very words, as I doubt that more words—piled atop countless mountains of words about this conflict—I doubt that more words—that my words–are needed or will prove helpful.
So I will just say this.
It is not just happening over there.
Whatever you think it is, it is also happening here, in families, in congregations, in communities, in casual connections, in intimate relationships, the waves of pain and loss and anger and heartbreak are washing over us.
Whatever you think it is, it doesn’t take long at all to see that the issues involved—of land, of home, of freedom and self-determination, of security and the illusions of security, of powerlessness and power and the perversion of power, of dignity and dehumanization, of family and faith and fundamentalism, of war and weapons and willful violence, of savagery and solidarity, of hatred and humiliation and humility—it doesn’t take long to see these issues, all wrapped up in intricacies of history and the human heart, include all of us…It doesn’t take long to see parallels, and often direct connections, here.
It’s happening here.
And we, in this place, have already chosen a way to respond.
We will deepen connections by nurturing spiritual growth, practicing justice and inspiring joy. Deepen connections across differences. Nurture spiritual growth which calls us to deep reflection and humility rather than hatred. Practice justice in all our affairs, to think beyond what benefits me to the common good, justice for all, intentionally including those least like me. Inspiring joy even in the midst of horror and heartbreak, for joy is resistance, joy is what rises as the connections deepen, joy is that spirit of gratitude inside us which will not, cannot be extinguished by wars or weapons, prisons or oppression, which can exist simultaneously with our tears, with our anger, with our losses, with our pain.
Be joyful, says the poet, Wendell Berry, though you have considered all the facts…and so may it be.
The mission of this congregation can respond to these troubling and troubled times. As frail as it can sometimes feel, we need only remember the words of St. John of the Cross: God has so ordained things that we grow in faith only through the frail instrumentality of each other. Whether you believe God ordains things or not, whether you believe in God or not, the truth of that still rings out, rises from the unequivocal truth that we are all connected, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny: we grow in faith, in trust, in courageous compassion only through the frail instrumentality of each other. We are connected. We seek to deepen those connections.
Our mission speaks to these troubling times. May we be faithful to its call.
Rev. Rod Richards