Small steps in peace-making...

Two days to go before we depart for Montreal and embrace two weeks of rest, renewal and refreshment. But before we depart there are still miles of ministry to do before I sleep (my regrets to Robert Frost.) Yesterday, for example, I met with a colleague from one of the town's synagogues to plan for some shared gatherings we hope to kick off mid-summer. He told me that after a recent presentation we did about Israel-Palestine he felt emboldened to toss away his sermon notes and talk with his congregation about what it felt like to be among the vast center of the political spectrum. He noted that too often this "voice" has been rendered silent by extremes on both the political Left and the Right. What would it take, he mused, to empower the broad center so that compromise and change might emerge in pursuit of integrity and peace?

Our shared hope is that we might reclaim some common ground so we're exploring ways of bringing our two congregations together for shared study and reflection. This is an act of courage and faith on his part given the profound polarization that exists around anything having to do with Israel and I am humbled by his careful and compassionate commitment. So what we're going to do this summer is create a forum for trust building. We'll start by bringing together a small group from each congregation - all of whom know in advance that our goal is to study and explore our take on the current stalemate between Israel and Palestine - and share together some of the poems of our traditions. Our hope is that the beauty and nuance of poetry will not only help us learn to speak with one another - and create the potential for trust and safety - but also help us grasp the complexity of our endeavor. 

A small step? Of course.  Will it change the political landscape in Israel or the United States? Not likely. But it will bring two very different but simultaneously similar congregations from unique faith traditions together. And it will give us the chance to carefully practice talking about hard things together in pursuit of peace and understanding. In its own small way, this calls to mind Psalm 133:

How very good and pleasant it is
   when kindred live together in unity! 
It is like the precious oil on the head,
   running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
   running down over the collar of his robes. 
It is like the dew of Hermon,
   which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
   life for evermore.

As our time grew to a close yesterday, I said, "This is a unique and sacred moment that I don't want to waste. At this moment in my life, unlike when I was younger and thought I could always go back and grab an experience, I know that time waits for no one. Life is too short and precious to put off what has been presented to us."  So we hope to seize the moment in faith... 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


ddl said…
Hey rj-- great plan-- interesting-- not sure-- but I think you mean apologies to Robert Frost :)
if you mean "Stopping By the Woods..." poem. Happy Montreal:)
RJ said…
Ooops... thanks ddl I made the correction re: Robert Frost. And I am knocked out by the song too so many thanks for that. Be well!
ddl said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
ddl said…
Good morning, RJ. I realize that you will be leaving for vacation soon...but I am wondering if I could trouble you for a quiet prayer in your heart this am. My husband passed away a year ago today (June 25th). What I pray most of all is that he is proud of us-- of his little ones, but also of me as a parent, and how we are trying to make a life without him. He took me to Canada (Prince Edwards Island) early in our marriage and he showed me things that I had never seen or knew little about. Last night, I went to the movies by myself (I got a sitter) and watched "The Fault in our Stars"-- I had read the book-- and it was a treat to see the movie-- It is VERY good and is brutally honest about the cancer journey. It reminded me of all the people I love in my life and of my husband's saving sacrifices for us. So this promises to be a difficult day. He was such a good friend to me and wanted the best for us-- and for me as a person with a difficult past. We have two small children age 21 mo-- and they still ask for daddy and point to pics. I hope you will forgive my asking you for prayer. But I think that you might have enjoyed my Frank-- he was very creative and interesting and musical (sing).
Thank you.
Have a good day.
RJ said…
You BET I will hold him and all of you in prayer today ddl - and please NEVER hesitate to ask me for prayer, ok? Anytime. What a privilege. May the goodness of God's love surround you all throughout the day as you embody love for your little ones. And may you know God's care for Frank in his new life, too. With love and deep respect.

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