Lectionary Selection: Matthew 24: 36-44
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming…Therefore, you must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Prayers for Israel/Palestine:
Come Human One, advent our lives.
Come like a thief in the night and disturb
our sleep, our comfortable realities that say
you can have peace without justice,
that say taking someone else’s land or life is not our concern,
that says it is Ok to violate human rights,
break international laws.
Break into our lives, Son of Man,
challenge our certainties,
make us vulnerable to the urgency of your Call
for a new Jerusalem, a Beloved Community here and now
in this place where the streets still run with the blood of the martyrs,
in this place all call holy, all call home.
Help us, unexpected One, to become insomniacs
to keep awake, alert, and watchful
for the ways that your coming can be thwarted, obscured, or denied
by theologies that privilege certain groups as Chosen
by peace processes that deny the right of return,
that don’t demand the freezing of settlement building
or walls that separate and divide.
Christ the thief, come take away our fears and insecurities.
Prepare our hearts, our minds, our spirits
for your indwelling presence
your incarnation as a baby, a refugee,
our brother, our redeemer.
May we become uneasy and alive
unafraid and able to hear angels announcing or singing.
May we become your advent lights of hope, peace, faith, and love.
Mission Stewardship Moment from Israel/Palestine:
Part of my work as your missionary in Israel and Palestine is to serve our mission partner, the YWCA of Palestine. One of my primary tasks with the YWCA is to help them with their advocacy work, to connect their program work to their advocacy for peace with justice. Towards this end I am coordinating a project called, “The Fabric of Our Lives.” It is a project that highlights the work we have done and are continuing to do with refugees who were forced to leave their homes and lands back when the state of Israel was formed. Over 750,000 people were forcibly removed and over 450 villages depopulated in a two year period of time. Before the United Nations could set up its refugees camps, the YWCA was on the ground offering shelter, food, and services. It was and remains committed to refugee rights today including the right of refugees to return or receive reparations. The YWCA along with many others support international laws especially UN Resolution 194 that clearly states that refugees have the right to return to their homes. It has been 65 years. The time is now.
Towards fulfilling this commitment we have launched a project where we will lift up the stories, the oral histories, of women from our camps, who remember what happened that day or days when they were forced from their homes. We will lift up their story and create a doll in their name that tells a piece of their story including the village they left and what has come of the village today.
I would like to share with you now an excerpt from my first interview with Mariam from Beit Nabala, a small village that was in the Jaffa region.
She tells those who are listening that she hasn’t warn this dress in twenty-five years. And I am wondering why? Why haven’t you worn it and why now with us? So I ask in English and wait for my question to be translated and then wait again for her story to be summarized and translated. I feel I can ask this question because we have already met, already become intimate about issues related to life and death. She has already shared with me the horrors of that day when the bullets rained down from both the Hagganah and the British. She has already told me that she saw a breastfeeding woman shot and her baby crying for milk along side the road. She has already bared her soul to me the way women sometimes do with other women. She knew I wanted to know all the sorted and messy details of what happened that day when she and her family were hunted down and expelled from her village.
Like yesterday she shared what happened when she was 16 and newly married with a baby of her own and had to flee her home. There was no time to pack or take wedding treasures, just some bread and oil.
She told me her story unblinking and at the end when I came to sit with her to thank her. She put her hand over her heart and then put it over mine as if to say “It is yours now. Take it. Tell the world this happened.” Blinking back the tears that were welling up in my eyes, I took her story in to my own sorrowful heart. Made room for more heartbreak. When we parted she did that thing older women sometimes do with me here, she placed her hands around my face and cradled it and looked deeply in my eyes. Like a child held by her stern and loving grandmother, I was held and entrusted.
So when a week later we met again for the official interview, I felt we were old friends, kisses not only twice –one on each cheek but one for good measure too. She had put on the green dress the first time, telling me it was 50 years old but today she put on this red embroidered dress and I knew it meant something.
So why has it been twenty-five years? Because there has been nothing to celebrate. Life has been full of one tragedy after another---a martyred son, a nephew shot at by the settlers near the camp. Red is for joyous occasions and weddings. You don’t just put this dress on and cover up those tragedies. You honor the losses with the colors of mourning---black.
I regret at first the naiveté of my question, the insensitivity, but then I realize the dress has given me another window into the ongoing nakba of this woman’s life of one displacement and dispossession after another. It has helped her connect the web of tragic events that began back in ’48 to the present.
Is this sad sharing a day of celebration I wonder? Is it the camera? Again I am the honored recipient of this story too-----the deaths and the red thread of joy. The red thread of joy is her resistance and I realize this is my ministry---- to hold onto it with her, with all these women, to tell their stories so others will know
(Prayer and Mission Moment by Loren McGrail)
Mission Partners in Israel/Palestine:
- Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem
- Diyar Consortium
- East Jerusalem YMCA (Palestine)
- Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel
- Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
- Friends Meeting in Ramallah
- Rawdat el-Zuhur (Palestine)
- Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center (Jerusalem)
- Tantur Ecumenical Institute
- YWCA of Palestine (Palestine)
Video resources about Israel/Palestine: ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Struggles of the Middle East (Eric Fistler, Global Ministries missionary)
More information on Israel/Palestine: http://globalministries.org/mee/countries/israel-palestine/
Rev. Loren McGrail, a member of Lyndale United Church of Christ, Minneapolis, Minnesota and an associate member of Wellington Ave. United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois, serves our Mission Partner the YWCA of Palestine and also works as an ecumenical partner with St. Andrews Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem (Church of Scotland).