“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” (Psalm 122:6-9)
In just a few days, I will depart for Israel-Palestine with 11 others from the Minnesota Conference. Together we will embark on a sacred journey to that cradle of three Abrahamic faiths…and a region riddled with conflict and complexity.*
While there, our days will be filled with visits to the holy sites of the land: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Galilee and Nazareth, Jericho, the River Jordan, and much more. But as important and inspiring as these experiences will be, I suspect the most transformative moments will come from our interactions with the “living stones” of Israel-Palestine: Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are the people of this complicated, beautiful, and divided place, and who daily navigate a twisted web of political, social, and religious realities. Peace in that “holy land” is far distant; security is a mirage built by walls and check-points. And true justice for many there is still just a dream.
The prayer of Psalm 122 for peace and security within the hallowed walls of Jerusalem is still a poignant one today for those who claim Israel and Palestine as their rightful home. It is also a prayer, it strikes me, that we in the United States would do well to pray in these times for our own nation and peoples.
As a new leader prepares to step into the Presidency, our nation is sorely divided…by politics, by fear, by clashing world-views and stark racism. Genuine and deep peace eludes us, as well. The path to our security is a constant source of disagreement, one that often comes at the expense of our neighbor’s justice. And the common good is often sacrificed on the altars of greed and self-interest.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the peace of our nation and world. Pray for the sake of all those who our faith demands we love as our neighbor. And strive to seek the good of all. These seem like ample prayers to ground and guide us in the new year now before us.
Shalom. Salaam. Peace.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
*Read the resolution passed by the 2015 Annual Meeting of the MN Conference about Israel-Palestine [here]. Please hold our Conference’s Sacred Journey participants in your prayers as they travel January 9-20.