One of my tasks each month is to write a liturgy for the MSA newsletter (Seed Sampler). One of the things I love about this task is that it ensures I take time each month for reflection and prayer that revolves around social or spiritual issues we face in our world. This last month’s issue was on Peace in the Middle East which meant I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what it would take to bring peace to the Middle East. I was doing this the week after Pentecost so reflecting on the story of Pentecost and its implications of cross cultural understanding seemed an appropriate place to start. I thought that you might enjoy seeing what I shared.
This last weekend we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives and into our world. I love this story as it is recounted in the second chapter of Acts. Having worked in many cross cultural situations I know that there is nothing more frustrating than lack of understanding with a person from another culture who speaks another language. I can imagine the delight of this gathering literally from across the known world – Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judea, Cappadocians, Asians, Egyptians, Libyans visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. All of them heard the disciples in their own languages. I suspect that the understanding went far deeper than language, however. I think that through the power of the Holy Spirit all of those gathered on the day of Pentecost were able to understand the cultural traditions and nuances that so often cause misunderstanding and conflict.
The story of Pentecost is a story of a wonderful international cross cultural gathering. God’s Holy Spirit draws us all into a new family in which we are able to understand and break down all the cultural barriers that separate us and create conflict. In spite of our cultural differences we are, through the power of the Spirit, enabled to understand each other and treat each other as equals, with love and mutual care.
Peace in the Middle East is not possible without cross cultural understanding not just between Israelis and Arabs but also between Jews and Christians and Muslims. Perhaps this is part of the reason God asks us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This holy city of God is special to people of so many traditions and cultures. Without understanding and without the power of the Holy Spirit working within it there will never be peace.
1. How could you help to break down barriers & foster understanding between peoples of different cultures in the Middle East?
2. What does it mean for us to be drawn into community with the peoples of Palestine?
3. What implications does the message of Pentecost have in relation to the topics addressed in this newsletter?
A Liturgy for Peace
God blesses those who work for peace,
For they will be called the children of God. (Matt 5:9)
God of peace you call us to peace.
Peace within and peace without
Peace before and peace behind
Peace on right and peace on left
Christ of peace you call us to peace.
Peace with brother and with sister
Peace with neighbour and with stranger
Peace with friend and with foe
Spirit of peace you call us to peace.
Peace in work and in play
Peace in thought and in deed
Peace in word and in action
Grant us peace O God of peace.
Psalm 122 (New Living translation)
1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 And now here we are,
standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is a well-built city;
its seamless walls cannot be breached.
4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—
make their pilgrimage here.
They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord,
as the law requires of Israel.
5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given,
the thrones of the dynasty of David.
6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.
John 14:23-27 (Contemporary English Version)
Jesus replied: If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them. But anyone who doesn’t love me, won’t obey me. What they have heard me say doesn’t really come from me, but from the Father who sent me. I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you. I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.
Our Father who is in heaven hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
God all powerful and all knowing encircle us
Keep love within and fear without
Keep peace within and violence out
Circle us with your presence
God all loving and all embracing encircle us
Keep wholeness in and disease without
Keep care within and selfishness out
Circle us with your love
God all mighty and all caring encircle us
Keep truth within and injustice out
Keep acceptance in and prejudice out
Circle us with your peace
God may we be instruments of your peace today
In a world divided by war and strife
May we be your reconcilers
In a world of hurt and pain
May we be those who care for our enemies
In a world that kills and maims
May we be those who heal and restore
God lead us with your peace