Rev. Charlie Baber is an ordained deacon serving at Highland United Methodist in Raleigh, North Carolina. Charlie has a weekly comic-blog called Wesley Bros.
Read Psalm 122
It amazes me how relevant is the ancient phrase: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Israel has always seemed to be a volatile location, where politics and religion have been the demise of thousands of people for centuries. If there is anything that turns people OFF from religion, it is the violence and division that have been caused by people of differing faiths.
We live in a society that is scandalized by the particularity of the Christian faith: namely, that God chose be revealed to a specific people group (the Hebrews) at a specific time and place. Rather than being equally revealed to all people at once from above, God worked in the individual and communal lives of Ancient Middle Eastern folk to bring about a community of promise and hope in the world. Instead of giving us a rule book with black and white clarity for how to live, God came in the form of one of us and showed us a way of living that blurs the lines and crosses the boundaries. God came to us as a Hebrew person, who was born in an actual village called Bethlehem, lived in an actual country called Israel, died and was resurrected in a specific city called Jerusalem.
The particularity of these details says a lot about who God is, and who God has made us to be. God is a particular relationship, the Three-In-One community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s love is revealed in the particularity of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Because of Christ, the Holy Spirit is working in every human being, in every culture, in every time, to bring all people to know God. We are awakened to true community when we share the peace of Christ in us with the others who don’t yet know that peace. We are reconciled to each other, find healing with each other by sharing that particular love of Christ.
Psalm 122 is a Psalm of ascents, meant to be sung by Jewish people on pilgrimage to the capitol city of Jerusalem. Historically, Christians have also understood “Jerusalem” to be “The Church,” and so a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem could also be a prayer for the peace of the Church around the world. The Church is the particular community in the world that tells the story of Jesus.
As we start a new year in the Church, we celebrate the story of a relational God who was born to a vulnerable family in a particular city during dangerous times. The Prince of Peace does not bring that peace through violence, but through sacrifice. It is vital that you share that particular truth, for this is the story that brings reconciliation and healing. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the peace of the Church. Pray for peace in Egypt and Syria, in our schools and in our streets. Then go out and practice peace. Live out the particular love of Christ today, and don’t be ashamed to talk about the reason for your hope.