28 April 2012

Jew + Arab = Unity?

Psalm 133 
A song of ascents. Of David.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!   It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Psalm 133 talks of the goodness and blessing  of unity.  When we think of unity, we think of one mind, one purpose, goal or vision that people come together or agree on.  Yet if you think about it, to have unity, you also must have diversity.  Unity is not everyone being the same – that is uniformity.  Unity exists when people have started from different places and yet find themselves walking in agreement with each other – not on everything, but at least on something.

Each year, on the church calendar’s official Day of Pentecost, believers around the world are praying.     They are from different nations, different races, different languages, different ages, and different denominations.  And if you need diversity in order to create unity, then these people are united - through their prayers and expecting God’s blessing!  And Israelis are participating in this unity too.

Our news media does not often talk of the unity in Israel between Jew and Arab, primarily expressed through the believers there.  But for the last couple of years, Rania, a Nazareth Arab woman has been a catalyst for this kind of expression.  The Global Day of Prayer is held on Sunday, 27th May this year and in Nazareth, Arab and Jewish pastors, leaders, congregations, worship teams and believing youth will be gathering in an hotel to worship, fast and pray for their country, their government, cities, villages, their schools and families.  Rania has organised this for several years and is expectant of what God will do when the Children of Abraham come together in unity to pray for Israel.

20 April 2012

Rising from the ashes...

It is both significant and poignant that the week before Independence Day celebrations, the nation of Israel stops to remember the systematic murder of 6 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps. The haunting wail of a wartime siren sounds throughout Israel and the nation stands still for 2 minutes silence. The memorial, at this time in the calendar, serves as a reminder that this nation has risen out of death and suffering. A week later, Israel's Independence Day takes on a new significance - despite the horrific attempt to annihilate this people group, they have survived and with God's help, have prospered - A new hope and dream, rising from out of the ashes.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to allow the establishment of a national homeland for the Jewish people. The news was received with spontaneous dancing in the streets as young people, hopeful for a better future, grasped the hands of strangers and danced the Hora (a Jewish circular, folk dance). Below is part of a letter written by an American student, living in Jerusalem, who witnessed first-hand the outpouring of joy:

(Nov. 29, 1947) “I walked in a semi-daze through the crowds of happy faces, past the British tanks and jeeps piled high with pyramids of flag-waving, cheering children, past the crying, kissing, tumultuous crowds, all shouting ‘mazal tov’, and came back to the quiet of my room…to try and share with you this never-to-be-forgotten night...

14 April 2012

Yom HaShoah – Rehearsing History

Genocide is not a new addition to humanity’s history, yet during World War II there was a particularly dark episode, unusually marked by its methodical, systematic and efficient annihilation of any person with Jewish roots.  We know it as the Holocaust and Yom HaShoah is its memorial day – remembering the genocide of the Jews.  In Israel, it is commemorated on the 27th day of Nissan, this year being 19th April. 

Remembering history seems to be a key to not repeating its catastrophes.  The biblical history of Israel is a good example of mistakes being repeated over and over, despite attempts by their leaders, judges, and prophets to keep their national history in the forefront of the Israelite’s minds and decisions.  It was as the people of Egypt forgot about Joseph, that they turned on the Israelites and enslaved them.  And likewise, it was as generations passed in Israel and they forgot about the exploits the Lord had done to bring them out of Egypt, that they found themselves in disarray and far from the Promise.  Perhaps Moses understood this principle of remembering, when he recounted the story of the Exodus and the desert wanderings of the Israelites in Deuteronomy, and again when he gave the strict instructions for remembering the Passover ‘as a sign and reminder’.  Perhaps Deborah and Barak understood this when they wrote a song about their victory over Sisera for the people to sing. 

03 April 2012

Jesus and Spring Cleaning: Passover Greetings - הג פסח שמח

The Feast of Passover is upon us and many in Israel and around the world are in the process of 'cleaning out the leaven' from their homes.  There are many traditions associated with this particular season, but the physical removal of yeast from homes is something many take seriously.  It is a family event whereby the father will take a candle and search through all the cupboards for crumbs and bits of bread or other yeast based products, and carefully sweep them into a bowl.  The family then take these remains and any other similar leftovers outside, and burn them to ash, symbolically cleansing their homes and their lives as they enter into a week of 'leaven free living', in memory of the first passover when God brought the Jewish people out from slavery in Egypt. But it goes further than that.  Many will do a 'spring clean', washing windows, bedding, scrubbing the 'hard to get to' places, and some will even go so far as to buy new crockery and new clothes.  We see some of that reflected in the Christian Easter traditions of spring cleaning and new outfits for Easter Sunday morning. In Israel, bakeries close for the week and grocery retail outlets even close off all their shelves containing any products that could contain yeast - and matzah sales sky-rocket!

One of the biblical stories that is not usually linked to Passover is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 2.  Right near the beginning of Yeshua's (Jesus) ministry, and half way through the chapter is the story of the 'cleansing the temple' - when He braided some rope together into a whip and started driving out all the merchants and money changers, rebuking them for making God's house a market place.  At face value, the anecdote can seem confusing and contrary to what we have come to expect from a Jesus 'meek and mild', 'loving and kind', 'forgiving and self-sacrificing'.  How many other times had Yeshua gone to the temple and seen all the busyness of buying and selling and money laundering?  If he was a good, practising Jew, he would have visited the temple in Jerusalem several times in the year, as commanded in the law, in honour of the  most holy Feasts of the Lord.  Why then did he not clean everyone out during one of His other visits?