Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
Luke 14:16-18a, 21-24
In chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus sets his mind to go to Jerusalem. The rest of the gospel is focused on this journey towards his death and resurrection, and all that he does in between must be read in light of this. While at dinner with some people, he tells the parable we read today, about a man who invited many people to join him at his banquet table. When they would not come, he sent his servant out to the streets to invite all the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame—all those marginalized by society. After the servant had done so, there was still room at the table, so the man ordered him to go back out and compel more people to come, so that his house might be filled. All are welcome at the banquet table of God, regardless of their socioeconomic status, physical ability, race, religion, or nationality. The feast was prepared, and the man would not allow it to go uneaten. Read more
Glory to Him who journeyed His servant by night, from the Sacred Mosque, to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him of Our wonders. He is the Listener, the Beholder.
The last two Sundays of Lent we considered why Jerusalem matters to Jews and Christians. This week, we focus on Jerusalem’s significance for the Muslim community. It is believed that the prophet Muhammad traveled to Jerusalem during his Night Journey, around the year 621 A.D. According to Islamic tradition, this was not only a physical journey, but also a spiritual one. On this journey, Muhammad traveled to a mosque where he prayed and was then taken up into heaven. The mosque Muhammad prayed at is now believed to be the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque or Haram al-Sharif, and is subsequently the third holiest site in all of Islam. Furthermore, the shrine of the Dome of the Rock marks the location of Muhammad’s ascent into heaven. Read more
Last year, I traveled to Israel/Palestine with BelPres members, Overlake Christian Church members, and a Muslim couple. Our primary purpose was to learn about multiple perspectives on the current conflict there. Our good fortune was to have Rev. Dr. Mae Cannon (Churches for Middle East Peace, Washington D.C.) as our sponsor and guide. She arranged for us to meet with people from Israel and Palestine to hear what life is like and to learn how things became so very complicated ‘first-hand.’
Our two guides, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim from the West Bank, were wonderfully qualified to provide rare, multidimensional views of two ongoing, diverse perspectives. They were with us throughout the trip explaining their respective histories. Together, Israel and Palestine are about the size of New Jersey, so we covered a lot in 11 days. There are two stories to share. Read more
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.”
The season of Lent is a time for solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance, leading up to Holy Week, when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, was crucified, buried, and resurrected. We enter into the season of Lent this Ash Wednesday, many of us wearing ashes on our foreheads, reminding us that it is from dust that we came, and to dust we will return. During this season, it is appropriate for us to reflect on ourselves and our world, both of which are broken and in need of repentance. As we do so, we pray with hopeful anticipation for peace and justice. Read more
Washington, D.C., February 7, 2018: On Wednesday, 102 representatives, led by Rep. Peter Welch (VT) and Rep. David Price (NC), released a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to reconsider the recent withholding of funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) aid to Palestinian refugees.
On January 19th, the Trump Administration made the determination to withhold $65 million of its $125 million scheduled payment to UNRWA, the sole UN agency working with Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The U.S. has for many years been a main contributor to UNRWA’s humanitarian projects which include vital services such as education, healthcare, and the provision of basic humanitarian care for Palestinian refugees. CMEP strongly believes that removal of this funding undermines U.S. and Israeli security interests and will do significant harm to the Palestinian population; particularly to, children, many of whom already live below the poverty line.
Kyle Cristofalo, Government Relations Director for CMEP, states: “Defunding UNRWA has the effect of politicizing aid and undermines U.S. credibility in the region. CMEP stands behind the 102 representatives who are calling for the Administration to reverse this dangerous decision, and urge others to lend their voice and support to this cause.”
CMEP strongly opposes the Trump Administration’s recent decision to withhold UNRWA funding in that it increases the hardship of the Palestinian people and further hinders the ability to reach a comprehensive peace solution. CMEP stands in support of the Welch-Price letter, and supports the United States’ commitment to security in Israel as well as the safety and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. We strongly urge President Trump to heed the advice of the Welch-Price letter and fully reinstate U.S. aid to UNRWA.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 27 national church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.
In the news today, it is impossible to miss the headlines surrounding the Middle East. It’s an extraordinarily complex and diverse region of the world, with constant and growing attention towards Israel-Palestine, leading one to often wonder if there is a way to both learn more and make a meaningful impact. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) offers this opportunity through internships, which allow interns to engage critically and make a lasting contribution towards peace in the region. Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., near Capitol Hill, CMEP is a coalition of 27 national Church denominations and organizations working to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote just, lasting and comprehensive resolutions to conflicts in the Middle East. Read more
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
As we celebrate the final Sunday of Advent, as well as Christmas Eve, it is only fitting to focus on Jesus—Emmanuel, God With Us—who is Love. With so much discussion in the news about the actions of the powerful, of nations, states, and politicians, let us remember our savior, who came into the world in the most vulnerable of circumstances. He came as a baby, born in the most dire of circumstances, to parents who weren’t even wed. And yet, his birth changed everything. Through him we are able to see God, because he is God. Read more
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a council of church bodies throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In some ways, it’s like an extended family gathering. In fact, the MECC is organized around four families of churches – Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical/Protestant. Together, these churches are working to support each other and build bridges between people and groups in the Middle East.
MECC was founded in 1974 as a collaboration between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant churches of the region. The Catholic church joined in 1990 as a fourth tradition on the council. Each of these four “ecclesial families” is represented by a president and members on MECC’s executive committee. Working as an ecumenical group is not always easy, and building a consensus among the different churches can be a long process. But the result is that MECC can offer powerful statements that carry the weight of their shared deliberation. Fr. Michel Jalakh is Secretary General of the Council, with the headquarters located in Beirut, Lebanon.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
In observance of the third week of Advent, many Christians around the world will read the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy. It may feel wrong to focus on the theme of joy during a time with so much turmoil, especially following the recent declaration about the status of Jerusalem. However, in light of the declaration and the events that followed, it is even more pressing that we take a moment to reflect on this theme, as we continue to Choose Hope this Advent. We do not put aside our anger, frustration, or fear, but allow joy to permeate our hearts as we anticipate the coming of Jesus. Read more
The Advent season is the time when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus. Isaiah 9:6 says:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Yet when we look at the Middle East today, peace seems to be absent, if not impossible to achieve. The brutal civil war in Syria, the destructive actions of ISIS, and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are just a few reasons why peace seems so far away. This past week, President Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the Capital of Israel without regard for final status negotiations or the aspirations of the Palestinians, contributes to this chaos. Read more