”When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
We’re living in anxious times when we’re uneasy about everything all the time. As compassionate people, we lean towards our social media and news sources to discern the latest on what continues to be heartbreaking news from the middle east. For most of human history, stories of war passed from village to village by word of mouth. No one saw death in graphic detail on the six o’clock news, with regular warnings: “viewer discretion advised”. Viewer discretion may mean “get off the couch and let the dog out now, or make a cup of coffee or change the laundry.” It doesn’t have to mean, “Stay glued to the set and watch yet another horrific death.”
It strikes me that Jesus lived through one of the bloodiest, most oppressive regimes in human history, yet written accounts of his work focus on other things. While his end eventually came at the hands of both betrayers within his closest circle, and faith leaders threatened by his power, most of his life work takes place far from the politics of Rome.
As followers of the Way of Jesus, surely we have our hands full exercising kindness, practicing generosity, and expressing compassion towards the lost and the least. What’s the maximum amount of time needed to watch the gory details before we catch enough of the picture to know how to pray? Is ten minutes sufficient, an hour, an evening? Is it sufficient to hear one side of a story without considering alternative points of view?
We humans have a tendency to prefer the surety of safe opinions over the messiness of various points of view. News flash. When it comes to war, there are no clean hands. Innocent people always suffer, everybody loses, even when somebody wins.
As people of faith, we may have opinions, but world leaders aren’t likely to lay out all the scenarios in vivid detail and call us up for what they should do next. In any case, our work is different from that.
Last week, members of our church along with our wider faith community joined a vigil at Temple Beth Shalom, as we promised we would. We have promised as an interfaith community to stand by, for and with one another whatever the future may bring. As communities of practice, we pray for God to guide our path forward and give us the courage to take it.
As the crisis in Israel continues, Rabbi Michael Birnholz asks that we continue to pray and to gather for solidarity and support. Beth Shalom is collaborating with our friends at synagogues in Port St Lucie and Stuart at 6pm on Saturday 10/21 to end Shabbat and offer prayers for Israel as we did last week here in Vero Beach.
When troubles rise, and anxiety thickens, we may want to turn off the television, attend a vigil, or pray. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for our leaders, pray for protection of the innocents, and pray for a resolution that at the moment seems out of reach.
In all things, remember the promises of God. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
Prayer: God, help us all.
God’s Grace, Mercy, and Peace be with you,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach