We’ve gathered today to pray for peace in the Middle East, and to affirm our conviction that the people of that frequently-troubled region where Asia, Africa, and Europe meet have the same right as we do to live their lives
· free from violence,
· free from oppression, and
· free from fear,
We gather in the commitment that the God whom we worship is passionately concerned for the well-being of all the people of that region, as this same God is passionately concerned for the well-being of all of us.
And that region is a region where people of many faiths live, and a region where many faith communities see the origins of the life together of their community.
· In many places, people of the different faiths live together in peace.
· In other places, there are serious tensions - including active violence - between the faiths.
· In yet other places, the tensions within any single faith far overshadow any tensions between the faiths.
And we pray for peace for all in this region.
We are advised in the Psalms to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, and we do so. And, as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we also:
· pray for the peace of Tel Aviv and for the peace of Ramallah,
· pray for the peace of Haifa and for the peace of Gaza,
· pray for the peace of Bethlehem and for the peace of Mecca,
· pray for the peace of Nazareth and for the peace of Medina,
· pray for the peace of Damascus and for the peace of Beirut,
· pray for the peace of Baghdad and for the peace of Mosul,
· pray for the peace of Cairo and for the peace of Teheran.
And, as we do so, we hear words from scripture calling us to be people who practice peace and who live love.
In our lesson from the First Letter of John, we’ve heard a simple statement which, for many people, may have been the first words of scripture they learned as a child, those three brief words: “God is love.” It’s an excellent Christian statement.
But as well, I also know that, in its ideas if not in its origins, it’s:
· equally an excellent Jewish statement,
· equally an excellent Muslim statement, and
· equally an excellent Baha’i statement.
And I also suspect that it’s probably also equally an excellent statement for members of the other communities of faith in that region: for the Mandaeans, the Druze, and the Yazidis.
For all people of faith, and for all people of good will, God is love. ... And, whatever a person’s formal religious identity, if their focus of worship is not love, neither is it God. For God is love.
And now may
· the Shalom,
· the Salaam,
· the peace
of the Eternal One keep us ... and all people ... in peace,
now and forever.