Thoughts for Monday 15th June, 2020

Psalm 126; Genesis 23:1-19; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5


Monday 15 June - Rev.  Jerry Eve


I attended a Council of Christians and Jews Rabbi-Clergy Zoom meeting recently, and one of the topics that came up was ‘competition’ between different churches, and different synagogues. This had been highlighted during the pandemic as those with technical expertise had been able to adapt to the closure of our buildings much more rapidly than those without; and what’s more, those without technical know-how were in many cases reluctant, it was said, to seek advice from those who already knew, for example, how to stream a service live. Feelings of inadequacy had run quite high at times!


I Thessalonians is a great corrective to these sorts of attitudes. Written from Paul, Silas and Timothy, it’s thought to be the first of Paul’s epistles, and it’s one that is wholly encouraging. Paul begins by flattering the Thessalonians for their faithfulness. He’s been with them once only (see the beginning of Acts 17), and wants to let them know that they’re in his prayers. Twice in this short passage he uses the phrase, ‘we/I could not bear it any longer,’ and we can only imagine that sending Timothy, and then following that up with this letter, would have meant the world to the Thessalonian Church, especially given that they were experiencing some sort of persecution for their faith at that time, and needed to be strengthened.


Conflict is never far away from our human experience. Our Old Testament reading focusses on the purchase by Abraham of a plot of land that then becomes the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs as Sarah, Abraham himself, Isaac, Rebecca, Leah and Jacob/Israel are all buried there; making it a religiously and politically sensitive site ever since. Set in the Old City of Hebron, for Jewish people this is the second most sacred site after the Temple Mount. It’s of enormous importance to Muslims. And we have an interest in it as well. Given that Hebron is a city located in the West Bank, security issues abound.


Which brings us to our psalm for today. For it’s one that, while it has been set to all sorts of musical genres, was also famously recited by a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978, Menachem Begin of Israel, on the White House lawn, following 12 days of talks with Anwar Sadat of Egypt (who shared the prize) as they signed the Camp David Accords together, witnessed as they were by Jimmy Carter.


You’ll remember that these same accords were then quickly condemned by the United Nations because of the exclusion from the negotiations of any Palestinian presence; conflict in the region continuing to rumble on, and tension in the Old City of Hebron sadly continuing to flare up from time to time.


Let us pray (and this is a prayer taken from the end of 1 Thessalonians 3; let’s use it to pray for a congregation other than our own, or another faith tradition altogether):


And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, Amen.


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