The sky was a perfect azure blue stretching up above the sandy hills and the edenic green of palm trees and other foliage. As my gaze moved over the water, I couldn’t believe that I was there, looking out across the Sea of Galilee as Jesus would have done so many times. We saw the ruins of a synagogue where Jesus would have spoken, the hills that Jesus would have traversed, and even enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was an absolutely perfect day.
Over the next days we visited a Holocaust museum, and our hearts broke. We heard from a rabbi and Jewish settlers. We saw the walls, the barbed wire fences, and the checkpoints. We witnessed poverty and the indiscriminate, and intentionally demoralizing actions against Palestinians. And we heard from Jews and Palestinians alike about the complexity of their shared history and contentious politics. We also heard about and saw the places where peace had a foothold, displaying a beautiful vision of shalom. Last spring as we journeyed through Israel and Palestine, we saw that evil and beauty live side by side. Even as I am writing, events are unfolding that have escalated the historically rancorous situation beyond what anyone thought possible, with a thousand lives lost in a few days alone. Who knows how the situation will evolve in the next few hours let alone by the time you read this? It is horrific. It is messy. It is complicated.
Things were messy and complicated in Jesus’ day as well. The Roman occupational forces controlled all things and taxed its subjects heavily. Babies were massacred. Jesus and his parents had to flee and were refugees in Egypt. Family members were arrested and then beheaded on a whim. But there were also weddings, friendships, fellowship, and so many fish! Evil and beauty lived side by side. It was messy. It was complicated.
Jesus didn’t shy away from any of those complications. Christ spoke truth to the powers of the day, addressed the injustice, and intentionally befriended the marginalized. He engaged with the messiness.
During my pilgrimage in Israel and Palestine, I was encouraged to see that our time there was not just about walking where Jesus had walked, but also walking where we believe he would walk today. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is still present in messy places and in complicated situations. Today, Christ calls us to be used by the Spirit, to be his voice speaking out against injustice, to be the voice of the voiceless. Christ calls us to see the world as he sees it and to seek the flourishing of all people.
In this issue of Reformed Worship, you are invited to journey with Christ through the complicated and the messy, to engage with issues of justice in worship even when we don’t have all the answers, to lament in solidarity with those who weep, and to create places where all can flourish, including the 117 million individuals in this world who do not have a place to call home.
Christ calls us to engage the complicated, even in worship. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get messy.