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Sermon Archives

Lamentations and Prayers for Palestine and Israel

Rev. Karin Case, Karlene Griffiths-Sekou, Sarah Higginbotham, Gay Harter, Rev. Karen McArthur, Susie Neubauer, Rev. Dan Smith, & Linda Ziebell
Sun, Jul 13

Dan: Today, in place of a sermon, we will invite several voices to share scripture, readings and prayers as we lift our sorrow to God about recent violence in Israel and Palestine. As people of faith, we lament violent atrocities in all places -- havoc being wrought upon Central American refugee children and families detained at our borders, Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria, street and gun violence in cities across America, including Cambridge with a drive-by murder just two weeks ago. We decry all forms of violence, domination and oppression based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion and other ways of human “othering.” Today, we especially bear witness to heart-rending reality of rockets being showered over the Holy Land. We lift our hearts to God, sharing in lamentation, mourning and confession and in prayers for justice and peace. After each section of readings and prayers, a leader will say God in your mercy after which the congregation is invite to say, hear our prayers. Let’s try that. God in your mercy, hear our prayers….

Karin: We begin with a prayer from Rev. Henry Carse, founder of Kids4Peace, International. Let us pray.

God of our Father Abraham

And our Mothers Sarah and Hagar;

God of our Brothers Isaac and Ishmael,

God of the Prophet Moses

And God of the Prophet Muhammad, God of Jesus;

You are Father of Peace

Mother of Compassion

Prophet of Justice.

Move us

To listen to each other,

To understand, and to act;

To be peacemakers, not just peacekeepers;

To be forth-tellers of hope,

Not just foretellers of doom.

Help us

To become what we seem:

Your disciples of peace,

Courageous in speaking Truth,

Always bringing forth Peace In the arms of Justice And compassion.

God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Intro (Dan): We lament and cry out against the tragedy of violence breaking out in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel.

Reading (Susie): From an eyewitness report by Dr. Mona El-Farra in Gaza, dated July 8th: “Last night and while Israeli army forces launched military attacks all over Gaza, by sea, air and artillery shelling, hundreds of thousands of children were unable to sleep inside their tinroof homes, clinging to their parents…In Gaza we do not have shelters to escape to during the attack. These attacks come on top of a deteriorating economic situation. Right now it is Ramadan, the month of fasting and an increasing number of families have difficulty to get basic food, survival is a constant fight. Thousands of government employees could not reach banks to have their salaries. I know the salaries are affected by internal problems between Fatah and Hamas, but the outcome is severe hardship – in the meantime the bombs keep dropping on top of our heads. The feeling of insecurity throws its shadow against all the population. The military operation continues with threats of its expansion in the coming few days, and no news about any ceasefire.” We know that people are [suffering], fearful and living with grave uncertainty in the West Bank and in Israel as well. Heated skirmishes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian villagers are widely reported. Hamas is firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza directly into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and surrounding towns. Given heightened security, Palestinians who might usually have passes to travel are prohibited from entering Jerusalem and attending Ramadan events at their sacred sites.

Scripture (Gay): With hope amidst our own fears of what comes next, we hear and bear witness to God’s vision of justice and peace from the Prophet Isaiah…

2:3 For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Intro (Dan): We remember and we mourn the dead. We pray for their families and loved ones.

Reading (Sarah): From a story of shared grief reported in this past Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post:

“No parents should have to endure the loss of a child,” Rachel Fraenkel said as she reached out through the media to the parents of the murdered Jerusalem teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, age 16.

On Monday evening, she spoke to journalists outside her home, as she ended the seven-day Jewish mourning period for her own son, Naftali, also 16. Naftali, along with two other young Israeli men, was abducted and murdered by Hamas operatives in June. Muhamma Abu Khdeir was later murdered in vengeful response to these three killings. "No mother or father should have to go through what we are going through now. We share the pain of the parents of Muhammad Abu Khdeir,” Fraenkel said. “Even in the depth of the mourning over our son, it is hard for me to describe how distressed we were over the outrage that happened in Jerusalem – the shedding of innocent blood is against morality, it is against the Torah and Judaism, it is against the basis of our life in this country.”

As seen on a sign at a rally in Boston this week: “Mourning, yes. Revenge, no.”

Scripture (Karlene): Hear these words of consolation and inspiration from Isaiah 61:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;… to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. And they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Intro (Dan): We pray for all those living in the Holy Land and in surrounding countries that are experiencing increased violence, tension and political unrest.

Prayer (Linda): We lift up all those living in fear for their lives and livelihoods, those who are sheltered from bombs and those who are not. We pray for doctors, nurses and emergency personnel who are tending to the injured and dead. We pray for journalists. We pray for children, those who are being traumatized by these events, those whose hatred is already taking shape and for those who already committed to non-violence and peacemaking. We pray especially for 12 Palestinian and Israeli 7th graders – Jewish, Christian and Muslim, that are preparing to come to Boston in early August where they will meet 12 local 7th Graders – Jewish, Christian and Muslim, including our own Nellie Baxandall. We pray that the kids and their families overseas know peace in their homes and in their hearts. We pray for the safety of their travels, inshallah. We pray for their peace pals here, who through email introductions and well-wishing are already learning about the reality of the lives of their overseas partners.

Prayer (Dan): We pray also for the staff and leaders of Kids4peace including Linda and other Fist Church members, Peggy Stevens and Lindsay Miller. May they each have the wisdom and courage to lead this blessed work in these especially painful and trying times.

Scripture (Linda): Hear this call to love from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 13:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law…Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Intro (Dan): As follower of Jesus, the one who taught us to repent, to turn towards God, for the God’s kingdom is near, we know that any genuine witness begins with humility, repentance and confession. We confess our tendency to look the other way when encountering acts of violence, especially those in far away places. We confess our fears and our silence in the face of complexity and injustice. We confess our sometimes finger pointing and divisive ways. We confess our tendencies to over intellectualize gut-wrenching tragedies. Though we are an ocean away, and despite earnest efforts to negotiate peace and stabilize the region, we confess that many of our government, our defense industries, our news media have had roles in this conflict.

Reading (Karin). An excerpt from a recent Facebook post by UCC Minister Rev Jeff Von Wald who lives just outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

We're very concerned for everyone in harm’s way, whether Palestinian or Israeli. The people in Gaza, in particular, have very few of the protections we enjoy - no sirens, no shelters, no exit strategy.

Here's what I'll say about blame or simple "explanations." We all can essentially decide where to place blame based on how we already perceive the world. We can choose (or passively encounter) the news source or historian or "expert," etc., closest to our worldview, and use it reinforce or clarify thoughts that had yet to solidify. Most of us probably do that most of the time, myself included. We can also "listen" to others, but with the predetermined intent not really to listen, but to search for their errors, or what's essentially wrong with them. Similarly, in today's world, we can basically choose the isolated event here that reinforces our perception or hunch or ideology about "who started it this time." All of these predetermined ways of listening are already a problem, and the only way past them is intentionally listening more broadly (and *really* listening)…

I can say that - at a very basic level - we can start to understand it only when we recognize that everyone in this world needs a place where they feel they belong, are accepted and respected, are safe, experience agency and equality, have a people to whom they belong, and can live a full life as who they really are.

Prayer (Susie): And this prayer by an unknown author…

Pray not for Arab or Jew, For Palestinian or Israeli, But pray rather for ourselves That we may not divide them In our prayers, But keep them together In our hearts. God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Dan: We ask God for courage in struggle for justice and peace. Gay: We acknowledge the ongoing scourge of settlements, of the Occupation, of the clear power differential, politically, economically and militarily. Israel is being protected by a sophisticated defense system called the Iron Dome. Gaza is not. Hamas is firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza but the casualties are far less severe and to date the death toll in Israel from the rockets is zero. The death toll in Gaza was over 160 as of last night. We join with our partner in Global Ministry, Rev. Naim Ateek, who said this week: “We call on our Palestinian sisters and brothers to continue resisting every act of injustice with nonviolent action; We call on our religious leaders…to raise the prophetic voice against injustice and oppression.” Indeed, we call on all sides to stop the bombings.

Linda: From Psalm 122:

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.’

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,

I will seek your good.

Karlene: From our Missions partners at Sabeel [adapted]….

Grant Israel and Palestine your peace, O God. Not a peace brought about by domination, oppression, and occupation, or the implementation of discriminatory laws, or the establishment of racial hierarchy—we desire a radical, all-encompassing peace which recognizes the image of God in each individual and encourages justice to be done. The events of the past week illuminated a deeply disturbing trend of racism and incitement to violence…. Embolden all who speak against such injustice and hatred, and let people of every nationality and ethnicity stand together for the protection of the oppressed, freedom for the captives, and the transformative power of peace with justice.

Susie: Inspire the people of the world, [God], to be peacemakers, in spite of the hatred, vitriol, and violence around them. Let them stand for justice where injustice held dominion, for hope where despair reigned, and for love where apathy keeps people silent. Sarah: We join our hearts together with St. Francis…

God, make us all instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let {us] sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. God in your mercy, hear our prayers…


Dan: We close with adapted excerpts from a 9/11 litany written by Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rev. Patrica Pearce Gay: We cry out for justice.

Linda: We cry out for peace.

Karlene: We cry out for innocent, vibrant lives suddenly and shamelessly sacrificed.

Karin: We lift up the ashes of loss, O Giver of life.

Sarah: We embrace the families maimed, wounded, broken, haunted by the pain of absence.

Dan: We weep for all deaths that have been justified by the turning of love of self and of God and of country into fanatical arrogance.

Gay: For the ways in which humanity utilizes violence to pursue power, capital, land and racial purity, we offer hand over to you our fear and anger, O healing balm.

Karlene: For the ways we allow national, religious, and ethnic boundaries to circumscribe our fear,

Linda: We cry out for humility.

Sarah: We ask for mercy.

Karin: We pray to God for peace. It is a peace that the world cannot give.

Dan: God in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

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