In the audio podcast of this Sunday service, the Scripture reading begins at 26:50 and the Sermon begins at 28:00.

Scripture: Psalm 122

Sermon: Thankful Psalms: Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem

Reverend Todd Buurstra - Pastor of Worship and WitnessWhat does the Holy Spirit use to move you to give thanks about NBRC? Is it:
The beautiful steeple, the celtic cross, or our warm colored sanctuary?
The friend that greeted you, or your family member who sits next to you?
The memories of a crying baby at a baptism, the crying widow at a funeral, or the choked up father of the bride at a wedding?

What does the Holy Spirit use to move you to give thanks about this church?…

For giving thanks is the purpose of God’s house in Jersey or Jerusalem. Read this… The purpose of God’s house is not to be a pretty backdrop for weddings, or to fill your soul with gas on Sundays. The purpose of church is giving thanks to God. So what would the Holy Spirit use if we were to parallel the Psalm and give thanks for Jerusalem?

Shalom. And, I don’t mean Hello. Isn’t that why you thank God in this church because something about the atmosphere gives you a sense of peaceful shalom? Shalom is the required atmosphere of normal thanksgiving. That’s why Psalm 122 follows God’s purpose for God’s house with a command to pray for the Shalom of Jerusalem.

But what is shalom? Shalom is a lot like the word, aloha. It can be a greeting, but it is so much more. It is a big word! Shalom means salvation, inner peace, peace between people, healing of a body, wholeness of a society. Verse 3 speaks of it when it says…
bound firmly together.

And that’s why the people skipped up the holy hill to the temple feast in 900 BC. I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ Just the view filled them with shalom. They were joking, singing songs like this one, a little out of breath, but grinning from ear to ear. Jerusalem was not just their political capital, with the temple it was their spiritual center. Much of their hopes and dreams were bound up in her peace.

Even the name, Jerusalem, says this. Salem sounds like the Arab greeting, and is related to the word shalom. All of which carry the meaning, peace, wholeness, well being.

So when God calls us to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem, God is calling us to let the Spirit create through us the conditions that allow people to give thanks. The very purpose of God’s house—thanksgiving! How do we pray for the peace of Jerusalem today?

First, since Jerusalem was a national capital God is calling us to pray for the peace of the US capital. I assume that in Republican Somerset County many of us did not vote for our president elect. But for the time being, can we put our aside politics to think about the peace of our nation so that America can give thanks on January 20? What I mean here is that I believe it’s critical for white folk, the still dominant culture group, to appreciate what this moment means for African Americans so that the US will have peace enough to give thanks. Though we may not agree with Jesse Jackson we need to appreciate his tears, as he remembers freedom’s march from the days when:… to:…
slaves carried stones to build the White House singing, I ain’t no ways tired, to the day
when one of their own walks up those steps to live in it.
From the very first Watchnight service in 1862 as the slaves prayed all night for
President Lincoln to truly sign the Emancipation Proclamation, to this day when they
can vote for one of their own.
From the days when white folk never called blacks by their last names; they were
just Rochester! Yes, boss! Until today when we will refer to one Mr. President.
Let peace reign so that we can all give thanks. So that before I die when white men are a minority for the first time, we can have a peaceful transition too for which to give thanks. Secondly, I believe that God is calling us to, just like the Hebrews of old, pray for the shalom of today’s Jerusalem so that all can give thanks. Two weeks from last night Natsuko and I were invited to her teacher friend’s house for a party. Her teacher friend’s husband is Palestinian. So there we sat around a table of delicious food: her, me, her friend and 19 Palestinians. It was incredible food for the body and soul, as I listened to them tell me the story of being forced from their homeland in 1948 by western tanks. They told me that the famed Arab news version of CNN, Al Jazeera, is available in English, but, allegedly, our government will not allow us to listen to their version of the news. I asked them about terrorism to which one elderly man with an oxygen tube replied:
I don’t agree with people who strap bombs under their shirts and detonate them in busy markets, but why do they do this? It’s because their land was taken away yesterday and today they have to pass through several demeaning checkpoints to get to work or to go shopping! They have NO HOPE so they become terrorists!

What do we do with that? The church up the street and the one at the end of Readington Road and Old York, along with dozens of TV ministries would tell us that the Bible tells us to unilaterally support Israel. I want to tell you that that is not what the Bible says. God calls us to justice, and not to favoritism. (And if we don’t get this right soon, we’ll suffer another 9/11 because Jerusalem is still a world center!) I understand the verses that they point to which describe the land as Israel’s eternal possession, as calling us to support Israel’s right to land, but not millennia old boundaries! A Palestinian professor said, Unless the US church gets behind a two state solution, it will never happen! Indeed, I believe that God wants Jerusalem to be place of shalom so that all can give thanks!

So I ask you this morning to answer God’s urgent call to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem in this country and the Middle East so that all of God’s people can give thanks!

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