The world belongs to God
The earth and all its people
How good and how lovely it is
To live together in unity
Love and faith come together
Justice and peace join hands
If Christ’s disciples keep silent
These stones will shout aloud.
Opening responses, found in “an act of prayer for use when the community gathers” The Iona Community Prayer Book 2012
The Iona Community (www.iona.org.uk) is an ecumenical Christian community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. It was founded in the 1930’s by the Rev George McLeod, as he brought together ministers and unemployed tradespeople in the rebuilding of the stone Abbey on the Scottish Isle of Iona. The Community today is made up of members, associate members and friends, staff and volunteers from around the world, people from different walks of life and traditions in the church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and where that leads. Together, the community shares an experience of the liberating power of Jesus Christ, expressed in many different ways, and a commitment to the personal and social transformation that spring from the vision and values of the gospel. The community operates residential Centres on the historic Isle of Iona and on nearby Mull (both located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland) that welcome guests for week long stays. Guests participate in community life, explore themes related to peace, justice and worship, and share in morning and evening worship services in the Abbey. The Community’s offices are located in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Iona Community has been an influential part of my faith journey for a number of years and I have been an Associate Member since 2008. I spent Easter of 2008 at Iona and upon my return home began to seriously study the concept of peace from a Christian perspective. On a 2010 visit, my learning was broadened through the study of the relationship between justice and peace and the realization that true peace can only be found where there is true justice. It was at Iona that I first learned of the EAPPI programme of the World Council of Churches.
The issue of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine is one that has been of interest and action to the Iona Community for a number of years. This year, from May 26 to June 1, the Iona theme of study was the Kairos Palestine document (found at www.kairospalestine.ps) Guest leaders were Rev Dr Naim Ateek and Dr Mark Braverman. A Palestinian Christian, Dr Ateek is the Founder and Director of Sabeel Jerusalem, an ecumenical liberation theology centre, the author of “A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation,” and one of the initial signatories to the Kairos Palestine document. Dr Mark Braverman is a Jewish American who was transformed by a 2006 visit to the Holy Land where he witnessed the occupation of Palestine and met with peace activists and members of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. He now devotes himself full-time to writing, speaking and action towards a just peace in Israel and Palestine. Dr Braverman is the author of “Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land.”
Pentecost Sunday (May 27) fell during the course of the week of study. Dr Mark Braverman preached the sermon in the Iona Abbey on Pentecost Sunday.
Here are a few excerpts from Dr Braverman’s sermon:
Kairos presents what a friend once described to me as a case of “insurmountable opportunity.” Even when – and usually this is the case – the objective may be clear enough but the path to follow is uncertain, full of hazards, uncharted, you must go. We call to mind George MacLeod’s statement: “Christians are explorers, not mapmakers.”…..
In my own journey as a Jew born in the years immediately following World War II and within a month of the establishment of the State of Israel… I was taught that a miracle had blessed my generation. The State of Israel was redemption from 2000 years of suffering and slaughter. In every generation, so goes the Passover liturgy, tyrants rise up to annihilate us, and the Lord God saves us from their hands. Jewish history was a story of struggle, exile, oppression, and slaughter that had now culminated, at last, in a homeland. We had been, literally, redeemed. The suffering and the helplessness were over.
The story of the birth of the State of Israel in which I was steeped, in which in fact the whole western world has been schooled, partook of this narrative. The legacy of Europe that shaped my generation of western Jews and the generations that followed was a sense of specialness, separateness, and entitlement. Growing up Jewish was wonderful – but it also involved living behind a wall of self- preservation, vulnerability, and a kind of brittle exclusivity.
I embraced this narrative, I adopted this identity. I carried that wall inside myself. Until I witnessed the occupation of Palestine. When I saw the dispossession and oppression being perpetrated in my name, it broke my heart and it challenged my assumptions and beliefs. I learned about another narrative, the Nakba, in Arabic, “catastrophe,” the dispossession of three quarters of a million men, women and children to make way for the Jewish State. Most important, I met the Palestinian people and recognized them as my brothers and sisters. For me, the wall came down.
I realized that if my own people were going to survive, we had to transcend our sense of specialness and victim-tinged entitlement, a sense incubated for 2000 years that had now taken the form of political Zionism — the claim to the land as our particular inheritance and birthright…..
The church is called. The church has done it before, the church can do it again.
We recall the central role of the church in the Civil Rights movement in America, when the courage of African-American pastors changed the political and social landscape of America, articulating a philosophy of nonviolent direct action that was an explicit evocation of the sacrificial spirit of the early church, when Christians were proud to be identified as troublemakers. We lift up the example of the South African church when, declaring its Kairos in the 1985 document “Challenge to the Church,” it summoned the church to speak and act against the evil of Apartheid, challenging the very church theology that had supported the racist system. And in our day the Palestinian churches have issued their Kairos statement, a call to the churches of the world entitled “A Moment of Truth: A cry of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian Suffering.”…..
The church is, once again, as it is always, called to read the signs of the times, to recognize that this is the favorable time, the moment of Grace and Opportunity, when, in the words of the South African Kairos Document, God issues a challenge to decisive action.
Can the church respond to this challenge? Can the church be the church? …The answer is yes. That is its nature. “The church,” wrote George MacLeod, “is a movement, not a meetinghouse.”… Shall the church claim its heritage, understand what power we humans receive when we are open to the coming upon us of the Holy Spirit?… Can we stand up, renewed,… a multitude speaking the universal language of justice, as the Spirit gives us the ability?
This the clear and simple message of Pentecost. This is the story of that day. This is the story we have come to this place of worship today on this island to tell…..
In closing, I would like to bring to mind the events that led to that Pentecost of long ago, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was accompanied by a crowd of Jews, suffering horribly under the tyranny of Rome, who were joyfully (and noisily) celebrating the message and ministry of a leader who offered them dignity and hope in the darkest times.
The Gospel of Luke records:
“As Jesus was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’” The local authorities were displeased. Your singing and praising and proclaiming, they told Jesus, threatened to disrupt the establish order, to spoil the accommodation they had made with the Empire. “‘Teacher,’ they said to him, ‘order your disciples to stop!’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out!’”
Whether praise or protest, you cannot silence the cry of the oppressed nor deny the hunger for justice. And what was all the noise about, after all? It was the spontaneous response of an oppressed, occupied people—a cry of love, adoration and sheer joy for the miracle of Jesus’ ministry—his power to heal, to inspire, to lead. You can’t stop this! Jesus was saying. Nature itself, even these seeming inert stones, resonates with the joy and life force emanating from the people.
My sisters and brothers, the time has come for us to do some shouting. The times challenge us to remain true to the principles that lie at the heart of our civilization and our faith traditions. In these urgent, prophetic times, let us remember the shouting. God loves that shouting.
Let us pray.
Sometimes we feel dried up. We lose our hope, we cut ourselves off from the source of true power. Help us to receive the power of your Spirit, raise us to our feet so that we can stand, a multitude filled indeed with the new wine of prophecy. Let us remember the shouting of joy and praise of those seekers of justice, from long ago and in our own day. The times call us to discipleship, now as it was then, now as ever to receive the power and the fire of the Holy Spirit. Grant this in the many names you are called, to all who suffer oppression, and all who work for peace, and to us today in this place.
The full text of Dr Braverman’s sermon can be found at www.iona.org.uk , listed under “Latest News.”
Following the week long session of study on the Kairos Palestine document, the Iona Community posted this call on their website. It reads as follows:
KAIROS PALESTINE: THE IONA CALL 2012
We, a group of Christians from many parts of the UK and beyond, gathered on the isle of Iona in Pentecost week 2012. Under the guidance of Rev. Dr Naim Ateek1 and Dr Mark Braverman2 we considered our response to the Kairos Palestine document: ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’ (2009).
This is our kairos moment – our moment of truth. We are called to respond boldly to the deepening suffering of our sisters and brothers in Palestine under occupation by Israel. We stand in faithfulness and solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis who are working tirelessly for a peace based on justice.
We believe it is necessary to challenge the deafening silence of most churches in the face of the continuing injustice of dispossession and denial of basic human and political rights. We agree with the Kairos document that the occupation by Israel is ‘an evil and a sin’ (Kairos Palestine 4.2.1).
• We ask our churches and theological institutions to challenge how the Bible has been used to justify oppression and injustice. We encourage the development and use of educational resources to raise awareness, enrich worship and challenge misperceptions and apathy.
• Palestinian Christians have called us to ‘come and see’ (Kairos Palestine 6.2). We urge Christians to participate only in those pilgrimages which give opportunity to listen to the experiences of Palestinians and engage with the harsh realities of occupation.
• We support Palestinians in their non-violent resistance to Israeli injustice and oppression. We endorse their call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) and other forms of non-violent direct action.
• We call on Christians to put pressure on governments and the European Union to demonstrate a commitment to justice for Palestinians and security for all people.
In pursuit of the above we intend to establish a UK Kairos network, linked to the Kairos Palestine global movement, to alert our churches to the urgent situation in Palestine. We challenge Christians and churches to engage in prayerful study of the Kairos Palestine document in openness to what the spirit is now saying to the churches (Rev. 2.7). We must read the signs of the times and act in obedience to God’s will (Matt. 16.3).
Difficult though this journey may be, we seize this kairos moment with conviction and hope. We recognise our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to speak the prophetic word with courage.
We are called to respond to the question from Palestinian Christians: ‘Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?’ Kairos Palestine 6.1).
1. Palestinian Christian Theologian, Founder and Director of Sabeel in Jerusalem
2. Author ‘Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,