Walking in love.
Something to think about
Last year I was due to go to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (IoPt) with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme came about at the request of Palestinian church leaders to the World Council of Churches for an international presence in IoPt.
Ecumenical Accompaniers provide protective presence to vulnerable Palestinian communities, monitoring and reporting human rights abuses. As I think about my role as an Ecumenical Accompanier, the line, 'his command is that you walk in love', in today’s lectionary reading seems particularly apt.
As Ecumenical Accompaniers, we are not there to solve the Middle East conflict, but to walk alongside the Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, supporting their work.
The word accompaniment derives from the Latin words ‘com’ and ‘panis,’ meaning ‘with bread.’ The literal meaning implies sharing bread with someone.
Perhaps accompaniment is best demonstrated by the man who walked alongside two distraught and defeated travellers heading from Jerusalem to Emmaus and showed them that, despite Jesus’ crucifixion, hope was alive.
It was not until the man had accepted their hospitality and broke bread with them that they realised it was Jesus, at which point he disappeared from sight. Three key elements of accompaniment are prominent in this narrative: preaching a word of hope, sharing the basics of life and departing at the right moment to carry on the work elsewhere.
Today, please have a think about who it is that you can walk beside or break bread with – either figuratively or literally. In every town and city in Ireland, we have homeless people, asylum seekers and refugees, people grieving lost loved ones or the breakdown of relationships and others struggling with mental health or addiction; every one of whom was made in the image of God.
Something to pray
God of justice, bless those who work for peace through justice. Strengthen their resolve in the face of seemingly endless violence. Guide the leaders of the people of the Middle East to know your will and to support a just peace for all of your children.
God of mercy, even as we long to understand that which is often beyond our comprehension, we lay before you the hearts, minds and bodies of all those suffering from conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and from the ongoing occupation. Shower upon all the people there the spirit of justice and reconciliation.
God of the nations, give to all people the blessings of well-being, freedom, and harmony, and, above all things, give us faith in you that we may be strengthened to care for all those in need until the coming of your son, our Saviour and Lord.
(Adapted from the Church of Scotland’s Prayer for Peace in the Middle East)