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What are we to do in times like this?

Map of Israel

“Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country.” – Jeremiah 31:15-17

Dear Companions on the Journey,

It has been a week ruled by the horrible aftermath of terrorism. So many times, we have heard the words: “Never again.” Never again will there be another slaughter of Jewish people. Never again we will remain silent or look away from brutality heaped upon our siblings. Never again will we allow antisemitism to rise and flourish among us. Never again.

And yet an act of terrorism aimed at non-combatants has taken place that continues to shake us each day as more detailed information is discovered. It is absolutely necessary that we hold on to hope for the missing, the kidnapped, and any being held against their will. At the same time, we must hold the same hope for those caught in the danger of the war that resulted from terrorism.

All of us know Jews and Muslims that are citizens in our beloved state of New Jersey. Some of us know Israelis and Palestinians. And none of us wants continued danger and threats to life. What are we to do in times like this?

Pray without ceasing. Mourn with those who mourn. Lament the losses. Tend to your spirit and take special care of the spiritual needs of the young people in your life. Check on the well-being of your Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Call or write your representatives to let them know of your commitment to end terrorism while protecting the innocent people caught in a war zone. Tell them that the bombing of hospitals, schools and homes is unacceptable. Ask about their commitment to humanitarian responses.

We will also need to be wise and careful to keep each other safe. There will be those who will see this as an opportunity to hurt Jewish siblings and others to scapegoat Muslim siblings in our country. Let them know their safety matters to you, that you are praying for them, and ask how you can help.

Some may wonder if prayer makes a difference, or if our own prayers are needed when so many other people are praying. As you pray, notice what happens to you. Prayer is a way we talk with God. We pray seeking an answer and we pour out the worries, fears, shock, and horror of our experience in our prayers. In prayer we can find peace, hope, the easing of our worries, and guidance for our daily lives. Prayer helps us remember our connection to God and who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.

Finally, I am convinced the sorrow, shock, and sadness that so many of us experience mirrors God’s own response to the horrors of terrorism and war. The hope we hold for peace is also a reflection of God’s own love, hope, and mercy for all of creation. Our responses can be offered in prayer and guide us towards a path leading to peace.

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen. – BCP p. 815

Grace and peace,
Bishop Hughes

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