After all these years you know I am one who gets his spiritual batteries recharged at the beach–at Sanibel Island, to be exact. It is an incredibly beautiful place that we have been staying at for almost 30 years. We are the perfect time share owners. We have only missed one week there since the year we bought. The place is called Sanibel Cottages, and last week was our annual get away. This was the view from our balcony at sunset on our first night there:
But even with the added blessing of having our grandsons and their Mommy and Daddy there, it was not as restful as usual, and that was because of the conflict in Gaza and the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 in Ukraine. Even the most glorious sunsets and beach mornings could not erase images like these:
My heart is breaking for friends in Israel and the West Bank. I do not know anyone in Gaza, but I know that Palestinians in the other areas there have family and friends who are suffering from the fighting as Hamas uses innocent civilians as human shields. Still, even with Israel’s dropping of leaflets and actual telephone calls to Gazans in targeted areas warning of impending strikes, the casualties have been enormous there. I also grieve for the young soldiers in the IDF who have died in the conflict. I have a deep affection for the Holy Land, and that land includes Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Several of us from St. Luke’s will be attending a United Methodist conference next month focused on Peace and Justice for Palestinians. We will be interested to hear firsthand from United Methodist missionaries and leaders from Israel and the Palestinians, including my guide from Bethlehem, Wisam Salsaa, who carved the model in the office here. While we tend to make no differentiation among Palestinians, there is much diversity and disagreement about a path toward peace with justice there, just as there is here.
And then, as if the fighting in Gaza was not disturbing enough, we would come in from a restful day on the beach to what was almost non-stop coverage of the tragedy in east Ukraine. Again innocent non-combatant civilians were victims of war.
God must wonder what is happening with us. I know I do. So it comes as something of a needed comfort that the Psalm for this coming Sunday focuses on God’s creative and sustaining omnipotent presence in the world. Psalm 104 celebrates and praises God for all that the Sovereign One has done so gloriously. I find the juxtaposition of the skies over Sanibel, reflecting the glory of the Lord, and skies over Gaza and Ukraine, reflecting the less than glorious acts of humanity pretty disturbing. But then I remind myself that it has pretty much been like that since Cain killed his brother Abel and asked if he were his brother’s keeper. Jesus actually answered that and said that indeed we are.
So if you are also in that in-between place like I am, come join us for a much-needed reminder of the glory and love of God this weekend.
With faith, hope, love and a reminder that it’s not ST LUKE’S without U!
To subscribe to St. Luke’s Weekly Update emails, please complete the form below.