As Millennial Voices for Peace has been planning and promoting our summer trip to the Holy Land http://millennialvoicesforpeace.com/new-page/, we have entered the liturgical season of Lent: forty days of reflection, repentance and preparation before Easter. These are days when we remember Christ's words and acts preceding his betrayal, death, and resurrection. It's when we step back and get a wide-lens view of redemption. It's when some adopt fasts or disciplines to better attend to that view and to God's voice here and now.
Moving through Lent can be a challenge--there's an emotional heaviness, not to mention those fasts and some difficult Scripture passages, to boot. Re-reading these passages and imagining Jesus' final days, I encounter yet another hard thing. A disturbing thing. I realize that, had I been part of these stories in first-century Palestine, Jesus would have utterly confused me. All his parables and miracles would have tied my mind in knots, probably angered me to the point of throwing a rock or two, even plotting to kill him with the religious leaders of his day. In the dark interim between Passover and the first Resurrection Day, I would have cowered behind a locked door with the disciples: frightened, abandoned, ashamed. Meditating on the Gospels reminds us that, at the time, there didn't appear to be a "happy ending" to any of Good Friday's chaos, much less a plan. It was a mystery, a miserable mystery...until Sunday dawned with unexpected joy. What had been dark and senseless was suddenly alight. Things that were nonsensical or hurtful fit together into a story of hope that continues to this day.
I say all this because I'm supposed to be writing about peace: how it's a quality of God's character, how Jesus is the Prince of Peace, how peace is what we're committed to promoting in Israel/Palestine. And it is, and he is, and we are. But true peace doesn't come easily, and it certainly doesn't come on our timeline. The same world that resisted the Prince of Peace while he walked among us still rebels against efforts toward reconciliation, forgiveness, or truth-telling. The same confusion and fear that plagued the disciples live in our hearts as we look for a plan amidst violent chaos. Much of the time, it feels like we're flying blind with little to no evidence of hope. In the face of a protracted, complicated conflict like that between Israelis and Palestinians, it's tempting to give in to apathy or despair. We may want to throw in the towel or hide behind locked doors, waiting for the worst to pass by.
Nevertheless, the lesson we learn from Lent--from Easter--is that hope is always working behind the scenes, weaving together events and stories that would otherwise make no sense. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, which makes him the prince of what's hard, what's long and wearisome and all but impossible. When we advocate for peace in Israel/Palestine, we don't do so out of blind optimism but out of belief in God's ability to bring resurrection out of death and light out of darkness. In the times we are discouraged or doubtful, we remember that Sunday morning, in all its unpredictable glory, is coming. We believe working for peace is the occupation of those who follow Jesus, the Prince who walked through it all.