To the First Presbyterian Norristown family,
It's a busy season, and even in just the next 2 weekends, we will baptize a little one into the congregation, then the following Friday a funeral celebration of her great-grandmother - 95 years of Christ-like witness and nearly fifty of them as a member here at this church! The Sunday after that (October 22) there will be a chance for anyone, inquirer or longtime member, to talk about what we are as a congregation and consider what it means to be a member here.
Of course, in the middle of all of this our thoughts and prayers are turned to Israel. My time in the Holy Land, not just Israel but also West Bank Palestine (that distinction is important, more in a moment) nearly a year ago is looming larger for me than ever. So also is the fact that our conference was called the Mosaic of PEACE. I'm including past resources that could help in understanding my time there and the current events. (Pragmatic note: most of these links are to our church Facebook, which are totally accessible and free to view even if you don't have an account.)
First off, the current conflict is between the Hamas government in the Gaza strip and the nation of Israel. Hamas is a Palestinian fundamentalist Islamic regime that exclusively rules the Gaza strip. Our conference never went there due to lack of safety. Rather, our time was spent in the West Bank state of Palestine, occupied by Israeli troops and with a separate Palestinian government, which includes Christians. One of our after-worship education presentations/discussions was solely devoted to this, and please watch it here for history of Palestine including how Gaza Strip and West Bank came to be. It should also be noted that many ethnic Palestinians are Israeli citizens and some even serve in the Israeli army. Nazareth for example, is an Israeli city with a mostly Palestinian (and Christian!) population. Unfortunately in our country: various politicians, student coalitions, and social justice groups have made a rash of recent comments to the effect of "I stand with Palestine," in one case even with a picture of a Hamas paratrooper! Such tone-deaf and wrong-headed statements completely miss the nuance of distinguishing Hamas, whose paratroopers are responsible for the murder of innocent women and children, from ethnic Palestinian Arabs ➖both those who are Israeli citizens and those in the completely separate West Bank.
It's also worth mentioning the difference of opinion among Bible believing Christians as to what constitutes the people of God now. As believers, we obviously want peace in Israel and Ukraine (and the world!), but an individual Christian's view on people of God and endtimes will affect how one looks at the Gaza/Israel conflict now. Please click here for a video of another presentation on both views of the people of God and the Millennium which hopefully can help. Finally, here are my remarks in a previous from-your-pastor column as I prepared to embark on this Mosaic of Peace conference. This covers the statement by our own denomination that has aged poorly in lieu of recent events and why I spoke and voted against it then, despite my sympathies with the Palestinian people, especially the Christians.
Many of you will not have the time or desire to (re)-read or (re)-watch my old columns and presentations. I get that . . . rather just wanted to give you the opportunity for one more person's humble opinion and past words on this issue. I will save you a click and a reroute elsewhere and reprint some of my words before I left for the Holy Land nearly a year ago. I pray that . . . and all of this . . . has helped.
The church as the manifestation of the Messiah Jesus Christ is working to bring peace right now. And how wonderful that I can both learn a bit about peace in a war-torn land AND that same land is where the Prince of Peace Himself walked. Jesus came to this piece of real estate two thousand years ago to bring peace, and it is needed there and in the world more than ever. I am hoping by seeing where Jesus ministered and bought that grace and peace with His own body and blood it can inspire me to be a better follower of Him and a better agent of His peace . . . peace be with you (and with Israel, Palestine, and the world)! 📜John 14:27
~Pastor Peter Martin