In many busy Canadian families, parents and siblings interrupt each other in mid-conversation. We want to get our point across quickly and efficiently. We want to get stuff done.
Mennonite Church Canada is a busy family of congregations. We have ministry in our neighbourhoods, ill and dying people to attend to, and plans and hopes for our futures. Life is full, and then come the interruptions, like the plea from our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestinian churches “to accelerate the achievement of justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land” (from A Moment of Truth).
Jesus was no stranger to interruptions. Much of what we know and appreciate about him is from his life-giving responses to unexpected and often challenging interruptions. One example can be found in Matthew 20:29-34, where Jesus, on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem, is interrupted by two blind men. To the chagrin of the crowd, these men call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Jesus’ response teaches us two lessons about our response to the call for support from fellow Christians in Palestine:
• First, we need to be attentive to interruptions. Despite the noise and movement, despite the efforts of the crowds to silence the men, and despite his already busy day, Jesus hears the call of the men, and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The MC Canada 2016 assembly resolution on Palestine and Israel is an effort to listen to the voices that have come to us from beyond our own plans and programs. The voices from Palestine call us, not as a political nor ethnic organization, but as citizens of God’s global church and our identity as a peace church. This “interruption” is an opportunity for us to stand with vulnerable and marginalized members of our global church family.
• Second, Jesus’ interruptions provide unique opportunities to reinforce and visualize his teaching, call and identity. On two prior occasions in chapter 20, we find Jesus teaching that “the last will be first.” The backdrop for this teaching was Jesus’ own impending death. The call to serve is not only for disciples, but for Jesus himself, as “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” This is what he does for the two blind men.
Throughout the gospel stories, we see Jesus serving the weak, the suffering, the ill and the demonized. While rarely popular by the standards of his day, Jesus’ witness grew because of his integrity in combining word and deed, and by fulfilling his mission to serve.
The church and people of Palestine have been suffering greatly for many years under military occupation by the State of Israel. We now have an opportunity to show our commitment to come alongside them in the way and name of Jesus.
Tim Froese is the executive director of Mennonite Church Canada Witness.
For more on Israel and Palestine see:
Broadening our prayers
The view through a prison keyhole
Muddying the waters on Israeli divestment
What would you risk for peace?
Three stories of throwing
Palestinian children face harsh realities
Working group tackles tasks of advocacy on Palestine and Israel