Forget not Jerusalem!

The Reverend Dr Michael Hull, our Assistant Priest writes: Jerusalem is our holy city. In Psalm 137.5–6, a psalm rooted in the prayers of the dispossessed people of the Holy Land, we read, ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forgether cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.’ The Psalmist would have us treasure Jerusalem, and all Palestine, as a ‘Holy Land’. 

Holy Scripture is replete with references to Jerusalem. It is the city King David conquered and made his capital, and the city of King Solomon’s Temple. Our Lord Jesus Christ was unjustly punished and murdered, and then rose gloriously from the dead there. It is from Jerusalem that Jesus sent forth His disciples and in Jerusalem that God poured forth the Holy Spirit to give birth to the Church at Pentecost (Acts 1 & 2). All cities pale in comparison to Jerusalem and its environs. We can never forget our Holy Land.

Unfortunately, the Holy Land is unforgetable these days because of the recent horrific atrocities, the ever-escalating violence and the ongoing violations of human rights. The problems seem enigmatic. Not only does despondency snatch at the hearts of many there, but it also snatches at the hearts of many of us who are physically outwith the Holy Land. The kidnapping, torture and hatred tempts us to throw our hands in the air in capitulation to insolubility. But we cannot despair, and we cannot lose hope. The situation in Palestine is not an impossible one, for all things are possible with God, yet another thing we can never forget. 

God is present in the suffering of the Holy Land today. He has never left the Land. It is the sin of despair that tells us we are on our own and hopeless. Despair easily works its way into our political consciousness leading us to lose hope in ourselves and the God who creates, sustains, loves and saves us. The wretchedness that has befallen the Holy Land in the last century or so has infected the hearts of far too many of us with despair across the seemingly impassable borders of religion, language and culture. Recall those two disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24.13–25). They are in gloomy doubt after Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem fearing all is lost. Yet they find Jesus to be walking alongside them. So too, He is walking alongside us now in the Holy Land. We cannot forget that.

How, then, do we remember Jerusalem as disciples of Jesus Christ? Firstly, we must pray. We can pray along with the Psalmist: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers! For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good’ (122.6–9). We can pray along with countless others for peace in the Holy Land, whilst bearing in mind the wisdom of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, who said, ‘Without justice, there can be no peace.’ We would do well to offer a prayer composed by the Rt Rev Hosam Naoum, Archbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem,

O God of all justice and peace we cry out to you in the midst of the pain and trauma of violence and fear which prevails in the Holy Land. Be with those who need you in these days of suffering; we pray for people of all faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians and for all people of the land. While we pray to you, O Lord, for an end to violence and the establishment of peace, we also call for you to bring justice and equity to the peoples. Guide us into your kingdom where all people are treated with dignity and honour as your children for, to all of us, you are our Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Secondly, we must offer material aid. Our prayers would ring hollow in these troubled times if they were not matched in some way with sharing our financial resources with those without power, food, medical care and water by donating generously to a proper charity. For example, the The Jerusalem and Middle East Church Associationor Abraham’s Children in Crisis (the one my family contributes to after being touched by their presentation a few years ago at St Vincent’s Chapel, Edinburgh, our home charge). Truth be told, if we as Christians do not support the welfare of the people of the Holy Land, then we have forgotten Jerusalem. Whatsoever we do for the dispossessed in the Holy Land, we do for Jesus (Matthew 25.40), and thereby we do not forget Jerusalem!

The Reverend Canon Professor Michael Hull has been an Assistant Priest at St Vincent’s since 2015. He became Principal of the Scottish Episcopal Institute this Summer after eight years as its Director of Studies.

St Vincent's Chapel, Edinburgh, the village church at the heart of the city.