Sunday, May 16. The Seventh Sunday of Easter and Jerusalem
Sunday.  Readings for Today:  Acts 1.15-17,21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5.9-13; John


Since 2013, when the General Synod of our national church
voted to affirm our solidarity with the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, thisSunday in the life of our Canadian church is known as Jerusalem Sunday.  It’s been a day when local churches across
Canada are called to learn about our Anglican brothers and sisters in the
Middle East, to pray for them, and to assist them in our ministries.

This year Jerusalem Sunday falls in the middle of an especially
horrific cycle of violence in the region. 
Disputes over evictions of Palestinian families from houses in East
Jerusalem, as well as new security restrictions against Palestinians in Jerusalem,
escalated into full-fledged exchanges of fire across the border of the Gaza Strip
between the Israeli military and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.   In Israeli cities, violence between Jewish
and Arab groups threatens to destroy the multifaith and multicultural community
and neighbourliness that has been a hallmark of Israeli society at its best.

In the midst of this conflict is the Anglican Diocese of
Jerusalem, made up of almost thirty
parishes, 30 priests and more than 7,000 church members in Israel, Jordan,
Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.  Besides its parish ministries, the Diocese
is active in education and health care, and operates clinics and hospitals,
including the Al Ahil Arab Hospital in Gaza City.  One can only imagine what the scenes in that hospital
are presently like.   The Diocese also offers
a ministry of hospitality to pilgrims to the Holy Land, including St. George’s
College in Jerusalem, a place of learning, rest, and prayer.  The current bishop of Jerusalem is Archbishop
Suheil Dawani, the fourteenth Anglican bishop of Jerusalem and the fourth
Palestinian bishop.

On this day of prayer, in the
middle of what may be a new war, the Diocese of Jerusalem reminds us of the
role of the church as a witness to God’s commitment to love and peace.  As a minority in the middle east, the Diocese
tries to model peaceful and respectful relations and dialogue between the nations
and religions.   Now, more than ever, we
need to pray for God to keep them strong, to protect them, and to bless their
efforts to show the love of Christ to their neighbours.  In fact, this crisis invites us to think
about why we are called to pray for other dioceses and regions of our Anglican

As part of our prayers and
intercessions, it’s customary for us to pray for whichever part of the Communion
comes up in the weekly cycle of prayer.  
Sometimes these names are hard to pronounce and they are distant – there
are so many Anglican dioceses just in Kenya and Uganda, and how can we
meaningfully pray for them or know anything about them?   Here I would say two things.

The first is that today is an
opportunity for us to think about how we are part of a much wider church.   All Saints may be just one of many diocesan
churches, part of one of many dioceses in our national church, which is in turn
just one of many national churches in our Anglican Communion, and so we are
just a very small branch on a very big vine, to borrow Jesus’ words from two
Sundays ago.   What unites us is that all
of these churches exist to serve God, to be the presence of Christ in service to
their parts of the world, and we all as churches have a duty to pray for all.

  On Friday for our Compline services, we recorded
the nightime hymn, “The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended”, which includes those
wonderful lines of how, as the sun marches across the earth, a part of the
church is always awake to praise and pray: 
“As over each continent and island each dawn leads on another day, the
voice of prayer is never silent, nor do thy praises die away”.  We may never know those people and parishes
we pray for on any given Sunday, and neither do they know us, but we pray for
one another and for the fulfillment of Jesus prayer to the Father, that God
guards the church as Jesus did on earth. 
Because we exist in a companionship of prayer, we are reminded that our
shared identity as Anglicans, as disciples, as proclaimers of Christ to the
world, transcend any of our particular differences.   We are, in the words of that old hymn, “one
in the spirit and one in the Lord”.

The second point I want to
make is that the Diocese of Jerusalem, while it is no holier than any other
part of the worldwide church, has a particular role in connecting us with Jesus
and the physical and historical substance of our faith.   The Diocese, like all Christian churches in
the middle east, lives and walks in the streets and fields where Jesus and his
disciples and apostles lived and walked.  
It reminds us that our faith is not some vague otherworldly piety or
spirituality, but is rooted in the world that Jesus knew, that Jesus blessed,
and in which Jesus called his disciples to continue his work in that same

In today’s gospel, Jesus prays
to his Father that “
As you have sent
me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (Jn 17.18).  So Jesus knows that his disciples belong in
the world, even if they are not worldly, which is why he prays to the Father to
protect them from the Evil One.  The Evil
One can mean anything that seeks to undermine and corrupt the children of God –
anything that has to do with lies, violence, corruption, and human power.  We are seeing the effects of systemic evil in
this current violence.  I say this
without wanting to portray one side or another as evil.  I have nothing to say to you about the rights
and wrongs of what is currently happening in Israel and Gaza today.  I would merely say that both sides are enmeshed
in a process that is evil because it is contrary to peace.  Peace can only come when men and women who
are serious about dialogue, compromise, and truthfulness can sit down and reach
a settlement.   

Until then, this is why the
witness of the Diocese of Jerusalem is so important.  Jerusalem is the ground zero of our faith.  It’s the breaking of bread, Jerusalem is
death and resurrection, it’s the coming of the Holy Spirit, it’s diverse people
made the church in prayer and faith and miracle.  In its stewardship of the place where it all
began, the Diocese of Jerusalem points to hope, to God’s life, to God’s
promises and God’s faithfulness.  In its
dialogue with its Jewish and Muslim neighbours, it is the model of what peace,
God’s shalom, can look like.   We need to
pray that the Diocese can continue to do and be these things, just as we need their
prayers, for together we are the church, the companionship of disciples that
together shows Christ to the world and to one another.


0 Responses