The Gospel

Dec 15, 2023 | WEEKLY WORD

A memory popped up on my Facebook feed this past week:  it has been seven years since we began to use the red Glory to God hymnals!  What a tremendous blessing!  In the ten years since the publication Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal  I have found only a few places where some of the editorial decisions have been disappointing.  This past Sunday, we sang a hymn that had one of those edited spots.  

WeeklyWord121523TheGospel When we sang “Comfort, Comfort Now My People” (Hymn # 87) this past Sunday, some of the traditional language was missing.  In Glory to God, the verse goes like this:

To my people now proclaim that my pardon waits for them!

Tell them that their sins I cover, and their warfare now is over.

In the traditional version, the verse goes like this:

Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them!

Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.

If there was a time to sing a song to the land of Israel and Palestine (“Jerusalem”) that peace is waiting for them and their warfare now is over, I feel like we’re living in it.  

I don’t want to wade too far into a very contentious issue, but I know that I am not alone in being troubled by the troubles of the Israeli-Hamas war and the sheer magnitude of human suffering caused by it. I humbly admit that I write this as an outsider who has had the privilege to visit Israel and Palestine twice and encountered the beauty, hospitality, and humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians. I also admit that there is very little that a church newsletter article will do to further any efforts and that the real peacemakers are already at work under very difficult and dire circumstances.

As an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament, though, I am very troubled that the AI program being used by Israel to seek military targets is called “The Gospel.” A recent news story highlighted this unfortunate militaristic use of the word “Gospel.” You can find it HERE.

As someone who is called to preach the Gospel – or “good news” of Jesus Christ – I can say, without equivocation, that there is no place in the good news that I am called to preach that would lead any nation or individual to inflict violence on another person.

Like the Psalmist (Psalm 122) and the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40) (and the hymn writer), I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem and like any Christian who is seeking to share the good news of the Gospel, I am praying for the peace of all people who live in troubled places, no matter who they are. Lord, in your mercy. . .

There is a LOT going on at BPC over the next two weekends. You can find all about it elsewhere in the Hilltop Crier.

Remember, though, we have a Congregational Meeting this Sunday, December 17, after the 10 AM Worship Service!

See you in church!

Grace and Peace,

John