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Even as Sunday people, Christians live in a Friday-Saturday world

Groups host ‘Hope in the Dark,’ an online Saturday vigil for Palestine

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Valdemaras D. via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Easter Sunday’s coming. But on Saturday afternoon, those who attended the online “Hope in the Dark: A Holy Saturday Vigil for Palestine” were reminded that while we may be Sunday people, we live in a Friday-Saturday world, where “loss, grief and the humanness of tombs being filled are all around us,” as one speaker lamented.

Together with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Israel/Palestine Mission Network hosted a reflective 40-minute webinar featuring three speakers who were among the 35 or so who journeyed to Palestine-Israel last month as part of IPMN’s “Solidarity with the Suffering” delegation.

“It’s part of our religion to be a witness to death,” said one member of the delegation, the Rev. Addie Domske, a pastor and social worker. “We do a disservice to our comrades when we downplay the ritual around death.”

If we see a bit of ourselves in Joseph of Arimathea — able and willing to offer up his material goods to Jesus following his crucifixion — Domske urged vigil viewers “to see Joseph’s donation was an intimate participation in the death ritual.” Joseph has no idea resurrection was coming, “and he showed up,” as did the women who were present at the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body.

The Rev. Addie Domske

“The balm of Sunday is coming,” Domske said, but until then, “Go with grief and questions, as if you just left a funeral, and as you go, go with the recognition of complicity, and leave feeling uneasy. For today, recognize we are at a funeral.”

“I don’t know about you all, but I’m tired,” said another member of the delegation, Dr. Bob Ross. “I’m tired of this war, tired of the death toll climbing day by day, hour by hour. I’m tired of checking Facebook and Instagram to see if my friends in Gaza are still alive where they’re sheltering.”

That fatigue “comes from a place of extraordinary privilege, but it’s real,” Ross said. “It’s trivial compared to what Palestinians have been enduring for the last six months and 100 years. Those of us who traveled last month caught a glimpse of that.”

Dr. Bob Ross

Jail conditions for the nearly 7,000 Palestinians arrested since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 “have never been worse,” Ross said. Yet when Ross spoke with Sabeel’s executive director, he heard this message: “A lot of people come to Palestine to see Good Friday. But I want you to see Easter Sunday, too.”

“It’s here we need to wait,” Ross said, “for the peace, liberation and triumph that is still to come.”

“Throughout our time there,” said the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, “people were asked and willing to put their pain, grief and trauma on display once again, hoping in the telling someone would hear.”

At the end of every conversation — after every tear had been wiped away — “we were told there is still hope — for the people, the land, in us and for the world,” said Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008). “We will do everything in our power to prevent an expansion of acts of warfare, and we will hold hope right along with them.”

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow

“If they can hold hope while death falls from the skies,” he said, “how dare we not hold hope as well. Let us continue to speak out and act up, to remember those who feel forgotten. Let us speak up and act up to embody the power of hope.”

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and burial — as well as Pilate’s order to have the tomb sealed — was interspersed throughout the vigil. PPF’s executive director, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Lyter Bright, concluded the gathering by lighting a candle and offering up some closing words.

“We know just how cruel an empire can be,” Lyter Bright said. “We join with the disciples in feeling scattered, fractured and alone. We join the women who loved Jesus enough to risk losing everything … to gather the oils and spices required to prepare his body, to visit a tomb they had no idea would be empty.”

“The promise of our faith is we are not alone. We belong to God and to each other … with broken hearts that still dare to find hope,” she said. “We light our candles, and we sing our songs. Then we pray and we work — for the people of Gaza and the people of the West Bank and the people of every place that knows the pain of forced starvation and violence. We pray and we work for ceasefire.”

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Lyter Bright

“We pray and we work denouncing anti-Semitism, singing louder than the shouts of White Christian Nationalism, resisting oppression in every form,” she said. “We affirm our faith, that peace comes when the captives are set free, when every chain is broken, when the outcast is welcomed home.”

“We understand the promise of peace is a calling — not a wish or a thought, not even a prayer,” Lyter Bright said. “It is the shared act of our co-creation. We collaborate with the spirits of peacemakers around the world and across history.”

“Mourn, grieve, lament,” she suggested. “Light your candle, and then go forth and make peace. Thanks be to God! Amen.”

Find resources on Israel-Palestine here.

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