Sunday, January 15 – “Can I Get A Witness?”

View this recorded version of Sunday Worship from January 15, 2023.

Bible Verses

Psalm 139: 1-18 and John 1: 29-51

Reflection: Can I Get A Witness?

Excerpts from the reflection by Rev. Paula Sohl:

“We have much more work to do in this country in addressing our history of racism and genocide. It is a priority of our Central Pacific Conference that we are working to become an Anti-racist Conference of the UCC (United Church of Christ).

The sad reality is that the destruction of complete towns and the killing of innocent victims is happening regularly on occupied Palestinian land, not just historically, but right now. This is state inflicted violence as well as unchecked, vigilante settler violence. And we need to talk about the complicity of our U.S. Government and Christian Zionists, who actively lobby for the 4 billion U.S. dollars sent to Israel every year that pays for the destruction of Palestinian lives and property, IDF military, and the expansion of illegal settlements.

In the same way that whites were trained to fear blacks, Israelis are trained to fear Palestinians and they are systematically humiliated and treated as inferior.

Our UCC National Church, in 2021, adopted a resolution called ‘Declaration for a Just Peace between Palestine and Israel’, stating in part: ‘We affirm that all people living in Palestine and Israel, are created in the image of God and that this bestows ultimate dignity and sacredness to all. Therefore we reject any laws and legal procedures which are used by one race, or religion, or political entity, to enshrine one people in a privileged legal position at the expense of another, including Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures.’

While in Jerusalem we heard a presentation by an Israeli journalist named Amira Haas. We asked her what she thought about the UCC Resolution. She agreed that in Israeli territory the system is certainly apartheid, but in the West Bank, she said, it is much worse. It is settler colonialism with intent to shrink and strangulate the Palestinian population.

The numbers of Christian Palestinians have indeed shrunk drastically as people who can, often leave their homeland for safety and opportunity.

We were at the Sea of Galilee when Lee Cato, a member of our group, shared the version of Psalm 139 that we sang a few moments ago–that presence of the divine we rely on to be with each of us knows the pain of all those subjected to cruelty and violence. Indeed, our brothers and sisters on the far side of the sea, are beloved and held in the hands of God as tenderly as are we.

So John the Baptist, wandering in the wilderness around Bethany beyond the Jordan, saw the spirit descend like a dove and remain upon Jesus.

In him he saw the picture of vulnerability that would ultimately conquer oppression by the giving of his life and the power his witness. And those willing to come and see and go and tell, would be following in his footsteps, participating in his work of healing the world.