November 29
Ruth Hughes

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
 “May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers. Psalm 122:6-7

Psalm 122 describes the pilgrimage of God’s people back to Jerusalem after a generation living in exile in Babylon. It makes me reflect on the pilgrimage we are making in our return to in-person worship. When I enter our sanctuary, the color and light of the stained glass gives me a sense of tranquility and awe. Of course, there is peace within this stone structure. Yet the passage nudges me to reconsider: “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.”

The Jerusalem that the psalmist writes about returning to was not idyllic. Researching the text, I found that Jerusalem, like the world we live in now, had a history of slavery, heavy taxes, extremes of poverty and wealth, and injustice. 

In “Our Jerusalem,” conflict is familiar. The pandemic heightened the inequities and disparities in our world. Our nation is at war (with ourselves) over culture and politics. We are accustomed to living with a constant simmer of division. Peace and prosperity for everyone seem like lofty and unattainable goals.

The passage reminds me we have work to do on our pilgrimage; to make a difference at Grace and the world beyond. Our Jerusalem extends beyond our stone walls, more than twenty blocks to Austin, Lawndale, Woodlawn, to rural Illinois and Indiana, and beyond the nation’s border.  While my world includes people and perspectives with whom I vehemently disagree, the passage nudges me and calls me to pray for all of God’s people and our combined justice, peace, and prosperity. 

God, guide us in our return to Jerusalem. Help us build a sanctuary at Grace that is welcoming to others and where we can start the real work of building a community of God that brings justice and peace to our world. Amen. 

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