As I write this reflection, I have recently returned from harvesting olives on a trip organised by Embrace the Middle East (https://embraceme.org/) with Palestinian farmers in Bethlehem. As you read it, those same farmers will be planting olive tree saplings. I mention this because the hymn above bases its third verse on: Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3
Psalm 128 declares blessing on those that follow God’s ways. Their labour will be rewarded. Their families will be a blessing to them and will be nourished at their table. In these family meals, they will know they are blessed by God. The blessing of security and prosperity in their land, living to see their grandchildren grow up, and to know peace.
After my time in the West Bank I’m still processing the names that appear in the last two verses: Zion, Jerusalem and Israel. How do we read the Psalms in the light of a land occupied for over seventy years? How do we pray for peace for a city and land divided? How do I reflect on Psalm 128 holding in tension what I experienced of the contrasting lives of Israelis and Palestinians in the Land called Holy?
God’s blessing, that Psalm 128 declares, for it to be fully present has to be made real for everyone. For whatever divisions exist or are created, we cannot fully know God’s blessing until it is also opened up to everyone else.
Peace be upon Israel/Palestine. May God’s peace be known to Israeli and Palestinian, be they Jew, Muslim, Christian or secular. Peace be upon Israel/Palestine. Blest are they who trust, who trust in the Lord. Peace be upon Israel/Palestine. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex