Yesterday I am convinced Jesus told me what church to go to. I’m not kidding. I was exploring google maps and seeing how far it’d be for me to walk to all the different sites in Tel Aviv and happened myself upon the old city of Jaffa.
I looked up things to do, which included a flea market. “Ok, I’ll make sure to stop by.” Suddenly I was inspired to find out if there were any local coffee roasters that were trying to offer products above the instant coffee norm. Lo and behold, I found one in Jaffa!
Back to the map. I located it with my growing precision map skills and noticed that there was a church nearby, Immanuel Church. “A landmark!” I thought to myself. I wanted to find a church to go to, but I didn’t know where to start. Especially because it had to be within walking distance.
Google: english speaking churches tel aviv
First hit: Immanuel church, Jaffa.
Hmm. Clicked on their site. They looked like a sweet church family. And it was Lutheran, my mom’s roots. Ok!
So this morning I made my mile and a half journey to Cafelix and Immanuel Church in Jaffa. It was a good morning.
The cafe was cute with a big roaster in the back. They have a wall filled with cups with their regular customers names on them, which I thought was a cool way of honoring faithful patrons. The neighborhood seemed like it should have been scary, but it was super hip with all these little designers and their shops lining the streets. I was impressed.
I headed over to Immanuel Church and was immediately greeted by another out of towner. He and his family had just flown in this morning and were missionaries in the Phillippines. It was nice to have someone be so friendly and welcoming!
The service was in traditional Lutheran fashion and I loved it. Loved it! There was something so sweet about saying the same prayer as everyone around me, joining in with hymns proclaiming God’s truth and being bound to people totally different from me because of our common hope in Jesus.
The preacher was an unassuming man, and his crocs didn’t scream “Lutheran Priest!” But what he lacked in robes and excess he made up in humility and passion while he preached. I cannot explain how refreshing it was to hear someone give an honest, Jesus centered narrative relating to the situation at hand.
Preaching from Acts 9, he shared the story of Saul’s Damascus experience. A religious fanatic, sure that his actions were honoring God, realized that the god he was following wasn’t the true God.
He encouraged us, and himself, to believe that God is able to change the hearts of the most extreme and bring them to him. Even those in Gaza who believe that the violence they are perpetrating is the right thing. And like Annanias, we must all be open to the idea of visiting and serving our enemy. We cannot hate or demonize them. We have to have God’s love for them. They are human just like us.
The same God who changed the life of Saul is the God who can bring peace to this situation. On every side. The fanaticism isn’t just Muslim; it’s Jewish, secular and unfortunately also Christians who mix political zionism with the Gospel.
Jesus doesn’t take sides. In the Old Testement, Joshua encounters The Lord of Heavens Armies and asks “Are you for us, or are you for our adversaries?”
His response? “No; but I am the commander of the army of The Lord.”
It wasn’t a yes or no question. But Jesus doesn’t take sides. Jesus is for His side, and that’s a really important thing to remember in such a divisive situation.
Thanks for reading. Remember to pray for the suffering in Gaza. And for a cease fire.