2016 Easter Message from Bishop Munib Younan

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2016 Easter Message

From Bishop Dr. Munib Younan

Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

+++

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

+++

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, in the name of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Today Christians across the world rejoice in the Good News we have received, on which we stand, and through which we have been saved: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.

Jesus is raised from the tomb! Alleluia!

Light is stronger than darkness! Alleluia!

Life is stronger than death! Alleluia!

This is the center of our Christian faith and the source of our hope. For this reason, we celebrate Easter with joy and love.

For this reason, we sing along with Ephraem this beautiful hymn from the 4th century:

Glory to you, friend of all!

Glory to you, O merciful Lord!

Glory to you, longsuffering God!

Glory to you, who takes away all sins!

Glory to you, who came to save us!

Glory to you, who became flesh in the womb of the virgin!

Glory to you, bound in cords!

Glory to you, whipped and scourged!

Glory to you, mocked and derided!

Glory to you, nailed to the cross!

Glory to you, buried and risen!

Glory to you, proclaimed to all humankind, who believe in you! Amen.

 

This Easter Good News has come to the world again at just the right time.

At this time, the world desperately needs the message of the empty tomb. We need the light and life of Easter morning. In just the first three months of this year, we in the Middle East have been witnessing an alarming wave of violence. Recent days have seen tragedies unfold in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Nigeria, and many other nations. Even this week, which we call Holy, began with a terror attack in Brussels. It’s difficult to comprehend the amount of death and destruction which has plagued our world, in just the few short months since the world’s Christians gathered to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

All across the world today we see that a culture of death and fear is heavily promoted to the people – by extremists, by the media, even by some politicians. The message they plant in us is that we should be afraid of losing our freedoms, or afraid of giving away too much power. They tell us we should be afraid of the evil which lurks beyond our borders, or the evil which lurks even next door. This culture of death and fear instills in us a certain envy, in which the only way for us to have life is to deny the life of the other—whether the enemy, or the neighbor of a different religion, or the refugee.

This culture of death is what Jesus experienced on his Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross.

Jesus experienced a culture of deception and betrayal when one of his disciples joined him for the Last Supper, but then sold him for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus experienced a culture of denial and abandonment when Peter emphatically denied him, not once but three times.

Jesus experienced a culture of power over others when Herod and Pilate reconciled out of their common desire to humiliate him.

Jesus knew well the culture of death, and where it ultimately leads.

Today we are haunted and even obsessed by this same culture of death, but this culture is exactly what the resurrection of Jesus destroys. The resurrection of Jesus means we must not accept such a culture. We will not give in to despair, to hopelessness, to violence, or to complacency. We need not stay in the tomb, for by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, we have been raised to new life with him.

The resurrection reveals how the justice of God is wholly different from the justice of the world. Where the world insists that death and fear and jealousy and mistrust and deceiving are unavoidable facts of existence, a culture we must accept and work within, necessary evils which ensure our own personal happiness, the resurrection proclaims exactly the opposite. By rising from the tomb, Jesus shows us a new path forward. The Risen Lord has given us a Culture of Life.

And what is this life? It is a life of freedom, a life of joy, a life of equal dignity. The resurrected life is one of acceptance and love and protection of the other. The resurrected life is one which honors every gender, every race, every ability, every nationality, every faith. This new life, our Easter life, is the culture Christians everywhere share, in spite of differences in language or tradition or geographic location. Together, in every corner of the world, followers of Jesus share and proclaim and testify to this Culture of Life.

Perhaps over the years, we have allowed the world’s culture of death and fear to influence us. Perhaps we have opened the door to jealousy, to mistrust of the other, even to an acceptance of violence. Perhaps we have forgotten how Easter morning was a new day – the first day of the week, the first day of Jesus’ resurrected life, but also the first day of the church’s unique Culture of Life.

How could anyone forget such Good News? How could we forget we have been raised? How could we forget who we are?

When the church stands by as refugee families drown seeking freedom, we have forgotten.

When the church honors bell towers and organs over bread for the hungry, we have forgotten.

When the church stays silent in the face of injustice, oppression, and occupation, we have forgotten.

When the church’s message begins to reflect fear of the world outside, we have forgotten.

When we, who have already been raised to life, begin to feel comfortable inside the tomb, we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that we are children of the resurrection, children of abundant life.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, if we have forgotten, then the Day of Resurrection is the day we remember. On that resurrection morning, the women stood at the empty tomb and could not believe their eyes. But then, the two men in dazzling clothes appeared and said to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

And then, the women remembered! They remembered, and they ran to tell the Good News to all who would listen.

On this Day of the Resurrection, we also remember! We remember that the stone was already rolled back. We remember that that tomb was empty. We remember how God used the cross, an instrument of humiliation and death, to give us life. For this reason, the Orthodox liturgy sings: “Jesus is risen from the dead. He has overcome death with death and given life to all who are in tombs.”

By his rising, Jesus has freed us from the culture of death and fear. With him, and with all believers around the world, we now share one common Culture of Life.

On this Easter morning, I pray that Christians everywhere will remember who they are: People of life. People of joy and of freedom. People of mercy and forgiveness. People of love and of liberation.

Above all, remember that we are a people empowered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be ambassadors of our unique culture—a culture of life and life abundant. Therefore, in every church, in every community, in every nation, in every context, in every situation, let our testimony be as one:

The tomb is empty!

Life is stronger than death!

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Il-Masih Kam! Hakkan kam!

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop Munib Younan Visits Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem

A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset's debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)
A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset's debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)
A group of Christians visited Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the Israeli Knesset’s debate about the sovereignty of Al-Aqsa Mosque. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

Bishop Munib Younan and Msgr. William Shomali of the Latin Church met with Sheikh Abed Atheem, Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and M. Azam Abed Alkhatib Altamimi, Head of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem to discuss the upcoming Israeli Knesset’s evening debate on a bill to end Jordanian custodianship of Al-Aqsa’s Mosque.

Under the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Jordan has custodianship of the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.  A year ago, President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Jordan, through the king, will continue the custodianship of the holy places in Jerusalem.

“The religious Status Quo in Jerusalem must be respected.  We are asking all officials not to transform the political conflict into a religious one because that is very dangerous to all of us,” said Bishop Younan.

To see photos from the visit, you can visit the ELCJHL’s Photo Gallery.

Christmas Message for 2013

"The light shines in the darkness…"

"The light shines in the darkness…"

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.                                                                    – John 1:5

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

I send you the heartiest of Christmas greetings from Jerusalem, the city of our Lord’s death and resurrection. These greetings come from the whole of the ELCJHL, including our congregations in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and in Beit Sahour, where the shepherds first heard the Good News of his birth.

Sometimes, preachers and teachers try to be creative in their telling of the Christmas message. One of the students in our schools said: “It is the same old message of peace that we repeat every year.” She is absolutely right: It is the same message of our Prince of Peace. Still, had the Church not kept repeating for 2000 years the Good News of Bethlehem, the message would have been forgotten.

Even though the Christmas message is two thousand years old, it continues to touch hearts, minds, and souls around the world. With the shepherds in Beit Sahour, we still hear the Angels proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

In this Christmas message, I would like to share three points with you regarding the current situation in the Middle East. I will address the region as a whole, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the ongoing issues faced by Christians in the Middle East.

The Middle East

The whole Middle East is in turmoil. Some analysts are saying that this turmoil is the birth pang of democracy. While some work to address the people’s demands and build stronger civil society, others are introducing political and religious extremism into daily life. We are becoming numb to the daily reports of worsening conditions. But we cannot be calm or indifferent when we see children, youth, and women becoming victims of war instead of building their futures and their countries.

Continue reading “Christmas Message for 2013”

The ELCJHL Easter Message for 2013

…and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

                                                  Romans 5:5

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Salaam and grace to you from Jerusalem, the city of the Cross and the Resurrection.

From the heart of Jerusalem, the center of the spiritual world, we celebrate Easter with amazement and awe. We are like those who saw Jesus entering the city on Palm Sunday, wondering how this new event will change our circumstances and enhance our understanding of God’s relationship with us. We have seen many changes in the world as of late. Earlier this month, a new Pope, Francis I, was elected by the papal conclave. A new Archbishop of Canterbury was installed in the Anglican Church. In addition, we in Jerusalem have experienced the visit of President Barack Obama. All are wondering what these events mean for us in terms of a peaceful resolution to a decades-old conflict. Some have high hopes, and some are disappointed, and others are indifferent. Even if we have the hope of the resurrection in our hearts, we also see the growing frustration and restlessness of our neighbors. And we wonder how long it will be before God’s peace will reign in its fullness in the Middle East.

As some of you may have read in the news, both Egypt and southern portions of the Holy Land have seen a recent horde of locusts, just like the plague of Exodus prior to the Israelites’ departure from their enslavement. I think there is a direct correlation between the message of Christ’s resurrection and the Exodus from Egypt. I think there is the possibility of a new freedom for those who have suffered under the yoke of oppression, but frankly, I am concerned how this new freedom may come about. The whole Middle East is now boiling. We watch and pray as we see civil war in Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Iraq, and other places. We watch especially as the civil war in Syria claims the lives of too many innocent victims. We pray that this conflict does not engulf us. We pray for the thousands of victims of violence—men, women, children, and those whose homes have been demolished. We pray especially for refugees who, as I write, are living in tents in the Jordanian wilderness, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, dependent upon the church and other organizations for their very survival.

Continue reading “The ELCJHL Easter Message for 2013”

A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, ELCJHL

Peace graphic

As I sit down to write my Christmas message during this Advent season, there are no words that touch me more deeply than these words from Isaiah chapter 40, “Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God.” During this time I have been moved by the emotions associated with the beginning of life and the end of life, of birth and death. And I am very much aware that life begins and ends with a need for comfort. And in between, there is enough pain and suffering to go around, for people to cry out, “We are all like grass that withers, and flowers that fade.”

We have once again experienced warfare and death with the eight-day war in southern Israel and Gaza. Though a ceasefire has now been announced, we still feel the burden of a war in which there are no winners, in which people on both sides suffer from physical and emotional wounds and are in need of comforting, a war in which the survivors themselves feel the pain of loss and need to be comforted. Even though we are at a distance in Jerusalem, we have all been shaken by the images of families running to bomb shelters afraid, images of the dead and wounded, images of the rubble. We are moved so much by such tragedy, that it would seem that the words of the Book of Lamentations prevail where there is “no one to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:9, 17, 21).

Continue reading “A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, ELCJHL”

A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, President LWF

A Christmas greeting from the LWF President, December 2012

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ.

Christmas greetings to you in the seven regions of the LWF from Jerusalem, the city of our Lord’s death and resurrection. Although long known as the city of peace, Jerusalem has been afflicted with centuries of conflict. Today, the people of Jerusalem join in the laments of too many other places torn by strife.

The hope of Christmas is the same now as it was over two thousand years ago: that God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s own self. Reconciliation was present in that humble cave in Bethlehem, and reconciliation is God’s message and gift to us today. As Isaiah writes,

For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm
and a shade from the heat.
(Isaiah 25:4 NRSV)

As a global communion, we know well the human costs of disasters, conflicts, and wars. The LWF was founded in 1947 to respond to the needs of refugees in Europe after the Second World War. Among our many forms of shared ministry, we have retained a focus on accompanying refugees.

Continue reading “A Christmas Message from Bishop Younan, President LWF”

Bishop Younan’s Christmas Message of Hopeful Waiting

Jesu fodsel by Norwegian Artist Haakon Gullvag

JERUSALEM, 19 December 2011 – Bishop Younan sent out his 2011 Christmas Message today with hope for peace in the faithful witness of Simeon and Anna’s hopeful waiting for the Messiah.

We invite you to read Bishop Younan’s full 2011 Christmas Message this season and as we continue to wait in hopefulness.

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s 2011 Christmas Messages

Click here to download Bishop Younan’s 2011 Christmas Message

Painting: Jesu fødsel by Norwegian Artist Håkon Gullvåg

“I am the Resurrection and the Life” – 2011 Easter Message from Bishop Younan

Cross and Dove stained glass from the Cave Giftshop in Bethlehem

JERUSALEM, April 20, 2011 – “In a world of suffering and death, these words of resurrection and life transcend us. Jesus first addressed these words to Martha of Bethany when Jesus stood at the tomb of his good friend Lazarus (John 11:25). This occasion is one that has profound meaning because Jesus shows clearly his emotions in the face of death, weeping openly over the death of his friend.”

And so begins Bishop Munib Younan’s Easter Message for 2011. It is a powerful message of hope, promise, and call in the midst of our world today, rooted in Jesus’ words: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s 2011 Easter Message “I am the Resurrection and the Life”

“Fear Not!” 2010 Christmas Message from Bishop Younan

Stained Glass Angel with Halo from Bethlehem

JERUSALEM, December 21, 2010 – When we think of the Christmas story, the most common words that come to mind are peace, joy, hope, faith, and love. Christmas is a pleasant time when families come together, when choirs sing, and when children are filled with fantasies. Yet the first two words of Christmas are “Fear not!”

This is the first paragraph from Bishop Younan’s Christmas Message 2010. It is a strong proclamation of the Christmas story, focusing on the very first words, “Fear not!” It was a proclamation needed 2000 years ago, and is still needed today.

Click here to read Bishop Younan’s Christmas Message 2010