Dear beloved Community,

A few years ago, on Easter Sunday, I told the congregation at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington DC, why I was wearing a keffiyeh to preach in. It was a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle. I was wearing the keffiyeh because part of our struggle as Black people is part of their struggle, and theirs is ours, I explained.

The land of the crucifixion and resurrection is still a land of struggle – ideological, racial, and theological. What’s been happening these past few days, in the midst of Ramadan, Passover, and Passion week, as soldiers beat worshipers in Al Aqsa mosque and fighter jets bomb Gaza are the same evils of racism and colonialism, where Jesus’s resistance to those evils sentenced him to die on a Roman cross. 

Holy week is a metaphor for life. It mirrors the ups and downs of life, and the ebb and flow of resistance and struggle against oppression and dominance. It begins with Jesus’s triumphant ride in Jerusalem where people waved Palm leaves, and laid their garments in the road, chanting “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel!” You can hear their echoes today: “The people united, will never be defeated” “Black Lives Matter,” “Free Palestine,” “End the wars,” “Feed the poor,” Hosanna!” The elites worried that they would lose control, and sentenced Jesus to die a horrific death.

FOR is calling for you to help reclaim these holidays as they were intended to be: times to purify, redeem, and liberate ourselves from all – racism, runaway capitalism, hatred, fear, greed, exclusivity – that holds us from being in the loving image of God.
Learn what Christian nationalism is, what it is doing to the people of the United States, and why we must oppose it and join in our Ramadan-Easter-Passover call to Reclaim the Name of God. 

Mary was weeping because of the heartless brutality of a system that killed hundreds if not thousands. Jesus’s family and followers thought his death was the most devastating thing that could happen, but things got worse. Mary went to Jesus’s tomb and found it empty, she felt in her heart that someone had come in the middle of the night and stolen the body, adding insult and injury to the indescribable pain and grief. The body of evidence of Jesus was being erased from the face of the earth so that the forces and powers could deny a place of mourning and remembrance, and to wipe the slate clean in order to remake Jesus in the image of the oppressor. They were trying to steal the body of history and the narrative. 

Mary and Jesus’ followers thought that Jesus’s body had been stolen, not simply because it was missing, but because that’s what despots always do. They steal not just a physical body, but narratives and dreams. 

Throughout history, it has been the same. They call Palestinian resistance terrorism while ignoring Israeli state-sponsored terrorism. They blame poverty in Haiti on Black incompetence. They obscure the truth; how white racist colonialism disrupted and destabilized the nation. They steal and distort the story of Haitians overthrowing Napoleon’s mighty armies fearing that if the enslaved did that what else can they do? 

Protestor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2019 | Photo Credit: Nalia Chery

They blamed the struggles of the African continent on the failure of Black leadership, rather than centuries of looting the continent by white-ruled nations.

Throughout Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and the U.S., the narratives of the people are discarded, bodies of history stolen, and legacies of resistance distorted and altered. In their place, new narratives are installed: Malcolm X was a hate-filled militant, Angela Davis is a frightening radical, King was against affirmative action and Harriet Tubman should be honored by having her face put on a $20 bill.  When a narrative is stolen, and the history distorted and manipulated, so are the imaginations that are needed for liberation and resistance. 

When Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the people in power and the government sought to discredit him. Decades later they fought against a national holiday, fearing that the memory of him would hold the country accountable and inspire generations to follow in his footsteps. They tried to hide the body of his work, steal his mission and message, contain the damage to the status quo, and continue the sins of racism, poverty, and militarism as acceptable American values. 

They stole the bodies of history of Harriet, Sojourner, Malcolm, and King, diluting and disfiguring them from what they were, making them compatible and unchallenging with the very political and economic structure they raged against. When Mary went to Jesus’s tomb and saw it open, this is what she believed was happening. 

When Mary looked for Jesus’s body, she saw two angels instead. “The body is not here” the angels explained, and they asked, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”  

Resurrection Sunday is God’s statement of life over death and victory in the face of struggles. It is God’s answer to the brutality of the world, and the elite’s claims, “that only the powerful shall inherit the earth!” On Resurrection Sunday the old formulas and paradigms are changed. The poor shall inherit the earth. The first shall be last. As Maya Angelou’s poem declares, “Still I Rise.” The message of the Resurrection is that we can beat city hall, change the rules, defeat the power structures, end racism, stop the war machine and white supremacy, and Reclaim the Name of God.

This Easter, I ask you to remain optimistic and committed to the struggle. Resist evil, stand firmly planted in the body of truth, demonstrate the hope and love of God, and manifest it in our world. 

A blessed Easter to all.

In Fellowship,

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler
FOR-USA Senior Advisor

 FOR Prayer
Sabeel Jerusalem, April 6, 2023

Lord Jesus, humble and gentle one, you are our Saviour and King. Be not far from us and guide our feet into the way of peace.
Lord, in your mercy..

Merciful Lord, we bring the Palestinian people before you as they continue to endure suffering and oppression under the Israeli aggression. We pray that they will continue to hold onto their hope and vision for freedom from occupation and return to their homeland.
Lord, in your mercy…

Lord, we remember that at the end of all the suffering on the Way of the Cross, we have the hope of resurrection on Easter Day. We pray that the Sabeel Easter Service will sound a note of hopefulness in these dark days in the Holy Land.
Lord, in your mercy..

Lord, we pray for Palestinian families, especially the children who have to witness their homes and schools torn down before their eyes.
Lord, in your mercy..

Merciful Lord, we bring Khaled’s suffering and frustration before you as he awaits a travel permit to obtain life-saving treatment. We pray that the Israeli authorities will listen to requests from human rights organizations and grant the permit he so desperately needs.
Lord, in your mercy…
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