From Death to Life

by | Mar 4, 2024

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

This last week, the death toll in Gaza passed 30,000. Over 100 people were killed while trying to get food from an aid truck. There seemed to be a possible breakthrough in ceasefire talks, but Israel chose not to send their delegates to Cairo for the next session in the negotiations.

The Synod Commission of Assembly met on Saturday, and at the end of the meeting Rev. Dr. Charles Marks asked for prayers for a ceasefire, and for all Middle Eastern people—and those who love them—who are suffering so much as the people of Gaza continue to be killed through bombing, guns, and slow starvation. For myself, it’s not just about an affinity for Arabic people or even the general concern for humanity in general; right or wrong, I have always held a very high regard for the Jewish tradition and the community I know, and I cannot comprehend how this violence is being perpetrated by a people who have so often advocated for compassion and justice. (Yes, many have tried to say it’s the government, not the people, but Israel claims to be a democracy, so the government acts on behalf of the people.)

I’ve been told that some Christians are saying this suffering is regrettable, but justified as the fulfillment of Scripture. I cannot believe that our role is to justify the death of tens of thousands of people, including many young children, and claim it is God’s will. But perhaps I’m wrong. The Education, Equipping, and Empowerment Committee is holding a seminar on Saturday, March 23—the Saturday before Palm Sunday—at Knox with biblical scholars discussing what Scripture says about Israel, and how this is applied to the current conflict. You can register to “God’s Word in God’s Land” by clicking HERE.

In light of the violence in Gaza, Ukraine, and in our own nation, it feels like death is pressing in on us. But Jesus often told us that he himself would suffer death, but that death would not be the final answer, and pointed out the ways that death leads to new and greater life. We mere humans mourn the losses we see around us, and we imagine that God weeps with us. But we do pray that even in our grief, we also can see how God can offer new life even in the face of death. For instance, in San Gabriel

Presbytery, we try to be intentional about the property of congregations that are dissolved, that we don’t just spend down the funds by failing to adjust our budgets down to the size of the membership of the Presbytery. Rather, we want to set aside at least some funds towards building up new ministries.

And we are indeed blessed to see vibrant ministries in our continuing congregations, and in new ministries. Yesterday was the chartering service for GKI LA, and it was indeed a great celebration, for the people of GKI LA, the other Indonesian Presbyterian churches (GKI LA is only the second Indonesian church in Southern California to be chartered), their partnering congregation Praise Community Church, and San Gabriel Presbytery. What a joy to see our Presbytery, through the Chartering Commission, bless this newest of all PC(USA) churches. Blessings to Organizing Pastor TE Pipi Dhali, and their brand-new session: Hendrie Tatilu, Grace Manampiring, Robert Tanadi, Yonatan Widiantoro, and Melvin Rebiono. Thanks to COM’s appointed committee to shepherd GKI LA through the final steps towards chartering: Revs. Ann Oglesby-Edwards, Peter Tan-Gatue, and Bryce Little, and CRE Sam Bang, who provided crucial help as they revised their bylaws in compliance with the PC(USA) Constitution. Members of GKI LA have already contributed to the life of our Presbytery, and I look forward to all of us getting to know each other better over time.

The message of Holy Week and Easter is that God’s power to love and save through Jesus Christ is much greater than death. We do believe that no sin is so great, no pain so deep that God cannot overcome with mercy and healing. In these difficult times, I am thankful for this season when we are reminded of all that God will do to show us that

neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

May we never forget this—and recognize the great things God is doing in our midst. May we live with the confidence and compassion to be part of Christ’s mission of love and salvation. And let us rejoice in what God has in store for our new life.


Praying for peace,