Hosanna Preaching Seminars Announced
May 14, 2015 - The Israel /Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is pleased to announce a new initiative. The Hosanna Preaching Seminars, whose inaugural sessions will be Oct 27-28 2015, are designed to be a space where pastors can learn how to challenge and inspire their congregations to participate in God’s work for justice in the world, specifically in Israel / Palestine.
Each year, five to ten pastors will meet under the direction of selected resource leaders to study and discuss passages taken from the upcoming year's lectionary texts which refer to the profound theological concerns voiced directly by Palestinians and Jews. This year’s participants will be chosen by invitation. The sermons which will grow out of the Seminars will be posted on the IPMN website where discussion by people of faith will be encouraged.
A particular focus of the Seminars will be understanding and challenging ways of reading scripture and practicing faith which privilege one group, and set apart their relationship to God as superior. An unfortunate corollary to these claims is the demeaning and the exclusion of others. The language of chosenness, or election is a language which Presbyterians know well. We have been forced to acknowledge how problematic this language can be in contemporary, pluralistic societies. It is also language which sits at the theological heart of the Israel / Palestine conflict. Mark Davidson, a Presbyterian teaching elder who will be among the resource leaders at this year’s event, notes, “Exceptionalism - the view that a particular nation or people are a special, privileged agent of God - fuels, justifies, and perpetuates injustice. Our times cry out for courageous preaching firmly rooted in love and justice that will challenge exceptionalism. The Hosanna Preaching Seminars aim to equip and inspire such preaching.”
The Hosanna Preaching Seminars take their name from a narrative which reminds us both of the heavy price of exceptionalism and of the presence of God, even in desperate situations. In 1915, a ten-year old girl named Osanna Panian left her home and escaped the brutality being perpetrated against her people in the Armenian Genocide. She walked over the mountains into Iran where she lived her life as a refugee, saved by the joint efforts of Muslim and Christian communities in Iran. In her homeland, 1.5 million Armenian Christians perished in a slaughter driven by claims to Turkish exceptionalism and the desire to create an ethnically and religiously “pure” state out of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.
Osanna is the Latin version of the Greek word hosanna. It is a popular girls’ name in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but it is also a liturgical word with Hebrew and Aramaic roots meaning “Save me!” or “Help me!” When sung in the liturgy on Palm Sunday, this beseeching cry has the feel of a profound prayer for deliverance. Osanna Panian was given this liturgical name because she was born on Palm Sunday in 1905. Her story would become a living legacy to the urgent need for religious communities to live out their commitments to justice, to be witnesses for peace and reconciliation. In honoring her, we remember the vast numbers of God's children who have been driven from their homes and made refuges in our own time. In particular we think of Palestinian refugees, who make up the largest number of refugees today and who long for home and hope for a day of return.
In this, the 100th anniversary year of the Armenian Genocide, the Israel / Palestine Mission Network lifts up the victims of oppression throughout our world. We are grateful for the opportunity to witness to the grace of God in the life of Osanna Panian. We are also grateful for the opportunity to be a resource for committed pastors responding to God’s call for justice.