Holy Fire Light Saturday 2017

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” words by Bryn and Sally Haworth Vs. 1

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown:  how pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!  How does that visage languish which once was bright as morn!

Psalm 31:9-16

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.  My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.  Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me.  I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.   For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me  and plot to take my life.  But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.  Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

Holy fire saturdayIt is Saturday afternoon. Crowds are waiting, eyes are anticipating, hearts are eager to receive the light or “the Holy Fire” as it has been traditionally called. We are in a place none other than the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem. You can barely find space for one’s feet to step in. In fact, people seem to be on top of one another, priests, clergy men, believers, locals, pilgrims, tourists and anyone else you can think of. This is no small event: the light is soon going to emerge from the tomb of Jesus.

Traditionally, this is what is thought to happen every year; a miracle takes place, Holy fire comes forth from the tomb in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus. Many people hold strong opinions about this happening; they firmly believe in their heart of hearts that a miracle occurs every year and the light and fire come out of nowhere as divine proof and reminder that the Lord is risen. Others are more skeptical and allege it is just due to a mischievous human hand!

Now, nothing is impossible for God.  God who said, “Let there be light,” where there was only darkness at the very beginning, is the same God who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not,” (Romans 4: 17) can still speak anything into existence, even a fire out of the tomb.  However, this debate is not the point. The point is, whether we have truly experienced this Light in our lives.

What happens to this Holy Fire after it escapes from the tomb and the Holy Sepulcher church?  Well, the light is then carried to Bethlehem and other neighboring towns.  Christians emerge from their homes to “receive the light”; with scouts, parades, colorful balloons, people in fancy dress, and there is singing and dancing everywhere.  It is a festive atmosphere of joy.  Yet, watching these people, I wonder:  “Why are they happy?  Do they realize what this light signifies?”  Do we, as Palestinian Christians in this region, really know what it means to experience and witness the light of the risen Lord in our lives?

Then I think about Saul of Tarsus.  He truly experienced the transforming Light of Christ on the way to Damascus.  The result was a completely changed life, vision and mission.  Paul turned from a persecutor of the Nazarenes, to a Jesus- hero: an apostle to the nations.  Anyone who has seen, experienced, and watched the Light should not settle for less!

This Saturday that proceeds Easter Sunday, is known as “Sabt Innour– the Saturday of Light.”  In a place where darkness seems determined to penetrate, the Light of Christ is the only thing that can shatter any darkness: “The people walking in darkness have seen a Great Light, on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  Jesus said we are “the Light of the world!”

MACEDONIA-RELIGION-ORTHODOX-EASTERHow are we are reflecting the Light of Christ in our lives?  Are there still dark areas where we have not allowed the Light to shine?  It is easy to experience the euphoria of an event and forget the essence of what we ought to be. Instead, let us examine ourselves, not only through this period of Easter but every day, so that we may be true carriers of the Light God wants to shine into each person’s life.

I grew up listening to and singing, “Shine Jesus shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory, Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire.”

Let us pray, Lord, we ask you for your light to fill our hearts beginning in Jerusalem to Bethlehem and around the world today!  We lift up the land that first witnessed the light and pray it will truly “blaze” for your Glory. With the psalmist we add our voice, Lord, “let your face shine on your servants, save us in your unfailing love.”  Amen.

Devotion written by Grace al-Zoughbi Arteen teacher at Bethlehem Bible College.

Photo credit: both pictures are google stock photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday 2017

“Were You There” words are an African American Spiritual

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?  Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they pierced him in the side?  Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when the sun refused to shine?  Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?  Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.  Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.   Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

It is that little word “even” in verse 8 which catches my attention as I read this passage again.  For death, like life, brings its own raft of injustices.  Death itself may be the great leveller, but death has many faces.  To sit at the bedside of a woman in her nineties who anticipates with faith and joy her union with Jesus and her departure from the struggles of a long life is as different an experience as can be imagined from grieving the sudden, violent death of a young man through suicide.  In both instances there will be tears and loss, but in one there will also be peace, hope and light, in the other a wild, dark rawness.  The length (or shortness) of life, the manner of death, the preparedness of those around – all these factors profoundly affect how we experience loss and grief.

Jill Baker Good Friday picture 2017The death of Jesus was too soon, too violent, too sudden for his friends and followers – they were plunged into a wilderness of confusion and fear.  Today, Good Friday, we enter into that experience with the disciples as we become a church in the wilderness, a church in grief, a church which recognises and has to encounter pain, violence, loss, injustice.

In that encounter we are awed by what the cross demonstrates.  The God in whom we trust is not a bystander to the pain, violence, loss and injustice of the world today.  God understands the tears and despair of all who suffer today, and in a particular way stands in solidarity with all who suffer injustice.  For God in Christ did not die a “good death” but the kind of death which can speak into the most appalling situations of human tragedy and cruelty for all time, “even death on a cross”.

We should not shrink from this day.  The cross is repugnant, yet, strangely, as Christians we find ourselves irresistibly drawn to it.  “Were you there?” we sing; with the clear implication that we need to be there.  If we claim to follow the way of Christ we must follow him to the cross and learn from this symbol of violence, hatred and bigotry, for it is also the ultimate symbol of humility, healing and extreme love.

At the cross we acknowledge our own powerlessness, to change the course of history… to prevent the death of Christ… to solve the problems of today… but still we linger.  We gaze at the crucified Christ and offer ourselves in humility and wonder to the God who “therefore” demonstrated the power of powerlessness.

Let us Pray, Yes, we were there, Lord, yes, we were there; we know the grief which takes our courage away.  Yes, we are here, Lord, yes we are here where self-pity and apathy are dispelled by your endless love.  Yes, we will go from here, Lord, yes we will go from here to those who cry out for justice, for healing, for peace.  In your name and by your grace alone, we will go.  Amen. 

Devotion written by Jill Baker who will serve as Vice-President of the Methodist Church in Britain beginning June 2017.

Photo credit: a cross stands in the Judean wilderness.  Taken by Jill Baker.

Lent Devotion… 26 March 2017

“My Song Is Love Unknown” words by Samuel Crossman

Why, what has my Lord done?

What makes this rage and spite?

He made the lame to run,

he gave the blind their sight.

Sweet injuries!

Yet they at these

themselves displease

and ‘giants him rise.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

1 Samuel 16 v 1.

camel in desert 2Lent is not just about resisting temptation – it is about repentance, making ourselves ready for the future. The spiritual discipline of Lent, as we look to mature in our spiritual lives will, if it is real, be made clear in the way we lead our lives. There is a sense in which Lent is about preparing for the future, the resurrection life and the salvation acts of God. Samuel Crossman’s great hymn “My song is love unknown,” of which the verse above is verse 4 – ends with the words, “This is my friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.” The hymn that reflects upon the story of Jesus’ passion ends by affirming the sustaining joy of a future in fellowship with the Saviour.

“Look to the future” is also the message of the biblical passage quoted above. God challenges Samuel no longer to grieve over Saul and his failings, Samuel had seen in Saul a person who could lead and inspire the Israelites – but as time went by his corruption and psychological demise became clear for all to see. Samuel looks back with acute sadness. But God is saying to Samuel look ahead. I am doing a new thing. Christians when gathering together can too often be looking back with a sense of sadness that things are not as they were. But the challenge of mission is to see how, in God’s name, we can change the world. It is therefore always forward looking.

I perceive a palpable sense of hopelessness especially among the young here in the West Bank. Many are finding it hard to look ahead with any sense of hope. It feels to many that they are in a desert, the heat is on, the water is short, the way ahead looks difficult and uncertain. There is a Christian message of hope that needs to be communicated – in the end Justice will triumph, in the end the ways of God will win through. That can though be a very hard message to communicate in the context we find today in the West Bank and Gaza. It is also a very heard message to hear.

As we progress through the weeks of lent, increasingly considering the passion of our Lord in the days leading up to Good Friday, may we be ready to hear the resurrection message of Easter, – nothing is beyond the capacity of God. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is more than capable of resolving the problems that seem intractable to us – even the conflict between Israel and Palestine. May our faith shine forth with hope for all God’s world.

Let us Pray,

Holy God, sometimes it feels as if the problems we face in life will never go away. Some of the political conflicts of the world seem intractable. Yet nothing is impossible to you. Help us to remember that there is always hope when we hope in you. This prayer we pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

Devotion written by Rev. John Howard, Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel, from the Methodist Church in Britain.

Picture: camel wandering in the wilderness, taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

“My Song Is Love Unknown” words by Samuel Crossman is in the Methodist UK Hymnal in “Singing the Faith” number 277 vs. 4 or in the UMC Hymnal supplement  “The Faith We Sing” number 2083 vs. 4

Lent Devotion… 12 March 2017…

“All My Hope Is Firmly Grounded” words by Joachim Neander in the United Methodist Hymnal 132vs. 1

 All my hope is firmly grounded

in the great and living Lord;

who, whenever I most need him,

never fails to keep his word. 

God I must wholly trust,

God the ever good and just.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”   Genesis 12:1-3

IMG_9893As a divine act of Grace, God chose Abraham to live as a man of faith.  God called him out of his family and clan so that in him all the nations would be blessed.  As Christians, our testimony is in Jesus that we find our satisfaction and fulfillment.  “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4: 2).  This faith and belief Abraham had, led him to respond in obedience to God’s call; and this meant sacrifice for him.  He sacrificed his land, people, nation and all his belongings to follow God’s greatest purpose for his life.  He started his journey towards the unknown but followed the Lord with all the faith His mind and heart could muster.

Following God’s call on our lives comes at a cost as well; living in the Holy Land today we know that all too well.  It requires faith in God and how God can transform our lives as we work for the Kingdom.  We may not know where God’s call could lead us, but we have confidence in the One who called us; and confidence that where God leads; God will guide and provide.  Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11: 6).

Yet after this initial call to go to a different place to serve the Kingdom or to remain in our own physical localities, there remains a greater testimony that we need to demonstrate for everyone; to walk faithfully with the Lord and humbly before those we meet day to day.  Life’s many challenges lure us away from our goal, but as Jesus obeyed the God, we should do our best to do so as well!

For me one of the most moving parts of the scriptures is found in Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

As a follower and a servant of Jesus here in Bethlehem, the life of ministry requires that I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, without whom I can never accomplish anything good.  Jesus is my goal!  Witnessing to people who live in a broken land, where injustices are so clear around me, I have to remember the example of Abraham:  faith, obedience and sacrifice which will lead to God’s abundant blessings.   Jesus endured the cross and all its shame for us; he knew however, that he could trust his Father.  I pray that the precious people living in this land will experience a great resurrection on every aspect of their lives as they learn to listen to God’s voice day by day!

Let us pray, Lord, help us listen to your voice; give us the courage to respond to your call.  May our hearts be willing to always say, “here I am Lord”, and our mouths ready to speak of your amazing love demonstrated to us on the cross.  Amen.

Written by Michael Arteen, General Board of Global Ministries, serving at the Bethlehem Bible College as the campus minister.

Picture of the wilderness taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown.

Lent Devotion… 5 March 2017

 “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”

words by Claudia F. Hernaman, UMH 269, verse 3

“As thou dist hunger bear, and thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord, to die to self, and chiefly live by thy most holy word.”

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  (Matthew 4:1)

lent-pics-2017-tina

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Wilderness at Wadi Qelt near Jericho where Jesus was tempted.  Picture by Tina Whitehead.

Temptation and sin.  Perhaps ‘sin’ is not a word or concept that we use much today, but I would suspect that we are all familiar with ‘temptation.’  Television ads constantly bombard us with products to buy that guarantee us a better quality of life; brightly packaged foods lure us away from our resolutions to follow a diet or a more healthy lifestyle.  ‘Opportunities’ to get ahead, to save money, might tempt us to make decisions that may not reflect our values.  Temptation is everywhere!

Some of the temptations we face might seem trivial (Should I have another cookie even though I know it is not healthy?).   But other temptations can be life changing, for ourselves and for others.  What does scripture teach us about dealing with temptation?

In today’s scripture passages, we see two examples of temptation, one in a garden and the other in the wilderness.  In one, the tempter wins out; in the other, the one tempted resists.  The temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden is somewhat troubling.  It seems innocent; they’re tempted to be like God, to know good from evil, to gain wisdom.  What could be wrong with that?  In the wilderness, Jesus has been fasting for 40 days.  He must be hungry, probably wondering how long this will last, or even if he will ever leave the desert.  He is tempted with food and with power.  But he does not give in.

I wonder if his response was as easy as it seems in Matthew’s account.  Was there anguish?  Did he wrestle with whether or not to give in?  It does not seem so here, but then I think of the Garden of Gethsemane and I read of sweating drops of blood as he struggles with, “Let this cup pass from me.”

And then I think of some of the temptations here in Palestine.  A son is in prison and a father is tempted to betray friends and family in order to obtain his release.  A wife has cancer and a husband is tempted to give evidence against neighbors in order to get a permit for her to be able to go a hospital and have needed treatment.  Temptation.  Anguish.  What choice would you make?

And another temptation that is everywhere present here.  The temptation to despair, the temptation to lose hope in the face of everyday realities under occupation.

For me, it is important to always remember that Jesus was fully human.  The anguish that we face, the choices that we are confronted with, were not unfamiliar to him.  He also struggled with temptation, but he trusted in God who is faithful, whose love is unfailing, who forgives us when we fall.  Or, as the writer of Psalm 32 states, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (vs. 8).  And in verse 10, “.…the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.”

Prayer Lord, we all know what it is like to be tempted.  Sometimes we feel helpless in the face of decisions that need to be made, other times we are just weak.  We thank you that your loving presence surrounds us and gives us hope.  May we look to you in all the decision that we make.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Devotion written by Tina Whitehead, United Methodist volunteer in Palestine and Israel.

Ash Wednesday…

Forty days and forty nights

you were fasting in the wild;

forty days and forty nights

tempted and yet undefined.

              Singing the Faith 236 v1

“As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute.”

2 Corinthians 6:4-8a

lent-pics-ash-wednesday-john-howard

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The Key, a  Palestinian symbol of steadfastness, located at the entrance to the Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem. Many families still have the keys to the homes they lost in 1948.  Picture taken by Rev. John Howard.

 

 

As we begin Lent 2017 we find ourselves in a very different world to the world of Lent 2016.  Election and referenda results have made the world a lot less predictable. Issues which seem to have been taken as accepted ideas such as International Humanitarian Law, Climate Change and even Human Rights, are openly challenged again.  For Palestinians the world is a much more threatening place, with no peace process, a hostile White House and an even more confident Israeli administration making everyday life more and more difficult in the West Bank.

The writer of 2 Corinthians recognizes the challenges of life.  He and those he is writing to have been through it all for the sake of spreading the Gospel, “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments… and sleepless nights.”  His words resonate with the experience of the Christian community in Palestine.  They too have been through “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments… sleepless nights.”  Yet almost all of the Christian community adhere to their faith in the ways of non-violence to challenge the occupation and bring about a more just situation here.  In Palestine it is often known by the Arabic word “Sumoud” which can be translated as “Steadfastness,” or “Endurance,” but speaks of the active commitment of the people to stay where they are in the homes and on the land that they own and that their families have farmed for centuries.

Christians in this part of the world are a witness for those of us who come from very different places.  Often we need greater steadfastness, greater endurance – we can too easily give up on causes that we hold dear when it seems that results are slow in coming.  Lent is a time for self-examination, to face the temptations and to mature spiritually as we address those things within us that undermine the faithfulness of our spiritual lives.

This Lent may we learn more of “Sumoud,” and apply it in our spiritual lives.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Luke’s Gospel tells of how you set your face resolutely towards Jerusalem though you knew what would be waiting for you there. Teach us that same steadfastness, that we might be willing to tackle the difficult issues where justice and peace are hard to find.  This Lent tech us   “Sumoud.”  Amen.

 

Devotion written by Rev. John Howard, Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel, from the Methodist Church in Britain.

 

Holy Week: Holy Saturday

“Jesu, Jesu”

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.

These are the ones we should serve, these are the ones we should love; all these are neighbors to us and you.

United Methodist Hymn # 432 words by Tom Colvin

Psalm 33:20 – “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Isaiah 12:2 – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.

Easter Saturday.  One of the in-between times that we have in our lives.  We often talk about events by using “from – to” but our lives are really more about “from – through – to.”  We live mainly in the “through” times.  Easter Saturday is one of those times.

The women in Luke’s Gospel (Ch. 12) have just come “from” the crucifixion experience.  Their world has been turned upside-down; they don’t know what lies ahead.  They come to the grave-site expecting to find Jesus’ body, bringing with them the spices that were used after a death.  They were not expecting a resurrection; they had not understood Jesus when he told them that in 3 days he would be raised.  They did not live in hope.  They were just going about their customary caring for a loved one who had died.

rainbow in JerusalemThere is a strong statement in the Palestine Kairos Document:  “In the absence of hope, we cry out our cry of hope.”  Like the women, the people of this land see very little that gives them hope.  They are living in an in-between time, from dispossession, through occupation to… what?  The answer we hope for is peace, liberation, justice, equality, freedom.  But at the moment, we wait in hope, in the absence of hope, in a hope that looks to God, a God who is faithful and who calls us to “trust and not be afraid.”

Lord, Help us to keep our eyes focused on you when we experience the difficult in-between times of life.  When we get discouraged and feel that hope is lost, remind us to put our trust in you.  Amen.

-Tina Whitehead, United Methodist Volunteer in Palestine and Israel

Photographs:

The wooden wall, a project of the YWCA of Jerusalem, photograph taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

Rainbow over Jerusalem, photograph taken by Tina Whitehead

Holy Week: Holy Friday

“Jesu, Jesu”

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.  Loving puts us on our knees, serving as though we are slaves, this is the way we should live with you.

United Methodist Hymn # 432 words by Tom Colvin

John 18:1-19:42

“Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity.  So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed.”  John 19:31

20150819_093344As we reflect on the reality of Jesus’ death, we are humbled.  After spending time in the Holy Land, we have learned that this day is referred to as Sad Friday by the local Christian people.

Not long ago, I joined a group of Christians from Bethlehem who had gathered in a field where too many olive trees were being uprooted.  As we prayed, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” an olive tree was uprooted from the earth.  With tears in my heart, I prayed.

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:23-25

IMG_739420160115_122942We remember that God is present in times of despair.  A few trees remain in this field, though stripped of limbs and branches, new growth is happening.  A reflection of “Sammud” steadfastness of hope is witnessed in the people of this land.  While in our life we may despair, we know that earthly death does not have the final word.

 

Lord, fill us with your love as we seek to faithfully serve our neighbors, both near and far away.  Help us to remain steadfast in our love, hope and faith.  Amen.

Devotion written by Rev. Kristen L. Brown, GBGM Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel from 2011 to the present, and by Julie Hartbarger Blacksher, a member of Pathways UMC in Springfield, Missouri.

Photographs:

The wooden wall, a project of the YWCA of Jerusalem, second picture taken in a valley near Bethlehem as a tree was uprooted, third picture one of the olive trees which remained, at least for a short while, fourth picture a drawing of an olive tree,  photographs taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

Drawing of the olive tree by Julie Hartbarger Blacksher.

Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

“Jesu, Jesu”

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.  Kneels at the feet of his friends, silently washes their feet, Master who acts as a slave to them.

United Methodist Hymn # 432 words by Tom Colvin

John 13: 31-35

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

IMG_7509 (2)During Holy Week many Christians hold special services to remember the events known as “The Last Supper” when Jesus sat down to share a meal with his friends and disciples before the beginning of Passover.  In the local culture when one entered a home it was a sign of hospitality to provide water with which to wash one’s feet, or in more privileged homes, to provide a servant to wash the feet of a visitor.  This is not simply a gesture toward cleanliness, but symbolizes that the guest is no longer considered a stranger and that the host has no ill-intent for the guest.  In other words, one is now a welcome member in the household and can feel safe and secure.  In addition, the sharing of a meal was more than just the act of eating food. It was another way of providing hospitality and welcoming someone as a member of the family.

footwashingAs people participate in special services where a symbolic foot-washing takes place, and we remember the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples as he broke the bread and passed the cup of wine with them, we sometimes forget the most important message of that evening long ago.  We forget the reason we refer to this day as “Maundy” Thursday.  More important than the foot-washing, even more important than the bread and cup, this was the moment when Jesus pronounced his new commandment or mandate, “mandatum” in Latin, “maundé” in French.  Jesus commanded us to, “love one another just as I have loved you.”

 

 

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for this opportunity to remember your 11th commandment.  Help us to remember this new commandment in all that we do, in all that we say, throughout all our days.  Amen

love one another

Devotion written by Janet Lahr Lewis, Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle East, GBGM, and Peace with Justice Program Associate, GBCS.  She formerly served as a GBGM missionary in 2001 in two positions and then as the Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel from 2006 to 2014.

Photographs:

The wooden wall, a project of the YWCA of Jerusalem,  and two feet in the Jericho spirngs, photographs taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

The “foot washing” relief and “Love One Another” are images shared on the internet.

 

Lent: Week Five

“Ah, Holy Jesus”

There-fore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving.

United Methodist Hymn # 289 words by Johann Heermann

  John 12:1-8

“Mary took a bound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  John 12:3

Every Lenten season is an opportunity to recall the great price Jesus paid on behalf of all.  It is a season for prayer and gratitude for the enormous gift of grace.

marymarthawithjesusEven with all my visits to the holy places through the years, I cannot say I have been where Martha and Mary and Lazarus greeted Jesus in their home.  I can imagine a scrumptious meal after Jesus had brought Lazarus back to life.  I can imagine Martha serving and Jesus and a few others gathered at the table.  And I can imagine Mary kneeling to rub Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment….so expensive it cost almost a year’s labor, and the aroma penetrating the whole house.

Mary threw herself in complete abandon before her Savior.  A towel wasn’t good enough.  She dried his feet with her hair because it represented herself.  She offered herself before the one whom she adored.

This Lent perhaps others will be so full of adoration for God that they will forsake dignity to demonstrate that deep love.  Perhaps they will offer themselves in complete abandon.  Christians around the world can join Palestinian Christians in this abandon.

To follow Jesus on the path to life, to live to the glory of God and invite others to do so, to become more perfect in love of God and neighbor, to grow and learn as a spiritual person, this is the purpose of life.  All and everything is about this.

Prayer:  Thank You, Gracious God, for a wondrous love that forgives and redeems.  Thank you for a love that is unswerving even when we do not deserve it.  Amen.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Bishop representative on the World Council of Churches

Photographs

Olive wood wall is a project of the YWCA in Jerusalem, picture taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

Mary, Martha and Jesus painting in Bethany church, picture taken by Sara H. Dunlap