Author: Admin

Maundy Thursday: Love One Another

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

I did not know Maundy Thursday existed until 2015. I was raised in a Christian home, went to church all my life, and never knew that the Thursday before Easter meant anything particular to my faith tradition.

Now I realize Jesus’ “last supper” and the events of that night have a meaning of their own as they led up to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

Maundy Thursday celebrates the very nature of God: love. Read more

Third Sunday of Lent: Love Your Marginalized Neighbor As Yourself

J. Nicole Morgan

“. . . his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman. . . . The woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ . . . .Many Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” John 4: 27-29, 39

When I’m not thinking about peace in the Middle East, I’m thinking about peace with our bodies. I’m an embodiment theologian – someone who thinks about how our bodies relate to God and also our neighbors. We are all familiar with the idea of fighting our bodies and seeking to control them into submission in search of some spiritual or soul-purity. Think about how we often equate whether or not our bodies are healthy, or a certain size, with whether or not they are holy and pleasing to God – when there is no correlation between those two things. A well-documented tragedy of history (that many still ascribe to) is the belief that having a body of a certain race or ethnicity made one further from God. When we degrade the bodies of others, or we attempt to minimize the importance of bodies, we become disembodied. We lose the connection between the fact that God created our bodies in God’s image and that our presence walking around on this earth is an extension of being God’s presence on this earth. We’re supposed to show people who God is with the entirety of who we are. We are supposed to remember that we are looking at the image of God when we look at other people. Read more

Second Sunday of Lent: Justice: Making Things Right

Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” Read more

First Sunday of Lent: Grace Greater Than Hardship

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

During the 40 days of Lent, my thoughts are often consumed by the radical grace shown to us and the sacrifice of God’s son on the cross that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. It is a struggle to be graceful in my day-to-day life and, by my own admission, I live an extremely blessed and privileged life. Yet in 2017, I spent an entire trip learning from Israelis and Palestinians what it means to live a life full of grace, even in the midst of unimaginable struggle.

I was introduced to Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) through a trip my church took with CMEP several years ago. I spent eight days with the group learning from our Israeli guide, Eldad, and from our Palestinian guide, Hussam. For many of the group, it was their first trip to the Holy Land. It might as well have been mine for all I realized I did not know or was blind to the last time I traveled there. Read more

Prayer for Christian Unity

Two weeks ago, the Christian community in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area gathered together for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Services were held at many of the different denominations’ churches, including at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem/West Bank Young Adults in Global Mission (JWB YAGMs) helped to lead the service, in our debut as the “Young Adults in Global Mission Choir.”

Now, to be completely honest, I haven’t thought a whole lot about “Christian Unity” before coming here and serving as a part of YAGM. Before this year, my focus was decidedly more interfaith than ecumenical. As the vice president of the interfaith council at Vanderbilt University, I worked hard to foster dialogue between people of all sorts of different religious and ethical persuasions. My interest in intra-Christian relations, however, extended about as far as my education at a Catholic school and basic understanding of Catholicism. Read more

The Forty Days

You might not believe it, since the image of the Middle East most people have in their heads involves sweltering heat and rolling sand, but it gets quite cold here. Not as cold, perhaps, as the -66 windchill the Midwestern United States is experiencing right now, but cold enough. With houses designed to draw heat out during the summer and no indoor heating, the temperature is often the same chilly 50 degrees inside that it is outside, if not cooler.

We’ve entered what Palestinians call “al-muraba’ia,” “the forty days,” the coldest days of the year. Thunderstorms blow in from the Mediterranean, dumping rain and sleet and hail on the hills of Jerusalem before pacifying in the Jordan River Valley. Wind sneaks in through the windows, making candles and electricity alike flicker. From Christmas until the middle of February, we will wear extra layers and huddle around space heaters for warmth, piling thick fleece blankets on our beds. Then, the warmth will return, spring will break out, and we will move on.

It seems particularly fitting that these days number forty, and that they are coming now, of all times. Read more

Advent: Christmas Day

This is the final entry in our Advent 2019 devotional series. For the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Day, we released Advent reflections from voices in the Holy Land. Catch up now: Advent I: Hope, Advent II: Peace, Advent III: Joy, and Advent IV: Love.


Christ is Born

As the Christmas season winds to a close my thoughts on my experiences here are finally beginning to settle. Christmas in the Holy Land, especially in the Bethlehem area, is an incredibly busy time, full of old traditions and new. Over the past month, I’ve attended countless parties, decorated Christmas trees, taken pictures with Santa, eaten chestnuts roasted on an open fire (or in a toaster oven) while sipping red wine, gone to parades, and, of course, worshiped at numerous local churches.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that people have exclaimed to me about how amazing  it must be to be spending Christmas in Bethlehem. And there are parts of it that certainly have been amazing, though definitely not what I expected. In many ways, I was surprised at how familiar Christmas was here. Read more

Women behind the Wall Episode 8: Generational Separation

Listen to the Episode Here

 Born and raised in a Muslim family in Galilee, Hanan was 23 years old when she converted to Christianity. In this episode of the Women behind the Wall podcast, listeners get an inside look into the life of a religious convert, and the conversations that happen behind closed doors among family members after this type of cultural taboo becomes known. Religion is more than a belief here, it dictates one’s social interactions, and Hanan embraces that her family name and background is Islamic. “It is not something that I can run from, or delete from my life, and I don’t want [to].”  Read more

Women behind the Wall: Episode 7: Helping Each Other Heal

Listen to the Episode Here

After the 1948 war, what Israel calls the war of independence and what Palestinians called the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, some Palestinians remained in their towns and villages inside the newly established State of Israel. Before the 1967 war, Israel gave this particular group of Palestinians Israeli citizenship, and the state officially refers to them as Israeli Arabs. However, many of them reject this term and refer to themselves as Palestinian-Israelis or Palestinians of ‘48, among other terms. Today, there are about two million Palestinians in Israel who hold Israeli citizenship. Some of them are Christian; the vast majority are Muslim. In episode seven of the Women behind the Wall podcast, listeners hear from Shireen, a Palestinian woman from the Galilee with Israeli citizenship who belongs to the minority community of Christians. She shares about her marriage to a West Banker, her reflections on identity, and the conflict. Read more

Women behind the Wall Episode 6: Two Cities Within One

Listen Here to the Episode

“Supporting Israel was actually considered a very social-justice-oriented thing. However, I did not grow up with a great knowledge of the Palestinians.” In the sixth episode of Women behind the Wall, listeners hear from Heather, an American-Israeli who now works on social justice and human rights issues with Palestinian women in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. She explains how her religious upbringing shaped her involvement today.

Heather grew up in North Carolina in a Christian family with Jewish heritage that she considered to be pro-Israel that also focused on social justice. Her first trip to the Holy Land was when she was 16 years old, at the beginning of the Second Intifada, or “uprising” which was a period of intensified Israeli and Palestinian violence. While visiting a family who lived in a settlement, she recalls seeing the building tension but recognized not knowing the context, thinking, “There is more to this that I am not understanding.” Read more

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