On March 23, I had the opportunity to join over 7,000 runners of all ages gathered in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, awaiting the signal to cross the starting line to begin the 6th annual Palestine Marathon. Established in support of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State,” the route of the Palestine Marathon begins in front of the Church of the Nativity and runs through two refugee camps. In order to demonstrate the restrictions to freedom of movement within the West Bank for Palestinians in their daily lives, runners journey alongside the eight-meter-high separation barrier and around the guard towers posted in various parts of the wall’s route. Read more
As a peace builder and faith leader within the Messianic Jewish community, Lisa Loden works to promote reconciliation between the Israeli Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian communities, and a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As an expression of her faith and passion, Lisa immigrated to Israel in 1974 and co-founded a Messianic congregation Beit Asaph in Netanya, Israel. Since then, Lisa has been involved with several ecumenical organizations and initiatives. Read more
Then Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Throughout this Lenten season we have walked with Jesus as he performed miracles, taught in parables, and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We have also taken a closer look at the city of Jerusalem today—why it is considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, and its contemporary political situation. It is only fitting that we reflect on Jesus’ command after his resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples. Read more
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Today, on Holy Saturday, the sacred light or “Holy Fire”—the fire that lights the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—comes out into the world. The fire from the tomb is spread from candle to candle all over the church and throughout the streets of the Old City—a powerful symbol of the way that Christ’s light is spread into the world. However, many of us still feel as though we are in darkness, and that Christ’s light has not yet come to us. Read more
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
A common African American spiritual sung on Good Friday goes, “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?” Of course, none of us were there, yet we remember this event, today. Some of us will hear readings of Jesus’ seven last words found in the Gospels. Others will sit in candlelit churches and feel the darkness creep in as each candle is extinguished. Many will sing hymns, as music has a way of capturing the deep emotions we often struggle to articulate. Read more
Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
Today marks the point in Holy Week when we enter more deeply into the Passion narrative, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. As we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, these devotions will turn our attention more directly to the Passion story, focusing on events as they are recounted in the Gospels, and how they are remembered and celebrated in Jerusalem today. Read more
As Jesus was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
In our passage today, Jesus has entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. He is greeted by the multitudes as a king; making the events that would transpire in the following days, his arrest and death, even more ironic. As he entered the city of Jerusalem upon the road that is now known as the Triumphal Entry, the multitude of disciples praised God, saying: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Jesus was the king they had all been waiting for, the king who would save them from their oppression while under Roman rule. Read more
Sahar Vardi, an Israeli peace activist from Jerusalem, has been working to promote peace and justice in Israel/Palestine since the early age of thirteen. Influenced by her father, who refused military service during the first intifada, Sahar was exposed to the realities on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2003 Sahar would accompanied her father to a small village located near Jerusalem. There, they planted olive trees and painted murals on the school of the neighboring village. She continued to visit the village throughout the second intifada as Israel’s separation wall was being built. In this village, Sahar was deeply impacted by the interactions she had within the community by connecting with those around her on a personal level. Seeing the construction of the wall and the effects it had on the village, Sahar notes that this was the beginning of the politicization process, as despite being merely fifteen minutes away, her and the people she knew in the village were living almost entirely different realities. Read more
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
During the Lenten season, Christians around the world partake in the practice of fasting. Fasting is the tradition of abstaining from food for a set period of time. While this custom is often a spiritual discipline which leads to greater faith in God, or allows space in one’s life for God to speak, that is not always the case. In the passage above, the community is being called out for the misuse of this practice. Instead of only requiring the abstaining from food, God reveals to them the kind of fasting required; the kind that changes society to be more just, brings freedom to the oppressed, and cares for the poor. Read more
Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.
Luke 14:16-18a, 21-24
In chapter 9 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus sets his mind to go to Jerusalem. The rest of the gospel is focused on this journey towards his death and resurrection, and all that he does in between must be read in light of this. While at dinner with some people, he tells the parable we read today, about a man who invited many people to join him at his banquet table. When they would not come, he sent his servant out to the streets to invite all the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame—all those marginalized by society. After the servant had done so, there was still room at the table, so the man ordered him to go back out and compel more people to come, so that his house might be filled. All are welcome at the banquet table of God, regardless of their socioeconomic status, physical ability, race, religion, or nationality. The feast was prepared, and the man would not allow it to go uneaten. Read more