A Lenten and Holy Week Message
Marla Schrader – Palestine
During this Lenten season two most important happenings took place in my life that I would like to share with you.
My children, now 8 and 6 years old, begged me to have an Ash Wednesday service in our family room at home. This year the idea of acknowledging our human frailty (the mistakes we make), letting them go and receiving forgiveness was incredibly liberating for them. They were full of wide eyed enthusiasm with the possibilities that this holds. All day long they thought about and talked about what they needed and wanted to leave behind, give up and get rid of (mostly their own not so noble behaviors and how they treated each other and their playmates). I thought they might forget, but as soon as I picked them up from school they asked that I light a fire in our fireplace. My son told me that the bad stuff would become ashes and the good stuff would become smoke and like the spirit to God. What was amazing was just how joyful they were about writing their “sins” on pieces of paper and watching them burn. They really did not want to stop writing and they wrote many, whereas my spouse and I found the process did not flow as readily with us. We had to think longer and harder about what to write (as if we had less, when in reality we surely had more sin for which confession was needed!). The children proceeded to mark our foreheads with ashes, telling us that there is a journey ahead of us and to “Go!”. How powerful it was to have our children lead us in admitting our destructive patterns of behavior (nearby and faraway, inward and outward) and then be released to journey instead through life-giving patterns. Thanks to God for the children!
Ecumenical Advocacy Days were recently held in Washington, DC (http://www.advocacydays.org/), under the theme: “…and How are the Children?”. I went to hear the reflections from part of the US Ecumenical Delegation that had just returned from Iran. A brilliant and thoughtful Iranian American joined in the panel, as well. It was so moving to hear their report. I am so proud that some of our church leaders had the opportunity, courage and determination to make this trip. It was the first time since 1979 that a US delegation had a meeting with an Iranian president. All are grateful to the Mennonites for their compassion and foresight in establishing linkages several years ago for direct humanitarian support after an earthquake and for establishing a student exchange program. It was really because of these many years of people to people, partner relationships that a bridge of understanding was built that made this delegation possible. I commend to you their statement: http://mcc.org/iran/delegation/statement/ and specifically the three recommendations quoted below:
“As additional steps in building bridges between our nations, we call upon both the U.S. and Iranian governments to:
- immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;
- cease using language that defines the other using “enemy” images; and
- promote more people-to-people exchanges including religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress, and civil society.
As people of faith, we are committed to working toward these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war to a more just and peaceful relationship.”
These are a set of prayers taken from the Mennonite Central Committee website.
Prayer for Lent
Compassionate and merciful God, your love enfolds all that you have made and forgiveness is offered to all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that, as we acknowledge our sins and wrongs done on our behalf, we may obtain perfect forgiveness and your blessing on our mission of peace for the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the people the United States of America; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer for Iranian Christians
O merciful God, we entrust to your never failing love and care all Iranian Christians, for this life and for the life to come. Uphold and strengthen them in faith and support them by your gracious mercy, that your light may shine forth in their hearts and that they may know your bountiful grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It has now been one year since the Friends International Center in Ramallah (FICR) has been opened and functioning with a full time program coordinator. I celebrate that in the midst of this current “Good Friday” period in the history of the Palestinian people, that we are hand in hand with friends and partners around the world, joining in a common agenda to dare to resist the powers that be and dare to shout the good news through their daily actions of building a culture of peace and non-violence exactly where it is needed most.
In great gratitude for all of you as you teach me through your witness of forging the way into life giving patterns.
Marla Schrader is responsible for travel and pilgrimage facilitation to Israel-Palestine and supporting the ministry of Mrs. Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Quaker who does much to interpret the reality of occupation.