January 2012: Seeking God’s Vision
When he [Barnabas] came and saw
the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to
God with steadfast purpose. Acts 11:23
explored Bethlehem with a friend who lived there before the construction of the
30 foot concrete wall that snakes through the city. Back then, people
generally moved freely to and from Jerusalem, just a few miles to the north.
Tourists flooded the city not just at Christmas time, but year round. Farmers
tended the orchards and fields that had sustained them for centuries.
separation wall and its system of permits and identification cards generally
exclude Bethlehem residents from crossing to Jerusalem, and discourage visitors
from entering. The wall creates a very different landscape. The main road into
town is blocked by the wall, so the neighborhood which used to welcome visitors
driving in from Jerusalem now resembles a ghost town. As we followed the
wall around and between homes and closed-up shops we tried to imagine how it
might feel to live in this neighborhood today.
On my way home
from my volunteer work at the Palestinian Lutheran schools one day, as I
crossed the checkpoint to return to Jerusalem (a privilege of holding a US
passport), I feared that I have little hope to offer our students, who have
experienced so much trauma and humiliation. Who am I to tell them there
is a better future ahead? I felt ashamed that I could not even visualize
Bethlehem without the wall. In that moment, I asked God to show me a
vision of Bethlehem freed from the wall. I had come to the realization
that I couldn’t do it myself – I did not have the answer.
Later that same
week, I saw the vision I had asked for. Many visions, in fact: paintings,
collages, comics, and quotes painted on the wall. The graffiti is the
work of both local and international artists. One mural pictures people
opening the wall by pulling down a giant zipper; my favorite portrays the giant
panels of the wall falling toward the viewer, with a clear view of Jerusalem on
the other side, and a ladder to heaven revealing God’s love to the
people. It is the work of the faithful in this conflicted land who seek
God’s vision above all the cruelties imposed by human hands and dollars.
together, as in the old Irish hymn, “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me save that thou art.” Please, God, reveal to us
the potential you see in your creation. You are what matters – we want to
witness your truth in this messed up world. Your powerful vision of peace has
the last word.
Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries is an ordained
minister of the UCC who has volunteered through Global Ministries to accompany
our partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
(Revised from the Disciples Peace Fellowship blog, Shalom Vision http://www.dpfweb.org/dpf-blog/)