We send warm greetings to each one, and lift up our prayers for you that you are finding grace and blessing in the sight of God, and help in time of need. From our corner of the globe, we watch and listen to the news and pray for God’s mercy on a world God made and loved. For, in so many places, there is strife and human misery, rebellion and unrest, acts of hatred and violence, avarice, corruption and lust for power and domination. We observe, too, overwhelming natural disasters: of raging storms, drought, torrents and floods; and others not-so-natural: forest fires, train derailments and the like…
In our own region, we view with sorrow and dismay the heart-breaking sights of hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people seeking essentially to survive, living with scarcity and in extreme weather conditions, to say nothing of views of massive destruction and wholesale killing…
And, here in the land called “holy,” though apparently “normal” on the surface, we see little holiness. In the West Bank, we observe signs of the subtle effects of chronic military occupation: high unemployment, a choked economy, extremes of affluence and poverty, constantly rising costs, high taxation and the dumping of mostly second-quality goods. Attitudes of manifest impatience, frustration, defiance and anger dominate, while the occupying political and military powers display the arrogance and belligerence of might. We look for “holiness” and find it but only in niches of private piety, in communities of worship, some institutions that work for justice, peace and human services; and in souls that are determined to herald peace, seek justice, show kindness and walk humbly with God…
Since the December 12, 2013 “snow storm of the century” that brought 50+ cm of snow and ice, as well as much damage to infrastructures and to crops, there has been no rain except for one or two very light showers. Not only is the land parched, but there is great fear that the summer rationing of West Bank water by Israel’s Water Authority will be severe. Yet, having seen a wide rainbow in the sky after a brief sprinkling one afternoon, we trust in God: The God “who has the wisdom to number the clouds, who can tilt the water skins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together.”
Often, our living challenges seem to us enormous – the crippling winter cold with no central heating; the undisciplined – sometimes frightening – traffic; the constant noise, dust and debris of incomplete construction; and other hazardous, health-threatening conditions. But then as we reflect on the world around us, we consider ourselves privileged to live and serve here. We prize our call and our associations, and are grateful to walk alongside those with whom we serve, with those who translate their faith into courageous witness in word and deed.
We look ahead now to the soon-approaching series of Religion and State conferences and workshops, the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference with the theme “Thy Kingdom Come,” the Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference to be held here under the title “Mosaic of Peace,” the Season of Lent, Holy Week and the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord. These provide us, together with our Christian neighbors, a time of contemplation and contrition, a time of grateful sharing of the Passion of Christ, and a time of anticipation, then celebration of God’s victory over sin and death, a time to make sense of our journey, a time to strengthen our faith and a time to reinforce our hope in the power of God and the glory of God’s coming kingdom.
And so we invite you to pray with us and for us, as we pray with you and for you that the God of hope will fill your days and hours with a sense of divine presence, sanctify your dreams and visions, bless your relationships and perfect the work of your minds and hands.
Peace in Christ,
Victor and Sara Makari serve with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with the Diyar Consortium of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Israel/Palestine. Victor serves as Regional Consultant for the Religion and State in the Middle East Program. Sara serves as editor of publications of Diyar.