“Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles. . .” — Psalm 25:22
I read the whole of Psalm 25 appointed for the beginning of Lent, all the way to the last verse.
Just last week, with 45 Mississippi travelers I crossed in a bus through a massive gate in the new wall Israel is constructing around designated Palestinian territory. Inside the wall is Bethlehem with the fields of the shepherds and the Church of the Nativity, children and families — Christian and Muslim — homes and schools and businesses.
At Hope Secondary School, students were overjoyed to practice their English with us. We learned that the students at this mission school of The United Methodist Church were all children who had survived poverty and broken homes. They have been gathered in by our church. They are loved and taught. Last year, every graduate passed the rigorous examinations required for graduation in their nation.
At Bethlehem Bible College, we received the witness of a missionary of our church, a Palestinian Christian, who gently shared the history of the long struggle for land. When asked what the Palestinians desire from the United States, he said simply, "That you be even-handed in your support of Israel and of Palestine." As we left this holy time, one of our group sitting behind me said gently, "I once was blind, but now I see."
Lent is a time for confession, for naming our guilt, "for it is great." (Psalm 25:11)
In January, I saw another wall. This wall is being built by our country on the border between Mexico and the United States. Our wall is looks just much like the wall dividing Palestine from Israel, except that we are building a double wall and in some places a triple wall. With United Methodist friends, I stood at a place in the wall that is still wire, not yet concrete. We celebrated communion with leaders of the Methodist Church of Mexico, passing the bread and cup through a torn place in the wire.
These are huge problems, complex issues, great challenges. In our place, here in Mississippi, let us this Lent name before God the walls that continue to divide. Let us be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, who in this season teaches, heals, weeps, forgives and rises to break through every dividing wall.