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Lenten Reflection
First Presbyterian Church of Marietta
Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders
Lent, 2003

"He fasted forty days and forty nights..." (Mt. 4:1-11)

The alarm blared at 2:00 a.m.  We inched out of bed and pulled on every item of clothing we had brought on our Egyptian vacation, a respite from our "normal" lives in the West Bank.  Armed with hats, gloves, and chocolate, we began our approach of Mt. Sinai.  At the trailhead, we joined masses of flashlight-toting tourists and pilgrims; together, we made one long candlelight procession - lights trailing behind and leading the way in front of us.

Since the 3rd century, pilgrims and monastics have come to Mt. Sinai, revering the mountain where Moses heard the voice of God in the burning bush and later received the Law.  Isolated in the barren desert, faithful Christians prayed and fasted, following the example of our Lord in the wilderness.  The very pious climbed the mountain on the arduous 3000 "Steps of Repentance," some on their knees.

Our procession ascended via the easier camel trail, passing caves and chapels, once home to ascetics and hermits. Near the summit, the trail joined the Steps of Repentance. In the cold, windy night, struggling to keep going, we, like millions of pilgrims before us, prayed with humility and repentance to our Lord.  Soon after our arrival at the summit, first light came, accompanied by Nigerians singing hymns.  Nearby, Germans celebrated communion and Russians prayed. The last sunrise of 2002 came at 6:30, a brilliant orange-red peeking over ruddy mountain-tops.

We welcomed the end of this year, which saw horrific violence in our adopted homeland, and a growing global rift between East and West.  We are weary of growing tribalism, our circling the wagons against the world.  The gospel calls us to follow our Lord's example, to walk in the footsteps of the faithful, and accept the invitation to repentance.

Prayer:  Merciful God, we repent - as individuals and communities - of selfish pride, of hating our enemies, of turning ploughshares into swords.  Cleanse us of our sins, of our hate, so that we may be instruments of your grace and peace in a wounded world.  In Christ's name, Amen.

Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders
Missionaries - Zababdeh, Palestine