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Stuck in the Garden
April 1, 2002

This past Thursday, Christians gathered all over Jerusalem to remember Christ's Last Supper.  We joined in worship at Redeemer Lutheran Church.  As we commemorated the Passover feast Jesus shared with his disciples, we were again reminded of the Wednesday suicide blast that killed more than twenty Israelis as they celebrated Passover.  "This is my body broken for you," we heard in English, Arabic, and German.  "This is my blood." Even - and sometimes especially - in the sanctuaries here, the outside world appears.

The church was stripped of ornamentation - between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, the Christian sanctuary becomes a tomb - barren, desolate, pure.  Meanwhile, we read Psalm 118, as the disciples did that night: "God's steadfast love endures forever.  God's steadfast love endures forever."  From there we followed the disciples' footsteps out to the Garden of Gethsemane.  We stayed vigil for a while, but like Peter, James, and John, we all drifted off slowly.  It's not long before there's betrayal, arrest, and death.

For a year and a half now, Israel and Palestine have been immersed in a cycle of betrayal, desolation, and death.  There are times when we feel trapped between the devastation of Maundy Thursday and the hope of Easter Sunday.  This year especially, we desperately needed to hear the message of the resurrection and to see it manifested in our daily lives.  We looked forward to sharing services on Good Friday with the Melkites, the night of Holy Saturday with the Roman Catholics, and a joyful ecumenical Easter Sunday at the Garden Tomb.  "Christ is Risen - He is Risen Indeed."

Friday morning we got a call - the Israeli army was moving into Ramallah, and Sharon had called up 20,000 reservists - no one knew what was going to happen.  Many expected a full-scale re-invasion of the West Bank.  We weighed our options and headed back to Zababdeh, for reasons of both safety and obligation.  Zababdeh's relative quiet beckoned over the uncertainty and fear that permeated East and West Jerusalem, as did our desire to be with our friends, who now face even more desperate times.  Our Holy Week plans were aborted, and we headed back home.

When we arrived in Zababdeh, we also arrived back in the middle of Lent.  As a sign of unity, the churches celebrate Christmas together on the Western calendar (December 25th) and Easter together on the Orthodox calendar (this year, May 5th).  It was sadly fitting to come so close to that proclamation of hope, that fulfillment of promise, and yet to be forced back - to retreat into that desolate place of waiting and loss.

The news just gets worse. As we write this, we see more suicide bombs; we see tanks shooting at peace demonstrators; we see talking heads regurgitating political spin at the expense of human lives; we see cities sealed off from the world; we see Ramallah's hospital morgue overflowing with bodies; we see archenemies Sharon and Arafat conducting a personal showdown, regardless of the effects on their people. This land is in need of hope: hope for peace, hope for a future. Hope of resurrection.  Let us fast and pray.  Let us stay awake, that we may see the dawn of the morning star together.

Al-Masiih Qam (Christ is Risen)
Haqan Qam (He is Risen Indeed)
Elizabeth and Marthame