As Psalm 51 was read yesterday during the Ash Wednesday service, I realized that I had participated in an Ash Wednesday service a few days prior.  Sure… it wasn’t on a Wednesday, there were no ashes to be placed on our foreheads, we were a VERY ecumenical group, and most of us were not even supposed to be there.  What we did though was a solemn call to repentance, a renewed vision to prayer and forgiveness, and a stated desire to follow Jesus wherever He leads us – even into the wilderness.

My husband and I had just been a part of an amazing week at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.  We were supposed to fly out on a Sunday but because of a snowstorm, we were stuck in the city…well, actually the hotel!  Many other friends – some international, some from the US – were in the same predicament.  So we decided to make the best of it, and the Sunday morning gathering that unfolded is probably one of my favorite moments of the entire trip.

As we gathered in a suite, a Palestinian pastor lead us in a service of song and prayer.  The group gathered was diverse –  Orthodox, Evangelical, Muslim, those trying to figure out this thing called faith.  We sang some worship songs, people prayed in their own languages, and then we read Psalm 51.

It slowly dawned on me that the psalm was the story of that room.  We all came having sinned against God and one another and our heart’s cry was that God would create in us a clean heart.  I smiled when I  read “wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”.  As I looked out the window I wondered if  God had  “trapped” us with that white snow to give us a visual example of His desire for those who walk after Him.

I watched the pastor speak eloquently and open the text in new ways to those in the room, but most of all I watched him.   From the days previous, I found him to be one of the most humble and kind men I have ever met.  He lives in Bethlehem, Palestine  in the middle of conflict, and hatred, and contempt and yet he doesn’t seem to be jaded by it.  His demeanor is that of one washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness, desiring justice and peace in land full of turmoil.  He is a pretty important man in the area ( my Lutheran pastor friend even knew of him) and yet I never would have known it.  The more I think about it…he reminded me a lot of Jesus!

I left that room with my Lenten charge, though a few days early…to confess, to forgive, to be reconciled, to not dehumanize, to love – my brother, my enemy, my neighbor, my world.

(the pastor’s website is www.mitriraheb.org)

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