Ash Wednesday opened the Lenten Season at our church with a huge turnout for the Collegiate Worship Service. About 100 people attended worship, which included folks from Second Reformed, Suydam Street, Highland Park, and even the Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, as well as the Lutheran Campus Ministry. It was wonderful to hear the singing of a rather â€˜fullâ€™ church, see so many faces, and to be inspired by Rev. George Bitarâ€™s message on reconciliation.
How meaningful that message is coming from a pastor whose regular church is located in Tripoli, Lebanon â€“ a land caught in the midst of the Middle Eastâ€™s conflicts. How much closer did he bring this issue into our lives by sharing the story of how his church was set on fire by the encouragement of religious fanaticism. How significant to hear how his congregation sought and seeks reconciliation – even to this very day – through dialogues with their Muslim neighbors.
Can we even fathom this type of forgiveness and reconciliation work that they are actually living out? It is difficult to imagine how we would have to put our often demanding responses aside in order to allow a voice of peace and love to prevail. This is not our â€˜normalâ€™ reaction, though.
Rev. Bitarâ€™s words remind us how imperative Jesus Christâ€™s life and message is for our world. By giving himself up to the cross, bearing that pain and death; he suffered so that we would have grace â€“ not only have grace, but to be reconciled and enabled to grant grace, that is what we as Christâ€™s servants are called to do. Even if we have to turn the other cheek again, again, and again.
Stumbling through the internet for some other information, I came upon this devotional poem. I think that it describes our journey, which we are to walk; it is a long road that doesnâ€™t just begin or end in the season of lent.
I walk this way of the cross, my friendâ€¦
And you walk it too.
We walk this path together, you and I.
Though you are you, and I am I, we are truly one,
When I walk, I walk with the little ones of our world;
The outcasts, the poor, the sick, the mourners.
I walk with those who have lost all hope.
I walk with the brokenness of the world,
And I also walk with youâ€¦you, my other self.
As I walk, I listen to the hearts of those to whom no other will listen.
As I walk, I offer companionship to those for whom no other will be a friend.
As I walk, I walk not in robes of purple, but in the garb of a servant.
It was my walk two thousand years ago,
And it is my walk still.
And because it is my walk, now, it is your walk too.
We share the brokenness of the cross, my other self,
And yet, it is only in the sharing that we can make this walk at all.
Iâ€™ll see you along the way,