Reflections from the Holy Land-Week 2

Group 236

A Lenten Reflection from Bishop Leila’s trip to the Holy Land for the second week of Lent.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian theologian, author, and Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem. He is also the founder and president of Dar al-Kalima University, where the bishops and I had the honor of meeting and learning from him. 


The week prior, a fifteen-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by the Israeli military for denouncing their military occupation of his community. Rev. Dr. Raheb recounted the events through his tears… He spoke of the children and youth who now carry their last words in their pockets with a certainty that one day they will be killed as a result of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 


Consider with me the depth and passion behind such an act of resistance; that even after their deaths they would insist upon having the last word and denounce the events that robbed them of a full and free life… The last words in this young boy’s pocket were, “I grew up with many dreams but I live in a country where my dreams could not be realized.” He was fifteen years old! Fifteen years old and his dreams were literally crushed and buried by a socio-political conflict. 


Rev. Dr. Raheb processed the events with us and left us to wrestle with a truth that consumed this young boy and pervades the minds and hearts of the living stones in the Holy Land, “Many Palestinian Muslims and Christians believe in life after death. The greatest challenge is believing in life before death.” 

We sat in that classroom, listened intently, and held the weight of the Spirit’s invitation- one that has flowed into this lenten season for me. 


As we journey toward the cross, I believe the Spirit is inviting us to explore the events and circumstances that put into question life before death; the moments and seasons where the tempter consumes our minds and hearts to the point of despair…

I believe we’re invited to be honest and willing to name the sin we have done and the sin that has been done unto us…

In a season where so many of our certainties are either crumbling or have entirely crashed and burned, we are encouraged to surrender our desire for control… and live by faith… 

It’s in this season where we’re invited to trust the creator of the universe that knows every hair on your head and wound on your heart..

It’s now when we’re invited to believe the one who took on flesh, was broken, and executed so that our wounds might heal; so that we might become walking scars who testify of God’s unconditional love and rescue from a world that only knows how to crush and bury our dreams…


It’s in this season where we grieve unapologetically and dare believe death and despair cannot and will not have the last word… with God’s help and in Jesus’ name. Amen.


En Cristo,

Bishop Ortiz