Today we worshipped at the Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour. This congregation is small but has a wonderful facility for a school that impacts its community in amazing ways. Palestinian Christians are a very small group, around 1-2% of the population, but because of their connections with global partners and their commitment to continuing to preach the gospel in the land of Jesus they have great power.
We had a wonderful worship and a challenging sermon from Pastor Ashraf (who called me up, with no warning, to proclaim the forgivness of sins during confession. A good reminder that memorizing parts of the liturgy is indeed worth your time). Then Pastor invited us to his house for dinner where we got to meet his lovely wife and 5 month old son. In thankfulness for their hospitality I presented them with some Texas gifts. A stuffed Longhorn for the child and Lammes Candies for mom and dad.
The meal was wonderful but we needed some exercise afterwards. So a group of us journeyed just down the road a bit to “The Herodian” which was a palace built by Herod the Great and later became his tomb. He had the mountain’s height increased by 1/3rd so that from his palace/fortress atop he could see Jerusalem.
Amazing views and a reminder of the world of empire (Herod was a vassal of Rome) that Jesus was born into. A world of power (economic, religious, and political) that was about enriching elites at the cost of the people in the villages. Jesus responded to that world with a different vision, the vision not of palace/fortresses on man made mountains, but of God’s economy in which all people are valued, children are invited to come, and the poor are lifted up.