“The outer world is only an expression of an inner, spiritual world,” the theologian Eugene Peterson wrote in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In other words, the violence and strife erupting around us are a produced by the violence and strife raging within us. If our spiritual world is broken, then our physical world will be as well.
Mercy – the one word I find myself repeatedly praying this week. Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on our medical workers and migrants and people living in refugee resettlement camps. Have mercy on the poorest of the poor who live without doctors in the developing world. Have mercy on our government officials and grocery store clerks and farmers and elderly and frail. Lord, have mercy on us.
As a college student studying in Jerusalem, I was privileged to spend one rainy and cold Christmas wandering around Bethlehem with my mother. In the days before a concrete wall divided Israel from the West Bank, this majority Muslim city about six miles south of Jerusalem was an easy fifteen minute taxi or sherut ride from our school. Arab shopkeepers, with their open-sided kiosks lining the streets, sold strings of Christmas lights along with olivewood nativities and traditional sweets. With a flock of other worshipers, we knelt on the stone floor near the shrouded hollow in the Church of the Nativity where Christ is traditionally believed to have been born.