I recently returned from a 12-day trip to the Middle East to visit our mission partners. What strikes me is that many of the places that resonate so deeply with us as we unfold the narrative of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection are places I visited for the first time only days ago.
Something else occurs to me: the suffering of the displaced and disheartened is still evident in those places. It is real. It is palpable. It is heartbreaking. But so is hope; and I saw that hope day after day delivered through the hands of our mission partners.
Isaiah 53:3 reads: “He was despised and rejected by others, one of sorrows, intimately familiar with suffering; and like one from whom people hide their faces; and we despised him and did not value him.”
I can’t help but wonder how many today, living in the shadows of the monuments we have built to commemorate the suffering of Jesus, are now the ones from whom we turn our faces.
I saw lines of sorrow and pain etched across the faces of so many.
Two things occur to me as I reflect on this now that I am back home.
First, whatever hope we have to offer them can’t be reduced to the promise of an eternal life that our faith teaches us is made possible by the resurrection hope of Jesus. That can’t be the only thing we offer to relieve their suffering.
Second, what we do in the United Church of Christ to share our gifts with these suffering souls makes a difference. Through OCWM and One Great Hour of Sharing, we fund mission and relief efforts that matter. I witnessed that. We will not be among those who turn the face away from the deep sorrow and pain.
Our global mission partners are present to that suffering. They are active not only in the relief work that helps heal the wounded hearts and battered bodies, they are active in the halls of power and privilege trying to change systems that produce, that tolerate, and that revel in this misery – and then turn their own face away from it. They are resilient in the face of crisis. They bear witness to their faith daily. They are an inspiration for the important work of justice and peacemaking in a very challenging context.
They make me so very proud.
It is what Jesus would ask of us.
In this Holy Week, let us be mindful of the redemptive power that our faith in Jesus provides us.
In this Holy Week let us be mindful of the suffering from which we too easily hide our faces.
In this Holy Week, let us be mindful of those who, on our behalf and out of their own deep faith, abide in the hard places and heal the deep wounds.
Today, that is resurrection enough for me.
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer is general minister and president of the United Church Of Christ.