Crusaders For Love

Be compassionate, as God is compassionate.
From Luke 6:36

On this Eve of Ash Wednesday, my thoughts turn to my visit to the ancient city of Akko in Israel. Today, numerous Muslims and Christians live, work and worship in this town while coexisting in harmony. This peaceful setting provided a refreshing retreat from the troubles of the outside world. Still, Akko’s long history, which began more than 1000 years before Christ, is punctuated with violent interludes.

As is the case with many of Israel’s cities, Akko’s location made it an attractive conquest for those seeking a local stronghold or a gateway to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Crusaders punctuated Akko’s history with conquests and losses which led to much bloodshed. Though the Crusaders fought with seemingly lofty intent, their presence in this place failed to inspire peace. These warriors who claimed to fight in the name of God’s Church often proved to be crude men who ravaged the localities in which they found themselves without reservation. It didn’t take much to imagine what the local citizenry likely thought of these efforts. Though I was struck with amazement as I walked through the well-preserved Crusader stronghold, I also shuddered as I considered the evil-doing which occurred there.

We need only to reference today’s news here and throughout the world to question much of what we humans purport to do in God’s name. Sometimes, we need only to look back at our own day. Do any of us actually believe that we serve God by harming one another? If we believe what we say we believe, that “other” is also one of God’s children.

As I consider how I’ll spend Lent 2018, I must look at Jesus’ life among us for some pointers.

Loving God, help us to love one another as Jesus taught us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace Be With You

Blessed are the peacemakers;
they shall be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

As I checked my notes from our trip to Israel, I realized I have something more to share regarding our visit to Akko. Every morning and evening, we gathered for meals at our hotel. Lunches were another story. Our guide Yossi arranged a variety of colorful and comfortable settings for these midday feasts. In Akko, Yossi reserved a large table in a semi-outdoor restaurant. This means that we were shielded from the elements by tent-like surroundings while the cooking was done indoors. As always, the food was enjoyable, plentiful and offered at a good price.

In the midst of lunch, Yossi unexpectedly pulled out a tiny stringed instrument which resembles a mandolin, but has a triangular bass (possibly a balalaika???). As soon as he began his mini-concert, the restaurant quieted as everyone turned to listen. Much to Yossi’s surprise, a trio of local actors drifted in to enjoy the concert as well. This time, Yossi played tunes which were among these Arab actors’ favorites, much to their delight. Afterward, Yossi remarked that peace is made through gestures such as this when a Jewish musician concerns himself with his Arab neighbors’ music. Once again, Yossi observed, “They’re just like us. All they want to do is to work and to bring food home to their children. This is how we make peace. We share music rather than war.”

Earlier on, Yossi had called himself an atheist because he was raised in a communist Kibbutz where he said, “God was ripped from my heart at a very young age.” Yossi, they may have tried, but they obviously did not succeed.

Dear God, bless Yossi and all of us as we work to spread your peace one encounter at a time.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved