Where Will Our Help Come From?
by David Hosey
I live in a place that knows how to ask the question: "Where will our help come from?"
The voice that sings the 121st song is not foreign to Palestine or to Palestinians. Living here, working and speaking each day with Palestinian Christians, I hear in almost ever word the question: "Where will our help come from?"
It is in the midst of very real suffering and very real danger that the psalmist asks this question. There can be only one answer. It is not weapons or violent uprising or the assistance of empire that will save the psalmist. It is not fear or resentment or manipulation. It is the creative potential of a God that ultimately has a bigger dream for this land than division, violence, and oppression.
The 121st Psalm was one which we read during our young adult missionary training. It was one that many of us we were familiar with, but as we studied it in the context of the community that God was forming among us and the prospect of being sent out into service across the country and around the globe, we discovered many new ways in which this Psalm spoke to us. What struck me most was the contrast between the third verse, which tells us that the Lord will not let our foot be moved, and the last verse, which tells us that the Lord will keep our going out and our coming in, from this time on and forevermore. The first speaks of standing strong; the second of a tidal flowing, a dynamic, oceanic movement in and out and in and out.
This tells us something about faith, about the God in whom we put our faith, about this God from whom we expect our help to come. The other readings for this Sunday in Lent are familiar ones. Abram is called out on faith, and Paul takes up this paradigmatic story once again to attempt to communicate the importance of faith to his readers. Nicodemus sneaks away by night to find Jesus, and learns of the importance of a rebirth by grace and of the radical love of God for a wounded world.
The people of Palestine know about faith, about hope in things unseen. The people of Palestine know about standing firm. They also know about exile. They know about going out, and they know about coming in. They know about movement, and the lack thereof. They have relatives who have left. They have others who cannot leave. They have others who cannot come back. There can be no God for the Palestinians who does not keep them both in their steadfastness and in their going out and coming in.
Lent is a time of asking. "Where does our help come from?" And of turning towards the answer, an ongoing question in itself: "From the Lord of creation." In this sense, the Palestinians whom I work with and learn from live in a sort of perpetual Lent, a perpetual seeking for faith in a creative God from whom our help comes. This is a God who sometimes calls us out and sends to unfamiliar places. This is a God who, at other times, we find where we least expect to. This is a God who will allow us to stand firm, and a God who will keep us safe as we flow in and out with the tides. This is a God of both exile and return, of steadfastness and flexibility. It is this God from whom our help comes.
Lent is a time of repentance, a time of turning to God. Perhaps, like Abram, this means being called out into an unknown wilderness on a journey of faith. Perhaps, like Nicodemus, we will find God in the darkness of our own fear and confusion. Perhaps we will look for help from many other places before realizing that our help comes from the Lord of movement and steadfastness.
But what we find is that God is there. In the face of the Wall, God is there. In the face of division, God is there. In the midst of violence, emigration, occupation, dispossession, and oppression, in the midst of confusion, brokenness, sadness, anger, in the midst of all of this, God is there.
For me, trying to stand firm while going out and coming in every three months in order to renew my visa…For us as young adult missionaries, struggling with our own doubts and fears, with our own confusion of going out and coming in….For Palestinians, rocked by the tides of history and struggling to stand firm….For all those facing the mountains of oppression and injustice that seem to dominate our world….For all of us, our help comes from the Lord of creation. It could be no other way.
David Hosey is a Mission Intern currently serving in Jerusalem at the SabeelEcumenicalLiberationTheologyCenter. Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, promote unity among them, and lead them to social action. For more on Sabeel, see www.sabeel.org. David’s Missionary Bio is available on the GBGM website (http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/missionaries/biographies/); the advance number for the Mission Intern program is 13105Z.
Date posted: Mar 19, 2008