The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A poem for Maundy Thursday

It’s tempting to think of the stories of our faith, especially those around the betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, as happening long ago and far away.

At least until one visits the part of the world where these events actually happened.

Three years ago I traveled on assignment to Israel and the West Bank to meet Lutherans whose home is the spiritual homeland of all Christians. My guide was Mary Jensen, an ELCA pastor who was then communications assistant to Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land.

While those of us who live in the U.S. might do our best to imagine the sights and sounds that accompany the stories in the Holy Week lectionary, these Christians get it. They know how easy it is to get lost in the desert. They know what a bustling place is Jerusalem. When they hear stories set in Galilee and Capernaum, they know to picture lush foliage and stones along the shoreline, to imagine the scent of summak berries.

They’ve visited the Garden of Gethsemane and walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, whether as an intentional remembrance or as part of their daily life in the city.

I visited these sites as a tourist, but what stays with me from my journey isn’t the memory of the historically important places. Rather, it’s a bit of graffiti I encountered at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Carved into the rock of one of the minor worship spaces was the word Isa.

Jensen explained that Isa is the name for Jesus in the Arabic language. I filed that fact away and promptly forgot it.

Our group was staying at Christmas Hotel, an East Jerusalem establishment owned by a Christian family. Every morning we met a man outside the door, with his dairy crate and shoe-shine supplies, offering his services to hotel patrons and anyone else who passed by.

I saw him every day of our visit. On the last day, I learned his name: Isa.

Since then, I haven’t been able to think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples without thinking of Isa, ready to shine the boots of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem.

Christmas Hotel, Jerusalem
by Amber Leberman

Isa wants to
shine my boots:
“Ten sheqels
(or two dollars).

He wipes away
this city’s
holy dust
(finest of the
sacred stones) and
rubs them to a
solider’s sheen.

Dairy crate for
workbench, he
clacks brushes
and inhales the
scents of polish
and summak.

Isa stoops to
tend the feet
of pilgrims
for his namesake.

This week's front page features:

Resurrection promise: We live in eternal life today. (Image at right.)

A different kind of rising: Church celebrates Easter with Guyanese kite tradition.

Showing our scars: It can bring healing—to us and others.

A gentle cradle of sound: Harp therapy eases life’s transitions.

Also: LIRS and ELCA bishops protest House immigration bill.

Also: Church, find your voice.

Also: Be exceedingly glad.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

This week in our discussion forums:

Join harpists Sarah Schwartz and Melanie Brown (right) in our discussion forums today through April 18.

Schwartz and Brown are certified therapeutic practitioners of harp therapy. They are part of the spiritual care team at Medina [Ohio] General Hospital and ready to respond to your comments and questions about the healing power of music.

(If you haven't read the article, you might consider reading "A gentle cradle of sound" before joining the conversation.)

Join the discussion > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann blogs about what could be the 11th commandment: “Thou shalt shop only in Christian businesses.”

Elizabeth Hunter writes about the surprises and joy of teaching first communion instruction to a group of enthusiastic children.

Amber Leberman blogs about the new-to-her experience of being part of a small-group Bible study.

Kathleen Kastilahn (right) writes about the connective power of the Web.

Daniel Lehmann blogs about the budding hope of Easter within the journey of Lent.

A friend's remembrance of Julie Sevig's mother inspired Julie to write about the importance of encouraging children.

Check out our blog > > >

New Web exclusive features:

Each month, The Lutheran offers online articles that don't appear in the print version of the magazine. Sometimes they relate to other stories in the issue. Often they're stories we wish we could fit in the print edition. Occasionally, they're articles developed exclusively for our Web members. This month we offer exclusive articles on the Virgin Mary and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

We're also debuting a new Web-only column, "The way we were" (photo at right), in which we'll feature a historical photo from the ELCA or its predecessor bodies.

You can find all our Web exclusive content by choosing "current issue" at our front page, and scrolling to the "Web exclusives" section of the contents page.

Check out "The way we were" > > >

Tell us! Why you stay, or why you’ve left …

Are you someone who has deep disagreements with the church and remain connected to it anyway? Tell us why. Or are you someone whose sharp disagreements with the church caused you to leave? Tell us why. This can be why you as an individual or family stay or left, or written from a congregational perspective.

Please send your 300- to 400-word responses to Julie Sevig by May 1.

Or respond on-line > > >

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February issue


Embracing diversity