We learned from our Iranian friends their celebration of Nowruz, their New Year traditions at the spring equinox. This ancient festival predates Islam and is celebrated by many countries with links to Persian culture. With its emphasis on new life, darkness to light, barrenness to fruitfulness, I find it easy to incorporate it into my wonder of Easter when I remember the death and resurrection of Jesus; in Christ the old is gone and everything is made New.
Each year families prepare the special Haft-seen table like we might dress a fir tree at Christmas. The table is decorated with seven items beginning with the letter sin (s) in Persian. Each one is a symbol of spring and renewal. As I prepare my Haft-seen table this year, I’m thinking of all asylum seekers, refugees and now the millions of displaced people from Ukraine. Leaving home, family and all that’s familiar must feel like trying to settle in a desert place, with no roots, no friends and an uncertain future.
God affirms in the psalms that he can spread a table in the wilderness (Psalm 78:19). As we pray for those fleeing war to find a welcome and warm hospitality wherever they find themselves, let’s determine to be part of the answer. God even prepares a table in the presence of enemies (Psalm 23:5). May those living in war-torn cities, cities under siege, find miraculous provision and protection. Let’s keep praying.
In this time of suffering and great trial, in countries plagued by war, famine and disease, many church leaders have stayed to serve the people. More Iranians, Afghans and Kurds are following Jesus. In Ukraine Scriptures are in demand. Deep questions are being asked, and the weapons of praise and prayer are being wielded. As the nations are shaken may many come and find meaning in The Lord’s Table of bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’ body and blood given for us. We all need forgiveness, strength to persevere in faith and hope that God’s new day is coming soon.
How we long for the day when the Kingdom of God fully comes and peace reigns on earth. Then the tears of individual believers will be wiped away. However, God seems to acknowledge national suffering too, for he says the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of nations (Revelation 22:2), and the Psalmist prays, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!” (Ps 67:4).