“The North American Church is Cromwell's child.”—One of the things that immediately struck me was how colorful and statue-laden all the churches were. It made me reflect upon the roots of our own church aesthetic. We Americans come out of a tradition shaped by Oliver Cromwell who destroyed much of the church imagery in England.
“I see the full moon over the sea of Galilee, clouds streaking, lightening flashing… lights on the “other side.” Amazing!... It’s humid air… Jesus among humid air crossing the sea to the other side… the other side.”— Just being there was amazing, and the Galilee especially so. I think about all those boat stories about Jesus, it was right there! Those storm stories, well, I got to see a storm on the Sea of Galilee!
“Magdala has a restaurant and a gas station in it. How banal… no, how real.”—So, the village from which Mary Magdalene got her name was not very pretty… but that too was important to remember, that these are real places, with real hurt and mud and dust and needs. Jesus didn’t show up in a fairy story, but in real life, and dealt with real life!
“The fifth loaf is in Jesus’ hand… the hand of the priest.”—At the Church of the Multiplication there was a giant fresco of two fish and four loaves… but as we know from our Bibles there were five loaves… and it was explained to us that the fifth loaf was in the hand of Jesus by way of the Presider at Communion… that piece of art was done in such a way as to remind us of our continuity with the earliest followers of Jesus, that we are still fed by Christ, just as the multitudes were then fed.
“At the Mount of Beatitudes you can be caught up in the blessing, caught up in the calling to be blessed.”—The Mount of the Beatitudes and the Church there were so comforting. It was green, calm, a beautiful view, a deep focus on the famous and powerful words of Jesus found in Matthew 5.
“The Israelis told Bishop Chacour he could return home to Bir’im after 2 weeks, and his Bishop told him he would only serve as Pastor of Ibilin for 2 months… he’s still in Ibilin.”—Bishop Elias Chacour was forced from his home village of Bir’im as a child in 1948. Instead of responding with violence, Elias has worked for peace between Israelis and Palestinians as a Melkite Catholic Priest, as an Archbishop, and as the Headmaster of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, a school in Ibilin where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish children study together.
“25 conquests of Megiddo.”—The fortress of Har-Megiddo (The Hill of Megiddo… or Armageddon in the Greek) was constantly overrun by one army or another for literally thousands of years… so it should be no surprise that John places preparations for the ultimate cosmic struggle there…where else would someone fight?
“What is Theology in the desert?”—I’ve mentioned before in sermons that deserts are a place where you are stripped bare and end up alone with God… and, even with a bus and water bottles and such, that rang true in the desert around Qumran.
“Do people make it holy or the place make the people holy?”— In Celtic Christianity they talk about thin places, places where the wall separating the Spirit world and the world of humans is less pronounced. I thought about this idea a lot, as one thing you start to notice at these archeological sites is that Temples, Churches, and Mosques are continually built one atop the other. It makes me wonder if it’s just convenient, or is there something holy about particular places?
“Going up to Jerusalem your ears pop.”—In the Bible it always says people “go up” to Jerusalem… well, you really do.
“We were lost in Bethlehem and couldn’t find the Inn.”—On our first night in Bethlehem we were dropped off not too far from the Lutheran Center, but managed to get lost. I was kind of freaked out, lost in the West Bank, but Jill, the Pastor of Nativity East Brunswick, reminded me how Biblical it was to not find the Inn in Bethlehem, and that made it better!
“The rocks that would cry out is the resurrection of the dead, a Zombie Choir.”—While on Mt. Zion we saw all these tombs with rocks on them, a common burial practice there going back to a time when you put rocks on tombs so critters wouldn’t get in. Our guide told us this was what Jesus meant when he said the rocks themselves would sing—post-Lazarus, the point was if the Palm Sunday crowd hadn’t sung to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem the dead on mount Zion would have!
“The explosions? They’re just welcoming you to Jerusalem.”—While we were across from Jerusalem a scuffle broke out between Jewish settlers and Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The exchange there escalated from taunts to home made explosives and gun fire to the Israeli Police stepping in, definitely an eye-opening experience.
Tuesday October 14th
“I met a woman who can't leave the confines of Bethlehem because she voted in a student election in College!”—I met Angie a Lutheran who works with both the Lutheran center its social ministry arm, Diyar. She voted for the wrong political party her freshman year of college and the Israeli government blacklisted her and she can no longer get permission to leave that little town of Bethlehem (she’s now 29). The amazing thing about her, was the ongoing joy she had in the face of exile in her own home town.
“Christmas Lutheran is the 3rd largest employer in Bethlehem.”—Just a cool Lutheran fact to know! Christmas Lutheran’s outreach is amazing. They serve over 2,000 people in Bethlehem!
“Remember, the Gospel was first proclaimed in Arabic on Pentecost.” Mitri Raheb—Pastor Raheb is the Pastor of Christmas Lutheran. Sometimes people suggest the Lutheranism there is a second hand because they worship in Arabic… the above is his response.
“Raheb studied in Germany and showed up in Bethlehem as a first call Pastor the week the 1st Intifada started.”—If I ever talk about my first call as overwhelming remind me of Pastor Raheb.