Dancing in the Light of God

Our morning began on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. After seeing the beautiful church that was rebuilt after being damaged by arson in 2015, we walked to the shore for communion. The birdsong in this region is beautiful and accompanied us throughout the day. Our final song was We are marching in the Light of God, with one of the verses “We are dancing in the Light of God.” It seemed to be the theme for the day, as we moved around the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. By mid afternoon, as we sailed on the Sea to experience the water, our host taught us how to dance the Hava nagila, so we all danced our way across the waters. Near sunset, we climbed to the Church of the Beatitudes, where we were almost alone, giving us time to explore, pray, enjoy the birdsong (parrots flew among the eucalyptus trees).

Our guide Lazarus is an exegetical companion, interpreting for us the meaning of the places we visit and the scriptural references to each place. He’s an Armenian Christian with seminary education in his tradition and a graduate degree in Hebrew studies. We are fortunate.

Sleepless in Magdala

After our overnight flights from Seattle or Denver to Tel Aviv, our bleary-eyed pilgrims met our guide Lazarus and driver Moses. Off we went in our new bus (10 days old … yes, it has a “new bus smell.” We drove to Kevar Tavor [the town of Tabor, at the foot of Mount Tabor, for a lovely lunch in a local restaurant. Then we went to a fascinating active archeological site that has so far uncovered a 1st Century synagogue, ritual baths, and a market place. The beautiful chapel that commemorates the woman who touches Jesus’ hem and is healed is very modern, with a stone floor reminiscent of the original market floor in this lovely place. By evening, we are all jet-lagged and exhausted, ready for a long sleep.

e

Preparing for Pilgrimage

On Friday, a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Olympia will join a group from the Diocese of Colorado for an Advent pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Pictures in my office are a constant reminder of the beauty of the Sea of Galilee. That’s where we will be next weekend, walking in the land where Jesus walked, and enjoying the hospitality of the people who live in Israel and Palestine today. As we travel, I’ll post updates and pictures or video of our experience (as WiFi bandwidth permits).

In this Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for all the people who will receive and accompany us along the way and for those who will help us learn.  I continue to treasure the Collect for the Presence of Christ that gave me the name for this blog:

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

IMG_20160224_111859712_HDR
On the edge of the Sea of Galilee

Lenten journey begins

eucharistEach Ash Wednesday, we are invited to the observance of a holy Lent: setting apart these 40 days to re-orient toward God and away from those things – attitudes, habits, unhelpful practices – that separate me from God. If I try to observe a holy Lent, I will be pushed to change, and change is hard. I naturally resist it, but once again I make the commitment to try to view the world with a fresh attitude and to love and serve God and my neighbor with a renewed heart.

I love the way that the Christian community tries to help each other during this season. It’s as if collectively we know we need each other to do the heavy lifting: self-examination, reflection, study, and action. From meditation guides, study groups, workshops, and service opportunities, we try to help each other embrace Lent and the change that might come as God works on us.

This morning, Bishop Rickel shared a video (Pendulum Swings) to encourage us this season.

I am grateful that the parishioners of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church have for 30 years produceLenten Prayers 2017.jpgd their own Lenten meditation guide, called Lenten Prayers, with scripture readings and reflections for each day from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Over the years, what was a booklet has become a downloadable PDF, with the meditations also shared daily through email and Facebook. Although the format has adapted with the needs of our readers, the thoughtful and prayerful wresting with scripture and the challenges of living a faithful life continues.

So, Lent, here we go!

First Reflections Upon Returning Home

After a very long flight from Tel Aviv to Newark, re-entry through customs and security was longer and more convoluted than in Tel Aviv. We said goodbye to Margaret and Terry, who flew home to Maine. Then, the rest of us  journeyed on to Seattle,  where the temperature is distinctly NOT in the 70’s. Just a few hours ago, several of us walked on the ramparts of the Old City Jerusalem, overlooking the roofs and getting a little too much sun.

At our final gathering in the Gloria Hotel in Jerusalem, we read aloud Luke 24:13-35 – the road to Emmaus story. Originally, we had planned to go to one of the “traditional” sites that Christians have imagined to be one of the places this story might have occurred. But, because everyone wanted a little more free time on our last day, we dropped that one last church and stayed a few hours longer in Jerusalem. A side room off the lobby of the hotel became our Emmaus. Cynthia read this poem from by Macrina Wiederkehr.

Tourist or Pilgrim by Macrina Wiederkehr, from Seasons of the Heart

I stand on the edge of myself and wonder,
Where is home?
Oh, where is the place
where beauty will last?
When will I be safe?
And where?

My tourist heart is wearing me out
I am so tired of seeking
for treasures that tarnish.
How much longer, Lord?
Oh, which way is home?
My luggage is heavy
It is weighing me down.
I am hungry for the holy ground of home.

Then suddenly, overpowering me
with the truth, a voice within me
gentles me, and says:

There is a power in you, a truth in you
that has not yet been tapped.
You are blinded
with a blindness that is deep
for you’ve not loved the pilgrim in you yet.

There is a road
that runs straight through your heart.
Walk on it.

To be a pilgrim means
to be on the move, slowly
to notice your luggage becoming lighter
to be seeking for treasures that do not rust

to be comfortable with your heart’s questions
to be moving toward the holy ground of home
with empty hands and bare feet.

And yet, you cannot reach that home
until you’ve loved the pilgrim in you
One must be comfortable
with pilgrimhood
before one’s feet can touch the homeland.

Do you want to go home?
There’s a road that runs
straight through your heart.
Walk on it.

Then, we read the passage from Luke and I asked the group to consider where they may have found Jesus long the way.  Our answers were wide-ranging … some in moments of worship, others in the meetings with the Parents Circle or the orphanage in Bethlehem. I found Jesus in the midst of this fabulous group: in their moments of awe when they recognized that they were walking in a place that Jesus might have walked; in their prayers, laughter, and occasional tears; and in their deep joy in traveling this road together.

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.

 

Farewell to the Holy Land

image

image

We are waiting to board our flight home from Tel Aviv. We had a full morning at the Israeli Antiquities Museum, followed by lunch at a restaurant near our hotel. Nafoura (fabulous food in a garden courtyard). Then we had a free afternoon. Some shopped in the souk. Others walked the ramparts of the city (hot in the sun, but a great view of Jerusalem ). After a time of reflecting upon our trip together, we headed to the airport. More when we get home.

Chris Jillard

Ah, Holy Jesus

image

image

image

Early on Tuesday morning, Cynthia and I went to the Western Wall then back through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for a brief time of prayer and soaking in the sounds, aromas, and feel of these places.

After breakfast, we met with an Israeli Jew from Green Olive tours who talked with us about settlements in Palestinian territory. His style of conversation was like a rabbi … he’s ask what we knew about settlements, then through question and answer, he explained what he (who doesn’t like settlements) understood about them. After we talked for an hour, we got on our bus and went to the settlement at Tekoa, which was started with the Israeli government’s support in the 1978. The political situation of Israel and Palestine has such a complicated history with no clear solutions. We’ve learned a lot, have more questions, and may all have a shift in the perspective with which we came to this holy and troubled land.

After lunch, we returned to the Old City and went to St Anne’s next to the Pools of Bethesda (Jesus heals a man beside these pools). Then
image

we had Holy Communion at the Ecce Homo Church (“behold the man”). Each pilgrim received a cross to hold as we began to walk the Stations of the Cross. We walked through the busy streets while reading passages of scripture and remembering the way of Jesus who was bearing his cross, then crucified and died. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we concluded our prayers.

After dinner, some of our group found a last burst of energy. We walked through the Old City to the Western Wall for some final prayers there. A group of young men preparing to join the army came dancing and singing across the Plaza and into the men’s section of the Wall. They finished singing and said their prayers … quite an experience.

image

image

image

image