Rector's Ramblings May 29, 2019
I don’t have a lot to reflect on after 48 hours in Jerusalem. Actually, that is inaccurate. I have very much to reflect on, yet I have not had a lot of downtime for that reflection. Our first two days of this pilgrimage to the Holy Land have been a whirlwind. At 6:30 am local time yesterday, we set off to begin our trip by visiting the West Wall and the tunnels beneath it. We spent the entire day in the Old City, exploring the area, and just a small amount of the historical and religious richness it holds.
We were able to walk the Via Dolorosa, which we know as The Way of the Cross, the historic route that pilgrims have walked for centuries, that Jesus is believed to have walked from his trial to his crucifixion; the same route that marks the 14 Stations of the Cross we still pray each Good Friday. Within a couple of hours, we went from the holiest of sites in Judaism to the holiest of sites in Christianity, as we visited the church of the Holy Sepulcher, which contains within its walls both the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion and Christ’s burial. There are chapels built over both sites within the larger church and simply to be in the vicinity is awe-inspiring.
In our second day, we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust remembrance facility in Jerusalem which houses the Israeli National Holocaust Museum. We also visited Mt. Hertzl, and the graves of some of the most important Israelis in Israel‘s relatively short history. We were able to discuss how this region has been rent by wars and how some have worked fervently for peace as a result. We talked with an imam, a Palestinian Christian leader who works for peace, and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who discovered a treasure trove of letters in his ancestral home that no one had ever talked about, spanning the lead up to and early part of the Holocaust. Just this evening, we met with two men from the Parents Circle Family Forum, a group representing over 600 families who have lost love ones in the violence associated with the Israeli occupation. The men, one Palestinian, and one Israeli, learned to form a friendship of understanding over the shared grief of having lost children to senseless violence.
Although one of the hopes for our trip is to learn how we can make peace with those who might form our natural enemies, I confess that two days in, I am also aware of a sense within myself that lasting peace in this city will be nearly impossible in the short term. We have two tour guides with us throughout each day, one Palestinian, and one and Israeli, and they are not shy about sharing their differing interpretation of the importance of sites, and the history and politics that has created such a mess for so many. Even people who want to work towards peace seem to be at a loss for a true starting place for equality and justice, not even agreeing on the meaning of what happens today, let alone what has happened in the last 10 generations.
I am sure that by the time our trip is over, I will be swimming in even more complexity and greater understanding at the same time. Have no fear, you will have a chance to hear (put up with) my reflections on these experiences in the months to come, as I suspect you already know. These insights and experiences will certainly work their way into other ramblings and sermons. Please keep our group of 44 pilgrims in your prayers, for safety, but more importantly for open hearts and minds, as we listen for the rushing of wings as the spirit passes amongst us and those we meet. I am humbled and moved by the holy places we are visiting; that they can call us to something new, not just leave us to reflect on the past. This time is not just about absorbing tourist experiences for me, but about insight and understanding about the roots of our faith and also where we might find growth for its future. We’ll see how things shake out in the days to come!
Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace. Give to us and the people of all the nations a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that all of your people may use their liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.