February 13, 2014
Our guide Foad’s number one rule while we made our pilgrimage through the Holy Land reminded us that all things related to Jesus’ life and ministry happened somewhere in the region we visited, even if we cannot verify the exact location. While many sites on our trip were venerated by early Christians, the land stretching from Galilee to Bethlehem holds deep meaning as the birthplace of our faith tradition.
Fifty pilgrims—clergy and laity from New England—traveled with Bishop Devadhar and Bishop Violet Fisher last week for the journey meant for recent ordinands and local pastors, and others who had not previously been to the Holy Land.
For me, being near the places that Jesus lived his life, found his calling, invited followers, witnessed his faith, challenged the powers and principalities, and gave his life, was intense and inspiring. It was enough to be near to the places named in our scriptures…but I admit that being on the Sea of Galilee was by far my most memorable and moving experience, partly because of its authenticity. I had the great privilege to share in officiating communion with Bishop Fisher on the boat that took us to the middle of the water where Jesus calmed the fears of his disciples so long ago. As we made our way back to the shores where Jesus called fishermen to follow him, I was so grateful for the opportunities I have had to say yes to the same invitation.
As Lent nears, I know that the stories of Jesus’ ministry and mission will have new meaning for me as I will more easily visualize the setting in my mind. Whether or not you have been to the Holy Land, I encourage you to take time to reflect on these stories as if you were there. Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes and imagine the challenges and opportunities that he faced. The truth is that we face similar challenges and opportunities today…and when we embrace them as Jesus’ did, we are faithful to our calling.
While surrounded by ancient history and artifacts, we also had the opportunity to connect with our Palestinian brothers and sisters and United Methodist missionaries currently working for peace and justice in this land of conflict. Their perspectives were insightful and challenging. We celebrated the good work that is being done at the Bethlehem Bible College, the Hope School, Sabeel, and the United Methodist Liason Office in Jerusalem. You can follow each organization on Facebook and learn more about them at the UMC Advance website.
It was a long flight to this sacred land…but having been there we know that that distance between us and our past, and the distance between us and our neighbors in Israel this day is lessened by the love and commitment we share to follow Jesus and live in his love, sharing his light with the world. If it’s not here, it’s near.
Connected in Christ,