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Rev. Jami Anderson went with Clergy from Wyoming on a pilgrimage to Israel. Here are her impressions.
From the airplane – a land dotted with white – sheep, houses, rocks? I later learn that white limestone is everywhere. The villages are white buildings on the hillsides, almost indistinguishable from the rocks strewn about on the ground.
In this land where Christ lived – walked, talked, taught, performed miracles, died and was buried – Where are the Christians today?
Apart from tour busses spewing out hundreds of Christians each day at “holy” sites – this is a land populated by Palestinian Muslims and Jews. I have never before experienced being in a land where the Christian population wasn’t dominant.
After two days of being told I was “Entering a Holy Site, Please refrain from talking and act respectfully” – I have realized that it is us – we who are traveling together that are holy. When we enter the churches, monasteries, and ruins – we are bringing holiness to that place. We are the holy.
Is this land truly the only place where God intimately worked with, instructed, and guided a people? I find it hard to accept that this limited area of land is the only place where God has entered into relationship with humankind.
This land does inspire intimacy - the gentle hills, the fertile soil, the rain, rivers, and lakes. It seems to be a life-giving land.
And yet, we visit ruins with up to 56 layers of civilizations that have been demolished and destroyed. Warring over trade routes and land has plagued this area since the beginning of civilization.
From the beginning of scripture God has warned the oppressed not to forget that they were once oppressed that they might not become oppressors themselves – to always remember that they were once aliens in the land. The Jewish people of Israel have forgotten.
Not sure what I think of the hundreds waiting in line to touch a rock where Jesus was born and a rock where he was laid in the tomb and a rock where his crucifixion took place. The sites are gaudy, the crowds interesting, the buildings around developed beyond any semblance to picture books or Christmas card scenes.
I think there are more of us visiting the crucifixion site today than would have been around on the day of the actual crucifixion.
The churches built on every possible holy spot aren’t there for worshipping communities. Rather – we enter, take pictures, say a quick prayer, perhaps sing a song or two. Why then are they churches?
I like Qumran – out in the desert. It reminds me of Hells Half Acre. There are no churches or monasteries or large developments. I like the openness.
I looked at us trooping along the streets of Jerusalem on a rainy afternoon and my heart was warmed. It was the end of our time together and there we were, traveling two by two – with our “buddies”, helping the slower along, supporting each other. We truly did look like pilgrims on a pilgrimage.
As Marilyn Engstrom preached to us at our closing Eucharist – maybe we did enter into Kairos time for a few days. Our lives entered into Christ’s time – in a fellowship with the past and present. It was for good.
Andrew's in the Pines Episcopal Church