We’re Back, We’re Changed, We’re Challenged…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

home sweet home

Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for all the comments via social media as well as here on this blog.  Thank you for trusting us when we said, “We are safe.”  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have this amazing learning and growing experience.

unexpected Jesus

If there is one ringing Truth that has come to us during this trip, it is that we’ve experienced the unexpected.  The political situation is not as clear as some of us may have thought.  The understandings and concepts we have about what things look and feel like in The Holy Lands were challenged.  We learned a lot about reading the Gospels in context which caused us to see that Jesus was, in many ways, not what the disciples expected him to be.  He didn’t fit their preconceived notion of who the Messiah is.  And that leads us to ask a few very important questions . . .

molding clay

Are there ways in which we have molded God into something we want God to look like?  Is who Jesus is to us a reflection of who we want him to be?  Do we find that God tends to agree with all or most of our opinions on the various issues of the day?  Have we accepted (or worshipped) a version of God based on what others have told us?  Or on their understanding of scripture?  Have we read the text in it’s geographical, topographical, historical, cultural, political, AND spiritual context?

jesus

We don’t claim to have any special knowledge now that “we’ve been to The Holy Lands of Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.”  Far from it.  We’ve had an experience.  And we’d love to hear from you about your experiences while we’ve been away.  And, if you’re willing, we’d love to share some of our experiences. The bottom line is, we’re more in love with this God of the Universe and what this Jesus has done for us and how this Spirit of God has filled us.

It’s good to be home.

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The Road to Emmaus…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

pray for paris

pray for paris

We woke up on Saturday morning in Jerusalem and immediately heard the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris. We are scheduled to have a 7-hour layover at the Paris airport tomorrow but our thoughts turned quickly to the victims and their families.

road to emmaus roman road

We had breakfast and then departed at 8 a.m. in the direction of Emmaus, which is famous because of the Biblical reference but isn’t a specific place on the map. We went to Abu-Ghosh, about 10 miles west of Jerusalem, which has been identified as one of the possible locations of Emmaus.

the lower level of the church at Emmaus, built by the crusaders in the 12th century

the lower level of the church at Emmaus, built by the crusaders in the 12th century

the main sanctuary . . . frescos on the walls dating back to the time of the crusaders

the main sanctuary . . . frescos on the walls dating back to the time of the crusaders

We stopped first at the Benedictine Monastery that was built by the Crusaders in the 12th Century. Today a community of nuns and priests continue the worship in the church and offer hospitality, reflecting the ancient story of the men and women on the road to Emmaus who encountered the risen Christ (Luke 24:13-35). According to excavations completed in 1944, the Crusaders identified the site as the biblical Emmaus.

reading about the resurrected Jesus in a place near where the resurrected Jesus appeared to his followers

reading about the resurrected Jesus in a place near where the resurrected Jesus appeared to his followers

Fr. Ralph and Fr. Kamal

Fr. Ralph and Fr. Kamal

Fr. Kamal, shares his wisdom for the final time . . . on this trip at least ;-)

Fr. Kamal, shares his wisdom for the final time . . . on this trip at least 😉

We then bused up a steep hill to Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant Church, located on a beautiful site overlooking the city, with Jerusalem visible in the distance. We read the Scriptural account of the Resurrection and Fr Kamal blessed us with his final teaching of the trip.

the good reverend Aran Walter talking a selfie before eucharist

the good reverend Aran Walter talking a selfie before eucharist

the prayers of the people, praying for the Church and the World

the prayers of the people, praying for the Church and the World

the gifts of God for the people of God

the gifts of God for the people of God

the beautiful church of Notre Dame de l'Arche d'Alliance

the beautiful church of Notre Dame de l’Arche d’Alliance

After spending time in meditation, we went into the church for the final Eucharist of our trip. Aran Walter celebrated and after Michele Whitford read the Gospel (that included the Road to Emmaus account), each person reflected on what part of the reading held the most significance. There was no shortage of emotion as we looked back on the previous 17 days.

farewell to Fr. Kamal Farah . . . we WILL see you again soon

farewell to Fr. Kamal Farah . . . we WILL see you again soon

We then had lunch served by the Sisters of St. Joseph before returning to our hotel. First, we had to say farewell to Fr Kamal who was heading back to his home in Nazareth, leaving in his wake 24 thankful and better educated pilgrims.

prayer-sillouette

We now await our trip to Tel Aviv late Saturday night and our scheduled flight to Paris, followed by the last leg of our trip to Chicago.  Thus far, all indications are that our flights in and out of Paris are without delay or cancellation.  (see our previous post on this)  Please pray for that whole situation as well as

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

Paris…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

prayer-sillouette

Our prayers are with the victims and perpetrators and all those affected by the horrific acts of violence that took place in Paris yesterday.  During our time in The Holy Lands we have learned that the Jesus Way of praying is simply to present the situation to God.  God knows what needs to be done.  We pray for God to do what God does everyday . . . heal, reconcile, forgive, and achieve justice: God setting things right.

plane taking off

For those concerned about our travel plans, which take us from Tel-Aviv to Paris and then to Chicago, we have heard nothing to make us concerned or lead us to believe our flight will be rerouted or cancelled.  The airport is 100% open according to our logistics guide, Bishara.  Air France has even issued a statement which you can read HERE.

IMG_1906

We will see you all soon.  Our flight number is Air France #1121 from Tel-Aviv to Paris.  Pray for peace in Paris, around the world, and of course,

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6

Via Dolorosa…

Hello friends . . . grace and peace,

Via Dolorosa literally means "Way of Suffering"

Via Dolorosa literally means “Way of Suffering”

It was our earliest rising during our time in Israel but well worth it.

standing at Station 0, the Antonia, the military headquarters of the global super-power known as The Roman Empire

standing at Station 0, the Antonia, the military headquarters of the global super-power known as The Roman Empire

We gathered in the hotel lobby at 5:55 a.m. and walked to Herod’s Gate into the Old City. Father Kamall led us through the winding streets where there was evidence of some shops getting ready for the day but most of them still closed. We arrived at an area called Antonia Fortress, which was the location of military barracks dating to 19 B.C under the authority of Herod.

our journey with Jesus begins...

our journey with Jesus begins…

the journey goes up and down many stairs and in and out of many tunnels and gates

the journey goes up and down many stairs and in and out of many tunnels and gates

stations 3 and 4 are right next to each other which makes sense . . . station 3 is when Jesus falls, and station 4 is when his mother is at his side (helping him up)

stations 3 and 4 are right next to each other which makes sense . . . station 3 is when Jesus falls, and station 4 is when his mother is at his side (helping him up)

and still, we walk and journey on, as Christ did

and still, we walk and journey on, as Christ did

That’s where we started on Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrow, which is intended to follow the route Jesus took from his condemnation by Pilate to his crucifixion. At each of the first 9 stations, a member of our group read the prayer, and then we quietly moved on to the next station.

the 9th station, just before we head to the roof

the 9th station, just before we head to the roof

on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also known as The Church of The Resurrection

on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also known as The Church of The Resurrection

entrance to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulcher

entrance to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulcher

Stations 10, 11, 12 and 13 are read in a courtyard on top of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built at the site of the crucifixion and burial. We then entered the church for the final station and then took our turn going into the narrow entrance of Christ’s tomb. It’s not the actual tomb, but about 8 meters above the actual empty tomb.

the empty streets at 6:00 am . . . very peaceful

the empty streets at 6:00 am . . . very peaceful

The entire Via Dolorosa covers about 2,000 feet through the Old City. It is a sobering and inspiring experience, especially done in the early morning when few people are around.

an incredible model of ancient Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus

an incredible model of ancient Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus

We returned to our hotel for breakfast, took a short rest and then traveled by bus to the Israel Museum. The highlight was the outdoor model of Jerusalem as it appeared in 66 A.D., right before the Jewish Revolt against the Romans. The model, which covers about one acre, is at a scale of 50:1 and was the brainchild of a hotel owner who wanted to memorialize his son. It was originally displayed at a hotel but was moved to the museum ground in 2006.

the Temple Mount

the Temple Mount

the Holy of Holies

the Holy of Holies

It provided an ideal teaching exhibition for Father Kamall, who pointed out the key features of the city at that time, including the Temple Mount. We then toured the museum itself that included parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient artifacts, as well as priceless art of many kinds from earlier periods. It is the type of place that requires days to fully tour.

yum

yum

It was time to return to the hotel where we had a late lunch of lentils and fruit before taking the rest of the day to ourselves.

we're already starting to pack up...

we’re already starting to pack up…

We are nearing the conclusion of this pilgrimage. We will travel to Emmaus on Saturday morning, visiting the Benedictine Monastery where we will have lunch with the sisters. We will then celebrate our final Eucharist of the trip at Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant. We then return to our hotel in Jerusalem, have our final dinner here and then are driven to Tel Aviv late at night to begin the long journey home. It will take us to Paris, where we’ll have a 7-hour layover at the airport, then fly to Chicago, scheduled to arrive there at 3:20 p.m. Sunday. Shalom.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6