Monday, 25 October 2010

Holy Land Pilgrimage

Not my material but there was a lot of interest in yesterday's descriptions of the recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land by members of our Church in the diocesan pilgrimage. The photos used yesterday can be seen by clicking on this image:

Here's Tricia's sermon from yesterday evening:


What does it mean to be a pilgrim? A journey to walk with Christ and to seek Him? Yes.
A journey to visit sites in the Holy Land and bring our worship in those sacred moments? Yes.
To leave inner self behind, live in the present and be open to the ever-changing scenes around us?
To be prepared ad not to be upset to find the inner-self changing...thoughts, impressions, ideas all impinging on our original selves? Yes.
To love and really love our “neighbours” whether residents of this Holy Land or visitors in their hundreds and thousands. Yes.

We were overwhelmed by the endless tourists visiting all the sites. There were coaches incredibly cleverly parked in narrow streets and car parks. (Our drivers were all excellent caring and expert people who managed to fling these large vehicles into tiny spaces.)
Everywhere there were long good natured queues standing in the boiling sun waiting to enter a site often with a security check first.

But we had tasks to do...getting from A to B from early morn to early was already getting dark by 5.30pm.
We had many special moments of worship in Churches, Basilicas, Caves, and Cathedral. With 116 + people there were many gorgeous voices singing in harmony often in very public spots! The crowds milling around sometimes stopped to listen, pray and worship alongside us.

But to be a pilgrim for most of us on this incredible journey was to have the privilege of meeting the 'Living Stones'...those who work, inspire, show extraordinary commitment, resilience to their particular passion. Some have shared their experiences with us, but we hope to give you all a fuller picture in November (23)

I felt that God was asking me to be empty..(I found this very hard as I longed to feel unending joy at being in this Holy Place.) Empty to listen; Empty to hear His voice and therefore to be led, probably, in time, to His longing for me.

We all had an extraordinary experience the Sunday we went to worship in St. Georges Cathedral in Jerusalem. The Bishop of Jerusalem and our Bishop John were presiding. The Service was in Aramaic. We were given a copy in English! It was similar to our own Eucharist and we recognised the parts of the Service we maybe able to join in. Also participating were a group of people from the World Council of Churches who came from countries around the world to be peacemakers at checkpoints, schools and in townships. They too spoke in many different languages. We reached the point where we could all join in saying the Lord's prayer in our own languages. It was a babel of prayer, exciting, thrilling and an uplifting Pentecostal moment. What power of the Holy Spirit moved in that place. What unity in liturgy brought people from around the globe together to worship our God, our Redeemer.

Yes, change was in the air. Bishop John was so right. Those sacred moments empower us to go out as His disciples to face settlements, the wall, people who need our love, help and support; families too who need to be able to eat, learn and be part of the human race without being ostracised.

This Parish alongside the whole Diocese raised over £5,000 to hand over to the 'Living Stones' we had had the fortune to meet, to enable them to continue their wonderful work. The overriding impression I have is the humility, generosity of spirit and total commitment of the 6 groups we came in touch with. ALL served people throughout that land whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Arab, Greek Orthodox and so on. Our monies were handed over in person so we are all aware they are receiving a little help from us. Now it enables us to keep in touch with these remarkable people.

One of the heart rendering sights we could see from our bedroom window in Bethlehem was the new Jewish settlement on the hilltop across the valley. There were no water tanks on the top of their buildings, unlike the lower buildings who only receive water three times a week. It was these and many other facts given to us that found ourselves asking “ where does that leave us in such a world?” We have so much, we do not live in an occupied land which causes such hardship and difficulty.

Nevertheless, we were received with such kindness and joy in Bethlehem. We met a lovely family in Manger Square who ran a small business which had been handed down through the generations.
They sold olive wood statutes, cards trinkets etc. Their son had been in the UK but felt he must return to Bethlehem and continue the family business. He wanted us to know that as an Arab Christian he was needed to remain in Palestine. Too many of the young people are emigrating .
He said “ I must remain to encourage others so we might grow in strength”.

This journey has been an experience of a lifetime upon which I ponder daily. I thank God for the insights I have been given; the happy times such as swimming in the Sea of Galilee after a long day out; the trip on the boat as Jesus did and yet being face to face with the wall, the settlements and listening to stories of hardship and pain.
Christ lived in an occupied land, he walked with the poor; he knew anguish. He died that we might have life. He gave us hope for the present moment.
All the Christians worship daily, weekly, offering prayer, as we do, for their release to walk with Christ and bring hope to all people.
Worship underpinned all we did and gave us the energy, joy and strength to move on.

Mitri, our Palestinian Arab Lutheran Christian pastor wrote in the final chapter of his first book,”I am a Palestinian Christian”;I have a dream of two peoples who live side by side in peace with on another, so do not need to waste vast resources on weapons which will rust away. What a blessing this would be for the Middle East. What a seductive oasis could be created here attracting all nations. Piece by piece what Micah wrote would be fulfilled;”

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord's house
shall be established as the highest of
the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
and many nations shall come
and say;
'Come, let us go up the
mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the
God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth
instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall sit under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

Micah 4; 1-4


1 comment:

Luke said...

Enjoyed the pictures - amazing! Also thanks for this post - really enjoyed your words. Listen, if you DO get to make a trip to the Holy Land - keep this new service in mind. We recently were told about it while planning our own pilgrimage. is a unique service that is the first, and only, hop on-hop off service in the region AND it offers safe transport, reliable accommodation and side trips, accompanied by well-travelled, educated guides. It's an incredible way to enjoy your adventure in the Holy Land & definitely worth taking the time to check out!