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the kingdom, it tapped me on the shoulder.

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

The next part of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land was very, very busy before having a day of rest which was very much appreciated! We got up early so we could sail across the sea of Galilee. The boat was very fun; having the Scottish national anthem played for us, even if we were not the most enthusiastic of Scots when it came to singing! When we were sailing across it was so, so peaceful, calm and quiet. The boat stopped half way through the trip across the sea for worship. Whilst I do not think you need specific places to worship and be still, the atmosphere was incredible. After some hilarious, old school, childrens’ songs going through my head about Peter and fishes, it was good to be still and think about the stories those apparently silly songs tell and what message they give to us. After singing “Will you come and follow me”, our boat journey continued to the other side of the shore, near Capernaum. Upon reaching the other side we went to see the “Jesus boat”; a boat pulled up from the sea recently which they think is able to give us an idea of the kind of boat Jesus would have used during his time.

israel 080

israel 082

As we continued that day we got a chance to go to the Church of the Beatitudes, the church of the multiplication, the church of St Peter’s Primacy and then Capernaum where we saw Peter’s mother in law’s house and the church that is built above it. (bit weird!) We did lots of singing in these places which really helps focus your mind on where you are what stories we have heard about these places! One of my favourite moments of the trip was when we went down to the shore of Galilee after being in St Peter’s Primacy and sharing bread and wine together. What a location! As we travelled to these places throughout the day I was constantly aware of the water around us and could not stop looking out over it so it was amazing to sit, all together, looking out over this beautiful setting and worship together, and share the bread and wine. Some of us also went down to the water and had a wee paddle!

We were very busy that day, and it was incredibly hot and it was an amazing day but it was good to have the next day free of anything programmed. I spent a lot of time sitting on the swing at the hotel in Tiberias, once again looking out over that beautiful water, either talking to people, or just sitting and even meeting a wee bird called Geoffrey. It was good to have space to think about what we had seen in Tiberias and if our images of Jesus had been transfigured from when we first arrived. It was also good to have that time before moving on to Jerusalem where it was so much busier. It was clear that we were not just here to see the Holy Sites, we were there to encounter the people there and Jesus, and his intentions when he was in these places. Trying to connect the stories of Jesus to the Israel we were in, in the present day, was something I didn’t expect from the trip but was one of the most moving experiences of the trip and one of the most important things I took away from the whole thing.

view from scot's hotel swing

geoffrey

That shall end the Tiberias chat and I shall come back and talk about Jerusalem at some point.

…on the road you chose.

August 21, 2009 Leave a comment

After visiting Mount Tabor we were really encouraged to think about the transfiguration story and try and relate it to our journey to the Holy Land. We thought about how the trip was going to change, transfigure, the images we already held of Jesus. For me, my whole idea of who Jesus is and what he did and what he means to people has totally changed. I will talk about how it has changed later on but that was the constant thought process throughout the journey for me and one of the most important things I took away from the trip.

The next stop on the pilgrimage was to the Nazareth Village. If you haven’t heard of it, it re-creates a Galilean village as it was 2000 years ago. It’s a very odd experience walking around first century Nazareth and as you look over the walls of the enclosed village you can see the contrasting Nazareth of today. The walk takes you through a farm, a wine press, and past a donkey pulling a plow (hurray!). This was to give us an idea of the environment Jesus would have began his ministry in. We were led through the village, rather quickly, hearing first century stories about first century people, the “living stones”. I found it a bit tricky in that I found it very touristy, which I guess it has to be to have the appeal of going, and I also kept wanting to peer over the wall and view modern day Nazareth and see what was going on. It was very cool to see all the first century people and the first century lunch was amaaazing. I loved it when we were all sitting around the same table with a first century background. I like to think Jesus would have enjoyed the chat.

nazareth village donkey!

nazareth lunch

Later on, in the same day we visited one of about forty “unrecognised villages” in Israel. These are villages that are not recognised by the State, government, of Israel. I won’t go very deep into the history of these villages, because I am definitely not the best person to tell you so you should look it up and read all about it- and you definitely should. But briefly, it goes back to when Israel became an independent state and many people were forced out of their land. These people now live in these villages where there are very little amenities provided to them. We did not spend a great deal of time in the village and we did not see very much of it but we heard a great deal about the lives lived by the people there. We were greeted by two beautiful men, whose names I forget, who lived in the village. They called themselves “brothers” as they were breast fed by the same woman. One was a Christian and one was a Muslim and they told us lots of stories and it was so clear how close they were, they were family. It was such an inspiration that even through their struggles, they could rely on each other so fully despite their religious differences. I wish the whole world could have seen these two men and seen the love! From visiting the village and hearing the stories about how these people have been treated by the Israeli government makes it very easy to become angry and want to do something about it. Something that really got to me was how peaceful these people were. They still wanted to part of an Israel that has rejected them and cut them off. They longed for acceptance by them. It really made me think about how I, and other people, would react in such a situation?

Later on in the evening when we were back at the hotel we were having a lot of chat in wee groups of people and my group were talking about how easy it was to become angry with this particular situation. It’s very easy to pick it out because we have seen it but there are situations like this all over the world, there are much worse situations right on our doorstep. It’s hard to know what we can actually DO to make a meaningful difference to so many lives. It’s a bit overwhelming.

We were talking about the story of the good samaritan, one of the stories Jesus told and we were trying to relate it to the Israel of today and this tied in perfectly with the trip to the village we had experienced earlier on. It triggered off a lot of thoughtage… who is being the good samaritan to these people? We heard about organisations that were set up to help these people and provide for them. What could we do to help? Jesus told us the story of the good samaritan, giving us a huuuge message. He sought out the outcast people, he helped them. He would have sought out THESE people in the villages. It’s easy to feel helpless against government but what we, as pilgrims, can do is tell people what we have seen, what we have heard; tell people of our journey. People need to be aware of situations before anything can change. It’s all easier said than done, and it’s a very tricky situation and my head cannot so much deal with it.

It was good to go to bed that day.

pilgrim, how you journey…

August 8, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s now been a month since we all returned from the Holy Land and I can’t believe I haven’t really blogged about it yet. I definitely haven’t stopped talking about it to people! I’m not really sure where to start. In fact, I’m not even sure I want to start putting any thoughts into writing because then that seems to signal closure and I really don’t ever want that to happen. It wasn’t just a trip away; It was a journey. A journey that completely blew my mind, broke my heart and changed my thinking, and faith, in a big, big way.

Tiberias:

We arrived in Tiberias after a long time travelling; we were delayed in Heathrow and had to sit on a very hot, non air conditioning, plane for quite some time. That seemed a distant memory instantly as we walked out of the airport in Tel Aviv. As we walked out into the heat I remember being completely amazed and excited at the fact I was there, I was in Israel! I couldn’t get my head round actually being there…in fact I still haven’t got my head round that! That same night we got our first glimpse of the sea of Galilee which was totally not what I expected, as with most things I encountered. Although I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect before going, I guess I was definitely not thinking there would be a McDonald’s, lively bars, music and even party boats all by the sea of Galilee! It seemed a totally bizarre first experience of the country but a totally realistic one. I saw the Israel of today.

The next day, our first full day in the country, we went to Nazareth. We visited the Greek Orthodox church of the annunciation and the Basilica of the Annunciation. Something I noticed right from the start was how beautiful everything was and how much effort had been put into making them so grand. I found it fascinating but then the sceptic inside of me thinks…why? What is the need? Do people need wonderful art in order to reflect upon the events that supposedly happened there? Perhaps they do, but has it gone too far? Has it gone over the top? I am not sure. I had more thoughts on this later on in the pilgrimage but I will mention them later. As we were walking through Nazareth we did come across a piece of art that really did tell a story and did aid reflection. We saw a beautiful statue of Gabriel and Mary where Gabriel is telling Mary she is pregnant…

Mary and Gabriel

Mary and Gabriel

It is such a simple statue with fascinating facial expressions and tells such a wonderful story. I loved it; I loved how it conveyed Mary’s fear. I loved how something so simple could tell me such a story.
At this time we walked through the market in Nazareth which gave us a real flavour of Israel. I couldn’t stop turning my head whilst walking through; I wanted to see what they were selling, how people were interacting with each other. I wanted to really watch but it all went by rather quickly as we kept up with the speed of the marketplace.

Another highlight of the day was our visit to Mount Tabor; where the transfiguration was believed to have taken place. It was phenominal. The taxi ride up there is quite an alarming experience but as a fellow pilgrim pointed out, imagine the disciples walking up there! The church there is beautiful and we spent a fair amount of time there, taking pictures, being still and taking it all in. The transfiguration…what a story! What a location! It really was spectacular. It was our first real sense of spending time in a place where one of Jesus’ stories took place. I could have looked out from Mount Tabor for such a long time. It was naturally grand; the landscape. It was so, so beautiful.

a view from Mount Tabor

a view from Mount Tabor

That was our first day out and about in Israel. I was going to try and blog about more than one day at a time but I’ll leave it at that for the moment and come back to the rest. Writing about it is making me want to go back in a huge way. Tricky.

home.

July 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Hello.

On Tuesday I returned home from a 10 day trip, along with 14 other lovely people, to the Holy Land. It went by so quickly, we saw so many things, we heard so many things and I’m still buzzing from it all, and not in a very sensible way. I still cannot really believe I was there and I cannot believe what I saw. It was incredible. There had been some initial excitement about returning home after the trip but that has worn off quickly and now I just want to be back there. I could have stayed there for a much longer time and still only caught a glimpse of everything. I shall come back and say more but for now, I just want to go back.

jerusalem

jerusalem

Salaam.