Sorry for the Silence!
Greetings, faithful blog readers--
No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, nor been raptured at Christ's second coming (even if my amillenial Reformed eschatology might not support that). I've just been busy. Too busy! Lots going on at the church these days and on top of all that my focus has been on getting ready for our Holy Land Pilgrimage February 4-18. Sixteen of us will be traveling with the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF.org) to visit the "ancient stones" (the historical sites) as well as the "living stones" (the indigenous church) in the lands of Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. The goal is to demonstrate solidarity and support for the forgotten faithful, the Palestinian Christian church, which dwindles dramatically day by day. We fly into Amman, Jordan and stay initially in Madaba, a Christian village near Mt. Nebo, from which Moses first glimpsed the Promised Land. From there we'll cross into Israel, visiting Jericho, the earth's oldest continuously inhabited city, then Qumran, the site of the Essenes and the discovery of their (Dead Sea) scrolls. From there, much of our time will be spent in the greater Bethlehem area, visiting the ministries of HCEF, meeting with Christian leaders, and certainly, seeing the historic sites of that city and parts of Jerusalem. We'll head north after that to stay in Nazareth and travel through Galilee. I'm particularly looking forward to visiting Ibillin, the village where Archbishop Elias Chacour serves and where he built his university which serves Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Christians. We'll head south via the great dig at Beit Shean, formerly the Scythopolis of the Ten Cities visited by Jesus in his public ministry. We'll finish our time in Israel/Palestine back in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, taking in the Dheisheh refugee camp, the Temple Mount and the Old City, West Jerusalem, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. After that, we cross back into Jordan to visit Petra (remember Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?!) and fly back from Amman. The pilgrimage will be a study in contrasts which I anticipate will be quite transformative.
And that's what I need most right now. Given all that's going on at the church, I'm eager to have my horizons re-aligned and my perspective stretched. I need to pan out to the 10,000 foot view of a spiritual Google Earth program, if you know what I mean. I'm eager to get back in touch with the transcendent God whose kingdom of love and justice is spreading out across the earth. I need my heart broken in compassion for those less fortunate than me. And I need to see the legendary faith of the Palestinian Christians, whose trust in God, I'm told, is both deeply inspiring and very humbling.
If you're a praying person, please pray for us--for safety, certainly, and health, but also for an openness and receptivity to all God would do in us and through us. During our time in Bethlehem we'll have an overnight in Palestinian Christian homes, followed by worship in their Catholic church. I'm so excited to meet Ramez, the 12 year-old Palestinian Greek Orthodox boy I support. He lives in the village of Beit Sahour and we've exchanged letters. Hopefully, I'll have lessons (and some pictures) to post here when we return.
God bless each of you!