Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday, 15 January 2017: Jerusalem

For those who wish to participate this morning will begin with a very early breakfast and an early morning walk along the Via Dolorosa. At 9AM we will gather for worship at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer followed by a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Later we will visit Yad Vashem Holocaust history museum. From Yad Vashem, we will return to our hotel for a free evening. (B, D)

Pictures on Facebook.  

Do not let today's relatively short itinerary fool you - it was PACKED with moments of heartbreak and reflection, at depths I've never felt.  We walked the stations of the Cross this morning, in the quiet hours, when the rest of the city was still asleep.  How nice to have experience those Scripture readings and reflections without the typical hustle and bustle of the city.  We could reflect in silence after the readings, and think about our Lord during this trek.  I thought of Him having to stumble through those lumpy and stone-filled streets, carrying a heavy, wooden cross.  Splinters in the skin, insults in the ear, turmoil in the heart.  I stumbled once and thought of the many times Jesus fell (we all tripped and fell in those streets today, so more seriously than others), and I thought of how easy I had it, with my comfortable shoes and easy access to a place to sit and rest if needed.  Not the case for Jesus.

We wound our way through the streets, eventually entering the last stations, inside the Church of the Holy Sepluchre.  Oh dear.  Did THAT hit us hard.  That church is part museum, part church, part cathedral, part wonderland.  I'm dying to take some time and look up the blueprints of the layout, as it was so convoluted, I would NEVER be able to explain all I saw.  I remember looking at the tiniest of mosaic pieces, all perfectly aligned to depict the story of Christ's finally moments.  I remember smelling the strong incense coming from the HUNDREDS of lights/spice holders that dangled above our heads.  I remember kneeling in reverence and awe where they laid our Savior, feeling like I had an extra "I know the rest of the story!" card in my pocket.  I remember lighting candles with Susan and praying in our hearts as the Greek Orthodox leaders below us sang into the rafters.  It was an incredible experience for ALL senses, and I'm thankful we went through twice.  The first time was the Holy walk, and the second tour was a more explanative tour with Peter, our guide, telling and showing us the highlights.  

We concluded our Via Dolorosa walk, and attended the 9am worship service in the Church of the Redeemer, just around the corner.  This was an English-speaking, Evangelical Lutheran congregation, filled with all of the English-speaking visitors in the city.  We PACKED that place, and happily so - the Pastor, Rev. Carrie Smith was a dynamic leader and preacher - a woman who knows her stuff.  She spoke to us after the service, explaining the difficulties of being an ordained Pastor in the Holy Land.  The main perk for me was meeting sweet, little Josie, the daughter of the Church leaders.  That little peanut climbed and crawled all over me (I'm thinking she was 3 or 4) and was an absolute delight.  Just a squish able, little love!  Helped buoy the spirit of what was a heavy and ponder-filled morning.

I continued to be thankful for Miss Josie all afternoon, as we headed to the Holocaust Center after a brief lunch at a hotel.   Another smack to the gut.  We walked through an incredible museum, filled with historical pictures, videos, clippings, and artifacts, all the while feeling terribly conflicted:  here we are, in a land where Israeli people have taken land away from Palestinians by building settlements, and yet I have a heart of empathy for them.  Talk about holding too many things in conflict - how on earth could one group perpetuate the kicking out of people from their land....after they had just been booted from their own land?  How on earth did the world let this happen!?  

I can tell that I have SO many more questions than answers, but we are SO tired and SO exhausted.  We are walking around 4 miles a day, whic is great, but the emotional toll is quite taxing.  Thankful and tired...that would be us.  

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