Monday, March 25, 2019

The Power of a Pilgrimage

Lisa and I went on a pilgrimage this month to Israel, along with 28 other folks from NC. As we prepared for the trip, people told us about how life-changing the trip would be. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've read and studied about Israel for decades. I've seen pictures. I've read commentaries. I've talked to folks who have been. How much could I really be missing?

Our Stokesdale group poses on the Mount of Olives with 
Jerusalem behind us.
The adventure began as we travel-weary pilgrims boarded our bus in Tel Aviv, having flown safely from NC to Germany to Israel. Our tour guide greeted us by saying, "Welcome home." I'm sure he says that to every group, but his salutation set the tone for our experience.  I expect to blog about many details of the trip, but for now I want to reflect on my overall impressions.

Religious pilgrimage has a long, rich history. There is no substitute for breathing the air, walking the landscape, touching the building blocks. Yes, a lot can be learned about Israel from books, pictures, and videos. Similarly a lot can be learned about swimming from books, pictures, and videos. But it's not the same as being in the water.

The Judean desert, seen from the fortress Masada,
with the Dead Sea in the background, right.
Ok, so now I'm a believer in the Power of a Pilgrimage. When I read the Gospels now, I can feel it. I know what it means to come to go from Galilee to Jerusalem. I know how desolate the Judean desert is--even today. I have seen the Galilean hillsides blooming with wild mustard plants. I have looked across the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum, seeing Tiberias in the distance.
Wild mustard plants cover the landscape around the Sea of Galilee, 
seen in the background.

Jesus saw all of this. His context informed all aspects of his ministry.

I feel like I'm only starting to get it.