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Archive for the ‘Jerusalem’ Category

What if the story was unfolding today?   Would we follow the Tweets as the Magi followed the star?

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For many people a visit to the Holy Land becomes a sort of “fifth gospel”. For me, it became a lens though which to read the pages of the written Gospels and I am stunned at how much clearer they have become. I am now leading a 10 day Pilgrimage to the Holy Land leaving from Aberdeen, Scotland 16th-25th March 2011.

I feel that, if at all possible, people should take the chance to visit if they can; there is so much to see, hear, learn, experience and share. Blogs, books, photos and presentations can certainly peak our attention, but nothing beats the personal experience. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is more than pious tourism and few, but the cynical, would see it as a “Christian Disneyland”. Indeed I found it to give me an awareness not only of the past, but also the present.

I became aware that the Holy Land was an amazing experience of spirituality, education, and culture.

Model of Jerusalem on eve of destruction 70 AD

Visits will include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Qumran, as well as allowing free time for relaxation and private exploration. We will walk along the Via Dolorosa, sail on the Sea of Galilee, float on the Dead Sea and ascend the Mount of Masada by cable car.

If you’re interested in joining this adventure then please get in touch.

For more information see the attached brochure. Holy Land Pilgrimage 2011

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This week is Holy Week. During this week the Church remembers the final week of Jesus’ life, from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through to his resurrection on Easter.

Below is a map, adapted and published back in 2008 by the English Standard Version Bible Society www.esv.org  that marries the locations and events of Holy Week.

Click on the image below to go to the Google Map, then click on each flag to see a summary of the events at a particular location on that day.

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I had an operation on my wrist last week, and find that the restricted movement that has been imposed upon me for the next 10 days means I’m looking for things I can do without causing too much pain. I decided video editing was a safe thing to do – use one hand, point and click. Okay there have been a few moments when I’ve forgotten and tried to hold a button down, but the sharp pain up my arm reminds me it’s not the thing to do! Anyway, I’ve put together a short video of my trip to Israel and include it here to give you a flavour not only of the trip, but also of the sights and sounds of land.

 

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For many people a visit to the Holy Land becomes a sort of “fifth gospel”.   For me, it became a lens though which to read the pages of the written Gospels and I am stunned at how much clearer they have become.    I am now in the process of making inquiries about organising and leading a 10 day Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October 2010.   I feel that, if at all possible, people should take the chance to visit if they can;  there is so much to see, hear, learn, experience and share.

Model of Jerusalem on eve of destruction 70 AD

Model of Jerusalem on eve of destruction 70 AD

Blogs, books, photos and presentations can certainly peak our attention, but nothing beats the personal experience.   A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is more than pious tourism and few, but the cynical, would see it as a “Christian Disneyland”.  Indeed I found it to give me an awareness not only of the past, but also the present.  

I became aware that the Holy Land was an amazing experience of spirituality, education, and culture.

I became aware that forgiveness and compassion are desperately needed not only between individuals, but also countries. 

I became aware of the awesome responsibility that we carry and the fact that as Christians walk this earth, peace ought to follow.

I became aware that the Holy Land was a place where the scriptures came alive.

So if anyone is interested in joining me on this adventure then please get in touch.      

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Over the past weeks I have tried to encapsulate my thoughts and experiences of the remarkable six days I spent in the Holy Land.

It has to be said – Israel is an exceptional place. The country is modern and efficient, geared for tourists with excellent roads, facilities and hotels, and lying comfortably alongside the modern, is the historical. 

The biggest change and challenge to my thinking is the fact that the  21st century Israeli and the 21st century Britain are not very similar – either in their culture, their way of life, or indeed their outlook on life.   The Israeli in their understanding and practice of religion, seem to have an underlying possessiveness and aggressiveness.  The people seem to have a siege mentality, (perhaps with good reason), but the sight of young men and women, everywhere, even in casual dress, carrying a gun equally casually, was somewhat sad and disconcerting.    As someone on the tour remarked “It’s a nervous country”.   And yet at no time did anyone feel uncomfortable or threatened, a strange contradiction.

Streets of the Old City

Streets of the Old City

Israel has an incredible biblical history and the country is dedicated to excavating and preserving it – probably its greatest achievement.  The department of antiquity must always be consulted when a new building project is proposed and no one can dig without their permission.    It wasn’t uncommon to see archaeological digs set up just yards ahead of a railway line being laid, or a building site ready to lay foundations once the area had been checked.  (Even the land for an extension to an already existing home has to be checked and cleared first).   Yet what they have done and continue to do, is to the benefit of the entire world.   But sitting alongside the fact that they are so careful to protect the past and will not let anyone dig without proper permission and prior excavation, is the fact that they have not been averse to building a wall of separation wherever they like.   This wall is effectively cutting off Bethlehem and also cutting off access for Palestinians to homes, places of work, property and land – the ruling being: if anything is unattended or not lived in, or land not work on for seven years, it becomes the property of the State.  For a people who were walled up in Ghettos in European countries during the last war I see some kind of paradox here; and cannot understand why they would do something to another people that they condemned being done to them. 

The Palestinian territories are so interwoven with Israel, that I cannot see in my mind how these can be separate countries. To a great extent, we have the impression that the Palestinians and the Arabs (Jordanians) hate the Israelis. I do not know how true that is.   I think it is not so much a religious difference, as a territorial issue – “they have stolen our land”.   And yet some also say they would be content to live side by side if it meant they could live without fear and have basic human rights and freedoms.   We had an Arab Christian guide and an Arab Muslim bus driver, and one of the Anglican ministers told us that his mother’s family were Jewish and many had died in Auschwitz;  all spoke of their wish for peace and for acceptance in this divided land.

For the country to be appreciated and enjoyed some judgment has to be suspended and faith must be dominant – not difficult to do, since there are so many things that connect us to our Christian past in this country and to our Jewish roots too.

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Has this trip affected my relationship with God.   I’m not sure – it has certainly in no way undermined it.  But it has given me a better connection to my Christian heritage.   It has made me focus and read Scripture in a different way; being in the land and the areas where Christ walked and where the events of his ministry and life unfolded was an amazing experience.    So perhaps, in time this will go some way to deepening not only my understanding, but also my relationship with God as a follower of Christ.  

We saw a lot, but barely scraped the surface, and I would go back in a heartbeat   

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After our visit to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we prepared to go to morning worship.   The majority of our group went to St George’s in Jerusalem, the Anglican church where, we were told later, the service was conducted in both English and Arabic (at the same time – I’d like to have experienced that), and everyone came away having felt they were part of a gathered, vibrant, international worshipping community of around 170.   Four of us, all Scots, decided to go to St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Jerusalem.   By so doing, we increased the congregation by 50%.

St Andrew's Church of Scotland, Jerusalem

St Andrew's Church of Scotland, Jerusalem

The interior of the church is plain in many ways, but also elegant.  I thought it a beautiful church.  Decorative stained-glass windows in varying shades of what could be called “Church of Scotland blue” dominate otherwise unadorned white stone walls. The chancel area is spacious and each member of the congregation has an individual seat which is named after a Scottish regiment, town or parish whose name is inscribed on the back.   Though I wasn’t sure what the “121 George St Club” was. 

I had waited so long to see and be part of this church as our minster, when I was younger, was a previous minister of St Andrew’s Jerusalem before becoming minister of St Andrew’s Baillieston.   My husband had worshiped here in the 90’s and spoke of it as a welcoming church with a real buzz about it.  But sadly it was not what I had anticipated.   There was no welcome, no feeling of being part of a worshipping community.   The people gathered were scattered like the 12 tribes of Israel and no one spoke to us; there were only 12 including the minister, and us.  The request for prayer on the order of service made me feel sad “Remember us … Small, forgotten, fragile; faithful, steadfast and courageous.   Remember us and pray for us.  Amen.”   All the elements of worship were present but there was definitely something missing.  As we left I was the third of our party and had I not mentioned to the minister that we were visiting and brought greetings from Scotland, we could have come and gone with no-one the wiser.    I came away despondent; not because there were so few people, I’ve been in churches before that had low numbers and after all Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”.  No, I came away despondent because nobody engaged with us.  I also left hoping this was an off day, because I was only too aware that this is the face of the Church of Scotland, and the Reformed Tradition, in the Holy Land.  

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