Pilgrimage thoughts

One of our visits yesterday was to the church built over the site of St Peter’s house. A lot of the ‘holy sites’ have been somehow ’religioused’ with a huge ornate church, which, to me, detracts from the original message of e.g. Golgotha. But at st Peter’s house, the church has been built more recently, and is over and around the site, with a glass floor, so the original archeological site can be seen. I felt closer to the place as Jesus would have known it, even though only the ruins of the house remain. But I wonder what we have done with the good news of the Kingdom that Jesus brought? Have we encased it in religion so it is safely beautified? Or can we only see the ruins of the good news preserved behind glass? Maybe the answer is in building with the living stones that the church really is.

Bethlehem. No more words.

Jerusalem and the Way of the Cross. I had never realised how cheek-by-jowl all three Abrahamic faiths are here. In this picture, the Wailing Wall (wall of the ancient temple, most holy site of the Jewish faith), golden dome of the mosque, and Christians on pilgrimage..

Highlight of yesterday was renewing our baptismal vows in the river Jordan. During our service we were joined by a white dove! The river is the dividing line between Israel and Jordan, and the official notices reminded us of this. But we were also on another border, between one way and one Kingdom, and another. The water truly was life-giving, if a bit muddy! 🙂 But the holy doesn’t usually come to us pristine, clean and clear. It comes in a baby born in a mucky stable! In a hideous death on a cross. In walking, talking and listening. In bread broken, and wine poured out. In the fellowship of shared experiences. We have to open our eyes and hearts and feel that difference, sense the holy, which may make no sense to the world but is our inspiration and gives us fulness of life.

Our pilgrimage is drawing to a close, but today we spent mostly in Nazareth. We shared morning worship with Palestinian Christians, with a service in both Arabic and English, singing hymns in both languages at once! We visited the Basilica of Mary’s house, and remembered Mary’s unquestioning trust in God. We saw many representations of Mary, including a lovely image from the USA:

The return:

Now I’m well and truly back, and people keep asking how the pilgrimage was? There’s only so many times I can say ‘it was fantastic and amazing’ before it begins to sound cliched. I’m going to try and arrange an afternoon talk in the parish, with pictures (so if you don’t want to see the holiday snaps....😏) sometime soon, but probably not before New Year. So, in the meantime, over the next few days, just a few thoughts...(seems appropriate to make you wait for the full story, after all, that’s what Advent is about!😀)....

I went with some reservations about going with ‘a group’. I had forgotten that the ‘group’, would include some old friends, as well as some new friends (travelling together does that to you!), and that it would form its own community. It was a joy to be with the other people, and to exclaim over things, and chat over meals and drinks. To discover how much we had in common, and how different we are. It was good that we were different ages (and thank you Sarah for teaching us to play Dobble!), and had different interests. We saw things through each others eyes, as well as through our own, and that helped deepen and enrich the experience. I think we’re generally not good at speaking about the deep things of faith, but it is so encouraging to know that we journey through life together, not in lonely isolation. Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. We need companionship and fellowship for our faith to thrive.

Day 1, going to take a lot of thinking about. A very busy day. Highlight was seeing Caiaphus’s house, and the pit where Jesus was kept overnight before his trial. Even the stones have their own history...