Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I want to thank all of you who kept me in your prayers as I ventured to the Holy Land for my pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I began this pilgrimage with mixed feelings; anticipation of the climactic conclusion of the journey and sadness knowing that I would eventually have to come down from the mountain top. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus was an amazing experience. There is nothing that compares to being in the space that our Lord lived and ministered.
It was an incredible experience to have journeyed to the places that I often read about in our Sacred Scriptures. To be amidst the natural terrain and social setting of the Gospels in and around Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea was unlike anything I had ever experienced. This pilgrimage brought these stories to life for me more than I could have ever imagined.
One of the most moving parts of the trip for me was heading down into the Kidron Valley and up to the Garden of Gethsemane, just as Jesus did with his disciples. Sitting in that garden, I pondered the incredible surrender Jesus demonstrated when he fell to his knees admitting his desire to avoid the suffering of the cross, but instead chose to submit anyway. What love is this that would give oneself for another? What love is this that would surrender one’s power and position for the greater good? I sat in that garden thinking; what an example to be applied to our lives. It is no wonder the road to the cross is painful. It often calls us to give up our wants, desires, power and position for another while trusting that God is working all things out for the greater good.
There was another very powerful moment for me on this trip. It was when we walked the route of the Via Dolorosa. Walking in the footsteps of Christ as he traveled to the cross was not only moving but a unique experience. We reflected along the way as we stopped and prayed at each of the fourteen stations. This allowed for moving moments of contemplation, however, these moments were juxtaposed with busy streets lined with snack bars and tourist shops. I couldn’t help but laugh as I wondered what Jesus himself may be thinking as He watches devout followers pray and pick up ice cream cones along the way to beat the heat.
Regardless of the unexpected events that took place along the way, there is no doubt that this is one of the holiest places on earth. It is a city with millennial history and a shrine for many faiths. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land can’t help but invoke emotion as you stand atop the mountain where Jesus preached or sit near the cave where Jesus was unjustly tied up and beaten. It is truly a place where you feel and experience God and I thank you all for this opportunity to have gone. May it be a gift to our whole community as I serve and lead us as the body of Christ.