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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Here's to Marlene and Linda and the folks at Zion!!

Traveling can be a real joy to share with others and I have to say we had a great group that traveled with us to Israel.  Here's a warm shout out to our friends at Zion...you were all very kind, fun and great to travel with.  Always considerate of others and just a really good group.  

And what a privilege to travel with Marlene and Linda both were perfect folks to have with you.  Always in good spirits, no complaints, and a genuine joy to travel with---thank you.

I think traveling to the Holy Land is a must experience for every person of faith.  It will open up your faith life in so many different ways.   I don't know if we'll put together another trip or not; but if we do I hope you'll jump at the chance.  it is an amazing opportunity.  We prayed together, sang together and meet our living Lord in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.   It was a true pilgrimage.


can you see the size of that blister?  Show's
I'm been truly walking the way of
the pilgrim

Now where did I see that Starbucks

Add caption

That's me walking out of the tomb

He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia

Today was our last day in the Holy Land.  Tomorrow I'm flying out at 5am back to Istanbul.   I strange day in some ways.  We had a late start so for the first time in almost two weeks I actually went through emails and did some work.  Then it was time to put this aside again and go out for our final day--a look at the Garden Tomb and the Holy Sepulcher...as well as the Via dolorosa (the way of the cross) and some time in the old city.

I confess I am a Holy Sepulcher junkie.  I just love this church.  IT is most likely --even the Oxford Archeological guide agrees--the place of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Some people hate it because it has all the trappings of human need to try and make something holy---smells, bells, candle sticks that are about 20 feet tall--but I love it.  I find great peace inside this wondrous church and I find the people to be not a distraction but a reminder of why Christ came.   The key to the Sepulcher is to go beyond the place of the crucifixion and the resurrection and head deep into the recesses of the church.  IF you keep going down, and down and down, you see that the church is indeed built into the side of a huge quarry...the hill of which Jesus was crucified upon.  If you go far to the other side you see the examples of other tombs that were found in the area from the first century.

I admit, I found my way to the Holy Sepulcher 3 different times...once with the group and twice by myself. 

The garden tomb, which is what many Americans love because it looks the part is most definitely not the place.  But each time I go there I have more and more respect for the place.  Because while it does not represent the actually place, it helps one imagine what it may have looked like.  It's quiet garden setting is easier on the senses than the trappings of the Holy Sepulcher.   And as always the message that the Garden Tomb gets right each time....spot on...is that HE IS NOT HERE!  HE IS RISEN!  The point is that the tomb is empty and this is brought home beautifully in this place.  We had communion there today, one last time as a group.

I'm reminded of the words of the angels at the resurrection...'he goes ahead of you....'  how beautiful that promise still remains.  He goes ahead of you.  Christ Jesus goes ahead of you, ahead of me, leading and encouraging us to follow him.   I do love coming to the Holy Land to recharge my spiritual batteries and to remember these simple truths.   Here's the pix of the day!

Here at Gordon's Calvary or The Garden Tomb
Our guide was a very passionate Brit.  But
he played a little fast and loose with Bible
quotes and seemed to be important to him
to go out of his way to dis on the Holy
Sepulcher.....obviously I was not fan of
his presentation

What the Garden Tomb does do is help you 'feel'
what it would have been like and this is
important

Linda and Marlene in front of the tomb that
serves as a great way to understand how Jesus
was placed in a similar tomb

Here's where the Garden Tomb hits a home
run....He is not here!  Alleluia!

I climbed to the top of the old city to get
this picture of the Lutheran Church of the
Redeemer.  It is quite a nice church with a little
archeological dig beneath that you can visit
and of course you can climb the tower!

This is the place which commemorates the cross
and the death of Jesus.  IF not right here...
it would have been close.

I took this picture upstairs in the Holy
Sepulcher looking past the candles into
a side chapel below....

If you keep moving to the right and going down
three separate sets of steps from the top, you reach
where the church was obviously built into the side
of the quarry.  

As you make your way back to the lowest parts
of the Holy Sepulcher, you come across this wall with the
carved crosses of countless earlier pilgrims.  It
is humbling to say the least to consider at what cost they
made the pilgrimage.

The Way of the cross....via delorosa

A great painting that is above the door
to the 3rd or 4th station of the cross
reminding us to take up our crosses too; but
to follow him.

Marlene knelling down to reach her hand
to touch the rock of Calvary/Golgotha

Here's Linda waiting her turn to kneel before the
cross of Christ

Another great dinner....salads followed
by the main course.

The old city of Jaffa or Joppa.  Here is where Jonah tried
to run away from God, where Peter was told all food
is clean and where the HOly Spirit was working overtime. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Walking the mount of Olives and eating Arab style

Today we started on the Mount of Olives the place of Jesus' ascension into heaven and the starting point of his ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  It is a wonderful walk that starts with the great view of the city, goes past several beautiful churches and ends at the Garden of Gethsemane were Jesus was betrayed by Judas.   To pray in the church of all nations at the garden of Gethsemane is quite a special privilege.  I prayed today for all of you back home, for our church, and for all our ministries.

We walked up from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Lion's gate of the old city or Stephen's gate.  Here the first martyr died for his faith in Christ--they dragged him outside and stoned him.  Inside the gate is the Crusader era church of St. Anne (mother of Mary) and the Bethesda pools where Jesus healed the man who could not walk.  He asked the man:  "Do you want to be well?"  That is a great question isn't it?   So often we hang on to those things that keep us trapped in sorrow, guilt or despair.

We had an Arab style lunch then off to the upper room where Jesus had his last supper and of course where the resurrection appearances happened (not to mention the Pentecost event of the Holy Spirit), then to the church built on the ruins of Caiaphas' house where Jesus was brought after he was arrested.

Side note...when we got back to the hotel I went into the old city and prayed in the church of the Holy Sepulcher...no place like it on earth!

Here are the pix:

I don't think I'll ever get tired of this view
from the Mount of Olives.  Jesus would
have seen the Temple instead of
the Dome of the Rock Mosque

All kinds of pilgrims walk this way
of Jesus.  Here some Franciscans
are looking at the Jewish graves which
are all along the Mt of Olives

Such a view

Marlene and Linda at the church of
Dominus Flevet...Jesus wept

Pastor Roger reading at the Garden
of Gethsemane

One of the tricks if finding time to pray, even
in a busy church like here at the Garden
of Gethsemane

Here in the Church of All Nations, the quiet moments
to your self are often the best.  But you have to
be disciplined to make time for them

Marlene walking beside the Olive trees
in the Garden of Gethsemane

Hoofing it up toward the Old City...88 degrees

The Lions gate or St. Stephens gate to the
old city

Linda looking at St. Anne's church
a Crusader Church still standing

The ruins of the pools of Bethesda where
Jesus healed the man who had been lame
almost 40 years

Looking up at the Mount of Olives

A Christian symbol of the Pelican sacrificing
herself in the upper room

Marlene in front of the church built
on Caiaphas' house (The high priest who
condemned Jesus)

Linda and Marlene in the church of St. Peter
in Gallicantu  (The cock crowing) where Peter
denied Christ

First century steps that Jesus would have
used.

Marlene with the city behind her

Looking out over the South end of Jerusalem

You make a difference in the Holy Land: Augusta Victoria Hospital

Lutheran aren't supposed to feel too much pride, but let's break that rule and give a big Hooray for the work of the Lutheran World Federation and Augusta Victoria hospital.  Part of our benevolence dollars that come from your offerings make this ministry possible.  Imagine you live in Gaza or Bethlehem or East Jerusalem and your child has cancer;  if you are a Palestinian there is only one hospital that will care for your child---Victoria Augusta.  They have mobile mammogram clinics that go out and help educate about breast cancer and offer dialysis to those with kidney disease.  Ann (or was it Amy) was our guide.  She is from Iowa and works here for the LWF at the hospital.   She began her interest by signing up with the ELCA program for young adults to go out into foreign missions.  Here are some pix:  First check out their website:  http://www.avh.org/

The sign out front gives you a bit of pride,
to know we are doing such good work in the
world

Here is Ann (or Amy) from Iowa telling
us about the work of AVH and the
hardships that happen for those
needing care.

The beautiful courtyard was originally intended
as a guest house for German Pilgrims to the Holy
land.  It was also the headquarters of the
British during the British Mandate and
hosted such folks as Winston Churchill

AVH is also on the highest point of the Mt
of Olives and has a beautiful Church of
the Ascension.  Here our guide is explaining
some of the 'Lutheran' particulars of the church

The beautiful dome above the alter commemorating the
ascension of Jesus

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jerusalem scandals to Bethlehem's miracles!

Well, I don't know how to inform everyone back home, but a certain member of our party whose initials are LH was detained by the decency police at the Dome of the Rock for being way to revealing in her choice of clothing.  I know, I am scandalized as well!   She can tell you all about it, but thankfully some quick thinking on her own prevented what would have been known as "LutherIslamagate."  There is no more to be said.  We spent time on the Temple Mount, went to the Western Wall (wailing wall so called), toured the ruins of Jesus day, traveled to Bethlehem and had a side stop at the pools of Siloam were Jesus healed the man born blind---John 9.

Let me tell you why I love the Holy Land.  At the pool of Siloam, again where Jesus healed the man born blind, there was an older Palestinian man who was watcher of the gate---basically made sure folks didn't enter past a certain point.   He began to strike up a conversation and told us that indeed, he had lived here for 60 years and this was the pool of Siloam.  He said, some way behind is also but they are wrong.  Myself and another traveler just nodded.  Then he said, "Come here, I'll show you."  So we left the group for a few minutes (hoping they would not leave without us) he opened up a locked door and showed us what was obviously his home and the ruins of a byzantine steps from a fountain that was used to water the animals.   He even gave us the name, but I have forgotten.  Then I admired his grapevines and grapes.  To which he said, "What a minute." He then returned with figs that he had picked from his tree there behind the pool of Siloam.  We thanked him and left just as the group was leaving.  I love that kind of hospitality you find in the folks who live here.  So pure, so inviting, so happy to share a little knowledge with two Americans whom he'll never see again.  I didn't even get his name...but Salem to you my friend...Salem...Peace!  Here are todays pix:

Here is a look at the Western Wall.  The only part
of the 2nd temple that remains and a very holy
site to the Jews.  A great feel when you are there. 
Prayer, but also families celebrating Bar
Mitzvahs etc...

The Iconic picture you have to take.  The
Dome of the Rock, 3rd holiest site for Islam
It is here that "LutherIslamagate" almost
happened.


I don't want to 'throw stones" but you
can see how revealing LH is dressed..blue
shirt, khaki capris, hat... looking for trouble

Here's a picture of the three of us at the
corner of the Western Wall.  We are actually
standing on the street that Jesus would have
walked on.  A great excavation and very moving
to be standing there.

Linda and Marlene are sitting on the steps
that Jesus would have used to sit and
teach from on the south side of the Temple.
You can see these are original steps carved
from the rock.  Very cool.

Marlene and Linda over looking the OLD
city of David...where Jerusalem was first
settled by David around 1000 BC

The church of the shepherds fields.  Made to
resemble a shepherds tent, this is where
the angels would have come to the
shepherds...well nobody really knows
where...but somewhere close by

Marlene in deep prayer inside the "Shepherds
Grotto" under the church.  She is so pious!

Eating lunch outside Bethlehem at a great
little restaurant called the Grotto.

Marlene about to enter the church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem which was built over the site
where Jesus was born.  We have good
evidence from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd
century that this is near the spot that was
always considered to be his birth place.

Linda going in,  The door is purposely made
small to keep soldier/knights from bringing
there horses into the church. It is one of the oldest
churches in the Holy Land  6th century

Preparing to go to where the 'star of Bethlehem'
marks the spot of Jesus birth.  see the old
processional crosses above.

Here's Marlene touching the star that pilgrims
have come to visit for over a 1700 years

Listening to our guide inside the church
of the Nativity

These mosaic floors are from the original
church built by Helen in 300's AD...OLD
Floor...the craftsmanship it took just for
the floor...amazing.

Marlene and Linda in the Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem

Outside the church in Bethlehem

Politics and religion are mixed
in the Holy Land

Unknown tourist being detained at
the Palestinian Police station in
Bethlehem

Political graffiti on 'the wall' that cuts off Bethlehem
from Israel

The Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed the
blind man John 9...such a great place and
story

Here's the backyard that I told you about
above and the byzantine steps in the back
ground

You can see the door he opened for us
and the grapes that are hanging...before
he gave us figs...great place