A few years back I got to travel to Israel. On this trip I got to see such places as, Bethany, Jericho, Qumran, the Dead Sea, Masada, Jerusalem, Mt Zion, Bethlehem, Nablus and Sebaste (West Bank), Caesarea, Haifa, Muhraka, Megiddo, Tiberias, Sepphoris, Cana, Nazareth, Bet Shean, Korazim, Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tabgha, Mt Beatitudes and the Jordan River.

It was one of the most incredible experience of my life. At the same time though, it was a trip that left me saddened, frustrated and conflicted. I recently came across the following words, by Tom Wright, which I really resonated with in thinking through my trip to Israel.

Pilgrimage is a teaching aid: at this level, it teaches us not only about the roots of our faith, but about the ways in which injustice still rampages through communities, some of them within our own family.  It opens our eyes to see God’s world the way it is, rather than the way we would like to imagine it.  Second, pilgrimage is a way of prayer: both a way of drinking in the presence and love of God in Christ, as we visit places particularly associated with him, and also now a way of standing at the place of pain, at the foot of the cross literally and metaphorically, holding on to that pain in the presence of God in Christ, not knowing what the solution will be but only that God is there, grieving with and in us, in a perpetual Holy Week at the heart of the Holy Land.  Third, pilgrimage is a way of discipleship: both to be reinforced in our own daily life and work as Christians, and now also to be reinforced in thinking, working, speaking, writing and praying for justice and peace to be restored to the Middle East, to Northern Ireland, to the Sudan, to God’s entire creation.

We do not go on pilgrimage, then, because we have the answers and want to impose them.  That would make us crusaders, not pilgrims; the world has had enough of that, and I dare say God has had enough of that. We go on the pilgrim way, we follow the way of the Lord, because he himself is the way – and, as he said himself, the truth and the life as well. We go to meet him afresh, to share his agony, and to pray and work for the victory he won on the cross to be implemented, and for his way to be followed, in Israel and Palestine, in our own countries, and in the whole world.

But, in blogging these photos this Easter there is far more going on for me than simply reminiscing about a fantastic trip. What these photos remind me of more than anything else, is that in Jerusalem over 200 years ago, the world changed forever. Again, Tom Wright puts it better than I ever could,

Easter is what it is because, together with Jesus’ crucifixion, it is the central event of world history, the moment towards which everything was rushing and from which everything emerges new. The gospel, says Paul in Colossians, has already been preached to every creature under heaven; which must mean that with the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth a shock wave has rattled through the world, so that despite appearances the world is in fact a different place, full of new possibilities, previously unimagined…

 Easter is about real life, not escapist fantasy. Easter is about God’s judgment, calling the world to account and setting up his new, glorious creation of freedom and peace, and summoning all people everywhere to live in this new world. Easter is about God’s rich welcome to all humankind. We Easter people are called to celebrate all of that in practical ways as well as in glad and uninhibited worship…And it’s all because Easter is about Jesus: the Jesus who announced God’s saving, sovereign kingdom; the Jesus who died to exhaust the power of this world’s rulers; the Jesus who rose again to be crowned as king over all things in heaven and on earth. God give us grace, this day and from now on, to live as Easter people, celebrating Jesus’ love and joy at his table and making his kingdom and justice known in his world.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Awesome rob I love it pics remind me of amazing times hard time later as after this trip Easter sat mum passed away but Jesus rose the next day and gave me hope the trip gave me an awesome platform to see the bible alive physically and spiritually woke different parts inside me for the better knowing I was going home to a very sick mother. god is my strength. 6 years ago.


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