Lenten Lunches begin at 12 noon and are held at the churches listed below. Sandwiches, chips, desserts and tea are served.A devotional message will be given at each lunch and the Hart Co. Ministerial Association will be taking an offering.
Wed., March 4th… First Baptist Church
Wed., March 11th …Cornerstone Baptist
Wed.,March 18th… Sacred Heart Catholic
Wed., March 25th …Hartwell FUMC
Please bring a can of beef stew, canned chicken, tuna, salmon, or peanut butter when you come.
We had a free morning on our last day in Israel. Ten of us decided to make our way to the Dung gate and walk up to the Temple Mount. This is, as Rev. Bryan George noted, the most highly contested piece of real estate in the world. We felt the tension of this place immediately after we started heading up the ramp to the top. You have to go through extra security, a metal detector, and any bags have to be searched. The Israeli army polices the entire area. You hear chanting from the Western Wall and chanting form Muslims on top of the wall. The air is just ripe with tension.
While we were there, some Muslim women were shouting “Ala is great.” Some Orthodox Jews had tried to gain access to the Temple Mount and the police had to separate the two groups. Our guide says this happens every day. These two groups agitate each other continually, like spoiled children. We saw the group of Muslim women afterwards and they were giving themselves high-fives and fist pumps. It was so funny. We could not understand them, but it was like they were saying, “We did it, we did it, it’s my birthday, it’s my birthday! We did something today Beth. What are you having for supper tonight? See you tomorrow at the same time? Text me if you want to meet earlier.”
With all of its incredible beauty, this contested land is not all that special. Is a 35 acre piece of land, with no guaranteed water source or fertile soil, worth so much discord and bloodshed? During the Byzantine or early Christian era, the Temple Mount was nothing more than a refuse pile where the inhabitants of Jerusalem placed their garbage and unwanted items. It was not until the 691 CE that the Moslems built the Dome of the Rock to commemorate the place where Mohammad ascended. It just so happens to be the place where Jews believe that Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac and we know its where the various Jewish Temple’s stood.
In so many ways, the entire Middle East situation is so sad. There are no winners and all losers. We need to support Israel, but in doing so, we often disregard the Middle Eastern Christian community, which is stuck in the middle. These Christians need us and need our support. Mostly they need our prayers….. The current political situation in Israel is not a good one for this minority community. It will become even smaller as the Israeli government continues to press them out of their homes and cities. No one can stay in an area if there is no work. There can be no work if free access to vital transportation and economic relief cannot be found. Israel, along with its Muslim and Christian population, needs to build bridges instead of walls. Walls are not EVER the answer.
We had the opportunity to visit with some local Arab Christians in Bethlehem. It was delightful, but we realized that their life is very difficult. They cannot travel from city to city and they have family members that they cannot ever see. We take our freedom of movement for granted!
Bethlehem sits across a valley from a large “illegal” Jewish settlement. While the inhabitants of Bethlehem are walled into their city by a wall that is at least 15’ tall, covered with barbed wire and electrified, the Jewish settlement has free access to wherever its inhabitants want to go. Also, Bethlehem has to sparingly ration its water supply, storing it in containers on their roof. The settlement inhabitants water their lawns. Where is the justice?
Jerusalem has never had peace. The Psalmist writes n Psalm 122, “6 Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. 7 Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.” 9 For the sake of the Lord our God’s house I will pray for your good.” If Jerusalem would have peace, maybe, just maybe, peace could come to Hartwell, Bowman, Anderson, and maybe even Atlanta. If all goes well, then peace could come to Ohio, just kidding Ohio friends!
Please stop what you are doing and pray right now for peace. Pray fervently. Pray without ceasing. Pray as if your life depended on it. Pray as if the world depended on it. Pray as if nothing depended on it. Just PRAY. . .
See you on Sunday!
On the 20th we ventured into the heart of Jerusalem. We visited the excavations of the Southern Wall, the teaching steps where Jesus would have walked, the sacred prayer area of the Western Wall, walked part of the Via Dolorosa, and visited the Holy center of Christianity of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After lunch we visited the Pool of Bethesda and beautifully plain, St Anne’s Church.
One of the highlights of the trip was the chance once again to visit a little known rarely seen chapel in the very deep gut of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I had made arrangements with our guide months in advance to visit Saint Vartan’s Chapel. The door to St. Vartan’s Chapel is to the left of the altar of the Chapel of St. Helena. This chapel was discovered in the early 1970’s while extensive reconstructions, renovations, and archeological excavations were done. You descend down a narrow staircase where visible are vestiges of the ancient quarry that existed here at the site as early as the 8th BCE. There are many broken pots and containers from the period as well as a small water cistern that dates from the early 100’s. It could hold several hundred gallons of water in its day. Onward down the stairs you take a sharp turn to the right and opening up before you is a hewn out chapel with a natural stone ceiling from the quarry, and human built stone walls, dating to the early period of Hadrian and the Roman re-make of Jerusalem.
On a smooth stone, carefully preserved behind glass, is an image of a ship with a broken mast. Beneath the ship, which is about 26 inches long and 12 inches high, two Latin words appear – Domine Ivimus. They mean “Lord we shall go” and recalling the words of a favorite pilgrim’s psalm, Psalm 121.
Scholars believe the ship was a Roman vessel and that by its style, as well as the inscription, the carving can be dated to the first or second century C.E. That means that it may have been incised right on the wall of the pagan monument built on this spot by Emperor Hadrian after 135 C.E. before the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was even constructed. The artist might very well have been a Christian pilgrim who nearly perished in a ship-wreck on the way to the Holy Land, and carved the ship to give thanks for a safe arrival at the sacred destination.
For a few seconds, our pilgrimage coincides with the pilgrimage of an ancient traveler. We feel his or her presence in the cramped, small space of the small chapel. We also realize that we cannot take any of our time for granted. We are under the watchful eye of the Armenian priest in charge of the site. We have made a small contribution to the ministry of the Armenian church to have this privilege. I am overcome with emotion as we stand in awe of the advent of time, our greatest enemy and dearest friend. God has granted us the ability to make the trip, but we know that our time in St. Vartan’s is limited, and our time on earth is limited as well. The Church of the Holy Sepulture is a sacred space for me. Not only am I always intrigued by its history, both good and bad, but the idea of pilgrimage is so appealing in that we can connect with so many others that have gone before us. This simple graffiti reminds us of our mortality. We will never know the name of the pilgrim, but we can forever relate with his or her message, “Lord, we shall go.” True life is never standing still; it is always going, yearning, moving, making waves, and honoring the saints and loving the sinners. We must NEVER be satisfied in our faith but always yearning and striving to be better and serve better and love better and work harder!
Thank you St. Vartan’s!
See you on Sunday!