Today we had a wonderful Sunday. We have prayed for each family by name in our congregation in the Holy Land. Also we have prayed for certain persons each day, often lightening a candle in the holy shrines in their honor. Thus said, we started the day at the Israeli museum. We saw parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as a detailed model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. The we headed south to Bethlehem and witnessed the true political and economic disparity of this land. We bowed through the small door to the mighty church, parts of it date from 360-70 AD. We were humbled by the antiquity of the entire place.
Afterwards, we toured Mt. Zion where the traditional location of the Upper Room is and other traditional sights. What a day!
In front of the Church of St Catherine, next to the Church of the Nativity, is a statue of St. Jerome. We owe him for his work in translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to Latin. Jerome lived in Bethlehem from about 384 A.D. to 420 A.D. He lived in a cave under the church and wrote the entire time he was in Bethlehem. At the foot of the statue is a skull. It is a reminder to us that the first Christian martyrs were not the early Christians, but the murder of the innocents that Herod had killed trying to kill the Baby Jesus. These children were sacrificed to the will and power of an insane leader and his ambitions. What does that tell us today? What do we sacrifice to ambition and power?
Today we visited Jericho, the oldest inhabited city in the world. We toured the Israeli national park site of Beit She’an. While there is no Biblical evidence that Jesus every came here, it is a fine example of a Roman and Byzantine city. It has wonderful stone work and a theatre that would seat 7000 when it was fully intact. An Earthquake in 765 AD destroyed most of the city.
Afterwards we travel up to Jerusalem through the Judean wilderness. We saw Bedouins that have lived as Abraham did for thousands of years with their sheep and goats. We emerged through a tunnel to the splendor of the â€œgoldenâ€ city of Jerusalem. After viewing the city from Mount Scopus, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane church and then to the excavated house of Caiaphas, where probably Jesus was held the night before his crucifixion. We truly felt the power of the place as the lights were lowered and we felt the dark loneliness that Jesus must have felt there.
The beauty of the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus is that we do not ever have to feel alone! Christ is with us today just as he was with his Disciples then. He loves us and cares for us. In fact He loved us so much, that he endured terrible things so that we can live.
Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice for us! Thank you Jesus for your love for us! Help us not only to believe but also to act upon that belief. Amen!
Today we drove around the Sea of Galilee, seeing such beauty and wonderful diversity of life and crops. It seems that every type of fruit and vegetable is grown here! We rode a boat and stopped in the middle of the lake to hear the sounds of the lake. It was only disrupted once by jet skis. That made us Hartwellians feel â€œright at home.â€ The Sea of Galilee is so beautiful. Its waters are blue and a light haze hovered over the lake and the mountains that surround it. The Sea of Galilee is the lowest fresh body of water on earth, yet it is teaming with life within its waters and around its shores.
This is in complete and utter comparison with the lowest body of water on earth, the Dead Sea, which is just down the Jordon River. While distance is only one hour and forty five minutes by car, it is an entirely different ecological system. Its waters do not team with ANY life and its shores are covered with desert. The Dead Sea is dead simply because it only receives water and gives none away! Is that not like our lives and the lives of those around us? Those that always take and never give are not living in Christ, they are DEAD in Christ. We must give to receive, we must die to live, and we must offer ourselves, as Paul said, as LIVING sacrifices.
What truths we can learn from the land!!!!!