Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Mount of Olives

Panoramic View of model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum
View at Yad Vashem
The past few days have been somewhat of a pause in following the narrative of Luke's gospel.  Yesterday we spent time at the Israel Museum (far too short a time), and at Yad Vashem (a sobering experience).

Today we head to the Mount of Olives, visiting a cluster of churches commemorating Jesus' final few days before the crucifixion.  We will visit Pater Noster (Our Father), Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept), and the Garden of Gethsemane.  I am looking forward to getting back to spending some time in these holy spaces.

Looking forward, a friend from seminary gave me a tip about our visit...One can ask permission to stay the night (in vigil) at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  They take 15 people each night, and give you the admonition, "No sleeping!"  The doors are locked at 9:00pm and reopen at 5:00am. (The key to the church has been in the custody of two Muslim families since the 13th century).  We are about 80% sure we want to spend the night there.  It is not often one has the opportunity...stay tuned.

Only one more post before we head home to Texas.  We have been grateful for your prayers and have kept you, our friends and family, in ours.

With love,
Chris & Bryn

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Guests of the Waqf

Yesterday came with an exceptional opportunity to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  Since 2000, these sites have been closed to non-Muslims and/or non-Palestinians, yet because of our status as students at St. George's College, we were treated as important guests, entering through a VIP gate and having a guide for our time there.  We were Guests of the Waqf (the trust that owns the buildings).

Pictures cannot capture the beauty of these two buildings...every surface is decorated and everywhere you look you see something new. One surprise, written in Arabic at the top of the Dome of the Rock is a phrase similar to our Nicene Creed - "Jesus, who was born of Mary, died and lives again."

After our visit to these sites, we went to the City of David and Hezikiah's Tunnel.  We took a twenty minute walk in the dark through ankle-deep, ice cold water.  The tunnel was sized much better for Bryn than for me!  You might think this was not a pleasant experience, but the cold water after many days of HOT Jerusalem was very refreshing.  We all agreed we'd do it again.

Today we are off to the Israel Museum and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum).  Our time here is coming close to an end.  We miss you all and send our love.

Chris & Bryn

Monday, July 25, 2016

Catching Up

After a few days of early mornings I have fallen behind in reporting our progress.  Sunday we were at Mt. Tabor (the traditional site of the Transfiguration), where our group celebrated the Eucharist just outside of the "official site".   After Eucharist we made our way up to visit the Roman Catholic church constructed on the top of Tabor.  After a short visit to the church and the attached overlook of the valley below, we quickly went back down the mountain to depart for Caesarea Maritima (not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi).  
Caesarea Maritima, built by Herod the Great in order to win favor with Caesar, is a beautiful city on the coast of the Mediterranean.  There are still impressive ruins of the theatre (still in use today), the hippodrome, and other first century buildings.  Others who followed Rome made their mark on Caesarea Maritima, including the Crusader fortress that was one of the last stands for European Christians in the Holy Land.
One might ask, what does Caesarea Maritima have to do with Jesus?...Best I can offer is that there was an inscription found at the site that mentions Pontius Pilate as the governor of Judea. Also Paul, as he traveled the Roman roads, was likely to have been there, perhaps even imprisoned there.  Otherwise it is just a great excuse to stick our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean.
Monday was a day spent at Masada, Qumran, and the Dead Sea. Masada is another of Herod's building projects, but is most well known for the fortress where the last of the Jewish rebels held out until the Romans built a ramp to the top of the fortress to rout them in 72 AD.  Qumran, of course, is the location where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, including the Isaiah scroll, and where the Essenes lived as a separate Jewish community.  

Bryn braved the Dead Sea float (I chose to rely on my past experience).  It was 118°F on the beach at the Dead Sea.  So for our Texas friends and family who are braving the heat, it could be worse!

Today we are back in Jerusalem with a very exciting visit scheduled...stay tuned!  

Grace and peace to you all,

Bryn & Chris

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Happy Sunday

Every Sunday is a feast day of the Resurrection. 

The photo is a first century tomb under the convent where we have been staying in Nazereth. It, of course, is not the tomb belonging to Joseph of Aremethea in which the body of Jesus was laid, but gives a sense of what a tomb of an upper-middle class family might have been like. Notice the stone that has been rolled away to open the door - gives a whole new picture for the gospel readings on Easter Sunday morning. 
Today we are off to Mount Tabor where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. Our group will celebrate the Eucharist there before heading to Caesarea Maritima and then back to Jerusalem. 

Happy Sunday from the Holy Land! 

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

To Caesarea Philippi

Yesterday was a whirlwind of places - from Chorazin to Bethsaida, onto Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes, and ending at the Church of the Multiplication at Tagbha.  Looking out over the Sea of Galilee, it brings a real sense of knowing this is the area where Jesus spent most of his time.  He traveled these roads, visited these cities, taught at the squares and synagogues, and performed miracles and healed many who came to him.

Hannah & Gus wanted pictures of our food...this was lunch at the convent at the Mount of the Beatitudes.  It is called St. Peter's fish...bonus points to those who know why it's called that.  Oh, it was pretty good, for those who are wondering.

Today we head to Caesarea Philippi, another place familiar in the Gospels.  This is the place where Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" - a great question for pilgrims following in the steps of Jesus as his disciples did.

Love to you all,

Chris & Bryn

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Jesus' Hometown

We've arrived in Nazareth (the hometown of Jesus) and will spend the next few days in and around the Galilee.  Today's journey takes us to Chorazin and Bethsaida, Tabgha and the Church of the Multiplication,  Capernaum, and Magdala. A full day indeed...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Off to Nazereth

After yesterday morning at the Jordan River and renewing our baptismal vows, we are off to Nazereth today where we will spend the next four days. 

Sorry about  the short post, but I will try to post more in the days to come. 

Grace and peace to you all. 

Chris & Bryn