Monday, June 30

IMG_3531Monday was a bustling day! We left Bethlehem at 7 a.m. to start the day in Jerusalem at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. It is called the Wailing Wall because of the passionate prayers that are sung and people crying out to God with their full hearts. Today was not a loud wailing day, but there was a lot of passion and some meaningful time spent in prayer (maybe our Presbyterian influence?). Like many other pilgrims of faith before us a lot of us wrote out our prayers and put them into the cracks in the wall.

Our next stop was another incredible experience of faith. We visited the Dome of the Rock (the golden domed mosque) atop the temple mount. It was amazing to see this iconic building up close and experience the passion of conflict when we witnessed some Muslim women aggressively approach some Jewish folks entering the area, probably as a protest to its very existence on the ruins of the temple. It made me wonder about how ambivalent I feel at times about my faith and wonder how it is possible to live passionately in my identity as a Christian. Hopefully with a little less conflict…

The rest of the day we toured other holy sites such as St. Anne’s Church and the pool of Bethesda. This is where Mary, the mother of Jesus was reportedly born and the site of one of Jesus’ healings from John 5. We also made stops to see Mt. Carmel and the Church of the Assumption. We ventured to the Carmelite church of the Pater Noster where there were hundreds of interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer in different languages from around the world. After that we walked to the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Nations and made our way to St. Peter Gallicantu. At St. Peter Gallicantu, which means St. Peters Church where the cock crowed, we visited the high priest Caiaphas’ home and witnessed the site where Jesus may have been punished and kept during his trial. Rev. Dr. Gordon Mikoski read to us Psalm 88 in a moving homage to Jesus’ suffering.

After this we bussed our way to the Garden Tomb, a burial site much like the one Jesus was buried in, to experience a peaceful walk in the garden and celebration of communion together. It was a nice way to end our day of sightseeing with a reflection on what is holy in our lives. The presence of Jesus is the power in our lives that redeems, restores, reconciles and renews. It is hard not to feel God’s nearness as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the early members of the Church. It is also encouraging to know that when we touch a stone or recite a prayer or scripture it is not that experience that makes it holy. It is the Spirit of God whom we receive as a faithful companion in our journey of life, whether in a “holy” land or at the corner of Delaware and Main in Pennington

I invite you to read the passages of scripture and say a prayer today to how you might experience the presence, peace and love of God today. Peace be with you!

— David Hallgren