Reflecting back on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches, I discover that this has been an 'experiential' experience.
Perhaps a highlight was sitting at the feet of Moshe Kempinski, an Orthodox Jew who runs a tiny shop "Shorashim" in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Moshe, being Orthodox, has studied what we know as the Old Testament, as well as all the other Jewish writings; but more than that he has studied the New Testament and Early Christian documents, to the extent that he can quote passages of Scripture easily in his conversation.
He was encouraging and deeply wise in every word he said - he did not say too much, he did not say too little in the half-an-hour he spoke to us. Three things he said will remain with me -
"Here in Israel listen with your eyes"
"When you return home you will not be able to tell others what you have experienced"
"You did not decide to visit Israel, God called you to Israel"
I think it is the second of those two quotes which have made it so hard for me to write my blog over the past few days. Oh yes, I could have simply written facts, but what was happening was deep inside.
An example of this was leading the breaking of the bread (Eucharist) at the Garden Tomb. The Garden is a fairly large area with well established trees and bushes giving places where one can be quiet or where groups can sit together for prayer and worship. On request, the staff of the Garden will set up a tray with a chalice of grape juice and a plate of matzos in one of these quiet places. John Atkinson, our tour leader, asked if I would like to celebrate, which I did.
In prayer before the group came together I became aware of two things - first, that I should not use liturgy, using rather 1Cor 11, and second, that it was important that, being as close as we were to Golgatha, the place of the crucifixion, we should individually be prepared to confess the deepest unconfessed sin we held, because it was here that Jesus died for that sin. The Spirit moved in a way that only He can move and we were blessed with tears as together we shared in "my body broken for you" and "my blood shed for you".
How does one really share that experience?
How does one share the atmosphere of St James Armenian Cathedral with its oil lamps and chanting clergy?
How does one describe the blazing heat of the Desert through which the children of Israel trudged for 40 years?
How does one describe the soaring vulture which somehow takes your heart with it on every thermal?
How does one describe standing face to face with the Western Wall so emotional that you cannot think what to pray, but know it's just you and the Presence of God, and He knows your heart?
And how do you describe just sitting on the shore of the Sea of Galilee withe the water lapping at your feet, knowing that on this spot Jesus walked and taught.
I have listened with my eyes and I will find it hard to share the experiences, but I know that God called me here.
Thank you Lord!