Since we’re somewhere between Newark and Tel Aviv right now, there isn’t much to say (I hope) about today’s Holy Land adventure. Instead, let’s think about why we’d make such a pilgrimage.
A pastor I knew used to push back against the moniker “Holy Land.” “Isn’t anywhere that God is present holy land?” he asked. He was right - and wrong.
“Holy Land” is much more than a clever marketing campaign for a tourist destination. It describes the place where much of what we read about in the Holy Bible took place. You could say it describes all of it, if you want to expand the term to include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the places Paul visited (Turkey to Italy).
Yes, anywhere God is present is holy, but there is something truly remarkable about visiting sites where you know Abraham, Sarah, David, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and so many others were.
On my previous trip I remember feeling in the Galilee, where it’s pretty and peaceful, “Yes, Jesus was here. This is his kind of place.” And, then in Jerusalem, “Yes, Jesus had to come here where it bustles and is crowded to bring peace and justice to places and people bent on the opposite.”
There is something truly holy about reading the scriptures and walking and reflecting on our ancestors in the faith and our Lord in the very places where they lived and ministered. While our faith doesn’t expect a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in one’s lifetime (we are to make pilgrimages of faith wherever we are each day), it does bring out the scriptures in profound ways. If the opportunity presents itself, a pilgrimage like this can expand our imaginations the next time we read the Bible or ponder our Lord or journey through Holy Week.