Late last year, a group of members and friends of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Tellico Village made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Here’s a reflection on the trip and some pictures.
Reflections of the trip from Rev. Paul Elbert (retired)
It has been said that the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist is that a pilgrim goes on a journey to experience God in a new or different way. That is what 24 people did last December when they went to Israel, Jordan and Palestine to walk the way of Jesus and Moses; the disciples and the Israelites.
Sunset in Jerusalem
To visit “The Land” is to immerse ourselves in the Story of God—to trace our steps along the biblical paths, well-known and forgotten. Our group was primarily Lutheran, so we were steeped in asking the question of both place and story, “What does this mean, to us, today, in our faith and in our lives?”
Western Wall in Jerusalem
We stepped back into the story of the Incarnation and followed the story to the Crucifixion. But we lingered where Jesus taught and the disciples fished. From the summit of Mt. Nebo, we gazed out onto the wilderness where the Israelites wandered for forty years and listened again to the story of Moses invited to view but prohibited from entering the land God had promised Abraham.
From Mt. Nebo, the Well of Moses (Jordan) Mt. Nebo Moses Memorial
It was at the wonder of Petra where we could imagine wise men from the East proceeding through this hub of incense trade on their way to Bethlehem.
Incredible Petra ruins (Jordan)
At the Dead Sea we imagined David hiding from Saul. Did he float, like us, in that great Salt Sea? The Psalms tell us that the oasis of En Gedi were as verdant to him as they were to us. We met the Jordan River at its headwaters in the north and then again further south where we reaffirmed our baptisms in the place where John baptized.
Baptism in the River Jordan
We prayed at the ancient and massive foundation stones of the Western Wall and at the new church built in the village of Mary Magdalene. The stones of the Land tell ancient stories that become new—to pilgrims willing to listen. And, now to hear the biblical witness with new ears—rehearsing the words of prophets, priests and our King—we see a bit more clearly the Land we had only imagined.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem