This coming May 2008 I am joining Dr. John Huffman, Jr. from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Ca. for a 10 day visit to the State of Israel. Members from his church and the Laguna Beach church will walk on land that is called Holy by three great religions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Israel/Palestine is located at the crossroads between east and west. Armies of the world’s great civilizations have marched through this land moving from north to south and south to north. Those who inhabited the Holy Land were often victimized by Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Brits, and on and on. Now the peoples of the earth are realizing how important it is that the State of Israel make space for a Palestinian state, and that the Palestinians prevent terrorist attacks upon the Jewish State. Enough of hatred, fear, and terror! Lets have peace for the sake of the world.
We travel to Israel/Palestine with the awareness of this troubled past, with a longing for peace and justice, and with not a little hope that this promised land may fulfill the prophets vision of a day when the instruments of warfare are beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks.
This will be the fifth time I have taken a group of people to the Holy Land. The geography and the history are worth the trip in itself. But what makes this land special to me is that it was in this small place that the spiritual journey of humanity had its origin. Patriarchs and matriarchs, judges, prophets, visionaries, and a pilgrim people gave hope to the promise that they had received from the Creator God. The dusty roads of this land were marked by the footprints of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah/Son of God, the Savior and Lord of the cosmos. It is Israel’s story, Jesus’ story, and the church’s story that draws me back to this distant land.
Indeed, the hopes and fears of all the years are still centered in Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. But that church points north to the walls of the old city outside of which Jesus died for the sins of humanity in order to heal us of our sins, to reconcile us to God and to one another. This was the place where the old and the new creation kissed. This was the city in which the new humanity had its beginning in the Spirit of the Crucified God.
To experience a brief glimpse of this meaning and this reality is worth the cost, the preparation, and long flight to see and to hear the good news in a new way. This year Jerusalem! Jerry Tankersley