On The Road Again…

On Sunday, August 29, Ariel and I leave for the last and lengthiest leg of the Sabbatical travel adventure: a month in the Middle East.

As a Pastor, I have many, many friends who have spent time in “The Holy Land”.  Opportunities to visit Israel and its environs are not rare, especially for Pastors willing to travel.  Yet most of my life, I’ve been content to visit elsewhere.  It was not until I began watching “That the World May Know”, a series of teachings by Dr. Ken Vander Laan (see Follow The Rabbi for more information on his ministry) that I began to think about the tremendous impact of place on theology.
As the plans for the Sabbatical came together, we decided that it may very well be that we take a tour of Israel with a group of family or friends at some point in the future.  To that end, we decided to try to do Israel on our own and hook up with a tour that will encompass some other areas of the Middle East, including Jordan and Egypt.  More about that tour in a future post.

For now, I am eager to get on the plane Sunday afternoon and head east.  Here’s the plan:

Sunday, 8/29 – depart Pittsburgh at 4:30.  Change planes in NY, and arrive in Amman, Jordan, at 3 pm local time on Monday 8/30.

As soon as we clear customs, we will make our way to the Israeli border, where we expect to wait in long lines and get a taste of the tight security for which Israel is well-known.  Following that, we hope to make it to Jerusalem by nightfall.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night we plan to stay at the Christ Church Guest House, a part of Christ Church (the oldest Protestant church in Jerusalem).  This facility is staffed by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and we hope to be able to engage in some genuine conversation with local people about the complex issues facing those who live in the Middle East today.

Have Hat, Will Travel...

On Thursday, we expect to spend some time visiting The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, where they have a noontime worship service.  In preparation for this leg of the journey, I read and was greatly challenged by “A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation” by Naim Stifan Ateek.  In this persuasive tome, Ateek asks the church to follow in the way of Christ and work for liberation, reconciliation, and peace in the Middle East.  I was delighted to be invited to visit the center when we are in Jerusalem.

After worship, we’ll rent a car and drive north (facing the decision that Jesus faced – whether to go due north through “Samaria” or take the highway by the Mediterranean and Tel Aviv) towards Galilee.  Thursday night and Friday night we will stay at The Kibbutz Ginosar, located right on the Sea of Galilee.  While here we hope to explore Nazareth, Capernaum, and other sites in the region where Jesus undertook most of his ministry.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get to fish in the Sea of Galilee!

Saturday night we’ll drive back to Jerusalem and stay at the Guest House.  Sunday we hope to worship with a congregation in the city and then head back to Amman in time to meet our tour group with whom we’ll experience Jordan and Egypt.

It’s a great opportunity.  As we go, we are mindful of a couple of great quotes:

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“If you’re not willing to be changed by a place, there’s no point in going” (unknown).

1 I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.

4 That is where the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.

5 There the thrones for judgment stand,
the thrones of the house of David.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.

7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”

8 For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”

9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity. (Psalm 122)

We don’t know what this trip will hold, but we trust that it will be rich in many ways.  Stay tuned for updates!