Can these stones live?

The day of visiting Passion Week sites left me strangely passionless, and I'm not sure why. We saw a lot in one day, but it all followed one after another, so there was no confusion. There were plenty of tourists, to be sure (always an irritation), but fewer than expected (and I could hardly complain, being one of them). At each site, we received both religious and historical accounts -- of which I often found the latter more compelling.

No, I wonder if it comes back to pilgrimage, and my unfamiliarity with it. The moments of transcendence, the moments when my soul was lifted to praise God had more to do with the beauty of the unfamiliar architecture and vibrant tropical foliage I saw than with a connection to standing in the spot where Jesus stood. It occurs to me that I should be excited to stand/take pictures "in the very place where..." because it is a connection with the Jesus of history -- an important part of my belief. For it is not enough that Jesus be fully God; he also must be fully human. That unfathomable truth should be prominent nowhere so well as in the land where he lived.

Perhaps the lack of evidence is, in part, because the while the land testifies to Christ's humanity, it falls short of bearing glorious witness to his divinity. Israel-Palestine's history of violence makes "unholy land" as accurate a moniker as any. And suspicious gatekeeping on the part of various denominations -- such as the infighting between Armenian and Syrian Orthodox that prevents the Syrians from fixing up their woeful little chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- does not seem to line up with Jesus' teachings of love for neighbour, nor the expansive, loving, seeking heart of God, found in both the Old and New Testament.

For that, I am grateful for the "living stones" of the tour. If I came close to God on my pilgrimage, it was not through kissing rocks or even praying in place, but through the hopeful testimony of Awad in Bethlehem, and a CPTer's* playful and loving style of disarming soldiers.

*CPT= Christian Peacemaker Teams


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