The cities of the Decapolis, the places where Jesus crossed over. Away from the Galilee. Away from his people. Over the line.
Near to the Decapolis he finds a man among the tombs:
“When Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones”
It is a story that asks us to expand our frame of reference for who we might think is within God’s salvation economy. For the first hearers of this story, Jews are invited to expand their worldview to Gentiles, an expansion that will later, with Paul, define Christian belonging as transcending nation and ethnicity, clean and unclean, sane and insane. Here we see Jesus expand the boundaries, moving beyond.
Which boundaries and bounded places are we open to Jesus opening up for us on this pilgrim’s way? Who do we count in? Who might we be discounting? Where are we drawing our lines?
Today we certainly did cross the border line, in many ways. From Israel’s relative affluence and comfort to Jordan, where we were told over half of the population are refugees. It is the poorest of the Middle East’s countries, and the shift in living standards was immediately apparent.
Blessing and seasoning go together. “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” asks Jesus. (Matthew 5:13)
What is a blessing but a reminder that God is with us on our earthly pilgrimage, not merely for company but for purpose.
Be salt. Offer a taste of God to the world around you, even today, here in this place.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We begin our pilgrims’ way with truth.
In Caesarea we recall Paul, claiming truth about himself and about his Lord. Truth had shifted for Paul and nothing would be the same.
Paul had been one who was known for who he appeared to be: ‘All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people’ (Acts 26:4).
He was counted among those set apart, someone who knew how to speak of his religion: ‘I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion’ (Acts 26:5).
What has your belonging been? How do people recognize you? How are you known?
For Paul, hope is what sets him free to chart another course: ‘now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God’ (Acts 26:6).
What of Truth might you encounter here? Where might this inward journey be taking you? Where is it that you stand with Paul?
WHAT DO YOU SEEK? Day 2: Friday, February 1, 2019 – Arrive Tel Aviv (All Saints' Episcopal Church Holy Land and Biblical Jordan Pilgrimage)
Is this what you were expecting? Sometimes we have to touch a new land in order to see it more fully with our eyes and with our hearts. What do your senses tell you? What are the smells, the sounds, the tastes of this place?
Looking out on the newness of it all, are you reminded of what you came here to seek, or are you still figuring that out? There aren’t any right answers, no ideas better or worse, there is only what you have to offer, what you might be seeking, for yourself.
Take your time. It’s been a long journey. Allow your soul to catch up with your body. Soak it all in. For the One who seeks you is already here.
The first morning, and Israel is as promised: beautiful and warm and bustling with surfers and cyclists, joggers and strollers, beach volleyball aficionados and all manner of people soaking up one another’s company on a warm February day. I decided to walk off the jet-lag with a stroll along the beach to the ancient city of Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest ports.
HOME - Day 1: Thursday, January 31, 2019 – Depart Home (All Saints' Episcopal Church Holy Land and Biblical Jordan Pilgrimage)
What are you leaving behind? What troubles, concerns, matters of the head and of the heart? Does all of it have to go with you, or might some of it stay back?
What would you like to take with you? What hopes, longings, curiosities, wondering?
What might you bring back? How might you be more than who you are now on your return?
This is the day for leaving home, the familiar and comfortable, the known. Time to lose sight of land in search of the stars.
Disturb Us, Lord
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
(attributed to Sir Francis Drake -1577)
All Saints’ Episcopal Church Meditations and reflections from the 2019 Pilgrimage to the Holy Land & Biblical Jordan.