This sermon was preached before the Annual Parochial Church Meeting. You can find it here: Sermon for Easter 4B 22.04.18
Sunrise over Galilee is a haunting sight as a fisherman sets out to work. We celebrated a communion by the lakeside on Sunday morning and heard the call of the first disciples. Two nights earlier there had been a massive thunder and lightning storm, reminding us how quickly the weather there can change, just like the calm and storm of life. The physical and metaphorical layers of the Holy Land means that there is a constant reappraising of one’s own perspective. Jerome called the land the fifth gospel, and like a biblical text, what one takes from a visit here depends a lot on what one brings to it.
The Dead Sea, taken from the top of the fortress of Masada, stretches in a barren terrain. They have a saying here that one should be like Lake Galilee, giving of one’s self (as the lake’s water flows into the Jordan River), unlike the Dead Sea which only receives water and is therefore lifeless. The Israeli and Jordanian governments have ambitious plans to drain the Dead Sea for all its minerals, and then refill it with desalinated water from the Red Sea, to be brought by giant water pipes from the south, in a massive civil engineering project that would transform the desert into a fertile region. One wonders how they might turn out…. it will certainly make the old adage redundant!
The view of the Old City from dominus flevit never tires…. from this angle the barbed wire hints at the conflict that continues to shape the lives of those who live in and near this place. Tears flow easily at this sight, but I am sure that our resolution should not be simply to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but also to work for real peace in our own communities, and to press our own governments to follow policies that would bring proper justice and dignity to the peoples of this land. Having said that, just as the cross lies at the heart of our salvation, so the injustice one observes here seems an almost permanent feature of the landscape. Our guide Bishara Smeir commented to me, We walk the Via Dolorosa two hundred times a day.
I would like to invite you to join me and The Reverend Gary Birchall on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2018.
You can find a Brochure here: HOLY LAND BROCHURE 2018
Like many Christians before us, we’ve found that pilgrimage has nourished and stimulated our faith in a unique way. We will be going to places you have read and heard about in the Bible. Starting besides the waters of the Sea of Galilee we will visit sites such as Nazareth and Capernaum, others where you will discover intriguing connections with Jesus and faith. Then we will journey south through the hills of Samaria, down to the Jordan valley passing places where John the Baptist worked, visiting Jericho before ascending up through the hills of the Judean desert and over the crest of the hill to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and where we will spend two nights. We then proceed to Jerusalem and stay within the mediaeval city walls, within walking distance of key places and we will explore the Jerusalem sites of Jesus life and death and resurrection. Inevitably, the hills and landscape are little changed, but the modern towns and cities, and the huge challenges of the contemporary political and religious debates will also be there in front of our eyes. We will learn more of the history of the last hundred years as well, which also has huge impact for many making this pilgrimage. We hope to hear from people committed to work for peace in the present “realities”. We are delighted to say that we will be travelling with Lightline Pilgrimages, a Christian travel company who work exclusively with Christian pilgrim houses, restaurants, and tour guides, and which is the “official and preferred” pilgrimage operator for the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem. This isn’t the cheapest option, but we believe it’s the most ethical way to travel: not only does it support our Christian brothers and sisters in a very practical way, but also through its partner on the ground, Lightline can open doors to the different communities we will encounter.
To find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and see below for some images… do join us!
Vicar of St Francis High Heaton