Journal: Tuesday 13 January 2015 15:23
We are sitting in a traffic jam on the way back from Bethlehem to the hotel. Why? Because an abandoned vehicle was blown up in case it was a security threat, and is now being removed. It perhaps sums up the extreme reaction to day-to-day life in Jerusalem. But life goes on. The last 48 hours have been a lesson in how life goes on even amongst the evil that we humans are willing to impart on one another. Yesterday we visited the holocaust remembrance museum, Yad VaShem, a experience I will never forget. A story, no a remembrance of the evil nations have imparted onto the Jewish people. Yes focussed mostly on the 20th century holocaust, but also remembering that this was and is not the only time evil has raised its head against the Jewish people. But what impacted me was that the evil was made worse, if that is possible, by the abandonment of the Jewish people by other nations. For a nation to turn away the individuals of that nation must turn away as well. I jotted down some words on the bus journey home. I’m not sure that they amount to anything other then how my heart felt as we left that place.
Cain beats Abel, you stand by.
We kill you Son, you standby.
Hitler kill the Jews, we stand by.
When will you respond?
When is enough evil done?
When will you send your Son?
I of course don’t believe God abandons anyone, but sometimes the tool he uses to intervene seems blunt, as we His people look the other way. Then today we crossed into Bethlehem, across the wall that divides this land. The irony of a nation that has been persecuted and placed in ghettos throughout its history, segregating people is not lost on me. The politics of it all are so very complex, and I’m not entirely sure I even begin to understand them, but I do wonder if individuals continue to turn away from this land and its people what might happen here and elsewhere. What I have decided is that ignorance is no excuse, and that we should be informed and be ready to take a stance. As we exited Yad VaShem Yesterday, there was a sign on the wall from Imre Bathory, a Hungarian who put his own life at risk by helping to save Jews from the concentration camps. “I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain: ‘Where were you when your brother’s blood was crying out to God?’” As I leave the Holy Land, I take away with me the same desire.
Journal: Sunday 11 January 2015 17:56
What to say of the last couple of days and our arrival in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I guess the mosh obvious feeling is one of confusion. Here in a city of religion there are many who would profess to worship a just and loving God, yet there is a clambering to hold territory to stake a claim on their particular version of God and his land. It is easy to see how those who choose to be agnostic or atheistic look on perplexed. With recent events in Paris one wonders just what we have learnt from the last few thousand years of religious conflict. Although I sit here a committed Christian, this city makes me aware that Christians are far from innocent in this history. Yet we must be aware that there are many around the world who listen to their scriptures and try and bring Gods love into this world. My bible says:
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26-27).
I have seen and heard of pure religion here in the Holy Land, and it is not amidst the pomp, and the glitter. I have seen pure religion or pure love enacted by many people. Here in Israel we visited a children’s home, supported by the operator of this tour. Love is enacted in that place on a daily bases. Today we worshiped with other Anglicans at St George’s, and heard of love that is enacted ever day both here in Jerusalem and also in Gaza. Sick are healed in hospitals supported by those of that Church, and people are fed. Boys are raised and given a chance to be the men God would have them be, supported by travellers. Perhaps that is pure religion, perhaps that is pure love. Perhaps that is God in the Holy Land. Perhaps that should be headline news.
Journal: Friday 09 January 2015 17:21
A day around Galilee today. I headed into the day somewhat desperate to experience Jesus in his homeland. After yesterday it was a joy to share communion with my friends on the shores of Galilee. In sharing communion it dawned upon me that of course I would meet God on this pilgrimage not in the rocks of the temples and churches but in His people. Here in this divided land of synagogues, temples, mosques and churches walk a diverse group of Christians united in the desire to meet their God. Perhaps I was looking in all the wrong places. Church of the Loaves and Fishes and, Convent of Beatitudes’ church and garden, commemorating the Sermon on the Mount. We had or fish lunch at the Beatitudes convent and then sailed around the Sea of Galilee.
Once on the Disney trail again we visited a number of places. A period of quite time on the lake brought home the second communion of the day for me. Perhaps naturally hearing the waters lapping at the boat as the owner killed the engine, brought to mind a couple of Gospel passages. Matthew 4:19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” A reminder of all our call to speak of Jesus to those who do not know him. It’s a call that we all have, but I guess for me in particular is something that I was reminded about today. Then as the doubts arose the second Matthew passage came to mind. Matthew 14:29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. As we sat there becalmed on the lake looking into the water, I could feel the faith needed by Peter to follow Jesus and get out of the boat. How often do I truly risk my life for something I feel is so important? communion with my God once more, and message received and understood. The day concluded with a bit of fun as Rona, Garry, Mark and I swam in the lake. A chance of a lifetime not to be missed even if the temperature in January is similar to that of England in January. Ok I didn’t walk on the water, but more communion with friends was had, and Jesus was experienced.
Journal: Thursday 08 January 2015 07:56
Last night I arrived in Israel with a group of curates from Portsmouth diocese. An exciting opportunity to explore the land of the Holy one. I’m not sure if I will be able to blog regularly during this trip or not, but I hope to jot down my unedited thoughts as I go to capture the raw experience as best I can. If it works, it will be for me an interesting experience. If not nothing will be lost.
Day 1 Israel pilgrimage
Thursday 08 January 2015 07:58: Leaving Tel Aviv
1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Today’s reading in the daily office spoke of love. Seems funny to be heading out into a weeks pilgrimage of the Holy Land so divided where there is such a mix of those with and without love for one another. However we start by +Christopher (+ means bishop for those who are not familiar) recounting a story of love from last nights arrival. One of my fellow curates was interviewed at length upon arrival, mostly due to his cultural background. A mother of four young children who had just arrived on the same plane as us, and was no doubt exhausted as the children had been tired and irritable approached +Christopher. This Rabi, for that is what +Christopher discovered she was, approached offering her help. In the end our friend was allowed into Israel, and had been treated with courtesy and respect, but her offer of love was a timely offer in this divided land.
Thursday 08 January 2015 17:27: Arrived at hotel on Lake of Galilee.
The trip has been re-ordered due to weather conditions impacting what we can visit. So first we head towards Galilee. Enroute visiting places around Nazareth. The Basilica of the Transfiguration with views over the plain of Armageddon, and The Nazareth Village, a recreation of 1st Century Galilee life. In the afternoon we visited St Gabriel’s the Synagogue Church and the Basilica of the Annunciation. On the whole an interesting day, but if I’m honest it felt a little like the Disney tour of The Holy Land. I wonder if it is even possible to view this land through the eyes of a first century Jew, in the twenty first century. Still there is something about travelling with a group of friends and fellow Christians in search of the Holy one. I do hope that over the next few days that moment comes.
What an amazing year this has been for us. 2014 will go down in the Cross household as a defining year, and it is a year that has possibly been best summed up in the word generosity. Generosity from those around us, and generosity from a loving God. This year I have felt only good wishes from those who have discovered that I was moving into ministry and stopping my IT work. I made some good friends at my last contract with Virgin Atlantic, and felt nothing but good wishes from them all during my time there, and as I departed on the new adventure. Friends from our old Church sent us off with generosity and love. We are blessed enough to only be twenty minutes away, so many are still in touch. Generosity from family as we turned a number of homes upside down to accommodate what we hope was the best result in the end. Close friends travelling to celebrate with us in June, as I was ordained. The generosity of an agnostic (my category not his) friend attending three formal services in two days to celebrate with me will forever be etched on my mind. Generosity from the new body of people that we walk with. The people of St. Mary Magdalen, in Sheet could not have been more welcoming and generous. Since arriving we have made some great friends and have felt the love of the people around us. Also a very generous new set of work colleagues to learn from; who seem to be willing to forgive the newbie a great deal. Yes a year full of generosity.
Let us be real, there have been some concerns and issues along the way. Moving is always hard work, not least in the middle of GCEs and A levels. Illness within the wider family, which whilst we are now less concerned about, we still don’t have all the answers to. Family adapting to new surroundings and boundaries, a curate doesn’t earn the same as an IT consultant. Most recently the loss of a friend, and the future years of friendship we eagerly anticipated. Yes there have also been a whole host of things that could put the dampers on life. However that is no different to the stuff you no doubt may have also gone through this year. Life can never be summed up, as wholly good or wholly bad, life is just a little messy that way.
I spoke the other night at our carol service, on how Jesus came into a messy world, full of conflict. Into a messy family, full of scandal. Into a messy barn full of…… Well you know what barns are full of. The point being God chose to step down into our mess and pull us up, rather then wait for us to try and climb to Him. It’s about a God that knows our mess and still brings hope. In my book that is a generous God, and that makes tomorrow worth celebrating. Happy Christmas from me and mine to you and yours.
Loads of love, Max.
P.S The money for the Christmas card you didn’t get has gone to Kids of hope http://kidsofhope.wordpress.com this year. And I hope you enjoyed my efforts above ;-)