Walking in Jerusalem

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world. On the top of the holy mountain that is Jerusalem three Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam have coexisted uncomfortably since the fifth century. Evidence abounds in this historic city of the diverse ways people of faith have sought to approach God. Not surprisingly, on the site of major events of the Bible and Koran churches and mosques have been built as shines. Places like the Temple Mount sport Jewish, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim structures. The evidence of classical Western religion is everywhere in this high place. Walking the streets of Jerusalem, one is constantly reminded of the power and abiding presence of God. That said, it seems impossible that anyone visiting Jerusalem could come away unmoved in their faith.  The pilgrimage was a high water mark in my faith journey and has left me forever positively changed.

On the last night of the pilgrimage, the host of our group asked each of the thirty pastors in my tour cohort to describe a holy moment in their walking journey across Israel. "What moment in this pilgrimage stands out as the most impactful experience of this trip?" he asked.  Pastors around the room shared intimate moments and spectacular moments they enjoyed. When it was my turn my mind was awash with flashbacks of incredible sites, sounds, flavors and aromas of Israel. My heart remembered cherished conversations with newly formed friendships with those on the journey with me. My legs, feet and back reminded me of the hills and valleys I had traversed and the shortened nights of sleep I had survived. My tightening belt reminded me of the delicious mediterranean cuisine I had devoured. Yet, amidst the plethora of prompts I was receiving from my mind, body and heart, my mouth professed an answer to the question from somewhere deep in my soul. "Praying in the garden of Gethsemene was the most  life-changing moment for me." I said. "Knowing that I was praying where Jesus prayed on his way to the cross. That was it for me.  Jesus' prayer of 'not my will but thy will be done.' That prayer reverberated through me at Gethsemene."

Frankly, I was surprised that the Gethsemne visit affected me that much. During my pilgrimage I had renewed my baptismal vows by water immersion in the Jordan river, I had touched the place in Bethlehem proported to be where Jesus' manger stood, I had touched a stone from Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, I had knelt at the marble slab where Jesus' was laid in the tomb of the resurrection, I had prayed at the Wailing Wall of Herod's Temple, I had stood where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, I had riden a boat on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus' public ministry occurred, I had floated in the Dead Sea, I had gazed upon the Aleppo Codex, the oldest and most complete version of the Hebrew testament ever found. Each of these experiences were superlative spiritual experiences.  However, the feeling of Gethsemene and the Jesus prayer of the garden held me, immersing me with a heart of faith.  This was the faith that inspired people of diverse cultures and time periods to embrace Jerusalem as home, ther place of the abiding presence of God.

I shall ever be grateful for the opportunity to travel to Israel and encourage all people of faith to make a pilgrimage there at least once in their lifetime.  Returning home, I know I'm not the same person who departed for Israel. The resonance of Gethsemene and everything I encountered in Israel will forever remain in my heart, mind, body and soul. That I may live and the people I serve may live Jesus' Gethsemene prayer daily until Christ returns will from this day forward be my prayer. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Amen. 

1 Comment

Heather Lussier - March 28th, 2023 at 2:57pm

I really enjoyed your recount of this moment from your trip. Thank you for posting. That is an incredibly hard prayer "Thy will (and not my will) be done." When we pray, we get tripped up on asking for what we will to be, instead of asking for our desires to be aligned with His.