We celebrated a baptism a couple weeks back at Maple Avenue, and whenever I baptize someone I always add a few drops of water to the baptismal water taken from the River Jordan—the place where Jesus himself was baptized. My parents visited there some years back and brought me a large plastic bottle full of water and while my Jordan River supply is starting to run low, I have enough for quite a few more baptisms if needed!
There is something special and sacred about the Holy Land. New pastors in our conference are strongly encouraged to visit there with the Bishop, and many of my friends and colleagues have gone and returned to talk about how meaningful their visit was. I believe it can be a good experience, and if you have the chance to go why not do it?
In his book Passion for Pilgrimage: Notes for the Journey Home, the author Alan Jones tells of the abbot of the Coptic Monastery of St. Macarius in the Egyptian desert. The abbot, who lived with the other monks in desert caves, was asked if he intended to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The abbot replied that he had no need to go there.
“Jerusalem, the Holy, is right here, in and around these caves; for what else is my cave but the place where my savior Christ was born; what else is my cave but the place where he most gloriously rose again from the dead. Jerusalem is here, right here; and all the spiritual riches of the holy city are found in this wadi.”
Jones adds that another monk said “The monk’s cell is the furnace of Babylon, in which the three children found the Son of God; it is the pillar of cloud from which God spoke to Moses.”
These monks had discovered something marvelous: the Holy Land is wherever you happen to be, if you only have the faith to see it. We don’t have to travel great distances to experience the reality of the stories told in the Bible. We can experience them in our lives here and now, whoever we are and wherever we happen to be.
An old man who loved the Bible was growing weak, and sensing that his end was near told his family that his dream was to die and be buried in the Holy Land, like so many of his heroes. So the family flew him to Jerusalem, got him a room, and then joined him to await his death. But in these new surroundings, he grew stronger, and eventually began to flourish! So he called his family to his side and insisted that they must immediately fly him back to the states.
“But why?” they asked him. “You said you always wanted to die in the Holy Land and be buried there.”
“Dying in the Holy Land fine,” said the man, “but who wants to live there?”
In reality, we all live and die in the Holy Land, regardless of the name of our city or town. It’s a matter of perspective and awareness.
This Thanksgiving let’s open our eyes to the presence of Jesus Christ all around us, here in Terre Haute, and wherever we may be. This is our Holy Land. This is where God Kingdom is breaking in. And we don’t have to travel any farther than our front door to be can be part of it.
Your fellow pilgrim;