Israel Travel Blog Final Thoughts: An Amazing Journey

I’m sitting in the Newark Liberty International Airport. It’s been a long day. Our plane arrived at 4:30 a.m., and a friend and I don’t leave again until 2:30 p.m. We have walked around the entire airport and now we wait for our flight to be called.

As I sit here, I am struck with how easy it would be to offer a quick reflection that attempts to tie together all we saw and experienced during our adventure to the Holy Land. I could talk about seeing the tomb, the crucifixion site, riding on the Sea of Galilee, teaching by the Mediterranean Sea, and so much more. I’m sure the thoughts I would convey would describe the sense of wonder and amazement that I and many others were left with throughout our journey.

Yet, something doesn’t sit well with me in rushing towards trying to put it all into perspective. It just doesn’t seem to be the right time. Sure that time will come and it is needed to understand what I saw and how it reflects to my ministry, my faith, moving forward. I’m struck, though, with a sense to just wait on that.

I need time.

Time to rest to recover from an exhausting and grueling trek around the Holy Land. Time to recover, as well, from a potential injury while walking around the limestone walk ways that were filled with more dimples and bumps than a Nike golf ball.

I need time to look at the pictures and remember where I was and how I felt in those moments. I need time to smile once again at the realization that, yes, I was actually there.

I need time to simply pray. Pray that God will reveal more about what this experience means for me. Pray that God will use this trip to be a blessing to others. Pray that this will not be the last time that I walk those streets.

It’s easy to rush to finish a journey and move on to the next, but today I’m recognizing the need to slow down and sit at the garden some more. So, just as we did yesterday as we walked around the garden where Jesus likely rose from the grave that first Easter morning pondering the significance of that moment, the journey, and our lives, I find myself wanting to remain in the garden this day.

I’ll walk out of the garden in time, but today and perhaps for some days to come I just want to sit and ponder.

I hope you’ll understand.

Note: If you are in the Lawrenceburg, KY area, Claylick UMC will host a discussion session on Sunday, February 19, at 4 p.m., to talk about the trip, and to answer your questions about the Holy Land.

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Sunday Sermon: Run the Race

Today’s sermon will be a little different than normal. This morning, I want to specifically speak to our five youth who were confirmed today. In doing so, I hope I might say something that will impact each of our lives, and that includes my own.

This is a momentous day in each of your lives and in the ministry and life of this congregation. What each of you have done is to make several public proclamations. By your presence, you have proclaimed your thanks for those who have walked with you through the years and have taught you about faith, about Jesus, and about what it means to follow the Lord. You have proclaimed your desire to live for Christ with your every word and breath. Finally, you have proclaimed your intent to be a witness of Jesus Christ through your example and actions in this world.

It is a huge responsibility and blessing you have committed yourselves to today. It is not something to be taken lightly. For as all of us can attest, living for Christ and seeking to be his witness every day are some of the hardest things we will ever attempt to do. That is why stories like the rich young ruler, who wanted as little of Jesus as he could without the Lord wrecking his life, speak to us. We want to proclaim our faith in Christ without the life Jesus desires for us ever messing with the life we want. Continue reading

The Journey to Golgotha

It is almost ironic.

Here we are on this day where the imagery, symbolism, and tradition takes us to the city gates of Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. It is the day we remember Jesus’ arrival at the start of that fateful Passover week proceeding his betrayal, death, and resurrection. Yet, our passage takes us beyond the gates and to the courtyard of Pilate’s headquarters. On this day when we want to join the crowds in their exaltation and shouting of “Hosanna!,” we find ourselves in the midst of Jesus’ pain and anguish.

It is ironic, however it is also appropriate. As we have seen throughout our current sermon series, Holy Week is about more than palms and celebrations. It is about finding ourselves in the midst of Jesus’ journey and experiencing the stories in a way that opens our eyes to the depths of God’s love and our need of Christ in our lives. Our tendency, though, is to stay among the crowd and shout “Hosanna!,” and rush through the pain of the week and what it teaches.

The reason is that we want this day of Palm Sunday to be both the beginning and ending to the story of Jesus’ narrative in Jerusalem. We want to stay in this place where Jesus is heralded as the beloved Messiah. Doing so gives us the “Hollywood” story and ending that we desperately desire. Where everything is neat, tidy, and comfortable. Yet, life is never a “Hollywood” story and neither is the journey Jesus has been on throughout his ministry. Continue reading

We Cannot Stay on the Mountaintop

It was a big moment.

After some time spent together and witnessing amazing acts of healing and teaching, Jesus’ disciples are having an important conversation with Jesus. This wasn’t the usual conversation. Jesus asks his disciples a very direct and personal question: “Who do you say that I am?”

The question came after Jesus asked them about what the people saw in him. It was Peter who would speak for the entire group, as was the case many times in their three-year journey with Jesus. He announced that Jesus is, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah. The One who would redeem the people and establish God’s kingdom.

This was a big moment for the disciples and Peter. It signified that they were beginning to understand Jesus’ identity and the work he came to do, even if they didn’t understand fully what this meant. Jesus celebrates Peter’s affirmation by saying he would build his church upon his confession. He also takes the opportunity to further explain what his Lordship meant. Jesus said he must go to Jerusalem, be rejected, crucified, and raised to life three days later. Peter refused to hear this, which led to Jesus’ rebuke of Peter standing in the way of Jesus’ movement towards the cross.

Fast forward now six days later. That conversation and moment may still be fresh on the disciples’ minds as they approach Mount Tabor. This is the traditional setting for what Matthew describes for us in Matthew 17:1-9. What takes place is a high moment in Jesus’ ministry, and one that would leave his disciples amazed. Continue reading