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Laity Reflection: A Favorite Moment

November 1, 2018
Northern-Sun Print
The question I am most often asked about our trip to Israel is, “What was the best thing about your trip?” Wow! I was and am excited to tell all who are interested about the wonderful, life-changing trip we took to Israel in September, but to come up with one “best” or “favorite” thing about that trip is a hard task. Here’s an appropriate story that deals with that question from our trip. Our tour guide, Barbara Heil would begin each day or each excursion with some information about what we were going to see. On our first day touring in Jerusalem she told us about the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It was the church commemorating the time when Peter denied Jesus three times. She preceded her comments with an encouragement for us all, saying, “This next church is one of my favorite places, because it reminds us that the disciples were very human, like us.” The next day we were heading to the old city in Jerusalem and the Western Wall. Each of us had prepared a small piece of paper with names and prayers for all of you that are so special in our lives, which we would place in the wall. Barbara reminded us that this is where so many Christians had been before us and will continue to pray after we are home again. She continued, “This is really one of my favorite places.” You can see a pattern here, can’t you. Even after leading 44 groups to Israel to experience and visualize a small part of what it must have been like when Jesus lived there, even Barbara hasn’t narrowed her favorites down. It was a hard task for me as well. Under the broad far-reaching, life-changing experience of seeing where Jesus was born, lived, ministered, died and left the empty tomb of resurrection, I have two very meaningful moments I have chosen. The first was introduced with the scripture from Matthew 26:36-39 about his time in Gethsemane: 36  Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Our group was blessed to spend a time of worship and solitude in a small area of the Garden of Gethsemane. In remembering this place of Jesus’ agony of reality and acceptance of purpose, we were invited to meet God individually and uniquely. We could lay before him our deepest cares and listen for his invitation of grace to lay our burdens at his feet. We could ask for wisdom and guidance in accepting the path he has prepared for each of us. It was one place Christ was so extraordinarily real. The second place of feeling the power of Jesus among us was at the place of the Garden Tomb. It is kept and preserved by an ecumenical group for Christians today to feel present near the place of Jesus’ death and celebrate the empty tomb of his resurrection. We listened to the John 19 scripture describing the place in verses 16-18 saying: 16  “so he (Pilate) delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17  and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” After hearing the guide explain the history of the area and viewing the cliff with a natural image of a skull, we were led to view a tomb, which would have been the type where Joseph of Arimathea would have taken Jesus body and Nicodemus would have ministered the myrrh and aloes according to the burial custom of the Jews. Yes, it was interesting; yes, it impressed on us what it would have been like, but just as thousands of Christians before us what we really celebrated was that the tomb was empty!!! John 20:1-2, 6 & 8 reminds us, “1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the bomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’ 6’Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. . . . 8Finally, the other disciple, . . . also went inside. He saw and believed.’ Whether we have known about Jesus from a very small child or learned of his saving grace more recently, viewing the empty tomb makes that miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, his saving grace for you and for me, come alive. As we gathered together to celebrate communion, the feeling of Jesus’ presence among us and our connection with him as his brothers and sisters was also a miracle I will never forget. Even though we are not all able to experience the soil of Jerusalem under our feet, the continuing miracle of Jesus is that he is just as available to us every day. He is a breath of a prayer away; he connects with us just as much as we share communion in our churches here. May the presence of Christ in your life ever grow as you ask God to carry your burdens and reveal the plan he has prepared ahead of time for your life.

In the grace, Spirit and love of Christ, Carolyn Moe



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