07 October 2007

Sunday in Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock, with the upper part of the Wailing Wall in the foreground
For more photos, click here

This morning we headed into Jerusalem for church services at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in the Old City. We wound through mazes of narrow streets filled with vendors selling everything from nail clippers to leather sandals to beautiful glass ware, and finally ended up at the church, only a few minutes late :) Today was World Communion Sunday, and I felt particularly connected to all people of faith as I participated in the Eucharist.

After the service, a few of us continued wandering around Jerusalem and found many remarkable things-- the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where artifacts and symbols of Jesus' crucifixion are enshrined amid ornate chandeliers, epic paintings and glittering baubles. I couldn't help but wonder what Jesus the man would have thought of this place, so institutionalized and gaudy. Visitors demonstrated remarkable devotion and fervor, but I just couldn't get into the spirit of it all. Somehow I think Jesus wants to meet us in the midst of the mess of real life, not in a lovely, but dead, building.

We also made our way through the Jewish quarter, and saw old columns, excavated from the ancient Roman city of Jerusalem. I just can't get over how OLD this place is!

Then we arrived at the Wailing Wall. After clearing the military checkpoint with metal detectors and scanners, we could pass through to the wall itself. In the distance, the gleaming roof of the Dome of the Rock rose out of the surrounding city-- a holy site for Muslims; where the prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven. I walked up to the section of Wailing Wall partitioned off for women and noticed all the notes. Little pieces of paper, covered in prayers and petitions, jutted out from every crack in the wall. If you've ever read The Secret Life of Bees, you might remember one of the sisters creating her own Wailing Wall of sorts, out in the woods in an old stone fencerow where she could write her worries on bits of paper, stuff them into the wall, and be released from their weight. I thought of her as I stood facing the wall, and decided to write a prayer of my own.

Why, O God, must your children fight so viciously among themselves? Are we not all the children of Abraham, your children, sisters and brothers to one another? Our greed and determination to possess, rather than share this sacred ground we all revere, is tearing us apart. Our greed and determination to possess, rather than to share you as one God of all, is corrupting our souls. Give us the courage to look each one in the eye, and grace to see their well-being intimately linked with our own. Give us strength to stand against injustice, for when one of us is oppressed, none of us is truly free. Forgive us, O God, and heal this land...


Marlies said...

Touching post, Sarah. Your experience reminds me much of how I felt when I visited Jerusalem in 2000. Though by then, we didn't have to go trough metal detectors to reach the wailing wall. What hasn't changed I guess, are the tourist masses which come to my mind the minute I think of all the ancient places we visited. I felt like you: I couldn't reach that point of devotion and reference that everyone else seemed to have reached. I believe the time I felt closest to Jesus during my visit in Israel was when I was the furthest away from all the artifacts and crowds - simply sitting underneath a no-name olive tree with dusty feet and feeling hot under the sun.

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