Today was a special last day of getting to explore Jesus’ early life and ministry (before his move to Jerusalem). We had the privilege of seeing an Arabic mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Mary learned some life-changing (truly, world-changing) news about Who was going to be brought forth from her womb.
Then we got to enter and admire multiple churches along the coast of the Sea of Galilee where important moments from the Gospels happened, including the Church of the Beatitudes. Blessed be… my eyes and heart by the Sea of Galilee, y’all. Though the wind was too high for a boat ride (how delightfully and heartbreakingly ironic), these were the waters that my Lord hung out at, calmed with only words, and prayed near.
In the middle of our day, my group of 3 got to lead worship for our whole class (and our guide) for the first time. It was the first time that I’ve ever done anything like that, and though I was nervous about the responsibility when I first learned that we would all lead worship multiple times during the trip, I LOVED it. It came far more naturally than I could have dreamed of, and it whetted my appetite for what’s to come in my field education placements (this summer in a central NJ hospital [it’s official!!!], a future academic year in a church, and maybe, just maybe, a prison one of these summers, too… We will see what God does with me!). We sang a bit and meditated on this passage, which seems all too relevant for the Land:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:38-48 (NRSV)
It felt even more important after we learned that there had been a terrorist attack against Israeli soldiers back in Jerusalem. A Palestinian driving a truck rammed into them as they were getting off a bus, injuring nearly 20 and killing 4. It was heartbreaking to hear about and see the polarizing language that both sides immediately put to use. Israeli officials said it was an attack on Jews (though there are non-Jews in the IDF), and terrorist groups that make up a small percentage of Palestine went to Twitter to celebrate the heroism of their newest martyr. Why? It’s tragic enough that something so terrible happened, let alone to have it become part of decades-long narratives of both sides “othering” the other.
I tried to focus on the beauty around us.
One of my favorite parts of this trip has to been to get to see, experience, celebrate, and cry out to God in new ways. When we got back to Jerusalem from our weekend of adventuring and walking on some of the many paths of Jesus, a few of my classmates and I went to a local, monthly Taizé prayer night at Ratisbonne Salesian Monastery. I’m glad that Princeton Theological Seminary has a speech class because the monastic students asked for a volunteer to read. I said yes, assuming that it would be a little something to say from where I was sitting in the pew, but instead, it was the central scripture of the night up in front of the dimly lit congregation! In a group of many people whose first language is not likely to be English, even though they speak it brilliantly!
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
Isaiah 60:1-6 (NRSV)
These words have particular meaning for me because of a biblical tattoo that I have on my right hip: Arise. And, beautifully enough, I had gotten to see the miracle of Mark 5:35-42 depicted on the walls of a church earlier in the day. Life is made up of these little moments, I think.
Anyway, to finish up with Taizé: They’re beautiful, simple songs that can be repeated as many times as a congregation feels the Spirit leads them to. We got to sing many of these. They’re prayers in the form of music. There’s something for everyone in the body of Christ with their distinct preferences, and this is one of mine. My entire body felt filled. May there be many moments like this in everyone’s upcoming days, knowing that nada te turbe.