From February 5-16, I had the opportunity to go to Israel and hear and see and touch the places Jesus walked and where many of the Biblical scenes were played out in real life.
If God is just a distant Spirit in the sky, far removed from the mud and guts of ordinary human existence on this spinning ball of stardust; and if the message and goal of our faith is to rescue immaterial souls from these shabby mortal shells and float off to a disembodied Heaven for all eternity, then I do not see any great importance in embarking on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Why spend thousands of dollars, endure long and uncomfortable flights, and wander through busy streets fighting off local vendors just to see old stone walls and stand on ancient marble floors? History Channel specials at Easter and Christmas can give you that without leaving the house.
On the other hand, if we are people who follow a God we believe took on human flesh and came to dwell among us for 33 short years in a small little corner of the world as a Middle Eastern Jew, then we have every reason to go see, touch, hear and smell the places where it all happened. In our rapidly changing Virtual Reality age, we are in dire need of remembering we worship and follow a Scratch ’n Sniff God. In an era where many Christians worship by passively staring at a jumbo screen, we need to get back to seeking and engaging God-Reality with all our senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. Yes, my Baptist friends, smells and bells and an occasional pilgrimage thrown in, too!
In the series of Holy Land reflections to follow, I want to entering into and echo the words of the Apostle John who, having walked where Jesus walked, tasted the bread and wine that Jesus provided them, smelled the odors of sweaty fishermen and the fresh scent of the Galilean flowers together, and heard the sound of iron nails piercing his master’s wrists, and saw Him alive again after three days—all of this John so desperately wants others to participate in with all their senses:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have HEARD, which we have SEEN with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have TOUCHED—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us… We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-3).
John wrote his little pamphlet we call 1 John because his joy was apparently somehow incomplete until he let others into his scratch-and-sniff, full-bodied, all senses engaged experience of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
Like John, I hope by sharing some of my experience with you, the joy of my pilgrimage will be made more complete. I did feel like I was carrying many friends and family and my church community with me, and I was privileged with a trip many others will never take — though I hope they will seriously consider it.
So, make my joy complete by reading up on some of my reflections in the coming days.