|The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount|
This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain." - Zechariah 8:3
Our group arrived in Jerusalem at just the right time. We followed Moses from Egypt, through Sinai and to the Promised Land; then we walked with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. The thrust of the biblical narrative brings everything to a head in Jerusalem.
After Jerusalem, the New Testament suggests, the rest of the story is pretty much up to us. But we have to be willing to go to Jerusalem first. It was imperative for Jesus; it was pivotal for us.
We were tired, no surprise. So Rebekah and I were beyond grateful that our room for the next three nights turned out to be a significant upgrade. We got off the elevator, rolled our luggage to the appropriate room number, and then were a little confused to find the words "The Brown Suite" by the elegant entrance.
Rebekah went in first. This is our actual dialogue:
- Rebekah: "Derek... I think there's been a mix-up."
- Me: "Is there something wrong with our room?"
- Rebekah: "The opposite. Come take a look. They gave us a suite by mistake!"
So I followed her in and checked the place out. Sure enough, we had a luxurious suite with a sitting room, an office area and a palatial bath. There was a box of chocolates on the desk and a presentation gift basket of "Dead Sea Minerals" products.
- Rebekah: "What if someone finds out they goofed and they kick us out? We have to keep this quiet."
- Me: "Quick, let's eat the chocolates!"
The next day a beautiful arrangement of flowers showed up. Later, when I tried to pay for Internet access I was rebuffed with, "Room 542? Let me see... No charge at all, sir." Talk about a serendipity. All I've got to say is - along with the business class ride on Egypt Air - it's a good thing Rebekah and I don't buy into the whole slippery slope of "God's favor" theology. This would have pretty much launched us over the edge!
WESTERN WALL: Just one "Old City" story for today. Tomorrow we'll visit Bethlehem and talk about Palestine.
Some of you may remember my trip to Assisi in November. It's one of those "Thin Places" (Check out "A Thin Place Named Assisi"). I lit a candle in Assisi for my brother, Geoff, and brought back a carving of St. Francis for him. Well, as I walked down to the "Wailing Wall" I thought about the gravitas the place holds as a place of prayer, and my brother came to mind.
The Western Wall is an especially holy place for the Jewish community because it's a part of the structure - stone upon stone - from the Temple before Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. This is as close to the ancient "Holy of Holies" as 21st Century Judaism can come.
Holy, Holy, Holy: So I approached the Western Wall with reverence, and I did the following three things:
- I wrote a simple prayer on behalf of my brother, rolled it up, and located it carefully in the wall.
- I borrowed a yamaka - יאַרמלקע - and prayed for Geoff with my hand on the wall, over the prayer.
- I placed my own hat over the yamaka and "borrowed" the yamaka permanently, so that I could give it to my brother along with the story.
Just like Assisi, this was a powerful moment. There is something special about these direct, physical connections to the eternal. Like the woman in the crowd who touched the hem of the garment Jesus was wearing, I too have been connected to grace.
It is the story of faith; it is the story of hope; it is the Greatest Story Ever Told.
Peace... Promise... and healing - DEREK
PS: You can visit my facebook page (friend me) to see a set of photographs to go with this story...