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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pieces of Peace

I wrote this a couple of months ago for In His Steps: Pathways of Peace, and decided to republish here with my photos.  It is a reflection from my time in the Holy Land.   It still rings true for me today:

On one of our days of Pilgrimage, while our home base was in Jericho, we went to one of the two alleged baptismal sites on the Jordan River.  My friend and pastor, Debbie, did a ritual of baptism renewal with the members of our group who chose to do so.    I acknowledge that there is a part of me that is the rebel that shies away from those traditional, and “everyone is doing it”, sort of experiences.  It was hot and dry that day.  I sat in the “stands” for a while and prayed and witnessed others being marked with water and oil, then I took my camera and went off by myself to pray and to watch and listen to other groups that were worshiping and preparing to come to the water’s edge.  There was a large African group and another group of Eastern European origins.  But one of the gathering places was empty, sans a group of white doves.  I was intrigued by the doves.  First, I wondered if they were native or imported since the whole “the Spirit came, descending like a dove” seemed a bit too coincidental (upon later research, these birds are definitely not native to the area). Secondly, doves as a symbol of peace caused my thoughts to turn to the irony of their presence.  At the viewing site, there is a rope that divides the river in two, and just mere feet away, on the other side, are people coming from the Jordanian side to also be baptized or to touch the same water. But if one were to swim across or breach that rope from one side to the other, there would be guards or soldiers at the ready to remedy the encroachment.  Not such a peaceful image.

The doves in the outdoor chapel setting were playful and oblivious. The image of purity and naivety. This cognitive dissonance exists all over the Holy Land. It seems that everywhere one goes in this land called holy, there are multiple layers of meaning upon the religious sites and holy places. In fact, there are layers upon layers of walls built on top of walls, churches over the top of ruins, and monuments and museums of one people’s on top of a village that belonged to another tribe or nation. Even as I sit here in my quiet office on the coastal town of North Bend, Oregon, I have a heavy feeling in my heart and my stomach over my experiences. My conscience will not allow my heart to simply soar with the ideas of walking where Jesus walked or being in places that may have been where Jesus lived, taught, died or appeared in resurrected form. For in all of those places, people hurt, injustice is done, economies plummet, health is waning, and hope is elusive. But as soon as I go there, I know people who work for justice, seek power for the oppressed, walk alongside to comfort the hurt and the sick. I also know a God who sent an angel messenger to say “Nothing is impossible with God.” All is not well, but as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

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