by Joanna Gragg
While in the Holy Land, we heard about the living stones, the stories of real people and their struggles from all three major religions. Hearing from a Palestinian, an Orthodox Jew, and a Christian Archbishop made all the places we visited come to life in a way that photographs cannot portray. Each one of the speakers talked about peace and unity. Some have full rights of citizenship and some do not, but all want to find a way to live together in peace. My view of what is on the news about Israeli/Palestinian relations has changed a lot.
We visited Magdala, where we saw the Magdala stone. It could have been the stone where Jesus laid out the scroll from Isaiah in the synagogue. We were beside the Sea of Galilee, at a synagogue that was recently uncovered (in the last few years!), where the people who worshipped there had probably seen and heard from Jesus. I was humbled and amazed to be standing in such an old yet recently discovered place. I heard Jesus’ mission statement there, at the site at Magdala. I came home and heard the same gospel a week later. It isn’t that I understand how to be a Christ-follower better after visiting Israel, but I feel a deeper connection to the land that Jesus walked. God is present in our lives, both here and wherever we visit. Visiting Israel was not just a walking tour of icons (although I loved that part!) but it was a visual and tactile aid to help my small human brain realize more fully what God did through Jesus incarnate. The Israel trip was a reawakening of a child-like wonder for me. I am refreshed to look with new eyes at faith and culture.
Originally printed in the May-June 2016 edition of the South Carolina Lutheran. Subscribe today for only $10 for six issues a year by calling the office at 803-765-0590.