Last time I visited Jerusalem, it was Easter Sunday. This time, Pentecost Sunday! Only three times per year does are prayer services held in the Upper Room, the traditionally held spot of both the Last Supper and the falling of the tongues of fire (Acts 2). One of those times was today—where better to “go to church” on Pentecost Sunday?!
The service we attended was a Catholic service, mostly in Latin but very multilingual and well-ordered for participation. It was preceded by an Armenian service, which was preceded by an Orthodox service—all in the same small room. Hey, you’ve got to share the holy sites! This building is on Mount Zion, just outside the southwest corner of Jerusalem’s Old City. The area is also where one finds King David’s tomb (though hotly debated), two churches, a monastery, the grace of Oskar Schindler (yes, THE Schindler), and Jerusalem University College, the school where one of our excellent lecturers, Paul Wright, hails from.
I actually quite enjoyed the service, despite the facts that much was in other languages, and that the whole thing was “only standing room”. I didn’t get those words mixed up—there were NO seats. I didn’t witness tongues of fire, and I didn’t sense any internal Pentecost despite my quiet prayers for the Spirit to increasingly move in my life and the lives of those I know.
I confess to struggling with the Holy Spirit, with the concept and its reality in my daily moments. I also confess to hating that feeling. Finally, I confess also to debating with myself at times whether I unintentionally block the Spirit’s flow into my life somehow , whether He’s doing exactly what He means to do, just at a lower key than my impatient self would like, or whether I need to just stop worrying, instead remaining humble and open and attentive. Today didn’t grant any profound clarity. What good is a holy site if it doesn’t magically “cure all”?!
Pentecost Sunday aside, this weekend was a bit of down time before the final push. A week from tomorrow, I’ll be back in Regina! Wow! Our final three days at Tantur are pretty full (tomorrow we have breakfast at 4:45 AM!) schedules, and then we spend four packed days in Galilee. A week will pass before I know it.
Saturday involved a fantastic lecture on Biblical Geography by the same Paul Wright I mentioned above. If you’re ever looking for a good Bible atlas, look him up. He’s contributed to numerous versions. This lecture was part two of Biblical Geography, and he did an excellent job at walking us through some “big picture” history of Empires in this region and how geography played some major roles in those developments over time. He also looked at “the land of milk and honey”. What did that phrase mean, especially to a people coming out of plentiful Egypt? And he looked at some great passages in Deuteronomy where Moses tells the people about the Promised Land and how it is different from what they knew in Egypt. Some of the strands he was able to flesh out of those texts were really quite fascinating and powerful. And you can’t always say that about geography!
The afternoon was marked by some Bethlehem exploring, with a supper that evening also in Bethlehem. We were hosted by an Armenian family, who told us their story (through translation). It’s a story of dreams smashed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of the security barrier right in front of their business, and of military bullying and intimidation. It’s a story of injustice that would break many people in two.
I listened. I tried to think, but my mind didn’t know how to proceed. So I just listened. Maybe I’ll have a thought or two down the road.
Finally, tonight ended with a time of singing and visiting. Some very talented people are among our group, including a wonderful pianist and a Catholic cantor (their version of a song leader). Someone else recited a very impacting Christmas tale, as our eyes looked out over Bethlehem. Some word and some laughs, and it was “wind down time” for most of us.
Tomorrow begins early—so early that I can’t even say “bright”! If our feet carry us all the way to the Mount of Temptation and back, I’ll be sure to share the story!