Innocence, a Broad No
Mark Twain was disillusioned, bored and often disappointed by what he saw in the Holy Land. His book about being here, Innocents Abroad, was published in 1869. His preconceived notions about the size and scale of Biblical cities and the landscape here were greatly exaggerated by his Sunday School education. He presumed that Lake Galilee was 100 times larger in size and that the ancient kingdoms were great masses like American states. He was disappointed to learn that such kingdoms often resided primarily on small hills.
While overwhelmed at times by the weight and layers of history confronting me, I feel better prepared for the context than Sam Clemens when it comes taking in the scale, geography and archeological layers in the Holy Land. But I still have my own preconceptions and I’m praying my way through them.
On one level I long for a sense of the holiness of the first century when Jesus was here. I long to see and grasp those pieces. This takes so much primacy for me that I have often missed the significance of the other centuries being displayed before me. I almost hear myself saying, “so it’s only 1,500 years old, that’s not really that important, is it?”
I’m working hard against this notion so as to make space for every century that greets me here.
On another level, I am realizing that this trip is more, so much more, than any notions I had about needing to meet the past centuries. There’s life here and now to welcome me. I am learning to let the land and people of the Holy Land of February, 2013 speak to me. The Valley of Elah where David felled Goliath sits along a common road with some minor farmland. Had I been stuck listening to the past I would have missed the hard working people tending to their field labor before me. I was able to get my head out of the past enough to see that the archeological sites serve as important national parks to the people of Israel today. I take my kids to American parks and museums to learn history. Families and schools here do the same. I had it easy with only 200 years of national or state history.
We arrived in Jerusalem tonight, had a traditional toast to bless the wine and give thanks to God.
Tomorrow we go to the Kidron Valley, the Old City, the Wall, the Holy Sepulcher and, yes, to church. Bishop Ed is preaching at St George’s Anglican church. I’ve been told I’ve seen nothing yet, so I’m breathing deeply for what’s next. I know I will see more old centuries before me. I know I will also have the palpable present before me. I pray for openness and to be present for what tomorrow brings.
Images from today:
The lift at Masada
Down the cistern at Ber Sheba
The Valley of Elah