Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Graduation of the Brothers of the Cross

The last couple of days of the pilgrimage are filled with highlights from the foot washing ceremony, to the final Eucharist atop a beautiful mountain, to the Emmaus walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. And don't forget the Stations of the Cross down the Via Dolorosa Rosa in Old Jerusalem.  I am hoping the men will come home, decompress and then share some final thoughts with me that I can post for all of you.

I have enjoyed this journey with you - hope I haven't bored you!  I learned a lot :)
Take care all as you welcome your pilgrims home with a refreshed spirit.

Here are a few pictures to leave you with:

 Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane
 Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Some final words from Father Alex:

I can hardly believe that as I write this my trip is nearly over. Tomorrow evening at 11:53 pm my flight takes off back to the United States. There are so many lessons I have learned, so many new friends I have made, and so many ways that God has touched my heart. I feel refreshed in spirit, thought I admit my legs are very tired from all the walking!

We spent the day visiting the sites that served as moments in the Jesus’ last week of life before his death on the cross. The only site we visited that was not in sync with that was our first stop, the site of Christ’s Ascension. Liturgically, the Feast of the Ascension occurs 40 days after Easter. It is always on a Thursday. On that day we as Christians celebrate that when his time on earth had ended after the resurrection that he was lifted bodily into heaven. Many people find this strange. But the key is to remember that Jesus goes to heaven body, soul, and spirit to be with God. The humanity that he has taken on is now fully redeemed. And best of all, because he has gone to be with the Father in heaven he can now be everywhere. This feast is important. The most interesting part of that site was a piece of rock which claimed to have been where Jesus had stepped. In fact you can almost see a footprint.

Monday, May 4, 2015

From Father Alex's Blog

Father Alex has first hand accounts and great pictures so check it out:

 The Samaritan Ceremony

From Father Alex: 
There's a wonderful story as to why I wasn't able to blog the other day. It's because I spent the night in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the place where Jesus Christ died on the cross, his body was prepared, was laid in the tomb, and was resurrected. Each night up to about 30 pilgrims may spend the night in the Church. It is locked at 9pm in a wonderful ceremony and then you are locked in until 5am. It was an intense time of prayer and meditation and also some holy conversation with my new friends.

That night we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to be locked in with other pilgrims. I had no idea what to expect. I had been to the church once but had not been able to see much because it was so busy. Now I would have the entire night to pray.  This lock in begins at 9pm when they kick all the pilgrims who aren't spending the night there outside. Then some of the priests walk over and begin the process of locking the door. People take pictures, a small door is opened and a ladder is brought from outside in as the bolts from outside and in are set. Then with a loud thud you are there until 5am when the process is done in reverse.

This picture can only be taken when the door is locked from the inside, so few pilgrims ever take this picture.

Praying in this church was powerful for many reasons. The first was that this place felt like holy ground. It has been around for centuries and large parts of it date back to the 4th century. But aside form age and imagery it helps to put in perspective that the events that happened in the bible actually happened someplace. We hear names like Golgotha and Calvary but can we imagine them? What if we could touch them? Being able to make that connection has increased my faith and I hope that it informs my teaching and preaching from here on out so that other people can feel it too.

I have met many people, some bible scholars, others clergy, and still others who are just skeptical that want to deny the truth of the crucifixion and resurrection. But the bible cannot be denied in its truth. History and fact are on the side of Christians who claim that the tomb was empty on that Sunday morning and that the one was crucified is now alive. Being able to say prayers in the tomb of Jesus was also powerful but even more powerful was reading the Gospel accounts and discussing them with the friends I had made on this trip.

Masada, Dead Sea Scrolls and a Swim in the Dead Sea

This is my favorite pilgrimage day!  But the guys were so tired at the end, I didn't get to hear much about it.  I think most turned in early.  If any of you have stories to share, please email them to me at and I will post them.

Masada is a fascinating slice of history.

Masada (Hebrew for fortress) is a place of gaunt and majestic beauty that has become one of the Jewish people's greatestsymbols as the place where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. Next to Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of tourists visiting Israel.

The only written source about Masada is Josephus FlaviusThe Jewish War. Born Joseph ben Matityahu into a priestly family, Flavius was a young leader at the outbreak of the Great Jewish Rebellion against Rome (66 CE) when he was appointed governor of Galilee. Calling himself Josephus Flavius, he became a Roman citizen and a successful historian.
According to Flavius, Herod the Great built the fortress of Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. Herod, an Idumean, had been made King of Judea by his Roman overlords and “furnished this fortress as a refuge for himself.” It included a casemate wall around the plateau, storehouses, large cisterns ingeniously filled with rainwater, barracks, palaces and an armory.
Some 75 years after Herod’s death, at the beginning of the Revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 66 CE, a group of Jewish rebels overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) they were joined by zealots and their families who had fled from Jerusalem. There, they held out for three years, raiding and harassing the Romans.
Then, in 73 CE, Roman governor Flavius Silva marched against Masada with the Tenth Legion, auxiliary units and thousands of Jewish prisoners-of-war. The Romans established camps at the base of Masada, laid siege to it and built a circumvallation wall. They then constructed a rampart of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress and, in the spring of 74 CE, moved a battering ram up the ramp and breached the wall of the fortress.
Once it became apparent that the Tenth Legion's battering rams and catapults would succeed in breaching Masada's walls, Elazar ben Yair - the Zealots’ leader - decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide; the alternative facing the fortress’s defenders were hardly more attractive than death.
Flavius dramatically recounts the story told him by two surviving women. The defenders – almost one thousand men, women and children – led by ben Yair, burnt down the fortress and killed each other. The Zealots cast lots to choose 10 men to kill the remainder. They then chose among themselves the one man who would kill the survivors. That last Jew then killed himself.
Elazar’s final speech clearly was a masterful oration:
"Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice ...We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom."
The story of Masada survived in the writings of Josephus but not many Jews read his works and for well over fifteen hundred years it was a more or less forgotten episode in Jewish history. Then, in the 1920's, Hebrew writer Isaac Lamdan wrote "Masada," a poetic history of the anguished Jewish fight against a world full of enemies. According to Professor David Roskies, Lamdan's poem, "later inspired the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto."
The heroic story of Masada and its dramatic end attracted many explorers to the Judean desert in attempts to locate the remains of the fortress. The site was identified in 1842, but intensive excavations took place only in the mid-1960's with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from Israel and from many foreign countries.

To many, Masada symbolizes the determination of the Jewish people to be free in its own land.
More than two thousand years have passed since the fall of the Masada fortress yet the regional climate and its remoteness have helped to preserve the remains of its extraordinary story.
Read more at:

Next stop: QUMRAN
This is the side where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered - in a cave.
The most well-known texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient religious writings found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. Discoveries from additional sites yielded mostly documents and letters, especially papyri that had been hidden in caves by refugees from wars. While some of these writings survived as nearly intact scrolls, most of the archive consists of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments.
The Qumran Caves Scrolls contain significant religious literature. They consist of two types: “biblical” manuscripts—books found in today’s Hebrew Bible, and “non-biblical” manuscripts—other religious writings circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. Of this second category, some are considered “sectarian” in nature, since they appear to describe the religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community.
The entrance of Qumran Cave 11.
The entrance of Qumran Cave 11Photo courtesy of:Alexander Schick
Scroll dates range from the third century bce (mid–Second Temple period) to the first century of the Common Era, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce. While Hebrew is the most frequently used language in the Scrolls, about 15% were written in Aramaic and several in Greek. The Scrolls’ materials are made up mainly of parchment, although some are papyrus, and the text of one Scroll is engraved on copper.
About 230 manuscripts are referred to as “biblical Scrolls”. These are copies of works that are now part of the Hebrew Bible. They already held a special status in the Second Temple period, and were considered to be vessels of divine communication. Evidence suggests that the Scrolls' contemporary communities did not have a unified conception of an authoritative collection of scriptural works. The idea of a closed biblical “canon” only emerged later in the history of these sacred writings.
TPAM 43.784 11Q5 Psalmsa      
Among the Scrolls are partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible (except the book of Esther). About a dozen copies of some of these holy books were written in ancient paleo-Hebrew (the script of the First Temple era, not the standard script of the time).
Many biblical manuscripts closely resemble the Masoretic Text, the accepted text of the Hebrew Bible from the second half of the first millennium ce until today. This similarity is quite remarkable, considering that the Qumran Scrolls are over a thousand years older than previously identified biblical manuscripts.
Strikingly, some biblical manuscripts feature differences from the standard Masoretic biblical language and spelling. Additions and deletions in certain texts imply that the writers felt free to modify texts they were copying. (


A highlight!  The crazy thing about the Dead Sea is of course the salt content, which keeps one afloat! Also the mud is prized as a facial treatment.

 No, she has not joined our group but check out her hands :)

The SALT! 


And there were!

 Peter Rothermel and Jay - at Masada (I think)
 Church of the Holy Sepulchre, when some of the guys spent the night inside.

 Alex and Todd getting a mud facial at the Dead Sea
 Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 Church of the Holy Sepulchre
 Jay, Todd, Mike and Tramm


Sunday, May 3, 2015

More great pictures - thanks Todd!

 Father Alex as Celebrant
 Jack (?), Todd, Alex, Tramm, Mike

Sunday on Jerusalem

There are lots of church options in Jerusalem as you might imagine.  One option is Christ Church which is interesting because although it is an Anglican Church, the liturgy and conversation are more along the lines of interfaith with both Christian and Jewish symbols and icons throughout.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Christ Church
Christ Church Jerusalem 1.jpg
Christ Church
Christ Church, Jerusalem
Location in Old Jerusalem
 / 31.776528; 35.22
Altar with Hebrew inscription
Christ Church, Jerusalem, is an Anglican church located inside the Old City of Jerusalem. The building itself is part of a small compound just inside the Jaffa Gate opposite King David's citadel. It is the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. Its congregation is mainly composed of English-speaking Jewish Christians, with both Christian and Jewish festivals being celebrated.

Originally named the "Apostolic Anglican Church", it was consecrated as "Christ Church" on 21 January 1849 by Bishop Samuel Gobat. Three architects worked on the church, the first, William Curry Hillier, died in 1840 of typhus, while the second James Wood Johns, was dismissed and replaced by Matthew Habershon in 1843.
Christ Church was the seat of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem until the opening of St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem in 1899.
Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the Christ Church compound was also the site of the British Consulate. The building survived the Israeli War of Independence and the Six-Day War intact and continues to function as an Anglican church with several English, Arabic and Hebrew speaking congregations. The current rector is David Pileggi.
The London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (now known as the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ) helped finance the church's construction.

On the schedule for today is also Hezekiah's Tunnel:
The Siloam Tunnel also known as Hezekiah's Tunnel, is a tunnel that was dug underneath the City of David in Jerusalem in ancient times. Its popular name is due to the most common hypothesis of its origin, namely that it dates from the reign of Hezekiah of Judah (late 8th and early 7th century BCE) and corresponds to the waterworks mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20 in the Bible.[1] According to the Bible, King Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for an impending siege by the Assyrians, by "blocking the source of the waters of the upper Gihon, and leading them straight down on the west to the City of David" (2 Chronicles 32).

...and the Tomb of Lazarus:

The Tomb of Lazarus is a traditional spot of pilgrimage located in the West Bank town of al-Eizariya, traditionally identified as the biblical village of Bethany, on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, some 2.4 km (1.5 miles) east of Jerusalem. The tomb is the purported site of a miracle recorded in the Gospel of John in which Jesus resurrects Lazarus.

  • The site, sacred to both Christians and Muslims, has been identified as the tomb of the gospel account since at least the 4th century AD. As the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 states, however, while it is "quite certain that the present village formed about the traditional tomb of Lazarus, which is in a cave in the village", the identification of this particular cave as the actual tomb of Lazarus is "merely possible; it has no strong intrinsic or extrinsic authority."[2] Archeologists have established that the area was used as a cemetery in the 1st century AD, with tombs of this period found "a short distance north of the church."[3]
    Several Christian churches have existed at the site over the centuries. Since the 16th century, the site of the tomb has been occupied by the al-Uzair Mosque. The adjacent Roman Catholic Church of Saint Lazarus, built between 1952 and 1955 under the auspices of the Franciscan Order, stands upon the site of several much older ones. In 1965, a Greek Orthodox church was built just west of the tomb.