Thursday, June 9, 2011

Update from Bill Bergen in the Holy Land

Bill Bergen sent another email early this morning about his travels in the Holy Land, and a few more photos. Here they are for you reflection and enjoyment:

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The [first picture at right shows] the juxtaposition of the ancient profession of shepherding, timeless Roman ruins, and the modern buildings of Jerash beyond, many of which, no doubt are built on what would be archeological sites. 
You see this contrast often. Even in the very modern neighborhood where I am staying, an area strewn with diplomatic residences and embassies, sheep are every night herded through the streets to graze in the vacant, weed-strewn lots that can be found in every out-lying area of Amman. It gives evidence of how quickly modernization has taken hold in this country.

The [picture at left] sums up Jerusalem for me. There is a place outside the Old City walls of Jerusalem that some believe is the real place of Jesus' burial (as opposed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). The official link for the Garden Tomb Association is not accessible here, but I found this short description on a tourist website: HERE.

The Garden Tomb is a very contemplative place compared to the noise and crowding of the Old City, but the claim to be where Jesus' body was laid to rest, while plausible, seems at least as far-fetched as various competing assertions made within the walls. We were conducted around by a retired British rector, a volunteer who comes twice a year to give tours for a week or two. He gave a wonderfully careful tour, never claiming more than the evidence suggested, in all a timely meditation on Anglican resort to reason and of a firm sense of historical perspective.

He made it quite clear that the Garden Tomb Association makes no claim of certitude that this where Jesus was buried. But it does suggest that if in this more contemplative place amidst the Old City's conflicting histories, ever-present clash of faiths, commercial hubbub, crowds and clamor, one can recover a sense of the holy, then the Garden Tomb has achieved its purpose. And he was right: It was welcome relief from what we had experienced in Old Jerusalem, and I found more a sense of God there than anywhere else.

I took the attached picture because it is posted on the door to the tomb discovered in that garden. To me it sums it all up: Much as Jerusalem is fascinating and very worthwhile, it also easy to forget that the Gospel's message is that the physical place, in a fundamental way, does not matter. He is risen, and no longer of this world.


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