Around noon Jolynn and I will board a plane and, along with about 200 other pilgrims from The Central Texas Conference, head to the Holy Land. As I go through last minute work details before being out for two weeks and finish packing, I find my mind turns to reflect on the land in which Jesus walked and talked.
On one level, given the modern level of violence that inhabits that region of our globe, it is a land that is anything but holy. On another, more historic level, we know this land called holy as the birth place of three great monotheistic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
William Blake’s 1804 poem (later put to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916) tugs at some of my more primal feelings. Make the simple substitution of America for “England” in the poem and the longs emerge. It goes:
“And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.
(Beneath the poem, Blake inscribed Numbers 11:29 — “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets.”)
A spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land fronts for a deeper spiritual journey. In the far great theological sense, through the Holy Spirit, the Christian faith would assert the presence of Christ in all lands. I think I caught a glimpse in the music and worship at Morgan Mill last Sunday. A recent article in the January 2013 edition of The Smithsonian magazine chronicles a local legend from Shingo, Japan (a mountain hamlet in a “distant corner of northern Japan”) that Jesus ended up in that region and is buried on a hilltop. While those of us who believe in the resurrection reject out of hand such a legend, the claim of Christ upon all people and all regions remains.
In very truth all lands can be seen as holy. The promise of Christ in Matthew 28:20 remains: “I will be with you always.” Whether Jerusalem, Morgan Mill or Shingo, Japan, it is to this truth I hold as we prepare to fly to the Holy Land.