Remember the Sabbath & Keep It Holy
Our Schedule, our health, our energy levels are all lending itself naturally to what God has known from the very beginning. We all need some time with God. Rather than fill the day with more sites to go see, we are being intentional this time around to observe our Sabbath and, with every ounce of control we might have, to keep it Holy.
We start out our day with a short ride to the upper Jaffa Gate where we can move easily into the Old City of Jerusalem and find just around the corner a Place of Worship called “Christ Church.” Christ Church is the oldest Protestant Church in the Middle East. It was completed in Jerusalem in 1849 and soon after became known as the “Jewish Protestant Church.” When writing about the establishment of the church, well known historian Stephen Neil called it “one of the strangest episodes of modern church history.” Christ Church is indeed unique. It was built for numerous reasons, but the foremost was that the founders of CMJ had a great love and concern for the Jewish people and wanted to share with them the Good News of Messiah Jesus. Today Christ Church is an evangelical Anglican congregation that worships in our historic church in the Old City of Jerusalem. The congregation, comprised of expatriates who have come to serve in Israel or the West Bank along with local believers (both Jews and Arabs), welcomes visitors and tourists to its worship services.
We are welcomed in the midst of scores of others from all over the world. We know just around us that there are those from Kenya, Pennsylvania, The Netherlands, and Missouri. The Leadership Team was energetic and vibrant. The Music was a mix of old and new and led by an excited group of musicians playing piano, keyboard, violin and guitar. There were three passages of scripture read and a sermon given on the Story of Dorcas and Tabitha as reported in Acts as a miraculous time in Peter’s early ministry. We hear of the importance of faithfulness, generosity, grace and the love of God. We join in the full liturgy of the Anglican tradition that leads us through a Service of Holy Communion. The service started at 9:30 AM and concluded around 11:30 AM.
We move ourselves through the back streets and neighborhoods of the Old City. Along this path we reach a tri-fold intersection of walkways and buildings. Our attention is drawn to the signage and structures. If you looked to your right you were in a Christian neighborhood staring straight at a home church. If you looked to your left you saw the homes of Jewish families living in the Old City. If you looked behind you there stood a Mosque opening to a Muslim neighborhood. Three major religious cultures co-existing for years. It really is happening and it really is possible for us to all get along.
We stroll on down to the east side of the old city and into the learning center known now as “Davidson Center.” It has been developed to give us a much better understanding of the time line and development specifically of the Temple Courtyard, the merchants and the grand entrance to it. Years of changes, destruction and re-building have shaped it into a mega-storehouse of antiquities and history. We comb the area listening for interesting bits of information that can help us better understand what it is we are looking at with every turn and stairway. Finally, we get to the best part. We stand in front of what no one can deny is the steps that led to Temple courtyard. We see behind us remnants to that which would have served those coming to prepare themselves and their offering to be presented in the Temple. We may have doubts about a lot of what we have seen and heard, but this is one of which we can depend. We know if Jesus did not walk on the step that we just did, he certainly was somewhere very nearby. There is a cause to pause and reflect in the time and space. What better place to lifts our prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving to God…let’s keep it holy.
We have only one more place to go from here. We move around from the south end and gently make our way up the hill to the western side. We find throngs of people offering even more prayers to our God. People from all socio-economic background; people of all faiths joining together, men and women, in an Offering of Prayer at the Wailing Wall or Western Wall. How cool is that to be a part of this tremendous exchange of the human and the divine.
The rest of our day is left up to us. There are directions given for where to find each other at the appointed time. The opportunities to explore and to reflect or even to check out the many open shops are now laid at our feet. I choose to go off and do some searching for some specific sites I remember that can be quiet and meditative in this rare moment. I wander down some quiet walkways and find a space called the “The Small Western Wall”. It is just as it says. It is a small section of the Wailing Wall that has been cut off from the rest in the midst of change and building. No one ever seems to go there. This is a perfect place for some solace and personal prayer. I move on, staying along the quieter back ways and find open the doors to a Secondary School, of Moravian background that specializes in educating the Old City Orphans. Finally, I reach a personal destination. The mother of our Guide, Najeeb, whose family are 4th Generation Arab Catholics, lives in the Old City. She has asked me to please stop by before our group leaves. I make my way up many stairs and find myself being greeted by her with exceptional hospitality. I cannot stay long, but I felt it was the least I could do. I find her spirit to be gentle and full of grace. She keeps trying to get me to eat something, I give in to a little, but not enough to really make her happy. I move us into conversation that draws us to reminisce about some mutual friends and some special times we have all shared together. I offer her their greetings and accept her passionate embrace.
It has been a true Sabbath. I have joined in the cooperative worship with those from all over the world. I have sat where Jesus taught his disciples and pondered the questions I might ask him. I found a quiet place for prayer supplication. I saw out places of which I may, in the future find and opportunity to serve; and, I have felt the love and grace of a mother’s love…on Mother’s Day. I know I just keep saying it, but, one more time…It just doesn’t get any better than this, does it? Thanks be to God. Amen.