In the Footsteps of Lord Jesus Christ

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In the Footsteps of Lord Jesus Christ

By Kimberly Horton and Kassidy Hall

There’s a line in a Christian worship song I love that says, “From the head to the heart, you take me on a journey.”

It’s referencing an oft-cited dilemma in the Church, a “separation of the head and heart” -- meaning the things you believe with your mind aren’t fully felt or realized in your soul. In my life, it feels like a precarious balance of thinking the right thing, doing the right thing, and then hoping I'm also feeling the right thing so that my beliefs can be "real".

Well, when the time came for me to set foot into the Holy Land for the very first time, I was as surprised as anyone to find that perhaps the holiest place on Earth mirrors my own internal precarious balance.

It began as we weaved through the colorful streets of Jerusalem’s quarters -- each place was lively and full to the brim with culture, but each was still... entirely separate. The feeling continued as my group and I were led on a tour of the Christian Quarter. We passed Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic buildings and signs, each pointing to Christ, but each also pointedly separate from the others.

It culminated in our visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Our Lord's resurrection is undoubtedly the culmination of the Christian faith -- this site certainly warrants the commemoration it receives, and every follower of Christ should be able to worship there; but the way we've gone about that feels a little... precarious.

Each of the five Churches I listed earlier has been assigned places and times for their worship within the shared building; and during Sunday Mass, many of these times overlap. In one corner, the Franciscans are playing the organ, while in another the Armenians are trying to hear a homily, and all the while the Greek Orthodox are singing their Divine Liturgy's constant stream of melody. And it's all happening at once. Together, but separate.

For a moment, it felt impossible for me to look past the followers of Christ and see Christ Himself. Where was He in this strange dance of duties and rites, next to one another but never meeting? But, like he is often prone to doing, God met me where I least expected it.

In one of the Greek Orthodox portions of the church, there is a quiet, dark portion of wall with a line of benches to sit on -- and in the middle of the room, there sits a small, carved stone.

It’s called an “omphalos”, an artifact meant to represent the “center of the world” for a religious faith. This particular stone was placed in the church to represent the cruciality of the site of the Lord’s resurrection; but it has purposefully remained unfixed. The stone itself is less than half a meter tall, and it could be easily moved by anyone.

“It’s a philosophical statement,” our guide told us. “The ‘center of the world’ isn’t fixed. It’s something each person decides on one’s own. People come here and touch the rock; some feel a unique energy around it; others just take pictures -- it means different things to different people.”

I’m a student of philosophy, so the flexibility of the rock’s significance in the middle of a place that seemed so objectively and immovably significant really intrigued me. This church’s location at the empty tomb of Jesus was permanent -- but no one could tell me that it was the center of my world. I had to decide that for myself.

Curiously, I followed the small crowd that rose to go observe the stone a little closer. For just a moment, I rested my hand on the cool surface; and as soon as I pulled away, a tingling sort of energy stayed in my fingers. It was almost uncomfortable, but shaking my hand didn’t dissipate the feeling; I just had to wait quietly for a minute for it to fade.

I don’t normally have physical reactions to spiritual places or ideas -- in fact, this is the first time in my memory that touching a holy thing has given me any sort of sensation. It was an unexpected reminder of God’s presence, a reassurance that he is still moving in ways I don’t understand in a place that reflects so much of the separation I feel in my own mind.

I feel a little bit like the city of Jerusalem. I’m contemplating philosophy, and then I’m studying Scripture, and then I’m closing my eyes and singing a praise song; and sometimes it feels like five churches trying to hold Sunday Mass in one building at the same time.

In the middle of it all, though -- in the center of the world -- I’ve placed my hope in the man who walked these roads I’ve now trod on, and he surprises me sometimes with an unexpected shock of recognition, even if my heart and mind are stuck in the very same uneasy unity I see here in this holy land.

My pilgrimage to Jerusalem has given me a renewed sense of our Lord’s desire for unity within His Church; his prayer in the garden for all believers to be one is a prayer I’m convinced I need to revisit in my own intercessions. It’s also a prayer I’ve realized I need to pray over myself -- that my head and heart might be better united so that I can be seeking Christ with my whole self.

From the head to the heart, our Lord is taking me on a journey -- to the center of the world and beyond.

GALILEE

Galilee is not the setting of Jesus’ birth, His death, or His resurrection. Still, I felt more awake to the story of Lord Jesus Christ while standing before Galilee’s green rolling hills and the expanse of the Sea than I did at any other time during my almost 2-week stint in The Holy Land.

On the 3km path winding from the Mount of Beatitudes to Capernaum, my two friends and I experienced something we then realized we had not discovered in a long time: silence.

We had long ago taken off our shoes, exchanging the comfort of our rubber soles for the cushion of rock, dirt, and mud. And there, our shoes dangling from our fingers, our chins tilted to the blue cloudy sky, we became sensitive to the singing of the birds, the soft rustling of the wind through the trees, and the full symphony of the bugs, creatures, and plants around us.

The moment was interrupted nearly 20 seconds later by the sound of a bus engine nearing the bend in the road ahead of us. And yet the brief encounter illustrated to me the power of solitude and of being divinely met in the simplest of places.

The first chapter of Mark tells of Jesus rising in the morning while it was still dark so that he could find a desolate location around Galilee in which he could pray. Now that I’ve been to the area myself, I find comfort in being able to more accurately imagine Him walking among rows of olive trees or trekking up pebble-scattered paths in pursuit of time with Father God.

Jesus is both fully God and fully human. As I waded into the Sea of Galilee and later felt the Earth’s dirt and mud cake onto my feet, I tangibly felt the joy of experiencing life through the body and the opportunities I have been given -- it was there, in my humanity, where I related most closely to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to defeat death. But he also came to talk to people on mountainsides and to catch fish and eat breakfast with His friends and disciples. I don’t believe you can have one without the other.

And so, that day, as my friends and I walked along the path that led us to Capernaum, I believe Jesus met us there, in the most ordinary of places. Just like the many early mornings and beachside meals and sermons recorded in the Gospels, Galilee is a reminder of Emmanuel, God With Us. Jesus walked through the Holy Land 2,000 years ago and He is still with us today, wherever we may go.

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 13:42
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