I never expected it to snow!
Close to midnight, we landed. The plane had been delayed by the unusually bad weather. Gale force winds swept across Tel Aviv airport. That meant a very bumpy descent as the El Al pilot fought to bring the Boeing 747 down safely.
We had arrived! 27 curates from the Diocese of Portsmouth embarking on a 7 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by Christopher, the Bishop of Portsmouth.
Visiting the places where Jesus went, we were conscious of following in the footsteps of Christian pilgrims who have taken the same journey for the past 2000 years. They have made the journey from every part of the globe. And they still do, for we met Christian brothers and sisters from Ethiopia and Reunion, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean.
One evening I stood on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. As I looked across the water on which Jesus walked, I was moved by the fact that His life transforming message should have found its way to me, a gentile woman twenty centuries later. It is remarkable, indeed miraculous (for it is of God), that this good news of Jesus which began in such an obscure and politically insignificant corner of the Jewish nation has spread so far and gone so deep into the lives of so many.
But I never expected it to snow. There was snow in Jerusalem in January! That meant we had to change our plans and start our pilgrimage in the Galilee area before heading to Jerusalem later in the week.
Perhaps that is part of being on pilgrimage whether in the Holy Land or living out our faith here in Widley: being surprised by the unexpected events that happen to us in life; having to take a different road to the one you had carefully planned…and finding God is with us on our journey whichever route it takes.
February marks the beginning of another journey. One that everyone is invited to join in. It is the month we start our pilgrimage through Lent. It all begins on Ash Wednesday 18 February. This ancient Christian season offers each of us the gift of some time to detox and let go of the things that may have an unhealthy hold over us. Not a self- help programme or an exercise in late New Year resolutions. Instead 40 days to redirect our attention to the One who doesn’t force us to be someone we are not, but offers forgiveness, hope and a fresh start Why not make the journey with Jesus this year? At Christ Church we will be doing lots of things to help you find your way.
SO come on…. Let’s get this pilgrimage started.
And finally….there were a lot of churches to visit on our pilgrimage. And at times I do confess to getting a bit churched out! But being a visitor gives you fresh eyes to see how easy it is for the church to give mixed messages to those who are curious to find out more…without realising we are doing it. I couldn’t resist taking this photo outside a church in Galilee….
Find this article and others in the February issue of our parish magazine, ‘Portsdown Post‘.