Thursday, August 7, 2008

souveniers and salvation

we’re back. 20 hrs of travelling and with each passing minute – for me anyway – the “normality” of 6 weeks of life there sadly fades. we have several hundred pictures snapped at those instances when your soul says “i want to keep this forever”; experiences and moments too rich and too dynamic to be captured by such simple, static, 2-dimensional arrays of pixels on a screen.

we have a few souveniers to physically extend the visit beyond ourselves and share it with others who stayed here: “here’s a piece of the sea of galilee”; “these are from the ravine near where david fought goliath”; “this is for you. i wish you could have been there.”

we have a collection of new neural pathways that have been etched in our brains and souls, the proof of which are the hebrew-flavored phrases and songs that we hear echoing in our minds when we wake up in the middle of the night, or that spring to life randomly during the day: hatiluni el ha-yam; gol, gol, gol al-adonai darkekhah…

and then we have things like this: reflective post-mortems done in the attempt to trap the evanescent fleeting thoughts that will surely escape if no attempt is made to tether them somehow to some kind of verbal stake, thoughts which no image or souvenier can capture.

i was struck by the veneration displayed for places; churches built on top of rocks where tradition has it that something significant took place: Jesus wept here, Jesus broke the loaves and fishes here, the foot of the cross was here. perhaps more striking was the smoothness of the rocks themselves, the results of hundreds of thousands of visitors over the centuries who at least with curiosity, if not with awe and reverance, have approached the rocks and touched them, and maybe crossed themselves and said prayers in their presence. i’ve wondered what lies behind this. are they attempts at achieving a tangible, physical connection with someone the world can no longer see or touch, to reach back into history and maybe make their faith “real”? is it perhaps a longing for a kind of magic, for a transfer to take place: that maybe there is resident in these rocks a trace of His power – “let it pass to me to help me live a better life”? i felt all this myself, but at different places. not at shrines, but in gardens and sea shores, uncluttered by buildings. “Jesus surely walked up these steps”, “Jesus saw these hills”. and as i sit on the beach at migdal and sift sand thru my fingers i think “Jesus walked along these very shores…maybe he even touched this rock”? and so with my own sense of wonder and reverance i pour sand and shells into a bottle to take away with me…hoping it is not just sand, but a piece of history actually touched by the Master. but then it occurs to me “Jesus DID touch this sand and this rock” realizing that “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” in a real sense all places, whether in israel or here, are holy; all things have been touched by Him; and all souls that have stretched out hands to touch “sacred rocks” – or not – are to Him sacred, the works of his hands, invitees to His mercy and His grace. i save pictures and rocks and sand to remind me of places he may have been; He, on the other hand, saves me, and those like me, and reminds me of his unfailing love and compassion on all in all places at all times. to Him be glory and honor forever. Amen.