This pilgrimage day began when my alarm went off at 4:15 AM. We had a silent breakfast at 5 AM and then departed in silence for the first part of our journey to Wadi Qelt - part of the Judean desert between Jerusalem and Jericho - where we continued our silent meditation, walking about the desert as the sun slowly rose in the East.
After the Gospel was read, one of our guides gave a stirring meditation on the desert as a metaphor for longing. He reminded us that we find ourselves saying, "I wish . . .," or, "I want . . .," it may be that God is speaking to you because that is the desire of God as well.
Or, as an old monk once said to me on retreat, "What if the desire of our heart is really the desire in the heart of God?"
|A young Bedouin boy on his donkey|
The three little kids - looking like something right out of a novel, one riding a donkey - presented a powerful emotional draw to give them something for their labors and get a little trinket and a story to tell in return.
Talk about being tempted in the desert!
Before I go on, I do want to tell you something that was told to us by our lead guide.
This morning was very cold and very windy - especially before the sun came up. Being up on the top of a ridge in the desert made us even more exposed to the harsh wind.
The person chosen to read the Gospel put the laminated paper with the Gospel passage written on it under her foot so it wouldn't blow away until it was her turn to read and then, even after the reading.
The adult male in the Bedouin family called our lead guide over and, with no small about of distress, said, "Look. She is stepping on the Word of God. That is the Word of God. She should have more respect. Stop her."
Now, there are many layers to that little anecdote, including an obvious measure of sexism. Clearly, the Bedouin are a patriarchal, Muslim desert people.
A widely quoted Bedouin apothegm is "I am against my brother, my brother and I are against my cousin, my cousin and I are against the stranger."
|A young Bedouin boy|
But, the other truth is that, of the three Abrahamic religious strains, Christianity places a lower value on the written word - no doubt because we believe "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
I do have one other anecdote to share about the Bedouin children. After Eucharist, there was a good amount of bread and wine leftover. I turned to the presider and asked if I could share it with the children.
I really meant that as a question of courtesy. I wanted to feed them, especially since they looked hungry. A secondary concern was that I didn't want to offend them by offering these young Muslim children something that their religion my forbid them to partake.
But, the look in the eyes of the presider revealed another level that I knew was there but really was not of great concern; that is, clearly, they are not baptized. And, we know what the canons of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican communion have to say about that.
He said, "Well, it's okay by me." And then, I got what HE was saying. I said, "I'm just concerned about feeding these kiddos. "Absolutely," said the presider.
Well, turns out, the kiddos were properly trained. They shot a concerned look at their papa and then declined the bread. Which was fine. I just wanted to make sure I offered.
It's amazing how many levels of communication were going on right in that one little exchange.
|The sun rising on Wadi Qelt|
When they come to me, you'll be one of the first I share that with. For now, just look at some of these pictures and let the images sink in.
So, when Jesus told the story of the man who was "going down from Jerusalem to Jericho," this is about where he was when he was attacked and left to die on the side of the road.
We could see Jerusalem to the left and Jericho to the right. It's probably about a seven-mile schlepp - probably a day's journey, considering all the hills and valleys. It's not easy to walk in the sand, either, which would slow down your travel time.
I became keenly aware of how easy it would be to hide out in one of the deep crevices or around a corner of a twist or turn in the road.
The story suddenly became even more alive for me than it ever has before.
Then again, that's one of the reasons I'm on this pilgrimage.
I want to go deeper into the narratives of my faith. I long to center my energy on the source that animates my sense of ministry and take that energy into the work I do.
|View from my convent room, Nazareth|
This is Day 3 of my 10-day Pilgrimage. I am in Nazareth as I write this, staying in the Convent of the Sisters of Nazareth. This afternoon, I wandered around the streets here, imagining Jesus running and playing in these streets.
When I heard a mother calling her son, I imagined that Mary's voice once rang out in this town, and Jesus obeyed her.
When I saw women buying large heads of fresh cauliflower and bartering over the price, I closed my eyes and saw Mary among the women there.
This is a rich place to do this work of discernment.
This is Day 3 of my 10-day Pilgrimage. Only Day 3. Tomorrow, we head out to the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and Capernaum.
I am awash with an inexplicable and deep sense of gratitude.