God calls Abraham to leave families, friends and country. God will lead him to a different place. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain. He takes them to a different place as he is transfigured before them.
Life is a journey. Peter has a different idea. Let us build tents here and stay where we are comfortable. Today Peter would say, “Jesus, let us stay in our comfort zone.” God does not like comfort zones. God is constantly calling us forth to new life, new adventures, new ways of seeing and being.
The Celtic monks were pilgrims. The most famous traveling monks were Brendan, the Navigator, and his fellow monks who traveled far and wide in accord with the liturgical calendar. They travelled in search of their place of resurrection. Jesus warns the disciples that the way to resurrection will be through the cross—the cross of dying to self.
As I write this, we (Joan and I) feel that God is calling use forth to a new place. Tomorrow we leave our family and our country for a pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine. We are going with Raymond and Lissa Caldwell who are Methodists in Mission. They travel to the Holy land regularly and bring back the olive woods carvings and other crafts made by Palestinian Christians. The Palestinians, especially the Christians, are poor and oppressed. Raymond and Lissa then travel to churches throughout the Southeast, sell the crafts and send the much needed money back to the crafts people. The people on the pilgrimage have been collecting embroidery thread to take to Palestinian women who are learning the craft so they can earn a living in an area where unemployment is 60%.
Being called forth to a new place is always a little discomforting, a little scary, especially when traveling to a place where violence is all too commonplace. I cannot recall how many people have questioned why we are going to a dangerous place. My answer is a faith answer—God is calling us to go forth and be with the oppressed and the oppressors. You have to be with the poor and oppressed if you want to understand them. Paola Friere tells us that the poor and oppressed have a lot to teach us. We need to be with them and listen to them. They have wisdom to share with us. (We also have to listen to the oppressors.) I understood that when I went on pilgrimage to our sister community in Somotillo, Nicaragua. The sign on the bus said it all, “Jesus es senor en Nicaragua.” Jesus is Lord in Nicaragua!
Jesus is Lord in Israel and Palestine. Why are we going? There are three reasons.
First, we are going to see and visit the holy places that are sacred to our faith tradition. The first night we will be in Nazareth, the very place where Jesus grew up. We will also stay in Jericho, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem with many side trips to the holy places.
Second, we are going to learn more in depth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know that we will learn more in a deep experiential way as we visit with Palestinians and Israelis and as we wait in long checkpoint lines to get into Bethlehem and other places.
Finally, we are going to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. I used to focus this solidarity reason on our Palestinian brothers and sisters; however, we know that, as Christians, we are in solidarity with the Israelis and Palestinians, with all people. We know that our presence will bring hope to our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Our visit will also be a faith witness of peace and justice to the Israelis we meet. We know from our visit to Northern Ireland last summer that peace is possible. I hope we can bring the peace of Christ with us in some small way to this troubled part of our world.
In the meantime, please pray that we will be witnesses to the Living God of Justice and Peace. Pray that we will learn about the conflict and understand it more deeply. Pray for our safety.
I will be “off the air” for a few weeks, but I look forward to sharing our experiences with you when we return. Let us go forth!

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