tellmystory – “God is concerned with every detail of our lives” Memories of Our Trip to Israel 2013

tellmystory – “God is concerned with every detail of our lives”
Gill McIlwaine – June 2013

The Word became a human being and lived a human life. And we saw his glory…

Boat on the sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

These words had been on my mind for a while as we prepared to go to Israel. I had often read them at Christmas, but this was post-Pentecost May! I longed to see the glory as never before. Maybe this would be the time and place.

Yes, it was wonderful to see the Sea of Galilee and swim in it; to see the kind of boat Jesus could well have sailed in to call Peter, to teach, to still the storm; to see the streets and the synagogue of Capernaum; to feel the cool water of Banias near Caesarea Philippi and join with Peter in affirming Christ’s divine Sonship; to sense the majesty of Christ’s transfigured glory on Mt Tabor (albeit after a hair raising taxi ride); to renew our baptismal vows, ankle deep in the waters of the Jordan River. Yes, all these are serving to bring the Gospels out of mere black and white, and into glorious technicolor.

Dome in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Dome in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Even the blistering heat of Jericho and Jerusalem, the early starts, the endless archaeological excavations, the ornate churches marking the ‘exact’ spot of significant events, all these have served to affirm that, yes, the events described in Holy Scripture really happened in time and place, right there. And so my relationship with God through Jesus is no figment of the imagination or a mere philosophical notion.

But as Ruth (Hassall) has reminded us, God is concerned with every detail of our lives.

Somewhere between the church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, I missed my footing on a slippery pavement and fell heavily on my back. Even our sure-footed guide Yehuda was concerned that damage was serious. But, no, my spectacle case had fallen to the bottom of my back-pack and taken the impact which could have caused a fractured pelvis. The spectacle case will never be the same again but God had showed his detailed protective concern for me.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

Western Wall

I tottered on to the Western Wall where thousands of devout Jews were praying with characteristic zeal, the men and women in separate areas. To my relief there was a small area of shade – we were now in the high 30’s centigrade, it being midday. On a chair right by me, among all the Hebrew prayer books, amazingly, was a bi-lingual text of the Psalms. In the English of Psalm 27 I read these words:

‘In the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle,
And set me high up upon a rock.’

At that very moment, two rather scruffy turtle doves fluttered out of the blazing sky and posted themselves in a crack between the stones way above my head, high above the prayer notes posted by the devout praying women, there on the Western Wall. At that moment I could identify with their scruffiness. And there they stayed totally safe and almost out of sight while I read to the end of the Psalm:

I am still confident of this
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Further Reflection

I was struck, as many are, by the zealous devotion of the pious Jews as they prayed at the Western Wall. Not only the Orthodox, but many others and, indeed, whole families, praying and reading the Torah oblivious to the bustle around them.

Since our return, I’ve been drawn to Romans 9-11, where Paul wrestles with the place of Israel in God’s plan of salvation, and speaks of his
‘heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites to be saved. For I can testify that they are zealous for God but that their zeal is not based on the sure knowledge… that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.’

The last sight I had of the ancient stones of the Western Wall was a few weeks ago. They were, of course, all totally blank, nothing written or engraved on any of them. Would that the words JESUS IS LORD were engraved on those stones there, as they are engraved before us all here, but, more, that they were engraved on the opened hearts of his Chosen People.

Gill McIlwaine

18th Jun 2013 Posted in: 'tellmystory', News by Stella Jennings 2

2 Responses

  1. Angie Bhatia says:

    I love this, Gill, especially you identifying things in the day that God spoke to you about in His word. Thank you

  2. Julia Willetts says:

    Thank you Gill for your sharing. I can really identify with it. Especially “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart…”

    Anna (who thanks to prayer at St Johns’ in 2006 was healed from brain surgery) has just been given a job at the Hippodrome working on the costumes for the Lion King. She can walk to work! She and I are thrilled.

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