Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why My Trip to Israel Wasn't "Spiritually Uplifting"

Well, Scott, I guess I should expand on that comment...

I suppose anyone who goes to Israel and has some knowledge of it from their Christian faith would find it departs from expectations. I know mine did in many ways. But I don't think I was expecting to be "spiritually uplifted" in the first place.

Some take trips like this for religious purposes. I did not. I saw, of course, many who were on a spiritual pilgrimage, and found great meaning at these holy sites. Every rock or cave with a purported biblical event attached had a church (sometimes several) built on top of it. And a stream of the faithful would usually be right there to kiss the rock or toss in their dollars and notes of prayer. I found this, in a way, strangely sad.

I wasn't on a pilgrimage, or looking for renewal of my faith. This was no "haj" for me. I didn't kiss the stones, or even touch them. I didn't carry the cross down the Via Dolorssa. I didn't "feel the presence of God" any more or less than I would somewhere else.

I find everything I need for my faith in God's Word and Sacraments. In fact, looking elsewhere for spiritual blessing seems dangerous, to me. So many things, even the explicitly religious things, even Christian shrines and holy sites, can so easily take our focus off of Christ. So much of what I saw there smacked of Roman Catholic suprerstition "Kissing the Blarney Stone for Christians".

This is not to mention the tourist-ification of these sites. I recall several pictures I took which illustrate the crass juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane.

Who knows if these sites were legitimate? In many cases, I think they were not. But in some, they were likely the right spot. Even if they were, so what? God has made no promise of blessing from touching Christ's footprint on the site of the Ascension, or the table where he cooked the disciples breakfast on the beach. God is no more likely to hear your prayer stuffed in the crack of an ancient temple wall than the one uttered in your queit thoughts.

But God has promised that he can be found in his word. He has promised to forgive our sins in his Supper. He has promised to save us by baptism. These promises are not only all we need, but they are the only apporpriate places for Christians to seek his blessing.

Was the trip worthwile? Sure! I found it very educational, interesting, and even fun. But not "spiritually uplifting".

1 comment:

Pr. Scott Klemsz said...

Pastor...Thanks for your comments. I had the same experience when I went to Israel. It would be great to go again and see the sites, but I find all I need in His Church. Blessings to you and yours on this Day of our Lord. Pax Christi, SK