Granite Springs Family,
It has been a few months since I moved from Northern California and settled into a new city and a new job in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My work as a Pastor of Community and Discipleship at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church has been a real blessing and full of rewarding moments. The community here has welcomed me in and been warm and friendly as I adjust to this new position. Currently, I’m doing a lot of listening, attending as many meetings and gatherings as I can, so that I can understand how to love this church well and lead them into the future.
On Oct. 20, Kelly and I got married. It was a wonderful day filled with friends and family. Marriage has been great so far. Kelly and I have been settling into our apartment and figuring out routines and rhythms. We both consider our relationship a gift and we are extremely grateful to be making a life together. One of the first challenges, was leaving my new wife to go on a 12-day trip to Israel with some of the Granite Springs family. It was hard to leave Kelly for nearly two weeks, but the trip was amazing and inspirational. You can read more about my reflections from that trip below.
Grace to you Granite Springs Church! I miss you all dearly!
As I sat there, 20 feet from the tomb, I could imagine the cool morning air causing a slight shiver. I could imagine a faint smell of freshly pressed grapes from the stone press behind me. I could imagine two women, sneaking into this garden just after sunrise, 2,000 years ago to take care of Jesus’ body. I could see the angel sitting on a heavy stone rolled to the side. I could hear the angel say to the women – “He is not here… he is risen.” I could feel the excited, fear and bewilderment as they dashed out of the garden to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.
My recent trip to Israel was many things. It was a long plane ride. It was an experience in the extreme effects of jet lag. It was an unexpected gift of sunshine, blue sky and 70-degree weather. It was an immersion into hummus, pita bread, and raw vegetables for breakfast. It was also a journey into a land, a people, a culture – that I have been reading about and studying my whole life.
I was privileged to go on a holy land “pilgrimage” with my Granite Springs family in early November. Thirty-one pilgrims ranging in age from 24 to 83 traveled in a tour bus over a period of 12 days all over Israel. We started in the busy and modern city of Tel Aviv, traveled up the coast to Caesarea Philippi, drove inland and spend quite a bit of time in and around the towns of Galilee. We saw Nazareth – where Jesus spent his childhood. We visited the home town of Mary Magdalene, saw a 1st century synagogue where Jesus very likely preached according to Matthew 9:35, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” We climbed a hillside and took a long look at the sea of Galilee – where Jesus calmed a raging stormed, walked on water, and told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. We journeyed to the “other side” of the lake where Jesus cast a demon out of a man and into a herd of pigs.
Spending so much time in and around Galilee, I understood for the first time that Jesus was a small town preacher, a local boy living in relative obscurity preaching with disturbing authority and a radical message. As we left Galilee and traveled to Jerusalem for the final 3 days of our trip, I understood more that Jesus was a country boy coming to the big city – and what it meant for a backwoods preacher to confront the impressive and massive temple, the hierarchy of religious leaders, and the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.
But more than any of that – it is the quiet garden tomb that is blazon on my heart and mind as I sit here reflecting and writing this to you. It’s Peter and John running into that empty tomb, carved into the side of hill. It’s the burial cloth folded and laid to the side. It’s the fear and amazement of an empty tomb – where everything changed. Death was quietly defeated in a garden, and Life and light came strolling out of a tomb and into the world.
4 thoughts on “Reflections on Israel”
It was great hearing from you about your new life in Grand Rapids and about your trip to the Holy Land.
May you and Kelly have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy new year.
A wonderful piece! Thank you Sam. It got me reflecting on our trip to Israel now that i am finally over the jet lag. We saw so many amazing sites as well as learning so much about the land where Jesus lived and ministered!
Great reflections Sam!
What a beautiful message, Sam. I felt I was there with you as you shared your reflections on being where Jesus walked. Thank you for this.
Earlier today I listened to the Christmas Curious Church podcast. How special that you joined Matt and Aaron for this third annual podcast. Please visit us again soon. Bring your lovely wife, Kelly, too! We miss you.
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