Companion Trip 2016 Jerusalem, my happy home First Days

Companion Synod Trip

First Days

Jerusalem, my Happy Home

3 January 2016


Our guide Sa’id, showing us Mt. Zion








Jerusalem, my happy home, when shall I come to thee?

When shall my sorrows have an end? Thy joys when shall I see?


This 16th century hymn by someone only with initials F.B.F. just about describes my experience.


I know, I know, it’s probably meant to describe heaven, in the “sweet by and by,” but I’m happy to actually be in actual Jerusalem.


At the Garden of Gethsemane, Olive Grove.








I like to say to the communities of faith where I serve that “Jerusalem” is kind of state of mind, or that we make our own kind of Jerusalem wherever we are. I also know that Jerusalem has been used and is used as a metaphor for where God is, where God’s people are, wrapped up in the promised future.

But I have been to Jerusalem, the actual Jerusalem, seven times out of the last nine years, now, here, the seventh time.  And being in Jerusalem makes me happy.  Because people I love live here. People with a passion for peace and justice live here.  And as a microcosm of the world and the peoples of the world, it’s always “interesting.” “Interesting” is a euphemism for wonderful, passionate, volatile, and mixed-up.


I am leading a companion synod trip, which means we are to connect with Lutheran Palestinian Christians.  And while we’ here, we see a variety of things that offer a broad incarnational and historical context. Stones that are old and tell a story.  Young Adults who are living among Lutheran Palestinians and serving them.  Friends that love the church, and friends whom we meet that are Muslim and Jewish and who genuinely want to live freely and joyfully with each other.


I can’t say it well.  I was delayed by three days due to a passport that needed to be renewed to have an expiration date at least six months out, which I did not know, which meant getting one quickly, which meant changing flight plans, which produced additional delays, which created a big mess, but which is now behind me.


And I am in Jerusalem. Doing what I love, introducing a group to this culture, this land, its people.  I get to be an ambassador.  I get to share the “sorrows” of the occupation, and the “joys” of those who know that God should not be the source of conflict, but one whom in a variety of ways is worshiped and named.

We eat food served by people we just met who value our relationship, and win our hearts through their stories and our filled stomachs.


Bryan’s friend Ziad showing us his interfaith residential community Neve Shalom, and then had us to his home for dinner.









We gain respect for Islam and its desire to worship Allah where Muhammed spent the night journey.


The Dome of the Chain at next to the Dome of the Rock.








We gain respect for Judaism as the Western Wall is nearest to the Holy of Holies.


Susan and Lauren sharing a moment at the Western Wall.








We gain respect for Palestinian Christians who call Jesus their compatriot.


Today we go to an ordination of  Lutheran pastor, which is “happy.”


We hear stories from a Palestinian and an Israeli, who are brought together by mutual “sorrow.” the loss of a daughter or husband due to violence.


And we lay claim to a Jerusalem that embodies as much as it can the ideals of love, an end to hostility, and a path to peace. In actual Jerusalem.


Overlooking the Kidron Valley at the Overlook, Dominus Flevit (site dedicated to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem).

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