My trip to Israel was not a tour. It was a pilgrimage. There were so many holy moments that I lost count.  I’m afraid we’ve lost the art of pilgrimage in Christianity. In Judaism, every able-bodied male was required to make three pilgrimages to Jerusalem every year.  It was a spiritual journey, literally.

When we first landed in Tel Aviv, our Jewish guide, Ilan, told us that if we hadn’t been to the Holy Land we “read the Bible wrong.” He was right. It’s amazing how one-dimensional my understanding of Scripture was.  There are nuances of Scripture that went right over my head like an inside-joke!  The trip whet my appetite to study everything from Jewish culture to Israel’s geography.  My takeaway verse is Matthew 9:13: “Go and learn what this means.”  The trip gave me a three-dimensional understanding. As I read passages, I can now visualize them.  As Saint Jerome observed, the Holy Land truly is the fifth gospel.

We had an incredible guide in Marc Turnage. And I’m so grateful for The Center for Holy Land Studies.  I was exhausted at the end of every day, but it was so exhilarating. I honestly think that one pilgrimage to the Holy Land is probably worth ten years of sermons! We are thinking about designing an annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land for National Community Church. It was such a catalytic experience in my life that I want to facilitate it for others. It’s not convenient or cheap getting to Israel, but I think it’s worth every penny and every second.