I'm back home after a 12 day trip to Israel. This was the seventh time I've led a group on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and it never gets old.
I learn something new each and every time I lead these trips--about the Holy Land and about myself.
While there's plenty of great experiences, good wine, food and moments of relaxation, the trips I plan aren't exactly vacation--a fact I always do my best to make abundantly clear to anyone who decides to participate.
What I've always tried to do with these trips is to provide an opportunity for people to join together in pilgrimage. This reshapes the journey into something more meaningful and lasting than a vacation. We have fun, to be sure, but the end goal is transformation, not relaxation.
One of the most moving moments for me this year was when I took our group into a 2000-year-old pit that was once under the house of Caiphas the High Priest during Jesus' time. That pit was most likely where Jesus was held on the night of his arrest.
I read Psalm 88 to the group. It's a psalm of lament, a crying out to God that contains these words:
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
8 You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief.
It's not hard to imagine Jesus (bound and lowered into that pitch black hole) praying this prayer that he would have had committed to memory. As I read it aloud, I found my voice catching and the tears coming.
And then we sang Amazing Grace together as a group, softly at first and then more loudly--loud enough to fill the pit with a song that drifted up and out into the rooms above.
I found myself filled with gratitude that God would go to such great lengths to rescue those whom God loves. It was overwhelming. I realized anew that not only was I leading a pilgrimage, but I was also on one as well.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
If you are considering whether a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is something you would like to take--I'd be glad to share with you more information. Or you can see for yourself and perhaps register for my next trip, which will be in September 2019.
You can visit the website here: https://leon-bloder-2019.gordontours.com/