Mosaic of Peace Reflection – Day 1 – Monday, November 7, 2022
by Carl Horton
It’s been 4 years in the making with 2 years of postponements and 3 separate sets of dates, but at long last the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s Mosaic of Peace Conference in Israel and Palestine is happening. 38 participants and leaders from 12 states and the District of Columbia, representing 15 presbyteries, are arriving in the Holy Land for this almost-two-week pilgrimage. It hasn’t happened without a few glitches or hiccups. Flights have been cancelled and delayed and one was diverted to Dublin due to an onboard medical emergency. But by late night Monday, our group was complete and our shared pilgrimage was ready to begin.
Holy Land scholar Rodney Aist, with whom the group has met, calls groups such as ours “short-term Christian communities.” As such, we come together for a prescribed period of time to accompany and care for one another in a shared experience that has the potential to shape and transform us. Our time together will be holy, here in a land called ‘holy,’ not only because of the holy things that happened here so long ago, but because of the holy moments that will occur among us as pilgrims. Our time won’t be perfect or idyllic, but it will be holy. Kairos will interrupt chronos, moments will be shared, the body of Christ incarnate, embodied in this short-term Christian community, will be known and felt, celebrated and cherished in this time we share.
Aist describes the experience of pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a “crash course in the comprehensive claims of the gospel story.” It does seem like we’re about to become students together in a course with experience as our teacher – the experience of diverse people, places and perspectives, all of which we will be hearing. We’ll be sitting in meeting rooms listening to speakers. We’ll be visiting sites and listening to guides. We’ll be walking through crowded streets and climbing staircases, taking in the terrain and allowing our surroundings to flood our senses. We may stumble on some of the historic stones and struggle with some of the living stones. We may be wounded by truths we have long ignored or revelations we have failed to recognize. But like any worthwhile curriculum, it will work on us as we work on it, and incrementally, even unknowingly, we will be changed. We will return as new people, shaped in new ways by the lessons we have learned.
One of the things the Mosaic of Peace leadership is committed to is approaching our time together as pilgrims on pilgrimage, not as tourists on a trip. Rodney Aist provides two helpful adages that we are embracing as we begin:
On vacation, one goes to get away from life;
On pilgrimage, one confronts life’s most important questions.
Tourists change their environment;
Pilgrims let the environment change them.
In the words of Faraj Al Lati, our most beloved Palestinian guide and teacher, “And now we go!”
Prayer (written by Judith Brackett Smith)
Holy One, in whom we live and move and have our being, How grateful, how excited, how humbled, we are this day, to be pilgrims in the very places where your son Jesus, lived and moved and had his being.
We give thanks this day for
and gracious hosts.
As pilgrims on the way, show us your way.
Engage our hearts and minds.
Knit us together in pilgrim community.
Draw our attention to what you see.
All that we may continue to become the very people, the very pilgrims, you created us to be.
In Jesus name we pray, Amen.