Dear Friends,

I was in Jerusalem June 14-23rd to be a part of the Global Anglican Futures Gathering (GAFCON). Here are some of my reflections:

Being in Jerusalem at GAFCON brought home to me that on one hand Christians are homeless, and on the other hand we are to be at home and make a home in whatever city or country that we find ourselves. This makes Christianity significantly different from Judaism and Islam, both of which find the notion of “home” and “land” essential.

By the way, I am going to stray into politically contentious matters. In what follows, I am not seeking to be political, I am seeking to speak biblically, historically, and anthropologically. Even if that means I become political in the eyes of some.

Israel is the ancient homeland of Jewish people and Jerusalem has been its capital for most of the last 3000 years. This land was promised to the Jewish people by God, and there is no record of God changing His mind and revoking His promise. I believe this is a fair summary of both old and New Testament teaching. Most Jewish people have lived in exile from the land for a long time. But today Israel is clearly Jewish. In fact one of the changes I noted from my last visit to Jerusalem in 2008, is that Jerusalem seems to have become more Jewish in the last 10 years. For Jewish people, Israel and Jerusalem are essential. Contested, but essential.

The status of Israel and Jerusalem is contested by Islam in two senses. On one hand, “The Dome on the Rock” is one of the holiest places on earth for both Sunni and Shia Muslims. On the other hand, it seems central to Islam that Allah claims all the earth for himself and Islam. In Islam, the day will come when every place on earth is under Islam. So Jewish claims to the Holy Land are especially contentious to many Muslim.

I saw this acted out in a powerful way. I walked to the Old City and sought out the “Western Wall”. This is part of Herod’s Temple that still stands, and it’s believed to be the wall closest to the Temple and it’s holiest of holies. It is a place where people go to pray. I know I can pray anywhere, but I chose to go to the wall to pray. I was quite surprised to see a large number of vigilant Israeli standing in the courtyard of the wall, their automatic weapons held in their hands, as they scanned the courtyard and the higher area beside the wall and its courtyard. It is not uncommon for Muslim protestors to throw rocks on those below. For these Muslims, the Jews are trespassing. Soldiers were there to maintain order, and allow all who desired to enter, look, and pray, to do so.

I was reminded of two scripture texts. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:4) Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

To go where Jesus walked, talked, performed miracles, died on the cross and rose from the dead is great to do. I encourage you to go! But the Lord has not called us to possess the earth in the way Islam believes Allah has told them too. The Lord has not called us to one piece of land as he promised the Jewish people. Our true home is the new Heaven and Earth. Our earthly home is where we live and we are to seek the blessing of our city. But the Lord has called us to see the gospel proclaimed to every people group.

George +