Church in the Mess

Travelling to Israel as a Christian Pilgrim, you see a lot of churches.  I thought I’d write about just two that I’ve seen in the past few days.

Peter's House Church

The first is in Galilee.  Capernaum is a small town on the sea where God decided to go local.  Jesus of Nazareth moved to town and most of the healing stories come from here.  Most of the disciples came from right in town, and Peter supposedly came back and had a house Church after the Resurrection.  I lived this summer in a House Church, and so seeing his supposed house church, related to the beginning of the Christian movement, really had an effect.  The inside was circular, surrounded by benches, and I could see having a potluck meal and simple sharing of communion around that circle, much like we do at Hawthorn House.

Above the House Church the Roman Catholics have built a spaceship looking sanctuary.  At first I thought it looked oppressive, squashing the original church, but I got another view from the ruined Synagogue up the street.  The movement got too big for a house Church.  The question seems to have been, and still is, how does someone keep the core of the story alive in big buildings with big budgets and programs.  How do you feed thousands, millions, billions really, from the same bread?  I think the Church is still trying to work that out.  As I swam the next morning in the Sea of Galilee, I could just make out the ruins as the sun came up over the lake.  Galilee is a wonderfully peaceful place, would that the tranquility there spread over the whole Church.

The other Church we saw just today, the Dominus Flevit, or “The Lord Wept.”  The title comes from Luke 19 :41-42 “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  The Church is teardrop shaped and looks out over Jerusalem, the city still fraught with intense conflict.  As we sat on the Mt. of Olives, outside the Church looking over the city the power of Jesus’ tears still held.  When will peace come to this land?  Surely the conflict here is sacramental, emblematic of the deep conflicted nature of humanity and creation.  We dream of peace, we long for justice, but they seem so unrealizable.  Being human seems to work as an exercise in patience and hope, in the face of signs that tell you to do otherwise.  Still, the view is miraculously beautiful, the City with its towers and domes.  Somehow coming here brings you to what is basic and central.

I hope this last week and a few days to continue to enjoy the adventure, to live in the midst of  the confuse dynamics and relationships of this place, but to enjoy the gift of being here for now.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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