A Pastor's Pilgrimage: "It's All True!"

By Robyn Young,
Pastor of Line St. UMC and UCF at Hill College

As I turned my head 360 degrees, I realized I was seeing what Jesus had seen. On the boat of the Sea of Galilee, I was seeing the same mountains surrounding us, the same ripples on the water, the same pattern of the sun and clouds breaking over the mountains. It was in that moment of silence that I heard the still, small voice of God speak to me. "It is ALL true. It really happened as you have read."
This pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the trip of a lifetime for me. For decades I had wanted to go, and with the Bishop setting up this wonderful pilgrimage, it became a reality. Partly it was to authenticate the places and take the Old Testament and New Testament happenings from the abstract to the concrete. Mostly it was to travel where Jesus had been, to see what He had seen.
I am a visual person. I like to see things in perspective with other things. In using maps and seeing the geography, topography, distances between places, makes it more real in my mind. "Is it 100 miles or is it a football field away?" 
This pilgrimage has embedded these places in my mind. Sunday I preached on the woman caught in adultery. I could bring the story alive with talking about the steep slope of the Mount of Olives, the tombstones that filled the side, and the broken glass mortared into the top of the wall to deter vandals, the Temple wall that still remains.  My path may have been that of Jesus. By sharing my witness of the actual place, it became more alive in the congregation's minds. They had a first person testimony of the site. Every site that we visited will now be something that I can share, whether it is the caves where Jesus may have been born, the walls of Jericho, the Garden Tomb or fifty other holy places we visited. I can share the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel, the atmosphere of the site.
As a pastor, this was a pilgrimage for me. Some would call this trip a spiritual discipline. I would be in that number as it was a time for me to open myself to God's presence.
In a private monastery- owned garden of Gethsemane, we were allowed access, I sat on a low wall and just let the fact that Jesus had prayed here saturate me. I was so overwhelmed, that tears just flowed down my face, unashamedly. It did not matter that very few others were affected in the same way, but it was a life-changing event for me. I felt God's love wash over me. Wave after wave after wave it rolled over me. I prayed and this time, it was just to listen—to let God tell me, "It was all done out of love for you." I felt so unworthy, but so uplifted at the same time. It confirmed my call to ministry in bold, uppercase, underlined, highlighted letters.
Whenever I hear or read our history in the Old and New Testaments, I will remember and hear God's words: "It is ALL True. It was all done out of love for you."