I invite you on a fascinating, circuitous journey.
"I love to travel, see new places, faces and things.
The trouble is, each new place becomes a part of me,
and I find my heart wistful when I must leave
and travel home again."1
Truly, seeing parts of America or the world I have never explored is enriching, invigorating, and broadening.
Last year, each step I took on Israel's soil was enlivening. In Tiberius, situated on the Sea of Galilee, I walked to have early morning coffee with the locals--albeit, entirely older men--and that was a cultural awakening itself! The recollection brings a smile to my face. The only female around, clad in a pink dress, with my Bible and laptop on the table before me . . . they did not know what to make of me. [Yes, I know what you might be thinking, and you're right. I 'put it out there' to invite conversation, and it worked.] Sure enough, one by one, they asked careful questions in bits of English, and I answered in a wee bit of Hebrew and a lot of gestures. It was delightful!
Israel's people are different. . . different from Americans, different from one another. Jews and Arabs living side by side, yet in a perpendicular fashion.
http://files.constantcontact.com/b4297a65501/7eaba3db-d3cb-4b54-b767-9073a6731873.jpg" class="CToWUd a6T" tabindex="0" />
Every place I went, my mind's eye was constantly picturing what it would have been like thousands of years ago-when David herded sheep, Elijah called down fire, and later, the apostles walked the land. Someday I hope to be the one leading folks to the places where Jesus grew up, walked along the rocky shore of the Galilee - yes, someday I hope to spread the same excitement of the Holy Land.
http://files.constantcontact.com/b4297a65501/223480ba-b095-4d45-986d-a6b5b2bd1cc8.jpg" class="CToWUd a6T" tabindex="0" />
As we turn our sights back to the book of Acts, the second work of Dr. Luke, we remember so much has happened! Jesus has risen from the dead, been with folks indoors and out-of-doors, walked with 'em, talked with 'em, eaten with 'em, and then lo and behold, morphed right through solid doors or walls in his resurrected body. Can you only imagine those 40 days after he emerged from the grave? Hmmm...what if you or I had been one of the 515 who had seen the risen Messiah and Lord? Barely scabbed-over holes in his hands/wrists ... and those eyes . . . oh, those eyes who had known so much.
Acts chapter one leads us to picture ourselves that day atop the Mt. of Olives with Jesus, facing Jerusalem, the City of David. In Jesus' day, there were groves of olives all around, while today, it is a veritable feast for the eyes in every direction-the Temple Mount, walls of the Old City, and in the foreground an ancient Jewish cemetery.
http://files.constantcontact.com/b4297a65501/e69e9f1c-b1c1-45b6-a491-81e7a12a170a.jpg" class="CToWUd a6T" tabindex="0" />
'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem - there is no city like you. How I long to walk your streets again in 2018!'2
At the appointed time, with his nearest and dearest surrounding him, Jesus the Messiah ascended into Heaven from atop the Mt. of Olives. Luke writes, "...he was taken up before their very eyes."3 And then amazingly, while they stood staring up into the clouds after him, two men came to them and promised, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven."4
Did you catch that? Perhaps you've never heard, perhaps you've been busy and lost sight of it, but Jesus is coming again-in the same way he left . . . in the clouds. In other words, when Jesus ascended into Heaven, that is not the last we will see or hear from him, Friends. Look what Paul wrote: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.5
Ponder that. Apparently, this world does not go on forever and ever as we currently know it; there will be an end, according to Scripture, but Jesus has the last word. Going to Heaven will certainly be the ultimate journey, and I know that I will no longer yearn for anyone or any place besides. Amen.
p.s. Overnight I received word that I have been accepted on a pastors' tour of Israel in February! Thanking the good Lord.
1 - Mary Christine DiGiacomo, that's me. It is true. I feel like I leave a little bit of my heart behind when it is time to go home; yet at the same time, I take more than just a few memories from new friends and places I visit.
2 - Looking for just the right tour to Israel, particularly with scholarly intent, to use for understanding and exegeting God's word and leading others
3 - Acts 1.10
4 - Acts 1.11
5 - 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17