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A blog filled with the reflections of CTS students on their field placement experiences as well as those on our Study Tour to Israel and Palestine.

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Morning Reflection 

MDiv student Bethany Joy Winn shares a morning reflectiom while traveling through Israel and Palestine. 

We started Monday by recalling our earliest memory, even while acknowledging that our memory may be imperfect or constructed. Invited to live into this uncomfortable place between fact and doubt, between truth and exploration, we considered imagery of a teeter-totter, or walking a balance beam. What I hear in this is an invitation to play. Perhaps Jerusalem doesn't seem much like a child's playground at first glance, but I'm welcoming the metaphor and look forward to how it may play out over the next two weeks. After all, where else do we explore and fight and learn like we do on a playground? 

Sitting below Robinson's crumbled arch on the Western Wall, we considered how archaeology gets complicated. Where should the ground be? Where do we stop digging? What do we do with all the layers that we dig up? These questions stuck with me for the rest of the day. What has been buried that we aren't even aware of? Are we carelessly dismissing significant layers? And this is haunting me metaphorically as well. What stories do we tell? What stories do we end with? How do we know when to STOP digging? Is there such a time? Is there a right way to go deeper without violating the integrity of that which has been built?

We spoke of peace - and of pieces. Three faiths call Jerusalem home and pray for peace, and yet it sometimes feel like everyone's merely trying to get a piece of the land, of the water, of the blessing, of the narrative. Is there enough to go around? In Diana Eck's book "Encountering God," she shares a comment made by a Hindu man to whom she tried to explain Jesus. Effectively he asked, "what kind of stingy God only reveals Godself in one place and time to one community of people?" I wonder this as I walk through intersecting corridors in the Old City, and consider the ways that we humans fail to live into the possibility of abundance in this world. In a world where Dr. Larycia Hawkins is under fire for daring to suggest that God is big enough to be approached through different religions and by different names, in a world where political platforms are built around religiously-based hate and intolerance, in a world where we can no longer speak the name of this Holy City without acknowledging ongoing conflict, in a world where a distorted idea of abundance and human centrality in the narrative kills us and the earth, I wonder how we live into this possibility of fruitful, healthy, holy abundance? Can God be big enough for all of our faiths, all of our stories?

In the UCC we like to recall John Robinson's words to the Pilgrims before departing for the Americas: "There is yet more light and truth to break forth from His holy word." God isn't finished speaking - and not just to those of us in the United Church of Christ. God is still revealing Godself in many ways, through many religions, to many people. I find it a quirky and fun coincidence that this quote comes from a man named Robinson, and that the arch under which we considered the complexity of digging for truth was named for another Robinson. 

So again I'm considering the balance beam, the teeter-totter, the navigation between historical preservation and adapting. Integration and assimilation, firmly maintaining identity while responding with grace and flexibility about the reality that no one has a corner on Truth. In Eck's book, this Hindu man went on to say that anything important is important enough to be repeated. I wonder if even here in Jerusalem we might dare to consider a God of such abundance that we can entertain a truth about God through the window of Hinduism? I wonder if Jerusalem is a powerful example of a God too big to be limited to one window of understanding, an example of God being important enough to be repeated through three different religions?

I admit that some of this feels a bit more like a twisty slide to me, where I climb up only to spiral down with no better vantage point than before. Or maybe it feels like trying to cross the monkey bars, where falling happens more than successfully crossing. And now I'm thinking about the kids who sat in the dirt, digging for treasures. 

As we enter our second full day in Jerusalem, I find myself asking: what am I digging for, and where will I stop?

Bethany Joy Winn

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