Did Jesus help build Sepphoris?

A 1931 photo shows the hill at Sepphoris/Saffurriya crowded with Palestinian houses, which all were destroyed after 1948. Extensive ruins of the biblical-era city are in the archaeological dig beyond the trees at the top of the hill.

Just four miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up, I pause among ruins of a Muslim cemetery next to a hill where historians say he may have found employment as a youth. On this hill stood the ancient city of Sepphoris, which eventually became the modern Palestinian town of Saffurriya. Communities on this hill were destroyed multiple times, notably by Rome when Jesus was an infant and again by twentieth-century Israel.

Sepphoris suffered ruin shortly after the death of Herod the Great, while Jesus and parents still were in Egypt. By conventional standards of political success, King Herod had elevated the Jewish people to greatness. But Herod was brutal, and resentment burst into revolt as soon as it became clear that his family would carry on the dynasty. In Galilee Jewish rebels overran Herod’s armory at Sepphoris and seized weapons. Rome deployed legions to end this revolt in its client state, and ultimately crucified two thousand rebels throughout the Jewish kingdom. Sepphoris was burned and its inhabitants made slaves.

The Bible never mentions this city so close to Nazareth. But we know that Sepphoris was rebuilt while Jesus was young, when he would have been learning a trade. The Gospels refer to Jesus as a tekton (“builder,” not “carpenter”) and the son of a tekton. The closest sustained construction work probably was at Sepphoris.

The modern drama and tragedy of Sepphoris begin with Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, an event Palestinians remember as the Nakba (“catastrophe”). Arab nations joined forces to destroy the new nation, but the Israeli military prevailed and ethnic cleansing followed as the country expanded. Israel destroyed more than 400 Palestinian villages, including Sepphoris/Saffurriya (Zippori in Hebrew).

Nearby Nazareth, under the watchful eye of Christians around the world, became a haven for Palestinians. From the edge of Nazareth, refugees from Saffuriya still can look across the valley to what used to be their home. Palestinian houses at Sepphoris/Saffurriya were razed and archaeologists uncovered spectacular remains of the ancient city of Jesus’ youth.

All this history roils my spirit as I hold the 1931 photo of a thriving Palestinian town, and survey Sepphoris hill today. I love the vast archaeological discoveries found there; I grieve the displacement of its Palestinian inhabitants. I admire the nobility and moral strength of Jewish faith, and am grateful Israel exists as nation reborn. I want Israel (and my own country) to live up to the highest of biblical justice standards.

I share like precious faith with Christians in Israel (most of whom are Palestinian) and respect the spiritual vitality of Islam. I protest the recent statement by an Israeli leader that he wants to annex more land in the West Bank. Please, no. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5).

Again I remember injustices, including ethnic cleansing, that my forebears perpetrated upon native peoples in my home state of Indiana in the United States. Perhaps neither my people nor Israel can undo damage caused by our respective forebears, but we can resolve to keep new atrocities from happening.

© 2019  J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************************************

Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour to Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

Bread is a gift for sharing

At Nazareth Village museum a cook demonstrates traditional bread-making. A piece of dough she flattened is baking on the metal dome over fire behind her.

Bread was so important in the ancient world that the word often simply meant “food.” Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt from Canaan because there was “no bread in all the land” and famine resulted (Genesis 47). Their descendants escaped Egypt to the desert, taking bread with them. When that was gone they were in danger, and God sent manna.

Isaiah said bread-sharing is what God desires from faithful people. “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?” (Isaiah 58). Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” If you had no bread, you starved.

Literary clues and archaeological evidence give a glimpse of how people made bread. Israelites could bring bread offerings “baked in the oven” or “prepared on a pan or on a griddle” (Leviticus 7:9). The latter involved a convex dome of earthenware or metal, with fire underneath. Cooks placed flattened pieces of dough on the hot dome to bake.

Ingredients often were just flour, water, yeast, salt. Bread sometimes included legumes and various grains, as in this recipe from Ezekiel: “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread for yourself” (Ezekiel 4:9). Bread usually was sourdough, containing wild yeast that formed when dough was exposed to random yeast in the air.

Why did Jesus refuse to turn stones to bread in the wilderness (Matthew 4), when he later multiplied loaves to feed thousands? Perhaps because the devil included bread-making in a series of manipulative taunts: If you are the Son of God, make bread! If you are the Son of God, throw yourself from the temple! These kingdoms are yours if you worship me!

God does not deal with Jesus or with us on a do-this-and-I’ll-give-you-that basis. Like life itself, bread is a gift from God. Perhaps the devil was trying to get Jesus to use bread-making to manipulate crowds. Our Lord later thought crowds in Galilee would try to make him king by force because he fed them (John 6).

God wants to be more than our bread-making machine. The Creator wants relationship, and the Lord’s Prayer reflects such intimacy. We hallow God’s name and pray for God’s reign to come on earth. We seek forgiveness and promise to forgive. We ask to be spared of temptation. In the middle of these relationship-building prayers, we ask for our daily bread.

Jesus offers himself as the bread of life, indicating that relationship with him and with God is as essential as physical bread to a hungry person. Jesus is the “bread of God which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Does that make you want to be in relationship with someone who so satisfies our deepest hunger?

© 2019  J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************************************

Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour to Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:

https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ).

In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

Liars, brutes, and lazy gluttons?

A grape farmer in Crete offers two clusters from his vineyard as a gift.

“Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons,” said the apostle Paul in his letter to Titus (1:12). My wife and I found no evidence of such dereliction when we traveled across Crete. We stopped along a mountain road to watch the grape harvest, and a farmer approached our car. With a gracious bow he thrust two grape clusters through the window as a gift. The man was neither brute nor lazy glutton!

Paul usually transcends prejudice. In Christ, he said, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, no longer male and female, for all of you are one” (Galatians 3:28). But Paul’s letter to Titus shows how impatient he could be with the “circumcision party,” Jewish Christians who insisted on adherence to the full law of Moses.

The apostle was a brilliant ambassador of the gospel—and very human. His prejudice against Cretans is unfortunate, and stands in contrast to the rest of his message. Was it fair to quote a stereotype about Cretans written six centuries earlier? Was it wise to cite the very words a Cretan philosopher (Epimenides) used to extol the Greek god Zeus? Regarding Zeus the philosopher wrote,

They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being.

Perhaps Paul did not use his best judgement in comments about Cretans. But as happens to all of us, he sometimes reflects assumptions of his culture—in his case patriarchy and tolerance of slavery. We need to discern the arc of freedom in Christ that soars through Paul’s theology, and let prejudices that appear in his letters remind us to examine our own biases.

I was raised in a Christian community where people never used ugly epithets for other ethnic groups. But I sometimes heard stereotypes. An “Indian giver” gave a gift and then wanted it back. An unsavory character might try to “Jew down” the price in a business deal. Puerto Rican migrant farm workers could be housed in shacks because “that’s what they’re used to back home.”

Today people in the United States are told that immigrants coming to the southern border are rapists and drug dealers–when every study shows that such newcomers are less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens. Fear-mongering about immigrants is a lie.

Social media and politicians hurl labels at many groups to wound and to incite prejudice, including: Arab, evangelical, conservative, liberal, Muslim, unemployed, gay, homophobic, global, and socialist. These terms can be simply descriptive. Used as slurs, they carry a subtext intended to trigger fear or hatred.

In the larger trajectory of his letters, Paul points away from such manipulation. He exhorts believers on Crete to devote themselves to things that are “excellent and profitable to everyone” (3:8). In counsel that would end prejudicial behavior, Paul tells Titus to “have nothing to do with anyone who causes divisions” (3:11). That is wisdom sorely needed in church and society today.

© 2019  J. Nelson Kraybill ************************

Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:

(https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ).

In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

Grace for a marginalized man

Spring water still flows across a courtyard in front of ruins of St. Philip’s Church at the traditional site where Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.

A foreigner from a sexually marginalized group was one of the first Gentiles to receive baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 8:26-40). The new believer, from the court of the queen of Ethiopia, was a eunuch—a castrated male. Often made so as children without their consent, eunuchs functioned as administrators and servants for rulers who wanted no worries about sexual violation in the royal household. The traveler was returning home after trekking to Jerusalem to worship.

When persecution scattered Christians after the stoning of Stephen, an angel directed Philip to head toward Gaza on the Mediterranean coast. Along the way Philip encountered the eunuch seated in his chariot, reading Isaiah. The Ethiopian invited Philip, apparently traveling on foot, to join him.

This man presumably was a God-fearer, one of a class of Gentiles who participated in aspects of Jewish community, attracted by the monotheism and high ethical standards evident there. But it must have been difficult for a eunuch even of lofty social status to receive spiritual nurture in Jerusalem. The law of Moses established a rigid boundary by declaring that no man with mutilated genitals “shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1).  

But the gospel already had crossed many boundaries of biblical and traditional law. Jesus ministered to lepers, tax collectors, and sinners. He instructed women, cared for centurions, exorcised Gentiles, and loved enemies. Disciples continued Jesus’ boundary-crossing by sharing the gospel with Samaritans, a people whom Jews viewed as spiritually compromised. Now in a chariot on the road to Gaza, Philip explained the gospel to a Gentile from a sexually marginalized group the scriptures excluded.

The Ethiopian asked Philip about Isaiah 53, “Like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him.” Maybe the eunuch himself experienced that kind of rejection in Jerusalem. Overjoyed to hear that the gospel would include him, the eunuch requested baptism, perhaps at Ein Hanya spring near Jerusalem where Christians still remember the eunuch today.

Refaim Stream National Park recently opened along the length of a valley southwest of Jerusalem. An ancient road follows the usually-dry stream bed down the center of the valley. This logically would be the road where Philip met the Ethiopian. At the point along the stream bank where Ein Hanya water gushes forth, early Christians built St. Philip’s church and an outdoor baptismal pool. Spring water still flows through ruins of those structures.

My joy in arriving at the possible site of the eunuch’s baptism was muted because of justice concerns related to Ein Hanya spring. The Green Line–a demarcation between Israel and Palestinian West Bank negotiated in 1949–followed the Refaim stream bed. But Israel, wanting to make the valley a park for Israelis, subsequently appropriated ample land on the Palestinian side of the stream. Residents of the nearby village of al-Walajah, who cultivated surrounding terraces for generations and historically had access to Ein Hanya water, now reach it only with difficulty, if at all. Just as the eunuch learned here that God’s love and concern extend to all, Ein Hanya spring rightly belongs to both Palestinians and Israelis.

Along this ancient road the eunuch, whom Mosaic law seemed to reject, received a warm reception by Philip. Likewise, today’s church can show abundant grace toward all–including children of God from sexually marginalized groups.

© 2018  J. Nelson Kraybill ***************************

Experience the “fifth Gospel,” the lands where biblical drama unfolded! Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:

(https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ).

In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

Upon this rock

The largest cavern of the quarry under Jerusalem is more than 300 feet across.

“Look, what large stones and what large buildings!” cried a disciple of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem (Mark 13:1). King Herod and his dynasty had spent decades fabulously rebuilding Israel’s center of worship. Massive white limestone buildings, accented with gold, glistened in the sunlight. The whole complex stood on top of a seven-acre raised platform (“Temple Mount”), which Herod had expanded to make into a wonder of the Roman world.

“Do you see these great buildings?” Jesus answered. “Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Those hard words came true a generation later, when Jews rebelled against Roman rule. The most powerful empire on earth, determined to teach a lesson, exacted terrible revenge: Rome destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, crucified tens of thousands of defenders, and demolished the temple the Herod family had taken 46 years to build.

What remains today of Herod’s architecture is the retaining wall made of colossal “Jerusalem limestone” blocks around the perimeter of the Temple Mount. Part of this structure became today’s “Western Wall” where Jews still come to pray or to grieve destruction of God’s house. The largest dressed stone in the wall measures 11 x 16 x 44 feet and weighs a jaw-dropping 500 tons. Imagine the thousands of man-hours it took to cut and move such a block, with no power tools or diesel cranes. “What large stones,” indeed!

Building stones for the temple probably came from a quarry underneath Jerusalem. Near Damascus Gate on the north side of the Old City, a small entrance in the bedrock leads down into an astonishing network of caverns. Called “Solomon’s Quarries” or “Zedekiah’s Cave,” the limestone tunnels extend more than 600 feet under what today is the Muslim Quarter of Old Jerusalem. Chisel marks from stone removal cover walls and ceilings of the underground labyrinth.

One ballroom-size cavern is more than 300 feet wide. Folklore calls water dripping from the ceilings “Zedekiah’s tears,” since he was the last king of Judah before Babylon destroyed Solomon’s temple in 586 BC. Babylonians “slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah; they bound him in fetters and took him to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:7).

Babylon (in 586 BC) and Rome (in AD 70) both destroyed the temple that seemed so secure, a reminder of the fleeting nature of religious and political structures. Today venerable religious, social, and political institutions of the Western world wobble and even collapse. God’s people have experienced worse, and God was faithful. Jewish faith survived destruction of the temple to become a Torah-based religion of the book. Christianity survived to become a global mission movement.

Peter the fisherman once said to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Faith in Jesus as Lord is a foundation more sure than any temple or religious institution, no matter how large their stones.

© 2018  J. Nelson Kraybill ***************************

JNK2018sm

Experience the “fifth Gospel,” the lands where biblical drama unfolded! Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019:

(https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ).

In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus Fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth.

We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.

A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/


Remember I am with you

Tabgha--compressed CR2

Two kilometers west of Capernaum. a stream of warm water swirls around my feet and spills into the Sea of Galilee. This is Tabgha (“Seven Springs”), where a lush oasis covers the shoreline. Warm water gushes from the hillside and wells up from rocks, making this corner of the sea attractive to both fish and fishermen. Probably it was near here that Jesus taught multitudes from a boat, fed five thousand, and summoned fishermen.

The Gospels say that Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed. Continuing a little farther, Jesus found brothers James and John in a boat, preparing nets. “Come, follow me!” The two abandoned their boat and their father Zebedee and joined the band following the carpenter’s son.

Here where the Lord called disciples, I remember my own experience of Jesus’ summons. I heard the call when a visiting “revival” preacher gave an invitation. Much as I now might raise questions about the function and theology of those old-time meetings, I am grateful that I can look back on a definitive moment of commitment. I want to extend Jesus’ invitation to others.

I have learned that the call to follow Jesus comes repeatedly throughout life, as happened with Peter. Somewhere near Tabgha, after the agony and miracle of Passion Week, Jesus met Peter who had returned to fishing (John 21). Having failed to make a single catch after a nighttime of trying, Peter suddenly had 153 fish when a stranger on shore told him to cast nets on the other side.

Buck naked when he realized the stranger was Jesus, the fisherman pulled on clothes and rushed ashore. Words Jesus spoke resound in my ears: “Come have breakfast . . . Peter, do you love me? . . .  Feed my sheep . . . Feed my lambs.” Then Jesus added this somber note: “When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

Thus Jesus summoned the big fisherman to a lifetime of discipleship, ministry, and finally death through martyrdom or physical disability. That’s daunting, and I wonder what such an all-encompassing call would mean for me. Comfort and strength to live into a long faithfulness come from words the risen Christ spoke in Galilee, as recorded by Matthew: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

© 2018  J. Nelson Kraybill ***************************************************************

Experience the “fifth Gospel,” the lands where so much biblical drama unfolded! Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a Journey of Hope tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019 (https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ). In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth. We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation, including justice issues of Israel and Palestine, as we travel and worship together.
A second Journey of Hope tour on June 10-20, 2020 can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/

Let the Bridegroom come!

Wedding--compressedCRPalestinian weddings can last for a week, as family and friends revel through rounds of anticipatory parties. When it’s finally time for vows, men convene at the groom’s home for one last celebration before leading him away to make promises.

I came upon a wedding in the West Bank north of Jerusalem at just such a moment. The village was a jubilant jam as clapping and laughing men crowded around the groom on a side street and spilled out onto the main thoroughfare. I approached on foot, and all warmly waved me in to join the ruckus. The groom and first man were on shoulders with arms aloft. Music! Drums! Dancing!

Elsewhere family and friends prepared and adorned the bride. If a couple is Christian, the groom’s family (without groom) bring the bride and bridesmaids to church, where all await arrival of the groom and the culminating ceremony. When vows have been made, somber ritual shifts again to celebration with hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, tabbouleh, pita bread, rice, lamb, cake–and more dancing.

Weddings are huge events in Middle Eastern culture, and family reputation is at stake. No wonder Jesus turned water to wine at a Cana wedding feast. A family that needed to show generous hospitality faced the humiliation of empty goblets.

The kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who carried lamps and went to await the bridegroom, Jesus said (Matt. 25). Five were wise to fill their lamps with oil; five were foolish and did not prepare. The bridegroom was delayed until midnight, whereupon the foolish scurried away to buy oil. When they returned, the feast already was underway and doors shut.

What does it mean for us to be ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb, when Christ will bring justice and salvation to the world? Can we get beyond fixation on “rapture” and end-of-the-world Armageddon scenarios to see that God wants to bring a new heaven and a new earth where shalom/salaam will prevail? Do we understand that we are to start living into that transformed future now?

When John of Patmos pictures the end of this age as a wedding, the church is a bride clothed in fine linen, bright and pure. The linen is the “righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). We sinful mortals cannot earn salvation, but actions reveal our spiritual state. After telling the story of bridesmaids, Jesus also likened the inbreaking kingdom of heaven to a property owner who put servants in charge while he traveled. The owner returned to severely punish his servants for poor management. How are we managing in planet care today?

Perhaps the Bridegroom already is present in our world–as an immigrant, or single parent, or displaced person in the West Bank, or refugee from proxy wars of super powers. At final judgement, Jesus said, bewildered “goats” facing eternal separation from God will protest, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” (Matt. 25:45). Come, Lord Jesus, and teach us justice to be ready for your coming.

© 2018  J. Nelson Kraybill *****************************************JNK2018sm
Experience the “fifth Gospel,” the lands where so much biblical drama unfolded! Join Audrey Voth Petkau and me for a “Journey of Hope” tour of Jordan, Palestine and Israel on September 12-23, 2019 (https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/2019-jordan-palestine-israel/ ). In Jordan we’ll learn about the Israelites’ trek toward the Promised Land as we visit World Heritage site Petra and survey Canaan from Mount Nebo. We’ll see the site at the Jordan River where God parted the waters, and Machaerus fortress where John the Baptist died. In Israel/Palestine, we’ll learn about the life and times of Jesus in a replica of first-century Nazareth. We’ll sing carols at Bethlehem, sail on the Sea of Galilee, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, visit multiple sites in the Holy City itself, and see Caesarea where Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius. Reflect with others on themes of mission and reconciliation–including justice issues of Israel and Palestine—as we travel and worship together.
A second tour on June 10-20, 2020, similar to the above, can be paired with a stop in Germany for the Oberammergau Passion Play. See //www.tourmagination.com/tour/2020-jordan-palestine-israel/