Holy Land & Holy Week

  • By Rev. Phil Kuntz
  • Associate Pastor
  • April 10, 2015
A lot has been happening lately. I've just experienced my first Holy Week at AFUMC, and just before that I had the great privilege of visiting the Holy Land. It's been a lot of "Holy," and accordingly I've gotten to see Jesus from new perspectives these last couple of weeks. The Easter Bluegrass service was a particularly meaningful time. Emma and I arrived just as the service was getting under way. Both of us were astonished at the number of people who came. I remember in staff meeting we set the ambitious goal of attracting 400 people to the service, and we exceeded 600! The Holy Spirit was truly at work. I liked the Bluegrass service because during it I saw Jesus through a new lens. I enjoy Bluegrass, but I don't know a whole lot about it. The sound, the feel, and the overall way it engages its listeners is appealing to me. However, the service went deeper than aesthetic appeal. Dr. Don explained the stories behind the music, how the people from these Bluegrass singing communities understood Jesus in light of their time and place. Many of the stories were tragic, but Jesus was always a light amidst the darkness. I felt like I traveled to a new culture and prayed to God in a transformed way. I basically had no idea what to expect when I visited the Holy Land. I wanted to see the real, physical locations of where events in the Bible happened. I indeed had many opportunities to do that, but I found some places more surprising than others. Something unexpected was the fact that churches were built at the locations where tradition says many of the events happened. For example, in Bethlehem is a gorgeous church said to be built in the place where Jesus was born. Inside, most everybody was silent, except for some Greek Orthodox pilgrims who were beautifully chanting while we waited in line to see the place where the birth may have taken place. People from all over the world waited for their turn to bend down to the ground to kiss the star marking the exact spot of birth. It was solemn and sacred. I almost felt unworthy to be among them. This week in my Disciple class we're studying Paul's letter to the Galatians. A major point of emphasis in the letter is that followers of Christ are justified by faith. We need not be circumcised, keep kosher, or follow strictly all 613 of the laws God reveals through Moses. In this reframing of religion, we are given great freedom to see Jesus-understand his teachings, apply his example to our lives, sing his glory-in new ways. The Bluegrass service was no more right or wrong than the devoted pilgrims who kissed the star where Mary may have given birth. Both beautiful. Both holy.