Over the last few years I have discovered a love of stone and rock. My knowledge is poor but in visiting places I find it difficult not to look and touch. The Clerk of Works at both Salisbury and Exeter Cathedrals would be proud of me.
Today we visited Ceaserea Philippi and walked where Jesus and his disciples would have walked and lived. We were surrounded by stones – stones which carry the memories of faith. We have seen much stone during our trip. It has been said (I think by the Archbishop of Canterbury but definitely by Bishop Robert this week) that church buildings speak when no one else is there – the stones speak of faith.
The buildings we have seen have been the result of different types of stones with different properties and their interaction with crafts men and women.
And here at Ceaserea we see not only a place with a history of power, pagan worship and water but also of limestone.
It is the place that Jesus declared he was the Messiah but also that Peter was the rock.
Peter is a great hero – the rock. He is a wonderful example of humanity and what it means to step into an unknown future trusting Jesus.
Peter often shows faith but sometimes faith which was flawed, he saw Jesus but didn’t always understand him and he often learnt the painful way. Peter the rock was shaped by the elements like limestone rather than hardened like granite. Let us hope that we too may be weathered by the elements and not hardened.
The Basilica of the Announciation Nazareth
The day started with living stones as we met Elias Chacourcthe retired Archbishop of Arce, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee. I meat him six years ago and his story is well know through his books such as Blood Brothers. Although older he continues to be both charsmatic and humane. He reminded us that first and foremost we are born children made in the image of God and not Christian, Jew or Muslim and that violence creates violence.
His story emphasises that the result of hope is not instant it requires sacrifice and perserverance, change does not just happen it demands rootedness and transformation starts with us.
A reflection from Ruth Frampton.
‘Gods fences make good neighbours’ ; wrote the poet Robert Frost, but for him Mending walls was a corporate activity involving mutual endeavour. It necessitates the participation of both sides to maintain the dialogue of replacing stones. Here in the Holy Land we are surrounded by walls: the massive golden wall around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem buttressing the area of the Holy places but limiting access for Jews to the perimeter of the Western Wall; the monstrous grey wall separating Israel from the Palestinian. Authority, seen as protection by one side and exclusion by the other; the fullen ruins of walls destroyed by violence and time . And we come with our own internalised walls of which we may be unaware.
We pray that walls may be high enough to support but low enough for either side to lean over in conversation, and that the Builder will use living stones in the furthering of the new creation.
P.S.As if to make us feel at home it rained all day today!