Didn’t purposely neglect to post yesterday. Sat down to write a dozen times but couldn’t pull my mind into one single direction. The veritable accumulated feasts of the conference itself, this beautiful city, and all the lovely people have put me almost to saturation point. I can’t think of anything, or know where I am, and it will take me weeks to sort through and unpack all the riches of this time. Which makes quick takes perfect, seven scattered things instead of one thing that makes sense.
Yesterday all two thousand of us were bused into the old city of Jerusalem, to the original steps of Herod’s temple, to have our picture taken. It’s probably already been put up on twitter somewhere, and you’ll probably be able to buy a poster sized copy. It took forever to arrange us, and you won’t be able to pick any individual people out. But I bet if you look closely through the iron grates up towards the top of the wall you will see the little children who kept calling out greetings as we sang and prayed there on the steps. Some birds swept back and forth calling to each other, and the combination of the two cries was really charming. And who would have thought that reciting Psalm 122 altogether in that spot could be so moving…well, actually, generations of people have thought that. I just didn’t know, having never gotten to do it before.
Got to meet the famed Charles Erlandson, of Give Us This Day who has written devotionals for the entire New Testament, and real theologically deep ones, instead of just fluff. Had been hoping to run into him, but with the size of the crowd it seemed improbable. Every day, though, as we take our well laden dinner plates into the cool elegance of the dining room, Providence has thrown us in the way of fascinating Anglicans. Confess that I spent rather a long time interrogating Fr. Erlandson about his brother, Paul, who I hope to meet in person some day for real. Truly, it was worth it to come all this way just for this moment.
The day before (don’t know one day from another, honestly) we went through the old City of David excavation. Big portions of the hill have been dug away to reveal the wall of that ancient city, and the houses that were built right under David’s palace. Very easy to imagine, standing there, David above, shading his eyes and scanning the descending roofs for any bathing ladies. Every time someone says to me, “We’re making history,” I am now always going to ask, “What kind?”
As you walk away from the ancient city wall, you climb down into one of two tunnels—Hezekiah’s water tunnel that he dug out so that Israel would have a spring of water inside the city when the Assyrians arrived to wreck everything, and the much drier Canaanite Tunnel that David and his men probably crept through to overthrow the Jebusites.
Nor did they. Saw them emerge a while later in tact, though very wet.
At some other point Matt and I were interviewed during one of the Plenary sessions, about the cost of taking a stand and then losing something. We lost our church building, as most all of you know, but the people interviewed after us talked about losing much more—freedom, safety, friends, everything. Felt simultaneously honored but very very small to be in the same forum with such courage and faithfulness. We in the West should take heart. We aren’t facing the violence of true persecution, yet, but when we do, God will be faithful and will carry us along towards his glory.
Have wanted to say more (of anything) about the incredible bible teaching and plenary talks every day. It’s not for lack of desire that I have been silent here. It’s just so much. It’s like drinking out of a fire-person’s hose. The one talk that is standing out in my mind though, just at this moment, is the one who talked about the cross and shame. God endured terrible shame and humiliation on our behalf, at the cross. It should have been ours. But he took it and drank it down to it’s dregs. As the West continues to fall into shadow, and persecution intensifies all over the world, I think the shame of cultural rejection is going to be a bitter cup to drink out of. But at the bottom isn’t death, it’s the sweetness of God’s mercy, of his everlasting presence as we walk, however faltering, in his way.
I am late for everything now. Go check out more takes! We’ll be traveling on Sunday but I should be online here and there. Make sure to check out all the tweets and articles put out by Gafcon. Google will help you!