By Pastor Nissa Peterson
Chatfield and Root Prairie Lutheran Churches
This past summer I traveled to the Holy Land and got to see the holy sites of Israel and Palestine. It was a trip of a lifetime, especially as a pastor. I got to see in person many of the holy places where Jesus walked! I remembered my baptism in the Jordan River. I rode in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. I walked the streets of Magdala. I sat on the Mount of the Beatitudes. I stooped down to enter into the Holy Sepulcher, the site of the tomb and resurrection.
Walking in the footsteps of Jesus felt like the Bible coming to life! Stories that I had read over and over and over jumped out from the pages and became real. I loved taking this trip and being able to share with my congregations about the wonder of meeting God in these Holy places!
I also spent time in holy places that didn’t feel holy at all. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was crabby, but some of the supposedly holiest locations felt like a tourist trap and nothing more. We waited in lines with unfriendly crowds pushing against us. We sat in church pews in sanctuaries where people stood in front of the altar to take photos and then left. We went to places that were supposed to feel holy, and just felt nothing.
One great lesson I took away from this experience was that what makes a place Holy is how we encounter God there. We find holy places all around us- we don’t have to travel halfway across the world to experience it.
We can find God’s presence in the Jordan River. We can ALSO find God’s presence in the Root River. One a celebrated holy destination for pilgrims, the other in our backyard, and not internationally considered ‘holy,’ but certainly holy for those who gather by its waters for fishing and splashing and canoeing.
I sensed God’s presence in Nazareth when we sang the Annunciation at the Church of the Annunciation, which is the location of Mary’s home where the Angel Gabriel came to her. I have ALSO sensed God’s presence countless times in my church in rural Minnesota, as we sing the Annunciation together in worship in a favorite evening prayer setting. Again, one is a renowned holy site, the other not well known, but full of holiness for those of us who gather to worship, celebrate, mourn, and pray.
Holiness is everywhere! God does not restrict God’s presence to high holy places, but God is with us in everyday moments, too!
Let us pray: Holy God, show us your holy presence alongside of us! Open our eyes and hearts to know that you are with us in the most holy moments of life, as well as the challenges and struggles. Give us creativity and wisdom to share the joyful news of your presence with all we meet. In the name of Jesus, Amen!