Have you ever felt Jerusalem?
At this point, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it. But every time, I also feel like it’s the first time.If you’ve been here, you know exactly what I’m saying. Seeing Jerusalem bathed in the sun’s golden hue at sunset or at sunrise feels supernatural. It’s jarring. This feeling is itself a reason why countless millions believe so profoundly in God. It’s like this Holy City jumps off of earth into one’s heart. When it does, it demands something from you.
It demands belief.
I sometimes think: What if one of the reasons God made the sun was just to illuminate Jerusalem? What a gift from God to us to marvel at His beauty, painted in the sky, reflected on His Holy City.
That image — of golden Jerusalem — makes it clear as daylight as to why it has been the only place on planet earth deemed “The Holy Land,” for time immemorial.
And it’s no wonder the world’s three great monotheistic religions are jealous of it. Thankfully, because of the State of Israel, it is open to all. This has been rare in history as empire after empire tried to monopolize it for their own preferred worship
Not Israel, though. Israel welcomes all.
The lasting Jerusalem leaves — and all of Israel with it — gets burned somewhere deep down in your soul. That image — that feeling — seems wedged in a place inside of you that God may have custom designed for it. It must be meant to remind you of how much you need a little more of the divine in your daily life.
But, despite my ode to the glorious city, the truth is that even I’d forgotten how mysteriously powerful it is. That is until I stepped foot again here this week after a long, COVID-19 inflicted absence.
It has been too long since I could return. Now, I can and I didn’t realize how much I had missed just being here again. The land of our patriarchs and prophets has a magnetism to it. I’d forgotten how I missed stepping on soil trod by Jesus and his apostles. Maybe before this long absence, I’d become a bit accustomed to the place.
Now, I’ve already fallen in love with it — again.
It’s the same place yet it feels totally new.
“Absence,” they say, “does really make love fonder.” Israel has always been a “second home” for Christians like me. It's a phrase we always threw around — our second home — but this time it really feels that way.
I’m determined to do everything in my personal power to encourage Christian pilgrims from all over the world to return again to Israel now. There’s no need to wait any longer.
Just come. Make your plans. Take a vacation. Organize your life around it.
The terrible virus has already stolen so much from us. We cannot let it steal from us our pilgrimages to this Holy Place. Whatever the inconveniences the virus leaves with us — from masks to tests to new travel procedures — it’s worth navigating through it all to run here again.
Actually, it’ll help heal us all after a long, difficult season where we were sometimes far from one another.
For centuries, people traveled thousands of miles and underwent countless ordeals in order to possibly, maybe see Jerusalem for themselves. They fought off wild animals, hiked along craggy trails, and risked the threat of bandits and sudden and severe weather.
They did all they could just to see this place for themselves — to feel it.
We don’t endure these challenges, even after a pandemic.
Now, thanks to the modern State of Israel, one can pray in security, explore history conveniently, and always stay in luxury. As COVID-19 fades into the world’s rear-view mirror, we need to look forward again and to look in the direction of God’s Holy City, nestled in God’s miracle nation.
So, go ahead. Gather your children and grandchildren. It’s time for a pilgrimage.
Call your pastor and pull together your church. It’s time to feel the Bible. Get ready to run through the gates of God’s city and to raise your hands in worship as to float upon the Sea of Galilee.
It’s time to meditate adjacent to the Garden. It’s time to rummage through history in the ruins of the City of David. It’s time to pray at the Western Wall alongside those whose Hebrew Bible remains our ultimate guide. It’s time to return —-to Israel.
And don’t let anything stop you. Come to revive — to heal — your tired soul.
Rev. Johnnie Moore is the president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, the founder of The KAIROS Company, and a recipient of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s prestigious “medal of valor.”