It is a crowded, complex city. Last week, I wrote of being in Israel for two weeks. Our first week was in Galilee, and our second week was in Jerusalem. I was struck by the complexity and density of Jerusalem.
The city, particularly within the old walls, is packed with residents, tourists, and merchants all trying to navigate narrow, winding streets. I was repeatedly impressed by drivers who could navigate the lanes, even as pedestrians flattened themselves against the walls of buildings to let the cars pass. The Christian, Armenian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters of the old city each have a somewhat distinct personality. Vistas depict diversity, such as this photograph of the Western “Wailing” Wall, the remnants of the Jewish temple, and The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine. We know, of course, that pictures cannot show everything. The security screening and armed guards are not visible from a distance. A long and difficult history has created a very complex present in Jerusalem.
One early morning as I stood in prayer on a rooftop terrace overlooking Jerusalem, I reflected on how often we long for simplicity and peace in our lives. There are times we would like to create a bubble of protection around ourselves to keep the messiness of the world at bay. Such efforts are fruitless. Our individual lives, our local communities, and our world as a whole have always been marked by tensions and difficulties as well as joy and beauty. The good news is that God has repeatedly chosen to be present in the midst of it all. Jesus was born in an occupied land and when the time was right he walked straight into Jerusalem.
God shows up in the midst of the crowds and complexity. May this give us comfort and courage.
May the peace of Christ be with you.