You know you’re in the Holy Land when you get to a place and its ruins are from the Crusader era, (that is, roughly 1000 years old) and you sigh at the feeling that it’s too bad this site isn’t very old. That’s how it is here: you look at a lot of very old stones. Which could seem a little boring, except for the way these old stones help us trace our way back in time, back to the time of Jesus and the centuries after, when Christians remembered all the amazing things that happened here in our savior’s life (not to mention all the other amazing Biblical events that happened around this land).
There is a real sense in which the stones of the Holy Land can become an obsession, even a sort of idol. You can come to site after site, and look at the stones, and take pictures of the stones, and talk about what the stones used to be, and remark at how beautiful it all is. You can come to holy sites and look immediately for the stones to tell you where God is, or at least where God was. Some of the stones really are breathtaking and remarkable, like the stones of the Western Wall, or the stones inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They are so old and venerable that you can feel like God is inside them, somehow.
But God is not trapped in the stones. That’s what we’ll celebrate this weekend as we draw Easter to a close with the Feast of Pentecost. God is not in the stones, no matter how ancient, no matter how beautiful, no matter where they may stand. We do not worship a God of stone, or a God who lives in a house made of stone. We do not worship a God who abides in one city, no matter how old or venerable. We worship a God who is over all things and above all things, who came to live among us in flesh and blood for a time, and who now moves in and through us as Spirit. And that Spirit who first erupted among the apostles in a room in Jerusalem does not live in Jerusalem, or in Israel, or in Rome, or any other place where the stones are old and interesting enough to take a picture of. That Spirit who enlivened the apostles, who inflamed and energized and inspired them, is living and moving and with you now, today, and with all those who choose and are baptized into the way of the Holy One.
I know someone who has shown me the Holy Spirit as much as any ancient stone, and this Sunday we will celebrate her ministry at Transfiguration. The Rev. Liz O’Donnell will step down from her role as our Deacon for Pastoral Care this Pentecost, after loving and serving the people of our church for eight years. I am grateful beyond words for her efforts and dedication, and I hope you will come and join me in celebrating this vessel of the Holy Spirit.
See you this weekend.