Give a bunch of Canadians a day off in the Old City of Jerusalem and the inevitable happens. Each of them will encounter opportunities to engage in bartering. This ancient practice, which involves trying to get somthing for as little cash as possible, is standard pratice in the Old City, although it is more noticeable in the Muslim and Christian qurters of the city, where shop keepers agressively pursue the almighty dollar.
To be honest, for the novice, this practice can be unnerving. We are so accustomed to paying what is asked that doing anything that involves an enthusiatic and lively debate to reduce the price is unthinkable. I was told today that I was a “hard man” for bargaining on the price of a bedouin dagger for Noah (younger brothers need some kind of advantage!). I was called friend and brother more times than I can count. I was even invited to sit down for tea and Ccffee on the house, because this was “not for business, just for friends.” Anyhow, the day has probably traumatized young Samuel Landry and has certainly worn the rest of us out (wearing Samuel out seems difficult to do).
We did not just barter today however, this morning I took a splinter group and visited the pool of Bethsaida and the Ecco Homme Arch (the place of the pavement – see John 19:13). We stopped briefly in the Church of the Holy Seplechure, but to be honest, too long in that spot grieves my soul and causes me to want to cry out to those who prostrate themseleves on the ground, kissing stones and burning candles in an effort to get God’s attention.
We are surrounded by religion in Israel, of many different kinds, all of it sincere. But true faith is as rare here as it was in Jesus day. That’s why an evening visit from Pastor Meno Kalisher, from the Jerusalem Assembly was so refreshing. He helped me to step back from all the religious trappings and to see what God is doing in this land – and the true cost of discipleship. I was encouraged and blessed by the reminder. Here is a man who has suffered at the hands of his countrymen, yet counts his own advantage as nothing if he can but win Christ. A truly excellent reminder. Thanks Meno.
We are back to touring tomorrow. Check back tomorrow night and I’ll be here!
Herb the Pastor