Did you see it? The Hangover….the first one. It’s the hilariously funny, sickly offensive, highly immoral movie about a bachelor party in Las Vegas. One of the first scenes features the bride’s brother, the nerdy, dopey dude in the group played by Zac G. taking the other 3 much better looking, sophisticated guys to the hotel roof on the Vegas Strip. He wants them all to cut their hands and make a blood pact to become a Wolf Pack. It was stupid! Next, the guys have a toast (which Zac has ruffied) and insanity, which none of them recall the following morning save for a small point and shoot camera, begins.
It was February 7, 2016. Drizzling, freezing cold rain fell on the members of the “red bus.” Victor Nammour, my friend whom I proclaim as Israel’s greatest tour guide and Ambassador, led the group including Mark, Juna, Susi, Brandon, George, Julie, Bob, Rusti, Sharon, others and me through the streets of Old City Jerusalem. Old City is much like it was in Christ’s day (except for the electricity, duh!). Merchants, ancient stone streets, incense aroma, hustling crowds characterize this center of commerce.
(From 2/7/16: part of our group on the Jerusalem streets).
Our feet were wet; lips were purple; we were freezing. In certain places streets were so narrow that when cars would pass by we’d have to step into doorways and allies to let motorists pass. When stinking exhaust fumes warmed us, we gladly welcomed the choking stench. At one point one of the ladies tripped. The lens from her exceptionally nice camera hit so hard it popped off a rolled a few feet away. We were hungry, we were tired, we were walking the path of Jesus Christ along the Via Dolorosa, we did not have anything but complete awe and reverence.
And then, there it was: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
It is Golgotha; the place where Christ was entombed, the place from where he was resurrected. From here the Romans tried to end His story. From here the story lives!
You might ask yourself: What the heck does a secular, rated R movie like The Hangover have to do with anything Holy Land? We’ve all heard it: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” And those guys did a pretty good job keeping their trip to themselves (remember them going through the camera shots at the end….Carrot Top?…I’ll leave it there).
Paragraph disclaimer: this is all over the place, try to follow me: Zac didn’t get his 4 man blood wolf pack in the movie. The events of Christ’s 33 year life, death & subsequent resurrection did not stop with four guys (12 in Jesus’ case) stifling the story of how Christ bought our salvation with His blood. Pentecost came, the Holy Spirit moved, and fast forward all the way to 2017 where we live in His world marked by His life. In every culture, even when it is not acknowledged, some aspect of modern living is set as a result of Christian tradition. I speculate that even ole Kim Jong’s Juche calendar (created in 1912) was, in some backward way predicated upon, if not set in protest to the Gregorian Calendar. Somebody want to let him in on that? He might spontaneously combust—-but I completely digress.
The Holy Land’s beauty is that what happened there did not stay there. It radiated and shone throughout the world. News spread so that His story could unfold throughout creation.
Wait a minute.
Am I using the past tense?
I’ll rephrase my conclusion.
The Holy Land’s beauty is what happens there shines through the world. News spreads so that His story can be told throughout creation.
(Below: lamps above place where Christ’s body believed to have been prepared for burial. The stone beneath the lamps dates to Christ’s time. )
(Top right: place believed to be where the cross of Christ stood on Golgotha; 2nd right: top of entry to Christ’s tomb where He remained for 3 days (photo prior to 2017 restoration); bottom left: best shot I could get of entire tomb enclosure: it’s HUGE)
One week from today 4 incredible women and I shall depart to meet Victor in Tel Aviv to venture through the Holy Land. As in February 2016 I invite you to join us on the journey through Galilee, Ein Gedi, Palestine, and Jerusalem. Hopefully, you’ll see a fresh approach to an ancient land…peppered with relatable pop culture analogies….all of which pervade modern living. This is my approach to telling the story because I believe God can be found everywhere and related, in someway, to every situation, to tell a timeless story of His never ending Mercy & Grace.
Let’s roll! Next stop: Ben Gurion International, Tel Aviv.
Two last things:
(1) I intend no disrespect whatsoever to Christian faith and intend no comparison between the secular movie and Bible other than to say some stories spread; some stories do not. If we cannot live in a secular world and reflect the love of Jesus Christ by our actions, then we might as well hang it up.
(2) If you read the first blog back in 2016, there still isn’t a Hard Rock Cafe in Israel, but the hummus and falafel are killer! Can’t wait.