Almost everyone had left. Lucy was talking to Jason and Timothy and Lydia were talking to Gladys. I sat praying about what had happened. Somehow this ‘adventure’ seemed to be falling apart. It was just too complicated. There’s only a couple of verses that mention the topic. How could it be so complex?
As I sat there, looking basically at nothing, I had what could be called a “word” from the Holy Spirit. I stood up in obedience, ready to head to my room and do what I was told. Jason, however, walked over. He said to me, in a normal voice that others could hear, “So, what do you think? Here we are in a nice hotel and the going is rougher than when we were on the trail.”
I shook my head but said nothing.
“Well, I think the Holy Spirit just gave you a task, and I’m supposed to help.” Jason looked like he would rather get some sleep.
I started laughing. “Well, He’s up to something!” I said, then added, “Come on. We’ve got a small task.”
He followed me to the hotel lobby. I asked the clerk for some paper and twelve envelopes, and for the room numbers of our group. Jason joined me at a table where we wrote down the following, “The Holy Spirit says that we are very close to understanding all this. He has asked that we go out into Jerusalem today as we did yesterday. Be in prayer, as He will guide each group through Jerusalem. Return to the hotel in order to pray in your room for a while. Then meet about 7:30 pm for dinner. He said to ‘watch and listen and to trust and believe’.” We shoved an envelope under each door and headed to our own rooms.
«» «» «»
Then next morning I met Amos on my way to the elevator. Just as we stepped into it Jason and Nicholas came running. Amos pressed the “door open” button and they joined us. As the elevator descended Amos said, “I saw an interesting cafe on the way back yesterday. Would any of you like to join me there for breakfast?” And so our little group was formed.
The cafe was rather crowded, all the tables being occupied. Then Amos saw that a man was sitting at a table that held six; he was waving at us. “Hello. Would you like to join me at my table?” We gladly accepted his offer.
“I just sat down, myself. May I pray over our meal?” Again, we could not refuse his offer. His prayer was very simple, “Lord God, we thank you for providing this meal and for this opportunity to make new friends. Now Lord God, we ask your guidance through this day. Amen.” Then he nodded his head and began to eat.
The cafe offered a short breakfast menu: cinnamon buns, omlets and tea with a couple of variations. The cinnamon buns were incredible, the omlets were full of lamb and veggies and the tea was very strong. A most delicious way to begin any day.
Our apparent host soon looked up at us and asked, “So, what are you four doing in my beautiful city?”
Amos made a noncommittal comment about our visit. Our ‘host’ then said, “Well, you know that Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on this planet. It was a city long before Abraham moved into the area. The Bible mentions Jerusalem and briefly tells us about one of Jerusalem’s kings, a priest named Melchizedek.”
At the mention of that name, each of us perked up a bit. Our ‘host’ noticed. “Oh,” he said, “You are interested in Melchizedek?” We nodded our heads and he continued, “Not much to say, but he did bring a sacrificial meal to Abraham. It must have been much like the ceremony the Christians call ‘Eucharist’ or ‘The Lord’s Supper’. It was just bread and wine.” He paused for a moment, looking intently at each of us. Then he continued, “Well, you seem to know all that. But there’s something you are wondering about. You are here for more than just to see the tourist traps. May I ask what you are seeking?”
Jason and Nicholas looked rather uncomfortable, but Amos accepted our host and answered him, explaining about the adventure we were engaged in and in our puzzlement over The Priesthood of All Believers. Our host smiled and, again, looked directly at each of us, as if he were studying us. His eyes were twinkling, I could see that the color of the iris in his eyes was a very dark brown, as was his hair, eyebrows and neatly trimmed beard. His nose was definitely Mediterranean and his smile was very reassuring.
After a few moments he spoke quietly, “Well, you’ve really taken on a task. The Priesthood of All Believers is it? I can tell you this, Melchizedek is the first recorded instance of a priest celebrating a bread and wine ritual. As far as I know, anyway. Jesus employed that ceremony to be a new center of worship for His followers. The early Christians had to work out how to celebrate it, since He had commanded it to them. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll understand that they had more Jewishness to overcome than the question of circumcision. This was a priestly sacrifice. It should be celebrated in a temple. But only priests were allowed into the temple. Is that helpful?” He paused and glanced at the clock mounted on the wall over the door. Then said, “Well, I do hope you have a wonderful and blessed adventure. Please enjoy all that my city has to offer. I have duties elsewhere. May God bless you.”
With those words he got up and left the cafe. We sat quietly for a few moments after he left. Jason and Nicholas were visibly shaken. I was dumbfounded. But Amos was smiling. He stood up and offered to get another pot of tea. We mumbled assent. He returned, refilled our cups and sat down. No one spoke. We sipped our tea and tried to make sense of what our ‘host’ had said.
“I do wish we knew more about Melchizedek.” Nicholas said this out loud, apparently not to anyone.
Amos laughed. He said, “We know enough. He said much with few words. Let’s see what else this city and the Holy Spirit have for us today.”
«» «» «»
Lucy got up early. She found the hotel’s dining room empty. The sun was shining brightly so she sat facing the east. The view was wonderful, a sharp contrast to the way she felt. This ‘adventure’ was frustrating. She wanted to go home, but that would require explaining to family and friends why she did not complete the adventure. The waiter brought her tea and waffles. Soon Josephine entered. Lucy heard her order the breakfast special. Then she asked Lucy if she could join her.
“I probably won’t be much company.” Lucy said. She glanced out the window again, then continued, “This adventure thing is not much fun. We spend all that time on baptism and decide that it’s a membership ritual. Now we’re wandering around Jerusalem, no guide, no plan, no purpose. The way my ticket works, I can go home in a couple of days. Unless it gets a whole lot better, I will.”
Josephine said, “I think it will get better. That note I found this morning was a blessing. I really belive the Holy Spirit is guiding us. I can’t wait to see what we find today.” Lucy did not answer; instead, she just looked out the window.
A few of the other hotel guests wandered in. Then Amanda and Gladys joined the two girls. Amanda was bubbling with excitement. She read out loud the note that Jason and I had left. Her enthusiasm was catching, even Lucy began to smile. The waiter brought their orders and they ate, listening to Amanda chatter about their excursion yesterday. It sounded like she thought Jerusalem was much better than Disney World, but something of the same sort of place.
“I’m feeling antsy. Could we go now?” Gladys stood up as she said this. “I feel that it’s important that we leave now.” So, without another word, the three other women stood up and joined Gladys as they headed to the door.
When the elevator door closed, Amanda said, “Let’s pray.” The other three nodded silently. So Amanda began to pray, asking the Holy Spirit for guidance.
As they exited the elevator Josephine saw a display rack with tourist brochures. “Look! There’s a rose garden! And this time of year they should be in full bloom.” Josephine was waving the brochure at them. “Oh, let’s go see it. Roses are so very beautiful.”
Lucy seemed to perk up as she said, “A rose garden? That would be a pleasant change from all this.” She waved her hand around. “Yes. Let’s find the rose garden.”
Gladys, who was studying the brochure, said, “Well, it’s over by the Knesset. Probably two or three miles.”
Josephine offered, “Well that’s about an hour or so. Lucy, you hardly ate your waffles. But I’m sure we’ll walk past a nice place to get, uh, what the Hobbits called a ‘second breakfast.’”
It took about two hours, what with window shopping, winding streets and stopping twice for ‘second breakfasts’. But the ladies had a great time. At one point Amanda commented, “You know, we are really seeing Jerusalem. Not the tourist sites, but the real city.” Lucy responded to that with an “Amen.”
The rose garden was quite beautiful. The roses were in full bloom. The garden was just what they needed. Lucy and Josephine frequently marvelled at the beauty of the roses. Amanda and Gladys frequently made good use of the benches in the garden while the two younger ladies ran around inspecting and sniffing the lovely flowers. As the four ladies meandered through the gardens they discussed all sorts of things, but never once mentioned baptism, Melchizedek or any sort of priesthood. Eventually, they wandered out of the gardens and into a bird observatory and a nice park. There were some younger people playing basketball and some children playing in a playground.
They were walking toward the east, headed back to the hotel, when suddenly they were out of the park and back into the city. Cafes abounded; they soon found one that looked excellent, being full of customers, and so ordered a rather late lunch. The only empty table was a large round table that could accomodate six people. They chose to sit so that each of them would have some view through the window.
Amanda saw the two ladies first, as she had the best view of the entrance. An older lady was apparently pulling someone who might be her granddaughter across the threshold into the cafe. The older lady spoke loud enough to be heard; “I need to take my medicine!” The younger lady blushed as she realized that the entire cafe had heard and many were looking in the direction of the entrance.
“Grandma” looked around, walked over to their table, gestured around the room and asked, “May we join you? This cafe is apparently very popular.” Amanda granted permission, and introductions were made.
The older lady’s name was “Louise” and her granddaughter was “Judith”. She interrupted to say that everyone called her “Julie”. Grandma huffed and said, “Your name is Judith.” A waiter inquired about their order and asked if he could bring the orders out when they were ready. Grandma Louise immediately informed the waiter that they were not together; however, the cafe did not have enough tables.
Lucy snickered slightly, looked at Judith/Julie and said, “Hi Julie and Louise, we’re here on an excursion to learn more about the Bible. You sound American. What brings you here?”
Julie, in an attempt to usurp her grandmother, spoke up quickly, “Oh, my Grandpa is leading a group of people from our church on a Holy Land tour. But Grandma, that is, we, got tired and caught a cab back to our hotel. Grandma asked the driver to let us off here. It’s a very short walk to our hotel.”
The waiter brought Josephine’s grilled cheese and lemonade. Gladys told her to go ahead, no need for it to get cold. So Josephine said a short prayer over her lunch, ending with the Sign of the Cross. Louise gasped. Then asked, “Are Y’All Catholic?”
Julie said, reprovingly, “Grandma!”
Josephine laughed, saying, “Well, I guess I am. I think Gladys is something like Baptist. Amanda is, I think, some sort of Anglican and Lucy, well…, I’m pretty sure she’s not Catholic.”
Lucy grinned, then said, “Well, our church was Presbyterian. Now we’re some sort of Independant while we sort things out. To be honest, I’m really discouraged by all the denominations and their self-righteous piousness. No one knows for certain how the Apostles conducted their worship services, but we can be absolutely certain it is not the way any denomination does it. That includes the Romans.”
Louise took a deep breath and said, “Well! I’ll have you know that Fred, my husband, can trace the Baptist Church all the way back to John the Baptist!”
Julie and Gladys looked at each other and they both started laughing. Julie said, “Oh, Grandma! You know that’s silly. Grandpa said last Sunday that there’s two ways to do that. One is to trace the Baptists through a number of heretics. The other way is to go back to the Roman Church. He was laughing about it. He was talking about how we would meet all sorts of people on this trip and most of them would not be Baptist. At least not our version of Baptist. He talked about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb. And he reminded us that Martin Luther was only 500 years ago. The Church is four times that. For the first thousand years there really was only one denomination.” She was grinning. Her grandmother, however, was not very happy.
“You know,” Josephine said, “One of the things I do not like about the Catholic Church is how they act like they are the only denomination. They call themselves the “Mother Church” like they were the first one. But I was reading about something called the “Great Schism” and it sounds to me like the Greek Church and the Roman Church split from each other. It also seems like it was more about politics than about theology. I really do love my church. I love my priests and my bishop. But I have to say that sometimes priests and bishops can get really stupid. I wish we had some sort of check on them.”
Amanda made a short exclamation of surprise, “Oh! My!” Everyone looked at her, but she shook her head and said, “I just realized something. But I need to think about it.”
Lucy spoke up, “Louise, I think you maybe don’t understand your granddaughter. But you really should listen to her. She is very smart. She can think. And you are very lucky to be in a denomination that is not fighting about theology. Please pray for my church. We are suffering because of the infighting.”
“But we have fought.” Louise was quite serious, but her expression was more accomodating. She paused as she thought about what she was going to say, then she continued, “Baptists are notorious for church fights. Forty years ago we had a huge fight and our church split. I don’t even know what it was about. I was twenty-one. Fred and I had been married for two weeks when it started. It was awful. And I had forgotten about it. Lucy, I do feel for you. You are going through a terrible time.”
The waiter arrived with more plates and refills of beverages. As soon as he left, a second waiter arrived with the plates for Louise and Julie. Julie offered to pray for the meal. Then everyone sat quitely, eating, for a few minutes.
Josephine finished her sandwich first. She began to talk about the rose garden. The conversation wandered around, but it was all friendly talk. As they finished Julie said, “I can’t wait to tell Grandpa that we had lunch with a Catholic!” Louise started for a moment, then laughed. Then everyone laughed.
Julie asked if Josephine and Lucy would like to join her tomorrow, and asked if Louise could join Gladys and Amanda. Gladys explained about how the adventurers were being guided by the Holy Spirit, so they could not make any commitments for tomorrow. Louise was most intrigued by the fact that the group would meet for dinner and discuss the day’s events, then pray about what would happen tomorrow. So they exchanged hotel room numbers and headed toward their hotels.
«» «» «»
Gayle woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. Jason had said that he saw ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and she had believed him. This adventure was beginning to make a little sense. She found the envelope stuck under her door and laughted exuberantly. It was going to be a wonderful day. She pressed the button to call the elevator. When it arrived, Timothy and Lydia were already on it. Since they were headed to the hotel restaurant, Gayle joined them.
They ate breakfast discussing their ideas about where to go for the day’s excursion. They prayed, asking the Holy Spirit where He would like for them to go. When Timothy finished talking to the Holy Spirit, he opened his eyes to see his wife and Gayle had turned their chairs and were looking out the window. Jerusalem was to the west, the sun was beaming down from the east, lighting up the city like it was covered in magic. The Dome of the Rock was glowing brightly with sunshine bouncing off the golden roof.
Gayle was talking. Saying, “…and I the only thing that was clear was the word, ‘windmill’.”
Lydia responded, “Okay. I think I understood that we should visit King David’s Tomb.”
Timothy laughed, saying, “And I was told to visit lions in a fountain. At least that’s what I understood.”
Lydia pulled out her smartphone and opened Google Maps. She studied it for a minute. “If we head toward the Dung Gate, it’s less than an hour to walk to King David’s Tomb.” She looked out the window, then asked, “What if I enter ‘windmill in Jerusalem’?” She typed in the words and then exclaimed with joy, “Look! There is one!” She handed her phone to Gayle.
Gayle laughed and passed it to Timothy. He looked at his wife and said, “May I try something?” She nodded.
Quickly entering the search request, Timothy got his answer. He laughed and then said, “Now for the route.” Typing a bit more, he studied the phone and then passed it to his wife, saying, “Look carefully at that route.”
She laughed and showed it to Gayle, who said, “Well, looks like we know where we are supposed to go.”
King David’s Tomb did not produce the revelation they had hoped to find. But Gayle wanted to stay for a while. She asked, “If Jesus is both King and Priest, then is his kingship based on the kingship of Melchizedek or the kingship of David?”
Timothy thought maybe the answer was “both”. However, he also felt an urging from the Holy Spirit that the reason they were there was to see the true nature of the tomb. The three of them were baffled. The tomb was stone. It was obviously a sacred place, properly maintained. There was a controversy about the tomb being the “true” tomb. The concensus was that, even if it was not the actual tomb, it was important to celebrate King David. This place was a good as any.
It was a short walk to King David’s statue. From there they wandered through the Jerusalem University College campus and ended up in a small park which had a fountain and lion statues. Gayle suggested sitting on the little stone benches for a bit.
They watched some children play in the water, splashing and laughing. Sitting close by was an older gentleman. He was keeping a close eye on the children. Lydia asked if they were his grandchildren. He pointed to the lady that appeared to be their mother and said, “She’s my granddaughter. They’re her children.” He produced a big, very proud grin.
Gayle asked Timothy about King David’s Tomb, “You said we were to discover the ‘true nature’ of the tomb. But what does that really mean? It’s a remodeled cave. It’s designed to honor a dead man. His bones are, supposedly, there. It’s actually, in essence, a grave. There’s nothing about it that’s alive. King David is dead. He has no idea about how his tomb or bones are treated. I doubt he would care. Same thing if those bones are not King David’s. Would the man whose bones they are actually feel good about being mistaken for King David?” She paused, not for an answer, but just to gather her thoughts.
“Look,” she said, “if they’re in Heaven, they are worshipping God. If they’re not, they’ve got much bigger worries than that tomb. Really! Who cares whether the man’s bones are the right ones? I was actually enjoying the beauty and the sacredness of the place until that guy gave me his brochure. I don’t know what to think, who to believe.” She shook her head and looked around. The children began to splash and laugh quite loudly.
Lydia pointed toward the children. “That’s so odd, in a way,” she said. “Those lions are almost lifelike. It takes a second glance to see that they are statues.” A young boy jumped up out of the pool of water, shouting for joy. He climbed on the back of one of the lion statues, like it was a horse. A family entered the fountain area. One of their little children pointed and screamed, thinking the lions were real.
“Oh my goodness!” Timothy was laughing. “That’s what it’s all about. The tomb and the lions. I get it.” The two ladies stared at him. He laughed and continued, “It’s all about what you believe, or choose to believe. One child believes the lions are real, another is certain the are not. Same with the Tomb of King David. One man believes it is real, another does not. One child has touched the statue and knows it is not alive, another sees it and thinks it is alive. One way, it’s pretty obvious; but if you really think about it, it’s profound. It’s how everyone thinks.”
“Oh my goodness!” Lydia began to laugh. “I see. The true nature of the Tomb of King David is what one believes. But the person who believes that it is the tomb and is there to pay homage to the man who was King David recieves a spiritual blessing that the unbeliever cannot obtain. So, if you believe you are properly baptized, then you are. You’ll get the spiritual blessing.”
“Oh my goodness!” Gayle was not laughing. She was astonished, saying, “Oh my, that’s what it’s all about. If I believe in Allah, I get the blessings of Islam. If I believe in Krishna and Shiva I get the Hindu blessings. If I believe in money, I get the blessings of money. And, best of all, if I believe in Jesus I get His blessings.”
“That’s right.” Timothy responded, still a bit giddy; he continued, “There really is only one God. Everything else is a distraction. You can believe all you want that the Earth is flat, but that won’t change the fact that it is round. You can believe that all your good deeds will score points with God, but that belief won’t change the fact that you are still a sinner.”
“Oh, no!” Lydia was suddenly shocked, “What about that other site? The brochure says that the place they found is the correct place of the Tomb of King David? What if you’re trying to honor King David in the wrong place?”
Timothy stared at her for a moment, then said, “You’ve forgotten Romans, chapter one. The evidence of God is available to anyone who cares to see it. If all you know is the religion of your culture, but you see the evidence of God and you worship Him in the only way you know, then you are truly worshipping God in spirit and in truth. That’s why missionaries can be so effective in their witness. The pagans who hear their witness recognize that it is true. Which denomination is correct? Southern Baptist? Russian Orthodox? Quaker? Anglican? So long as you are worshipping the God of the Bible then your worship is valid. You and I think our denomination is closest to Biblical worship. However, we don’t worship our denomination; we worship God.”
They sat in silence, pondering these thoughts. After several minutes Gayle said, “I’d like to see the windmill. So far we’ve had a very productive day. I wonder what we will learn from the windmill?”
Apparently, the answer was, ‘not much’. The short walk to the windmill was quite pleasant. There was little wind and the sails were not moving. The history of the place was odd, but seemed to have nothing to do with their quest. One of the oddest things about the windmill was that, even though it had been restored a few years ago and was now a working flour mill, it seemed that its main business was as a wine shop. They sampled a bit and thought the wine quite delicious. Following the recommendation of a fellow visitor to the windmill, they took a short walk to a nearby restaurant and ordered a most excellent lunch.
On their way back to the hotel, they passed they passed a tiny shop where the owner created handmade lyres, like the ones King David would have played. Gayle said she had to go into the shop. After negotiations and a phone call to their hotel, she bought a beautiful lyre and the hotel shipped it to her nephew, a fiddle player in a bluegrass band. As they headed to their rooms, Gayle said, “You know, this really has been a most wonderful and enjoyable day. Thanks, so much to each of you for helping to make it so fabulous. See you at dinner!”