Before the ending of the day 13

There was a garden in that place and a new tomb in which no one had been laid
John 19:41
I first visited the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem in 1988. I returned there to study at St George’s College ten years later and one afternoon re-visited the site and this describes what I saw.
Lord, if it wasn’t your place of resting then
It certainly is now.
I sat and watched,
a Saturday Sabbath afternoon
in the Garden of the Tomb.
Many came.
A Chinese who bent in fervent prayer,
a Norwegian and his grandson,
a party of Mormon young, so beautiful and clean,
bibles at the ready.
A couple arms entwined round
each others’ waists.
She, in tears, he stoic –
she was still crying when I left.
The door of the Tomb was closed.
An inscription on its surface read
‘he is not here for he is risen’.
A bolder soul stepped forward
to see if it would open.
The door moved at his touch.
He stepped through and others quickly followed;
but some hung back,
Uncertain, hesitant;
who willingly steps into a grave?
Some prepared themselves
A prayer
a reading
and then
into the grave of God.
I waited.
They entered.
I waited.
They stepped again into the sunlight.
Some stumbled over the step,
many looked around for the
re-assurance of a familiar face.
A few were middle-aged.
The young stepped away vigorously;
already thumbing their guidebooks
for the next stop
It was the old who held my attention.
Had they in any sense felt the irony?
For the moment their mortality had
been held in the space
that had given rise
to our hope of immortality.
But there was nothing to show that
anything had happened.
They came
They saw.
They went.
Yet maybe in some gentle
God-given way
there had been
an imperceptible shift.
A sowing in the spirit
Which would one emerge as faith.
The tears had come.
The site had been seen.
The story told.
The threshold had been crossed.
Did I go in?
Once is enough for me.
‘he has gone ahead of you.
He is not here, he is risen’.
For I have my own death to live
And there he will be with me.

Places of special reverence, some people call them ‘Thin Places’ feed and nurture faith and the longing for faith. They should be honoured and remembered but never become a chain that ties you to the past.

New ones are discovered all the time; which are yours?


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