In Touch October 9, 2009
Posted on October 8, 2009 by under Touché,

From the Holy Land to the Holy Land

I write this from the Holy Land—Holland, Michigan, that is, the center of the Reformed Church in America where I am meeting with the Board of Trustees at Hope College. The six pastors on the board are meeting to discuss how the RCA church support for Hope has dramatically dropped off. RCA churches are sending fewer students. The number one denominational group at Hope in the latest incoming class classify themselves as Roman Catholic. The reality that we all agreed on is that denominational loyalty is insignificant to most people connected with our churches. That has changed the face of Hope.

Hope is rated as one of the top colleges in the country that changes people’s lives. Enrollment figures are at all-time highs and the standards for acceptance continue to climb. Tomorrow I will go to chapel and it will be packed with students who are not required to be there. The following—or finding—of faith at Hope is available to all, but it is a choice that needs to be made. Hope College is very unique in the world of higher education, a liberal arts college with a vibrant Christian community that finds it vibrancy through choice, not command or dictates decided before you come. It will be interesting to see how Hope’s future is connected to the RCA, but Holland does not feel like the holy land much any more. The center of the church is moving to what is local and what is missional.

I will head home from Holland on Friday, preach on Sunday, and head to the other Holy Land, Israel/Palestine that is, on Sunday evening. Henry Mikhail is hosting Percy Gilbert and me on a to the Holy Land. Henry, a deacon in our church, is a Palestinian Christian. I am sure that I will see the Holy Land in very different ways than most tourists see it. The Christian presence in the Holy Land is diminished as the country is defined so much by the Arab and Israeli conflict. It is sad that at the seat of Christianity there is not a stronger presence of the Christian faith, but the wonder of the gospel is that it is always moving, always reaching out in new ways to new places.

The “holy” is in the presence of God in people and in all places. I hope this week in Israel will be a time for me to reflect on the way God is moving on holy ground and shaping all places as the Holy Land. We have spent a week in prayer as a community, making Hopewell the Holy Land this week. What makes ground holy is not our institutions or our expectations, but the presence of God in all places and the face of God in all people. So my from the Holy Land to the Holy Land will bring me back to the Holy Land of Hopewell to see how God is moving and we are growing. I look forward to that.

Yours as a Pilgrim,