As the ancient steps made their way down the side of Mount Zion to the Kidron Valley, we looked on the very stones that Jesus probably walked on as he made his way with his disciples to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. On a wall at the top of the steps, a frieze depicts their decent down them – and nearby another scene – Jesus being dragged up the same stone flight after his arrest – to the house of the High Priest.
Even stones told stories in their silent witness as words in the Bible came alive in unexpected ways for those of us who were blessed with this time on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It was a year ago this month when we began the season of Lent together in the lands where Jesus walked.
This year we step into the season of Lent on 14th February – Ash Wednesday – which happens to be on the same date as Valentine’s Day. Days that resonate with people for different reasons – one Christian, one secular, yet each with love at the very centre of them. On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the love we share in those special relationships in our lives. Ash Wednesday and Lent point us to the greatest act of love of all time. We accompany Jesus on a journey that will lead him to the Cross. A journey that is grounded in reality – that acknowledges the worst in humanity, its mess, its violence, selfish ambition, power and yet also how it can be, demonstrated in the beauty, peace, truth and love that we see in Jesus. The love that took him – God’s own Son – to the Cross, so that through him we might have life and receive the joy of Easter.
Whether you choose to celebrate Lent, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day or all three, I hope that we can all celebrate the gift of love. We can remember and give thanks to God for the greatest gift of love in his Son, Jesus Christ, to whom even the stones of the Holy Land tell stories in their silent witness. How much more can we?
Revd. Jackie Taylor – Rural Dean