Physical places often shape our identities, relationships and faith. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” Paul writes. Part of what this means is that faith doesn’t just reside in our thoughts or emotions. Faith resides in our whole bodies, and how our bodies “live and move and have our being” in the sacred places where God encounters us. In this Fall 2023 Gather Bible study, written by an ELCA missionary living in Jerusalem, we’ll explore what holy places mean, not only for the Holy Land of the Bible, but for each of us, wherever we may be.
Holy places: Home
Home can be the place we lay our head and the people we call family. Home can be our community or homeland. Home is also found wherever we truly and fully belong. This month, we consider the complexity and the promise of “home” through the stories of Israel’s exile, the ministry of Jesus, and the promises of Revelation.
Holy places: Sanctuary
For thousands of years, physical spaces have been set apart for individual prayer and community worship. “Sanctuary” is one word for such spaces. Throughout history, “sanctuary” has also referred to spaces of safety and refuge. If God is everywhere, what is the importance of sanctuary? What can Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s correspondence with the early church teach us about what sanctuary looks like today?
Holy places: Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage, a journey to a sacred place, is a spiritual practice with a long history in Christianity (and many other religions). In the Bible, pilgrimage is not only about the destination, but also about the “holy place” of the journey itself. Considering the journey of the Magi, the walk to Emmaus, and Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, we’ll ponder how pilgrimage can inspire, challenge and transform our faith and our lives.