Note: In January 2011 my wife and I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was a very moving experience. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I sensed while on this life changing trip.
We spent one morning in Capernaum. We viewed the ruins of a house where tradition says that Peter’s mother in law was healed. There was a church literally built over the top of the house. The church was suspended on giant beams above the house so that the ruins themselves were undisturbed. There was a huge glass floor in the middle of church that allowed visitors to look down on the house below. Needless to say, it was a very interesting tour.
I was fascinated by the fact that there is no real proof this was the house in which Peter’s family lived. The reason that it has been traditionally identified as the house is because the ruins were found right next door to the synagogue. The Gospels of Luke and Mark tell the story that when Jesus left that particular synagogue, he went to Peter’s house, which was “next” to it and healed Peter’s mother in law. Of course, there were many houses “next” to the synagogue. The area is filled with ruins and the actual house could have been any one of them. In one sense, I guess it does not matter if that is the exact house or not, because even if it was the house on the other side of the synagogue, it would have been very similar to what we were looking at. On the other hand, it was interesting how powerful the tradition had become, even though the evidence was fairly shallow. It made me think about how powerful man-made traditions are in the modern church. I had to ask myself how much actual scriptural support there is for some of our beloved religious traditions.
I recall seeing a priest and three people walking around in the ruins themselves. This area was sealed off with iron gates, so they must have had special permission to enter it. They were down there quite a while and the priest was showing them various things and the three guests were clearly excited and animated about whatever he was saying. Since I love history, I must admit I was a bit jealous and was wondering what I had to do to get down there in the ruins with them. I wondered what they had done to get the honor of going into such a special place. But I saw no signs or posters giving directions for any “behind the scenes” tour and none of the other priests offered to take people on a special tour of the ruins themselves, so there was no opportunity for me to be one of the “special” people who got the special tour.
As I reflect back on that experience, I wonder if there are people outside the church who wish someone would invite them to the “party.” A number of recent surveys say that many people would come to church if someone they knew simply asked them. Have Christians unintentionally created a “club” mentality about the church and those outside cannot figure out what the rules are to get in? Once that happens, how is the “Church Club” any different from the many other community organizations and groups with all their secret handshakes and rituals?
Lord, help us abandon any belief or practice that is not firmly rooted in scripture.
Lord, help us be the one who invites everyone to the behind the scenes tour of Your love.