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I woke up early enough for the service mentioned in the title that my mom was able to call me at 9:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, which was useful as a secondary alarm. On the down side, it means that my 4:30 AM wakeup time only allowed me 2 hours of sleep for a whirlwind Easter experience. As you shall come to see, from reading what I did all day, it was all more than worth the tired situation and VERY early wakeup call.

Dressing in my Easter finest, I elicited quite the look of shock from the Reznik dorm guard on my way out: 1) I was dressed very classy, and Israel is a very casual place; and 2) it was EXTREMELY early in the morning for a college student to be leaving the dorms. I walked along the side of Mt. Scopus and the university campus, and eventually arrived at the front gate to Augusta Victoria. Walking in with other Christian folks going to the service, we hurried past the hospital towards the edge of the Mt. of Olives and the service itself. Arriving in the still-dark morning, we shared the bulletins already amongst the people there. I arrived in the middle of the first reading (I got up early, but not early enough given how sluggishly I was moving). After the Gospel reading from Mark, and Pastor Mark Holman of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer from the Old City began his sermon, the sun did as it was told and rose. But it didn’t just simply go up into the sky and start beating down on us, as its usual method of affairs. It was a bit foggy that morning over the Maale Adumim settlement and surrounding Palestinian communities, so the sun lit those areas up incrementally as it rose higher and higher. It was also considerate enough to rise slowly and through clouds, allowing me to get a whole bunch of shots and then spend a whole bunch of time worrying about which ones to post here (check them out, and tell me what you think).

Pastor Holman’s sermon continued, and was focused predominantly on the colloquialism from sports of “the ball is in your court,” as a sentiment describing that it is up to each person to act on what moral directives they are given. In the context of a sermon given on the Mt. of Olives, next to a ruined Jordanian bunker from 1967 and on top of the land where the Roman 12th Legion headquarters was located, Pastor Holman went on to make the point that soldiers have occupied these lands before to the detriment of all the locals, and that continues today. He urged everyone present to do their part in taking care of their fellow human beings both here in Israel/Palestine, and everywhere else in the world. This was particularly poignant, as the service was composed of Arabic-, German-, Danish-, and English-speaking individuals from all over the world. The culmination of his sermon was when he pulled a tennis racket and some balls out from behind the makeshift stone altar, and shot half of them towards the crowd and then the other half down into the olive orchards on the hillside, thus literally putting the “ball in our courts.”

The service continued with singing for a bit, and then communion as the sun rose higher and higher. A truly wonderful service on a wholly beautiful Easter morning. It only got better, as we were all invited to a Palestinian-style Easter brunch at the nearby home of Pastor Mark Brown, of the Lutheran World Federation. The food was all excellent, and before eating everyone present introduced themselves and where they were from, as why they were in Israel. We got an intriguing mix of people, professions, and professed reasons for being in Israel; from myself as a student from American University, to American people working in official capacities, to Norwegian girls volunteering at schools in Bethlehem, to a Dutch doctoral candidate of theology doing survey-based research of the Arab versus the Israeli reaction to Jeremiah 32. A great start to one of the greatest days I have yet had here. Check out the next post for the continuation of the story.

Here is a short video I took, of the Augusta Victoria church bells ringing in the middle of the service:

And, as per usual, here are the best of the photographs I took:

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