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Israel Highlights from the Sheltons

Our Shelton family trip to Israel was moving in so many ways. We were reminded that Jesus is still calling his disciples today, even you and me. 

Some highlights were sitting on the southern steps of the Temple Mount, where Jews in Jesus time would have entered to go to Temple, where rabbis taught and where people gathered. The original steps are still there! This means Jesus walked there and probably taught there and so did Peter and Paul!

We also visited Jacob’s Well (see below) – where Jesus met the Samaritan woman in John 4 and revealed himself to be the Messiah. The well there is the same well from the patriarch Jacob’s time and from Jesus’ time - active and working – and we drew water from it! The well is located underground – underneath the altar area of a beautiful Eastern Orthodox church, manned by a faithful priest, who has protected the well since 1979 for pilgrims like us to visit it.

We also spent a night at a Bedouin camp in the desert. Bedouins are nomadic people and told us they come from the tradition of Abraham, several thousand years ago. Jerry would like that they really practice hospitality – giving us tea and coffee on arrival and feeding us well with traditional foods. Although this camp is there for tourists like us, we still
 “roughed it” by riding camels (great fun – but uncomfortable), and sleeping in a tent with rugs on the floor and blankets for walls – an amazing experience! There were camels, goats and peacocks roaming around – strange but cool nonetheless.

We started each day on our trip reciting the Sh’ma in both Hebrew and English with our teacher and guide, Geoff Carroll. The Sh’ma is what Jesus says is the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which says “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might!” Jesus also says, “and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18). While this commandment is familiar to us, it was more ingrained in us as we recited it each morning – as good Jews have recited it from memory for thousands of years, including Jesus, who as a Jewish rabbi would have recited the Sh’ma each day.

“Sh’ma” means “Hear” and we talked about what it means to hear. There is not a word for “obey” in Hebrew, but the word “hear” can also be loosely translated as obey. When we tell our children to “listen” we are really saying, “listen to what I’m saying and please obey.” As followers of Jesus we are to hear – or listen and obey what the teacher, or rabbi, says - to hear what Jesus calls us to do and be.

One of my favorite memories will be sitting along side the shore of Sea of Galilee at the traditional spot where Jesus reinstated Peter as a disciple by asking, “Do you love me?” and then Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21). I think Jesus is also wanting to know if we love him too – and we can show our love by listening and following him.

As we sat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee there at that same spot, our teacher Geoff, pointed up the coast and said Capernaum, the town of Jesus’ ministry and Peter’s hometown, just about a half mile up the
coast. An aside: One of the highlights of the Sea of Galilee region is many of the famous villages and locations of the gospels are very close together – most within a few miles of each other! Between where we sat and Capernaum was a spot where a warm spring fed into the Sea and a place where fisherman for centuries liked to fish and to clean their nets. Scholars think this spot, just 100-200 yards from where we sat, is where Jesus called the fisherman, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to be disciples in Matthew 4. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” As we traveled to so many incredible sights around Israel, we felt the call to come and follow Jesus.

The trip made the Bible come alive for us. These places from the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (we visited the site of their tombs at the Machpelah in Hebron!) and then to the time of Jesus are real places – we could see them, walk them, and touch them – many of the buildings or ruins are still there! So for Claire and I, our faith is more confirmed after this trip – and our hope is that our kids’ faith is strengthened as well.

We didn’t just live in the past on the trip, we ate new foods, met Jews and Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem tending shops, working in restaurants, driving our bus and driving cabs. We played cards, laughed a lot, and got really tired. So the call to come and follow Jesus is not just a call for disciples 2000 years ago but for us today as well in the present. Being there for me was also humbling, and I am reminded that although I get tired and fall short in many ways, Jesus can reinstate me as his disciple – and I can respond by following him. May you hear Jesus’ call to come and follow him even this week, and say yes when he calls you too.

Posted by Scott Shelton with 16 Comments

So Thankful!

Recently, ZPC and I received two packets in the mail with the following information: 

“Zionsville Presbyterian Church has a received a grant of $49,935 to enable its minister, Scott Shelton, to participate in the 2015 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations. Zionsville Presbyterian Church is one 26 congregations in Indiana selected to participate in this competitive program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Established by the Endowment in 1999, the program’s grant allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.” You can imagine how excited we are to have received this grant – and to dream about using it in 2016!

What does it all mean? Studies have shown that many pastors experience burnout and some quit the ministry altogether. So the Lilly Endowment along with Christian Theological Seminary is proactively making a difference. Here’s what Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment, says: “Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space. We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”

For me and my family, this Sabbath time, or sabbatical, will take place May 15-September 15, 2016. My time away will combine some of my passions: the Bible, history, travel and my family. The two big highlights will be a trip to Israel and a trip to the American West. Claire and I and our four kids will travel to Israel for two weeks next June to tour biblical sites with a personal guide. We feel this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and comes at a perfect time as all 4 of our kids are in their teenage years, but not yet in college. Also, we’ll take an extended trip next July to the American West, exploring Lewis and Clark sites and National Parks, such as Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I’ll also do a personal quick trip to Springfield, Illinois to study Abraham Lincoln’s life. Finally, Claire and I will schedule a getaway to Florida to rest before returning to ZPC. During this time, I will do some reading, writing and reflecting on all that I am seeing and learning. I plan to teach a class upon returning to ZPC called: “Christ in Community – Jesus in Israel and Indy.” We’ll explore what I have learned from Jesus, from Lincoln, and even Lewis and Clark, and how we can take that to new frontiers to serve Christ in our own communities right around us.

While the majority of the grant goes to support the pastor’s time away, some of the grant money goes to support the church in the pastor’s absence. Some of the grant is set aside to help Jerry with guest preachers or for someone to assist with pastoral duties. There is also money to help underwrite some of the cost of the All Church Retreat, planned again for late August 2016, at beautiful Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County.

It’s hard to describe how blessed Claire and I feel to be a recipient of the Clergy Renewal Program! What a gift it is to have an extended time away from the office; and just to do some things we could never do without the time away or this grant.

So I need to say a big thank you! Thanks to all the ZPC family and the ZPC Session for allowing me to take a sabbatical in the summer of 2016! Also, I am thankful to the Lilly Endowment Inc. and Christian Theological Seminary for awarding ZPC a grant to allow me to take these amazing trips in summer 2016. Until May 15, 2016, I look forward to seeing you around ZPC, and I will certainly look forward to returning to you in the fall of 2016 to share my experiences with you.

Posted by Scott Shelton with 1 Comments