An Ecumenical Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tuesday - the Sea of Galilee

On our way to Heathrow on the first leg of the journey, the morning star, Venus, hung low on the Eastern horizon.  Travelling due East along the M 40 it seemed as if it was beckoning us to follow.

I awoke early to see the same Venus suspended as it were over the Sea of Galilee, with Jupiter a little to the right and higher in the sky.

Maybe it was still beckoning us on.

I couldn't help but think of that documentary about the moon landings where those who landed on the moon spoke of the impact the experience had on them.  See the earth rise from teh moon and you see no political boundaries in the One World God has given us.

And the planet he has given us is alive!  Something we would discover as Tuesday unfolded!

Another breakdfast of salads over and we made our way on to Omah's coach.

It was a short twenty minute ride past Magdala to teh Kibbutz and museum that's home to the Jesus boat.

We didn't go to see the boat.

And I bit my tongue and didn't tell anyone what gloriees were h iding behind that door!!

Last year was then!

This was now!

Then on our journey of reconciliation at Tantur we were immersed in high level biblical study.

Now we were on pilgrimage.

How glad I was that I kept mum!

How right Joanne was to want to keep to a different schedule.

You can find out all about the Jesus boat by clicking here!  We were to do something which for us that day was far more important.

We boarded the boat four times the size of the first century boat that had been discovered back in the 80's.

We headed off towards Capernaum and then sat in the boat in silence.

Peace be still.

Take heart, it is I: do not be afraid.

The words of Jesus speak down through the centuries to us in the storms we experience and to our world as well.

Back to the coach we made our way round to the church of St Peter's Primacy.

Around an outdoor table we shared in a communion service modelled on John 6.

In silence we walked to the shore.

There we read John 21 and shared bread once again.  The fish wee shared later over lunch!

We finnished with the words of Jesus, "Follow me."

And sang once again our pilgrimage hymn, Will you come and follow me?

Our service over, I looked for the basalt pebbles on the beach.  I had forgotten the shells.

Just above the water line there was a wonderful line of shells.  Myriads upon myriads of them!

This was the limestone of millions of years hence.

Geology and theology touched once more.

To hold a fossil in my hand as I had done at  Emmaus makes me see things from a different perspective, as it were from God's perspective.

Having put the troubles of now into God's perspective I can return to them and face them with new resolve.

Have faith in God!

Here at Capernaum by the sea something else happened.  Holding a fistful of shells tiny as they were, I felt as if God's future was in my hands ... or maybe better that my future was in God's hands.

Take heart.  It is I.  Do not be afraid!

A little along the shore is the church of the Tabgha marking the feeding of the 5000.

A wonderful 5th century mosaic depicting the four loaves and the two fish (the fifth being the one we break in communion) is at the focal point of the church.  It had been the design on the cup and the plate we used for communion.

Robin had taken part in the communion service.  He and Sandra shared the cup and plate we had used, Robert Pestell who had taken the service at Cana received another cup, and Felicity and I  added a plate to the cup I had brought back last year.  It was good to share as three colleagues and friends together.

Best of all here were the swallows.

One alone in a nest, brooding.  Another feeding its young.  Wonderful!

On to the coach and we shared the reading from Luke 9 about the birds of the air and the nests they make their own.

It was the shortest of rides to Capernaum.  We admired the wonderful picture of the synagogue 'on wheels', and reflected on the significance of 'synagogue' using the notes in the worship book.

We looked at Peter's house, identified when it had been excavated as the only house to have inscriptions on the walls dating from the mid first century saying, Jesus is Messiah, Jesus is Lord.  This was not hereabouts.  It was here that Jesus made his base for the preaching ministry he shared around Capernaum and Galilee.

We sat in the synagogue and explored the teaching and learning process that Jesus was steeped in, a process that involves not simply taking everything that is written in scripture as important, but goint to to the nub of the matter by asking what you read in Scripture.  We noticed the way Jesus teahes through enquiry and discovery.   What a wonderful way of teaching.

From the shore we made our way towards a wonderful lunch of St Peter's fish.  At the restaurant we were given another lovely welcome by someone who hugged Joanne and was delighted to meet her again.  A one-time Mayor of Magdala he plans to stand again for the Knesset at the next election.  A follower of Netanyahu, Joanne was delighted to be able to talk politics with him.

How wonderful to see the welcome given to Joanne not only by her Palestinian friends but also by her Jewish friends too.

On the Mount of Beatitudes we enjoyed another modern Barulzzi church and its wonderful gardens and balconies.

Felicity read the beatitudes and challenged us to think of ourselves as salt and light.

And then came an ugly and inappropriate altercationi with a guide who claimed we should not be doing that there.  A few minutes later he was doing the same thing with his group in the same spot.

I couldn't but do my YouTube video clip in that very spot, once he had moved on.

It was a spot that had a commanding view down to the sea and over to Tiberias.  I had not realised how close Tiberias was.

It was almost as if Jesus was in a stand-off with the Roman City across the water.

He had an alternative to teh Romanisation process of urbanisation and commercialisation.  His way of doing kingdom was different!

The city built on the hill of the sermon on the mount, the kingdom of God Jesus had come to inaugurate, cannot be hidden!!

Another new way of reading a familiar text!

In the shared silece of beautiful gardens and stunning views I scanned the Sermon on the Mount.

It is a magnificent sermon.

The beatitudes and following verses give a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is all about and of what it means to belong to the kingdom.

Chapter 5 then demonstrates what it takes to love your neighour.

It comes to a climax with a one-liner in the last verse.  "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."  That is not a plea for an unattinable perfectionism that can become an obsession.  It is a challenge to leave no part of our lives untouched by the Gospel of Christ and the love of neighbour.  Be whole and complete people in your commitment to Christ, leave no part of your lives untouched by his Spirit.  The word 'perfect' is a similar word to the one Jesus uses from the cross, the last of those sayings we had quoted in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is finished.

It is as if Jesus is saying, keep going in this Christian faith, until you come to the point at which you too can say with your dying breath, it is finished, it is accomplished, it is completed.

This is the Kingdom to be part of!

We went round to enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice from a stall whose business had been squeezed almost out of existence by new dining arrangments in a recenly opened car park.  Joanne wanted us to support him, just as we had done last year!

Then we went on a wonderful ride round the whole of the Sea of Galilee.

It was time to test the geology I had read about.

And it was just asI had expected!

The area around Capernaum with a great deal of volcanic activity in the distant past is richly fertile, making it the only part of the countryside around the Sea of Galilee that fits the kind of mountain top envisaged in Matthew 5, the kind of parables spoken in Mark 4.

Over the Jordan and on to the Syrian side of the Sea, the Golan Heights now occupied by Israel, and the terrain changes completely.

We have moved from the African Tectonic plate to the west of the Jordan valley over to the Arabian Tectonic plate on the Eastern side.  And it was so different.  The very different, sandier rocks, plunged down into the sea.  They had more of a desert appearance to them, having moved up from the deserts of further south.

We started around Capernaum in what would have been Herod Antipas's Galilee.  As we crossed the Jordan we crossed over into the Gaulanitus that was controlled by another of Herod the Great's sons, Philip.

Before long we crossed over into the Decapolis, the Gentile territory, where we briefly marked the feeding of the 4000 and the gathering of 7 baskedt of left-overs.  Then we stopped at teh foot of the cliffs to read the story of the Gadarene swine.

It's Ched Myers, in his commentary on Mark Binding the Strong Man, who makes a great dal of the political significance of this miracle.  Not only does it have something to say in the context of Jesus' ministry, but it also has something to say to teh church community Mark was writing for, maybe the Galilean community based in that house church we had visited in Capernaum.  In the mid 60's it was a small community trying to hold its own in following the Jesus way.  War was coming closer as Jewish rebels took Jerusalem and the Roman legionaries prepared to march down from Syria past Capernaum to re-take and sack Jerusalem.

Hold on to Christ's way for he will cleanse the Legions of their evil force, and will remove the threat to health and well being they pose.

It is powerful stuff that speaks straight to today's situation.

We travelled down to the southernmost end of the Sea and over the Jordan back on to the African Tectonic Plate and our by now familiar Limestone ridge.  At this point we returned to the Galilee of Herod Antipas.

We caught a glimpse of the baptisms going on in the baptismal theme park just where the Jordan leaves the Sea of Galilee.

It had been more exciting to have passed the site of John the Baptist's wilderness baptisms in the Judaean wilderness earlier.

We arrrived back at Tiberias in time for an ice cream on the front, dinner and a lovely evening back down on the 'promenade'.

No comments:

Post a Comment