Out and About the Galilee

The forecast said 90% chance of rain today.  I was not looking forward to floating around on the Sea of Galilee in the pouring rain.  Thankfully, last night most of us were startled awake as the rain poured on the Kibbutz Ein Gev, that we are staying at.  This morning we woke up to a few clouds in the sky but bright blue.  The sun ducked in and out throughout the day, but it did not pour!

Our first stop of the day was Capernaum – where Jesus did a lot of his ministry.  This is what I love so much about the Galilee – that this is the seat of Jesus’ ministry.  This is the land where he was meeting people, walking about the countryside, hearing stories, and touching lives.  I appreciate how Cameron phrased this yesterday: “I think of the tens of thousands of human stories we are walking on and these stories shape our ideas – they shape our us.”  Someone else voiced a similar reflection on today, saying he enjoyed being able to hear stories about Jesus’ friends and getting a close-up look at Jesus’ social connections.  While in Capernaum we looked at a synagogue that would have been similar to where Jesus would have attended.  Cameron preached another moving sermonette (I think this will be a pattern) and I’ll try to upload it here at some point, if you’d like to listen.  I took a few sound bytes today and will see if I can get them up here.  Also on this site is what they believe to be the ruins of Peter’s mother-in-law’s house – and the first house church!  Built to hover above it is a church that looks a lot like a spaceship    If you want to hear a little explanation by our tour guide (plus a congregation singing in the church, in the background!) click on this link:Ramzi.CapernaumMP3

All of our stops today were quite close to each other, so we were able to move at a relaxed pace and spend a little longer in places if we wanted to.  Every year, Jeff and I spend time discussing the schedule and tweaking it here and there.  A lot of our schedule discussions involve the churches that we visit and if they are worth spending time at.  Personally, I love looking at the architecture and all the little (or big) artistic flourishes.  Often our students would rather spend that time, petting cats or hucking stones into the lake.  Nevertheless we always return and there will always be at least one student whose imagination is caught by the miracle or story of Jesus represented at one of the churches.  All this to say, we stopped in at The Church of the Multiplication where tradition tells us Jesus divided 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the crowd of 5000.  Then we stopped at The Church of the Primacy of Peter and Mensa Christi where tradition tells us that this is where Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” and then told him, “Feed my sheep”.  Tradition also tells us that this is the shore upon which Jesus had breakfast ready for his disciples, after his resurrection.  We heard an interesting little nugget from our guide today about how the 153 fish that the disciples caught represent the list of known nations at that time.  Sometimes I’m thrown off by this type of information because at the end of the evening, neither Cameron, Jeff, nor I had ever heard this interpretation of the number 153.  Part of this trip every year, is learning how to synthesize new information with old information – new tradition with old tradition.  It’s a process…and no, I’m not yet tired of walking this path every year!

The afternoon didn’t go exactly as we had planned but thankfully our guides are always flexible with our list of requests.  We drove up to the top of the Mount of Beatitudes, where it is believed Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount.  Instead of going into the church, we drove around to the backside to spend some time in quiet reflection on Matthew 5.  There is something really special about sitting on that mountain side and reading the words that Jesus preached there.  The plan after that was to walk back down to one of the earlier churches we visited but the path ended up being too muddy after last night’s big rainfall.  On we went to catch our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  This is always a highlight for students, being out on the water, motoring around in a wooden boat, styled after the fishing boats of the first century.  Out in the middle of the lake, the captain turned off the motor and we took some time to reflect on two stories that took place out in the middle of the lake: Jesus calming the storm and Jesus walking on water.

Our final stop of the day was the Jordan River.  There’s a beautiful spot on the river (the one place that isn’t brown with mud and dirty with litter) called Yardeni.  Even though it’s quite far from the spot where Jesus would have been baptized, it’s still peaceful and pretty.  Every year, we tell the students that if they would like, they can get baptized in the Jordan River.  We’ve never had a student show interest in this option…until this year!  We were happy to celebrate Richelande’s baptism today in the Jordan.  It was a quick in and out but I think something she will find meaningful.  Even though we went to so many sites, we were able to arrive back at the kibbutz with a couple hours left to relax before supper.  Many of the students took advantage of this time, to go for a swim in the (cold!) lake and the rest of us caught up on writing or sleeping.  Tomorrow we head to the northern part of the country.

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