Sunday, February 27, 2011

Project Israel- Galilee 2

We spent the night in the town of Tiberius, so we woke up to this beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Tiberius) from our hotel room.

Our planned boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was pushed back a few hours, so we went to a place called the Wadi Hamman. "Wadi" is the Arabic word for "valley", and in this part of the world it refers specifically to a narrow, steep rift valley between two mountains. Wadi Hamman has long been the most accessible path between Nazareth and Galilee, with a flat, easy path and a stream. So we can be pretty sure that Jesus and the Disciples took this path back and forth many times!

We had planned to have our worship on the boat, but because of the delay we found a quiet spot in the Wadi by the stream. Most of my fellow travelers are clergy, so we all played different parts. I preached, and pastors representing three different traditions: Episcopal, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist, presided at the Communion Table, which was actually a boulder that we could imagine Jesus himself having rested on on his way between the towns. I'm rarely able to truly worship when I'm involved in leading the service, but this turned out to be one of the most meaningful worship experiences I've had in a very long time. Look for a post in the coming weeks on this, once I finish piecing my thoughts together.

We spent some time climbing the hillside and taking in the beauty of the place. All the churches and holy sites have been wonderful, but somehow God's presence has been most real to me on this trip in this quiet, serene place with no markers or shrines of any sort.

Afterward we went on a boat ride around the Sea of Galilee, and our captain gave us a demonstration of the way fishing worked back in the first century, casting a weighted net (although in the first century there wouldn't have been synthetic fibers!).

Next we took a walk in the hills of the Tabgha- a region on the North-West shore of the Sea of Galilee where there are several spots that claim to be the Mount of the Beatitudes- in other words, the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. We stopped on the spot of the original Church of the Beatitudes (only foundation stones left) and passed around a Bible, reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) aloud.
Quick aside- the Sermon on the Mount is probably not a historical event as such, but rather a collection of Jesus' ethical teachings complied into one discourse by the writer of Matthew, similar to Luke's Sermon on the Plain. Like most of the sites commemorating biblical events, it's impossible to know where they actually happened there. But these sites are important because they have been where these stories have come alive for people for centuries. Historicity isn't everything.

At the bottom of the hill we came to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, the spot where Jesus is said to have told Peter that he would be the "rock on which I (Jesus) will build my church" (Matthew 16:13-20). Our Roman Catholic friends consider this to be Jesus' endorsement of Peter's leadership, and that his successor, the Pope, is the chief pastor for all Christians. This church is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and several of my fellow travelers decided to bottle some of the water as a momento.

Finally, we were on to Capernaum, the town where Jesus may have had a home, or at the very least a home that he stayed in on a regular basis (it may have belong to Peter or his mother-in-law). There is a site that has been venerated as "Peter's House" since the mid-first century, and is encircled by several other ancient churches. There is a modern chapel built over it now, with glass in the middle of the floor looking down into "Peter's House". There is also a fourth century synagogue right across the street that is remarkably well preserved.

Then we cross the border into Jordan, which was quite easy, but I understand this will not be the case crossing back from Jordan into the West Bank. We're spending the next two nights in Amman and exploring the Christian origins in Jordan, as well as spending time with Jordanian Christians. Look for reports on this tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy the Oscars and be well!

1 comment:

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

Wow--this looks amazing, baby! What amazing places and experiences. (And I'm glad you handed your camera off to someone so we have some pics of you in these places!)