Category Archives: Holy Land Pilgrimage

Holy Land Pilgrimage Remembrance # 6 (#5 is yet to be posted!)

Friday, March 14, 2014: Jerusalem.

View of the Old Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Old Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Wow!  Friday, our first day in Jerusalem, was exhausting! Lots of walking for our pilgrimage sites, followed by heading back out to the Wailing Wall at sundown to begin Sabbath in Jerusalem. I LOVED being on the Mount of Olives. We were taking the walk down the Palm Sunday Road into Gethsemane.

The Palm Sunday Road from the Mount of Olives into Old Jerusalem.

The Palm Sunday Road from the Mount of Olives into Old Jerusalem.

Of course, we know that’s not entirely how it happened – he didn’t go down from the Mount of Olives right into the fateful night in Gethsemane. Even if the story was being experienced a bit out of order, I could imagine his followers super excited. Making a big deal out of his entry into Jerusalem! Maybe lots of them thought he’d come out of it all triumphant. Over-turned all of Judaism and Rome before he even got there. Certainly his closest friends knew otherwise: Peter, James, John, his mother, Mary Magdalene. I’m not sure they would have been all that excited about his entry into Jerusalem the week of the Passover Festival.

We had lunch Friday somewhere that seemed like an upper room – a beautiful space to relax and reflect and rest after the hustle and bustle of the busy Jerusalem streets. I found the Via Dolorosa more moving than expected. But before that part of the story and of our pilgrimage was that rock of agony in Gethsemane.

The Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations, Gethsemane.

The Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations, Gethsemane.

What a beautiful sanctuary there – the Church of All Nations! And in it, what an immense rock upon which Jesus most probably threw himself trying to come to terms with the road ahead! I’m sure it was a struggle because he certainly knew Rome’s power. He knew how upset the other Jewish teachers were becoming with him. You can feel it when the pressure’s building and folks are ready to get you. And yet, he knelt on that rock . . . I like that it was a rock: the foundation. The solid base upon which we can stand. He was able to get up from that spot trusting his father would get him up from another rock just a few days thereafter.

From that rock of agony, he was taken to a place we saw on Saturday (the day I’m actually writing this reflection). To the house of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest. We saw the stairs. The Golden Stairs they are called, which he walked down in order to get from the Upper Room of Maundy Thursday through the Kidron Valley to the garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane.

As they snatched him out of the garden that night, they led him bound back up those stairs. Then down them again in the morning as they tossed him between Pilate and Herod in the city. By that point of his last day, he’d been in that pit – another rock. A pit in a massive rock where they would have lowered him for the duration of that one last night after binding him in the garden. The way the archeology tells the story there, the free Spirit of God-in-flesh was tied up. Locked down and lowered into the earth to await all that would happen. Our pilgrimage leader read Psalm 88 while we all were in that pit. When he was waiting there, I can imagine him wondering if Peter was out in the courtyard. In those very moments, three times denying him. Three times saying he never knew him. As I sat in both places today – the courtyard and the pit – I felt sympathy for Peter. At least he had the courage to follow his bound Lord there. Even if he said NO when asked his allegiance to him.

The Golden Stairs near Caiaphas' House.

The Golden Stairs near Caiaphas’ House.

And in that pit. I can imagine it dark. Cold. Terrifying waiting for it all to unfold. Pain in his body. Trouble in his soul. I hope that rock reminded him of all the other rocks. The place on which his soul was strengthened just a few minutes prior in Gethsemane. The rocks all over Galilee upon which he promised Peter he’d build his church. The rocks and falling waters of Caesarea Philippi: the Source from which he was to draw strength. In those moments, I hope he trusted that the rock of the tomb upon which his broken, life-less body would be placed, would NOT be his end! I hope he was able to lay aside any of his fear to hope and trust and be assured of the miracle that lie ahead!

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The Pit at Caiaphas' House.

The Pit at Caiaphas’ House.

From that pit he was dragged to the site of his conviction and flagellation under Pontius Pilate. BTW: We couldn’t go into that first site on the Via Dolorosa. But how I wish we could have. To see and feel it for a moment: the passive work of our Lord – letting it all happen to him.

Bound Lord up the Golden Stairs.

The bound Lord being taken up the Golden Stairs.

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His ego was a true, whole self. For he was willing to let it all come. No stopping it. And each of those spots along that road, until, at last, the Skull.

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Stations of the Via Dolorosa.

Stations of the Via Dolorosa.

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It ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – though I find The Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull behind the old religious stoning site just outside the Damascus Gate much more probable. The Garden Tomb was the kind of holy place I need yet today: a simple, yet abundant garden. He was killed, not for religious reasons, but politically motivated – at least according to the Jewish law we were reminded of today.

Site of the Crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Site of the Crucifixion at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

According to our pilgrimage guide, execution for religious reasons in those days required four things: no arrest at night, 24 hours held in prison, witness before the entire Sanhedrin (of 71), and no religious execution on a Holy Day. It certainly seems as if the plan from the start was to get Rome to do the dirty work.

The Servant of the LORD,

     The Servant of the LORD.

Whatever the scheme, as the statute of The Servant of the LORD in Caiaphas’ House reads: “He surrendered himself to death . . .” (Is. 53:12b). Down deep in that pit on the grounds of Caiaphas’ House there no longer was anyway out. Now that’s commitment. . . .  A total surrender of self that somehow would change all the world.

The Place of the Skull at the Garden Tomb.

The Place of the Skull at the Garden Tomb.

Allelu!

Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2015 (All rights reserved.)

Pilgrimage Remembrances #4

11 March 2014: Bus Ride to Golan Heights, Mount Hermon, and Caesarea Philippi.

In sum: long, winding ride to BEAUTIFUL sights!

The Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights.

As I wandered near the Hermon Stream on a gorgeous Nature Reserve, I was overcome by my need for healing.

Hermon Stream Nature Reserve.

Hermon Stream Nature Reserve.

Here in this place he asked his first disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-21). Alone with that question, my response was: “Who do you, Lord, say that I am?” Longed-for Precious Child. One loved greatly and celebrated despite any falterings along the way. We all are. No matter how much I really want to be more special to Jesus than everyone else 🙂 ; we all carry the spark of the Divine within us – that’s how much the Holy One wants all of us. Enough to live within each of us and experience this amazing creation through our bodies, minds, and spirits.

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Long ago I noticed that the words on my Yoga mat say: Pro Source. From the inside-out they read: U OUR SOURCE. As I stand at the Banias (Hermon Spring) Falls, U OUR SOURCE overwhelms me. This spring is one of the three headwaters of the Jordan River. The infamous Jordan River runs through the seas (Galilee and Dead) of this land all the way to the other end of Israel, making the eastern border of this country a waterline. Standing in the rush and wonder of the falls, these were the words that I wrote:

 U OUR SOURCE.

Banias Falls.

Banias Falls.

Our pilgrimage leaders tell us that this place was known in the First Century for rest. Refreshment. A place to replenish. According to the gospel of Matthew, he came here and first told his disciples about the road ahead. Suffering in Jerusalem. Torture. Rejection. Death. And then . . . He told them the final part too, though it seems they all got stuck on the gory stuff instead of the immense glory to come!

I wonder if he came here purposefully. Did he come to his Source? To the source of the great river? Of Galilee? Of all of Israel and Judah? . . . Yes! Before he left his home district for Jerusalem, he brought them to the Source. . . . As we stand by these falls, I wonder if he was taking in the same kind of strength I seem to be taking in. I wonder if he was here to get himself ready.

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Before we head to Jerusalem on 13 March 2014, we will observe a day of Sabbath rest. Menuha: the delight of God! I too shall be taking a Sabbath rest these next few days during Lent 2015. Time to just be with God in quiet and delight. I shall return to these pilgrimage 2014 remembrances when my Sabbath retreat comes to a close. Stay tuned . . .

Somewhere near the Golan Heights:  another Breadbasket of Israel!

Somewhere near the Golan Heights: another Breadbasket of Israel!

© Copyright JMN – 2015. All rights reserved.

More views at the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve:  11 March 2014.

Ruins of the Temple of Pan at Banias.

Ruins of the Temple of Pan at Banias.

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Pilgrimage Remembrances #3

And on the third day touring the Holy Land . . .

10 March 2014 – Megiddo or Armageddon as we hear it called by some today: the site of the final battle envisioned in Revelation (16:16) when good finally will triumph to bring an end to all destruction.

A model of the walled city of Megiddo.

A model of the walled city of Megiddo.

Which makes some sense because in 7,000 years, this place has been conquered and rebuilt over 25 times. It’s unfortunate that the geography makes this the path for travel between such ancient superpowers as Egypt to the south, and Syria and Mesopotamia to the north. Set at the south-central edge of an incredibly fertile valley (the Jezreel Valley, which is known as the breadbasket of Israel), the inhabitants of Megiddo hardly had a chance! Nazareth can be seen in the distance northeast of Megiddo – just on the opposite edge of the valley. In other words, a young boy growing up in Nazareth certainly would have known and remembered the bloody history of Megiddo.

Ruins on Megiddo.

   Ruins on Megiddo.

Vertical Shaft inside the walled city leading down, down, down 120 feet to a water spring 215 feet through a tunnel -- an ancient way to get fresh water!

Vertical Shaft inside the walled city leading down, down, down 120 feet to a water spring 215 feet through a tunnel — an ancient way to get fresh water!

In our time of silent reflection on Megiddo, I wrote these words: Twenty-five times this little city has been conquered. I can’t imagine! How do you make a life in the midst of such a history when the very land under your feet runs red with the blood of so many others who tried to make home in the very same spot under your feet? How do you ever feel secure? Safe? Fearless? God really is their only hope. Their only security. And yet again we choose to secure ourselves. To allow might to be our fortress – no matter how many times that experiment fails. Jesus grew up not far from here. Which means he knew well how vulnerable his people – all people – were. How fragile their history. How often their choice to defend themselves with the very tools of force used against them. It would never work. It will never work.

Peace. How do we have peace in the midst of our violent, ready-to-fight history?

LORD have mercy. Christ have mercy. LORD have mercy upon us all.

A view from Megiddo of the Jezreel Valley.  10 March 2014.

A view from Megiddo of the Jezreel Valley. 10 March 2014.

On to Nazareth: The childhood home of Jesus.       

A remaining ancient manger (for feeding horses) on Megiddo.

A remaining ancient manger (for feeding horses) on Megiddo.

Jesus, we’re stuck in a traffic jam in Upper Nazareth. And down below I can see the house of Mary and the house of Joseph – which of course confirm that Mary and Joseph were neighbors. The boy next door. It was meaningful to be at the Greek Orthodox Church of Mary’s Well. I like the tradition that she was drawing water from the well the first time the angel visited. Supposedly she was so afraid, she ran all the way home! It was a long way actually as we discovered when we were walking to it in the rain. . . . The Church of Joseph’s house was amazing. Ruins from the house of Joseph, which most probably were where Jesus grew up. How very cool to see what very well was Jesus childhood home.

Ruins in Nazareth believed to be the Holy Family's home.

Ruins in Nazareth believed to be the Holy Family’s home.

A carpenter shop in the front and the home in the back of it, if you have enough money and land. Which they supposedly must have according to the ruins. . . .

The Holy Family's mikvah.

The Holy Family’s mikvah.

To imagine the spot in Mary’s house where the angel visited – AGAIN, or for the first time if you don’t go with the tradition of the well. Courage certainly was the word that kept coming back. That must have been her trek from the well back to her home. Fear turned to courage with every step. . . . Courage overcoming the fear. Courage to say let it be. Courage to go along with God’s big dream for her life – and for the life of the world! . . .

The well of Nazareth (the believed site of the messenger's first visitation).

The well of Nazareth (the believed site of the messenger’s first visitation).

Icon of the Annunciation.

Icon of the Annunciation.

The site believed to be the spot of the 2nd visitation to young Mary (in her house).

The site believed to be the spot of the 2nd visitation to young Mary (in her house).

Our visit was a bit rushed, but so incredibly beautiful. I especially loved the family portraits of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. You don’t see all three of them together very often in the art.

Photo of the Holy Family Icon.  Taken by JMN.  10 March 2014.

Photo of the Holy Family Icon. Taken by JMN. 10 March 2014.

I love that one that looked Middle Eastern – more true to life. That one was great because it showed a whole family – the importance of each one of them in the story. . . . The importance of each one of us in the story. . . . It looked to me like such love. Such joy. Such laughter in their family. But such seriousness too. Growth. Learning. That very same courage both Mary and Joseph had – they passed it on to him. I guess for such a big dream, you needed two who were brave, despite their fear. Two who would say “let it be so with me as you desire!” Two who could build a foundation of courage and hope and obedience. . . . God, won’t you increase in me my courage and hope and obedience? . . . Let us all hear the voice of whatever messenger you send. Give us courage not to run away. But to sit. To wait. To listen. To allow a space in each one of us to open up from the fear into singing a song of the praise of God! Let us sing out to glorify the LORD who sets us free!

Statue of the Holy Family outside the Church of St. Joseph.  Nazareth.

Statue of the Holy Family outside the Church of St. Joseph. Nazareth.

Late afternoon, 10 March 2014: Stopped in Cana, I decided to re-read the story while I waited for the group that went to see the holy site. John 2:1-11: Jesus, his mother, and a few first followers attend a wedding feast a few miles northeast of his hometown. If you don’t know the story, read it. The gospel of John records it as the first of many of his great signs: unexpected abundance! In that spot, my reflections on the story were these: So clearly Jesus says to his mother, don’t push me! And yet . . . Mary, still the agent of God’s Spirit, persists. Lovely!

And the story goes that his first disciples believe because of this first amazing sign (turning LOTS – about 150 gallons so – of water into LOTS – about 150 gallons so – of the finest wine! Six huge vats full of the most amazing fruit of the vine – like the yield of a whole vineyard suddenly in their midst!) It was ABUNDANCE! An unexpected gift!

Which leaves me wondering what signs I’m given each day.

The sky over Cana in Galilee.  10 March 2014.

The sky over Cana in Galilee. 10 March 2014.

This gorgeous blue sky of Cana as the backdrop for beautiful, wispy clouds – the very same patch Mother Mary watched that day she first was visited.

Ru (my lil spirit dog): my experience of resurrection after putting down the last one on Good Friday. When my heart was broken in two, this sweet lil puppy was the gift to me that I would stand back up again. I would love and live and carry on – not because of me. But because of the Holy One. The One that is Life, that rises again and again and again.

Baby Ru!  1 August 2013.

Baby Ru! 1 August 2013.

Unexpected kindness and compassion in the midst of struggle and difficulty. Everything eventually working out. It always will. ALL always shall be well!

The cosmic pattern, the Way: living, and dying, and living again. If only we finally would learn your Way, O Mysterious Force.

All these signs of amazing abundance surround us every day!

Three favorite signs of unexpected abundance: 

a stick bug in my lavender, my beloved climbing rose, and my first-fruits of raspberries!

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© Copyright JMN – 2015. All rights reserved.

Pilgrimage Remembrances #2

More from an amazing Holy Land Pilgrimage from one year ago:  Lent 2014!

9 March 2014: The Jordan River (in Galilee) 

Jordan River in Galilee.  Photo by JMN, 9 March 2014.

Jordan River in Galilee. Photo by JMN, 9 March 2014.

Here we sit – toes nearly touching the water. Catfish swimming all around. Doves cooing as birds sweetly sing the eternal praises of God. (BTW: I can’t get over the fact that my own toes have been where the toes of Jesus have been! It’s really cool when I bend over each morning to touch them thinking of the God who lived among us – touching this earth with toes too!) MY BSFFFF (Best Spiritual Friend Forever Forever Forever) is here at my right hand. The beauty of this place was most unexpected! It’s not dry and desert (as it must be 100 miles south, closer to Jerusalem – where Jesus most probably was baptized). But here it is lush and glorious – alive with birds and fish and greens and people! Amazing! Through this river, God’s people entered. In this river, God’s people were washed clean for a new life in the Promised Land. In this river, God’s Christ was anointed to ready himself to bring new life to the world. With him, God was well pleased!

". . . just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him."  (Matthew 3:16)  The heavens at the Jordan River, Galilee.  9 March 2014.

“. . . just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” (Matthew 3:16) The heavens at the Jordan River, Galilee. 9 March 2014.

In the telling of our baptismal stories – in sharing our confirmations and ordinations, here my BSFFFF and I have renewed each other for the work that lies ahead. Here we have shared God’s laughter – God’s peace. God’s all-encompassing love. God’s strength. God’s refuge. . . . From these waters we can go forth to do anything. Be anything; for we are God’s. Let these moments, this time, our prayers and tears and laughter shared, ready us. Heal us of all the NOs to a life of YES, YES, YES!!! I love you, God, and give you thanks for this very special time of remembering Jesus’ baptism here. Of remembering our own! Praises be!  Amen. 15890171

Next: on to Magdala and an active archeological excavation of one of the only untouched First Century synagogues! Keep reading to find out more!

First Century Synagogue in Magdala, Galilee; discovered in 2009.

First Century Synagogue in Magdala, Galilee; discovered in 2009.

MAGDALA — a First Century Synagogue:  Our pilgrimage leaders tell us that Magdala was a First Century city that was destroyed in 67 A.D. It is right in the wadi – a place that is a dry valley until it rains to become a raging river. The synagogue was always in the center of town. Therefore, Magdala probably was much bigger than it first was thought. According to historian Josephus, 40,000 people lived in Magdala. He claimed it was one of the biggest and most important cities in First Century Galilee. It was a one day’s walk right down the Valley of Doves, on the Valley Road from Nazareth to Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. Supposedly it was too muddy in this wadi to walk from Magdala to Capernaum – you had to take a boat. Magdala was the wealthy port over to Capernaum – a place of rest and entry into the country for all nations. Magdala was filled with Jews who were fishermen, who would take their fish to the commercial shops of Capernaum, the crossroads of the world where those from all walks of life lived.

First Century ruins of houses & shops found near synagogue in Magdala.

First Century ruins of houses & shops found near synagogue in Magdala.

Magdala was all about fish – ruins reveal pools for sorting fish near the sea, then small pools in shops for storing fish until they were sold. There even are salt water pools a bit further from the sea where fish that went unsold that day would be dried for later use. To this day, Magdala is known for its fish! . . . As far as history reveals, Romans also lived in Magdala alongside Jews – right at the foot of Mount Arbel. In 67 A.D. Magdala was destroyed by the Romans. Thousands were killed. Others were sold into slavery. Very few people survived. When the rainy season came again, mud buried the ruins of this First Century city. It all would have gone unknown if not for the efforts of a prominent Jerusalem hotel.

Remains of Mosaic found in First Century synagogue of Magdala.

Remains of Mosaic found in First Century synagogue of Magdala.

Early in 2000 A.D., they wanted to expand their enterprise to the beautiful retreat area of Galilee. When they began to break ground for their exquisite resort, the earth revealed the ruins of Magdala, or Migdal as it’s known in Hebrew. A city that had been hidden for over one thousand, nine hundred years. In 2009, the Magdala synagogue was unearthed. The Franciscans now own the property and have built there an amazing basilica. . . . Magdala remains an active archeological site to this day.

A Mikvah found in First Century Magdala -- 7 steps down into living/running water for purification baths in Jewish homes.

A Mikvah found in First Century Magdala — 7 steps down into living/running water for purification baths in Jewish homes.

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Pulpit and Table of chancel area in new sanctuary overlooking Sea of Galilee in Magdala.

Pulpit and Table of chancel area in new sanctuary overlooking Sea of Galilee in Magdala.

One more entry from 7 March 2014 — ARBEL in Galilee: Our pilgrimage leaders tell us that from Nazareth, the childhood of Jesus, to the Sea of Galilee, the place of his ministry, is just fifteen miles. At 30 years of age, he walks the Valley Road to begin his ministry. What strikes me from Mount Arbel is that this place (Galilee) is so small. Magdala is the city between the two. He walked this short distance from childhood to adulthood. One Galilean town of about 200 people to another small Galilean place. All in an effort to change the world. Four miles from his home, the city of Sepphoris was destroyed by the Romans in 4 CE when he was just four (or so) years old. [See Jesus in Matthew 5:14: “A city built on a hill (as Sepphoris was) cannot be hid.”] From this mount you can see the Valley Road.

The Valley Road from Nazareth, past Mount Arbel, to Magdala, to the Sea of Galilee.

The Valley Road from Nazareth, past Mount Arbel, to Magdala, to the Sea of Galilee.

He walked right here. Leaving his home. On the way he passed Arbel – where his fellow Jews hid out in caves on the mountain to try to resist the occupation of his land – from Syria in 167 BCE and Herod the Great closer to the time of his life in 39-40 BCE and then from Rome in 66 CE. . . .

The Sea of Galilee from Arbel.  7 March 2014.

The Sea of Galilee from Arbel. 7 March 2014.

Why did he go to the sea? What called him to walk down the Valley Road to begin to make the effort to try to change the world? . . . Was he drawn to the Living Waters of Galilee? . . . And how deeply did Arbel and Sepphoris affect him? . . . How deeply did he desire freedom for his people? An end to the violence. Hope. Lives of simple gratitude and freedom and joy instead of the foot of another on your neck telling you no. Holding you down. . . . How much of this was for freedom – not just of our sins for life everlasting; but here and now. For right-relationship together TODAY?!

© Copyright JMN – 2015. All rights reserved.

The Cliffs of Arbel and the Valley of the Doves.

The Cliffs of Arbel and the Valley of the Doves.

Pilgrimage Remembrances #1

It’s been a year — almost to the date.  And so, I’m revisiting the trip.  Quite a journey!  My pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Lent 2014.  One year later, my journal entries take me back.  I hope they give insight and meaning to your Lenten season this year.

Bread on our Journeys!

RevJule

8 March 2014:  So a new day.  Yesterday was so amazing!  (I’m one day behind on my posts of the pilgrimage, so just enjoy what is shared here!)

A View of Magdala and the Valley Road (or Valley of Doves) from Mount Arbel.  (Jesus' route from home in Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee).

A View of Magdala and the Valley Road (or Valley of Doves) from Mount Arbel. (Jesus’ route from home in Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee).

Tabgha:  The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.

Tabgha: The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.

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So many incredible moments here (in Galilee on 7 March 2014)!  Such a beautiful country.  And so moving to contemplate where Jesus grew up and played and rested and called and taught and healed and replenished himself with Peter and his friends and family.  The backdrop of his life — this geography — is amazing!  The meeting place of all the nations for rest is where he made his home during much of his ministry:  Capernaum in the home of Peter.  Capernaum, one of the wealthiest and largest towns in Galilee in his day, was at the northeast corner of Galilee.  The meeting place of all nations — Jordan and Syria and Israel!  It had to be a huge influence on his understanding of God being about peace — unity.  Harmony with one another no matter what.  The judgment that was in him was discernment based on that SHALOM.  That absolute, wide-expanse of love!

A View at Capernaum from the Sea of Galilee to the Synagogue -- Peter's home (not pictured) between the two.

A View at Capernaum from the Sea of Galilee to the Synagogue — Peter’s home (not pictured) between the two.

Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes.  "And Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called children of God'." (Matthew 5:9)

Sea of Galilee from the Mount of the Beatitudes. “And Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called children of God’.” (Matthew 5:9)

And now . . .  onto the Sea of Galilee!

So here we are on a boat on the Sea of Galilee! And the waves are a’rocken. But they were fishermen – on this very water! Certainly they experienced rough waters on this little lake before. I guess they weren’t all fishermen. So I could see how they were afraid.

The Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee.

(Later): As it turned out, we had to cut our boat ride short because a storm from the south suddenly swept in. Rain started – great big pellet kind of drops. It seemed the boat captain was afraid. He didn’t want us stuck out there. Neither did he want us (or his boat) injured!

A sudden storm began.  8 March 2014.

A sudden storm began. 8 March 2014.

When the storm started, I immediately was taken back to the last cruise I had been on. As we set sail on the ocean, that huge ship started rocking. I was on a massage table at the time – a bon voyage discount. I remember fighting it at first. Then relaxing into the waves – rocking with the water instead of against it. Deepening myself in trust. In those moments, I grew certain that the God who created the universe — the God who created me — held us all. Held me. . . . No matter the storms that blow. No matter how much that boat today on the Sea of Galilee was rocking, we were held. No need to fear. I totally can imagine Jesus falling asleep in that trust. Secure. Because gently the waves remind us that God holds us through it all. In tender love, in strong bonds that never, ever, ever will let us go. Gently we can relax into the gift of those rocking waves — those sudden storms of life.

O you of little faith, why EVER do you fear?

God, hold me each step of the way.

First Century boat excavated from the Sea of Galilee.

First Century boat excavated from the Sea of Galilee.

And now: onto the Church of the Primacy of Peter.  “Then Peter said,

  ‘I am going fishing . . .’” (John 21)

Lord, after your resurrection, here it was you came – as a surprise – to greet your wayward disciples. To feed them. To love them. To get them ready to be sent. What did they feel in those moments after your horrible death and rumored resurrection? What did they think? Were they ready? Did they believe themselves equipped?

You Lord, you as the Risen Christ, came to them – as surprise. Unrecognized at first. And to them you said: “Come. Eat. Be nourished. Now go in our love for one another. It’s not just about me — or for me. It’s for the benefit of my sheep. Go: feed them. Tend them. Love them. Show them.”

The Church of the Primacy of Peter (where the Risen Christ fed his disciples on the beach on the Sea of Galilee).

The Church of the Primacy of Peter (where the Risen Christ fed his disciples on the beach on the Sea of Galilee).

So easily we can be distracted. Caught up in that which is around us. Nearly trampled by that which is other than your command to serve. Yet you show up.  . . .  After you feed us, you send us. And it’s not just a one-time taste meant to fill us up for good. Not a one-time meal and that’s enough. Instead: over and over again. It’s a cycle. “Rest with me as you eat. Feed. Now go. . . . Eat. Feed. Go. Eat. Feed. Go.”

From this beach you sent them on a journey in which they would never ever be the same. From here you send us all on a journey to be changed. To change. To falter and then to get back up again – like you after crucifixion: again (thanks be to God) you stood up!

8 March 2014 - at Primacy of Peter, Sea of Galilee.

8 March 2014 – at Primacy of Peter, Sea of Galilee.

This might as well be the beach called Genesis: the start of new beginnings. This might as well be my spot. A fresh start. A re-freshed beginning.

Thank you God for the food of this place. The nourishment of fellow pilgrims who also are sent to serve on your behalf in this world. Thank you for simple gifts: remembrance. Bread. Wine. Vision. Beautiful inspiration. A chance to hear and begin again.

Lord, you did not shame them in their distraction – their return to fishing after your death. In their fear. In their doubt:  you met them where they had wandered. Then you simply asked: “Is there love in that heart for me? . . .  That is enough!  Go: feed others who need the same kind of sustenance for their walk in this world. I will be with you. I will surprise. I will be revealed. I will provide. It shall be enough.”

The Lord's Table at the Primacy of Peter, Galilee; 8 March 2014.

The Lord’s Table at the Primacy of Peter, Galilee; 8 March 2014.

All shall be well . . . thanks be to God!

-RevJule

(Copyright JMN-2015. All rights reserved.)

A Few Reflections on Nazareth

In March of this year, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Holy Land for a two week pilgrimage.  Never could I imagine how incredible the experience would be — how deeply it would move my spirit and expand my understanding of Jesus, the Christ — and the faith he was about.  Included here are reflections I wrote during quiet moments at various holy sites along with what I tried to capture in photo.  May these thoughts increase your trust in the Holy One, who is Love to all forevermore!

-RevJule

Nazareth: The childhood home of Jesus.

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Jesus, we’re stuck in a traffic jam in Upper Nazareth. And down below I can see the house of Mary and the house of Joseph – which of course confirm that Mary and Joseph were neighbors.

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The boy next door. It was meaningful to be at the Greek Orthodox Church of Mary’s Well. I like the tradition that she was drawing water from the well the first time the angel visited. Supposedly she was so afraid, she ran all the way home! It was a long way actually as we discovered when we were walking to it in the rain. . . . The Church of Joseph’s house was amazing. Ruins from the house of Joseph, which most probably were where Jesus grew up. How very cool to see what very well was Jesus childhood home.

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A carpenter shop in the front and the home in the back of it, if you have enough money and land. Which they supposedly must have according to the ruins. . . . To imagine the spot in Mary’s house where the angel visited – AGAIN, or for the first time if you don’t go with the tradition of Nazareth’s well. Courage was the word that kept coming to me. That must have been the nature of her trek from the well back to her home: fear turned to courage with every step. . . . Courage overcoming the fear. Courage to say let it be. Courage to go along with God’s big dream for her life – and for the life of the world! . . .

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Our visit was a bit rushed, but so incredibly beautiful. I especially loved the family portraits of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. You don’t see all three of them together very often in the art. I love that one that looked Middle Eastern – more true to life. That one was great because it showed a whole family – the importance of each one of them in the story. . . . The importance of each one of us in the story. . . .

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It looked to me like such love. Such joy. Such laughter in their family. But such seriousness too. Growth. Learning. That very same courage both Mary and Joseph had: they passed it on to him. I guess for such a big dream, you needed two who were brave, despite their fear. Two who would say “let it be so with me as you desire.” Two who could build a foundation of courage and hope and obedience. . . . God, won’t you increase in me my courage and hope and obedience. . . . Let us all hear the voice of whatever messenger you send. Give us courage not to run away. But to sit. To wait. To listen. To allow a space in each one of us to open up from the fear into singing a song of the praise of God! Let us sing out to glorify the LORD who sets us free!

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ARBEL in Upper Galilee: From Nazareth, the childhood of Jesus, to the Sea of Galilee, the place of his ministry, is just fifteen miles. At 30 years of age, he walks the Valley Road to begin his ministry. What strikes me from Mount Arbel is that this place is so small. Magdala is the city between the two. He walked this short distance from childhood to adulthood. One Galilean town of about 200 people to another small Galilean place. All in an effort to change the world. Three miles from his home, the city of Sepphoris was destroyed by the Romans when he was just four years old. From this mount you can see the Valley Road. He walked right here. Leaving his home. On the way he passed Arbel – where his fellow Jews hid out in caves on the mountain to try to resist the Roman occupation of his land. . . .

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Why did he go to the sea? What called him to walk down the Valley Road to begin to make the effort to try to change the world? . . . Was he drawn to the Living Waters of Galilee? . . .

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And how deeply did Arbel and Sepphoris affect him? . . . How deeply did he desire freedom for his people? An end to the violence. Hope. Lives of simple gratitude and freedom and joy instead of the foot of another on your neck telling you no. Holding you down. . . . How much of this was for freedom – not just of our sins for life everlasting; but here and now. For right-relationship together TODAY?!

Life from the Shepherds’ Field

In March of this year, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Holy Land for a two week pilgrimage.  Never could I imagine how incredible the experience would be — how deeply it would move my spirit and expand my understanding of Jesus, the Christ — and the faith he was about.  Included here are reflections I wrote during quiet moments at various holy sites along with what I tried to capture in photo.  May these thoughts increase your trust in the Holy One, who is Love to all forevermore!

-RevJule

BETHLEHEM:  SHEPHERDS’ FIELD
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O God, here I lie in the Shepherds’ Field.
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On two big rocks – two of the very rocks they might have rested on as well.
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It’s a great place to rest for the night. Overlooking the valley between here and Bethlehem. It’s a great place to ponder life. My hopes. My dreams. My limitations. I expect many a shepherd has rested here too underneath this great expanse of sky, pondering the same of their lives: their hopes. Their dreams. Their limitations.
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15891040When suddenly! You amaze! You overwhelm! You SURPRISE!!!
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Exceeding joy at such good news! That from this day forward NOTHING ever shall be the same! Of course, I’m terrified, as I’m sure they too were. But grateful. For this spot reminds that life doesn’t just have to be the hum drum of tending, day in and day out. Chilly frightful nights and long hot days. Parched. Longing perhaps for something more . . . The words form: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! . . . This place asks: what gift shall I be because of it? . . . Great and exceeding joy! Hope embodied! Possibility! Hallelujah! Amen!
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Writing Later that day:

The Shepherds’ Field was wonder-filled! I could totally imagine being there. Busy with my everyday life and everyday concerns. Perhaps wondering if this was how it’d always be – cold stones underneath. Stinky, needy sheep all around. Tending and watching and just passing time as I learned my family’s trade. . . . Until that fate-filled night. Suddenly my every other day was shattered. Surprised in an instant. I’m sure I’d be terrified! Because nothing again would be the same. I’d been summoned to see something miraculous and the wonder of it all certainly would work upon me. I’m not sure I’d be allowed to leave the same. I’m not sure I’d want to. I think I’d want to believe. Have hope. Trust that it all was true. Gloria en excelsis! Immanuel, the LORD our God is with us! . . .
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If I never believed before, I think I’d start. I hope I would. Having been there with that baby, that mother and father in the cave, locked out of everywhere else for fear she’d make them all unclean. And yet with such courage they brought that child into the world. With such bravery they stood together for one another. I’d like to think that all would have had an impact upon me. That that gift: God’s gift to be present to us – to me – would ready me to be a gift in return!
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On the eve of that birth, may you reflect upon the gift you will be in return!

Merry Christmas All!

RevJule