Friday, December 18, 2015

Jordan River, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes

Another early day today -- starting out with prayer with the group.

What I most love about this trip so far is the constant offering of prayer, time for reflection, and reminders about why we are here through the sharing of scripture and the history of where we are at the moment. 

After another lovely, simple breakfast we headed down the hill to the bus. I said "good morning -- see you later" to the young pomegranate juice vendor -- he smiled broadly and waved to us as we passed by. You can be sure we will be back every day for more juice -- it is delicious!

The drive this morning unlike yesterday is beautiful and sunny -- perfect for the renewal of vows. Mark gave us a rundown of the day on the bus, and we started with prayer. 

We are on a large bus for the 15 of us -- so everyone can spread out. What we were immediately known for as a group is our ability to be on time, quick on and off the bus, prayerful expression and happy attitudes. 

As we were driving through Cana, there was a roundabout that had giant pomegranates on the ground in the roundabout -- Cana is known for its pomegranates. I took this picture out the bus window so it's not as crisp as I would like. We didn't stop at Cana -- I was okay with that. I saw it last time I was here, and I remember our guide at the time telling us (a group of clergy), "When our Lord and Savior returns to us again he will stop at Cana and turn the wine they sell in these shops as Cana Wedding Wine back into water." That made me laugh when I first heard it, and it made me chuckle to myself again today.

The landscape in Israel reminds me a lot of California. Because it has been raining, it is beautiful and green -- the rainy season here mirrors our own rainy season. Temperatures in the summer are sweltering by all reports -- I'm happy to be here when it is cold! Here's a shot out the bus window -- it's clear but a bit hazy -- just like SoCal at times.

Today is Saturday -- Shabat -- so traffic is very light heading out. Yesterday traffic into, inside and out of Nazareth was horrible. We have been zipping along to the Sea of Galilee this morning.

At one point we passed by a large olive grove -- there are also lots of nut trees and fruit trees in this route down to the Sea of Galilee. Of note when we've walked around is the beautiful array of fruits and nuts sold by vendors. I had almonds that were twice the size of the almonds we have at home -- and absolutely delicious. Because pomegranates are in season, there are many for sale. As we got closer to the Sea of Galilee -- because we are actually below sea level, the climate is more tropical. There we saw mango and banana trees. Yesterday we saw a fair amount of prickly pear, which we were told has been used as a natural fence!

The Sea of Galilee, the Sea of Tiberias, Genneret, and now in Hebrew Kinneret --- because it is harp shaped -- these are all names for  the Sea of Galilee. 

We stopped at the Jordan River to renew our baptismal vows. Along the way Mark stopped by the side of the road and clipped branches from an olive tree to use as the branches to sprinkle us with after we renewed our vows. He fashioned them together by taping the end of the branches together. In the picture below, as we were hearing a prayer Mark is looking towards the River Jordan -- what he is really looking at are the olive branches he put in the water at the rivers edge -- one time he turned away and the olive branches floated downstream and he couldn't get them back! We were lucky this time -- they stayed put for us.

The pilgrims exited the bus with water bottles in hand to take water home for their congregations. We started out by singing Shall We Gather at the River -- a beautiful song to start us out. I prayed as we renewed our vows -- I prayed for all the people I baptized, confirmed, reaffirmed and received. I saw so many of their faces and the places that these rites occurred. I prayed for myself and my own need for forgiveness, redemption, refreshment and renewal. 

After Todd blessed us with Holy Water Kelli Grace anointed us. 

 As we were sprinkled with Holy Water  I was reminded of what water does -- cleanses, heals, refreshes, restores. Afterwards Kelli Grace told the pilgrims they could take a piece of the branches to bring back in their water bottles filled with water from the Jordan River -- some had olives on them, which the pilgrims all got to take. Beautiful.

Some of the pilgrims, even though it was cold, took their shoes off and walked into the Jordan River -- there is such a beautiful sense of peace, refreshment, renewal here among them.

Next we went to Capernum -- it was one of my favorite spots in 2009 when I made my first pilgrimage, and this time it was if I had never been before. Unlike last time, we were the only ones there. We saw the ruins of the first century city, and the synagogue that may have been built over the synagogue of the first century -- it was built probably in the 3rd or 4th century. 

Next to the Synagogue and small village is a home where they believe Peter lived -- remember that portion of the gospel where Jesus left the Synagogue and went to Peter's house to heal Peter's Mother-in-Law. Over the excavation of Peter's home is a church.

At the entrance to the area is a beautiful statue of St. Francis -- the area is overseen by Franciscans.

Right next to Peter's house is the Sea of Galilee -- beautiful! Can you see the disciples in their boats? Can you see Jesus in a boat just off the shore preaching to those who gathered on on beach? The gentle lapping of the waves was soothing, and the cool breeze felt light a healing balm.

At the side of the sea is a beautiful statue of Peter, and there is a mosaic of a peacock near by on the ground which you can walk on. I thought of Devika and Max, my daughter-in-law and son, as the peacock was the symbol they used for their wedding in India. Every time I see a peacock I think about them. I said a prayer for them as I stood there and took this picture. I am indeed a very blessed mother.

We got back in the bus and headed to the Church of the Beatitudes. 
We bypassed the church and instead walked down the hill. We looked back up at the church, and then down towards the sea. We walked in silence. We walked individually. It was about 20 minutes of solitude in that space -- imagining Jesus speaking from the hilltop to the crowd below. I started pondering my own preaching and teaching -- could I be so brave to preach from a place like this? Would I have had the courage to risk it all?

 At a certain point near the bottom but overlooking the lake we stopped and celebrated the Eucharist together. Having begun the day with the renewal of our baptismal vows at the Jordan River it was only natural to celebrate the other sacrament that Jesus gave us: Holy Eucharist. We recognize in the Episcopal Church 2 sacraments and 5 sacramental rites. We celebrated those two sacraments today in the footsteps of Jesus -- beautiful, powerful, moving. Kelli Grace preached a beautiful sermon in that spot, and was celebrant at the Eucharist.

We climbed down and went across the road -- we could hear a spring which contained running water. Apparently there were seven springs there before -- you can still hear the one that is there. We were told to turn back and look up -- there in a cave were Chris Tumilty and Joey Mota -- Joey began reading the beatitudes to us in a normal voice and we heard him perfectly. Could Jesus have preached from there? It was shady for him. Did he?

From there we walked to the Church of the Primacy of Peter. "On this rock I will build my church". Is this the actual rock upon which Jesus said these words? It is next to the water. Could Peter have docked his fishing boat there and met Jesus to spend time together, to pray?

I love the statue of Jesus and Peter there at the Primacy of Peter. 

And of course we read the appropriate passage from the gospel sea-side.

Next we went to one of my favorite places -- the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. This church was burned by Jewish extremists a few months ago -- I remember my personal trainer Galit talking to me about this months ago. She was appalled, and so was I. You can still smell the "burn" -- while it is boarded off, it hasn't been restored yet. Thankfully the sanctuary didn't burn. The once beautiful gift shop is now housed in trailers outside -- I loved that gift shop!

When I was here in 2009 you could walk up to the altar -- you could take pictures of the beautiful mosaic close-up. Now you have to be back further, as it is roped off. It is sad that the actions of the few impact the joy of many.

There are other Byzantine mosaics on the floor -- some you can walk on -- as I and this cat did! Yes, there was a cat in the sanctuary -- the cat seemed to know where it was going. I took this pictures and thought to myself later, "Hmmmm, was the cat looking hungrily at that bird on the floor?"

I walked out and took a picture that is on the walled off burned area with the graffiti written on the wall as well as a picture of the fire.

We then headed to lunch -- where we ate St. Peter's fish at St. Peter's Fish House -- Tureen Restaurant. The fish is actually tilapia. Here's my lunch! 

Here's the salads we were served and our table. We also had delicious hummus, pita bread, and garlic bread.

Here is the group at lunch. Our driver and Mark are at another table.

We then headed over to see the boat that was found when there was a drought -- it is over 2,000 years old, and is possibly like one that Jesus would have ridden on. It was beautiful to see! There was a movie, and after the movie I noticed this sign:
Who was the owner? Could Jesus, one of the disciples, a member of their families or friends owned it or rode in it? Does it matter? For me, the "cool" thing was that we can see this treasure right here next to the Sea of Galilee.

When then headed over to the boat to take a ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was the boat that we went on in 2009 -- it was pretty clear out on the water, and the water was quiet. It is warm today and beautiful out. We took off and went along the water.

 At one point they turned off the motor and we heard two readings from the gospels regarding Jesus on the water. It was beautiful -- we also saw the area we just hiked down and the two churches we visited from the water.

Heading back to Nazareth it took us over 2 hours to travel what should have been a 40 minute drive because of the traffic. 

When we finally we're back in Nazareth we got off the bus and most of us went for fresh squeezed pomegranate juice at the same place we enjoyed it the evening before. What a treat! The young man who helped us the day before (who I saw early this morning as we were heading to the bus) smiled broadly again as we walked up and ordered. As we sat there sipping our freshly squeezed juice we started singing songs and hymns. Beautiful.

We came back to the retreat house, being told we would have to be at breakfast at 6:15 am and ready to go by 7:00 am with bags at the front door by 6:30 am. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. But first we had a meeting with our small groups before heading down to dinner. 

What I enjoy about the small group is sharing what God is inviting us into during this pilgrimage as people feel comfortable. Yesterday we walked the steps of Mary and eluded to the birth of Jesus. Today we focused on the early ministry of Jesus and the two sacraments he gave us: baptism and Eucharist. I can't stop thinking about having these experiences in this place at this time with these people. When we walked in silence down the hill around and below the Church of the Beatitudes it was a powerful time to feel connected to the land, the sun, the Son, life, love and each other.  I found myself singing the doxology to myself during my time on the walk -- I'm SO grateful. 

After dinner the Mother Superior took us into the archeological dig under the convent. It was said to them when they bought the property that the grave of a Just Man was under one part, and a church and 1st century home of Joseph was under the other part. When we went down there, we could see remnants of a Byzantine church, a wall built by the crusaders, and a first century home and grave. Tradition has it that the church was built over the home, as it was said to have been the home of Joseph where Jesus was raised. Mind you, it is a stone's throw from Mary's home under the Church of the Annunciation!

We walked down and the most impressive point was the tomb of the Just Man where there was a round stone that was rolled away from the front of it. 

I offer these pictures of the dig under the house.

The Byzantine chapel:

The house of Joseph -- sister is pointing at the front door.

Grave but not of the Just Man:

The grave of the Just Man:

After the tour we got together and processed what had happened to and in us today. Lots of feelings and love in the room. Growth, rebirth, forgiveness, healing and more. 

This was the most awesome of days!

More pictures from the Jordan:

More pictures from Capernaum:

More from the Beatitudes walk and Eucharist:

More pictures from the Primacy of Peter:

More pictures from Tagbha:

More pictures from the water:

Steve and I had a Titanic moment on the boat:

Some pictures from this evening:


  1. From altar boy to the Sea of Galilee

  2. Thank you again and again for sharing your journey, and your heart, with us. Very powerful stuff.