Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Galilee: rest for our souls

The Sea of Galilee from our hotel room
OVERWHELM: A smart blogger would acknowledge the impossibility of doing justice to our first day in The Galilee, and simply limit the posting to one representative story. Such an approach has merit. But I've got to tell you I'm struggling against the notion of leaving anything out at all.

Rebekah and I woke up that morning to realize our room directly overlooked Lake Galilee. Not a bad start to the day. Then we made our way into Tiberius for an excursion on the water. The experience was both wonderful and problematic. I'll try to explain.

Waiting to board in Tiberius
The tourist boats come equipped with sound systems and loaded with "religious" CDs. Our ride drifted in from the Lake with a full load of nuns and we could hear classical chants roll across the water at full volume as they approached the dock. My guess is the boat operators try to get a read on the clientele and then select the music accordingly.

We were hardly a hundred feet from the pier when our music started. At first it was a novelty and most folk joined in the praise songs. But they must have had us pegged at the cheesier end of the faith spectrum because they cranked up the volume and it was one country-themed gospel tune after another.
But this was Galilee! We were on the water where Jesus and the disciples spent time together. And I'm 100% convinced Andrew, Peter, James and John et al were able to hear the birds sing and the fish jump and the wind rustle the surface of the water.

So, I confess... I'm the one who whispered "Could we please lose the soundtrack?" to the guide and salvaged 30-minutes of blessed peace as we floated where Jesus walked.

Fishing boat dating from the time of Jesus
JESUS BOAT and more: We made landfall at the Yigal Allon museum, where the celebrated "Jesus Boat" exhibit is housed. After a fascinating hour at the museum we visited the site of the Sermon on the Mount and then the traditional location of the Feeding of the 5,000, before enjoying a walk around ancient Capernaum. Later we continued around the Lake to Gerasene, the place where the "demoniac" was healed and the herd of pigs ran off the cliff and into the sea.

For lunch we ate "Peter Fish" on the lakeside and continued our circumnavigation with a baptismal event in the River Jordan. Several of the group wanted to renew their baptismal vows and fairly froze to death in the process. It was a meaningful end to the day, and we returned to our hotel with the echo of the footsteps of Jesus still ringing in our souls.

Rebekah sharing stories - at the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount 
SERENITY: But the most telling exhibit of the day was serenity. It rained; we rushed; we ran where Jesus walked... but somehow - and I believe this was nothing less than a divine presence - we all experienced the serenity of The Galilee and our souls were fed.

If there is a next time in Israel, Rebekah and I would like to park ourselves in a lakeside hotel for a week and literally walk around the Sea of Galilee. There is so much to drink in, to inhale, to - as Jesus would say - "Rest in." Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
I really like the way Eugene Peterson parses the passage in The Message:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. Matt 11:28-30 -The Message.

Serenity around Galilee
Come to The Galilee. Rest in Jesus. It is impossible to spend any time here without catching a hint of the presence of God. And then, once you realize what's beginning to creep in at the edges of your consciousness, to take a deep breath and to breathe in the Spirit of Life.

Come to The Galilee - DEREK

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