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Archive for the ‘Galilee’ Category

For many people a visit to the Holy Land becomes a sort of “fifth gospel”. For me, it became a lens though which to read the pages of the written Gospels and I am stunned at how much clearer they have become. I am now leading a 10 day Pilgrimage to the Holy Land leaving from Aberdeen, Scotland 16th-25th March 2011.

I feel that, if at all possible, people should take the chance to visit if they can; there is so much to see, hear, learn, experience and share. Blogs, books, photos and presentations can certainly peak our attention, but nothing beats the personal experience. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is more than pious tourism and few, but the cynical, would see it as a “Christian Disneyland”. Indeed I found it to give me an awareness not only of the past, but also the present.

I became aware that the Holy Land was an amazing experience of spirituality, education, and culture.

Model of Jerusalem on eve of destruction 70 AD

Visits will include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Qumran, as well as allowing free time for relaxation and private exploration. We will walk along the Via Dolorosa, sail on the Sea of Galilee, float on the Dead Sea and ascend the Mount of Masada by cable car.

If you’re interested in joining this adventure then please get in touch.

For more information see the attached brochure. Holy Land Pilgrimage 2011

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I had an operation on my wrist last week, and find that the restricted movement that has been imposed upon me for the next 10 days means I’m looking for things I can do without causing too much pain. I decided video editing was a safe thing to do – use one hand, point and click. Okay there have been a few moments when I’ve forgotten and tried to hold a button down, but the sharp pain up my arm reminds me it’s not the thing to do! Anyway, I’ve put together a short video of my trip to Israel and include it here to give you a flavour not only of the trip, but also of the sights and sounds of land.

 

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A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was one of the highlights of our trip to Israel and a great way to end our pilgrimage.   It seems such a simple thing, and yet I enjoyed being on the lake and looking around at all the places we had been over the past few days and all the places and incidents we had read about in Scripture.  The lake is 15 miles long and 8 miles wide and is known by many names.   To Christians it is known as the Sea of Galilee, but road signs direct you to Lake Kinnereth (from the Hebrew word –  harp – the shape of the lake).   The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark and John speak of the Sea of Galilee, but John also calls it the Sea of Tiberias, and Luke calls it Gennesret.   There was no word for lake in the Hebrew language, so any large body of water is called a sea.

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

On this water Peter, Andrew, James and John spent many of their working hours – wondering where best to cast their nets, lamenting a poor catch, and struggling with full nets and with unexpected storms.   (Then they were called by Jesus and spent many of their ministry hours – wondering where best to cast their nets, lamenting the fact that all did not follow, struggling with the new church’s understanding of what they were about, and facing the storms that their ministry stirred).  For us, it was a beautiful day with fairly calm waters and there was a breeze, but no one was afraid for their life, unlike the disciples who were scared for their lives. “Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing” they would ask.  Of course he did care and he stilled the waters.  

Here I am Lord - Sea of Galilee

Here I am Lord - Sea of Galilee

About half way across the owner slowed the boat down and held her steady as we read scripture and sang – I the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I am Lord).  I thought about how Jesus spent so much time around this peaceful lake; his whole Galilean ministry was focused around this area, and those who heard and followed him were local fishermen.  I tried to imagine him there, in that peaceful setting, and of course, I remembered it wasn’t always peaceful for him.

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Further along the shore of the Sea of Galilee we stopped at the Church of St Peter’s Primacy.  

In John 21, Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time after his resurrection on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The night before, Peter and several other disciples had sailed out on the lake to fish, but caught nothing. In the morning, a man appeared on the shore and called out to them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. Doing so, they caught so many fish they couldn’t drag the net back into the boat.

Mensa Christi - Sea of Galilee

Mensa Christi - Sea of Galilee

At this point Peter recognizes Jesus, and promptly jumps out of the boat to wade to shore to meet him. The other disciples follow in the boat, dragging the net behind them. When they land, Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire for the fish and provided bread, and they have breakfast together (John 21:9). This is believed to have taken place on the Mensa Christi (Christ’s Table), a large rock incorporated in the church – it is a striking feature and stretches across the entire width of the church.

After breakfast, Jesus commissioned Peter as leader of the group and his church (after his three-time denial of Jesus at the crucifixion) with the words “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19); a bronze statue of Jesus symbolically commissioning Peter with his shepherd’s crook stands just to the side of the church.

Just along from the Mensa Christi bay is an area which is a natural amphitheatre, and if you stand on the shore and speak, you can be heard further up the hillside and so you could understand how Jesus could have preached from a boat and be heard by the multitudes.

The Dove and the Cross - Mensa Christi

The Dove and the Cross - Mensa Christi

As we walked along the shore – two rock hyraxes or rock badgers (mentioned in Psalm 104:18) were running along a path and seemed to take everybody’s attention and photos were taken left, right and centre.   But I took none, because my eye was drawn to the cross on top of the church and the white dove perched beside it.   And to me it spoke of symbolism – this time of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit descending on the whole church, and so the commissioning we had just heard of somehow seemed complete.   (Remember you can click on the pictures to make them larger).

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Shore of the Sea of Galilee

Shore of the Sea of Galilee

Some people struggle with the way some of the places connected with Jesus birth, life and death have been venerated. Some question the accuracy of the sites – often the words “believed to be the place” preface other information. But it is hard to deny the authenticity of an actual body of water, and so when our guide said – this was where Jesus calmed the storm; where Jesus walked the shores; where Jesus’ Galilean ministry was focused, no one had any problem accepting the statement. And so it was fitting to share communion on the shores of the Sea of Galilee just yards away from Tabgha the traditional site of the feeding of the 5000, and of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to his disciples when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore.

Communion at Sea of Galilee

Communion at Sea of Galilee

As we gathered near the edge of the water we were struck by the incredible view … the calm water, the rock table, the trees, the stones on the shore, oh yes, and the silence only broken by the water lapping on the shore. Our reading was of Jesus feeding the 5000 from John 6:1-11. Angela, who was reading, stood behind us and her voice flowed over us as she described the scene. As Angela read the words “Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Two fish jumped out of the water beside us as she said those very words. And the thought came unbidden into my mind “I am the bread of life”. The presence of Christ was almost tangible. When we came to the end of a very poignant communion service the first thing my husband said was “did you hear the fish jump just as Angela said those words” being able to confirm that I did hear and see them somehow made the event even more special because it was shared, just as the feast was.  After the communion service I stood by the shore and enjoyed listening to the water gently lap against the rocks and stones at the water’s edge.

Church of the Multiplication

Church of the Multiplication

We then made our way to the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (also known as the Church of the Multiplication). The church is modern but stands on the site of 4th and 5th-century churches. It preserves an early Christian mosaic depicting the loaves and fishes as well as the traditional stone on which the miraculous meal was said to have been laid. As I looked at the mosaic I was struck by the fact that there were only four loaves in the basket and not five, and then I remembered Jesus said “I am the bread of life”.

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Sepphoris or Zippori was not a city I had heard of before going to Israel.   The remains of this city were first excavated in 1931 and is still ongoing.  As you walk around you see an impressive network of streets, porticoes paved with mosaics, public buildings, houses, a theatre, a synagogue from the Roman period, churches from the 4th and 5th centuries and a fortress and a church from the Crusader period.   Aqueducts, reservoir, tunnels and cemeteries are also scattered around the ancient city.   The city was called Zippori by the Jews, Diocaesarea – the city of the god Zeus and of Caesar – by the Romans, and during the Crusader period it was called Le Saphorie.   During the time of Herod the Great Zippori was the capital of Galilee.  When the Sanhedrin was exiled from Jerusalem in 70 AD they made their home in Zippori remaining there until the beginning of the 3rd century.  It was a city that was built and rebuilt – the result of the city being burned by the Romans, and destroyed by an earthquake.  So what you say – an ancient city with no connection to Scripture or Jesus.    

While Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, Sepphoris (Zippori) was being reconstructed having been burnt by the Romans after a revolt by the Jews;  it took decades to complete and it grew to become a city with between 25-30,000 inhabitants.  (In Jesus day it was 8-12,000 by comparison Nazareth was a town of 3-400).   Sepphoris was sophisticated and cosmopolitan;  Jews, Romans, Greeks and Arabs all lived there at one time or another.   Just ten minutes walk north of Nazareth you reach the top of a ridge overlooking the Bet Netofa Valley.    The hill of Sepphoris can be seen 3 miles north, rising four hundred feet from the valley floor and we were reminded that “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” Matthew 5:14).   The city was only an hour away on foot from Nazareth and while Sepphoris is not recorded in Scripture as a place Jesus visited, he did travel throughout all the cities and towns of Galilee, as well as to Caesarea Philippi and Decapolis.  

Cardo (Main Road) at Sepphoris

Cardo (Main Road) at Sepphoris

We made our way down a stone-paved street marked with grooves pounded by chariot wheels, passed the remains of homes and shops,  and came to the remains of a building, possibly the City Hall.  On the floor is a mosaic depicting the Nile. 

Mona Lisa of Sepphoris

Mona Lisa of Sepphoris

In the remains of a house we saw what is considered to be the most beautiful execution of a woman’s face ever found on a mosaic; the “Mona Lisa of Sepphoris” blushes as her eyes follow us round the room.

It would be hard to believe that Jesus would not, at some time, have taken the one hour walk from His home town of Nazareth to the capital city; perhaps even to work there.  (Because of the rebuilding, tradesmen were in great demand in Sepphoris and both Jesus and Joseph were carpenters).  I found the probability of Jesus having visited or worked in Sepphoris intriguing and I couldn’t summarily dismiss it.  

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