One of the surprises about our time in the region of Galilee is the beauty. I've always thought of Israel as more desert-like, but Galilee is lush and green, at least from fall through spring. This morning we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Our morning devotion focused on the story of Jesus walking on the water. Sitting there in that boat, a light rain coming and going, we envisioned Jesus coming toward us, walking on the water, calming the wind and the rain. We sang and prayed, awed by the moment. Upon landing we entered the museum that contained one display item. A fishing boat dated to the time of Jesus.
We made our way to the Church of the Beatitudes, the site where it is believed Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. It is, again, a beautiful setting right on the lake (Sea of Galilee). We learned that the word for "blessed" is not passive, but, rather, active. A more literal translation is to be "content in our work." That is to say we find blessing when we are actively involved in acts of humility (poverty of spirit), or mercy, or peacemaking and so forth.
Along the way around the lake, which is 27 miles in circumference, we also stopped at churches that were thought to be the sites where Jesus fed five thousand, nicknamed Simon "Rocky" (You are "rock"), and cast the 600 swine into the lake near Genesseret, which is on the Gentile side, now called the Golan Heights.
After a stop at a Kibbutz for lunch we made our way to the Jordan River where 6 of us decided to be renewed in our baptism promises by going into the sacred river. It was all very hectic as the site, called Yardenit, was getting ready to close for the Sabbath. I changed into some pants I rolled up, and a turtleneck, donned a white, very simple ( think cheap table cloth that didn't fit really well) and joined our group at the river's edge. Bishop Mary Ann reminded us all of our baptism, calling us to be thankful and then I entered the water to renew the baptisms of the others. Marge Gillis and John Hunt joined me and it was a profound moment for me to bless first Marge, and then, by full immersion, John. I then assisted Rev. Bau Dang (Superintendent of Riverside District) in his immersion and then it was my turn. Mind you the cold water took my breath away, and it had begun to rain when we entered the Jordan! When I went under the water and came up, I strangely felt almost warm. Even when I got out of the river, standing in the rain soaking wet, I felt warm. I'll never forget that moment.
Maybe this last thought will sum up the day. Knowing that tomorrow we leave for Jerusalem Sara made the comment she didn't want to leave Galilee. We had just spent a wonderfully fulfilling day in a beautiful place. She was uncertain about what we would encounter in Jerusalem. I said that Jesus probably felt that way too, but knew he had to go to Jerusalem to fulfill God's promise of healing and wholeness for us all.
On the way to the Holy City we will visit Qumran, Jerico, and Bethlehem.