I’m going to be honest. We’re covering so much here in terms of places, history, ethnography, & Biblical interpretation that it is impossible for me to update this blog with even a smidgen of information about each stop. So, I’m not going to try. I think I want to convey much more of what the experience is like, because that more than anything else is the biggest part of being here.
Just the simple act of waking up and looking out the window over the lake to see it covered in mist and fog makes a real difference. Now I understand why Jesus was able to see the disciples struggling to make it to shore from the foothills, even at night — you can see a long way from a modest height — but the disciples weren’t able to see it was Jesus on the water because the fog made it impossible to see other than glimpses of forms and impressions of a presence.
Or visiting the ruins of Capernaum (Kfer Nahum in Hebrew, Village of Comfort) and seeing just how small the single-room dwellings were, how crowded the narrow streets were, how tiny the community of fishermen was at the time Jesus called it home. My colleague Brad Morgan, who had just returned from Haiti the night before we boarded our flight here, reflected on just how different that way of life is from ours: “Jesus is closer to the Haitians than he is to me.”
And visiting churches which promise to be the site where Jesus fed 5,000, restored Peter to leadership after the Resurrection, delivered the Sermon on the Mount, or lived in Peter’s mother-in-law’s home…was surreal. I know that there is quite a bit of doubt on all of these locations (the last actually has the most evidence), if not multiple locations — each with shrines or basilicas — claiming to be the one! But Melody Kraus & Bishop Huie both pointed to the way those places of worship — accurate & legitimate or not — link us into a long line of people who have followed T S Eliot’s dictum to “kneel here where prayer has been valid.” Perhaps the constant wear & tear of pilgrim feet have made these into truly thin places regardless of Jesus’ exact location for any of the events commemorated.
But the highlight of the day was standing on a boat deck early in the morning and reading the story of Jesus walking on the water to the disciples. After I shared a brief devotional with the group & we sang a song, a spontaneous quiet broke out and we just sat listening to the birds and watching the waves. Simply being on the water was the most powerful connection I could have imagined.
Tomorrow we visit Nazareth & several other sites related to Jesus’ early life. I look forward to the way in which I will be connected to the land and people more deeply and in ways unlooked for.