As our last few posts have mentioned, we spent three days in Galilee seeing the places where Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples. We went to different archeological sites to see ruins of things that may have been around when Jesus was here. We went to many churches that honor specific aspects of his ministry: the calling the first disciples, preaching the beatitudes, and the feeding of the 5,000. We spent time relaxing together as a whole pilgrim group and sharing our stories. We also had good chunks of time to rest and contemplate while looking at or being in the Sea of Galilee.
(You might be thinking that it is strange that we had time for rest and relaxation during a pilgrimage, but we needed it! Every day we are taking in so much information, seeing so many things, and dealing with it both intellectually and emotionally that most of us were showing signs of fatigue.)
With that being said, I will let the other posts speak to the details of ours days and instead share with you my three favorite parts of our time in Galilee.
I wish I had pictures to share of the first item on my list, but we couldn’t bring our cameras into the water…we went swimming in the Sea of Galilee! Pilgerhaus, the place where we stayed, was right on the water so we had access to the “beach.” I say “beach” because it was very rocky and so that made it difficult to get in and out of the water, but we didn’t let that stop us. Thankfully a few of the other pilgrims and Rodney, our group leader, were already in the water when Rob and I got to the beach. They told us to walk in a few steps and then use our hands to crawl/float in the rest of the way. Of course we thought they were kidding and so we tried to walk all the way in. The rocks were smooth but they were still so painful to stand on that I didn’t make it very far before using my hands to crawl in. (As I said, I wish we had pictures to share because I’m sure it was a ridiculous sight to behold.) I enjoyed swimming in the Sea of Galilee so much because it is something that I can easily see Jesus and his disciples doing. After a hot day of preaching and healing, I can see Jesus cooling off in the water and then sharing a meal with the disciples.
The second item on my list was sailing on the Sea of Galilee. The water was calm, but the wind was strong while we were our on our 45 minute boat ride. About half way through our ride we stopped to read Matthew 8:23-27. The captain turned off the boat motor and we were just listen to the whistle of the wind, the splashing of the water on the side of the boat, and the chirps of the birds in the air before we read the scripture aloud as a group. It was so clam and peaceful. This passage about the disciples asking Jesus for help during the storm is a very familiar one, but I experienced it in a new way by hearing it while on the same body of water as they were. I don’t really have the words to describe how it was different, but it just was.
The third item on my list was sharing Eucharist together on the shore of the Galilee at the very same time that you all were sharing Eucharist at the 10:30am service at Saint James. Everyone had a role in the liturgy, though some more formal than others. Each petition of the prayers of the people was written and prayed aloud by a different member of the group. I was assigned the first petition – praying for the universal church. In my petition I included praying for the churches in our home countries of Australia, Haiti, Israel, New Zealand, the United States, Palestine, and the Philippines. As the others led their petitions, I was amazed by the fact that we each included themes of peace and mercy. When it came time to share communion, we all got in a circle and shared the bread and wine with person on our left. It was beautiful to see the joy in each others faces while we shared Eucharist with one another.
At the end of the service, the celebrant (and our fellow pilgrim) Bishop Ross Bay of the Diocese of Auckland in the Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, & Polynesia, offered the final blessing in Maori, as is tradition in his church. He said that the blessing would be familiar to all of us…The Peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. And the blessing of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever more. Amen.