Wednesday, November 16
Ok so it’s rainy here. I am not a fan of the rain; I just hate getting my clothes all wet and stepping in puddles and getting cold. But, I feel like I can’t complain too much because we have had no rain at all in Jerusalem this entire semester. In fact, I think the only time it has rained on us was in Turkey at Pergamum, which was a downpour. Like I said, I cannot complain, especially since complainers are one of my biggest pet peeves. I figure the best way to have a good attitude about something is to be prepared, so for the field trip today I had on about five layers, including two hoods, a rain slicker, and an umbrella in my backpack just in case. I was nice and toasty and dry all day! Maybe not my absolute cutest outfit, but that’s besides the point. And let’s face it, my entire style sense has completely gone out the window this semester.
Our first stop was the Mount of Beatitudes. As in THE mount where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Awesome. As in “It completely fills and overwhelms me with awe,” not like “Dude, that’s awesome and rad.” I was so excited to be there. The mountainside is beautiful, and there are some lovely gardens to walk around outside the church. The church was built by the Italians (I think Mussolini commissioned it), and it is octagonal in shape to reflect the eight beatitudes. I like the outside of it a lot more than the inside, but it’s still really beautiful. We had a lot of time to sit in the gardens (if you could find a dry spot) and read the Sermon on the Mount and reflect on it. I really enjoyed this. I’ve always liked the Sermon on the Mount and knew it was important, but I really came to love it and understand it better. It just makes it so much more real when you’re sitting on the actual site that it was given. That’s one thing I really like about the Galilee; at most sites in Jerusalem or the surrounding areas, you don’t really know for sure if you’re actually in the place that Christ taught or whatever. But here in Galilee, it’s pretty accurate in where things took place, so it just seems more real. I appreciate that. Anyways, I really enjoyed reading the scriptures at the church, even in the rainy drizzle.
The next two churches we went to were right around the corner from each other. The First was the Tabgha Church, which commemorates the miracle of the fishes and loaves. So I know I just said that the Galilee is pretty accurate on location, but this is the exception. Sorry. The traditional site for the miracle is actually something like 15 miles away, but they just have the church here. There are some beautiful mosaics on the church floor. The second church/site was the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy. This is the site where Christ called in the apostles from the sea, coked them fish, and had the conversation with Peter (“If you love me, feed my sheep”) in John 21. The church was quite small, but the altar is around this rock called the Mensa Christi, which is traditionally the stone table that Christ used to prepare the apostles’ meal. What I loved most about it was that the church was literally right next to the sea. It was just a little rocky beach right down to the water. It was so nice to stand on the rocks and look out over the water where the apostles fished and where Christ walked. I took some really pretty pictures, but unfortunately technology was not my ally and I lost them while uploading them on my computer... thank goodness for my friends’ cameras! One other cool thing about the church is that outside of the current structure are leftover foundations of “siamese columns,” which are two columns put together to form a corner of a building. There are only the foundations left now, and it made a heat shape! Tender.
The last site of the day was Capernaum, the hometown of Peter. There is a really big synagogue there, and also the foundations of a 1st century basalt synagogue which archaeologists believe to have been the one where Jesus would have been. Cool! Other than the synagogue, there are some ruins of houses, most particularly Peter’s, and a modern Christian church which sits right atop Peter’s house. The church has a glass bottom in the center so that you can see the ruins. One interesting thing about the ruins is that you can see the progression of the building from being a private dwelling to eventually a community meeting place. As the early Christian church grew and the people would meet in Peter’s home, the house would get progressively bigger. Just an interesting thing to actually see the growth of the early church during Jesus’s time.
My very very favorite part of the day (and probably the whole trip) was at the end, when we were able to sail on the Sea of Galilee. As I've said earlier, it was rainy all day, but as we were getting ready to sail on the boat, the raid dried up and the sun came out. It was like Christ's command of "Peace, be still" was still in effect, like He had calmed the storm for us. Just another tender mercy that each of us is given everyday by the Lord's hand. The first part of the boat ride was a lot of good fun, especially since the boat driver turned up some nice gospel tunes for us. Who would have thought that we'd be singing some good ole gospel music on the Sea of Galilee?! Not me. But all I have to say is "Our God is an awesome God!" (Look up this song right now). Once we got out to the middle of the sea, we just floated for a bit and had a little devotional. We sang "Master, the Tempest is Raging" and it was so cool to sing those words and imagine the scene right before my eyes. I have to admit, that particular hymn has never been my favorite, but I like it a lot more after this experience (how could I not?). I have always loved the accounts of Christ calming the storm. It gives me such peace to think about how Christ can calm the "storms" in my life, and how I can always turn to him for help. After our devotional, we had the whole boat ride back to read and ponder if we wanted to, and there was such a lovely spirit.