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the kingdom, it tapped me on the shoulder.

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

The next part of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land was very, very busy before having a day of rest which was very much appreciated! We got up early so we could sail across the sea of Galilee. The boat was very fun; having the Scottish national anthem played for us, even if we were not the most enthusiastic of Scots when it came to singing! When we were sailing across it was so, so peaceful, calm and quiet. The boat stopped half way through the trip across the sea for worship. Whilst I do not think you need specific places to worship and be still, the atmosphere was incredible. After some hilarious, old school, childrens’ songs going through my head about Peter and fishes, it was good to be still and think about the stories those apparently silly songs tell and what message they give to us. After singing “Will you come and follow me”, our boat journey continued to the other side of the shore, near Capernaum. Upon reaching the other side we went to see the “Jesus boat”; a boat pulled up from the sea recently which they think is able to give us an idea of the kind of boat Jesus would have used during his time.

israel 080

israel 082

As we continued that day we got a chance to go to the Church of the Beatitudes, the church of the multiplication, the church of St Peter’s Primacy and then Capernaum where we saw Peter’s mother in law’s house and the church that is built above it. (bit weird!) We did lots of singing in these places which really helps focus your mind on where you are what stories we have heard about these places! One of my favourite moments of the trip was when we went down to the shore of Galilee after being in St Peter’s Primacy and sharing bread and wine together. What a location! As we travelled to these places throughout the day I was constantly aware of the water around us and could not stop looking out over it so it was amazing to sit, all together, looking out over this beautiful setting and worship together, and share the bread and wine. Some of us also went down to the water and had a wee paddle!

We were very busy that day, and it was incredibly hot and it was an amazing day but it was good to have the next day free of anything programmed. I spent a lot of time sitting on the swing at the hotel in Tiberias, once again looking out over that beautiful water, either talking to people, or just sitting and even meeting a wee bird called Geoffrey. It was good to have space to think about what we had seen in Tiberias and if our images of Jesus had been transfigured from when we first arrived. It was also good to have that time before moving on to Jerusalem where it was so much busier. It was clear that we were not just here to see the Holy Sites, we were there to encounter the people there and Jesus, and his intentions when he was in these places. Trying to connect the stories of Jesus to the Israel we were in, in the present day, was something I didn’t expect from the trip but was one of the most moving experiences of the trip and one of the most important things I took away from the whole thing.

view from scot's hotel swing

geoffrey

That shall end the Tiberias chat and I shall come back and talk about Jerusalem at some point.

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pilgrim, how you journey…

August 8, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s now been a month since we all returned from the Holy Land and I can’t believe I haven’t really blogged about it yet. I definitely haven’t stopped talking about it to people! I’m not really sure where to start. In fact, I’m not even sure I want to start putting any thoughts into writing because then that seems to signal closure and I really don’t ever want that to happen. It wasn’t just a trip away; It was a journey. A journey that completely blew my mind, broke my heart and changed my thinking, and faith, in a big, big way.

Tiberias:

We arrived in Tiberias after a long time travelling; we were delayed in Heathrow and had to sit on a very hot, non air conditioning, plane for quite some time. That seemed a distant memory instantly as we walked out of the airport in Tel Aviv. As we walked out into the heat I remember being completely amazed and excited at the fact I was there, I was in Israel! I couldn’t get my head round actually being there…in fact I still haven’t got my head round that! That same night we got our first glimpse of the sea of Galilee which was totally not what I expected, as with most things I encountered. Although I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect before going, I guess I was definitely not thinking there would be a McDonald’s, lively bars, music and even party boats all by the sea of Galilee! It seemed a totally bizarre first experience of the country but a totally realistic one. I saw the Israel of today.

The next day, our first full day in the country, we went to Nazareth. We visited the Greek Orthodox church of the annunciation and the Basilica of the Annunciation. Something I noticed right from the start was how beautiful everything was and how much effort had been put into making them so grand. I found it fascinating but then the sceptic inside of me thinks…why? What is the need? Do people need wonderful art in order to reflect upon the events that supposedly happened there? Perhaps they do, but has it gone too far? Has it gone over the top? I am not sure. I had more thoughts on this later on in the pilgrimage but I will mention them later. As we were walking through Nazareth we did come across a piece of art that really did tell a story and did aid reflection. We saw a beautiful statue of Gabriel and Mary where Gabriel is telling Mary she is pregnant…

Mary and Gabriel

Mary and Gabriel

It is such a simple statue with fascinating facial expressions and tells such a wonderful story. I loved it; I loved how it conveyed Mary’s fear. I loved how something so simple could tell me such a story.
At this time we walked through the market in Nazareth which gave us a real flavour of Israel. I couldn’t stop turning my head whilst walking through; I wanted to see what they were selling, how people were interacting with each other. I wanted to really watch but it all went by rather quickly as we kept up with the speed of the marketplace.

Another highlight of the day was our visit to Mount Tabor; where the transfiguration was believed to have taken place. It was phenominal. The taxi ride up there is quite an alarming experience but as a fellow pilgrim pointed out, imagine the disciples walking up there! The church there is beautiful and we spent a fair amount of time there, taking pictures, being still and taking it all in. The transfiguration…what a story! What a location! It really was spectacular. It was our first real sense of spending time in a place where one of Jesus’ stories took place. I could have looked out from Mount Tabor for such a long time. It was naturally grand; the landscape. It was so, so beautiful.

a view from Mount Tabor

a view from Mount Tabor

That was our first day out and about in Israel. I was going to try and blog about more than one day at a time but I’ll leave it at that for the moment and come back to the rest. Writing about it is making me want to go back in a huge way. Tricky.