Monday, April 19, 2010

At the Church of the Beautitudes

This is truly one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Israel and one I couldn't wait to see again. Not to mention that my friends would have the opportunity to see it for the first time. They were impressed, of course, but possibly none so much as Larry.

Maybe impressed isn't the right word.

Moved. (That's a good word...)

You see, unbeknownst to me, Larry had a dream before we came to Israel. I won't get into the details of it because it's not my place to do so. But it was here, at the Church of the Beatitudes, that Larry realized the dream as reality. It was, quite simply put, the "I am walking where Jesus walked" moment.

There's really nothing like that feeling, that sudden knowledge that you are where He was, where His Spirit continues to hover and wait. Where it inspires and excites.

It is said that here is the place where Jesus -- gathered by countless listeners -- gave the famous "blessed" sermon. Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek ... Personally, I like walking around the gardens -- this time I went alone -- and imagining being one of those listening to Rabbi Y'eshua. A gentle sloping toward the shoreline of the Galilee makes a perfect spot for sitting ... listening ... pondering ... learning more about God and what he expects from me and what He desires to give to me.

There is peace in this location. landscapes, rolling hillsides, bold cliffs standing guard in the distance. reality, Jesus was being pretty gentle in many ways with his teaching here. These were the poor who listened, the ones who daily had to make peace with Rome, the ones who lived meekly ... teachable, as it were. The time had not yet come for some of Jesus' more difficult teachings ... He was just getting started.

And perhaps that is what spoke the loudest to Larry. The gentle Jesus. The rabbi ... teaching in ways beyond words to ears ... but lessons to hearts.

"I was here... this is my land ... these are my people ... my Israel ... "

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mensa Christi

In 2002, on my first trip to Israel and during one of our first days in Galilee, we went on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

We were not allowed to lean over and touch the water.

Oh, how I wanted to! I wanted to so badly. But there were safety issues.

Later on, as we neared our last day in Galilee, I said to Miriam, "If only I could dip my hands and feet into the water of the Sea of Galilee." Miriam said something in Hebrew to our driver and the next thing I knew, we were pulling off on the side of the road next to an arched gate which read: Mensa Christi.

Mensa Christi: the table of Christ. The church standing boldly against the water of the Sea of Galilee, is built over what some say is the rock where the resurrected Jesus served the disciples a meal of fish. The shoreline, that day in 2002, was lined with small seashells, many of which I brought home as a memento.

In 2007, it was a different site awaiting me at the shoreline upon arrival. This time, fish -- like those Peter caught after Jesus told him to throw the net to the right side of the boat -- were in a feeding frenzy. It was an amazing thing to watch.

In 2009, I was bringing my friends here. To the peace of Mensa Christi. Inside the church was humming with tourists. Outside, several people stood along the shoreline in silence as the water lapped at their feet.

While my comrades listened to the Holy Spirit speaking to their heart, I took a walk away from the rock-strewn shore, to the little prayer garden where a statue depicting the restoration of Peter to Jesus. Jesus, arm stretched out. Peter, broken. Down on one knee.
Closer than I've ever been to the statue -- I don't know why -- I snapped a photo. Then I zoomed in a little closer. Closer and closer until I was focused only on Peter's face. "I know how he feels," I thought. "I know exactly how he feels."

Sometimes, we just doubt. We deny the work of God in our lives. We think we can get along without him and we make silly statements like, "I'm going fishing." In other words, "Forget this. I'm going back to what I knew three-and-a-half-years ago."

For the first time, standing in the shade of the stone garden, I thought more on the words of John 21. Jesus called out the disciples in the boat. "Brothers, have you any fish?"

Of course they didn't.

"Then throw the net to the right side of the boat..."

That worked. Now they know who he is.

Then Jesus suggests that they bring their fish and add them to the flame of the coals where he was preparing other fish. And bread. For Peter, this moment must have been both exciting and terrifying. The Jesus he had denied is offering him something to eat. A warm fire to shake the night's work off. And now, I'm totally recognizing the moment for what it is to Peter. Without Jesus, Peter cannot catch any fish. It was his life, for crying out loud, and he can no longer do it successfully without Jesus! He drags the net to the shore -- this very shore I am looking upon -- and Jesus says, "Add some of yours to some of mine, why don't you?"

Peter sees now. Jesus can do it without him, but not the other way around. And, Peter realizes, he doesn't have to do it alone. It's not about his strength or even his know-how. It's just about trusting Jesus.

"Come and have breakfast," Jesus says. Almost like an afterthought. "Wanna have some breakfast?" And so they eat. I wonder how much Peter ate. Did he just nibble? Did he gobble it down nervously? And then, breakfast consumed and the fish bones tossed in the fire, Jesus casually (it seems) turns to Peter and says, "Peter, do you love me?"

Not "Simon." Not his given Hebrew name. Not to start this dialogue. No.

"Cephas." The name Jesus had given to him. "Rock. Petra. Peter."

What must the worn out fisherman have thought? Did it bring him relief? Or make him wonder all the more ... what matter of love is this? And who am I that he loves me so?

The camera zooms in one more time and I snap the shot. "Yes, Peter," I think. "I know exactly how you feel."