Worship on the Move …

We start early for our travelling worship service. Our worship experience begins with Prayer and Study as we visit the Western Wall and take time to pray.

We even sang a hymn on the street corner while we waited for our bus to pick us up for our next stop.

It’s time for some teaching … where else, but the Teaching Steps. This is the place where Jesus would have taught on a daily basis (Luke 21:1-4; 37-38 NIV).

This is where Peter would have preached on Pentecost. We paused here to listen again to the stories of Jesus.

Years ago Neil Armstrong (a Purdue Grad) visited these Steps and said, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.” After today, we can understand his feelings.

After Lunch in Jericho – yes that Jericho – where the walls tumbled … Wee little Zacchaeus climbed a tree … in this place our worship continued.

We visited the place in the wilderness where the River Jordan flows – a place where John the Baptist would have come and where Jesus was baptized.

John was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. Mark 1:4-5

People from everywhere came to John. Why? What must that have been like? Were there people are everywhere? How many different dialects were being spoken? Was the crowd that came to John made up of people of all colors and nations?

And perhaps the crowd today resembled the crowds that John witnessed. And perhaps the desire to be like Christ is played out in a place that allows one to do something Christ did in the water of the Land that Christ walked.

I began to teach (okay I was preaching) to our group about the value of Baptism and the importance of remembering our baptisms as a covenant with God. We baptized one of our travelers for the first time at the age of 70. And people from all over were watching and listening. We encountered groups from Japan, France, Philippines, Korea, Brasil, Italy, India, Mexico, Croatia, Greece, and Germany to name just a few. They are Orthodox, Methodist, Christian, Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, you name it.

Then it got interesting because while they are from all over the world – they are there for the same reasons. That would explain the group of adults from France who are Catholic asking an American Methodist Pastor to bless them with the water of Jordan.

So I did one after another after another … merci beaucoup … and an embrace.

We are one.

I hope that in some way I capture the feeling of John the Baptist as people came from all over to be baptized. It was truly humbling and amazing!

We then journeyed thru Jericho and headed back to Jerusalem. We stopped and viewed the area that is traditionally the place of the 40 Days of Temptation and hit the Jericho Road. We had one last stop – the Judean Wilderness.

This wilderness is nothing like you have ever seen. The Jericho Road lays at the bottom of these rocky hills and provides some relief as their is a stream that runs at the bottom providing water, but the rest is filled with treachery.

To speak of wandering in the wilderness means hardship, loneliness, and death.

You can’t help but look out on this space and wonder what wilderness of life has taken precedence in your life … oh and that was the same thing a few other groups were pondering on the hillside – they weren’t from America either, but we didn’t bother asking where they were from … we knew it was more important that we were all trying to get to the same place – a deeper understanding of a life with Jesus and an escape from our own wanderings in the wilderness of life.

At the end of this Sunday … we have a better understanding that we are loved by God … after all we have the life of Jesus to prove it. So we leave our Sunday knowing that our Faith Matters – now and forever.

Tomorrow – A visit to Bethany, the shepherd’s fields in Bethlehem, and the Upper Room.

Fill my cup …

Some moments sneak up on you …

Some moments you anticipate …

and then there was today …

We said goodbye to Galilee and turned towards to Jerusalem, but first we had to travel through Samaria … does that sound familiar.

but first we had to travel through Samaria … does that sound familiar?

So during our journey, we stop in the town of Nablus … at a well.

Not just any well, but Jacob’s Well – Genesis 33:18-20

That same well that comes about again in John 4:5-6 when Jesus meets the Samaritan Women and offers her a drink from which she will never thirst.

Well (see what I did there?) … we drank from that well today.

We actually shared a drink from a well that Jacob, Jesus, the disciples, and countless other Bible characters drew water.

Wow … a connection … an experience … I am truly full.

I might actually never thirst again!

Jesus the Teacher

We spent the day on the hillsides of Galilee in the places that Jesus taught.

The Chapel of the Beatitudes

Jesus feeds 5000 with the gift of a small lunch … taking the insufficient gift and making it more than enough for all

The resurected Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”

The big moment of revelation was on a hillside in a cave.

This cave is marked by the remains of an 4th century church as the place where Jesus went away to pray and rest.

As we stood around the cave we too took time and prayed …

God, Thank you for the opportunity to look out on this place and see what Jesus saw with His eyes. Thank you for the chance to see all that Jesus saw. Help us to see others in the same way Jesus looked upon them …

It was that last part …

that caused us each to pause …

and in that moment we were no longer Tourists in the Land …

We had become Pilgrims …
forever changed by the experience.

Tomorrow it is Christmas …

Shopping and a visit in Bethlehem

Foundations Set in Water

Our day was filled with adventures on and near the Sea of Galilee. Its hard to believe that this little lake was the location of the majority of Jesus’ ministry.

There is just something about being in a boat on the Sea of the Galilee.

It’s hard to describe. Let’s just say … it is … Peaceful.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”

Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be Still My Soul #534 UM Hymnal

What storms of life do you need to let go of and trust to the One who still calms the waters?

We moved onto Capernaum – the base of Jesus’ ministry and the home of Peter.

We try to understand the reality that we are in a place where Jesus walked and taught.

We finished our day in another port town – Magdala, the home of Mary the Magadalene. This newly discovered place is well preserved and has only been open to the public for 5 years (although I can tell you of story of being here – sneaking in really – 7 years ago shortly after the discovery).

Here we can step over the threshold of the synagogue Jesus would have taught.

We marvel at the reminders of the women Jesus encountered and the value He placed in them.

We began the day in a boat and finished the day reflecting by a boat that serves as a pulpit (I might even be enticed to use a pulpit like this one!).

Tomorrow – Teaching and Miracles

Shopping for the right answers

We visited the ancient shopping mall of the gods. A place where every god was available to worship … and people came from everywhere to worship.

This is the place that Jesus takes the disciples and asks, “who do these people say that I am?” The answers were many, but Peter got it right.

The whole idea seems silly, but isn’t that what we do with Jesus these days … we add him to the many gods of our life … and we shop to meet our personal desires … taking the parts we want and discarding the rest.

The remains are there to remind us to beware in the marketplace.

We finished the day in much the same way it started, but instead we were in Nazareth.

We went outside the town to precipice that overlooks the Jezreel Valley.

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When Jesus returned home, He went to the synagogue and read from the scroll. He proclaimed in these actions that He was the Messiah. How did the people respond?

The discounted the words and actions of Jesus. They choose to run Him out of town and intended to throw Him of the precipice. (hint it didn’t happen)

What do we do with the words and actions of Jesus?

How often do we reject the words refusing to listen … to change … instead we seek to throw them away?

Before the sun goes down … stop shopping for the answers … and spend time with the one who came that we might know the truth.

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Tomorrow the story continues … as we become like the fishermen of old and explore the water and the stories on the Sea of Galilee.

A much anticipated dinner

After an 10 hour flight covering nearly 6000 miles, we gently glided back onto the ground in Tel Aviv. We then began the process of clearing customs, gathering our luggage, and boarding a bus for the two hour ride to Tiberias and our hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

While we are all loopy from little sleep, I did have a couple of observations from today:

  1. I was struck by the imagery of a common sign: Lost and Found.

Seeing it displayed in Hebrew made me think of Jesus and the parable of the lost sheep.

“What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18: 12 CEB

Wouldn’t it be easier if when we were lost, we could just go to the Lost and Found desk and admit we were lost. It’s hard to admit you’re lost. Good to know that someone is out there looking for the lost.

2. Our guide was giving introductions and important information about the schedule for the coming week and then she said, “Tonight you will dine overlooking the Sea of Galilee.”

I wonder how many times that was the plan as evening approached for Jesus and the disciples. As we dined, I noticed we were surrounded by people from all over the world. All were here dining by the Sea. Dining in the place that Jesus once walked.

We haven’t done anything but wait today … and in the waiting … God is already stirring our Spirits through the common everyday things … it seems not much has really changed in 2000 years.

Tomorrow we begin our journey in His Steps with Cana, Nazareth, and Ceasarea Philippi … but tonight we rest after dinner.

Waiting is hard

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1:4 NIV

Jesus had returned from the tomb and spent time with the disciples and others. The disciples and a group of over a hundred wanted to know what they should do now. Jesus gave them some strange instructions — wait.

I have often wondered what that must have been like — just waiting in the Upper Room. What was it like to wait in anticipation for something you know nothing about. What did they do? What did they talk about? Did they have any idea what they were waiting for? Were they anxious? Nervous?

I can relate to those feeling even more today. As I write, I sit here at the Indy Airport waiting to board a plane to go to Israel.

Waiting. Wondering. Anxious.

We talk nervously. We eat lunch. We wonder about all that we will see and all that we will do. We make small talk.

Perhaps we are not that different from those disciples of old that were waiting for what we know was the movement of the Holy Spirit. A movement that brought them understanding of all that Jesus taught them.

I can’t wait to share with you all that we will see and experience.

But that will have to wait.

There we go again … waiting … anticipating.

If you want, pull up a chair … and wait with us.

It won’t be too long … Look the next line is only a seven minute wait …