Today we move to the north. We leave the Dead Sea and its desert surroundings. In just a three hour drive, we find this new hilly terrain to be filled with foliage and full growing
trees and shrubs. We are coming next the Sea of Galilee, the life stream of the entire countries of Israel and Palestine.
Our first stop is in Nazareth. The
city of Mary and Joseph at the time of the Annunciation. Joseph, engaged to Mary was working as a carpenter. Mary was the daughter of a not so well to do family, training in skills that would serve to run her household. One such task was to get water from
the community well. She finds during one such task, an angel appearing to her and announcing that God has found favor with her and she to bear a Son. This is to be not just any Son, but the very Son of God. She is surprised, a bit frightened and a willing
to carry out the task set before her. Joseph, too, finds himself with an angel’s visit that tells him that Mary is carrying a Special Child and that he is to love her and take care of her without question or shame. He accepts this responsibility.
These miraculous events happen in Nazareth and are marked by special places, churches, excavations, and monuments to keep these places and the event alive and well throughout history and in our lives
today. I simply find it amazing how many of these places and events have been so well preserved. It again reinforced to me the importance of sharing our stories with each other. Our witness is critical to the life of the church and to the
faith of those who do not know yet how to name it for themselves.
A main attraction for us today was to walk through the Nazareth Village. This is a reproduction
of the times, lifestyles, dress, works and practices of those who would have lived in the 1st Century. We are guided through the village
with the help of, Daniel, our guide for this event. He leads us and introduces us to workers in the fields, a sheep herder, a carpenter and wool spinners and weaver. We see such places as a terraced farm, a vineyard with its own vine press. We go into the
shops and see the work being done including the art of crushing olives to make olive oil. Finally, we are taken to the synagogue and hear the witness of Jesus in Nazareth and the fulfilling of prophesies. We are reminded that God uses not only the Chosen children
of God, but that Gentiles were essential, and are essential to the love of God in our world. The village was an educational and inspiring tour.
We move from Nazareth, the Church
of Annunciation and Mary’s well, on to the place of Jesus’ first miracle. We go into Cana. We visit the church from top to bottom. The lower level holds signs and symbols of Jesus’ miracle at the Cana Wedding and turning the water into wine.
We move upstairs to find a beautiful sanctuary. Just as we enter there is a small group gathered at the front placing themselves and their worship wares each in its proper place. The sign is given for others to give them space and respect as they are
to share Mass with one another. Our group honors that request by quietly exiting from the back. I think, especially this year, it has meant more to me the living, active, worship going on at these sites still today. With so many people coming
and going it has been very difficult to see these places as much more than just markers of the past. Seeing a group gather, sing praises to God, and offer to each other the Fellowship of Christ in Body. Word and Deed; brings these sites to life. It gives them
a greater sense of respect and sacred worth. I am moved each time I have seen happen along our journey.
It was our hope to do a short hike up to the top of the Arbel Cliffs. After checking
the time of its closing we again find we arrived too late. The Site Closes at 5 PM, but it takes at least 45 minutes for a group to make the climb and return to our parked transportation. So groups are not allowed to enter after 4 PM. We arrived at 4:30 PM.
This a small set back. Possibly we can find a time and space during our three days in the region to come over and make the journey. With so much open to us already, it may not happen.
we move into our new surroundings. We are staying in the Village section of Nof Ginosar Kibbutz. We have chosen this space because the village is a collection of cottages set in and about a sculpted garden. The cottages are modest. There
is much activity set up for the days, but in the evening this surrounding should grant us the time and space for some peace, tranquility, and self-reflection. Jesus took time for himself to gather his thoughts and find an inner peace. He
pulled the disciples out of the heavy work they were doing to do the same. Even in his last hours, we find it important for him to take time on the hillside of Gethsemane for quiet prayer. I have found in my life it is in giving myself to
these times that I am given a fresh start. I ask for your prayers for me, and for our group, that we all might find an opportunity to put down the electronics, the lust for something more, bigger, grander and would find all we need in listening to the still
small voice of God around us and in us. Amen.
As much as I am writing this during the first day of our retreat. And, I have just finished an entry, I did not think I was going to write, but
felt I needed to do so. It is my intent for the next two days to put down the keyboard, stop reading emails and texts, and take in what should be a great time of interacting with some of the best surroundings one could ask for and to listen
for God in the Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch and Taste of whatever is laid out before me. I will write and download pictures for Days 9 and 10 sometime on Day 11.