Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Holy Land Tour, Part Six: The Trip of a Lifetime

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, May 20, 2013.
I took the photo above on our last morning in the hotel beside the Sea of Galilee. We were there for four nights before moving to a hotel in Jerusalem. On three of the four mornings that we were at this body of water around which Jesus spent much of his physical time on earth I went to the shore in hopes of witnessing a beautiful sunrise. 

I guess every sunrise is beautiful in its own way, but, let's face it, some are prettier than others, right? On the first two morning that I went to the beach early, the sky was so overcast that the sun could barely be seen. But on the final morning that I was up with the sun near that lake, the sky was golden and the water reflected it. And I think my little camera did a fairly decent job of capturing that moment of beauty. In fact, I got a poster size print of this photo and framed it for my office.

I wonder if there was a sunrise like that on the morning that the risen Jesus fed breakfast to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (See John 21)?

This really was the trip of a lifetime. I actually got to see places that I have read about and studied for, well, almost my whole life. I got to meet new people and make new friends, not to mention deepening the bonds of friendship with some folks that I knew before this journey. I learned many new things. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, my faith was renewed in ways that were surprising for me. I really didn't anticipate being moved the way that I was often moved by some of the places we visited. Jesus is just as present and just as real here in North Carolina as he is in Israel and the Palestinian Territory. Nonetheless, I was touched in unexpected ways by walking where Jesus physically walked.

I don't know how much, if any, further blogging I will do about this pilgrimage. Terri, my wife, has posted hundreds of pictures from our travels on her Facebook page. I posted some of those on the church Facebook page and we may post more later. I'm sure that some of my experiences in the Holy Land will find their way into my preaching and teaching. But there are elements of this journey that will impact me for the rest of my life. 

What did I like the least? To be honest, it was the sites where churches have been built over sites where important events from the life of Jesus are believed to have taken place. I understand that the Christian groups that built those churches did so out of reverence for Christ and I have deep appreciation for that intent. Still, I wish those places had been left in their natural state with, perhaps, sanctuaries built nearby.

What did I like the most? As mentioned above, I enjoyed making some new friends and spending times with friends I have know for some time. And I liked walking where Jesus walked. "Liked" isn't the right word, really. I found great meaning in this pilgrimage. It really was the tri of a lifetime.

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