Wednesday, July 6, 2011

June 26: Cana, Nazareth and the River Jordan

We started Sunday off right, with an outdoor worship service on the grounds of the Mt. of Beatitudes. We realized very quickly, good Presbyterians that we are, that we didn’t all know the same hymns, and without a hymnal or screen we struggled in the music department. Fittingly we read the scripture including the Beatitudes from Matthew 5: 1-12:

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

We also had a chance to visit the church – we’d only been on property at night when the church was already closed for the day. Our first stop of the day on Sunday was the Church at Cana, home of Jesus’s first miracle: turning water into wine. There are references in this story to the Old Testament (Moses turning the water into blood). The “Wedding Church” is Catholic is tucked up on a hill away from the main road. Right across the street is a Greek Orthodox church. Traditionally couples who visit the church are given the opportunity to renew their wedding vows, which two couples in our group did. Surprising, though it shouldn’t be, was that the service at the church was in Arabic. People sometimes consider Muslim and Arab to be the same thing, but they are not. Anyone who’s mother tongue is Arabic is considered Arab, regardless of their religion.

 The water jugs in question in this story are huge, not some small pitcher – that’s a lot of wedding wine. 
John 2: 1-12:

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.”

Today there is a tourist industry in Cana Wedding Wine, so we had a chance to shop and sample near the church if we wanted to before heading off to Nazareth. Like other places in the Holy Land, one denomination doesn’t have the hold on religious sites. In Nazareth we visited two Churches of the Annunciation (the angel appearing to Mary announcing her upcoming pregnancy); Greek Orthodox and Catholic. History lesson of the day: At the time of the annunciation, Nazareth was a small village of maybe 200-300 people living in small cave like houses. Houses where the family would usually sleep right at the threshold and the lower portion of the house would be for cooking and then keeping the animals (most likely the “stable” where Jesus was born – in a small village like Nazareth or Bethlehem there wouldn’t be an inn, they would stay with extended family). The fact that the angel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy was also interesting, because Elizabeth did not live close by and there is no way Mary would have found out about Elizabeth’s pregnancy otherwise.

(left) Greek Orthodox Church (right) Catholic Church

Right by the Greek Orthodox Church is the spring that dates back to the time of Mary where she would have gone to fill up her water jugs. The Catholic Church is built over the remains of the cave house where Mary heard from the angel. The Catholic Church has beautiful art donated from countries all over the world – most showing Mary and Jesus. Is it a surprise that the art from the US was kind of strange and the only plaque that required an explanation?

What to wear: Most of the churches in Israel have a strict no shorts policy, and some also prefer that you cover your shoulders. In Nazareth, we witnessed the short skirt “police” in action. For the ladies, a scarf covers a multitude of skin, but over the course of the trip, I’ve even seen a guy or two wearing a “skirt” (or sarong) to cover their legs if their shorts were too short.  Proof again that short shorts do not look good on any man.
We enjoyed St. Peter’s Fish (aka tilapia) for lunch, including the biggest wedge of lemon I’ve ever seen. Onward to the River Jordan for the reaffirmation of our baptismal vows. Our site on the river also included some locals lying in their kayaks and enjoying the sun and a cold one. Our section of the river was pretty small – not the Mississippi by any stretch…more like Cherry Creek along the bike path. John took the big frond of leaves to fling water on us and gave Brian, the much smaller “Associate Pastor Frond.” Baptism quickly descended into a rock skipping competition.

Our last stop on Sunday was one of my favorites of the trip, and I think that’s because I read the scripture standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and it felt very real and genuine. The official name of this church was Peter’s Primacy (and something in Latin that refers to a table). Our guide Peter’s name for the church was the “Do You Love Me?” Church.  John 21 (1 until the second follow me):

"Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Feed My Sheep

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

A couple of notes about that passage:

-The net not being torn reflects the universal nature of the church…there is room in the net for everyone.

-The use of the word love in English doesn’t accurately reflect the sentiments of what Jesus was asking. Agape love is the holy love that Jesus asks Peter for and he responds with Philos love….I love you like a brother.

-Asking three times isn’t on accident, considering Peter denied Jesus three times.

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