First, as you may have guessed, I still haven't figured out a way to get the photos I'm taking on the blog. I should have it figured out soon. Until then, I'm using the next best thing from google images. They're of the actual places that I'm visiting.
Let me hit a couple highlights for you.
Yesterday we visited Caesarea Philipi, which is in the far norther part of Israel, about 20 miles North of the upper edge of the Sea of Galilee. It looks like this:
This large cliff-face is on the edge of the mountain range which is the northern border of Israel. The cave-like thing is an ancient cave, one that has a spring in it. It was in ancient times considered by some pagan religions to be the jaw of death, the portal to the underworld. At this very place pagan temples stood.
It was amazing to imagine the power of Jesus' words to Peter here: "You are rock, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." The whole place exudes power, stability, permanence.
But it also exudes two other things that really struck me. First, the sacrificial dimension. This was a place of sacrifice. Second, this is a place of 'living water.' Springs gush from this place, and this time of year the water flows with amazing strength, as fast as any Colorado river. I know the image of "water flowing from the temple" comes from the Jersusalem's temple, Ezekiel's vision, etc., but it is (to me) unmistakably applicable to this site too.
Today we spent almost the whole way bopping around the Sea of Galilee itself. It looks like this:
I saw an amazing sunrise over the Sea this morning, surrounded by little chirping birds, as I prayer Matthew 5, 6, 7, at the place traditionally associated with Jesus' preaching of the Beatitudes (Mount of the Beatitudes). It was fun to look as the very birds of this place as I listened to Jesus' words, "Look at the birds of the sky...."
The Sea of Galilee is large: 5 miles wide, 10 miles long. I did a boat ride in a boat like the one above. It was a little bit cheesy ("come do the Jesus boat ride!"), but it was still a neat meditation to picture Jesus walking on the water, calming the storm, Peter sinking, etc. It really struck me how you can see so many significant places as you float on the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, the place of the Gerasene demoniac, Tiberias, and many others.
On a more mundane personal note: I've got a crazy sore throat and my voice is almost gone (temporarily). It wouln't be a pilgrimage without some inconvenience. I think it comes from the warm, dusty air we've been breathing the past two days. Now cleaner cooler air has come in from the west or north. No big whoop.
Tomorrow we'll be off to Jerusalem, stopping in some places along the way. This really has been a prayer pilgrimage so far, as we prayerfully "follow" Jesus from these places of his earthly ministry up to Jerusalem for his great Passover, his great exodus.
Which reminds me...we spent time at Mount Tabor today, the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus! It is tough to remember all these amazing places. Oh well.
Please pray for us pilgrims, and I'll include in my pilgrim prayers, "all those who are following my blog." Deal?