I’ll tell you what, the earthy expressions of Jesus are really taking root now. The farmer in the field, the birds of the air, the herder with his sheep.
Several times yesterday I would come over a pass to find myself surrounded by sheep or cows; and even more frequently, their remains. One of the greatest reliefs of yesterday was that I didn’t find myself face down in those remains. The path was extremely muddy, slick on the descents, and tiring.
Which explains why I didn’t write my post last night. I got lost twice on the trail. Not a big deal… Now. But yesterday, lost in a muddy valley of olive trees, I was anxious. I tried to sing our recent little church tune, “Nothing can frighten, nothing can trouble, Solo dios. Basta.” Hence the focus on the flowers and the cows.
I never did catch back up with the trail. My way out was literally focusing on a “city on the hill” that eventually came into my sightline. I was headed to a kibbutz for the evening. And let me tell you: This Kibbutz is the bomb. I got here at dusk, pants muddy to my knees to be greeted with a hearty, “SHALOM! Come in, Come in!” After spending a fair amount of time in the shower (first hair washing since I’ve been here — sorry was that TMI?), I was asleep by 8:00 pm.
Other items of greater interest: Before leaving Cana, I sidetracked to the two wedding churches – both claim this is where the miracle of water to wine took place. The first is run by the Greek Orthodox and features a lovely mosaic of Jesus above the door. This being Sunday morning, their service was in full bloom with incense, chanting and welcoming smiles from the 40 or so worshippers. The second – more famous – is run by the Franciscans. It’s closed to visitors on Sunday but I got there as the faithful altar boys and families were arriving to prepare for worship. They let me come in and even take a quick video.
Both of these places are active centers of worship and life; embedded in their communities, with lots of information about the gospel work they are doing.
Secondly, I had plenty of time to see and reflect on how long this land and these people have been pawns for the larger powers of “Religion” and “Nationalism”. From the Romans (63 BCE – 324 CE) through the Arab and Byzantine eras, to the outside Christian Crusaders (1099-1291); or the Muslims who fought them back or the Turkish Ottomans ruling until 1917, this land has known a particular suffering it seems to me.
It’s expanded my understanding of why Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the son of David, the son of Abraham, was born here. We, Abraham’s offspring, have often brought about the worst of our faith: a power mongering divisiveness that pushes our rights and our distinctions while ignoring the fundamental dictate God gave to this first follower: “I am blessing you to be a blessing.”
This brought me back to the flowers, the birds and the soil. All of this life first belongs to the Lord. Before my national identity, my ethnicity or religion. I am a beloved child of God. As are you. Before I get tied up in anything else, my fundamental posture is to bless. I don’t think that is as difficult as the larger powers make it out to be. It begins with neighborly kindness – like the lavish dinner the Arab hostel owners put out for me two nights ago, or the fumbling directions given to me yesterday by the shepherd pictured above; or the warm “Shalom!” that greeted this weary guest last night. It continues with a refusal to make individuals into a “group” as in: “Those Arabs,” or These Jews”. It’s a willingness to trust God is alive in this encounter and in this moment. And that indeed: Solo Dios. Basta. God alone is enough. For all of us.
And this, no doubt, is enough writing. I got carried away. I’ve had 12 hours of sleep! Morning coffee! But a hard day of hiking in front of me. Time to get started. Thanks for reading. Today, if you think of it, please pray for this land and these people. They are lovely – all of them.