Thank you for your prayers for all those that have been traveling through the Holy Land this past week. Yesterday we stood at the ancient Capernaum synagogue that was built on top of the one where Jesus himself preached (Luke 4: 31-41). But it was to be rivaled by a newly discovered first century synagogue in the home town of Mary Magdalene where Jesus most certainly placed his feet (Luke 8 :1-3). I had a physical and spiritual sensation of awe as I beheld it and then walked beside the place in the synagogue where Jesus would have taught.
We continued on to the Mt. of Beatitudes at Eremos where we gathered under some trees overlooking the sea of Galilee on a particularly clear and beautiful day. There, I had the opportunity to read from Matthew chapter 5 & 6 and share some thoughts from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount... A sermon whose summit comes with Jesus' command to love one's enemies: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5: 43-44).
Some would say, both here in Israel and back home, that this command like Jesus' others is totally unrealistic and impossible to obey. We can be grateful that Jesus began his sermon with this beatitude: "Bless'd are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Only when we come to know our spiritual poverty will we begin to rely on and admit our need of God's empowering grace.
Jesus still has something to say to us, don't you think? As tensions continue to persist between Israelis and Palestinians here; as Syria continues to suffer from civil war to the north, and as we think about the divisions in our own country and elsewhere -- Jesus' way still seems best, or at least untried. I heard the words of our Lord as we boated across the beautiful sea of Galilee at sundown: "Peace, be still!" Perhaps we can begin by welcoming that command into our own hearts and inviting it to live in us and those around us. Shabbat Shalom from the Holy Land!