The Sermon on the Mount

After a scenic drive to Capernaum, the center of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, our tour group stood before the Mount of Beatitudes, where we remembered the text of the Sermon on the Mount. It was there that I felt a strong feeling of awe all around. Parrots, butterflies, and varieties of chirping birds permeated the scene of stately palms and floral arrangements topped by the distant shimmering waters of the Sea of Galilee, a line of mountainous terrain capping the view.

Every sense available pulled together an immersive experience in the location Jesus used to speak to thousands. I wondered how anyone could project their voice over the hillside and across the water. Then, as if on cue, we heard, hundreds of feet away, the words of a song being sung in a boat. As it turned out, we drifted along in the same boat for a special worship service that touched us deeply, that very afternoon. A visit to the Church of the Fish and the Loaves in Tabgha, taught us more about the traditional location of the feeding of the 5,000. At that point, the visual and auditory journey took on a powerful significance. The scriptures came alive as we walked through the Chapel of the Primacy, remembering how Peter professed his devotion to the risen Christ three times.

The most precious gift of the day for me was the memory of Jesus’s gift of the Beatitudes. Those very messages resonated with me. More importantly, they spoke to me later that day when we learned that Israel was under attach. The moments in which we had been overcome with peace and gratitude, were still near, locked inside. The pull of nature, of resting our spirits in the arms of our Lord with all the blessings promised to us, surrounded each member of our group. Not one of us became unglued as more details trickled out.

In all honesty, we felt wrapped like a cocoon and the peace that passes all understanding was burning within us. As the day went on, we took on a spirit of trust for ourselves while our hearts fell heavy with the news of casualties and pain nearby. We stayed the night in Tiberias and rested there as the streets cleared and the waters near our hotel barely rippled with the lack of traffic at sea. Schools closed their doors and guests in the hotel checked out. Israel had declared war, and we began to wonder how or if we would get home to our families. Yet, the peace from our pilgrimage lived on and we prayed, reassuring each other and our loved ones, while inside wishing for continued peace that passes all understanding.

That peace took root in us as we waited for our next step.

Feeling at peace isn’t exactly expected in a situation like that, but after seeing the reality of the Holy Bible alive all around us along with the prayers mounting on our behalf from home, it was in hindsight perfectly on target.

Hang in there for another description of this pilgrimage and our journey from a war-torn country in a few days.

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