The Sea of Galilee

As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee he watched two brothers,
Simon now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea.
They were fishermen.

From Matthew 4:18

On our second evening in Israel, we checked into a hotel which rests on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This was the same place we had stayed the year before which assured me that I’d hear the waves if I listened carefully. Though I’ve heard the surf in the darkness many times, this was special. I was within earshot of what I considered to be Jesus’ lake.

The following day, I would sail that lake. I would see the images Jesus saw from every vantage point. Beyond the buildings which occupy some of the shoreline and hillsides, the views would be the same as they were in Jesus’ day. I allowed the sounds of Jesus’ lake to coax me to sleep that night. In my slumber, I imagined the surprise in those fishermen whom Jesus called to his side. I imagined the courage it took to leave their fishing business to follow this young teacher into uncharted waters. I imagined myself sneaking alongside them in the shadow, waiting for the right moment to profess my willingness to follow, too.

Today, I find myself in the right moment to profess my willingness to follow. This second day of Lent 2018, I will open my eyes to see what Jesus sees from every vantage point. I will also open my heart to respond to what I find as Jesus would.

Dear God, be with us as we do our best to follow Jesus, to see what he sees and to respond with love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Brought Back To Life!

While in Israel, I quickly discovered that the precise locations of the events of Jesus’ life didn’t concern me as much as breathing in the air Jesus breathed and walking where Jesus walked. Meeting people who resembled Jesus, his family, neighbors and disciples awed me. Having said that, I admit that my perspective changed on the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus’ presence was almost tangible.

As our guide led us toward the water, he insisted, “Wait here. You must get onto Daniel’s boat.” Yossi returned quickly to lead us aboard. As we pulled out onto the water, I absorbed the images around me: the sea, the boats, the hills in the distance and the faces of those who sailed with me. I looked upward to ask, “What were you thinking when you looked at all of this?” Before I received an answer, a gentleman came forward to offer a commentary regarding the sea and Jesus’ impact there. I was surprised by this. His passion implied that this presentation was far more than a tour narrative. I assumed this man was Daniel until he stepped back to introduce our boat captain. Seconds into Daniel’s remarks, I understood Yossi’s reasons for booking this tour with him.

Daniel explained that he is a Messianic Jew. He was born to a young unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman and was given up for adoption to a secular Jewish family. Though his family had no faith to share with him, they provided Daniel with a loving home in the port city of Haifa. This proximity to water inspired Daniel’s love for the sea and his desire to become a boat captain one day. Daniel’s family also nurtured his love for music by gifting him with a set of drums early on. Unfortunately, Daniel endured a personal crisis in his late twenties. This death of sorts urged Daniel onto a quest deep within himself. Because his family hadn’t kept his adoption secret, Daniel continued his journey by finding his birth family: his mother and four siblings. With the hope of building relationships with them, Daniel relocated nearby. He stayed in a Kibbutz and found a job on a tour boat.

I recalled our tour guide Yossi’s experience growing up in a Kibbutz. There was no talk of God there. I assumed Daniel’s newfound family were Orthodox Jews as his birth mother had been, so there would be no talk of Jesus with them. Offering tours of “holy” places is big business and certainly not a religious experience for local Jews and Palestinians. What was it then that prompted Daniel to take that extreme step toward Jesus?

Apparently, Daniel discovered Jesus’ tangible presence on the Sea of Galilee just as I had. For five years, he listened to his passengers talk about their belief in Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) as they sailed. All the while, Daniel absorbed the prayers, music and scripture passages they shared. Every day, Daniel pondered all that he saw and heard. In the end, Daniel couldn’t help being moved. Something within Daniel came to life the day he realized that he also believed in Yeshua. Yeshua had become Daniel’s most precious and life-giving treasure.

Daniel has responded by sharing his testimony and his music during tours. He sings the hymns which inspired him and translates them into Hebrew for other Messianic Jews to enjoy. The day we sailed with him, I witnessed Jesus’ passion in Daniel. The love he expressed for Yeshua with every word echoed Jesus’ deep love for you and me. Daniel has recorded these hymns and his own works in an effort to tell all who will listen about Yeshua. He does this in spite of being ostracized by many of his fellow Jews, secular and religious, who resent the beliefs of Messianic Jews. As for me, Daniel’s CD eases me into Jesus’ company every time I listen to it.

I share all of this because Jesus seems to have done for Daniel what he did for Lazarus two thousand years ago. Today, John’s gospel (John 11:1-45) tells us that Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had taken ill and died. When Jesus went to Lazarus’ sisters to comfort them, Martha and Mary insisted that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been with him. Do you know how many times I’ve looked upward and declared, “If you were here, things would be different?”! Raising Lazarus was Jesus’ greatest miracle. Daniel will tell you that this miracle was repeated in him when he welcomed Jesus into his life. I will tell you that this miracle has been repeated within me every time I’ve survived one of the major and minor tragedies of my life. Jesus’ miracle is repeated in each of us over and over again. The best part of all of this is that we can imitate Jesus’ miracle in our own efforts to renew the lives of those we’ve been given to love.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Boat

He called them, and immediately they abandoned boat and father to follow him.
From Matthew 4:21-22

While in Israel I had encounters with two boats which touched me deeply. I’ll share my experience on Daniel’s boat tomorrow. Today, let me tell you about The Jesus Boat.

We read a good deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have set his eyes on this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The day we sailed the Sea of Galilee, we also visited Kibbutz Ginosar where the Jesus boat is displayed. Before seeing it, we watched short film which told the tale of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen who discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Though I’m certain their parts in the film were well rehearsed, neither brother could hide his excitement over this discovery. Their treasure had shaken both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores because no one had ever unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition.

Though the science behind The Jesus Boat’s preservation is fascinating, I am more fascinated by Jesus’ presence in all of this. Once again, it matters little to me whether or not Jesus sailed in this particular boat. What does matter to me is the glimpse into Jesus’ daily life and the lives of those he loved which this boat afforded me. When I gazed upon this ancient relic, I imagined Jesus out on the water with his friends. That day, I experienced just a bit of the amazing adventure that must have been!

Dear God, thank you for being present in the treasures of this earth. Be with us as we make ourselves present to those who need you most.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved