Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 2, Part 1: River Jordan, Cana, and Nazareth

Well don't worry, I am getting some sleep, but it's in fits and starts.  My body is still adjusting to the time difference, I think, so we'll see how today goes.  I have just a few moments before I head to breakfast to begin day 3 of our tour days here in the Holy Land, so let me tell you a bit about what we saw yesterday morning.  After breakfast, we drove just a few minutes down the road from the resort we are staying at to the place where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan River.  Near this spot, they have built a "baptismal site."  It's not the place where Jesus was baptized, that's farther south, closer to Jericho where we entered the country.  This is a place built specifically for people today to be baptized in the Jordan River.  Jesus' baptismal site is inaccessible because it's in the disputed West Bank area where the border is more heavily guarded.  We stopped at the baptismal site to see the Jordan River up close.  Pastor Art and I are taking turns leading the devotions each day, so this day was my turn.  We read the story of Jesus' baptism from Mark's Gospel and had a brief service of thanksgiving for our own baptisms:

We then had the chance to collect some water from the river into bottles to take home with us.  I also blessed each person individually and prayed with them.  All of you were in our prayers as we remembered our friends and family.  

Pastor Art also blessed me.  This picture also shows you how wide the Jordan River is here, and this is not far from where it comes out of the Sea of Galilee.  I told you it's not very wide (or deep for that matter):

Back on the bus, we drove up out of the valley toward Cana.  This is looking south down the valley of the Jordan River:

Some of you may be curious what the country of Israel is like today.  I can't give you lots of detail now, but it is very modern and feels quite western.  Here is a view from the bus of the main highway we took toward Nazareth and Cana:

In Cana, we visited this church built on top of the site of a 6th century church:

Being a Roman Catholic church, there was mass being said inside, but there was a nice courtyard beside the church where we were able to gather.  We read the story from John 2 of Jesus attending the wedding at Cana and performing his first miracle of turning water into wine.  We also celebrated a renewal of wedding vows service for all of the couples on the trip.  I think it was a surprise to some and meant a lot, because there were a few misty eyes during the service.  Of course, Lindy was far away from me, but I'm thankful for my own wife and the vows we share.  We prayed for the blessing of all families and marriages as well.

Then we went into the basement of the church to see some of the ruins of the ancient church below it.  I suppose we take them at their word that this is the old church:

This is the inside of the church with another renewal of vows service and mass being said:

Walking back to the bus, we passed by this church, an Orthodox church dedicated to Nathanael, one of Jesus' disciples who was from Cana and famously stated "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  At the time, Cana was the big city and Nazareth was the small town.  Now, the roles are reversed with Nazareth being quite a bit larger than the current city of Cana.

Here we are walking through the streets of Cana.  We passed by a school where children were outside playing at recess, a few of them coming up to the fence to say hello and have their picture taken.  I wonder how many of them are in photo albums around the world?

Another view from the bus of some of the busy city streets we navigated in Cana on our way to Nazareth:

In Nazareth, we stopped at this Orthodox church located at Mary's Well.  It's supposedly the spring of Nazareth where people would have gathered water in the time of Jesus.  You can see part of the nativity scene and large Christmas tree to the right that were set up for the Orthodox celebration of Christmas which was on January 6:

Inside, we stood by Mary's well and read the story of the annunciation from Luke's Gospel where the angel Gabriel visits Mary in Nazareth.  Here is the well, again, you take them at their word that this is actually the spring:

Yours truly by the altar they have set up by the well for prayer:

Just as interesting was the church itself, since many had never been inside an Orthodox church before.  The Orthodox tradition uses icons to tell the story of our faith and the artwork is beautiful.  A prominent theme in this church was of course the angel Gabriel:

Here is another scene of Mary holding a young Jesus:

That's all the time I have for now.  After Nazareth we will travel to the ancient fortress of Megiddo, then to a crusader fort at Belvoir.  Stay tuned!  We're off for more adventures around the Sea of Galilee today!


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