Thursday, January 31, 2019

From Conquest to Community

Today, the Mountain Sky Conference Pilgrims began the day in Caesarea, Herod's palace, port city, and the residence of Pontius Pilate. We then travelled to Megiddo, Nazareth, and ended our day in Cana.

Rev. AJ Bush led us in devotions in Megiddo:

Tom Kremer, Gillette UMC, Gillette, Wyoming:

Tom & Penny standing in front of the 2000 year old theater in the ancient city of Caesarea. 

Evergreen UMC (Evergreen, CO) pilgrims Marlene and Jim Waltz, along with other couples, renewed their love at the Church at Cana:

Bishop Karen in Cana:

Scenes from our day:

At a 2000 year old aqueduct, Michael Dunlap, Belong, Denver, CO



Devotions at the base of Megiddo

Rula, one of our tour guides

Mary's childhood home, Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

A water jar at the site where Jesus turned water into wine

Church at Cana

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Day Around the Sea of Galilee

Some MSC Pilgrims reflect on the day's highlights for them:
(Lorene Branson, Cece Huffnagle,  Alda Schnase, all from Green Mountain UMC in Lakewood, CO, and Rev. Emily Flemming, Windsor, CO)

Bob Stowe, Gillette, Wyoming:

My take from yesterday's initial experiences in The Holy Lands. DINNER WITH YOLI. Last night, Ruth (Stowe) and I ate dinner with a remarkable woman at our hotel, Leonardo Club. Yoli, short for Yolanda, was sitting alone at a table for 4, next to the table where the three other Pilgrims from Gillette, WY were eating. Soon after giving us permission to join her for dinner, she engaged us in conversation: "Is this your first time in Israel?" YES. "Where are you from?" UNITED STATES, the state of Wyoming. Not unlike many East Coast residents of USA, she had never heard of WY. Then she queried "Are you here on a tour vacation, or to learn?" Ruth and I still had our EO badges on. We answered her somewhat broken English "Yes, we are on a Pilgrimage, learning more about the cultural setting where Jesus lived, taught and performed the miracles." " She nodded and said, "Yes!" 

We learned that Yoli cam here in 1949, 70 years ago, when she moved to Israel, the homeland of her religion, Judaism. I asked her if she was but a baby when she immigrated. She replied, "Oh, no! I was in my 20's." Somewhat taken back, I said you must be ninety-something!" She quickly and proudly replied, "I am mil, one hundred years old!" I was astonished by her age. From her face and hands, I was thinking she might be in her early 80's, but not 100! I asked Yoli where she immigrated from. She replied "Poland." That gave me pause, knowing that after Hitler had occupied Poland in the late 1930's, and that after he put Political Opponents, Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses into concentration camps, he then ferreted out Polish Jews, sending them to the concentration camps. Most of them died from the heavy labor, being poorly clothed for Northern European winters, from poor nutrition, rampant diseases and later, from gas chambers. 

Yoli read my mind and said, "I lost all my family in Auschwitz. I had to make a new family in Israel with a husband, 2 daughters, 8 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. She then said she worked for Leonardos for 40 years. A retirement perk she receives is a week's stay at the Leonardo Club each year. She now lives in Haifa, about 60-70 km to the west of Tiberius, on the Eastern Mediterranean coast. I know this was a "God-incident" dinner meeting when she stated that she and Jewish people share the One God with Christians. And in a surprise she stated that we share God with Muslims, from the lineage of Abraham. One never knows what a dinnertime conversation might yield! 

Bishop Karen:

Tom Kramer, Gillette, Wyoming:

Penny standing in the synagogue that Jesus healed many in Capernum. 

Rev Tiffany Keith, Colorado Springs, CO

Full Circle

I started my devotional today by explaining to the pilgrims that if they told me a decade ago I would be in the middle of the Sea of Galilee giving a devotional, I would’ve thought they were crazy...

A decade ago, I was just getting small hints of my call into ordained ministry. I literally told Alan he was crazy when he said something about me being a pastor. Being in front of people was an “absolutely not.” Talking in front of people? Laughable!

But there was this video. “Dust,” a video by Rob Bell. He talked about the disciples and their education. He talked abouy Peter walking on water. That moment a decade ago I knew I was going into ministry, and I knew I was my biggest obstacle. I should say, “my faith in myself was my stumbling block.”

So, today when I began my devotional by acknowledging the craziness of the moment, I was acknowledging the distance Jesus’ call has taken me. I was reminding myself that it isn’t Jesus faith in me that I had to overcome. (He’s always known!) It was my faith in myself that I had to face, head on. 

And wow... I am so glad I did. 

Rev. AJ Bush, Gillette, Wyoming

Today we traveled all around the Sea of Galilee stopping at places such as the Mt. Of Beatitues (where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount), Capernaum (Jesus’ second home town), Magdala (the home of Mary Magdalen) and a boat ride on the sea itself! For many hours we were immersed in the life of Jesus’ public ministry - walking where he walked, eating what he ate, praying where he prayed.  

One of the things I love about the Sea of Galilee is that it reminds me of the familiarity Jesus had with these places and these communities. Jesus wasn’t some outsider, but Jesus lived among them, healed among them, and taught among them. This was Jesus’ home and his community. It was where he lived and what he was intimately familiar with. 

I love this image because it reminds me that Jesus isn’t some outsider in our lives, but that Jesus is just as familiar with us as he was the disciples and the Sea of Galilee. For example, when Jesus called the disciples from their boats, they weren’t just strangers on the seashore, he knew them. When Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, she wasn’t just some sick woman, she was like family. And the same is true for us. When God calls us or heals us today, God knows us too and tells us we are family. You see, Jesus isn’t some outsider in our lives, but Jesus is intimately familiar with us.

So the next time you read the stories about Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee, imagine that they are talking place somewhere familiar to you - Like in your own community - or read them as if they are taking place to people you know - or perhaps even in your own life. Because Jesus is intimately familiar with us, and Jesus continues to walk with us, just as he walked the shores of the Galilee. 

The MSC Pilgrims sing in a chapel in Magdala. Note the mural at the end, depicting the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment:

Scenes from the day:

One of our tour guides, Abraham, talks with the group

Learning a little about the apostle Peter

The place where the risen Christ shared a meal with his disciples 

On the Sea of Galilee 

Rev. Tiffany Keith leads a devotion on the Sea of Galilee 

Learning about the town of Magdala

Homeless Jesus

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

We've Arrived!

Bishop Karen:

One hundred pilgrims from the Mountain Sky Conference (as well as several more from other conferences) left their respective cities on Monday and arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, late afternoon. We all converged at almost the same time and were led to our buses, to be driven to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee. We were greeted at the hotel with fresh juices and dates, and then ushered into the dining area, where we feasted on all sorts of Mediterranean delights!

Because of the size of our group, we are on two buses. One bus has last year's tour guide, Rula. The other bus has Abraham as tour guide. Like Rula, Abraham is a Palestinian Christian. Abraham has quite the sense of humor: "Just remember when we visit places, to come with Papa."

I was very moved by how Abraham talked about our trip as we make our way to Tiberius. We are not tourists. We are here as pilgrims. And then he led us in saying the Lord's Prayer. It was a beautiful reminder of the oneness we experience in Christ. We might come from many places, but we are united as Christ's body.

Tonight we all plan on getting a good night's rest: tomorrow will be a full day!

Rev. Tiffany Keith, The Edge and 1st UMC, Colorado Springs, CO and Congregational Resource Minister for Peaks/Pikes Peak District:

The Paradox of Time 

We just landed. The journey across the US, across an ocean, and across Europe happened so fast and yet every moment seemed to drag on forever and ever. 

The Paradox of Time 

We just landed. We just landed in this place that is the past. This place that is the present. This place that is the future. 

This place is the past. It’s Canaanite. And Roman. And Palestinian. And Israeli. And Christian. It’s the place that connect Europe, Africa, and Asia. All the people of the past have left their mark on the land and on the people. You walk here and feel the deep, long history of the land. 

This place is the present. We are in a bus with air conditioning, USB plugs, and Wifi we just got the password for. We’re passing gas stations, cities, walls, deep division, oppression, and dehumanizing. You can’t help but experience the presence. 

This place is the future. It is here I can see all peoples flowing into the tree of life. Knowing the absolute love of God. 

Here's a look at tonight's dinner buffet:

We Will Remember

Our Mountain Sky pilgrims visited the house of Caiphas, where it is believed Jesus spent the night in a pit following his arrest, The Church...