Saturday, August 2, 2008

Morning at the Sea of Galilee

Here's a hymn for morning that reminded me of our journey down to the Sea of Galilee and our crossing from Tiberias to Tabgha:

Not here for high and holy things we render thanks to thee,
but for the common things of earth, the purple pageantry
of dawning and of dying days, the splendor of the sea,

the royal robes of autumn moors, the golden gates of spring,
the velvet of soft summer nights, the silver glistering
of all the million million stars, the silent song they sing,

of faith and hope and love undimmed, undying still through death,
the resurrection of the world, what time there comes the breath
of dawn that rustles through the trees, and that clear voice that saith:

Awake, awake to love and work! The lark is in the sky,
the fields are wet with diamond dew, the worlds awake to cry
God's blessings on the days of life, as we dance lightly by.

Come, let thy voice be one with theirs, shout with their shout of praise;
see how the giant sun soars up, great lord of years and days!
So let the love of our God come and set thy soul ablaze,

to give and give, and give again, what God hath given thee;
to spend thyself nor count the cost; to serve right gloriously
the God who gave all worlds that are, and all that are to be.
--adapted from a hymn by Geoffrey Anketel Studdert-Kennedy
The Sea of Galilee is in the north of Israel, and it is a lovely place. Also known today as Lake Kinnereth, it is referred to in the gospels as the Sea of Tiberias as well as Lake Gennesaret. It is a large body of water, about 15 miles long and 8 miles wide, and it is deep, about 160 feet; surprisingly, it is about 650 feet below sea level. The Jordan River flows into the lake from the north and flows out to the south. Along the shores are the villages of Tiberias, Magdala, Tabgha, and Capernaum, which were all along the major trade routes running east to west.
According to the gospel accounts, the area around the Sea of Galilee was the location of much of Jesus' ministry. On the shores of this lake, Jesus called most of his disciples to follow him; most of them made their living as fishermen. He preached to the crowds from a boat anchored just a little way out on the water, and the hill where he preached the Sermon on the Mount is close by. Tradition indicates that he performed a number of miracles here, including quieting the storm and multiplying the loaves and fishes, and told many parables to his followers.
As the photos show, it is a really beautiful place; the countryside is rugged and arid, but vegetation flourishes along the shore, and fish are still quite abundant.
Irrigation is a great boon to agriculture, of course, and the modern Israelis have definitely "made the desert bloom." Just look at these limes ...

and unusual flowers ...

and pomegranates ...

It was really amazing to be able to cross these waters and walk these hills. It is a place of such tranquillity and beauty that in the stillness I could feel the Divine presence. We were blessed to have had this experience.

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