Day 4: Mensa Christi, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Mt. of Beatitudes

I am happy to introduce one of our pastors, Wayne Brown, who is along with us on this pilgrimage. He will be guest blogging for me tonight in the written portion of the post, and I could not be more grateful for the break! Thank you Wayne! Here’s what Wayne recalls of our Day 4 experience…

Continuing Day 4 with Ecclesia Houston and Breaking Bread Journeys, today we visited Mensa Christi Church, Capernaum, spent some time on and around the Sea of Galilee, explored Magdala, and finished with a nighttime reading of the Sermon on the Mount while sitting on the Mount of the Beatitudes. Sound like a full day? There’s more going on than you think.

First, we set out on the bus for Capernaum. On the way, we stopped at the Mensa Christi Church (Table of Christ). There we made our way down to the shoreline, placed our feet in the ancient waters of the Sea of Galilee, and Pastor Chris Seay taught from John 21. This is where the disciples returned to fishing, something that they knew and found comforting in a time of confusion, frustration, and fear following the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus meets them on the shore, prepares a meal of fish and bread for them, and engages them in a way they never anticipated. Jesus meets Peter after his denial and arguably the greatest failure of his life. But instead of scolding Peter, he uses it as a time to reaffirm, encourage and commission him towards the greatest work of his life. Pastor Chris reminded us that our greatest failures always have the opportunity for the greatest redemption, and can serve to strengthen our faith, courage and resolve, making us better prepared for a more challenging calling that lies ahead or just around the corner.

Next, we made it to Capernaum, where we saw the remains of a 4th Century Jewish synagogue, as well as the town of Capernaum nearby. The church there is believed to be built over the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, where Jesus miraculously healed her. Seeing the town and the walls of the houses helped to provide perspective on just how small the houses were in Jesus’ day. On the way back to the Scot’s Hotel, we read some passages including where Jesus heals a man lowered through the roof on a mat in a house in Capernaum.

Next, we ventured on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The weather was perfect, and the water was as calm as glass. We listened to hymns and songs on the journey to the middle of the lake, and read the story where Jesus walks on the water to the disciples. Pastor Chris also reminded us of how Jesus invites us to face our fears, calling us all into greater faith. And in the moments where we become fearful again, he uses it as a moment to teach us and to help us grow. Some even swam briefly in these ancient waters, and we danced and sang songs of praise to God on the journey back to shore.

After a brief time to rest at the hotel, we made our way to Magdala to explore the remains of a 1st Century Synagogue discovered there in 2009. We had the opportunity to stand with our bare feet on these 1st-century stones, where Jesus himself walked. Pastor Chris reminded us of the woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment and invited us to pray for healing for ourselves and for a loved one with our feet touching the place where Jesus walked.

We were led on a tour of the site by an Irish Catholic Priest, Father Kelly, and his sister Celine. They were an absolute delight! They both shared so fluidly, passionately, and genuinely about their faith in Jesus and the stories and passages in the scripture that took place in this city. Magdala was the home of Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out 7 demons. It was a major fishing port at the time of Jesus. As Sister Celine told us, “The question is not ‘Did Jesus come here?’ The question is, ‘How many times did he come here?’”

We were reminded throughout the tour of the importance of the role of women in Jesus’ ministry. Sister Celine reminded us of how many barriers these women broke in order to be at the crucifixion as well as to be the first people to visit his grave. She reminded us, “Love is stronger than death. Love is stronger than fear, and that’s why these women were able to do what even the disciples did not.” At the end of our time in Magdala, we had the chance to write the name of significant women in our lives with our finger on one of the pillars in the church foyer and to say a prayer of thanksgiving for their role in our lives and in our faith.

Sharing 113 photos with you tonight! What an amazing day. First up is from the Mensa Christi Church and the shore of the Sea of Galilee nearby:

From the ruins of a 4th Century Synagogue in Capernaum:

A sculpture of “Homeless Jesus” inspired by the verse Luke 9:58, “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'”

From our Sea of Galilee sailing experience:

On our way to Magdala we stopped for a group photo:

Magdala archaeological site, and the Duc in Altum Spiritual Center:

Jesus calls the disciples:

Jesus catches Peter after he falters on his attempted walk on water:

The fearful disciples on the Sea of Galilee:

Jesus casts out seven spirits from Mary Magdelene (Luke 8:2):

He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). -Mark 5:41

Pastor Chris led us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the base of the Mount of Beatitudes to read us the Sermon on the Mount under a moonlit sky:

Day 4: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina, Mt. of Beatitudes

I’m here documenting a unique Christian pilgrimage to the holy land with Ecclesia Houston guided by Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the U Boutique Kinneret Hotel with the breathtaking view of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, we embarked upon a boating excursion where our guide David took us out on the waters. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A church is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an wonderful meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff.

After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. It was an unforgettable evening standing there listening to our pastor read what is regarded as the most famous sermon of all time, near what would have been the spot that Jesus shared it almost 2000 years ago. I’ll share some of the beginning verses of this beautiful and timeless message here:

Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Day 5, Part 1: Sea of Galilee

We had a very long day with many stops so I’m breaking Day 5 into different parts. Here are some images of our sunrise sail on the Sea of Galilee. Around 6am we embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee with our guide David of Galilee Sailing. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water. We experienced first hand how quickly the weather can change, with a rainshower appearing suddenly on our excursion.

I stopped to ponder the events accounted in Matthew’s Gospel describing Peter’s struggle as our guide David explained to us how bad the storms can get on the sea, with waves recorded as high as 12 feet. I love the metaphor that a boat, a vessel, provides us with, in parallel to the journey of life. The storms of life will come, there is no question about that. The question is what is my anchor, what is my constant when I’m feeling lost and tossed about when I’m feeling that everything around me is unstable? For me, it’s the grip of Jesus much like Peter felt when he began to sink on the water in his attempt to walk in faith.

We will all find seasons in life when we feel we’re sinking. We can either reach up with an open hand or clench our fist in bitterness and just keep sinking.

Day 4: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the Ma’agan Hotel with the breathtaking view of the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we took a stroll on the docks but our boat ride was canceled due to bad weather. We hope to reschedule for tomorrow morning.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A church is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

Pastor Chris led us in prayer in the basement chapel where our bare feet could walk on stones that are believed to have been at street level when Jesus visited Magdala during his public ministry. What I’m receiving in these days is that the incarnation of Jesus is the highest form of love that God could express to us, and oh how he loves us! And here we are where it all happened.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff.

Day 3: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina, Mt. of Beatitudes

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my photo-journal of our experiences. After our breakfast at the Ma’agan Hotel with the breathtaking view of the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee, we embarked upon a boating excursion where our guide David showed us how fishing nets would have been cast in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A church is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.

I don’t know what it is but this was the maybe the most touching day of all my times here. Sometimes it takes it awhile to really sink in. God speaks to me through art. There was something about the mosaic of Jesus calling the disciples to drop their nets that really hit home for me (you will see the photo below in a group of four gorgeous mosaics found in the Catholic Church at Magdala). Pastor Chris had mentioned during our prayer time in the basement of the church that Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, to drop their nets, tells them he will make them fishers of people; to pursue people and shine his love and light to “catch” them for God and bring them into his ways of radical love. And then I walk upstairs and I go into the chapel where this mosaic is. What I’m receiving in these days is that the incarnation of Jesus is the highest form of love that God could express to us, and oh how he loves us! And here we are where it all happened.

After a much-needed afternoon break at our beautiful hotel property, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff. After dinner, we gathered on the rooftop terrace to watch the sunset over Mt. Hermon.

After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. The night sky was very clear and full of stars. It was an unforgettable evening standing there listening to our pastor read what is regarded as the most famous sermon of all time, near what would have been the spot that Jesus shared it almost 2000 years ago. I’ll share some of the beginning verses of this beautiful and timeless message here:

Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

This last shot is a 125-second exposure over the Sea of Galilee … while Chris read the Sermon on the Mount, our planet and all the stars our Creator set into motion at the beginning of time continued their journey exactly on the path he set them on. He is in control and he has us heading right where he wants us.

Day 2: Nazareth, Mary’s Well, Mt. Precipice, Tulip Winery

Today we made our way to Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. We enjoyed one of my favorite churches in the world, the Church of Mary’s Well. It is believed that this humble church sits atop a natural spring which would have most likely been the spot from which the ancient community well of Nazareth was sourced. So it is probable that Mary drew water from this well for the holy family. The murals and iconography in the church are beautifully done and very inspiring.

We then took a short hike to Mt. Precipice for some beautiful panoramic views. It is believed by many to be the site of the Rejection of Jesus described in Luke 4:29-30 – The people of Nazareth, not accepting Jesus as Messiah tried to push him from the mountain, but “he passed through the midst of them and went away.” The mount is situated on the southern edge of the city and provides beautiful views of the valley below and Mt. Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration) seen as an isolated peak to the east. The beautiful views provided for some great shots of the group.

After that, we were ready for lunch and a wine tasting at Tulip Winery (יקב טוליפ). I love the cause behind Tulip, which employs 35 special needs adults who live in the village where the winery is located, a former kibbutz. The village’s name means “Village of Hope.”

There they say “Labels are for wine bottles, not for people.” They were founded with a purpose of providing special needs adults with employment and the support of community on the former kibbutz where they’re located. Started as a tiny boutique winery in 2003, now they are shipping over 500,000 bottles of wine annually and have won various awards locally and internationally. I have really grown to love this place.

Lastly, we arrived at our hotel on the south shore of the Sea of Galilee just in time for a breathtaking sunset.

Day 5: Sea of Galilee, Magdala, Rosh Pina, Mount of Beatitudes

I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my account of our experiences. After an unbelievable breakfast at the Scots Hotel, we embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee where our guide David showed us how fishing nets would have been cast in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water.

Personally, although this was my eighth visit to the Sea of Galilee, something different struck me this time. I stopped to ponder the events accounted in Matthew’s Gospel describing Peter’s struggle as our guide David explained to us how bad the storms can get on the sea there, with waves recorded as high as 12 feet. I love the metaphor that a boat, a vessel, provides us with in parallel to the journey of life. The storms of life will come, there is no question about that. The question is what is my anchor, what is my constant when I’m feeling lost and tossed about, when I’m feeling that everything around me is unstable? For me, it’s the grip of Jesus much like Peter felt when he began to sink on the water in his attempt to walk in faith.

We will all find seasons in life when we feel we’re sinking. We can either reach up with an open hand or clench our fist in bitterness and just keep sinking. When I arrived at the Magdala center with this thought on my mind, I saw again the mural there depicting this scene of Peter sinking, and the artwork captivated me in a way I had not felt it before. You will see my photo of the mural later below in the blog post. Jesus is so constant and steadfast, standing there on the water, grabbing Peter. The feelings I felt there in that sacred space will stay with me. Our time here has been extremely inspiring and there is a bond we are all feeling as we journey together, walking in spaces and places where Jesus proclaimed his radical message of love.

We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A chapel is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.