We began at Caesarea Maritima, a magnificent seaport city built by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus in 22BC. Caeserea was where Peter came and shared with Cornelius (before that, he had never entered a Gentile’s house) and was amazed when God’s Spirit came upon him. These were the events that opened the door for Paul to break out the good news to people who previously were thought not to be important to God. Including me and you. Interestingly, Peter had been so busy defending the boundaries of truth that he missed out on the new thing God was doing in his generation! Something I feel that many people still do today.
Herod is refered to as ‘the great’, not because he was a great dad (I think he killed all his sons!)It may have been because he was quite an amazing builder. We sat in an open air theatre he built to entertain the Roman troops that had better accoustics than many modern buildings I’ve been in. We also saw remains of his seaside palace and the Hippodrome that he built to race horses. Also a many-mile long aqueduct to bring in fresh water from the mountains. Very impressive.
Later we drove to Mount Carmel, where Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal (1Kings 18:16-19:12). It has a great view of the Jezreel Valley where he ran from there to become the world’s first marathon runner! After all his exploits though, he burnt out and gave in to fear. Our meditation here was on hearing God’s still voice during the times when we’re down and out.
Our last stop was Sepphoris, the traditional birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A pretty old city (built 1000BC), it was the capital of Galilee and a very close neighbor of Nazareth, Jesus’ boyhood town. We went to the remains of the town’s synagogue, most likely where Jesus would have gone to Rabbinical school. My suprise there was to realize that Nazareth was an extremely poor town of maybe 30 families, probably living in caves. Jesus’s dad could either have been a carpenter or stonemason (fundi wa mawe!) and probably serviced clients in Sepphoris (like a Kibera artisan would service clients in Langata). No wonder one of his disciples to be years later would ask, ‘what good could possibly come out of Nazareth?’ For sure, God does not discriminate.
At each site, we got to journal, pray and reflect. The best part of this trip – it’s the first time in over 10 years that I am not in charge of the program or outcomes. It feels good to be pastored and led by someone else!
I’ll try to keep some regular updates coming through our time here. And maybe even some pictures J