May 19

“…they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat…” Mark 6:53

Today we moored our boat (or bus if you prefer not to be so metaphorical!) along Lake Gennesaret…or the Sea of Tiberius…or as it is best known, the Sea of Galilee.

After stopping at an overlook with magnificent views of the seaside city of Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee we checked into the YMCA where we will be spending the coming three days. The winding paths hemmed in by tropical flora and swaying palms are a striking contrast to the dry, sparsely covered hillsides of Nazareth. The place where we find ourselves is a place of beauty and retreat.

This evening our group sat down to dinner on a veranda overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Our meal of Saint Peter’s fish and chips was a delightful — and delicious — reminder of the shift in location we have made. There is something refreshing about being at the water, something life-giving. It was around these waters where Jesus called disciples, healed the sick, walked on water, calmed a storm, fed a multitude, preached on a nearby hillside about beatitudes or blessings, salt and light, love for enemies, prayer and fasting, anger and judging (Read Matthew 5-7 again this evening — it will be good for you, I promise!) The place where we have moored ourselves for the coming three days is a place of miracles. It is truly holy.

Water — especially the seashore — has always been a special place to me. Most mornings I wake up in our home in the Shenandoah Valley — a full four hours drive from the ocean — and declare that, “Today would be a good day to be at the beach!” My morning proclamations have become somewhat of a joke in our family, but I really do mean them! The waters have become for me a place of “spiritual mountaintop” — a place where I am better able to be in tune with God’s presence. In the coming days we will sail on the waters of the Sea of Galilee, enjoy a lunch of fish and bread along the shore, explore a first century fishing boat, and listen closely for the voice of Jesus the Christ, who still calls ordinary people like you and me to leave their nets and follow him, for he will teach us to fish for people.

As evening falls on the Galilee the song that runs through my heart is a favorite of mine, “Lord, you have come to the lakeshore.”
“Lord, you have come to the lakeshore, looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones. You only asked me to follow humbly. O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me, kindly smiling, have spoken my name. Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me; by your side I will seek other seas.”

You know, today is a great day to be at the beach!

–Salam and Shalom, Joel Ballew