Day 2 The God of new beginnings & fresh vision: learning to walk in the Grace of the Call

With the dawn of the 2nd day, after a hearty kosher breakfast of cheese, pickled fish, olives, vegetables, fruit, yogurt and freshly squeezed Java orange juice – protein for pilgrims, we are off to the Mediterranean sea port of “Old Jaffa” (Joppa). Jaffa means beautiful, and this gate city that has linked Jerusalem with the nations of the world for over 4000 years is a jewel. Today, annexed to the modern city of Tel Aviv, it is one of the ,main entrance points for the Jews in diaspora returning from the four corners of the world to their native land.

After being dropped off in the south end of the city we make our way through old narrow winding stone alleys to a broad piazza set off by a large sculpted blue whale fountain – a token of the prophet Jonah’s foiled attempt to flee the Lord’s presence to Tarshish (a city in Spain or modern Turkey). It is the smile on the big fish that gets your attention. My first thought is that he’s savoring a fresh breakfast morsel (Jonah). My thoughts turn to Jonah confined in the belly of the great fish in the depths of the sea – the poor miserable fellow! But it is precisely there that he begins to remember the scripture verses he learned in “Bar Mitzvah School” and starts to pray, and then praise (!!) still in the fish’s belly. Then, suddenly, he is belched forth, and lands back in Jaffa where he first heard the prophetic call of God. Now the benign smile makes more sense. Yes, God, who loves to be gracious and merciful, is having a little chuckle, as he undertakes to restore his impetuous, naughty and wayward child to the path and purpose he has in mind for him. Not that being in the belly of the whale is exactly fun. The bible in some places describes him as a great monster of the deep with as many as seven heads; in other places, Leviathan, which “You (the Lord) have made to play there (in the sea)psalm 104:26. I guess it is all a matter of perspective really. And now that I think of it, the whole story of Jonah is highly comical; funniest of all Jonah himself, a bit of a “sulky”, who is very slow to get the joke and have a good laugh at himself. While I am laughing at Jonah’s story, I get this uncomfortably feeling I am laughing at myself – certain details about Jonah seem too familiar, times in my life & ministry when I chose to ignore God’s prompting. Humbled, I give praise to the God of second chances and ask him to use this little pilgrimage to prove and confirm His call upon my life.

As we move on through the old city Elaine and I are both captivated by the number and design of the doors. They are beautiful! Elaine decides then & there that “doors” will be a photographic sub-theme of our trip. Meanwhile I reflect on how nicely the architectural design of a door hides, and at the same time, hints at and beckons to the interior beauty within. I remember Jesus’ words to the disciples, “ I am the door” (John 10), and as he speaks to the Church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7), (I am) the Holy and True One who “has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”. I wonder: “Is there a door of opportunity here, a window of revelation?” We walk by the door of Simon the Tanner (Acts 9), Peter’s host while he ministered in Jaffa. Perhaps you recall the account of Peter’s open vision of heaven on the roof top, Acts 10 – a real faith stretcher and radical turning point in his apostolic ministry. Setting his religious scruples aside he is obedient to the vision and travels up the coast to Caesarea to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and the Promise of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. Following in the footsteps of the Saint we too arrive in Caesarea. There, Hans reminds us of what happened to Peter, right in the middle of his sermon when he is preaching about Jesus, the Cross & the Holy Spirit: God steps in and takes over. In the same way, we are to understand our ministry as preamble to what God has in mind. There is much to chew on (meditate) as we make our way inland to Tiberius of Galilee, Shabbat, and the rest of the Sabbath.