I am suddenly fully awake at 5am with the song of birds pouring through the window into the darkness. The sound is heavenly, exhilarating, enthralling. I look east and see the first hint of dawn mirrored in the flat calm of Genneseret and make a note to capture the sunrise in digital. Leaning out of the window I look behind the hotel to the steep rise of hills hundreds of feet above and picture Jesus making his way to a “deserted place.” Were the birds his alarm clock too, I wonder? Then the words of the Psalmist come to mind: “Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn!” (Psalm 108.2) No. It is Jesus’ song that wakens the dawn and birds. It is a sublime moment. I find myself joining in creation’s acclamation: “This is the Day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118.24)

Shabbat Shalom comes with a blessing, but we are to receive and welcome it as the Light which enables our blind eyes to see. The 7th Day is radically different than the other six; the change is not spatial but a difference in relation of time. By welcoming the Sabbath, it is as if we step into the eternal, and by doing so see things from the inside out, i.e., as they are in their end, God (Heschel).We give back the controls to God and rest, in imitation of Him, and He works (Calvin, Institutes), and sings His praises over us (Zephaniah 3.17). It seems very fitting that today we are going to Galilee in the north, called “the Holy Triangle”, Jesus’ base camp where he spent most of his 3 years, teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick and forming disciples for ministry. We arrive at the top of the Mount of Beatitude, and step out of our bus into the warmth of the still, early morning air, our eyes feasting on the spectacle of glory everywhere about us – vast escarpments of orchards of olive, date palm, orange and banana, and fields of grain that stretch to the shimmering waters of Galilee below. The sense of holiness is pervasive, enveloping us. And I remember something of Heschel’s I have read: “When God rested the 7th Day, He released his breath (Ruah) into the creature he had made in His own image” and he/she became alive with His living spirit. Immediately I am more attentive to the words that Hans is speaking: “Blessedness, favour, receiving and walking in blessing, springs from the deep awareness of our poverty and nothingness, our total dependency upon God (Matt 5)”. I inhale these living words deeply, aware that I need to develop my God-given capacity to breathe. Soon we are walking down through fields of mustard (sermon fodder), stopping long enough to graze on some savory greens, as we listen again to the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 – “mustard seed faith”.

By late morning we reach the sea shore near Tabgha where the risen Jesus treated a few of his fisherman friends to a tasty breakfast of fish, and some after breakfast reflection with Peter about the business of “sheep feeding”. Interesting they didn’t recognize him at first – just like Jesus, to show up in the “ordinary” of our work day world as a surprise. How often, I wonder, have I missed out entirely on his visits because my mind-set wouldn’t allow it? After our own scrumptious St. Peter’s fish lunch (Tilapia is now my favorite fish meal after Cod), we “launch out on to the deep”. Hans reminds us that the Lake is Jesus’ special class room to teach lessons of faith. Today Galilee is placid, but just as often it is not. The Lord will send us into turbulence to test and try us, & expose our fears, in order to build into us faith. Was that the Holy Spirit that prompted Peter to get out of the boat and do the impossible? Of course he failed; his fear got the better of him. But looked at the other way round, Peter is Jesus’ star pupil, and proud, I’ll bet, as he reaches out his hand to grab him. There is a promise of Jesus here: He will breakthe fear in my life if I risk faith. Suffering, yes, there will be lots of it! But fear? No.

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