Well, we made it to Israel safely, and even though I am exhausted [up now 24 hours + and counting], it was a wonderful day today. We had absolutely perfect weather--blue sky, breezy, warm enough to walk around without a coat, and we are right on the Mediterranean coast: our hotel is in Netanya, and our excursion today was up to Caesarea Maritima [not Philippi].
I'll have more to say about that shortly, but first I wanted to share some thoughts from a book I read on the bus ride to Newark [they cancelled our flight from Harrisburg, and drove us in a van instead--long story short, after a little nail-biting, we made it]. The book is titled "Traveling," by Joerg Rieger, and it is a short, sweet theological reflection on how we travel, and what traveling has to do with the Christian faith. Here is a quote from Mark Twain: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men [sic] and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." I think it is fair to say that Rieger endorses this quote, and then goes on to challenge us to make the most of our travel experiences, such that they accomplish what Twain predicts. This is harder than it sounds. We in the West who have such power and privilege take that with us overseas, and it is very easy to remain ensconced in that protective cocoon no matter where we go, thereby avoiding any difficult conversations or observations, any risk or hardship, any genuine encounter with "otherness" that might push us outside our intellectual and spiritual boxes.
Rieger reminds us, too, that the Bible is a book of people "on the way"--stories of a God who calls people to get up and go, and who moves with them: a God who meets them on the way, in unexpected people and places. Rieger quotes Moltmann, who says: "I am trying to think of Christ no longer statically, as one person in two natures or as historical personality. I am trying to grasp him dynamically, in the forward movement of God's history with the world." I'm really thinking about that, and wondering what that means for me, on this tour group with Christians who already have a sense of what they want to see and where they expect to find Christ. I can't help thinking he is hoping we catch his eye in more unusual places--like maybe in this cat and dog in Caesarea I saw [sorry--I can't get pictures to upload today. I'll try again tomorrow] and in local children, playing on a beach.
One of the most important things we learn when we travel, says Rieger, is that "there are powerful alternatives to the status quo. God turns out to be different from what commonsense theology had assumed, and the world turns out to be different as well. 'Another world is possible,' appears to be the message of Jesus on the road, and another theology is possible as well." THAT is the theology I am looking for; that is the theology I want to bring home. "An important part of any journey is arriving and beginning to see things in a new light back home; the theological questions are how the resurrected Christ is traveling with all of those who are out on the roads in our time, and how this might help us see things in a new light at home" How will the light of Israel illumine my Gettysburg days?
OK--now to a quick recap of the day's excursion to Caesarea. The home of Origen & Eusebius, it is most famous for the construction of Herod the Great, who build an enormous port there, an amphitheater, and a hippodrome. There are also beautiful aquaducts there, which brought fresh water to the city from springs near Mount Carmel.
Now I am back in my hotel in Netanya, getting ready to unpack, take a shower, have dinner & go to sleep!