Tag Archives: pilgrimage

Feet and pathways … groundedness and walking in the lands of the Bible

Looking back through the photos from my recent time in Israel and Palestine, alongside the Walls and Windows, I was struck by the number of photos I took of my feet and of pathways I was walking on. This is not uncommon. Many of those I traveled with did the same.

There is something about walking in the lands of the Bible that causes people to look down often and to marvel as they do so.

“My feet are standing where Jesus stood.”

“I am walking where Abraham walked.”

“This path is one Paul would have used many times.”

For me, this is tied to one of the key benefits of the study purpose of the trip we did. It provides a sense of ‘groundedness’ to the biblical text. It highlights that the story we read and live out of is a story that took place  in real time and real space. It enables us to picture the contexts of it in concrete ways.

There is a connection to history and story through a sense of place. And a reminder that God continues to meet us within our own real place and time.

This is something I think many from other cultures, including that of the Aboriginal peoples of my home land, understand much better than I do. The connection that walking the land brings to history, identity, story, family, belonging, and being.

I’ve also been struck by the idea of walking as a means of making sense of the world. During my PhD studies I read a book that introduced me to the idea of the foot as a ‘sensory organ’ in the Old Testament. It has resonated in my own life and in my church community in multiple ways.

It’s something that I’ve noticed about the way I travel. I find it important to walk a place when I arrive to get a sense of it.

It’s also something I’ve appreciated more since moving to the city, spending less time in my car and more time on foot around my neighbourhood.

And it’s a truth in how I understand my faith, seen in the call of Jesus to follow him and in the common phrasing of the New Testament letters to walk in his ways.

And of course it is connected to the Psalms I studied and the image of pilgrimage,  which I am convinced is more than a metaphor but the lived experience of the people of God.

And it is the explanation for the tattoo I got last year on my foot, the Hebrew words of Psalm 121:8, which says “The LORD guards your coming out and your going in” or as our tour guide in Israel read colloquially, “The LORD guides your steps.”

What does it mean for you to consider how your feet and the land you walk on grounds your experience and makes sense of the world today?

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Today would be a good day to be on the Sea of Galilee

We’ve just started to plan our next study tour to Israel and Jordan in 2018, which of course has got me thinking about some of my favourite places in that part of the world. I love the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem and the beautiful history of Caesarea, but for a tranquil place to contemplate and reflect, a favourite place of mine in Israel is the Sea of Galilee. I’d love to be able to spend the day there today.

What do I love about the Sea of Galilee?

Many of the places in Israel feel like a tour through church history, seeing how previous generations have chosen to remember places that have biblical significance. So the first time I visited the Sea of Galilee, there was a sense of relief at its untouched natural beauty – “they can’t build a church on this!”

The Sea is somehow both bigger and smaller than I had imagined it to be.

Visiting it brought many stories to life. Reading through the gospels, the Sea is almost a character in the narratives as Jesus and his disciples transverse back and forth across it …

fish from it …

experience storms upon it …

and even walk on it.

When I returned to spend time in this part of the world by myself, I stayed in one of the most beautiful and tranquil guesthouses I have ever visited and had the privilege of this view out my window:

It was a wonderful, peaceful place for reflection and contemplation, whether at dawn …

as the sun rose …

… or after dark.

What did I learn from the Sea of Galilee?

There is something beautiful and pristine about many bodies of water. But this one is special to me because of its connection to the story and history of One Man.

As a follower of Jesus, I walk in his footsteps metaphorically every day. Being able to connect that tangibly to real places is a wonderful privilege. It brings a concreteness and a specificity to my faith.

But the bigger truth it teaches me is not so much that I have walked where he has walked, but that I have a God who has walked where I walk. Who entered into human history and everyday life and experienced beauty and sorrow, tiredness and energy, rest and bustle, food and water and sunlight and dirt and noise and taste and smell and everything else that makes up the ordinariness of my life. And somehow the fact that he has done so transforms it all and makes it all new, inviting me into a new experience every day of walking with him.