Dearest Rachel –
After barely making the bus (it looks like I’m starting to fall into your habits, sweetheart), we listen to a little recent history from Yael as we travel to the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee; basically, that of the two-state proposal as drawn up in 1948 (and summarily rejected by the Palestinians, with war following shortly thereafter, which they lost – as well as the Six-Day War in 1967. But that’s not why we’re here). As with the Precipice mountain, it’s only a guess as to where the Sermon on the Mount was delivered, but it was somewhere around the northern coast of the Sea.
Which rather begs the question; why is it called a ‘sea,’ when it’s so clearly a lake? Junior references our host, Omer, who has hazarded a guess that the children of Israel were awed by the sheer size of the largest body of water they had (and would) most likely ever see. After all, Solomon simply installed a huge bronze bowl outside the Temple, and gave it that name; how much more so would this body of water merit such a name?
As we look out over the Sea (hey, when in Rome..), the Church of the Beatitudes behind us, Junior sets the stage, imagining the fact that people living hand-to-mouth in Jesus’ day would have considered a trip here (and the time necessary to take off in order to take such a trip) almost as much of a burden as we would have this trip here. But getting a chance to listen m to the greatest living rabbi of that day was considered a big deal, worthy of taking such pains to do.
Now, apparently we were meant to come here tomorrow, and have our church service here then, but sometimes things don’t work out that way, schedule-wise. Oh well, it’s Shabbat, we’re in Israel… why not simply hold church services today instead?
Pastor Scott isn’t going to be reading the entirety of Jesus’ sermon, of course, but will be touching on certain highlights of it, in recapping the message he recorded here earlier.
This is, as it happens, the beginning of the holiday season for us in the States, with all the attendant gift-giving that goes along with it all. Scott notes that of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables, sixteen of them focused on the topic of giving; not just in terms of money, but in time and talents (although indeed, the word ‘talent’ as we know it grew out of His parable, as a way to explain that good stewardship involves one’s skills just as much as it does one’s cash).
The point of his sermon is that we shouldn’t be storing up or holding onto our treasures here on earth, as we have no means of taking it with us when we’re out of time – as you well know. But while we can’t keep it, we can send it on ahead of us, by putting it to the good use of God’s service. Doing so can show where your heart is, because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
But that may lead to someone deciding not to give of their time, money or skill, because they might claim that ‘my heart’s not in it’. Doing it will put your heart to where it ought to be, and should be practiced regardless of how you might feel at a given moment.
The other side of the coin of this, after telling those who are blessed with much to give out of their abundance, is that Jesus also addressed those who were poor (which would have been the majority of His listeners, who often did not necessarily know where their next meal might come from) that they needn’t be anxious about what they had either. Put God and the kingdom first, and everything would follow from there.
In summarizing this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Scott offers these conclusions about generosity and giving:
- It is an expression of gratitude, for what He has given us in terms of both material, physical, mental and spiritual wealth
- It is an expression of trust in God (as opposed to constantly asking “What shall we eat? Where shall we go? What shall we wear?”). This theme is echoed further on in the New Testament, with examples in Hebrews (“without faith, it is impossible to trust God”) and Philippians (“God shall supply all your needs”)
- It is also how we gain treasure in heaven – which makes it seem like an investment rather than a gift, but without a bank statement to itemize it, it’s still also involves a measure of faith.
Scott finishes by reminding us just how rich we are, not just in comparison to most of the rest of the world, but even the majority of history – imagine what the Rothschilds would have made of an iPhone (and the internet to really make it work so well)!
Daniel and I are a little confused when we return to the bus; we made the mistake of taking everything with us, so we’ve no way to identify our seats from one stop to the next. Moreover, the seats around where we think our seats are are equally barren, so it could be any one of these. As we settle in, and attempt to plug our phones in, we realize the plug is broken; Daniel isn’t getting a charge, and the plug I’m trying to use isn’t even holding my cord. We decide to switch to another equally empty pair of seats.
Considering the confusion of everyone else getting on board, I’m pretty sure the seat with the broken plug was our actual original seat. Such are the problems of not leaving an indicator of which one belongs to whom. I think that, at the next stop, we ought to leave our cords behind, in order to establish our place going forward. It’s not like we’re likely to find a place to charge up at a given site or another.
As the bus pulls out, I can sense the overwhelming scent of oranges; either we’re passing through a grove, or someone snuck one out from the hotel, and is digging into it here on the bus. Daniel insists that it’s the latter; “There’s no way [that group of trees to our left] could make such a succulent smell like we’re smelling in here.” He’s probably right, but you never know; it fades as we move on.
And so we head out to our next adventure. Keep an eye on us, honey, and I’ll catch you up later.