“Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” Psalms 34:3
This morning we woke to the sound of rain on the Sea of Galilee. Though I didn’t exactly want to be awake at 3am, the sound of rain in this desert land is a blessing. Our guide, Aharon, spoke to us about the fact that it is headline news each morning in Israel, how many millimeters the Sea of Galilee rose or fell. Water isn’t just a blessing in this land – it is an obsession. I am reminded how the things that I take for granted are desperately important to others.
Such were my thoughts on the bus this morning as we headed into our day. I didn’t know all that the day would hold, all the ways we would be blessed.
Today we stood on the precipice outside Nazareth where the townspeople wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff, we toured the living museum of Nazareth Village, we walked through Sepphoris/Zippori where Joseph would have found work as a builder and we ended the day touring Magdala – the ancient ruins of Mary Magdalene’s town.
For me, the goosebumps happened at Magdala. The site is a significant archeological find. It is the ruins of a town from Jesus’ day, and in that town is a synagogue. It is significant because the town was deserted in the first century, and then covered by a mudslide. So the synagogue has not been touched since Jesus’ day. Most synagogues that date back to that era have been expanders, renovated, rebuilt and changed over the centuries. We know that Jesus was teaching in the synagogues of Galilee, so this is a place where Jesus was.
The ruins are remarkable. But equally remarkable is the worship center that has been built to honour the women who were part of Jesus’ ministry. In this circular building we find a number of pillars with names of some of the famous women from Jesus’ public ministry: Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Salome, Peter’s mother-in-law, and then there is a pillar the the multitude of women – all those whose names we do not know. That is moving enough, that these nameless women would be given this honour. But even better – there is a pillar with no name on it. This pillar stands as a monument to the women of today.
Our guide asked us, “who taught you to pray?” And someone answered, “mother.” Our guide said, “yes, my mother taught me to pray, too. My faith exists because of my mother. How countless are the other mothers teaching people to pray? This pillar exists for all the women – not just moms – who are helping and leading and guilting and building the church today.”
I poked the Rev. Dr. Mona Scrivens and whispered to her, “that’s your pillar!” She whispered back to me, “it’s yours, too.”
What a blessing to be doing this thing called ministry with the excellent women and men on this tour. What a blessing to know that people who don’t know me, or my name, or my story, have chosen to honour me in a land on the other side of the world. That people offer prayer and thanksgiving for me – just because I’m one of those women helping to lead and build the church. God’s generosity simply overwhelms me.
The precipice outside Nazareth: