Holy Land 2020: Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee. See more photos in the gallery at right.

March 04, 2020

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar led a group of 43 clergy and laity on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from Feb. 10-20, 2020. The guest spiritual leader for this pilgrimage was Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, who serves the Pittsburgh Area.  
 
Over the next five weeks, we will share photos, videos and stories from the pilgrimage. The following is from days three and four of the journey. 

Sea of Galilee

Afloat on the Sea of Galilee, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi read Matthew 8:23-27  in which the disciples ask about Jesus: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Bishop Moore-Koikoi answered with the words of rappers Salt-N-Pepa, saying: “What a man, what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.” The one, she said, who can calm our storms.

“So many times in life we see things and encounter things that scare us, and make us afraid,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said, “but there is something about the name of Jesus that can calm our fears. There is something about the name of Jesus that can make my internal dialog be still, so that I can rest in Him.”

Hear more of Bishop Moore-Koikoi’s sermon:
 

Cana 

The transformation of water into wine at the Wedding at Cana is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John. John 2:1-11  

At the "Wedding church" in Kafr Kanna, in Galilee several couples on the 2020 pilgrimage reaffirmed their commitment to one another.  

“Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ came to this town and blessed it, the first wedding of Cana in Galilee,” said Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar. “So we are here, gathered here as a beloved community, to celebrate that love that we have with our partners.”  

He invited the couples on the journey to “recommit yourselves one to the other, using whatever language you want to use for the reaffirmation of your wedding vows.”   

“With His presence and power Jesus graced a wedding at Cana of Galilee and in His sacrificial love, gave us the example for the love Christian partners,” the bishop said before praying over the couples. (See photos in the gallery at right). 

Capernaum 

Capernaum is a fishing village established during the time of the Hasmoneans, and the site of Peter’s family home, is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is a historic site in the life of Jesus rather than a traditional location of veneration. Jesus spent a great deal of time here. In Matthew 9:1 it’s called “His own city.”    

Mount Carmel   

Muhraqa is a Carmelite monastery commemorating Elijah’s challenge to the 450 priests of Baal (1 Kings 18 ). 

Speaking at the site, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi said that we often think that having to prove that we serve a powerful God is no longer necessary; that the need to do so is in the past.  

The bishop offered the following testimony to show that is not so. 

She spoke of the death of Freddie Gray. In April 2015, Baltimore Police Department officers arrested Gray, 25. African American, Gray sustained injuries to his neck and spine while in custody, was in a coma and died a week later. His death sparked unrest in the city to which area churches responded. 

Among the people who came to help was a young man, the bishop said, was a Black Lives Matter blogger whom she engaged in conversation. He told her: 

“You need to know that I don’t believe in God, I’m an atheist, but I heard the Methodists were doing something, so I decided to come down and help.” 

  As they worked side by side, she asked to “Tell me about who you are and what you do believe.”   

“I’m an activist,” he said. “I believe we need to do something change the plight of the young men in this city. But I don’t believe in God and you don’t believe in God either.” 

 “I said, ‘I’m a District Superintendent in The United Methodist Church, now, surely, you know I believe in God’ – now that’s what I said on the inside. What I said on the outside was: ‘Tell me more.’”   

 He told her: “If you really believed in the God that you preach about. If you really believed that your God has the power that you say your God has, you would have used it, as a church, and we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.”  

 “I had to confess he was right,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said. “We had lulled ourselves into believing that the demons of drug trafficking and human trafficking were more powerful than our God. We had lulled ourselves into believing that the demons of the systems of justice in the U.S. – the school-to-prison pipeline – was more powerful than our God.   

 “We had lulled ourselves into believing that the systems of poverty, of racism were more powerful than our God, so we stopped confronting them. We had stopped acting as if we had something meaningful to offer to the community, and that’s why those great big huge buildings only had 20 or 30 people in them.”  

 “That young man had an impact on me,” she said. “He preached to me that day.” 

And I confessed to him, she told the pilgrims. 

“You know what, we have stopped believing; you’re absolutely right; we have given over our power to the powers of this world. You’re absolutely right; but today is a day when we can declare ‘no more.’” 

“This is a day we can declare that we do serve a God with mighty power that can bring fire down from heaven,” the bishop said. 

And as the wind shook the trees at Mount Carmel, she continued: “We do serve a God that can blow through like a mighty breeze and make a difference in this world.”   

 She told the clergy and laity that the churches had to take action. “We’ve got to make a difference,” she told them. “We’ve got to show who God is.”  

 The churches engaged in a number of ministries including helping young people learn methods of non-violent protest, pressuring local government to address the neighborhood’s ‘food desert,’ by locating a supermarket there, and turning a parking lot into a produce garden.  

Read a column Bishop Moore-Koikoi wrote about a year after Gray’s death about some of this ministry.  

Back at Mount Carmel she told the pilgrims, “You know, our God is an awesome God, and there is no power in this world that is stronger than the power of our God. Amen? Amen.”  

Tabgha and the Mount of the Beatitudes 

Tabgha, once known as Heptapegon or the "Place of the Seven Springs," is the traditional site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-46) marked by the Church of the Multiplication. 

Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter  

The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter is a 20th century Franciscan church built atop a 4th century church in Tabgha. It is associated with two stories told in John 21: Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish and the reinstatement of Peter. 

Basilica of the Annunciation 

The current church is built over the traditional site of Mary’s house in Nazareth, where the angel Gabriel appeared to her (Luke 1:26-38).  The 20th-century church is built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. The basilica includes a gallery of mosaics depicting Mary from nations around the world. 

Migdal 

Pilgrims concluded their day with a visit to a recently uncovered synagogue from the first century – one typical of those Jesus visited. This ancient city on the shore of the Galilee, is just north of Tiberias.  

The "Migdal Synagogue" is the oldest found so far in the Galilee, and one of the only synagogues from that period found in Israel. Among the ruins here was the so-called Magdala stone, covered with symbolic carvings including a menorah symbol - the earliest menorah of that period to be discovered outside of Jerusalem. 

See other stories about the 2020 Pilgrimage