Monday, March 3, 1997

Mark 1:21-22 – They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

One day we were standing on the hill (mount) of the sermon-on-the-mount account. Below us was Peter's boat out fishing on the Sea of Galilee. To our left, to the east, was the region known as the Golan Heights. A bit further to the left were the hills including Nimrod's castle (of Crusades fame) beyond which lay the lowlands of Syria – past the UN station when Syria, Israel and Jordan came together – right where Abraham and his families crossed over the highlands on their way from Ur to the western lands several thousand years before. It was a bit hazy that day and Peter's boat seemed mystical. It lay offshore, just beyond Capernaum below where we stood – at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was just a tiny village.Behind us lay rocky, hilly land hardly useful for agriculture, but an Arab boy was herding his sheep along the roadside as they nipped the grass around the volcanic rocks on the hillside.

In the distance, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, we could just barely make out the prosperous small city of Tiberius, the Banff of Israel and home port of Peter's boat. In the lowlands all around the Sea of Galilee the vegetation was lush and productive, thanks to irrigation from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river. The very steep hillsides were neglected but the high table land in places was covered with green fields of cereal crops, as in the irrigated lands of Saskatchewan.

Part of the tableland in the Golan Heights was abandoned – totally desolate. The paved road through the desolation was terribly rough with potholes every 50 or 100 metres. My driver wanted me to stop and photograph some of the buildings but I refused because I suddenly realized that we were in the middle of the site of the 1967 war when this land was being seized from the Jordanians.

War is not to be celebrated. There were destroyed farmhouses and a destroyed mosque in a tiny abandoned village. There were wrecked buildings that had been used to shelter troops. The holes in the road were from either mines or artillery shells. There were yellow signs every 100 metres on the fences on either side of the road warning of mine fields. The land was desolate. War is not to be celebrated, yet my driver pointed out to his kids, "Oh, look at that real tank over there! Wow!" War is not to be celebrated. He might just as well have said in East Jerusalem, "Look at that woman over there with her legs blown off! Wow!"

Jesus the Christ had little to say about war although he lived in the Holy Land when the Roman armies were in control. He treated Roman soldiers… well, as people, not instruments of violence. The violent people were the temple people.

Prayer: Gracious God, help us to view things in their proper context – to deplore that which needs to be deplored and to celebrate that which needs celebration. Amen.

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Gordon Hodgson

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