I'm writing this column from my second favorite place in the world: the Sea of Galilee. It's here in the rural northeastern part of Israel that two-thirds of Jesus' public ministry took place. At this time of economic unrest, words He delivered here 2,000 years ago are as timely and meaningful as ever.
I recommend to anyone interested in the Bible to visit Israel. I made my first trip last year with my mother to celebrate her 70th birthday. I'll never forget standing with her at the peak of the spectacular Mount Arbel (Hosea 10:14) as the wind whipped past us and stirred up the Sea of Galilee several hundred feet below. It was easy to imagine the disciples in a panic in their shallow fishing boat.
I recall pulling out an atlas before the trip and wondering why the tour group from my mother's church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., would be spending three days in such a remote part of the country. I've read the Bible several times but never connected its words with its geography. Now, after spending time in Israel, the Bible is even more alive to me.
I love Galilee because of its quiet, humble beauty, which makes Christ's humility palpable. At the northern end of the Sea of Galilee---it's actually a lake---is Jesus' adopted hometown of Capernaum, where he lived with Peter and his mother-in-law (Matthew 4:12-13). Just north of Capernaum is an important hillside. It's here that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Imagine a hillside---not a mountain---in the western United States. Now add a comforting breeze blowing in from the Mediterranean several miles away. The view overlooking the Sea of Galilee is spectacular. And because the hillside forms a natural amphitheater, Jesus' voice would have carried a long way.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. For our purposes in these unsettling times, I'd like focus on words in Matthew Chapter 6. Take a moment and sit down with me on the brown grassy hillside to hear the great Teacher:
"Therefore, I tell you do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat? or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
We're back at the hotel now in Tiberias, on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, where I'm writing. I haven't seen the news or read email since I've been here, but a good friend of mine who lives in Israel told me the stock market was down last week and unemployment was up.
Vacationing in quiescent Galilee, it's easy not to be anxious. When I return home---my favorite place in the world---I need to remember Jesus' words spoken at the peaceful hillside a few miles to the north and put them into practice. I hope you will remember His teaching as well and pass it along to a friend or loved one. Thanks for joining me in Galilee for a few moments.
Lee Wishing thanks Pastor Allen Jackson of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for inspiring this column.