Liz Little recently presented a homily to the congregation at St Mary’s in Exile in Brisbane. It was based on her experience in the Holy Land. She gives some insight into the challenges for progressives visiting the popular biblical places.
Encountering God in the Galilee
Liz Little 20/21 January 2018 – St Mary’s in Exile – South Brisbane
Last April I was lucky enough to join three friends to spend a couple of weeks walking in northern Israel – in the Galilee area.
Israel is a country I am drawn back to for some reason. I’ve been there on study tours before. This was the first walking visit. We did it the easy way, staying in guesthouses at the holy sites and carrying just day packs. We had our main luggage transported for us.
We walked first across country from Nazareth to Capernaum and then we walked around the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a lake, of course.
There were markers to show the way and we had a guide book and a compass and various maps. In spite of that, we didn’t always manage to stay on the cross country part of the track. It was wildflower season and sometimes the flowers were so prolific that they covered the track markers. At other times, the track was just poorly marked.
It didn’t matter that we were not always on track. We could often see our destination from the top of a ridge, even if it was 15 kilometres away.
I think we might have sometimes trespassed on private property when the track wasn’t obvious to us. But, there didn’t seem to be anyone around to care. We saw only two other walkers during the whole two weeks.
The walk was not hard, but some days were long and some days were hot. Some days were long and hot. All days were beautiful.
Descending Mt Arbell was a bit hairy because it was quite exposed. But, the challenges are all part of the experience.
There is something about walking that nourishes the human spirit. It’s the rhythm of the movement and the challenges of the terrain and being out there in the landscape that seems to lift the spirit and engage the soul. The long walk provides time and space for one’s own inner thoughts. It brings to mind Narelle’s homily about human beings not human doings. A long walk allows for the experience of the now; an experience of wholeness and unity, of joy and peace; an experience of God.
Peter has pointed out from time to time that the word God has been tainted for many. In an attempt to understand the concept, religious teaching personified God, into a male of course. God was also presented as a judge, someone who would reward and punish and also as a puppeteer, someone who controls the world and what happens in it. God as the person, as the judge, as the puppeteer all imply that God is a separate entity; apart from human beings and apart from the world. None of those concepts seems to serve us adequately any more.
Lloyd Geering, a NZ Presbyterian minister and a scholar, explores the concept of God in his book Reimagining God. He says that God as the creator was once a useful way to explain the natural world, the seasons, the rains, the floods, crop growth, etc. (Geering 2014: 121) Over time, God the creator became God the controller, God the judge, God the puppeteer. As scientific knowledge developed, so did our understanding of the workings of the natural world and the traditional images of God became less and less convincing. Some people felt they had to choose between God and science.
And yet, for others, there is a sense that not everything about life and living can be explained by science or reproduced in a laboratory. For such people, there remains a dimension of life that is spiritual, a part of us that is inspired by the awe and the wonder of the universe, a part of us that is touched by the goodness of our fellow human beings; a part of us that senses something life giving in the human experience; a part of us that seeks to understand our place in the universe and our purpose in life. Continue reading