Loaves and Fishes

Yesterday, I was late to church. Just a little late, but late enough that I had to sneak in behind the clergy’s procession during the first hymn. I whispered a thanks to the usher who handed me a program and then slid into my usual pew: middle right section, two thirds of the way back, no kneeler. The congregation was singing the opening hymn, whose tune I had been humming along with since the parking lot, and I flipped open the program to find the right hymn number without looking at its front. And because I was late and jet-lagged, I didn’t get to sit and read the program and fliers before the service began.

After the hymn and prayer and greeting, I flipped closed the program and saw this:

Loaves in Tabgha Church, Mosaic: four loaves and two fish, by Berthold Werner on Wikipedia, public domain

And then I started to cry, and to laugh quietly at the same time. You see, I had seen that very mosaic four days earlier, in a quiet, solemn old church near the shores of lake Galilee. And before that, before I had seen it in person, I’d seen versions of it painted on mosaic tiles and printed on postcards in many of the places we visited.  The image of the loaves and fishes was following me around Israel.  And I often think that God works in synchronicity, in the small moments from various parts of my life that uncannily and providentially line up enough to distract me from myself and refocus my attention back on him.

I am learning that one of the gifts of my trip is going to be to place Jesus in actual physical space. Before I left, my man asked me if I was hoping to have a spiritual experience, and the question quite frankly floored me. In all the preparations, shopping trips, and emails to my dear friend, I hadn’t once thought that I would be visiting a land of holy sites and pilgrimages. And we sat on my bedroom floor, suitcases and clothes strewn about, and I stared blankly at him. Of course I was hoping for a spiritual experience, wasn’t I? Shouldn’t I always be hoping to experience God?

Once, I told my boss that the way I most often saw God’s action was in hindsight. Often, in the moment I don’t realize or recognize God’s work or action. And this trip was like that. While my mother and I spent two days driving around Galilee, most of the time I was thinking about pragmatic things. I was worrying about our unreliable little car, worrying about getting lost in a country where many of the signs weren’t present or weren’t in English, frustrated with my mom for not giving clear directions or not reading my mind, rather tired of being hot and sweaty, and overloaded with history and important sites. But in hindsight, I was seeing things and experiencing things that will forever shape the way I read Scripture. When I read about Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum, I can think about how Peter’s house was laid out. I’ve walked in the Synagogue built on top of the one where Jesus taught. I’ve traveled the same hills he was familiar with, felt the same winds blowing off of the lake, dabbled my fingers in the same water that he walked on. These experiences remove Jesus from the abstract and place him very much in space and time.

Earlier this week, Sarah Bessey asked what is saving our lives right now (click the pic above to visit her original post and read other people’s thoughts on this topic).  Her post got me mulling and reflecting on my trip, on the ripples it will make throughout the rest of my life.  And those ripples are what is saving my life right now.

Overlooking Galilee

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