I walked today where Jesus walked...

I walked today where Jesus walked
And felt him close to me.

At least that's how the song goes. That's what you expect when you visit the "Holy Sites" in Israel and Palestine. You anticipate a religious experience. Instead, you get crowds, smells, bells, noise and constant commerce. Finding Jesus in this distracting crush is like "Where's Wally?"

So, there I was, charged by a former colleague to organise and deliver the "spiritual experience" for a group of Christians most of whom were making their first trip to the places where Jesus walked. A few weeks beforehand, with the itinerary in one hand and my Bible in the other, I mapped out our route through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There would be plenty of material. And only a little bit of it from the Bible. There's a military occupation to deal with. There's history in bucket loads -- like those huge buckets they use in open cut mines.

Was I doubtful we could deliver any kind of "spiritual experience"? Is the Pope a Catholic?

On the Beach - Galilee
Still, I did not wish to be numbered among those of little faith, and I had said Yes despite having made nine previous visits to this part world which should have given me more pause. So, after the action of Jerusalem excluding all but a few minutes of time for reflection, we found ourselves watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee the next morning, well before breakfast. Now was my chance. Let's get close to Jesus.

But how? We had just wandered down to the small gravelly beach from our 5 star hotel rooms. Hardly an immersion into 1st century life and times. Someone had organised fish and bread. But I didn't feel there was much to identify with that moment when Jesus met his disciples here after his return from the dead. I don't think the fish he was cooking at the time came pre-wrapped in greaseproof paper.

I said something like "Well, here we are. This is the actual sea. The actual sea that Jesus walked beside. Even that he walked ON. The same sea. The same sand ... er, gravel. Even the same water."

The groups eyes scanned the scene. What were they thinking? What were they experiencing? Perhaps they felt this was all a bit contrived. Maybe they were feeling silly. Or worse, embarrassed.

I paused. What was I waiting for? The right words? What were they? I had some notes. I looked at them. If the Holy Spirit was at work in this moment, could I trust him to have been at work when I wrote these ideas down?

I waited a little longer. No new ideas popped into my head. I took it as a sign that the Holy Spirit was confident about my pre-work. I said, "William Barclay reckoned that fishing was similar to evangelism in five ways." I paused again, although I wasn't sure why. Then I got my answer.

"What are these five ways," said someone to my left, "Are you going to tell us?" There was a hint of mocking amusement in his tone. As if he were asking if I was having a Senior Moment. I liked that. Slightly more confident, I offered Barclay's insights. It took maybe five minutes. I stopped. Allowed Barclay's wisdom to sink in. We all stared out across the water, now shimmering under the rising sun. We were quiet. Some one or two prayed. An unfamiliar song, half-chant half-chorus, emerged.

We were done. We went for a real breakfast of fruit and muesli and eggs and toast and coffee. Coffee!

At the end of our tour as we said our farewells a young woman held my hand and said softly, "I see you are a very spiritual person."

Really?

"Your spiritual reflections were wonderful. I can tell you wait on the Holy Spirit and listen to him."

My head wanted to correct her impressions. No, when I pause, I am merely stuck for words. I am trying to prevent having a panic attack.

My heart let the compliment, for that's what it was for me, wash over my pysche. And perhaps, taking the time for a couple of deep breaths is all the Holy Spirit needs to do his work.

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