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Getting Out of the Wedding Business

weddingAsk most pastors which they’d rather do—a wedding or a funeral—and most will tell you they’d take the funeral every time. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I like to explain it terms of focus. At a funeral, everyone is focused on their own mortality, so their attentiveness to spiritual things is heightened. There is anxiety, but it is a focused, real, tangible anxiety—an anxiousness to hear a word from the Lord.

Weddings, on the other hand, often have a different kind of anxiety—a disproportionally whacko brand of anxiety. It’s amazing to see what people will be wrapped around the axle about as so much pressure is put into a day full of too many expectations. What is supposed to be a joyous occasion often winds up as a Maalox moment, not only for the wedding party but for the pastor, too.

Every pastor has stories about whacked out weddings and I’ve got more than my share. There was the outdoor wedding I officiated where the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see past the first row of guests (I wound up doing play by play). Or the one where I showed up only to discover that the whole wedding party were dressed in 3 Musketeers outfits, puffing on cigarettes and threatening to start a swashbuckling brawl with their fake swords. Or the one where I walked into the rehearsal to find the mother of the bride and male wedding coordinator (think “Franc” from Father of the Bride) screaming at each other and the bride in convulsive tears. Or the couple who insisted on writing their own wedding vows—she wrote two pages, he wrote three sentences, each of which began with, “I will try…” I quoted the eternal words of Yoda to him: “Do or do not, there is no try.”

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The Finish Line – Jesus Trail Day 5

Our apartment at the Shavit Family Guesthouse in Moshav Arbel (highly recommended!)

Our apartment at the Shavit Family Guesthouse in Moshav Arbel (highly recommended!)

We began our last day of hiking with a marvelous breakfast at the Shavit family guest house featuring some of the cheese and fruit that they grow right there in the Moshav (a different sort of collective than a kibbutz). It was tasty and plentiful and fueled us up for what promised to be a long day.

The view from the top of Mount Arbel

The view from the top of Mount Arbel

The first part of the hike was a climb up Mount Arbel and into the national park where we said goodbye to Berndt and Edith, our German hiking compatriots who were heading back early to Tel Aviv. The view from atop Mount Arbel is stunning and vertigo-inducing if you’re afraid of heights, but it is most certainly not a regular route that Jesus would have taken. Indeed, like much of the route from Cana onward it seems like the trail loops around the natural routes and takes you to the most arduous climbs and descents possible–like, maybe the route Jesus would have taken had he had too much wine at the wedding of Cana.

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Signs of War and Peace – Jesus Trail Day 4

The Horns of Hattin. The fields in front are where the battle most likely took place

The Horns of Hattin. The fields in front are where the battle most likely took place

After a restful night at Kibbutz Lavi, we traveled on the way to Arvel via the Horns of Hattin. The Horns are the remnants of an old volcano crater and were the scene of the practical end of the Crusaders’ quest to conquer Palestine once and for all. Continue reading →

All Roads Lead to Rome – Jesus Trail Day 3

The remnants of the Via Maris

The remnants of the Via Maris

If you were to travel anywhere around the Mediterranean world in the first century, there’s a pretty good chance you’d have done it on one of the roads constructed by Rome for the purpose of moving both the Roman Army and the trade goods that were the life blood of the empire. These meticulously constructed roads were the marvels of the age, so much so that they still exist in good order in some places.

One of the main roads in the eastern part of the empire was the Via Maris or “The Way of the Sea.” Stretching from Mesopotamia to Egypt, this ancient route was like an interstate superhighway in the days of Jesus, and of all the places we’ve walked over the last couple of days, the Via Maris is one of the most likely to have felt his footfalls on the way to and from Galilee back home to Nazareth.

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Finding Our Way – The Jesus Trail – Day 2

Checking my Twitter feed after dinner yesterday I was reminded that Rush kicked off their 40th anniversary-pretty-much-last tour last night in Tulsa. I’ll be seeing them in July when they make their final stop in Denver, and while I don’t know what the set list looks like, one of the songs that came to mind as we set out on our hike today was “Finding My Way:”

I’ve been gone too long,

I’ve lost count of the years.

Well I sang some sad songs,

and I cried some bad tears.

Feels like forever since I’ve been home even though it’s not been two weeks yet, and while we haven’t been singing bad songs or crying bad tears, we did spend the day trying to figure out how to find our way in the midst of an often-confusing, somewhat taxing, and thoroughly interesting hike.

Some of the hike out of Nazareth.

Some of the hike out of Nazareth.

We left Nazareth at about 8:00 in the morning with the first part of the hike consisting of a serious climb to the top of the city before descending down into a valley. The “trail” at this point is actually more like an exercise in “find the blazes”–those orange and white painted marks on telephone poles, rocks, and the occasional bus stop that show the way of the Jesus trail. We had a guide with us on the first part of the hike, which was helpful since some of those blazes were creatively placed.

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