“Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 2:4-5
Standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the ancient city of Capernaum was like stepping back in time. Though once a thriving village of fishermen, farmers, artisans, and merchants, there is little evidence of that now. Only the ornately carved pillars and other archaeological treasures scattered around the site attest to its former importance.
Capernaum was the home of Simon Peter, but later it became the home of Jesus as well. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that He crossed over the Sea of Galilee and “came to his own city.”1 From this place, Jesus called His first disciples and began His ministry, preaching and teaching, and performing many miracles.
An ancient Jewish synagogue from the 4thor 5th century is one of the most evocative locations on the Sea of Galilee. Built on the foundations of an earlier synagogue, it is believed by historians to be the very place where Jesus himself taught. Strolling through its sturdy and elegant columns, you can almost see Jesus unrolling one of the parchment scrolls of the Torah and beginning to interpret the Scripture for His listeners.
Nearby we find Peter’s home, a place where the early Christians gathered – the first domus-ecclesia in the Christian world (which literally means “house of the followers of Jesus”).2 Inscriptions carved into the rock attest to the fact that Jesus – and all He taught and instructed – was at the heart of the community. As His words and deeds rippled outward to the surrounding areas, more and more people heard and believed. Thus the Early Church grew organically, the apostles and first Christians forming its living stones.
Many of the Christians in the Holy Land today can trace their ancestors back to those earliest days. But in recent times, their presence has come under attack. We don’t often hear about the plight of the Palestinian Christians – that many have been forced from their lands, denied work or citizenship, and otherwise been persecuted. As older generations pass away and younger ones leave in search of a more peaceful existence, the presence of Christians in the Holy Land is rapidly diminishing. “Some faith experts have warned that Christianity is in danger of becoming extinct in its own cradle.”3 As Christians, members of the Body of Christ, it is a problem that concerns all of us. We mustn’t let these living stones be reduced to ruin and rubble.
“We will not rest while there are still men and women, of any religion, whose dignity is affronted, who are stripped of the basics necessary for survival, whose future is stolen, who are forced to become refugees or displaced people.”4 Pope Francis
– Kelley Holy
1 Matthew 9:1