We did see so much that went down to rock: the rock on which Jesus supposedly set the loaves and fish at the church of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish on the Sea of Galilee; the rock on which the resurrected Jesus supposedly served his disciples breakfast when he appeared to them by the sea at the church of the primacy of Peter, on the Sea of Galilee; the rock on which is built the first century house that may have been Peter’s house, which became a late first century house church, over which was built a fourth century church over which hovers a modern franciscan church in Capernaum; the rock that is the cave that may have been Mary’s home around which was built the church of the annunciation in Nazareth; the rock from which gurgles forth the only spring in Nazareth—the spring Mary would have drawn water from for her family—over which was built Saint Gabriel’s in Nazareth; the rock on which it is said Jesus prayed that long ago night at the church of All Nations, next to the Garden of Gethsemane; the rock that is said to have been Golgatha at the church of the Holy Sepulchre—as if pilgrimage reveals to us that faith is built on rock against which the storms can rage to no avail— very sure foundation in times of trial.
It’s a great and powerful image—this idea of a foundation of rock. Wonderful to think of layers of architecture—layers of history—layers of tradition—layers of story—layers of truth—all going back to be grounded in rock—grounded on rock. But as the trip went on, what became more important than the rocks we visited was the foundation we were creating as a community of pilgrims—of fellow believers—as friends. And as the trip wound down, as wonderful as it was, what became more important were the foundations of community from which we all came and to which we would all return.
And within this sense of the living rock of community, what came to be most significant, above all else, underneath it all, was the rock on which our faith is built. Turned out to not be a rock on the shores of the Sea of Galilee under this church or that one, not a rock in Nazareth under this church or that one, not a rock encased in protective glass in Jerusalem—not a rock over there—over there in the Holy Land, where Jesus may have done something or had something done to him, but the rock even more profound than any of those—one that cannot ever be torn apart, one from the other—the rock unthreatened by history—the rock that is the story—the rock that is the story of the God who loved us so much to be born amongst us—to walk amongst us—to unveil the authority and power of God—the priorities and the love of God amongst us—a story so earth moving, that it embued the rocks on which it unfolded with significance and meaning, but it’s not the rocks—never the rocks, but the story—the truth of that God and that story still enabling people—inspiring a living that is the story that still imbues rocks with meaning.