Imagine Church as an Ancient Galilean Village
Galilean Village Christianity was primarily domestic. It took place in the small rural Hebrew villages in the pastoral land around the Sea of Galilee, and for the most part Jesus did not disrupt the rhythms of ordinary life, fishing, farming, tending flocks, cleaning house, raising children. Instead he saw the Reign of God occurring in terms of those ordinary interactions.
Jesus’ parables arise from the language of home life in ancient Galilee, and are best understood in contemporary life through the language of family and home and neighborhood.
Jesus was an itinerant Galilean Rabbi, going from village to village, teaching in their gatherings/synagogues, praying for their sick, and comforting them in the face of their losses. He seems to have joined families as they went out to gathering places for day long picnics. He went about with the boats and fishers on the Sea of Galilee. And while the Galilean ministry was the nest within which Jesus began to form the deeper relationships that would come to be known as discipleship, Galilee was not the setting for discipleship. It was centered in village life. You might say that in this early phase of his work Jesus joined the life around him. Immanuel.
There is room today for Galilean village church. If the contemporary church would imitate Jesus, then it must embrace his Galilean ministry as a foundation of all that followed. Pastors must learn to be village Rabbi’s who go into the homes and businesses of the people. They must join people in their play, in their loves, in their losses. They must comprehend the struggles of ordinary family life, and must see the Reign of God in ordinary terms. The Galilean church must come to see the parables of its own life as the terms through which the reality of God’s loving and creative presence is both hidden and revealed in our midst.
The structures of Galilean Church must embrace and enhance the village life of ordinary humanity. We must eat together, raise children together, share life with each other.
The sacramental life (baptism and communion) makes sense as part of village life where baths and drinking water and stormy weather all have a certain resonance with the presence of God, baptism. Meal time and food costs and what we eat can easily be seen to reflect the love of God, or the absence of God’s love, communion.
“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Psalm 104:27-30, NRS)
The village is a cluster of homes, not only dwellings, but also relationships. The village is a level of society more complex than individual families, and the village must be a healthy container for family life.