A Day At Church in 65 A.D.

I’m writing to tell you what church is like in the year 65 A.D. but first let me introduce myself. My name is Jacob and my wife is Chloe. We’ve lived in this area of Galilee all of our lives and have two children, Nathan and Naomi. We have a house in Capernaum that we share with my mother and Chloe’s mother. Our fathers are both dead. As you’ve already guessed, I’m a fisherman. My father and his father were fishermen and Nathan will be one too of course. 

I’ll be honest with you. The first day of the week is a tough one for me. Our one day of rest on the seventh day – the Shabbat – is never enough. On the first day of the week, after a long day on the water, hauling in those heavy nets, sometimes I just want to stay home and relax with a cup of wine! But we’ve been meeting now with our church for the past thirty years and I love my Christian family. And even more, I love to worship Jesus. I sure can’t do that in the synagogue!

Chloe and I head up the hill to Jared and Ruth’s home. We have Chloe’s mother with us and our son. Naomi is too young and she stays at home with my mother who is too old to walk to the meetings. On the second day of the week, Deborah, one of the deacons, will bring some of the bread and wine to my mother so that she may take the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Jared’s family has a huge house up on one of the hills with a beautiful view of green valleys and the Sea of Galilee. Many years ago, when his sons moved out, we made a part of his house into one large room that can hold about forty people. We are blessed to have that. Most of our houses are just one or two rooms for a small family. But Jared has a leather business and a flax business at his home. We use his flax to make all of our nets.

Chloe and I walk into the courtyard and greet our many friends. “Peace be with you,” we say to each other. These are the people we love!

Chloe’s embarrassed that we’re late again and gives me her displeased look before going off to see if she can help the women with dinner. Elam is in the corner talking to Matthew and Jared. Elam was recently married to Leah who has a great testimony of her faith. I’m not sure how to put this nicely but Leah was what people called a “Corinthian Girl.” Elam had been in Corinth with Apostle Timothy and they were visiting the churches. Elam met Leah in the marketplace, told her about Jesus and he and some of the men were able to smuggle her out of the pagan temple where she worked. 

Leah came to Capernaum and lived with two of the church widows for a few years. Leah is now one of our singers and it was a great day of celebration when she and Elam were married. Jehovah‘s mercy is great and Leah says it was the love of Jesus that saved her.

John the Elder is here with his young Jewish wife Deborah. John is the only Greek among us but he speaks our Aramaic perfectly. John was a disciple of the Apostle John in Ephesus and he is now our presbyter. The courtyard is filled with  people tonight. Men and women are dressed alike in wool tunics that reach our knees but the women’s tunics are decorated and the men’s are plain. The women who dress up for church are wearing robes over their tunics and a few of them have colorful veils over their head. Many of the men and women are still wearing their heavy cloaks. It’s cold in Galilee!

Dinner is ready and John the Elder has called us in from the courtyard to start the meeting, but I’m not in any hurry to go inside. I draw my cloak closer because of the chill and linger outside to just enjoy the quietness of the day’s end.

I never forget how blessed we are to live in the city that Jesus called His own. Capernaum is not big but it is the most important city on the northern shore and has its own synagogue. 

A year after the baptism of Jesus and His rejection at His hometown of Nazareth, He came to Capernaum to make this His new hometown. Many of us knew Jesus and most of us had known Simon Peter, John, Andrew, James, and Phillip who grew up around here. Even our tax collector, Matthew, became one of the apostles! What a testimony he has!

From where I’m standing, I see the boats on the shore and remember the day Jesus told my friends that He would make them “fishers of men.” I was there in the synagogue when Jesus frequently taught. That was where Jesus cast a demon out of a man and oh boy did that shock the religious leaders! Jesus also brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus who was a ruler at the synagogue. That was when large crowds were following Jesus and a woman was healed just by touching His robe.

Next to the synagogue is the home of Peter and Andrew and where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. In nearby Bethsaida, Jesus healed a blind man and the valley of Bethsaida was where Jesus fed the five thousand. And, all of my friends were gathered on a grassy hill, just a short walk from Capernaum, the day Jesus met with us and gave what we call His “sermon on the mount.” 

We all were witnesses to many of His miracles, and after the resurrection of Jesus, it was right here that Jesus appeared to over five hundred of His disciples! And thirty-two years later, that’s still what so excites our church today!

When Jesus lived in Capernaum, He had hundreds of disciples. Then one day in the Synagogue, He told them that in order to have eternal life, they must eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. That was in the Spring of 31 A.D. and many of the disciples left Him when He said that.

But, from the time of His resurrection up to the present time, we Christians continue to take His Body and Blood in the bread and wine. We do that along with a meal and I can smell the lentil stew that’s been simmering over the fire all afternoon.

Ruth makes her stew with onions, leeks, garlic, a little red wine and the lentils. Several of the women have brought loaves of bread made with wheat flour, salt, olive oil and a little leavening. My wife Chloe brought a pot filled with a paste made from ground sesame seeds, chickpeas and olive oil. We dip the bread into that. And I love the smashed nuts and figs with honey.
As I walk in the front door to join the others, John the Elder has just invited us to greet each other with a holy kiss. Chloe glares at me for coming in after the meeting has started, and I can tell that my sweet wife wants to give me a holy smack upside the head!

The Liturgy...

John raises his voice and both hands and says, “You are holy and holy is Your Name and we praise You every day. Blessed are You O Lord the Holy God...” Our Christian meeting begins with praise to the Lord Jesus Christ and then we all raise our voices and sing a psalm. "Come let us sing joyfully to the Lord..."

We feel the joy of being in the presence of Jesus and sing a Christian hymn. "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior..."

John the Elder says, "God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory!" And we all say, "Amen."

One of the elders says quietly, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men..." There are thirty-five men, women and older children sitting in the large meeting room. Some are on benches that line the walls and some are on pillows on the floor. Numerous oil lamps cast flickering shadows on the basalt stone walls. There is a holy peace as we now sit in silence and ponder the glory of the Lord.

Leah begins to softly sing a new song in her spiritual language. It's tender, almost angelic, and tears come to faces. She sings it again in Aramaic and we hear her worshiping the Lord and giving thanks to Jesus for taking our sins to the cross.

While we are singing another Christian hymn, Deborah prays healing for Elam, Judith, Tabitha and Chloe's mother and anoints them with the oil.

John the Elder stands and walks to the center of the room. He is charged with keeping watch over us like a shepherd; to teach us and guide us in our Christian life. He protects us from teachings by false prophets and from ungodly influences in the world. John preaches to us today from the writings of the apostles and encourages us to apply the words of Jesus and His apostles to our lives.

He then raises both hands and says, "Blessed are You Jehovah our God, King of the World, who causes bread to come forth from this earth." We all raise our hands and pray as Jesus taught us,  "Our Father, who are in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name ..."

John holds up the cup and the bread and says the same words spoken by Jesus at the last supper with His disciples. Then John says, "As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and then, when gathered, became one mass, so may Your church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Your Kingdom."

After we take the bread and wine, we gather around the table where the meal is being served. The lentil stew is delicious and we enjoy talking with our friends as we eat our supper.  Afterwards, we take up a collection that is given to John the Elder and his wife Deborah for their support and is also distributed among the poor and needy. We don't tithe of course, but we are happy to share what God has blessed us with and we do give generously.

We sing another Christian song and then John makes the sign of the cross over us and says, "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace." We make the sign of the cross upon ourselves, gather up our family members and give each other a holy kiss as we leave.

It's late and we're tired, but we leave the house filled with God's peace and a profound love for Him and for each other. We walk down the moonlit road toward home and Chloe is softly humming one of the songs. In one arm, I'm carrying my son who is fast asleep, and Chloe takes my other hand. We walk in silence, feeling close to God and close to each other. 

I remember many years ago when Jesus lived here that I always felt spiritually renewed when I was in His presence. And, it's the same feeling I have today. He is present in our worship. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever..!

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  A Day At Church is a fictitious short story based on historical documents, archaeological discoveries, writings by the Apostolic Fathers of the Church and by New Testament scriptures.

Jacob Bar-Jonah, his family and those mentioned in his church are fictitious. The clothing and food are historically accurate and typical to that time. The artist rendering of a large residence pictured above are based on an archaeological discovery in Capernaum. In that day, large private homes were often modified to accommodate a church and some even included baptistries.

All the events and miracles described in A Day At Church that occurred in and around Capernaum are documented by New Testament scriptures.

While the New Testament church service varied from region to region, certain rituals and liturgy begin to emerge as being typical and are described as follows:

1st Paragraph
You are Holy.. A first century Christian prayer recorded by Clement in the second century.
Come let us sing.. Psalm 95. Following Jewish tradition, psalms were sung.  Eph 5:19

2nd Paragraph
My soul magnifies.. This is the song of Mary known as The Magnificent. Luke 1:46-55

3rd Paragraph
God was manifested.. We find many early church creeds in the New Testament. 1 Tim 3:16

4th Paragraph
Glory to God.. The Gloria was used as both liturgy and as a Christian song. Luke 2:14

5th Paragraph
Palms (Old Testament), Hymns (Christian songs later recorded in the Gospels) and Spiritual Songs (Holy Spirit inspired in tongues) were sung. The offering of enthusiastic praise and quiet worship under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was characteristic of the early church service.

6th Paragraph
The ancient church was charismatic and fully operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Women participated in the early Christian church services. There were prayers for healing and deliverance. Laying on of hands and anointing with oil took place. 

7th Paragraph
By 65 A.D. the Christian church had all the Gospels except for John’s and had all of Paul’s letters. At this time in history, many of the disciples of Jesus and eyewitnesses of His miracles were still alive and could confirm the historical accuracy of the events recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.

8th Paragraph
Blessed are you Jehovah.. Ancient Jewish prayer blessing God and giving thanks for provision.
Our Father.. The church continues to say the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray! Matt 6:9-13
The lifting of hands while praying and worshiping was a tradition of the early Christian church.

9th Paragraph
The early church believed in the actual presence of Jesus in the bread and wine.
As this broken bread... From the liturgy in the Didache written by the apostles in the first century.

10th Paragraph
The Eucharist was joined to a common meal until sometime around the middle of the second century at which time it became a separate church ritual. While “tithing” was Jewish law, Christians took an offering for the support of those ministering to the church and for the poor and needy.

11th Paragraph
The Lord bless you... The Priest’s blessing used from the days of Moses to today.
Num 6:24-26

The sign of the cross was widely used by Christians in the first century to bless others and to declare – like marking a “brand” upon themselves – that they were “owned” by Jesus.

 Chloe’s Hummus
1 large Lemon – juiced into bowl with strainer
¼ cup Water
⅓ cup Tahini 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 (14 ounce) can Chickpeas – drained and rinsed
1 clove of Garlic – pressed
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ - ½ teaspoon Cumin
Pinch of Cayenne

OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon fresh Cilantro or Parsley – finely minced (used as garnish)

1. Combine Lemon juice and Water in a small bowl.

2. In another small bowl, whisk together the Tahini and EVOO.

3. In Food Processor,* process Chickpeas, Garlic, Salt, Cumin and Cayenne about 15 seconds.  Scrape down sides.

4. With Processor running, add Lemon/Water through feed tube and process for 1 minute.  Scrape down sides as necessary.

5. With Processor running, add Tahini/EVOO through feed tube and process until Hummus is creamy – about 15-20 seconds.

6. Transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes to combine flavors. 

7. Sprinkle garnish over top and serve.

Makes 2 Cups

* Okay. I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. Chloe didn’t have one of these, but since we do, we might as well use it. If you insist on being authentic, you just go right on ahead and smash your chickpeas and garlic with a rock and then mix your hummus in an earthen pot with a stick.