That divine Darkness

Chapter 24

Good Monday Morning to this week 24 of 2021

God is his attributes in infinite measure. He is maximally alive; he could not be more alive than he is eternally. The church fathers liked to make this point by calling God pure act (actus purus). He cannot be more perfectly in act than he is, otherwise, he would be less than perfect, finite and in need of improvement.

Isaiah famously foretold prophecy was the Savior’s birth, the birth of Immanuel, and the works of Jehovah through him, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. The book is full of symbolism and poetry making much of his teaching veiled, yet understandable with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah was the last of the major prophets to teach all of the twelve Israelite tribes before they were scattered to the north and east.

Hebrew poetry plays with repetition as an artistic device. Everywhere in the Psalms and prophets you can find two to four to six lines of “rhymed meaning”. Starting with two:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth (Isaiah 1:1) 

Often more than a simple repetition. The mention of ear is more concrete than the first to hear.

The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib (Isaiah 1:3)

From a silhouette of a farmer to a definite picture of a donkey and crib.

They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 1:4)

To “despise” is not a more definite picture than “forsake,” but it says something more intense.

In the poetry it goes from a pair of successive lines to a succession of four lines that have alternate rhymes.

For you shall be ashamed of the oaks in which you delighted:

and you shall blush for the gardens which you have chosen.

For your shall be like an oak whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water. (1; 29-30)

The first two lines with its oaks and gardens parallels are followed by the second with its oaks and gardens. Within each we find the familiar dynamic of concretization and intensification: the generic “be ashamed” becomes the more concrete “blush”; the more preliminary stage of “delight” becomes the further, hardened state of “choose”.

(ashamed becomes blush, from delight to choice)

Or even a more elaborate structure of text: / / Enter into the rock, \ and hide in the dust / from before the terror of the Lord, \ and from the glory of his majesty. / The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, \ and the pride of men shall be humbled; \ And the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.

Notice how Isaiah balances a single line against all three previous. “And the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.” This solitary line standing in contrasting parallel to all three before, it emphasizes with this one line, so much structural weight and emphasizes how exalted the Lord’s will will be done.

This is the effect poetry can have: you do not simply know about God’s majesty, but you feel that it is in front of you like a mountain or a tree. You feel that you could close your eyes and still know where God’s majesty is, the way you can locate furniture in a dark but familiar room. It is not a knowledge primarily of the mind, not knowledge of an object, but a kind of sympathy or connection by nature with the known, knowledge in the mode of a subject.

That divine Darkness is the unapproachable light in which God dwells. Into this Darkness, rendered invisible by its own excessive brilliance and unapproachable by the intensity of its transcendent flood of light, come to be all those who are worthy to know and to see God. We pray that we may come unto this Darkness which is beyond light, and without seeing and without knowing, to see and to know That which is above vision and above knowledge. Dionysius

Coming from the poetry of Isiah we landed at mystical contemplation with Him the God of all Darkness and Light who transcends all being and all knowledge.

Wishing a week with a deep sense of this God and creator being with us.

Philemon 

Convivencia

Chapter 23

Good Monday Morning to this week of 23 of 2021

Convivencia – Coexistence

The Mezquita–Cathedral of Córdoba is located in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Due to its status as a former Islamic mosque, it is also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba. According to traditional accounts, Christian Basilica of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, originally stood on the site of the current Mosque-Cathedral. The Great Mosque was constructed on the orders of Abd ar-Rahman I in 785. The mosque was converted to a cathedral in 1236 when Córdoba was captured by the Christian forces of Castile during the Reconquista. Starting in the 19th century, modern restorations have in turn led to the recovery and study of some of the building’s Islamic-era elements.Today, the building continues to serve as the city’s cathedral and Mass is celebrated therein daily. This amazing building leads me to some thoughts on coexistence.

Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgement on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:1-4

There is so much that divides us nowadays. This current pandemic has highlighted this in many more ways that we would have liked to be true. Its as if there was always something to disagree on right now.

A few years ago there were many attacks on Christians in Egypt. Many churches were vandalised and looted. During all of this an this image by and Jesuit writer is communicated, showing Muslim leaders backing up Christians. The picture shows several Islamic men standing in front of a large church, protecting congregants as they attend mass.

Located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is the Oasis of Peace (‘Neve Shalom, a Jewish-Arab community founded in 1970. The village is composed of about 50 families; half are Jewish, half are Arab, and the majority are secular. The Oasis of Peace serves as an example of the possibility of coexistence in Israel. The name “Neve shalom” is taken from a passage in Isaiah 32:18: “My people shall dwell in an oasis of peace.

I call for more coexistence, for the pursuit of peace, for seeking that with unites and not divides.

In Mark 4: 39, Jesus rose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to be at peace, and they had to obey him! He also wants us to be at peace. Many times in the scriptures, God instructs his children to be at peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the source of peace. Jesus shared with his disciples of how he would arrange peace with Holy Spirit: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Wishing you a week of blessed coexistence with much peace !

Philemon

If the paradox is to be pondered.

Chapter 22

Good Monday Morning to this week 22 of 2021

This morning, one very long sentence, so full, so rich, so deep, so satisfying, so spiritual,
so deep and able to make one ponder for a whole morning or even six mornings, up until
the beginning of the next sabbath.

Here we go, and by the way, don’t worry, I needed it read it several times, will need to continue reading it, over and over again.

“If the paradox is to be pondered, as part of growing in understanding the nature of the life of faith, then there are surely implications for the kind of qualities,
communal and individual, that believers should over time acquire: such qualities as to dig deeper in trust, be less glib* in speech and prayer, to look beyond the immediate to the long term, and to offer more support to those currently in pain and perplexity.
For when the psalms are contextualized in prayer and worship, their language is not only expressive but also transformative, able to make a difference to those who use these ancient and enduring words.”

R.W.L. Moberly, Old Testament Theology

*fluent but insincere and shallow.

Wishing you a wonderful start to this new week.

Philemon

The mountains quake

Chapter 21

Good Monday Morning to this week 21 of 2021

A volcanic eruption in eastern Congo left a smoking trail of destruction half a mile wide on Sunday that buried hundreds of houses and left residents searching for missing loved ones, before halting just short of the city of Goma. Mount Nyiragongo, is one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes, erupted, turning the night sky an eerie red and sending a wall of orange lava downhill towards the lakeside city of about 1 million.

I grew up next to Mount Giluwe, 4367m one of highest peaks of Papua New Guinea. Though dormant, we learnt many of the signs of activity including smoke, or a warm water stream near our home. This volcano is part of my walk with God and finding him amidst fear of a new eruption.

The world’s largest volcanic eruption to happen in the past 100 years was on June 15, 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines after being dormant for 600 years. The ash cloud turned day to night, many thought this was the end of life. The eruption was so fierce that that the ash caused global temperatures to be lower for two years. With Global Network I travelled there a few months after the eruption to do ministry and relief work in Zambales for the following 2 years.

 In the story of Moses, Sinai was enveloped in a cloud, it quaked and was filled with smoke, while lightning-flashes shot forth, and the roar of thunder mingled with the blasts of a trumpet; the account later adds that fire was seen burning at the summit of the mountain. In the biblical account, the fire and clouds are a direct consequence of the arrival of God upon the mountain. According to the biblical story, Moses departed to the mountain and stayed there for 40 days and nights in to receive the Ten Commandments.

There are many more references in the writings of the Old Testament in regard to volcanos.

Deuteronomy 4:11, 5.23 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. Or in Judges; The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. Or in Psalms, The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Or another prophet Isaiah. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.

 In these writings of volcanos and in the experience of living close to a volcano, it represents anger, vengeance, revenge, emotions, hidden emotions, destruction and unpredictable situations of life. On the positive side, lava and ash deposited during an eruption breaks down to provide valuable nutrients for the soil, this creates very fertile soil which is good for agriculture.

There has been a lot written about the connection between volcanos and creation or even the creator God. In the current time man feels himself isolated from the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature or has lost the emotional participation to natural events and their symbolic meaning. Thunder is no longer the voice of God, no river contains a spirit as no tree means a persons life, no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain bears or carries the great daemon.

Herein maybe lies one of troubles with humankind. The great umbilical cord that once existed between human beings and the natural world has been severed. That which was once part of the natural human understanding has become hidden or is not longer existent.

We could take the stance on the volcano and call it a living thing with it’s own stories and behaviours, eccentricities with all it’s activity and unpredictability, a rock of the earth in the most living and changeable form, tremendous and powerful.

The volcano with it’s active living spirit of magna, gas, steam and rock not to mention the beauty and terror has inspired many through it’s natural activity. Before the 19th century the medieval Christian mind portrays volcanos as the portals of the abyss of hell. Yet, the the very word volcano is derived from the Latin vulcanus, the Roman god of fire. Christian symbolism emphasis in on the dualities, a need for wholeness, good and evil yet coming from the same as portrayed in nature with the volcano. This raises the question if there is a possibility that these two powers can live alongside one another and coexist? Rather than seeing volcanos as portals to the abyss another metaphor would be to see them as centers of the cosmos where formlessness, movement and response exist and bring them to the center of creating the new.

Back to Goma, I pray for the people, those who have lost loved one, kids that have lost their parents and those who lost house, home, land and much more. God have mercy.

For us, i see this devotional as a call to remember the creator, calling on him to use the power of formlessness to create movement and response in the many difficult situations of our lives.

Wishing you a blessed Monday and good start to this week.

Philemon

Tumbling towards us

Chapter 20

Good Monday Morning to this week 20 of 2021

The parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18: 10–14)
Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep to show that the Kingdom of God is accessible to all. The shepherd leaves the 99 others and searches high and low for the lost sheep.

Theologian Martin Buber adds another dimension as he wrote in his great work, I and Thou:

“Of course God is “the wholly other”: but he is also the wholly same: the wholly present. Of course he is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overwhelms: but he is also the mystery of the obvious that is closer to me then my own I. God is there and here at once, at the same time. He’s with the ninety-nine sheep and he’s with me, too. His searching for us knows no limits – no bounds. His is in a relentless search for us. We can move back and forth every moment between his being in us and separate from us at the very same instant. He’s the searcher but he’s also here, in us, the found.

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you – in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you – for that which is the meaning of your life. Teachings and poems try to say more, and say too much: how murky and presumptuous is the chatter of the “emerging God” – but the emergence of the living God we know unswervingly in our hearts. The world is not divine plan, it is divine fate. That there are world, man, the human person, you and I, has divine meaning.

We are tumbling toward God all our lives. Sometimes we know it; sometimes we don’t. And God is tumbling toward us as well. He’s seeking us – the one of the hundred – and he wants us found. And, one at a time, he also looks for the other ninety-nine.

Tumbling as adjective: tipped or slanted out of the vertical —used especially of a cattle brand …. gives it even more meaning!

Jesus is very much alive and he’s with us, we as also spiritual beings. Jesus is most aware of our spirit self because he also spirit. Our spirit selves have amazing abilities – more than we can comprehend at this time. Jesus is with us and know us as spirit, we as beloved children of God, know by Him the creator, the universal breath.

The only possible relationship with God is to address him and to be addressed by him, here and now—or, as Buber puts it, in the present.

Wishing you a blessed week in the present found state as you tumble towards God and God tumbling towards you!

Philemon

Because you are unique

Chapter 19

Good Monday Morning to this week 19 of 2021

Psalm 139.14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made ….

Here a little story of company fully embracing this, finding the solution in it’s biggest crisis in making an emphasis in being unique together!

Akiyama is a biometric identification company that operates in various forms of application of biometrics . The company was founded in 2005, it has a factory in Pato Branco in Brazil. The company developed a system that collects and analyzes fingerprints, thanks to the simple and intelligible interface, the tool can be used by anyone.

Thaís and Ismael Akiyama had big plans for 2020. It was the year they would expand Akiyama, their Brazil-based business to new markets. Their two new companies were positioned for explosive growth. Massive projects were lined up, and profits were expected to hit record highs.

Yet, as King Solomon warns in Proverbs, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” An invisible storm was swiftly approaching that would plunge the world into crisis and force business owners in every industry to confront a threat to their very survival. When the coronavirus hit, no sector was safe. As 2020 spiraled and business leaders were forced to making hard decisions, navigating unforeseen challenges, the Akiyamas saw everything they had built start to crumble. The Brazilian government, slashed its biometric budget, payments only trickled in, and hospitals delayed adapting their new technology as they struggled with an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 patients. 

Managing three different companies with three distinct missions was a juggling act even before the pandemic. Once it hit, things looked bleak for the Akiyamas, yet they didn’t falter. They digitally gathered their team of administrators and employees across all three companies and made a commitment to the whole group summed up in the hashtag #strongertogether.

“The storm came for all of our companies, and we understood that we couldn’t find a way out by ourselves,” says Thaís Akiyama. “We needed to join together, building a community and identity as a group.”

The Akiyamas consolidated the disparate companies under one umbrella and mission, and it served as a catalyst for transformation. They took the crisis as an opportunity to be intentional about their faith anchored in hope and declared 2020 a year of revival. The Akiyamas changed their presentation, no longer letting their action be swayed or influenced by the system of bribery so pervasive in the Brazilian business word. Employees across the three companies started collaborating on community projects.

In this business story I see a great lesson. Being unique is not in contradiction to serving and joining in community and finding identity not only as individual but also as group.

Wishing you a blessed week as you all seek ways out and through this unprecedented pandemic leaving no stone unturned.

Philemon

Words like balm to the soul

Chapter 18

Good Monday Morning to this week 18 of 2021

For she said; If I may but touch of his clothes, I shall be whole.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24,
1825, in Baltimore, Maryland. She was one of the most well known
African American writers of the nineteenth century. Harper published
several collections of poetry, including Forest Leaves in 1846.

One beautiful poem out of Mark 5.28

For she kept saying to herself, “If I could touch even his clothes, I know I will be healed.
(coming from the Greek word  “sozo” with many meanings including; safe and sound, healed, delivered, made whole, rescued, restored, and saved.

Life to her no brightness brought,
Pale and sorrow’d was her brow,
Till a bright and joyous thought,
Lit the darkness of her woe.

Long had sickness on her prayed;
Strength from every nerve had gone;
Skill and art could give no aid,
Thus her weary life passed on.

Like a sad and mornful dream,
Daily felt she life depart;
Hourly knew the vital stream,
Left the fountains of her heart.

He who’d lull’d the storm to rest,
Cleans’d the lepers, raised the dead;
Whilst a crowd around him prest
Near that suffering one did tread.

Nerv’d by blended hope and fear,
Reason’d thus her anxious heart, –
If to touch him I draw near,
All my suffering shall depart.

While the crowd around him stand,
I will touch, the sufferer said, –
Forth she reach’d her timid hand,
As she touch’d, her sickness fled.

“Who hath touch’d me.” Jesus cried,
Virtue from my body’s gone;
From the crowd a voice replied,
Why inquire, thousands throng.

Faint with fear thro’ ev’ry limb,
Yet too grateful to deny;
Tremblingly, she knelt to him,
“Lord,” she answered, “It was I.”

Kindly, gently, Jesus said,
Words like balm unto her soul,
Peace upon her life be shed,
Child, thy faith has made thee whole.

Wishing a blessed week with words like balm to your soul!

Philemon

Making the words sing

Chapter 17

Good Monday Morning to this week 17 of 2021

Last week Chris Green made the minor prophets sing.

I’m still amazed at his summary of Hosea:
God’s love wounds, God’s love can be wounded, God’s love, wounded, heals the wounding!

Having read the Biography of Eugene Peterson this weekend, I found another, that could make the Bible sing in many wonderful ways.

Four “Blessings” out of the Beatitudes of “The Message” to start this week.

Blessed are the poor in spirit …
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Blessed are the peacemakers ….
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

Blessed are the merciful ….
You’re blessed when you care.
At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

Blessed are the pure in heart …
You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Wishing you a care-full start to this new week!

Philemon

The long way home!

Chapter 16

Good Monday Morning to this week 16 of 2021

The Gospel According to the Minor Prophets by Chris Green

Not sure how I stumbled upon this, but it’s too good, not to share!

The Gospel according to Hosea:
God’s love wounds
God’s love can be wounded
God’s love, wounded, heals the wounding.

The Gospel according to Joel:
Dream, children! Dream, slaves!
There’s nothing now to fear! When God throws the party
the first serve the best wines to the last.

The Gospel according to Amos:
Some truths only nobodies know
like God prefers bent sticks to fine lines
and Justice is worship dead to rights.

The Gospel according to Obadiah:
Because of your pride, I bring you down
In my humility, I go down with you
There, we become sanctuary for others.

The Gospel according to Jonah:
The word of judgment is nothing but the word of mercy
taking the long way home!

The Gospel according to Micah:
The story of salvation: God leaves home
alone in the dark, looking just like his father
limping because of his hip.

The Gospel according to Nahum:
Bloody ones, your cruelties are endless
so I myself will be your end—I’l make your grave my own.

The Gospel according to Habakkuk:
The only praise God wants to hear
comes after nervy protest and the unnerving silence that follows.

The Gospel according to Zephaniah:
You say I’m a do-nothing God, but my day’s coming
I’ll act and when I’m done there’ll be nothing left—but jubilee.

The Gospel according to Haggai:
The poor are God’s signet ring
Only those with nothing left to lose can believe
how good our future may be.

The Gospel according to Zechariah:
What do I see? A city without walls or sentries
A table set for all God’s giddy friends
Faces bright with joy.

The Gospel according to Malachi:
Our curse: we cannot tell how we wound God and neighbor
But the curse is cursed! God, as neighbor, heals.

I’m not sure which is my favorit … but the the one of
Mercy .. is talking the long way home really hits home with me this morning!

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon

BE REAL

Chapter 15

Good Monday Morning to this week 15 of 2021

St. Ignatius of Antioch 35 – 107

As the second (or third) bishop of Antioch, one of the most important churches of the day, he was certainly one of the most prominent Christians of the time immediately succeeding the apostles. 

Ignatius was overseer (bishop) of the Christians in Antioch in Syria during one of the persecutions that broke out while Trajan was emperor. When Ignatius was arrested, he refused to acknowledge the official gods and, not being a Roman citizen, was sentenced to die in the amphitheater in Rome. The soldiers with whom he traveled to Rome allowed him to visit some of the Christian communities along the way.

St Ignatius of Antioch has some very practical tips for our daily walk in faith.
A few of my favorites:

Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas, but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ. 

It is better to be silent and be real than to talk and not be real.

Take heed often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.

Do everything as if He were dwelling in us. Thus we shall be His temples and He will be within us as our God – as He actually is.

A Christian is not his own master, since all his time belongs to God.

It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but actually to be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name.

Let no man’s place, or dignity, or riches, puff him up; and let no man’s low condition or poverty abase him. For the chief points are faith towards God, hope towards Christ, the enjoyment of those good things for which we look, and love towards God and our neighbor.

Pray without ceasing on behalf of other men…For cannot he that falls rise again?

Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.

Wishing you a good, practical start to this new week!

Philemon