Crossing the Jordan

I’ll cross over the Jordan someday. Jonny Cash

Good Monday Morning to this week 48 of 2019

This week the Jordan river came up in a few talks, in music with a live event, hearing of life-changing baptisms and in reading about the amazing story of  Eliyahu Ben-Shaul Cohen.

Last week we looked at times when our well runs dry and concluded with Faith, faith being one of the most vital keys to keeping your well, well-watered. So what is it like to stand on the shore of the Jordan? What does this phrase mean?

Crossing the Jordan ….

God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and the Jewish people that their descendants would inherit a land given to them by God himself. Before Jacob died, the children of Israel found themselves living far away from that land.

Slavery, a handful of plagues, forty years in the wilderness added to the long story arriving at the shore of the Jordan.

Before Joshua could lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey, an intimidating river had to be crossed – the flood stage of the Jordan River to be exact. By the grace and a miracle of God the people safely crossed the river, and by faith, they received a land that they had only heard of through a promise that had been made so long ago.

The river starts flowing on the slopes of Mount Hermon, on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and flows southward through northern Israel to the Sea of Galilee/ Tiberius. Exiting the sea, it continues south, dividing Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the west from Jordan to the east before emptying into the Dead Sea. The surface of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of about 430 meters below sea level the lowest land point on Earth.

The Jordan River is more than 360 km in length. After 1948 the river marked the frontier between Israel and Jordan from just south of the Sea of Galilee to the point where the Yābis River flows into it from the east. Since 1967, however, when Israeli forces occupied the West Bank, the Jordan has served as the cease-fire line as far south as the Dead Sea.

The Jordan Valley itself is not well watered. The Jordan is fed by rains falling on the neighboring plateaus; the waters then flow downward through rivers or wadis. The Jordan itself is shallow. Its high-water period lasts from January to March. The existence of thermal springs, in the Tiberias region give the Jordan’s waters a relatively high degree of salinity. The Jordan’s waters are of special importance for irrigation especially for several oases in the bordering foothills at Jericho permitting the cultivation of oranges, bananas, early vegetables, and sugar beets.

The Jordan River is the river that David crossed to escape Absalom’s rebellion. Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River before Elijah gave his double portion of anointing upon Elijah and being taken by a whirlwind into heaven. The Jordan River baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, perhaps the most popular biblical events at the river. This biblical event is one of the foundations of the Divine Trinity of God.

Joshua ordered the people to consecrate themselves, the next day, he assembled them a half-mile behind the ark of the covenant. He told the Levite priests to carry the ark to the Jordan River, which was swollen and treacherous, overflowing its banks with snowmelt from Mount Hermon. As soon as the priests waded in with the ark, the water stopped flowing and piled in a heap, 20 miles north near the village of Adam. It was also cut off to the south. While the priests waited with the ark in the middle of the river, the entire nation crossed over on dry ground. The Lord commanded Joshua to have 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes, pick up a stone from the center of the riverbed. Once everyone had crossed, the priests with the ark came out of the riverbed. As soon as they were safe on dry land, the waters of the Jordan rushed in.

Israel learned important lessons from the miracle of crossing the Jordan River. First, God demonstrated that he was with Joshua as he had been with Moses. The ark of the covenant was God’s throne on earth. Literally, the Lord went into the dangerous river first, demonstrating his role as Israel’s protector.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

God revealed that his wonder-working strength would enable the people to conquer the enemy they faced. Most of the year, the Jordan River was about 100 feet wide and only three to ten feet deep. However, when the Israelites crossed, it was at flood stage, overflowing its banks. The mighty hand of God parted it, made it safe for his people to cross with no other power overcoming God’s mighty power.

Crossing the Jordan – a breaking with the past for Israel.
When the manna stopped, the enemies needed to be overcome.
Crossing the Jordan – crossing to a new form of a spiritual life of freedom.
Crossing the Jordan – a transition and the begin of a new conquest. (for Joshua for sure)
Crossing the Jordan – a preparation for a new mantel,  again with a transition an a crossing on dry ground (also for Elijah and Elisha).
Crossing the Jordan – a place of new beginnings, not just the waters part, the heavens did as well.
Crossing the Jordan –  a place of personal conversions as in the cases of Rahab, Naaman, Zaccheus, and Bartimaeus.
Crossing the Jordan – requires leaving one shore and crossing the river for another.
Crossing the Jordan – entering a promise,  crossing over to new spiritual life.
Crossing the Jordan – the Grace of God leading you home.

Pick a stone from the Jordan river today:

Joshua placed a second set of stones in the river bed to be cover by the water when God removed His unseen hand holding the river back. Sometimes we are to build monuments in our hearts that only we know about monuments of anonymity in our hearts reminding us of God’s power and provisions.

Wishing you a good week “crossing the Jordan”! .. remember not to cross alone!

Philemon

When the well is empty.

You think of water when the well is empty. Ethiopia

Good Monday Morning to this week 47 of 2019

Drink water from your own cistern and freshwater from your own well. Proverbs 5:15

Cape Town is a city of more than 3 million,  suffered from drought for three successive years, which led to extensive water shortage. In February 2018 they got the shocking news of a possible “day zero” due in April 2018,  if the people did not implement water-saving actions, with a maximum use of 50 liters of water per capita per day. In European countries, the estimated water usage is between 130-160 liters per capita per day.

Environmental psychology is a relatively new, however a growing branch of psychology. Many of the questions that arise here can be explored and understood within popular and valid frameworks, from social, cognitive or biological models. The term ‘coping’  indicates the psychological and physiological condition where an organism or person is expected to master and adapt to a stress-inducing/evoking challenge. Coping can be understood as a positive expectation of a situation. Two possible consequences of not coping are – hopelessness and helplessness.

Not just our environmental well runs dry, often also our physical or spiritual wells
“My soul is greatly troubled. But You O Lord – how long? says David in Psalm 6:3.

In the frailty of our souls, even prayer is hard at such times.  We can’t just replace the dryness of our souls with prayer as good as it is!  One of the difficulties in prayer is that it doesn’t stem from what we do, but from what God does.

In our spiritual life, with intense soulsearching and prayer, there are times that even then God seems to take a step back from us. Why do our prayers find no answers? We hear no whispering of his voice or indication that He is close or within reach. We are left feeling alone, isolated, confused and perhaps angry. Of course from good teaching we know that God is within us – never to depart. He will never leave us or forsake us! We’ve got that part of theology engraved, yet the distance, the absence may only be a perception, while the struggle is genuine even if the distance is not.

For some of us, there are clear responses to these situations. Pray more, pray harder, examine our inner life, look for personal mistakes and failures, learn new prayers, try new spiritual exercises, keep looking for hidden distance in us that concludes that we are being punished by God. With more and more religious effort, the distance doesn’t change but we ask more questions and even put God’s love and care into question.

Did you ever ask God for unshakable faith and then he started to shake your faith?
Back to David in the Psalms, “How long O Lord?!” Could the silence and stillness of God, be pathways on which our faith grows? Doesn’t our spirituality grow and increase by faith, is fueled by faith, so that these times of distance also become times of God’s mercy,  strengthening a very part of us, in need of the fuel called; Faith?!

Could the first part of filling the well, not be the rain, but the gentle soft precipitation of faith? As we physically wait for the first snow to fall this November in Switzerland, we go from a long month of heavy rain to the gentle reception of the precipitation of snow. Be it snow, drizzle, rain, the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, so that the water condenses and precipitates. Isn’t it so with faith, we saturate the spiritual atmosphere with faith? On the other hand, fog and mist are suspensions to precipitation, because the water vapor doesn’t condense sufficiently. Fog and mist could be mistrust, incertitude or confusion in regard to our spirituals lives.

Back to lack of rain or the drought, Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that has been experimented for quite a while. It changes the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air which changes the microphysical process within the cloud. Evidentially cloud seeding was attempted during the 2008 Summer Olympics n Beijing to coax rain showers out of clouds before they reached the Olympic city in order to prevent rain during the opening and closing ceremonies. Do we also attempt spiritual cloud seeding, trying to force an outcome, especially in times when the well runs dry?

What do we do to fill our well with? Do we try religious attempts to force it, like the physical attempt of cloud seeding? There are so many books, Internet sites, recommendations explaining what you need to do to fill that void, water your dry well with, sometimes even in “7 steps”. No, I won’t fall to the urge to do the same and give you these steps like with a quick fix.

Let’s take another approach:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought, it is not anxious and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17.7-8

My child, pay attention to what I say, listen carefully to my words.
Don’t lose sight of them let them penetrate deep into your heart,
for they bring life to those who find them and healing to their whole body.
Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4: 20-23

Have you never heard? Have you understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength, they will soar high on wings like eagles they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 28-31

It’s a time for faith, His well has not run dry, He is there!

Wishing you a blessed week as you think of the water while the well is not empty or as you wait in faith for a new filling of your well.

Philemon

 

 

 

 

Belonging

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other Mother Teresa

Good Monday Morning to this week 46 of 2019

Belonging;

The best of community does give one a deep sense of belonging and well-being; in that sense, community takes away loneliness. Henri Nouwen

Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.
Brené Brown

Belonging; 

The affinity for a place or situation, acceptance, association, attachment, inclusion, kinship, loyalty, rapport, relationship.

“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.” Keegan

Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with the intensity of daily life.

So many churches or groups of people claim that first, you have to behave right, and then you can believe the Gospel, and then once you have gotten that right, we will let you belong and become a member of our church or group. I believe it has to be the other way around. When it comes to church, I think the formula in a sense should be;

belong, believe, behave.

Jesus first let these individuals know that they belonged—that He loved them regardless of their behavior. One of the most powerful verses is in Mark 10 where it says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,  in the encounter with the rich young ruler who chose money over following Jesus. Or another of his answers “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me”. People around Jesus didn’t have to believe in Jesus before they were shown His love and compassion. Rather, they believed because of it. And only after the belonging and the believing comes the third step—behaving. Because I belonged, it led me to believe. Because I believed, it causes me to change my act, challenging that within me that wasn’t is according to the belonging one you now believe in.

The House of Belonging
Awake to a new morning.

Thinking for a moment
it was one day like any other.

But, the veil had gone
A new feel of heart.
I thought; as I utter the place of exile
the dimensionality of being out there,
to then have my face turned towards a place,
immediately start to walk in that direction
of a new way, a new being part of partaking,
spelling the word;  be, be-longing to belonging.

Was it the quiet and stillness of
God Shekhinah, as HIs manifestation, descended to
dwell among humanity?

Another prayer returned through
the voice of He with the
triune nature calling forth the real sense
of belonging?

And I thought,
this is a good day!

This is the day
I realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between the world of exile
to the one to belonging
coming as you are and yet in the same
breath,  extending this acceptance to
others as they come as they are.

And
I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light, away from
separateness to togetherness
with the unique gem of being a partaker.

For we have become partakers of Christ,
For we have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews

This is the bright home
in which I live, this is where
I ask my friends to come,

This is the temple
of my new home
having made His home
as I belong to something greater
where I belong.

I belong, I  present my authentic, imperfect self,
I accept who I am, I embrace who is He is,
He that is greater within me.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Warapunga
Inspired by Yahwe,  D.Whyte, B. Brown

Wishing you this same belonging!

Philemon

 

 

 

 

The Mask You do’n(o)t Live In?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Good Monday Morning to this week 45 of 2019

Recently I was made aware of the fact that I am a “white male”… . For most of my life
I’ve been “culturally-color-blind” and was trying to understand what the explicit mentioning of this title meant.  Where does this idea come from, is this an attempt to unveil or an attempt to cover over with a mask? I am quite sure you’ve had similar experiences due to an ethnic, gender or social peer group you’ve spent time in. Of course, I am aware of the privileges I’ve had growing up in a country (PNG) with few in this category. I do ask myself this morning, is this the right season to walk this line? Of course, I am a white male, not that it matters;  with slightly red hair and red skin (smile), not out of the middle class and spent most of my life caring for marginalized, so this mask feels estranged and hostile to say it mildly. Yes, I won’t put on this mask, not saying that those masks aren’t there or don’t continue causing so much harm, hurt and discrimination to many all over the world.

Galatians 3:28, represents a new construct of reality, opposing the dominating construct of Hellenistic-Roman society. Although Christians still had to live in this Hellenistic-Roman culture, they had a new mental context in their minds, which became the social context when they gathered for worship. Scholars pose the question as to whether Galatians 3:28 is indeed the great egalitarian text that it is often assumed to be.
It does as well address the issue of inheritance of Abraham’s promise, and against this background, one should indeed accept that no worldly distinctions have any bearing on the inheritance of the promise. Douglas A. Campbell distinguishes important aspects: He points out that the heart of the matter is “the uncompromising eschatological logic of Paul’s reconciling gospel and that this has universal abolitionistic consequences. Secondly, he argues that the binaries typical of Hellenistic social ideology could be detached from the Christological claims and may indeed be abolished itself.

Paul’s Christology thus underpins a (controversial) model of community in which Jew and Gentile enjoy unbounded table-fellowship, sharing one bread and one cup, demonstrating in concrete social interaction that they are “one body in Christ”.
Paul did not have the abolishment of human categories in mind. However, he wanted the relationship between people of different status to change – a claim that is best understood in terms of the metaphor of the building of family.

Alio Cissé Niang puts it nicely:
Paul the counterculturalist, acting with liberating passion for all people, emphasizing that all are God’s children, in spite of ethnicity, social status or gender, as Galatians 3:28 indicates. Paul viewed believers as a new ethnic group that had been created through participation in Christ, with all other norms being relativized. A theology of inclusiveness. The Church as a unique culture, while at the same time respecting the peculiarities and particularities of ethnic and cultural specificities with the emphasis on both unity and diversity.

Galatians 3:28 could indeed be an “open text”, interpreted in diverse ways, these approaches emphasizing the immense depth of this verse with the importance and implication of these momentous words. Could this verse be
The Magna Carta of Humanity?

Mary McLeod Bethune writes with impressive implication to her life:

With these words, the scales fell from my eyes and the light came flooding in. My sense of inferiority, my fear of handicaps, dropped away: “Whosoever”, it said. No Jew nor Gentile, no Catholic nor Protestant, no black nor white; just “whosoever”. It meant that I, a humble Negro girl, had just as much chance as anybody in the sight and love of God …

Wishing you a wonderful week as you keep embracing this verse unmasked, revealing the wonderful implications of this inclusiveness and knowing of new belonging.

Philemon