The filling of the reservoir

Chapter 28

Good Monday Morning to this week 27 of 2020 

The Nile River, the longest river in the world, called the father of African rivers. It rises south of the Equator and flows northward through northeastern Africa to drain into the Mediterranean Sea. It has a length of about 6,650km.  Its most distant source is the Kagera River in Burundi. The fact that the Nile, unlike other great rivers known to them flowed from the south northward and was in flood at the warmest time of the year was an unsolved mystery to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Now comes an immensely bold but also problematic project to change history.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia that has been under construction since 2011, about 15 km east of the border with Sudan. The dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed. The filling of the reservoir is scheduled to begin in July 2020. Once completed, the reservoir could take anywhere between 5 and 15 years to fill with water. A decade of arduous talks involving the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, and upstream Ethiopia have reached a deadlock with Egypt,  which is almost entirely dependent on the Nile for its freshwater supplies. So now each country have built their own dam trying to control the river, be it the Assuan of Egypt, the Merowe dam of Sudan, and now the GERD of Ethiopia.

Speaking of the Nile:

The life of Moses had a very moving start in connection with the Nile:
Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it.

or later:
Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.

or even later
And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.

then came the lamentations from Isaiah 19.5-8
And the waters of the sea will be dried up, and the river will be dry and parched, and its canals will become foul, and the branches of Egypt’s Nile will diminish and dry up, reeds and rushes will rot away. There will be bare places by the Nile, on the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the Nile will be parched, will be driven away, and will be no more. The fishermen will mourn and lament, all who cast a hook in the Nile; and they will languish who spread nets on the water.

or Jeremiah 46.7
Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge?

Of course all over the region, there is endless history to the Nile!
The Nile begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence. C.C. Colton

Egypt! from whose tombs arose forgotten Pharaohs While the dark shades of forty ages stood like startled giants by Nile’s famous flood. L Byron

Back to the famous vers of Jeremiah used as a promise over so many lives  might just have the same relevance then as today:

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Taken for this week, this “water-mass” or “river of light”,  “river that will shine”,  speaks of a creator that is here to stay in the long run. He planned and created something unbelievable and incredibly enduring and outlasting wars, famines, kings, rulers, and even all the attempts to control the waters.

This creator is in control over your life, your situation.

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon

 

 

A door of hope

Chapter 27

Good Monday Morning to this week 26 of 2020

And I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2.15

Maclaren writes in the commentary:
The Prophet Hosea is remarkable for the frequent use which he makes of events in the former history of his people. Their past seems to him a mirror in which they may read their future. Hosea foretells ….

– God speaking in the wilderness to the heart of Israel.
– Barrenness shall be changed to fruitfulness.
– Sorrows will become sources of refreshment.
– Gloomy gorge of the valley of Achor will be a door of hope.

In one of the discussion groups I frequent, I  read the following text.
Don’t the writers’ feelings, A Garner, echo to some of the things we read and see right now?

To be honest, I often have doubts and get discouraged, because this world does not feel in any way like we’re living a Kingdom currently. Where is our king? Has he abandoned us? And why won’t he communicate outside of texts written thousands of years ago in languages that the vast majority of people on this planet will never understand? I know all about the Kingdom concept of “already/not yet”, but it’s not entirely satisfactory. Is this the best we can do? Christianity has never been more fractured. There are tens of thousands of brands of Christians interpreting the Bible in tens of thousands of ways, but God Himself is silent. Churches that focus on futurism are booming, while churches that focus on inaugurated kingdom theology shrink.

Sounds a bit like Hosea actually.

The narrow gorge stretches before us, with its dark overhanging cliffs that almost shut out the sky; the path is rough and set with sharp pebbles; it is narrow, winding, steep; often it seems to be barred by some huge rock that juts across it, and there is barely room for the broken ledge yielding slippery footing between the beetling crag above and the steep slope beneath that dips so quickly to the black torrent below. All is gloomy, damp, hard; and if we look upwards the glen becomes more savage as it rises, and armed foes hold the very throat of the pass.

But, however long, however barren, however rugged, however black, however trackless, we may see if we will, a bright form descending the rocky way with radiant eyes and calm lips, God’s messenger, Hope; and the rough rocks are like the doorway through which she comes near to us in our weary struggle.

For us all, dear friends, it is true. In all our difficulties,  great or small; in all our perplexities; in the losses that rob our homes of their light; in the petty annoyances that diffuse their irritation through so much of our days; it is within these opportunities to turn them for a firmer grasp of God, and so to make them openings by which a happier hope may flow into our souls.

These vineyards and valleys would be the first installments of God’s promise, and a prelude to the possession of the whole so that the door of hopeful expectation and of joyful anticipation would be thrown wide open to them.

From between their narrowest gorge, if you will, the guide whom God has sent you, and that Angel of Hope will light up all the darkness, and will only fade away when she is lost in the brightness of that upper land, where our ‘God Himself is Sun and Moon.

Achor, trouble, a valley near Jericho, in consequence of the trouble which the sin of Achan caused Israel. The expression “valley of Achor” probably became proverbial for that which caused trouble, and when Isaiah refers to it he uses it in this sense: “The valley of Achor, a place for herds to lie down in;” i.e., that which had been a source of calamity would become a source of blessing. Hosea also uses the expression in the same sense: “The valley of Achor for a door of hope;” i.e., trouble would be turned into joy, despair into hope.

The valley of Achor a large, fruitful, and pleasant valley near Jericho, and on the very entrance into the land of Canaan, where after forty years’ travels and sorrows Israel first set foot on a country such as they expected.

The valley former a valley of trouble, of consequences,  became the door of hope to Israel. A valley of humiliation, of trouble and defeat, shall become the initial point of a next journey through the door of hope.  This hope does not disappoint because it is appointed by God Himself. It opens up for you new opportunities; for much which was lost shall be restored. A sign of God’s tender mercy towards you as He walks ahead of you.

Wishing you a great start to this week!

Philemon

 

 

When bad things happen to good people

Chapter 26

Good Monday Morning to this week 25 of 2020

For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 2 Corinthians 13:9

This weekend I discovered a great book, though it has been out there for quite a while. I really like the way Rabbi Kushner puts difficult theological thoughts in word and application. Here a few highlights …

“There is an old tale about the woman whose only son had died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, ‘What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?’ Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, ‘Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.’ The woman set off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door and said, ‘I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me.’ They told her ‘You’ve certainly come to the wrong place,’ and began to describe all the tragic things that had recently befallen them. The woman said to herself, ‘Who is better able to help these poor unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?’ She stayed to comfort them, then went on in her search for a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, hovels and in palaces, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. Ultimately, she became so involved in ministering to other people’s grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, drive the sorrow out of her life.” Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

God is the light shining in the midst of darkness, not to deny that there is darkness in the world but to reassure us that we do not have to be afraid of the darkness because darkness will always yield to light. As theologian David Griffin puts in, God is all-powerful, His power enables people to deal with events beyond their control and He gives us the strength to do those things because He is with us.”
Harold S. Kushner, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments

People who pray for miracles usually don’t get miracles, any more than children who pray for bicycles or good grades, get them as a result of praying. But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayer answered. Harold S. Kushner

I wish you a good week as you wrestle with life’s contradictions and difficulties, yet in all that receiving the strength and grace to bear the unbearable.

Philemon

Hope amidst trials

Chapter 25

Good Monday Morning to this week 24 of 2020

Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”

Revelation announces that God is still in control and that he will conclude this stage of history the way he has promised. Craig S. Keener

“If we must “feel” God’s presence before we believe he is with us, we again reduce God to our ability to grasp him, making him an idol instead of acknowledging him as God.”
Craig S. Keener

There can be no true peace, where there is not true grace; and where grace goeth before, peace will follow. Matthew Henry

“God alone is God, and he alone merits first place—beyond every other love, every other anxiety, every other fear that consumes us.”

The Book of Revelation speaks to many things – it enriches our understanding of the God as the beginning and end who reveals the meaning of human history, it provides a vision of heaven as a great wedding, it ensures us that our prayers rise to God, and it also depicts the heavenly liturgy as the climax of history.

The overarching message of John’s visions, however, is one of hope amidst tribulation. This is a message we need to hear today.

After the trials, plagues and ruin of human history have run their appointed course, after the beasts and kings who fight against the King of Kings are defeated, comes the judgment of each person according to his conduct. John then saw a new holy city where there is no more pain or death and he heard God say, “Behold, I make all things new To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.

Throughout the suffering of the human condition, we rejoice in this hope, this promise of God. The definitive coming of the Lord is invoked with the prayer: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’

This is our prayer too. We live with an expectation, confidence and joy, active and vigilant in anticipation, “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” as we continue to build up His Kingdom coming to be among us.

Wishing you a blessed week.

Philemon

 

The gospel is polyphonic!

Chapter 24/2020

Good Monday Morning to this week 23 of 2020

The image of God at Pentecost is multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic, not for a politically correct agenda, but because the gospel demands it. The gospel is polyphonic!

… I rediscovered the blues these past weeks …. speaking about guitars being polyphonic!

I’ll mostly quote from Luke A. Powery out of a sermon he held not too long ago. His speech has immense meaning.

Pentecost is the human experience of the first fruits of the Spirit. Worship has become informal, and ethnic diversity in congregations is on the rise. The present state of the changing church would have been more welcoming to B.B. King, the “King of the Blues.” In his early days, there was tension between blues music and the Pentecostal church. Some viewed the blues as the devil’s music and believed it had no place in the church. The church was a religious gatekeeper of who’s in and who’s out, but what Pentecost reveals is that that which is different or foreign may actually be the gift we need. Pentecost has many meanings, but at the core of its meanings is the idea of a gift.

Pentecost suggests that the ground of our spiritual life is fundamentally a divine gift. The coming of the Spirit is a gift, and all we can do, like the disciples, is wait for it (Acts 1:4), wait for the promise to be fulfilled. A gift is not something of our own creation; it just comes.

“And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound …” (Acts 2:2 NRSV). The sound came. The Spirit came on divine volition. The Spirit is God’s gift to us. Divine agency is the prelude to human action.

We hear that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (2:4). The Spirit gives people the ability to speak in other languages.

“The first gift of the Spirit is the gift of speech”, multilingual speech, affirming the tight connection between word and Spirit. The gift of words is a gift of the Spirit, and the words we speak are about someone else, not ourselves.

The gift of speech is not given in order not to be understood. Why would anyone speak in an unknown tongue if they knew they would never get a hearing, another gift of the Spirit is obvious — the gift of hearing in one’s own language. The speakers were not of the same ethnicity and culture, yet they heard and understood. Understanding is gifted to us, because we don’t have the resources to manufacture it. There must be a Giver, without whom we would not receive a gift.

The word must be “native” to the hearer. Context is inescapable, because you can never escape your own skin or even your own native tongue, and that is a gift in and of itself. In the Spirit, the gospel incarnates through human languages such that people hear and understand in their own particular cultural language the universal message about God’s power.

Pentecost is the creation of a particular kind of human community, a God-centered community. The cultural particularity of the Spirit’s gift is not contrary to a universal quality. As one French theologian writes:

“The distinctive aspect of the Spirit is that, while remaining unique and preserving his identity, he is in everyone without causing anyone to lose his originality. This applies to persons, peoples, their culture and their talents. The Spirit also makes everyone speak of the marvels of God in his own language” (Yves Congar).

The Spirit will not allow us to forget about God, because “through the pouring out of the Spirit, God effects a world-encompassing, multilingual, polyindividual testimony to Godself. In this way God attests to Godself in a process that unites people in a way that causes them both wonderment and fear” (Welker).

The Spirit leads us to different views and voices, a different way of seeing the world and God. The Spirit leads us to embrace diversity as a gift of God while the Spirit moves us toward integration, collaboration and mutuality between different voices as a way to form community.

Pentecost suggests that the Spirit opens us up to the possibility of hospitable relationships across cultures, as opposed to closed systems and practices that restrain the full scope of the gospel of God. This means Bach and Brahms can be in the same spiritual family as B.B. King and Branford Marsalis. Hymns and hip-hop may actually commune with each other when the Spirit blows.

The church is called to be unified, not uniform. We are not the church when we are uniform; we are the church in the power of the Spirit when we are unified, a unified diversity focused on God!

Pentecost points us to a new order in the Spirit, a reordering of our priorities.
The image of God at Pentecost is multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic, not for a politically correct agenda, but because the gospel demands it. The gospel is polyphonic.

In other words, your voice matters, and you are a gift.

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon