Friday, May 23, 2008

Shrinking World

People have been very friendly thus far. In Jo-berg I met a lady who grew up in Zim, and runs a "online community for Zimbabwean activists." Later, on the last leg of my flight, I spoke with the regional programme officer to the embassy of Sweden. It was amazing to see such a great diversity of people in such a short time. Just a few days ago I was walking in downtown Chicago, and now Chi is sitting on the other side of the the globe. I have already witnessed so many culture groups already - a group of nuns, a Zambian boys cricket team, a middle-eastern man with a long, distinctive beard. We live in such a huge world, yet it feels as if it is shrinking.

Once at the guest house there was much to learn. The brown, "flat backed" spiders in the house are good....they eat the other bugs. The light switches are backwards compared to what I am used to. Don't use American electronics without a converter. The toilet will flush only when there is water available. Don't call it a bathroom unless you want to take a bath. As an ignorant American, don't ever wave with an open hand or raise a fist in the air - only give the thumbs up sign. It is important to learn the Shona tribal language.

Though the world may be shrinking, there is still much to learn. It has been an encouragement to be around so many people from different backgrounds and cultures, and yet still feel welcomed. Maybe, as the world continues to shrink, we should make it a priority to share the love of Christ by welcoming those that are different than ourselves. Over the last few years I have come to find that the more people I meet, the more like family the stranger becomes.

(Mark 12:28-31)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Kingdom of Heaven

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."`

I love the picture that Jesus paints here. He says that the kingdom of heaven is like two very terrible things. First, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed - an obnoxious weed. It was so invasive that Jewish law prohibited it from being planted. Then Jesus goes on to use the example of yeast for the Kingdom(Yeast was often symbolic of sin - enough so that once every year leavened bread was to be completely removed from the homes of believers). Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is so invasive that it will grow among any terrain, and against any amount of persecution. Jesus says that the invasive power of sin can give us an idea of how invasive His Kingdom is.

Our G-d is a G-d of amazing love and power. This coming year I am resting in the promise of His Word as found in Isaiah 58...

...Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Please pray that G-d will give me the grace to walk after Him. I cannot do it myself - I know this because of my many many failures.