15 September 2012

If Anyone Thirsts...

I am to preach at an outing for children in their last year of primary school and the theme is taken from John 7:37-39:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

(John 7:37-39 ESV)

It's a text most would be familiar with and yet we may not see how Jesus' statement related to what was going on.

A study of the context reveals that Jesus makes this proclamation during the Feast of Booths, a feast that has several names but that particular name is my favourite. It is probably best known as the Feast of Tabernacles. This was one of the three annual feast but was the most popular.

This feast came at a joyful time of the year (around this very time actually, September into October, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, the 15 day) when the last items to be harvested came in. It took just over a week and was lots of fun especially for children, I would imagine. During this time all the men journeyed to Jerusalem where they presented a portion of their harvest to thank God for the harvest and pray for the 'latter rain' that would prepare the earth for the next farming season. During the eight day feast, the families left their houses and set up tents or booths where they stayed, and that's why I say the children must have loved it. This was done to remember the way their ancestors lived in tents during their 40 year journey to the promised land from Egypt.

During the eight days, one of the daily highlights would be the time that the Priest would get a golden jug and walk down to the pool of Siloam and fetch water followed by a large procession. He would then return through the same entrance, called the 'water gate' whose name was taken from this very ritual, and go to the alter where another Priest would be waiting with another golden jug holding some wine from the harvest. Together they would pour out the contents of the jugs into basins that would drain to the base of the altar. As they did this the audience would begin singing Psalm 118:25-26 which was a song related to the Messiah.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
(Psalm 118:25-26 ESV)

It is at this point on the last day of the feast, when all the people are gathered to see this spectacle for that last time till the passing of another year that Christ stands up and in a loud voice shouts that great proclamation. Jesus was trying to communicate something and he got his point across.

Jesus was saying that he was the salvation of which they sang. Salvation had indeed come to Israel at last! Jesus was declaring that He was Messiah and that everyone who would believe in Him would receive the gift or indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the "living water," and would never be empty again. I am the reality that the water in this ceremony symbolizes-the true life giver through whom the Holy Spirit is also given as John interprets in the text.

What a beautiful picture.

The end of chapter 7 from the point of Jesus' proclamation shows that the people got the point. Even the officers who should have pounced on Jesus for interrupting such a solemn and beautiful occasion were stunned by Jesus' statement and had to come to grips with the thought that maybe this really was the Christ.

Isaiah says:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
  and streams on the dry ground;
 I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
  and my blessing on your descendants.
 They shall spring up among the grass
  like willows by flowing streams.
 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD's,’
  another will call on the name of Jacob,
 and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD's,’
  and name himself by the name of Israel.”

(Isaiah 44:3-5 ESV)

13 September 2012

Petauke Scenes

I was out in Petauke for just over a week, and spent the bulk of my time in the villages. Here are a few things I found interesting and 'shareworthy':

The first is Chimwemwe lodge. The best place you can stay if you are visiting Petauke. We only managed to afford it cause all four of us shared one room, and since we were staying so long we got a discount! Here is our little cabin with two of my three roomies pictured there.

The norm in the villages I visited was that families had cows, goats, chickens and pigs. During interactions with the villagers, animals would be passing all around us as they live with their owners. Pictured above are two adult cows right behind their owner's hut.

Pigs are by far the most disgusting animals in the village. Most of the adult females were pregnant implying that we had just missed the mating season. Pigs would only be doing one of two things at any given time, eating or sleeping. Or rubbing themselves against the back of a tree after rolling in mud. They would be so fixed on grazing or intently smelling the ground in search of things to nibble that when a car or human approached they'd run off a few metres and continue grazing without bothering to see what it was that approached them.

Now look at this clever invention. I had the privilege of sitting on one and plan on getting some tools and wood so I can construct a few for my home when I have my own family.

The Watch Tower or Jehovah's Witnesses are really zealous in the villages. As you travel through the villages, every few kilometers, you found this. A Kingdom Hall building for the JWs. They are obviously strategically placed so that anyone who is interested in joining their churches, has access to one close by wherever they are in the villages. Compared to the houses and homestead of the villagers, this place looked awesome, the ground is cleared, the building is made of brick and just looks good and they even have toilets which appear to the left of the picture halfway from the top which follow the design of the main building. These guys mean business.

Sunday found us at Petuake Grace Reformed Baptist Church. They have a lovely building that is under construction, though they have began meeting there already, located on high ground and to the right of this picture is a great catchment of houses on lower ground for them to reach out to. And that works out great because when inviting them to church during their door to door evangelism, all they'll have to do is point to the church on the hill.

The dogs in the villages just lie around all day. I do not recall hearing a single bark while I was there. This might be because they are so thin and obviously don't get much to eat.

This young family agreed to take a photo in front of their house after I spoke to them. The guy is 22 and the girl is 17. Their little girl was a little over 6 months. Yes, its a very small house, just one room but he is doing alright. He owns his fair share of livestock.

Where there's a will, there's a way. There's no electricity in the village but that doesn't stop them from buying television sets and enjoying them.

This was the closest I saw a man come to making his place more beautiful by planting some trees and putting a hedge around his home. Most villagers don't care about this and just construct homes without caring in the slightest about Aesthetics.

Let me end here: This lady impressed me as she was here with several other women from the village who gathered together to have their under five year old children checked by a health team. She is the only one who took the time to groom her children and make them look nice and presentable. I told her how great a job she had done and offered to take a picture of her with her girls. She was much obliged!

04 September 2012

It's All Gone

Imagine for a second that you got a call from your doctor saying they found a deadly disease in your body from your last medical checkup. The disease is incurable and would result in high medical fees, a long life of visits to the hospital, huge dosages of drugs and pain for the rest of your life. Being the optimist you are you quickly thank God for your loving family who would stand by your side and of course the savings you have and were planning to spend but would now channel to your health. No sooner does the thought cross your mind than do you get another call while the doctor is still speaking to you, so thinking that no news could be worse, you thank your doctor and excuse yourself saying that you have another call and would come in to see him later. You quickly pick up the next call and it’s your banker. He says that your bank, where you keep all your money, has gone bankrupt due to internal fraudulent activities and that all your money is gone and cannot be replaced. Before you can respond or even process this information properly a knock comes at your door. Again thinking that nothing could ruin your day (and life) any further, you cut the call from your banker, before he can even finish, and get the door. It’s the police. The cop takes off his cap and holds it to his chest and tells you that your family is dead and they’d like you to go with them to identify the bodies. They died on the way home in a freak accident.

Overwhelmed with all this you suddenly feel weak and seat at the step of your door. The cop lays his hand on your shoulder. Within a minute you have lost your health, wealth and family. What would your reaction be?

Well, Job went thru a situation much worse. He not only lost his health, wealth and family, he lost everything else. The bible records that four servants came in quick succession, each bearing terrible news. Before each one could even finish delivering the news, the next arrived with more bad news. The first reported that his oxen was gone, the next that his sheep were gone, the third that his camels were gone, and the last that his children were all gone. And all his servants except the four (for he was a wealthy man) were also gone.

Job's reaction is, for me, astounding. It's mouth dropping and really the more I ponder it, the more it becomes one of my most favourite passages of scripture. The bible says Job bowed down and worshipped. Wow.

What a walk with God this man must have had! And what a challenge, to reach such a height in my relationship with God that even after he takes everything and strips me bare, I can bow down and worship. May it be so!