A bit of heaven in my pocket

 

RevStonesCRweb

The twelve stones of Revelation, clockwise around the outer edge, starting with the green stone in my hand: chrysoprase (tanzanite), jacinth, carnelian, sapphire, agate, onyx, topaz, emerald, beryl; in the middle, clockwise starting with the purple: amethyst, chrysolite, jasper.

“That’s tanzanite!” said Bishop Amos Muhagachi of Tanzania when he saw one the stones on my windowsill. Indeed, the glistening green gem came from Tanzania, but I know it as chrysoprase. It completed my collection of twelve stones named by first-century prophet John on Patmos island (Revelation 22:19, 20).

John ministered among early churches in what today is western Turkey. It appears he got into trouble with Roman authorities, was exiled to Patmos, and there wrote a blistering blast against empire. The Roman empire, he charges, is a rampaging beast whose power issues from Satan. Mounted on the beast is the harlot “Babylon,” a derisive label that protesting Jews and Christians gave to Rome. She is “drunk with the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.”

Condemning Roman emperor worship as blasphemous, John foresees divine judgment against the greed and violence of Rome. Rome destroyed earthly Jerusalem in AD 70, but now something better is coming. Beyond the gloom of his vision, John sees the light of a new Jerusalem.

If the beast represents Roman rule, new Jerusalem represents alternative citizenship that early Christians claimed in the kingdom of God. Babylon (Rome) “fornicates” with kings of the earth. It corrupts complicit client rulers such as the Herod dynasty, and extracts resources of all kinds from the provinces. The new Jerusalem, in contrast, produces a river of the water of life that nurtures trees for healing the nations. Apostles of the Lamb form the foundation of the city. This is heaven coming to earth, a city where God dwells with mortals to wipe every tear.

In contrast to empires, which always expand the chasm between rich and poor, the new Jerusalem brings equal access to wealth. The very streets on which inhabitants walk are gold. Foundations of the city are replete with jewels–the same that adorn my windowsill.  This is an image of the church in mission, sharing wealth and seeking economic access for all.

In Old City Jerusalem, a shopkeeper supplies me with six stones named in Revelation: jasper, sapphire, onyx, carnelian, topaz, and amethyst. Paying a few dollars per stone, I walk away with a bit of heaven in my pocket, then round up the remaining gems on Ebay: jacinth from Cambodia, agate from Botswana, emerald from Brazil, chrysoprase (tanzanite) from Tanzania, beryl from Angola, and chrysolite from Pakistan.

Many people in the world would not have spare cash to visit Jerusalem or even to purchase such stones. The disparity of resources reminds me of the growing gap between rich and poor. Oxfam calculates that just eight men in the world have more wealth than half of humanity. Eight! Bishop Amos and his colleagues have a plan to grow the Mennonite church in Tanzania from 100,000 to one million. That is spiritual wealth.

I yearn for the day when the new Jerusalem is fully here, when material poverty is no more. John saw that the holy city already is breaking into the world–now! I consider what my part should be in the economy of that holy city: give generously to agencies that foster economic opportunity, support candidates who think globally, care for the environment, build relationships across boundaries of nation and class, live simply.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

© 2017  J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************IMG_0425

The popular-level book I wrote on Revelation is now available in Spanish! See https://www.amazon.com/Apocalipsis-lealtad-pol%C3%ADtica-devoci%C3%B3n-Spanish/dp/1532991134/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500927801&sr=1-1&keywords=apocalipsis+y+lealtad  The English language version is Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics and Devotion in the Book of Revelation (Brazos, 2010). Walter Brueggemann calls it “fresh, vigorous, imaginative, demanding.”

Come with my wife Ellen and me on a Peace Pilgrim walk in Galilee and Jerusalem—an active tour accessible even to non-athletes like myself. Dates are May 14-25, 2018. We will walk parts of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum. Details are still pending but we likely also will hike at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus took the disciples on retreat in the foothills of Mt Hermon. At Jerusalem we will walk the city walls, trace the triumphal entry route, and more. Interested? See https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/holy-land-peace-pilgrim-walk-jesus/

Letting the other guy win

 

Jordan Valley--CRJNK(2)

This view eastward across the Jordan valley, north of the Dead Sea, shows land that Lot chose as grazing territory for his flocks.

With wars festering in many countries, and continuing conflict over land in the West Bank, I pray that political leaders might have the reconciling spirit of Abraham.

Shortly after returning to Canaan from Egypt, Abraham found himself in conflict with his nephew Lot over access to grazing (Genesis 13). Abraham was rich, and as patriarch could have demanded that his herds get the best. Instead, he chose generosity.

“Let there be no strife between your herders and my herders,” Abraham told Lot, “for we are kindred. Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

Hearing such a gracious offer, one might expect Lot to defer to his uncle. But Lot looked eastward and saw that the “plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” (where the Nile River creates a long, lush ribbon of agricultural land).

Genesis says Lot “chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan.” Abraham settled in Canaan, the drier highlands, while his nephew went to the far side of the valley and set up camp near Sodom.

Today travelers along eastern edges of highlands in the West Bank can look down across green vegetation in the Jordan valley below. On the far side of the valley, just before the mountains, there is an unexcavated tel (archeological mound) that may contain ruins of ancient Sodom. There Lot settled after helping himself to what appeared to be the best land when Abraham the peacemaker made that possible.

Modern social theory identifies five negotiation styles in conflict: 1) compete (I win/you lose), 2) accommodate (you win/I lose), 3) avoid (I lose/you lose), 4) compromise (I win some/lose some, you win some/lose some), and 5) collaborate (I win/you win). In this conflict with Lot, Abraham accommodated.

A University of Notre Dame website says “Giving in or accommodating the other party requires a lot of cooperation and little courage. . . This style might be viewed as letting the other party have his way. While this style can lead to making peace and moving forward, it can also lead to the accommodator feeling resentment.”

Yes, that is a hazard. But after Lot and Abraham parted, Abraham rescued his nephew when he was abducted (Gen. 14), and later pleaded (unsuccessfully) with God to spare the city of Sodom, where Lot lived (Gen. 18). There is no hint of resentment in these actions of Abraham, but neither is there evidence that the accommodating and rescuing he did issued in a close bond between him and Lot.

But by taking generous initiative for a peaceful solution with Lot, Abraham was not burdened with bitterness. I admire his willingness to share with Lot and even accept loss to keep peace. Sometimes accommodation, or going the second mile (Matt. 5:41), is the best strategy in conflict. Abraham had faith in God’s call, and confidence that God would be good on the promise to bless him and his descendants with land and abundance.

© 2017  J. Nelson Kraybill ****************************************IMG_0425

Come with my wife Ellen and me on a Peace Pilgrim walk in Galilee and Jerusalem—an active tour accessible even to non-athletes like myself. Dates are May 14-25, 2018. We will walk parts of the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum. Details are still pending but we likely also will hike at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus took the disciples on retreat in the foothills of Mt Hermon. At Jerusalem we will walk the city walls, trace the triumphal entry route, and more. Interested? See https://www.tourmagination.com/tour/holy-land-peace-pilgrim-walk-jesus/