Tuesday, December 14, 2010

River from the Temple

December 14, 2010

Despite the fact that winter is still officially four days away, the weather here in the Sacramento Valley has been gray, overcast, and cold. A friend of mine says it's perfect for fishing for steelheads. I say it's far too cold to go out in 40-degree water for fish I could find at the supermarket.

Those in the Midwest and East, however, might well scoff at us out here on the Left Coast with our thin blood and mild temps, given the pounding they've taken over the past week. I mean really? The collapse of the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome calls up an image of End Times without even trying. In case you haven't watched it more than 100 times by now, it's here (plus about a million other places you can find) http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Unbelievable-video-of-Metrodome-collapse-from-in?urn=nfl-294816.

Armageddon, the sports writer called it. Nonsense. It's only heavy snowfall, pure and simple, just the kind of thing that reveals us Californians to be climatically wimpy compared to places that get four actual seasons of weather. It's just a call for engineers to think about a better dome.

If we think at all about End Times, one thing we have to realize is that they're not all about destruction. The prophet Ezekiel writes about End Times related to the river of life in the Hebrew Bible. A selected portion of this poetic book follows. Imagine if you encountered a river teeming with every kind of life-would it be how you imagine Armageddon?

Prayer: "Heavenly One, keep me open to the healing only you can bring, while remaining compassionate to those who only see you as a judgmental God. Amen."

Ezekiel 47:6-12 (The Message)

6-7 He said, "Son of man, have you had a good look?"

Then he took me back to the riverbank. While sitting on the bank, I noticed a lot of trees on both sides of the river.

8-10 He told me, "This water flows east, descends to the Arabah and then into the sea, the sea of stagnant waters. When it empties into those waters, the sea will become fresh. Wherever the river flows, life will flourish—great schools of fish—because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen will stand shoulder to shoulder along the shore from En-gedi all the way north to En-eglaim, casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds, like the fish of the Great Mediterranean.

11 "The swamps and marshes won't become fresh. They'll stay salty.

12 "But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won't wither, the fruit won't fail. Every month they'll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."

How unexpected it would be if a local river joined the sea and turned the sea into fresh water. Yet that is exactly what the river flowing out of the Temple to the Dead Sea was capable of doing. It reversed the deadly saltiness of the sea and produced healing fruit on its banks. The early Christians had similar symbolism; the river of life flowed from the throne of God.

Not everyone can get the message. My friend looks out at this weather and thinks it's time to go fishing. I look out and think it's a great season to remain warm and dry indoors. A football stadium roof fails, and one person says it's like doomsday. Many others just think it's time to re-engineer the roof. Likewise, some people read the Bible and see clear signs of destruction at every turn, in every prediction. Many others understand the blessed omens floating like leaves on the river of life's current.

There are hundreds of ways in which we experience healing in this human existence, only a very few of which are visible or tangible. Some will find it hanging out on Solomon's Porch with friends(see older posts) while others will find it in solitary Bible study. But Ezekiel tips us off that the river of life is there for all of us.

Prayer: "Great and loving God, your word is miraculous in its healing for those who truly trust you. For those who are skeptical, for those who laugh at believers, we ask that we may be emboldened to share the narrative of our own healing that they may experience the same joy. Amen."

Blessings as we dance in the river!

Further readings:

Psalm 42

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Jude 17-25

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