Build Carefully on The Foundation
1 Corinthians 3:11 reminds us the only Foundation in Life that carries any weight at all is the Foundation of Jesus Christ. All other attempts of buildiing your life on anything else will in its proper time, crumble.
This is an exciting day for me. We are going to a place that holds such precious memories and wonderment. We are going to see St. George’s Monastary which sits along the hillside of the Wadi Quelt. This canyon of stone sits in the middle of the Roman Road which leads from Jericho to Jerusalem. There is a walking path that had existed since before the time of Jesus of which anyone wanting to go from one city to the other would scale along the edge of this canyon to make the journey. This path has been beaten down and widened from it centuries of use by the many who have traveled along the way. It has become solid in its construction.
The same holds true for the Monastary. It has been cut out of the rock face and hewn into a complex, each part carefully situated on top of the other in such a way that is has stood the test of time. When you ask the Brothers who live there what keeps the Monastary alive and strong, they will without hesitation , tell you in one word, “Prayer”. It is their firm belief that Prayer makes all the difference. Talking with God each day gives them an assurance of God’s presence, they are “Blessed” in every situation. They know it is their purpose to be lifting up the world in prayer. They even have some cave that are carved out of the rock next to the Monatary Complex in which some of the Brethern climb in and stay there, praying for the world for the rest of their lives. Sounds like an introvert’s dream retirement. Count me in.
These dedicated souls believe we are all called to have such a strong Foundation in Jesus Christ that, we, too, would be living out each breath as prayer. Moving forward each day in a way thatour confidence would not be shaken in the midst of challenging circumstances and times.
I have spent time in the Monastary, I have claimed my Cave, I have led others, by foot along the trail from St George’s to Jericho; and, I have felt deep within me that God of which they speak. Each time I come here, I feel it again, as if it were for the first time and I do not want to leave. Our guide asks me if I am ready to move on. I tell him if he waits for me to be ready, he will be very old and unable to lead us out of here. But even Jesus said to his disciples when they were on the mountain top with him, they could not stay and relish in the Spirit, for there is much work to be done. So we move on.
We board our bus, which drives us around the Wadi and into Jericho. We find there waiting a Camel ready to give rides. One is our group says that this is on her bucket list of things to do and we immediately make that happen for her. She rides like a pro with the assistance of the Camel’s caretaker. Such joy we see on her face. She takes on this new opportunity with zeal and excitement. Again, the call of God rings in my ear. Oh, that we would all bein such readiness that we would jump on each opportunity and get the most out each experience for as long as that was given to us.
We learn while in the area that this path and city holds among its wall of history stories of faith that impact our lives and journey. We hear the story of the Good Samaritan and see what efforts those did not want to help went to in order to avoid getting involved; and, we see what the Samaritaon went through to make sure the beaten person on the path wass cared for with love and grace. We look up the the mountain’s edge and see a place where Jesus might have taken himself for a time of reflection and growth, a time of challenge and temptation. We hear of his strength drawn from God in order to prepare himself for the life and challenges yet to come. We drive around the town of Jericho and find an old Sycamore Tree and are reminded of the story of Zack who climbed the tree in order to see Jesus. He was then in turn seen by Jesus and his life was changed because of that encounter with Christ. Finally, we drive around the site of Jericho’s Tel and see the layered foundation of city upon city of what has been deamed the Oldest City in the World.
We are later reminded that Joshua followed, in faith, the directions of God and fought the battle of Jericho. He led his forces, under to power of God and in the exact directions of God to conquer without hesitation the might city in front of him. We are called to look to the north and consider the small town of Ai. The place Joshua thought to be of little consequence and challenge only to find that he along with his army were chased away and 35 of his men were killed. When appoached by God as to his defeat, Joshua finds that one of his own had sinned again God and them in the taking of a bar of Gold and Silver. Thus, they were defeated. He does what needs to be done to make atonement with God and returns to conquer Ai. The Foundation we carefully build upon, must be faithful and obedient to God.
The last stop of our site-seeing is to go the the tradition site of Jesus’s Baptism. It is a great day to be there, warm and clear; but, there are so many people. I find it difficult to center myself among the activity and noise. Each of us are encourage and make the most of the opportunity and we gather again at the entrance to move on.
Related to nothing more than our own desires , we go shopping. We stopped at a couple of places in Jericho. We are going to end our day at a couple of shops in Bethlehem. Many of the items we feel wer are looking for are in these two shops. The added bonus to these shops is we know that much of the handwork there is done by local families. All of the sales in these shops go to support up to 15 families living in Bethlehem. It is a little easier letting go of some of money knowing we are supporting others in their livelyhood.
Of a particular interest to me is the family who runs the olive wood shop called, Gloria Investments. This shop is run by a family I have known for almost 20 years. I have seen their 4 children grow and mature. I have seen them grow and mature. This shopping experience is much more about getting a hug from their daught who has run up to me as soon as I got off the bus. The greeting of a kiss and warm welcome of the mother as she waits patiently for me to get to the door. And finally, I hear the voice of one I have come to love and consider my brother, calling, where is Paul, I know you are here. We greet each other and immediately begin to ask questions and catch up on the lives we care about with each other and those left back home.
Again, I am reminded that as we journey together in this life of Christian Witness, it si done with the meeting and intersecting of others whose life and story impact our and ours impacts theirs. We are called to do whatever we can to build carefully on The Foundation that has drawn us together and covenants with us to journey alone each day and with each breath. There in the midst of this little shop I knew if was, again, a moment that took my breath away. I stopped, looked around to catch each sight, sound, smell and cherish each touch so I would not forget. Thanks be to God.
This carefully built Foundation, enables us to faithful move on with joy and excitement. Amen.