Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pausing, Pondering and the Past

I am holding my favorite coffee cup, the steam rising, watching the snow gently fall with a sense of peace enveloping my moment.  I am resting.  Recouping my strength after a four-week, four-country ministry trip.  Internet access was sketchy which is why I dropped off the radar.  In the quiet, I am reminded....

A couple of weeks ago I spent two and a half hours walking through 6,000 years of history - Armenian history.  Looking at ancient maps, walking amongst broken pottery, rudimentary tools & weapons formed 12 millennia before Christ tends to make you feel just a little bit small in this universe.  I kept thinking, “These were lives lived and died; struggling just to survive; souls created by God living thousands of years ago.”  My mind was whirling as I imagined  them discovering how they could dig out rocks, stones and metals and make a weapon...or a shovel...or even a spoon. When did they realize they needed a lid for a pot?  Even to view the progression of tools, jewelry, eating utensils and dishes over the millenniums was astounding. Their first cart with a wooden wheel made transporting so much easier.   A display held the “first shoe” ever discovered in the world....animal skins/leather formed to fit a foot to protect it from the rocky soil.

 Walking through the halls, we edged further into history, rounding the corner of the ages to when Christ was born.  That first century.  Looking at history being lived out while Jesus walked in Palestine.  The same type of crude dish he may have eaten from; the jewelry worn by women of the day, and yes, again, the weapons used to further man’s struggle for power and their kingdoms.  Over and over again, men fighting for their beliefs, their people.  So many wars, battles and conquests of ancient lands.

Our journey took us from viewing “idols” and ritual altars to the first churches.  The buildings housed for new beliefs. Thaddeus and Bartholomew were the apostles who came to Armenia in that first century after Christ. Christianity being declared the official religion of Armenia in 301 AD.   (St.) Gregory having been imprisoned for years, shared his faith with King Tiradates III and officially introduced Christianity to Armenia.  The alphabet for the Armenian language was written around 387 AD, so the Bible could be written in a language uniting the regions, culture and people of Armenia.

Kings and queens evolving into the presidents and prime ministers of current history.  Deciding what to do with “the Armenians” ? The horrific genocide of the Armenian peoples in 1915 - 1918 from the hands of the Ottoman Empire.  Boundaries shifted, peoples displaced and exterminated.  A quote from someone in the Ottoman leadership “No Armenian people, No Armenian question.”  A black tragedy in the history of this incredible nation and still very much remembered today.  A friend told me “it is the identity of the Armenians...this is who they are...their history.”

 Rounding the last corner into more recent days....World War II,  Stalin, the “liberation” of Armenia by the Russians, Armenia the Republic, the Iron Curtain and communism.  Culminating in the nineties, the fall of the curtain and the independence of the “republics” and Eastern Europe.

My mind was reeling from 6,000 years of history and a people I have grown to love. I felt like I was in a time warp.  Walking the snow covered streets passing adults and children enjoying the afternoon in an ice skating rink, I was transported back to 2014.  Grabbing some Armenian “fast food” (schwarma - similar to a Greek gyro) we hurried to get to a meeting on time where we were privileged to be teaching God’s Word to young, hungry hearts.

I sat and listened to the testimony of a young Armenian woman whom three years ago discovered how much this God of creation loves her.  Her past struggles of survival and rejection in a world that did not recognize her beautiful life and soul.  I was reminded in the vast expanse of thousands of years preceding my own existence...all those lives and history I just walked through, God has never changed.  He has always loved mankind - through the struggles, wars, genocides and our constant turning away.  I looked at stone idols set up through the centuries.  No wonder God got angry in the Old Testament with idols.  His beautiful creation, His awesome world, the stones He created being made into something to worship when HE and HE alone should be the “worshipped One”.  He isn’t sitting in a museum somewhere, cold, grey and forgotten.

As Alisa shared her story of God’s love and forgiveness, her own heart and life being set free when she discovered His fatherheart towards her, my heart rested in knowing that in thousands and thousands of years of history what still matters most is God loving us. Jesus coming for us. Forgiveness. Redemption.  Reconciliation.  Relationship. Freedom.  HE was there in the beginning and HE will be there at the end.

Proverbs 8: 22-31 puts this into perspective :)


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