Israel/Palestine, Part 3

Posted by Dan Cook on 05/10/17 @ 10:21 AM

The Global Immersion Project cultivates everyday peacemakers by educating through immersive experiences within the framework of four interconnected concepts:

See, Immerse, Contend, and Restore.

SEE: What I Saw At The Western Wall

After dinner on our first night in Jerusalem, a handful of us took a walk through The Old City with Jer and ended up at the Western Wall (known in the West as The Wailing Wall). It was a few hours after Sabbath had ended, and I was surprised at how many people were there at 9 or 10 in the evening. Jer explained that men and women had to worship separately and were divided by a fence. One corner of the wall is supposedly on the other side of where the Holy of Holies was before the temple was destroyed and according to Judaism, this is the most holy spot on the planet. Women are not allowed access to this spot because it is on the men's side. I found myself automatically forming judgments about the people making all these rules. It struck me as a microcosm for so many other issues plaguing this country where those in power enforce rules to keep those not in power under their boot heels. But I'm getting ahead of myself in the story of this week.

Still feeling a little cynical, I learned that the remaining structure of the wall wasn't even a part of the destroyed temple, but only the remnants of the wall that Herod had built surrounding the temple. I thought to myself, "why should these stones hold any power?" I felt a little underwhelmed by it all.

The next day we took our official tour of The Old City with the rest of the group and we visited the wall again. Hundreds of tourists scurried this way and that to see the world famous structure. Jews were interspersed among them, practicing their faith in a tangible way-by approaching the wall and uttering their prayers and expressing their sorrows. Then we had the opportunity to approach the wall ourselves. I made my way through the crowd of women and waited for an opening to appear. A sense of reverence descended upon me the closer I came to the wall. When my turn came, I stepped forward and placed my hand on the stones warmed by the sun. Immediately a wave of emotion rushed over me and I burst into tears. I suddenly felt the pain of the people living in this land - their struggles through persecution, displacement, and occupation. What I expected to be an interesting historical experience transformed into something deeply intimate and profound. Women were praying and weeping around me and I felt connected to them. I found myself asking God to "break my heart for what breaks yours." I wanted my heart to remain open and my eyes to see what I might otherwise miss.

Little did I know what this prayer would set into motion for the days to come. To be continued!


Israel/Palestine Trip, Part 2

Posted by Dan Cook on 05/09/17 @ 3:46 PM

We've got another post from our friends in Israel/Palestine as part of the Global Immersion Project trip!

Please keep them in your prayers and appreciate reading about what they're learning and experiencing.

This post is from our friend, Sherry Lee!

 

Hello Dear Friends,

It's only Tuesday and it already feels like we've been here a week. We've met with some amazing peacemakers on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and fallen in love with all. I may not agree with all of their beliefs, but I agree with their hearts, which are open and tender towards the "other."

On Sunday, our first day, we walked around Jerusalem visiting some of the holy sights that are important to both Jewish and Christian faiths. After we went to a restaurant with a lovely rooftop garden where we met with Sheikh Ihab. What a delight! One couldn't help seeing the sparkle in his eyes and hear the love for Allah in his voice when he spoke. His interaction with everyone was so genuine and real. He was willing to answer any question and when asked about America's perception of Islam, he asked our forgiveness around the fact that Muslims had not done a good enough job of representing their religion.

During our conversation we heard gun shots in the distance. We later found out that a young Palestinian 16 yr old girl had been shot at the Damascus Gate, not far from where we were. We checked the news feed and twitter to find out what happened and realized we my never know, because of differing accounts. We may never know the truth. 

As peacemakers, this morning we chose to get up and walk to Damascus Gate in honor of Fatima Hjeiji. We stood and quietly said a few prayers to honor a young girl. There were no flowers laying where she died. Everything had been erased as if nothing happened. No one stopped and hesitated if for a second to remember her, because if they did, they could be in trouble too. I pray that somehow her life will impact others as they try to reconcile her death.

With hope, 

Sherry Lee

 

Israel/Palestine Trip

Posted by Dan Cook on 05/07/17 @ 7:47 PM

Hello Genesis!

Our friends on the Global Immersion Project trip to Israel/Palestine are kind enough to send back some blogs on what they're seeing, learning and experiencing in the Holy Land.

We hope you'll keep these folks in your prayers and enjoy experiencing things through their words.

This first post is from Molly McDonnell.

-Dan Cook

 

What do you do at 3:36a when you can't sleep? You blog. :)

The streets of Tel Aviv were alive and vibrating on a Friday night with swarms of people out and about having a good time. Car horns honk frequently because someone attempted to cross the road when the signal wasn't in their favor or the individual in the car ahead of them stopped and started backing up the street (true story) or they simply weren't getting on the gas fast enough when the light turned green or you're saying hi to someone you know. There are loads of reasons to honk your horn here. It's an accessory and it's meant to be used. I know this because we slept with our window open vs using the air conditioning (personally I won't be doing that again). Ear plugs help. Thank you Sara.

Breakfast at the hotel was AMAZING yogurt and granola (my fav) and the most delicious coffee I've had since I was in Spain in college. I'm getting me some more of that! I walked the city streets. Everything was closed, it was Shabbat. Highly observed until 6p. It was fun to see they way people live. Very similar to how we do. For example, a young boy was arguing with his father about getting in the car to go somewhere. Either he wasn't happy about sitting in the back or he wanted to, i couldn't tell. The look on his father's face was like, 'what is your deal!? Just get in the car already.' And he patiently stood there and waited as the meltdown happened. Sound familiar? I chuckled to myself. Some things are universal.

Lunch on the beach after checking out, because that's what you do when you are in Tel Aviv. You also share food because several people order the same thing and someone's order doesn't come. It happens. Especially when English isn't your first language and you have 10 people asking you questions. The food was good. 

Off to the beach, because EVERYONE goes to the beach on Shabbat. Everyone. I actually saw people using that air mattress thing that is advertised on Facebook. They seem to work quite well, I might get one when im back in the states. Heidi and I were the only ones to go in the Mediterranean Sea. Salty, sticky, and full of sand? Yep. That's how I roll. You only live once. My salt bath was free and refreshing. 

Off to Jerusalem to connect up with Jer and Catherine. The adventure begins. It can be summed up by the lessons learned. 1) a Sherut is not a bus and it's not a taxi, it's in a category all on its own, so if you want to take one, call it by its given name; 2) know ahead of time where you are going and how you are planning to get there, because when your large group gets separated-you better know your stuff or a few miles touring the bus station might just be on your agenda; 3) get an international data plan because although wifi is prevalent in Israel, you can't connect without presumably signing in but the page is entirely in Hebrew (so maybe you don't sign in? How do you create an account? I thought it was free!!?? So confusing.) 4) wait for your people and trust they are waiting and looking for you. Or have a designated waiting spot - even better if such a thing can be planned. Because when you're being heckled at by taxi drivers who are very convincing that the only way to get to Jerusalem is in their vehicle, it's stressful keeping your wits and the true end goal in mind ("find rest of group, take Sherut to Jerusalem"). 5) when all else fails, call Jer. He knows everything and is the central hub of information. He's been here done that. 6) they do not read backwards, you do; 7) laugh. Always laugh. It relieves stress and lets face it, there is comedy in this situation. 8) If you send a group of people to a foreign country where no one speaks the language, you inevitably learn conflict resolution. They don't call it "Global Immersion" for nothing! 

We eventually all made it to Jerusalem. We eventually connected with the other part of our group and the larger group as a whole. All was right in the world again. 

Dinner in the old city after sharing some wine and telling stories, getting to know the non-Genesis members of our group. And off to bed we went, it was a full day. (More about the old city tomorrow.) We are starting at 8a SHARP. Time to attempt sleep again - 2 hrs left in this night.

 

Micah 6:8

Posted by Dan Cook on 01/29/17 @ 11:30 PM

What a weekend at Genesis, eh?

It’s been a mind-boggling couple of weeks and life doesn’t show any signs of getting *less* crazy.  So it filled my heart to hear Steve Wiens’ reassuring words, bringing a very modern context to the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.

I hope his message reached your soul the way it did mine!

I’d also like to shine a light on another Lectionary reading from this week, namely Micah 6:1-8.

A lot of us are wondering what to do, and how to respond to the political and societal ground shifting beneath our feet on a seemingly daily basis.

There are no easy answers, but perhaps this section of Micah - specifically verse 8 - gives us a starting point.

The entirety of the passage entails the Lord calling his people to account.  He asks, “What have I done to you” and “In what have I wearied you?” (v.3) completing something of a guilt-trip by going on to list all He’s done for His people: bringing them out of Egypt, ending their bondage, sending them great leaders and preventing them from being cursed by enemies.

But it is Israel's response that interests me in our current context.

Instead of pleading their case, they simply ask a version of the question many of us are currently asking: what shall we do?

In v.6 the poet quotes Israel asking, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?”  In v. 7 Israel lists several options of offerings: calves, rams, oil, even their firstborn.

But it it’s in v.8 that God tells them - and reasonably by extension, us - that they’re using entirely the wrong paradigm.

When we ask, “what shall we do” in our current socio-political climate, it seems the focus since the inauguration is on responding to the administration.  And while that notion shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, there’s another paradigm that should be considered.

When Israel asks “With what shall I come before the Lord…” the answer comes in verse 8: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you by to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”

In other words, the question isn’t what Israel should be bringing to God, but rather how Israel should be bringing God to each other.

So it may be the case that our question shouldn’t be “what protestation shall we bring to the government” but instead “how can we bring God to each other in response to the government’s actions?”

Are we doing justice?  Are we, as Walter Brueggemann suggests in the commentary “Texts for Preaching”, helping to bring power to the powerless, correcting systematic inequalities, and refusing to marginalize others for our own enhancement?

Are we loving kindness?  Not just in the simplest sense of the word, but in a true covenantal sense.  Do we have skin in the game such that when members of our society are oppressed, we feel the weight of that along with them, and make sure they know they are not alone?

Are we walking humbly with God?  Knowing that however we choose to respond, we have not the power to do so unaided?  That only with God’s wisdom, grace and mercy can we help to facilitate meaningful and lasting peace?

Marches, speeches and social media movements matter.  They have weight.  They have meaning.

But along with them, Micah 6:8 reminds us that our interpersonal actions matter just as much, if not more.

 

Grace and peace to you all.

Have a good week!



Psalm 146:5-10

Posted by Dan Cook on 12/08/16 @ 12:03 AM

Steve has preached it repeatedly: Advent is a time for waiting.  

 

But what do we do while we wait?

 

The season of Advent gives us time to reflect on the character of God.  

 

What kind of LORD do we worship?  How does He present Himself to us?  How does He prioritize His actions in the world?  Where and how does He choose to expend his divine energy?

 

Psalm 146:5-10 from this week's Lectionary passages gives us an idea.

 

In verse 7 we read that God “executes justice for the oppressed”, “gives food to the hungry”, and “sets the prisoners free”.

 

God cares most for those whom society has marginalized, set aside, and in so doing, has given itself permission to ignore.

 

In verse 8 we read that God “opens the eyes of the blind” and “lifts up those who are bowed down”.

 

God cares most for those who have been robbed of sight - both literally and spiritually - and for those whom life has worn down to the point where they no longer bother to look.

 

In verse 9 we read that God “watches over strangers” and “upholds the orphan and the widow”.

 

God cares most for those who are made to feel unwelcome and for those who lack the familial support that so many of us take for granted.

 

But perhaps we shouldn’t limit our reflection only to God.  Maybe reflecting on God’s character can lead us to reflect on our own.

 

Given that we’re created in the image of God, aligning our character with His is likely the most efficient path towards being rightly-related - i.e. righteous - towards God.

 

So if God cares about the oppressed, the hungry and the imprisoned, shouldn’t we?  How are we as faithful followers battling injustice, reducing hunger and freeing the wrongly-accused?

 

If God cares about the blind and the burdened, shouldn’t we?  How are we as disciples of Christ aiding the infirm and helping to guide those in search of God’s grace towards their goal?

 

If God cares about the strangers, orphans and widows, shouldn’t we?  How are we as children of God welcoming new arrivals to our family and aiding the members of our family who’ve lost members of their own?

 

None of that work is easy, and we’ll likely fail as much as we succeed.  But there is always hope and support in God.

 

A hope that is spelled out in verse 10:

 

“The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!”

 

And so we wait… and we reflect.

 

Amen.

 
 
 

 

This Week's Sermon...

Posted by Dan Cook on 10/30/16 @ 12:48 PM

 “What gets in the way of your righteousness is what you're attached to...”

  - Steve Wiens

 

 

I don't know about you folks, but that's the line that jumped out of this week's sermon for me.

 

It immediately stirred up questions about what I'm attached to. What are the things that I look to for reassurance or comfort? Why am I looking to those things first before turning to God? And perhaps the biggest challenge... why are those things so difficult to give up?

 

It's said that our sense of security and self-worth should come from God and God alone, right? So why is that so difficult to trust? Why is it so easy to say, yet when the chips are down and our health/well-being or simple creature-comforts are on the line, it become so hard to put into actual practice?

 

I don't pretend to have answers to those questions. The only thing I'm fairly certain of is that there AREN'T any simple answers to them.

 

And that's true with so many things when it comes to God. The only simple thing about God is His boundless and freely-offered love. Beyond that, things get real complex, real quick!

 

But there's often beauty in complexity. And it's in peeling back the layers and truly trying to understand what it means to be an ordinary follower of Jesus that we find the kind of hope and trust that allows us to let go of the things we're attached to and focus on being rightly-related to God (i.e. to find our righteousness).

 

 

And that's just a sliver of what Steve preached about this week. There was so much more there to think on and pray about.

 

So what grabbed you?

 

We'd love it if you shared with the rest of the community! You can even do so anonymously if you'd prefer!

 

 

We hope you find grace and peace as you move through your week.

 

See you next Sunday!

 

 

 

Welcome to the Genesis Blog!

Posted by Dan Cook on 10/19/16 @ 10:48 PM

Thanks for taking a moment to check out the blog here at Genesiscov.org!

 

We have a lot of fun ideas on what this blog could be, but more than anything we want it to be a place where our community can share thoughts, feelings and experiences with each other!

 

Whether that's a reaction to a sermon, an idea for ministry opportunities, or reflections on life in general, the blog can be a place for all of us to communicate with each other.

 

Personally, I want to take a quick moment to thank everyone who was at Genesis on Marathon Sunday. It was awesome to see all the pictures and posts from folks out at the Twin Cities Marathon – and congrats to Team World Vision on raising such an impressive sum of money! - but it was equally as awesome to spend time worshiping and praising God at Genesis!

 

I've tried, but failed to find the words to adequately express what a blessing it is to have the opportunities I've had to speak to you all, and I hope to get the opportunity to do so again in the future.

 

Thanks to all of you who spoke with me after. Your kind words and encouragement were amazing!

 

It knocks me out just to have the opportunity to speak, but to know that some of the things I've said have really landed with people is an incredible feeling!

 

God has blessed me so much, and has blessed all of us with this beautiful, quirky, unique and special community.

 

I hope everybody enjoyed the vacation last weekend and we'll see you back at Genesis on Sunday!

 

 

 

-Dan

 

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