Crossing the Nile

4:30 AM Tuesday morning.

Yesterday we boarded a small boat for the first cruise of our lives. (Well, I did a three day high school graduation trip out of Miami, but that’s a lifetime ago).

The motors of the SunBoat III are just coming to life.  With dawn approaching, we thought we might as well come to life too.  It is a brisk breeze when we come to the top deck. While we are only cruising at about 5-7 miles/hour, you will have to be quick to pay attention to the unfolding life along the river bank. There is so much happening.

While the motor putters along, the chickens and roosters call their constituents to the day. Soon they are echoed by the minarets rousing the faithful. Those who live off the river however, are already on the job.  Men in their fishing boats, rice workers in the paddies clustered in the marshes that appear randomly.  Workers up and down the bank – in banana, sugar cane and wheat fields.

About 20 miles north we see a Greek Orthodox church rise from the left bank. Her two steeples adorned with crosses proclaim the message others find the most offensive: the death of Jesus. Twice I n the past weeks I’ve had deeper conversations about the essential messages of our respective faiths. And twice it has come down to the cross.  As one of our acquaintances put it, “We like Jesus very much. But we don’t believe Allah would will him to die.”

It’s all about the death and resurrection of Christ. Listening to my friend’s comment reminded me that this “foolishness of the cross” as Paul put it is the only message we have. In its entirety.

The cross being not only the destination but the way to the destination. The cross as a way of life and a mode of practice. The cross as the orientation to others and to God. The cross revealing the lengths to which God will show God’s love for the world. The cross as the one thing Jesus told his followers to pick up and hold onto every day of their lives.

It’s pretty easy to comment on the violence of another person’s faith. I’ve been doing that most of my life. The last few weeks as I’ve heard Christianity expressed through the mouths of others I’ve been awakened to the violence I have wielded in defense of my own faith.As the sun rises on this new day I rededicate myself to the Prince of Peace and resolve to take up my own cross and follow him.

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