"Blessed Are They upon God's Holy Mountain": Reflections on Luke 6:17-26

Article excerpt

The early '60s model bus moans across the scorched and desolate African landscape. No life here. The tall grass is withered and brown. Dust hangs in the air making each breath an exercise in endurance. The road, hardly a road, suddenly descends into a dried-out riverbed where women toting children on their backs and buckets on their heads scratch and claw at the surface in search of water.

Ahh, but this is a sign of life...they weren't there before...we must be nearing the village!

Traveling for about six hours, crammed into this small, hot, broken-down vehicle, is almost more than I can stand. My mouth is parched, and I am wearing most of the red clay dirt from the surrounding landscape. These God-forsaken roads are treacherous. We fear each bump as it seems to spell certain doom to our sad little bus. Looking around at my fellow weary travelers, our diverse group makes my mind wander. We are a gospel choir with adults and children. We are American Americans, Euro Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans, yet we are all rich Americans by African standards.

Somehow one of the two children on our trip is asleep to my right, head bobbing and drooling all over her open journal. My fellow tenor section partner has his headphones blaring Dexy and the Midnight Runner's 1980s classic "Come on Eileen," totally oblivious to the fact that we hear it and are now openly questioning his musical taste. The two in front of me are yammering away in an inane conversation about card playing, and my friend in back of me has been praying nonstop since our departure that this "bus" doesn't tip over and blow up in a manner reminiscent of a 1979 episode of ChiPS--and that we won't need to jump the next riverbed like the Dukes of Hazard in the General Lee.

We are climbing higher and higher into the mountains, further away from the city. Nobody goes here by accident...yet the beauty is breathtaking.

The way the mountains emerge from the landscape and are framed by the hazy African July sky as if they are the handiwork of a master painter means only one thing.

God lives here.

This is God's holy mountain, as Psalm 48 proclaims: "God's holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth."

More people are walking down the road now. Dried red mud houses with thatched roofs polka-dot the surrounding field. More signs of life. My boredom and frustration turn to intrigue, as all on the bus straighten up and anxiously look about. Headphones are turned off, and we are uncharacteristically quiet as an electric excitement charges the stale air of our bus. Suddenly, we enter a small village.

We are met by shrieks of joy that no imitator could do justice to. African women run toward us with arms flailing above their heads, singing songs in Swahili and launching into an embrace with each one of us as we get off the bus. We are there no more than five seconds, and we are no longer strangers.

They know who created us. We are children of that same Creator, and we are here to commune with one another on that Creator's front stoop--on God's Holy Mountain.

Sensory overload.

The colors are hypnotizing: the women are adorned with clothes of the deepest blues and purples and scorching reds and yellows. Arm in arm they lead us to the church, a humble, small, four-walled concrete structure with small openings to let light and air in. Upon entering, we encounter a spread of food that is a sight to behold--mounds of spinach, chicken, bananas, potatoes, stew, rice, and several crates of Coca-Cola to quench our parched mouths. We are starved! After a word of thanks is offered, we descend upon the food like a pack of crazed dogs. In this culture, the guests eat first, and then the hosts eat what is left.

We load our plates to the breaking point.

I begin to fill the void of my 220-pound frame with this veritable feast. …