Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Muse Upon Amman

Some initial impressions of my arrival to Amman:

I am amazed at how westernized this city is (at least the few parts that I have seen). I knew from reading that Amman has progressed greatly beyond much of the two-thirds world, but I did not expect it to be like a walk through The Summit or Brookwood Mall. Across the street from our Guest House is the California based Safeway store. They operate mainly in the West, Rocky Mountain, and Mid-Atlantic states but have over 1700 locations in the US alone. They operate the Randall and Tom Thumb brands in Texas if you might be familiar with them. For those not, Safeway is like a supped up Wal-Mart. You thought that was Target? Keep supping. This has a full blown grocery store on one level and electronics, appliances, furniture, clothing, etc. below. Like Wal-Mart and Target – just bigger and better. It also has a fine restaurant with coffee and juice bar. This is not what I was expecting in a two-thirds world country.

Just down the road and around the corner is an outdoor lifestyle center mall. This is the Summit on steroids. High end retailers galore and many open-air restaurants line this shopper’s paradise and provide yet another surprise for this westerner in the Middle East. No one is dressed shabbily in this area but decked out in designer jeans and chic footwear. Many of the women are dressed in head coverings, but they are the type that would make a derby wearer in Kentucky jealous. Gleaming with color and varying in texture from the head up many of these women are Muslim, from the shoulders down they have just stepped out of Vogue magazine. It’s an interesting compilation. Many women do not wear the headdress at all and I have yet to ascertain if this says anything of their status or relationship with Islam.

The people seem very warm and friendly and forgiving of the language barrier. Many speak English but many do not which would lead me to believe that it may be an optional course of study in school. Given the generally negative opinion of the West by many in the region, it has been comforting to know that (at least in our presence) we have not openly rejected. I may have a different perspective after we visit the Al Hussani Mosque tomorrow (aka King Hussein Mosque).

This is the desert. It is 95 degrees in the daytime. At night, I am cold. I made the conscious decision not to bring a jacket to the Hashemite Kingdom. Wrong decision!! On our walk home from dinner this evening I was shivering and inundated with goose bumps. During the day there has been a slight breeze that makes 95 degrees (with no humidity) feel like 75. It is wonderful to say the least. It is only supposed to be in the mid-80s the rest of this week...I might need to buy a jacket! There is a 0 percent chance of rain until August which is part of the reason that this is a “water poor” country.

See Amman Weather Here.

During chapel this morning, the gentleman who was leading the devotion preached (in Arabic with a translator for us) from Mat 4:23-5:12. It was a wonderful sound to hear the local believers read The Beatitudes together in Arabic. But the preacher focused on the earlier parts of this section of Scripture. First, there was a clear emphasis to these believers that they could identify with Mat 4:25: “And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” Here we were, “beyond the Jordan,” surrounded by a group of followers who together form a crowd that mirrors the description Matthew gives us.

The speaker then moved on to discuss the blessedness of the one who knows of his own poverty. He made a clear distinction between economic poverty and spiritual poverty. He noted that Jesus’ concern was for those who knew they were morally and spiritually bankrupt knowing that they had nothing to come to him to offer that could considered an equal exchange for their salvation. Jesus then and now desires that we maintain our poverty. When we come to the point that we believe we have enough to do without Jesus, we no longer hold to the poverty of the blessed ones. The speaker pointed out that when we think we have had enough Scripture teaching, theological training, or moral disciplining and we surmise that we can now “move on from Jesus” we are sorely mistaken. It is at this point that we find ourselves further from the cross and nearer to our own security which is really of no security or substance whatsoever. This was a passionate and personal plea offered by the preacher “to continue the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Col 1:23).

He then (brilliantly I might add), connected the blessedness of the one knowing his own poverty before the Lord with the blessedness of the one who is “persecuted for righteousness' sake” (Mat 5:10). This one who is persecuted for righteousness’ sake will be the one who knows his own poverty for the one who knows not his own poverty may suffer for wrongdoing (as discussed in 1 Pet 2:19-25) but this is not suffering for righteousness’’ sake. This is suffering for his own sinfulness which he is unaware of, because in his mind he is rich and does not need to recognize his poverty before the Lord. As I sat and listened, I looked around to the men and women who have forsaken all others because of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These have acknowledged their poverty before the Lord and called upon his riches for an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for them (1 Pet 1:4). These also have suffered persecutions for righteousness’ sake. This persecution has come at the hands of family members, the state, and the society.

This is how I would describe my first impressions of biblical Christianity being practiced by our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Yet they have embraced this life with joy because he is the Joy that is set before them (Heb 12:2), in fact, their “exceeding joy” (Psa 43:3-4) by whom many have found themselves surprised. It is only in the economy of the gospel that one can become rich by becoming poor, and by becoming poor one can become rich.

SDG from Amman
كل المجد إلى حسن مستقل

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