Friday, October 24, 2014

The Land of Milk and Honey - The Boy from Khayelitsha - Pierced Flesh

"Go to the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey..."

In scripture, we read of God’s people longing for the promised land—the land flowing with milk and honey. It is God’s kingdom on earth, where the bounty of God is present, where God dwells with God’s people. When we think of the land of milk and honey, we often envision earthly riches, wealth, perfect soil and vineyards—milk and honey and all the modern riches one could ever desire.

As we left Gugulethu, we drove past a place named “the land of milk and honey.”

It was a collection of metal shacks, no running water, and raw sewage filling the streets. It looked like every other impoverished, unnamed settlement on earth. Children running barefoot through the streets, stray dogs lapping up the sewage, a rusted CocaCola sign used as a roof. And it was called The Land of Milk and Honey. Because it is.

We expect to see and find the kingdom of God in the riches of this world, the earthly riches of our lives. Culture teaches us to expect good in wealth. God’s kingdom, the land of milk and honey, is filled with shacks. The promised land—filled not with the bounty of this world, but with the bounty of the kingdom of God, flowing with goat’s milk, freshly poured into a rusted bucket from the animal eating along side the road. Honey, pollinated from flowers growing in a garbage heap. It is a place where we don’t see the riches of this world, thus believing it must be poor. We don’t bother to look for milk and honey, believing it could not possibly be the promised land. But this is The Land of Milk and Honey. It is where we need to look, dwell, be, if we wish to be in the presence of the Divine, drinking deeply from the riches of the kingdom of God.

Pierced Flesh

We spent the afternoon walking through the township of Khayelitsha, a settlement of 500,000 Children of God -- 250,000 living in metal shacks crammed into a few square miles.  Some of the residents have called South Africa home for generations, sent to Khayelitsha, their backs beaten with the whips of Apartheid. Others recently fled Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Congo, looking for a better life, or just for life. Inadequate toilets, overrun with rubbish. Dysentery awaits the children from the waste water, while their mothers and sisters risk brutal rape every time they travel to the toilet.

A 15 month old baby girl, hair braided in intricate cornrows, weaving left and right through her hair, sitting barefoot in the dust, chewing on her rattle--a pop bottle filled with rocks. Small red and white patches on her skin, infection from exposure to waste water.

A 6 year old boy follows us, red and white skin patches, matching his baby sister's. Head shaven, bald spots from ring worm. He limps, his foot red and swollen, wet with moist dust forming to mud on his heel. A splinter piercing a foot. Infected. Raw sewage in the streets. No clean water. A simple childhood splinter becomes potential death.

Our hands don’t touch his bloodied foot. We don’t remove the wood piercing his flesh, pour clean water upon it, apply ointment, bind up the wound. And there are countless pierced feet in Khayelitsha. We don’t have the tools, cannot risk the potential for disease, cannot risk our safety. While we are with leaders from the neighborhood, providing us a level of protection, we are told to stay close together, to keep the tour brief, to only go down the streets designated by our guides. And there are countless pierced feet in Khayelitsha.

Children of God continue to limp with infected, bloodied feet while we silently pass hand sanitizer around to one another on our air conditioned bus. Father Forgive…

And this is why our Lord's foot was pierced, bloodied, immobilized. Wood from the cross splintering off into his bare feet. The dust from Calvary turning to mud as it melds with the blood flowing from his pierced flesh. Our Lord’s skin, torn open by the whip, red patches where the crown of thorns tortured. A splinter that becomes death. A wooden cross, that brings life. Christ's suffering for the sake of the world.

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