Happy Wednesday. Woke up to around7 degrees outside. Wunderground.com says it's 13.6 now and will go to all the way up to 18 today. I keep reminding myself that there are only two more sunrises in the month of February, and after that point it just has to start nudging towards warmer weather. The 9th of March, the 2nd Sunday in March, is also the first day of Daylight Savings Time, which is also a sign of the seasons' changing. I hope. I am also told that the length of day (as opposed to night) is 11 hours 8 minutes today, increasing by 2 minutes 41 by tomorrow. So the equinox is heading this way. I see that in comparison, our old neighborhood in Alabama is at 39 degrees right now, going to 45; our former home in west Arkansas is 31 going to 41, and our most recent home in Tennessee is at 36 going to 39. Obviously, it wasn't the weather that brought us here.
We were part of a get-together last night at a local restaurant. "Local" meaning 20 minutes away in an area I'd never been through. Occasion was for the birthday of Wife's nephew's wife. Not sure what that makes any link to Nicole for me, we'll think of her as niece. This was the sort of family "do" that Dear Wife had been missing so terribly and is a big part of why she yearned to return to the area. And events like this are worth something.
"Restaurants" in this area, outside the chains like Perkins and Waffle House, also have bars in them, and more than a few come in to drink their dinner. Looked like there was some of that going on. Not that I haven't seen it before. Didn't miss not seeing it. But saw a lot of sad faces in the booths and tables. The place -- and the Italian food is VERY good -- is in the middle of a once-booming industrial area on the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. Once was very big in the making of basic steel and steel products. But we drove past miles of abandoned factories, shuttered businesses, abandoned houses, and other houses cut up into small apartments. Describing it as mired in the past and given over to hopelessness and the related syndromes, is not excessive. May be an understatement. I once lived not far from here, in an area containing the mines for the coal that fired the steel furnaces and the electric generators of the utility companies. And which also employed all the people to support all that activity. Now, the basic steel plants are gone, the Fascists in D.C. are forcing the closure of coal-fired electricity generation, and the mines along with the mine workers and the functions that supported all that, are going or gone. Hence the heavy cloud of despair. The area has long had more people of varied ethnic backgrounds than almost anywhere. The sons and daughter -- and grandsons and grand-daughters too -- from all over the world. Greeks here, Poles there, Russians, Puerto Ricans, Irish, Lebanese, Jews, Ukrainians, and many more. In summer particularly, you can find a church festival almost every weekend. Wife has a friend who is half-Chechen. We both know a bunch of Greeks and Poles and Lebanese. And many more. This is like being in the crossroads of the world. Lots of things come here. Sometimes we can send a message back to Beirut or Donegal or Aibonito or Queretaro or Lvov or Lima or Seoul.
Life is more than money. But a stable life, with ties to family and area and friends and place, is worth something. Someone who worked at the plant down the hill for 20 years, in concert with those he's known for years and in a town of his birth, has ties and a sense of place. Now he's drawing an unemployment or welfare check demeaned in his own eyes and the eyes of his own family. Those who he dealt with daily for 20 years he'll only see again, possibly at church, but more likely at the corner bar. Some of these people crawl into a bottle, and never come out. Have seen it many times.
Perhaps that was why we came here. To bring hope.
Continuing the advertisements for the ministry Bridges of Faith in Millbrook, Alabama. (FaceeBook page here). They are a Christian ministry in outreach to orphans in the Ukraine. It's very very much affected, as are the children in that nation, by the tumult going on there. Wasn't a particularly good situation even before, worse now, and my belief is that it will get yet worse. They need our assistance of all kinds, and certainly our prayer support. Go here to volunteer for that last effort.
The Old Testament reading before us today is chapters 16 and 17 of the book of Numbers. All is not well within the people. And not in the hearts of some of the people. Most people in leadership have encountered such things. If you haven't yet, just wait. Note something else as well. There were - and are - consequences for willful disobedience. Not only for those guilty, but often for those close to them, their families included. Including those who were not guilty. The eternal consequences are, I am persuaded, different, but in this world may be essentially the same. Need examples?
Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men.
And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men.
They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
When Moses heard it, he fell on his face,
and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.
“Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company;
“put fire in them and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!”
And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi:
“is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them,
“and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?
“Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”
And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up.
“Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?
“Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”
And Moses was very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them.”
And Moses said to Korah, “Be present, you and all your company, before the Lord, you and they, and Aaron, tomorrow.
“And let every one of you take his censer and put incense on it, and every one of you bring before the Lord his censer, 250 censers; you also, and Aaron, each his censer.”
So every man took his censer and put fire in them and laid incense on them and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron.
Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.
And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
“Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”
And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?”
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Say to the congregation, Get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”
Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him.
And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins.”
So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.
And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.
“If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me.
“But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”
And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart.
And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.
So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”
And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest to take up the censers out of the blaze. Then scatter the fire far and wide, for they have become holy.
“As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the people of Israel.”
So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar,
to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he become like Korah and his company–as the Lord said to him through Moses.
But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.”
And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.
And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting,
and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces.
And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.”
So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people.
And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.
Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah.
And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff,
“and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house.
“Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you.
“And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.”
Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs.
And Moses deposited the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.
On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.”
Thus did Moses; as the Lord commanded him, so he did.
And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone.
“Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”
The New Testament reading continues in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Mark, Verses 33-56. Somehow I think Jesus was getting to be noticed. Ya think?
And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.
And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
And they did all eat, and were filled.
And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,
And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.
And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.