Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rejected, not because he was missunderstood, but because they were afraid of what they understood! Having the courage to tell it like it is.

So much of the Gospel of Christ has to do with economics. I'm not talking about the thieves who appear on TV telling us that if we give to their ministry, or a particular cause, that we will be healed, or God will prosper us.

No, what I am talking about is God's economy for the world. The word economics comes from the root Greek word, oikonume which means 'the management of a household'. In short, the kind of economics that we find in the Bible is about managing the resources of the whole of God's family so that no one has too much, and no one has too little. It means, in essence, that if you wish to have the freedom to 'have more', then you also need to bear the responsibility of 'doing more' with that freedom. This economy was central to the teaching of Jesus.

Let me say, to others and to myself, a great deal will be expected from the wealthy!

Today in our morning devotions, Andile Sinandile led us in a reading of Luke 4:14-28 which is entitled the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth. Many of us will know the passage well, it tells of how Jesus goes to his 'home Church', the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, and there he is given the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah to read. He applies the role of the promised Messiah to himself, as one who would bring freedom, healing, deliverance, and economic empowerment. The passage leads the reader through an emotional cycle of rejection... We so often focus on the content and thrust of the ministry of Jesus, but we must remember that in Luke's narrative it aims to show that, AS WELL AS, the reasons why Jesus was rejected by the pious and religious people of his time.

What struck me as I read this text today was that there is a movement that is quite commonly observable in many honest communities:

  • It starts out with what I call the 'honeymoon phase' - I have experienced this in many relationships and communities. People are nice, they think that you're the best thing since sliced bread. Sadly, it is often because they don't know the real 'you' yet. In my case it is often because people have heard something about me from elsewhere (perhaps a radio program, an article or a book I wrote, or someone who heard me speak at a Church or gathering). They like THEIR image of who they think I am... But that is not me.
  • Next comes the point where 'truth telling' starts. Jesus reads the scriptures, that they had heard read many, many, many, times before. But, he reads them with a freshness of insight and challenge that innitially makes people say "wow, that's different..." This is the start of their discovery of the Truth. Suddenly as the truth dawns upon them, and THEIR image of Jesus (i.e., the son of Joseph) is challenged by the REAL JESUS, they begin to feel uncomfortable...
  • Last, there comes the uneasy and difficult step of managing rejection... Of course whilst there will always be people who find the truth unpalatable, there are, also, thankfully those who discover something meaningful, worthwhile, and life changing in the truth.
Don't get me wrong, not every 'prophet' who is rejected by a community is a 'prophet of honour'. Some people do need to be set right, as I have often do. However, the point here is that if like Christ you are living the truth by being in community, as Jesus was in the synagogue (and not a false sense of community that smiles while thinking and saying all sorts of false things), and you're sharing the truth of God's liberating Gospel, as Jesus did from scripture, then don't be afraid to face opposition for the sake of Christ.

Take heart! Fight for the weak, speak up for the silenced, and work for the 'household of God'. I think Jesus was rejected because of his economy, it was not popular for people to hear that they needed to make some changes so that ALL of God's children could share in the love and blessing of God... It is still not a popular message today!

Do you realise (if you read Luke 14:28) that Jesus almost lost his life that day? Way before he was crucified the religious and pious people of his home town almost threw him off a cliff... Real ministry, the kind of ministry that transforms society to reflect the will of God is dangerous! There are those who fear prophets like Jesus - there are those who hate to get to know 'the real you', and would rather throw you off a cliff than encounter the truth.

I have experienced this again today as I received a threatening, and scathing, letter from a vigilant member of our Church (I say, 'our' because we are together in our devotion to Christ). This person does not know me, but he has learned about my desire to have the Church be open, inclusive, and affirmed to all people, the poor, the rich, and what he can't stand, the straight, and the gay...

Perhaps I am misguided, but I am committed to radical Gospel, a Gospel that is life giving, a Gospel of economics, and politics, the Gospel of Christ. It's a dangerous commitment.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bishop Ivan Abrahams' plenary paper at the Oxford Institute

Bp Ivan Abrahams, the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, delivered the following challenging paper entitled "A different world is possible: Positioning the Church in the 21st century".

The paper argues that globalisation, macro economics, and neo-liberal economics are a new form of slavery for the two third's world. He presents a Wesleyan theology as a critique of these policies of enslavement and domination.

The paper is very well researched, it offers a creative and engaging perspective on the strategies of enslavement, and some clear and helpful theological suggestions on how to overcome this tyranny. I will confess that I am very proud to be a South African Methodist! Our Presiding Bishop has represented us with courage and honour.

I have a second audio file that contains comments and feedback from participants of the conference. If you would like a copy of that please drop me a line.

The Podcast is in the MP3 format and is over an hour long (30mb). Please click the title below download the MP3 file.

Bp Abrahams paper at the Oxford Institute 2007

I would love to hear your feedback and any comments.

Regards from glorious Christ Church in Oxford! Dion

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