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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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cross post - Does religion improve society? Here's what I think.

Richard, who has the blog memoirs of an ex-Christian (which is a sensitive, well reasoned, and challenging read!) posed this question:

Does religion improve a nation?s well-being?

Here's my response to his question... A little scattered, I confess, but it should give some idea of where I stand:

Hi Kevin,

I have often considered this same point myself... I am of the mind that whilst all religion does have some moral effect [on society] it does not, in and of itself, bring about positive change.

Hitler, after all, used the church in Germany, as did the South African apartheid government here in SA (as you point out). Then of course there are more strongly moral orientations in faiths such as Islam with Islamic law. I would certainly not consider some of the human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of Sharia law, or Christian fundamentalism, as [being] for the good of society, of even within the will of God.

To my mind, though, whilst I don't think that religion should get mixed up with 'party politics', any religious ideal is fundamentally political in that it seeks to address the manner in which people relate to one another, structure their lives, and interact to form community.

I had the good fortune of being a white Christian minister who lived and ministered in a black South African township before 1994. So much of what I did could be considered 'political' in nature - in fact many of the people in the small (wealthy) white Church that I also served in the area left because they thought I was confusing politics with religion. However, if you read my blog you will find that I still attempt to be as critical and prophetic of the new regime as I was of the old... It is not the party that I am wishing to address, but rather, that I have fundamental religious conviction that the world should be structured in such a manner that no one has too much, while no one has too little. That all persons, regardless of race, gender, age, economic, or health status, sexual orientation, or faith conviction, should have the joy of living life in peace, harmony and blessing.

Personally, I believe that these are the values of the Gospel of Christ's Kingdom - these are radical values that scare many who only live for individual gain, and hedonistic fulfillment. Heck, the even scare me!

So, would I vote for a Christian political party - no, I would not. Then again, I also wouldn't vote for a Muslim, Hindu, or any other overtly religious party.

Sadly though, I have double standards. I have voted, many times now, for the ANC who consider themselves to be engaged in 'secular spirituality' (i.e., finding and creating transcendent meaning by secular means...) Do a search for Cedric Mason, himself a Methodist Minister, who heads up the ANC's religious desk.

Thanks for another incredibly thought provoking post!



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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A challenge from Ray Chung's blog - high idealism, low follow through.

This evening Ray commented on the previous thread in this blog. Thanks Ray! He also sent me a link to his blog. I went and took a look and found this incredible quote from Glenn Packiam - it challenged me!

"We're obsessed with beginnings - the start of a new project, a new relationship, a new book. Everybody wants to start a revolution; but nobody wants to fight to the last man standing. We long to be extraordinary, to be remembered long after we're gone, to be part of something greater than ourselves, to leave a legacy; yet we don't want to go to work on Monday morning."

What do you think? I tend to agree. Idealism in the contemporary Church is high, but follow through and the commitment to make the ideal (i.e., God's Kingdom of grace, justice, mercy and equity) a reality, is not quite so high.

Thanks Ray!

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