I dream of a movement which leads to the transformation of the church and through that to a demonstration of what a new world could look like. I dream of a church that is one (across our cities that are so divided). Where rich and poor share and there is enough for everyone. I dream of a church involved in the issues our cities and nations face confronting the powers and principalities through loving sacrifice. I believe that this was God’s intent for his church to demonstrate His incredible wisdom to those in power and to the powers. To do this we need models – examples of what the church could be. We need people who will courageously step outside the normal way of doing life into God’s new world because they have shared in God’s dream in their imagination. In all this we need people who will not just write off the old wineskin of meeting-focused-selfish-waiting-for-the-great-evacuation-churchianity but rather we need those who while “taking the log out their own eye” through their prophetic lives and loving encouragement help others to cross over into kingdom living because they believe that there is not only life after death but life before death as well.
Sharing some of our thoughts at the last ISUM in Bangkok.
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Today, feeling a little flu-ish I went off to the Hillbrow clinic to get some treatment. 5 hours later I walked out having gone through all of the processes. You start out in a queue to open a file. This takes about 2 hours. Then you join another 1 and a half hour queue to get you BP and blood sugar (and get an HIV and TB test if you like). Then there is a 30 minute queue to see the sister - the first time you tell anyone why you are there. She wrote out a script on my file and off I went to join my final queue... the pharmacy queue which took another hour and I was given medicine. Apart from one or two instances of being rudely told when and where to stand and sit, most of the staff were quite pleasant and I was kept company by the very engaging Jon Owen in the form of his book which I have not yet finished Muddy Spirituality - Bringing It All Back Down To Earth . Remembering an earlier Robert Mc Afee Brown quote from this book, "where you stand determines what you see", from this place of the Hillbrow clinic - among the mostly poor - all waiting in long queues to see a doctor, I read the chapter in which he dealt with the story of Jesus healing the daughter of Jairus and also healing the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages (Mark 5:21-43). I reflected on the power relationships at work in this chapter: Jairus - a leader of the synagogue, Jesus - a man familiar with suffering who was found mostly among those on the margins of society, and a powerless and obviously very poor woman with an issue of blood (her name not even mentioned).
Quite a lot is happening - first there is the meeting with the influential, probably well educated Jairus who was a leader in the synagogue - Jesus' disciples may have been thinking about the possible opportunities this new relationship with an influential man may provide and yet Jesus stops to talk to the woman who had touched him, making him "unclean" in terms of Levitical law, slowing him down and possibly even jeopardizing his mission to go and heal an influential man's daughter. What might have been going through Jairus's mind? What was Jesus thinking? What was he trying to model and teach through this at this moment in the account?
Was Jesus perhaps modelling something about equality and perhaps even our priorities? I am convinced that God is not as concerned as we are with appearance, making the right connections, and even being among the influential. In the words of Jon Owen "This story shatters those illusions. We find a God down in the dirt, risking scandal and ignoring human convention. Just like Jairus, if we desire to be healed and live, then we too need to allow this Jesus into our lives."
It's Thursday and that means tonight we are going to be going out onto the streets as usual to visit with some of our homeless friends. We normally get together at 7pm, share a meal together, have some devotions and then go out between 9pm and 11pm to visit our friends as they go to the places where they settle for the night. We find if we go before 9pm, our friends are too busy and we cannot spend quality time together.
Tonight we are going to do things a little differently. We are going to do our devotions on the streets at the spot where Natasha was held up at gunpoint last week. Natasha has been volunteering in our learning centre and coming out with us quite often on a Thursday night. She is a special needs teacher and has used her connections to get our friend Pritchard, a 14-year-old child with cerebral palsy, whose family are refugees from Zimbabwe, get into a new school. Pritchard's grandmother, Mavis, was also given work at Pritchard's new school. All of this is a miracle and has been a sign of hope to the small Zimbabwean refugee community where the family has been staying. Natasha has recently moved into our volunteer flat during the week days so she could be closer to Hillbrow and assist Pritchard and Mavis with transport, get more involved in the learning centre and in other community activities.
On Thursday night last week, before going onto the streets, we read together the chapter on Civil Disobedience in Red Letter Christianity. We then watched the movie, the Bonhoeffer 4 and then had a stirring discussion on the implications of Jesus' teachings on non-violence and enemy love into our sometimes violent context. We discussed what faithful Christian witness would look like into South Africa currently caught up in consumerism, materialism, greed, individualism and racism.
On Friday, on her way back from dropping Pritchard and Mavis off, Natasha was held up at gunpoint near the Nelson Mandela bridge. We are told this is a hijacking hotspot. She had her cell phone taken from her.
So this brings us to tonight - as a result, we will be going onto the streets to the place she was held up to perform some individual acts of love and make some prophetic declarations there. We will, for example, be distributing flowers and signs that talk about Jesus’ love, we will have a time of worship and breaking of bread there and ”sowing love where there has been violence”. Please pray with us that it will be a victorious moment for Natasha as she claims back this place and that she will find grace to forgive and love in response to what has happened. We are trusting with her that what we do will help re-frame the story into one of hope. Please also pray that on the night opportunities for reconciliation will occur and that our prophetic act would result in lasting change in that area.