Entries in justice (35)
Today I give thanks for the life and ministry of Brother Roger today. The establishment of the Taizé community is a continuing gift of renewal and missional blessing to the Church across the world.
It reminds me that simple courage and constant obedience can often be used by God to bring about transformation, healing and renewal.
In 1940, despite the spread of war in Europe, Roger Schütz crossed the border from Switzerland into France to pursue a community life characterized by simplicity and the fellowship described in the gospels. From early on in his life, Brother Roger knew that such a life together could be a sign of reconciliation for Christians from different denominations.After settling in a French village called Taizé, Brother Roger was caught for hiding Jewish refugees and had to leave France after two years. When he returned after World War II had ended, he was accompanied by a few men who became the first brothers of the Taize community, which grew into an ecumenical community with brothers on all continents, bearing witness to what brother Roger came to talk about as a “parable of community.”On August 16 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of reconciliation at Taizé, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.
The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism. We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.
This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church! This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem. Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world. Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here. I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship. Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.
I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.
Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'. This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions. Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?
People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.
Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)
Last night a friend from the UK asked me if I could write a short prayer for Nelson Mandela that could be used by some Christians in the UK. After some prayer and thought I wrote the following:
Loving God, the world is yours. You have lovingly created each person, and by your grace you sustain and transform creation day by day. We praise you for every aspect of nature that displays your Glory.
Today we want to thank you for your son Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. In his life you have shown us the courage of standing for justice, the patience of suffering for peace, and the hope that forges forgiveness. We thank you for giving him the gift of wisdom to lead, the gift of mercy to forgive, and the gift of love to break down the walls that divide.
Today we pray that you will complete your perfect will in him. Offer him peace in his time of struggle. Surround him with love as he faces the unknown; and when the end of this life comes embrace him in your love and restore him to fullness of joy.
We pray that the courage of his conviction will continue beyond his earthly life. May the principles justice, reconciliation and peace that he suffered for be rooted more deeply within us. May his life inspire us to live more sacrificially for you and for the sake of all whom you love.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus, the great liberator, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
There are the thoughts that informed this prayer.
In this prayer I tried to capture a few elements:
- A prayer of petition ask for God to bless and care for his son Nelson.
- A prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for the many good things that we have been blessed to witness as a result of his courage and conviction for justice, and reconciliation.
- A prayer for strength, for him, his family, and for all of us, that we may continue in the work that God worked through him.
Please continue to pray for our precious nation, and for the freedom that Mr Mandela lived for. We are facing some challenging times at present.
With grace and peace in Christ,
God gave me a wonderful gift this week. It has been an exceptionally busy couple of months with my work at 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption', Unashamedly Ethical and the University. Between travel, meetings, conference calls, speaking engagements, writing and supervision I hardly felt like I was touching sides.
The busyness of life has a way of drawing me away from what matters most. I begin to adopt a functional, rather than a reflective, orientation towards life. My days are spent on tasks rather than prayer and people. This can quickly lead to disconnection from God and God's wonderful world, and the people in it.
Last week was no different. We had a great contact week with our Master of Theology students who are doing the course in missional spirituality. Rev Trevor Hudson and Prof Robert Vosloo came and did the input sessions with our students. I sat in on most of the lectures, and also spent time with the individual students and the group helping them to work towards their research tasks and assignments. At the end of the week the examinations began for the group of students from last year's MTh course. In all 12 students had an opportunity to give a defence of their Masters research projects. This is an exciting time where the students present their ideas and the faculty (lecturers) get to engage with them. Whilst it is an exam, it is also a great time of learning and sharing.
On Monday afternoon one of my Masters students did his defence and did a great job. He has passed and will get his degree. It felt good to celebrate this significant milestone with him! However, as I left the University to rush home in order to go onto a conference call with colleagues in the UK for EXPOSED my mind was already focussed on tasks.
I drove out of Stellenbosch and as I passed Stellenbosch square I saw two people on the side of the road, a young boy and his mother. The mother was clearly very drunk. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not stand or walk without stumbling. She was dangerously close to the moving cars and her little son was applying all of his weight to try and pull her out of the road. My heart was touched. Seeing a little 6 year old boy struggling to help his mother in this situation left me very bruised. So, I turned my car around to the other side of the road and stopped to pick them up.
God had given me the gift of Franco and Sophie. Franco is six years old and has just started school. Sophie is his mother. Her husband died of HIV/AIDS a while ago and she has a drinking problem. Franco was trying to help his mother home.
After I had put Sophie in the front seat of the car, and get Franco securely fastened in the back (in Liam's 'booster seat') I took them home. I discovered that Franco has a brother - he is 9 years old. How sad it is that these two boys bear the responsibility of caring for themselves and their mother. Of course this event touched a very tender part of my own life and brought back memories from my early childhood.
I couldn't do too much for them. After getting Sophie and Franco safely home we talked for a while. I first spoke with Sophie about her life and her struggles. I encouraged her to seek help and prayed with her. It was a hopelessly inadequate response to this very serious situation. I then spent some time with Franco. I told him how beautiful and brave he is. I reminded him that God had made him a very special boy and that God has a wonderful plan for his life! I reminded him that he is loved and that God had sent me to collect him and his mom that afternoon. All that I had in the car to give him was an apple, a banana and one of Liam's story books. He was over the moon with the book.
Franco and Sophie have been living in my heart and mind all of this week. As I go to meetings, as I meet people, as I speak at events, as I plan, as I write, as I pray... God has given me a gift. It is a sad gift, but it is important.
The Bible says "Learn to do what is right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1.17)
Please can I ask you to pray for Franco, Sophie and Franco's little brother? Please ask God to care for them. Please pray that Sophie will find the help that she needs, and the Franco and his brother will be spared from neglect or abuse. Please pray that they may reach the beauty of potential that God has placed in them. Please don't make the mistake that I make and get so busy that you neglect the opportunity to be wounded by suffering.
The relationship between the Bible and politics has been somewhat controversial over the centuries. There are those who say that intention of scripture is to direct our spiritual lives, as a result, for example, many South Africans were told not to mess with politics during the apartheid era. Then there are those who understand that faith is a fundamentally political - since our faith addresses every aspect of our lives it has a significant impact on every choice and action that shapes life.
I am currently in Uganda to speak at the African Biblical Leadership Innitiative (ABLI) Forum. It is a wonderful group of people who gathered here! I am meeting many of them for the first time. Others I have known for some years. It is such a blessing to be with these sisters and brothers - we share many common objectives and ideals.
The vision of ABLI is to empower leaders (African and elsewhere) with Biblical truths that will foster integrity and justice in the world. ABLI is working to raise up leaders so that nations will be transformed by God’s truth, love and justice. The ABLI forum meets each year just before the meetings of the African Union and it focuses on sharing and discovering a Biblical approach to Good Governance, Conflict Resolution, and Economic Life.
I have the privilege of representing ‘EXPOSED – Shining a light on corruption’ and the Unashamedly Ethical campaigns at ABLI - this invitation came via our coalition partners Micah Challenge. I have opportunities to speak and conduct a workshop with the leaders of the Bible Societies from across the world. This is a significant opportunity to encourage our sisters and brothers to heed the challenge of Micah 6.8 ‘What does God require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God’.
Among the thoughts that have shaped my input for this wonderful group are these:
Both religion and politics are concerned with how we should organize societies. Yet the tendency for Christians has often been to begin with the politics and work back- wards to find religious rationale for our political beliefs. As a result, most people read the Bible not to challenge our deeply held beliefs, but to affirm the decisions we've already made with our lives.
- Tim Suttle God’s Politics.
As you will see on this blog, I tend to agree with the perrennial view of the Bible, namely that it is critical in shaping our individual and collective lives for justice, peace, mercy and wellbeing (rather than just a source document from which we pluck a few verses to support our individual choices and actions).
Of course such a view is seldom popular, since it does challenge the establishment somewhat. It would seem that much of popular Christianity has a view of Jesus that is something between a personal therapist and a stock broker. I think the loving way of Jesus is far more revolutionary and transformative than that!
When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.
- Dom Helder Camara
I found this quote from NT Wright quite helpful:
The chief political concern of the Scriptures is for God's wise and loving ordering of his world to be operative through humans who will share his priorities, especially his concern for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. This concern was embodied by Jesus in his inauguration of 'God's kingdom' through his public career and especially his self-giving death, which together set the pattern for a radically redefined notion of power.
— N.T. Wright, New Testament Scholar at University of St. Andrews
I believe that the central political question is the management of public power in order that there should be an economically viable life for all members of the community. Thus justice is front and center and some texts, especially in Deuteronomy, are for the distribution of wealth in order that all may be viable. Obviously such justice is marked by mercy, compassion and generosity. The purpose is to create a genuine neighborhood for all the neighbors.
— Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Scholar, Columbia Theological Seminary
And of course no post would be complete without quoting something from Stanley Hauerwas!
The chief political concern of the Bible is to worship God truly.
— Stanley Hauerwas, Theologian and ethicist at Duke Divinity School
I agree with this last quote wholeheartedly - the chief political concern of the Bible is to declare and celebrate the worth of God in every aspect of creation. We do so by establishing systems that express God's ways, God's eternal shalom in our economic, political and social policies, as well as in the Church's work of mission and evangelism.
Please could you pray for my family, Megan, Courtney and Liam? I have had a lot of travel in the last few weeks. Please ask the Lord to protect and bless them, to keep them healthy and to continue to provide for all our needs. Please could you also pray for our EXPOSED, Micah Challenge and Unashamedly Ethical teams in South Africa and elsewhere in the world? Please pray that the Lord would give them great love and boldness to stand for His standards of righteousness and justice in the Church, Business and Government. Frequently such a stance comes at great personal cost. Please also pray for me as I travel and have chances to speak and to meet with sisters and brothers. Please pray that God gives me wisdom, humility, conviction, passion and most of all His love for this world and the people and systems He loves and wants to transform. Please pray that I serve our sisters and brothers well at ABLI, and here in Uganda.
Thank you so much for your partnership in the work of God’s Kingdom!
"There are 26000 shebeens in South Africa,” mused a friend the other day, “and every week a major breweries company successfully delivers crates of liquor to every one of them.”He continues: “There are also 26000 schools in this country, and yet we cannot deliver textbooks to all of them. We do not have a skills crisis.”It comes from this very helpful articles on News24.
I agree that we do not have a skills problem in South Africa. As I write this post I am sitting in Uganda. When I compare the infrastructure that we have in South Africa we are truly blessed! We have the systems, the policy, the budgets, the civil servants... What we lack is integrity and servant leadership.
It is a scandal that in a country such as ours where 79.8% of the population profess to be Christian that persons of low scruples should be allowed to govern the nation, eroding public confidence in their ability to deliver promised (and available services)! The Church needs to be more vocal in addressing these critical issues in South Africa.
My friend Dr. Wessel Bentley and I have just completed a new book on the relationship between the Church and the State. It is called 'Between Capitol and Cathedral'. In it we, and a number of more senior theologians and practitioners, reflect on the role of the Church in forming a society that honors God's intention for the people - justice, equality, full human development, freedom and access to God's grace.
As Prof Jansen points out in the quote above, if we can find a way to distribute alcohol to 26000 taverns and shebeens on a weekly basis, surely we have the means to distribute textbooks to 26000 schools once a year!? But, it would seem that we lack the will to do what is right.
First, I want to ask you to pray for Minister Motshekga and her team. Pray that they will have the courage, the will and the resources to serve our nation well.
Second, if you are a Christian who has stumbled upon this obscure little post, please can I ask you to take a stand. Make your voice heard! Why don't you just send a tweet to express your views at @dbe_sa, this is the Department of Basic Educations twitter feed. Since it is public they are bound to respond.
Corruption has a name, poverty has a face, we have a voice!
Mr Mandela is a great inspiration. His life is an example of courage supported by grace.
This quote expresses something of his great nature. Happy birthday Mr Mandela.
Our friends in the United Nations Development Program put toget a wonderful report entitled 'Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis' a while ago.
In this report they show that there are varying levels in which the access to water impacts upon the poor.
First is the issue of access (scarcity). If one cannot get water, a most basic of needs, you will suffer a great deal. Not only can you not meet the basic needs of your body, to hydrate yourself. It also denies your human dignity. You cannot clean yourself.
Second, this report highlights that it is not only access to water that impacts the poor, it is also the way in which the water is delivered that can compound the suffering of the poor. In the report they highlight how frequently the delivery mechanisms pollute the scarce water that is so desperately needed. When the water is polluted and consumed it causes disease that quickly leads to people dying, since the poor seldom have access to basic health care.
I would encourage you to watch the video below. It is well done, very informative and can be a great source of information to direct your prayers and Christian response to the issue of poverty.
As a Christian what could you do, and pray, to see this situation changed where you live? How about praying, or acting, on behalf of Christians in other parts of the world (such as India, Nigeria, or Rio)?
You can join 100 million other Christians who are adding their voices to show God's love for the poor, and God's desire to transform those who are caught in corruption - sing up for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' at http://www.exposed2013.com
Today I have the joy of speaking at the CANOPI gathering here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Consultation on Christian Advocacy Poverty and Corruption is being hosted by Malaysian Care, a Christian aid and advocacy agency in Malaysia - see http://www.malaysiancare.org/
They have a great model of Christian care through development - as I have met with their staff and listened to their programs I am left with a sense that they care about what the Gospel of Christ looks like (and feels like) in society. Jesus own 'mission statement' in Luke 4 comes to mind - feeding the hungry, developing the poor, working for the liberation of the oppressed.
What is equally encouraging is that their work is ecumenical. They are wise enough to know that the solution to many social challenges doesn't lie with only one Church grouping. Rather, the whole of the community needs to be involved in working for God's loving Kingdom to be established.
Please could I encourage you to visit their website and also to pray for and support their wonderful work? If you live or work in Malaysia please join CANOPI. I am pleased to say that they are a partner of our 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign - see http://www.exposed2013.com