Monday, June 25, 2012

Power and Service

 Mar 10:42-45  So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Mark Chapters 8-10 are not as easy: they reveal an uncomfortable image of Jesus. Mark tells us about Jesus the Servant … Mark tells us that the Disciples struggled with this because they wanted Jesus to be a conquering Emperor – and not a servant. They wanted him to be this powerful figure because this would make them important too. In fact they reached a point where they began to argue about who was the most important disciple: until Jesus sat them down and straightened them all out:
Mar 9:35  He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all."

And just when he thought that they understood it James and John take him aside:
Mar 10:37  And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."
To paraphrase this: “Jesus – when you come as a glorious Emperor – can we sit right next to you and be your very important special advisors.”
I suspect that this is the moment that Jesus probably swore. I certainly would have!
What is it in human beings that make it so hard for us to give our lives in service? Why do we want to look important, and have fancy offices, and drive in large cars (surrounded by cars with blue flashing lights) and be called important names…….
But we are so reluctant to serve?
·         Why does the Minister of Education have all the trappings of power – but there are no books in the classrooms
·         Why do we have Police Chiefs who wear the uniform of power – but are corrupt
·         Why do people take important office in our municipality – but the garbage is not collected, and the power is faulty and there are potholes in the streets 
Because like James and John we want to sit at the right and left hand side of power  - but  are reluctant to serve.
Ø  I have seen people who throw tantrums when things do not work out for them.
Ø  I have seen people walk out of meetings when the meeting does not agree with them
Ø  I have seen people leave a church when they do not get their own way.
Because like James and John we want to sit at the right and left hand side of power  - but  are reluctant to serve
Ø  I have seen men shove women aside in order to be more important
Ø  I have seen rich people send poor people to the back of the queue
Ø  I have seen white people make black people feel second class
Ø  I have seen gay people shoved aside by those who want to walk all over them
Ø  I have seen grown-ups shove children aside in their need for status
Because like James and John we want to sit at the right and left hand side of power  - but  are reluctant to serve
And so I take us back to the word of Jesus:
Mar 10:14 &15 Jesus … said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Let us invite the Spirit of Jesus into our lives
Let us learn to serve rather than demanding service
Let us learn to give rather than demanding our share

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Indians in Natal

Emanuel Gabriel presented a paper on the establishment of the Christian church amongst Indian people in Natal.

1868-1920 saw Indian people trapped in indentured labour. They were simply 'tools of labour'. Many of these people were Christians, who assumed that the cordial relationship they had with the English Christian Churches in India would be replicated in Natal.

Expecting to be welcomed into the local churches they found this not to be the case. They were set apart: in the Anglican Cathedral they sat in their own row; the Methodists arranged for Rev Scott, who was Tamil speaking, and organised separate Indian church services; and the Baptists, who arranged for family units to come from India, and as a consequence created closed Indian Christian communities
The Indian Christian people were thus separated from other Christians from their first arrival.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Educating for Mission

This morning I sat in a session led by Steven Hayes, a Greek Orthodox deacon, who is participating in the Joint Conference of Academic Societies in the Field of Religion and Theology. He raised the difficult question of ministry to migrant workers. These are people who are desperate for Christian community, and for Christian teaching - but there are very few trained leaders/priests/ministers available where the poorest of the poor work. He urged us to find ways of training people for mission that does not first require an expensive academic education to accredit that person for ministry.

"Book-learning" is not necessarily the best model for illiterate or badly educated communities. Asking a person to get a Seminary/Bible College/University education before exercising ministry creates a ministry only for those from backgrounds with money and education.

This opens up space to think about different kinds of ministry, with differently trained people. I hope to continue this discussion.

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