welcome to the warehouse!
The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thank you all for being at the second Anglicans Ablaze conference, and more particularly thank you, Bishop Martin and Revd Trevor and your teams, for organizing this conference so well again and for bringing to it people from both within and outside our Province. This second conference is all the more special because we are also joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Welby and their team. We will welcome them officially tomorrow. But Lungi and I will send your greetings to them tonight and say that you are looking forward to welcome them with great excitement tomorrow.
Thank you for inviting me to speak once again, and this year I am joined not only by Lungi but by a number of bishops and their spouses, whom I wish to thank and acknowledge for attending. Many thanks too to my office staff and the Gauteng-based organising team who have prepared for the Archbishop’s visitation. I am so proud of you all and want to thank God for your hard work and generosity in organising all the details of his time with us.
It really brings joy to me to deliver, not a speech but as the program says, a Charge for you, on the theme, “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul”. In 2012, you will recall, I spoke on “Anchored in the Love of Christ”, Anglicans Ablaze having adopted the ACSA vision, Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.
In 2012, we established the obvious but the fundamental of our faith, that God loves us; that whatever we do, we do it because we are rooted and grounded in love; that we understand that God sent his Son into the world for the business of loving and judging but not condemning (John 3:17), and that we can be conduits of this love because God first loved us. “Whoever does not love, does not know God” (1 John 4:7-8). “We affirmed and committed that we will love not only in words or speech but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:16-17)
This year we are exploring, if you like, what commitment to God’s mission looks like in our Province, or put differently, how can we as ACSA live out the Communion-wide five marks of mission? These are:
• To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom,
• To teach, baptise and nurture new believers,
• To respond to human need by loving service,
• To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation, and
• To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
I feel like I have been given a “ blank cheque” on this theme, but looking at your overall program, I suspect , I am to look at missional theology through “Hope as an Anchor for the Soul” within the bigger theme of “Hope is Rising”. The biblical verse from which we get this theme is Hebrews 11:1, where we read that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Let’s read this against the background of another passage in Hebrews 6:19 wherein:
“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This is the task I have been given: to unpack this text wearing missional lenses. Let me attempt to paint the context of this passage and also to explain terms or words that will help us understand the theme better, and then to look at tangible things we can do as ACSA.
Hebrews is a faith statement or sermon to people who were suffering persecution (10:32) and needed to understand Christ’s centrality in their lives and have their hope rekindled (6:19) lest they became hopeless and denounced the faith. Hebrews is then a letter of exhortation for them and for us (13:23) at times when we need an anchor.
What is the Christian hope? Chapter 6, v19 says we have in this hope a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. What is the anchor? What is the soul? Let me start with the word, “Hope” and hopefully all the other questions will fall into place. We pray at confirmation, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who has made heaven and earth.” In Romans 5:5, we read that “hope does not disappoint us”; in our Anglican Prayer Book, on page 443, we read that Christian hope is “to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”
We recite this regularly in our Creed, that “for us and our salvation he came down”... that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”... and that “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Our Prayer Book on page 444 then asks what then is our assurance as Christians? “Our assurance as Christians,” it says, “is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As in this passage and in Romans 5:5, to hope is to expect with confidence; hope for us as Christians is a faith statement. It is an unconditional belief – dare I be brave enough to say that it is God’s recklessness which gives us the chance to participate in his mission in the world. Hope is the belief that we are so called or invited, and we are ready to respond to the love of God declared in Jesus Christ.
The opposite of hope is despair and hopelessness.
Our Archbishop Emeritus defines hope as being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness; Madiba says that “Hope is a powerful weapon, and [one that] no one power on earth can deprive you of.” Jurgen Moltman says that “to live without hope is to cease to live,” and Martin Luther King Junior says “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.”
I asked Professor John Suggit to help me reflect more deeply and theologically on hope, and he explained to me that in English, and especially in Latin and Greek, the verb “hope” often means “trust”, “expect”, or even “think”. The Hebrew words associate it with the meaning of “confidence”, “trust”, “safety”, “rock”, and he cites examples from the Psalms and Job to illustrate the point: Ps 12.6: “I put my hope in you”; Ps 70.5: “The Lord is my hope from my youth”; Ps 90.9: ”You, Lord, are my hope (elpis); and Job 8.13: “The hope (elpis) of the godless man will perish”).
He says in some notes he prepared for me that the true meaning of “hope” is given poetically in Hebrew, Greek and English in Psalms 42.2 and 63.1, where the phrase “My soul thirsts for God” is a vivid expression of hope yearning to be realised.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we read, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Professor Suggit says that in the thought of Paul, these three “theological virtues” must be considered together. Because Paul was assured of the living presence of Christ, he was equally certain that as Christ had risen from the dead, so the future was filled with hope - a hope based on what God had done.
Professor Suggit also notes that of the three, hope has often, but wrongly, been called the Cinderella. He reflects that we are talking not simply about a personal hope, but also the hope that there is a purpose in the universe (Rom 8.21) which will be fully realised when “God shall be all in all” (1 Cor 15.28). He adds: “This is continually expressed throughout the New Testament, so that we have the paradoxical statement in Romans 8.24, “It was by hope that we were saved” (as the Good News Bible rightly renders it), where the following sentence makes it clear that though our being justified (being put right with God) was a past act (resulting from our response in faith to the grace of God), the hope which it engendered is so strong that it is seen as already realised while still in the future.”
Let me turn to another of our theologians that I often converse with, Professor Ackermann, and drink from her well.
Denise Ackermann says that hope is a lived reality in the life of faith, here and now; that hope is never to surrender our power to imagine a better world when faced with the present unjust arrangement. Hope is not a false sense of fulfillment that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Hope is not magic; it confronts wrong and the abuse of power. She continues that hope is risky and requires patience and endurance.
In sum, hope is the lifeblood of all there is, the air we breathe. It is the radical reorientation and conviction that ultimately a situation will change for the better. It’s not escapism but a facing of reality, and as Christians we live in hope, knowing that victory has already been attained through the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
It seems clear enough that hope is a human instinct which people strive to keep alive often in apparently hopeless situations. This instinct is an essential part of our human nature. Hope is the recognition that even in impossible situations one must strive to do what befits human beings.
Aristotle started his Nicomachean Ethics with: “Every action and purpose aims at some good, so that ‘the good’ is rightly described as the aim of everything”, and throughout the Ethics those who aim in hope for “the good” are considered to have found happiness.
For Christians hope is the assurance (so far as hope can ever be sure) that there is always a future to be realised for those who recognise that they are “in Christ”, resulting in their understanding that in spite of all the signs to the contrary there is a meaning and purpose in their life. The final object of hope is usually described as “life eternal” where the order of words suggests that “life” is more important than “eternal”.
As living members of the Body (person) of Christ each person finds hope only in unity with others, so that the Church as a whole is constantly called to express its hope in its liturgical worship.
When we celebrate the Eucharist we are not simply remembering a past occasion, but are rather re-entering the presence of the risen Lord “until he should come” (1 Cor 11.26).
As we re-present (make present) the death and resurrection of Christ, his anamnēsis, “the individual worshipper is caught up into the total reconciling activity of God and realizes sacramentally what he will one day realize fully in the eternal Kingdom of God”.2 In brief, we might say, every Eucharist is the occasion when past and future meet in the present, symbolized by the acclamation “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again”.
Let me end this exploration of hope with a poem cited in Ackermann by the American poet Emily Dickinson on “Living Hope”:
Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all
If we accept some these definitions of what hope is and what it is not, how are we who are anchored in His love to be? As I said previously when I explored at length our roots, our anchor is the love of Jesus. We need to keep asking ourselves as those baptised in his name: Who is God in Jesus Christ for us today? What does it mean to be the body of Christ in our time? What is his message of judgment and redemptive hope to us as we meet? What are we called to be in such a time as ours? Hebrews 6:19 locates Jesus as linked to the order of Melchizedek, king of Salem. These roots remind us of our vocation as people of righteousness, for this is what Melchizedek means. That Melchizedek is king of Salem reminds us of vocation to be peacemakers, for Salem is shalom and and Melchidezek is the king of peace.
We know of course that the vocation for righteousness and peace were at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry. We know, as Ackermann says in her book, “Surprised By The Man On The Borrowed Donkey,” that what occupied Jesus – or Jesus’ mission, which should be our mission – were the following: the poor, the hungry, the children, the miserable, the oppressed and the marginal, lepers, cripples, the blind, the sick and those possessed, social outcasts, tax collectors, disreputable people.
What are the mission challenges for us? Let me locate examples within the marks of mission:
1. We must witness to Christ’s saving, forgiving and reconciling love for all people. We cannot do this without being concerned at the yawning wealth gap in our society – one of the highest in the world – between rich and poor; between an increasingly non-racial – albeit white majority – elite and the masses of black poor. This is what is behind the crisis exemplified by Marikana – a point I shall return to in a moment. Nor can we witness to Christ’s love without being passionately concerned that people living in informal housing at Lwandle in the Western Cape can be callously thrown out of their homes during the cold and rain of a Cape winter – just as happened at the hands of the apartheid government at Crossroads in the 1970s.
2. We must build welcoming, transforming communities. In confirmation classes, in educating our people, we must – both clergy and lay people – nurture and prepare our parishioners to be witnesses who make a difference, who live out the radical values of peace and righteousness in more loving, outward-looking communities. At the World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, South Korea last year, we were charged and challenged to utilise our God-given gifts in transforming actions that will bring healing and compassion to communities, planting seeds of justice so that God’s peace grows and abounds in creation.
3. We must stand in solidarity with the poor and needy. During a time in South Africa where some among our political leadership and civil service believe that it is acceptable to use your access to state resources and power to gather resources to yourself over and above your monthly salary – such as at Nkandla – we need to stand for a society in which the primary focus of those in public service is to meet everyone’s basic needs. We also need ourselves to live lives of service to those in need – such as the ecumenical community did recently in response to the evictions at Lwandle.
4. We must challenge violence, injustice and oppression, deploying prayer, theological tools and action to engage, not with ulterior ideological motives but because we are sent. And we must do this ecumenically. I have in recent months been involved with other church leaders in intensive and continuing discussions with the CEOs of the platinum industry, with leaders of AMCU, with academics and labour mediation experts, and the message that comes through is stark: at the heart of the Marikana crisis is not just a wage dispute in one industry, and killings by forces of the State: No, Marikana is just one of many potential flashpoints in our society, where people live in appalling conditions – still largely unchanged at Marikana, nearly two years on – with a huge gap between the wages of workers and the salaries of bosses. In a notable comment in a recent paper on the lessons of the Venezuelan experience for South Africa, the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg puts it this way: “As a nation we have to dedicate ourselves to the notion that inequality and grinding poverty for large segments of our society are not only a blight on our nation, they are unsustainable and unconscionable and have to be addressed as a matter of national priority.”
5. We must care for the planet, taking and supporting initiatives from parish to international level to protect our eco-systems. At parish level we can take action, from organising – again on an ecumenical basis – local clean-ups to lobbying local government. In what we are calling an “eco-bishops’ conference,” I have invited 20 bishops from around the Communion to join a process of discussion and discernment of the Communion’s witness and mission in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. And we need to support efforts to ensure that the next meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 2015, takes more effective steps than it has so far to protect what God has bequeathed us.
All of this must of course be rooted in prayer and worship. A worshipping community keeps up a daily rhythm of prayer, studying and wrestling with the Word, formal worship and pastoral care. The daily reading of the Bible and the Offices, the frequent celebration of the Mass and engaging the despairing and the dying are what nurture me; they help to create the space in which I can reflect on what hope might mean in the face of the abuse of power and the lack of accountability and transparency we experience in both church and society. And I find that I am always assured by the conviction that God is my hope and strength in everything, and want to take this assurance out and share it with others.
I have argued in a graduation address to the students at COTT, the College of the Transfiguration, and elsewhere that the theological education of all our parishioners is of key importance to our intervention in the challenges we face today. In the Brenthurst Foundation discussion paper I have referred to, the authors say the overriding lesson to be drawn from Venezuela for South Africa is the importance of education. They say that the impact of improved education in Latin America has, and I quote, “proved to be the single most powerful dynamic driving economic growth and the improvement of circumstances that cause inequality and poverty. It is the absolute priority ‘must do’ for South Africa.” This brings into sharper focus for me as archbishop my call at COTT, which I want to repeat: It is my firm belief that theological education equips us to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation. Through being equipped and discipled this way, not only through academic theological formation, which of course I love, but through programmes in the parishes and through conferences such as these, we are also able to feed and empower God’s people for faithful witness and service.
If we educate the nation, we give people the tools to hope realistically; the tools to enable them to unlock their God-given talents and skills, talents and skills that are too often going untapped. And by giving them this power, you are boosting their levels of trust in themselves. There is, as I said at the end of the Walk of Witness to Parliament in Cape Town, a withering, pervasive weight of distrust taking over in South Africa. In that instance, I was referring to the lack of transparency in Government – also a feature of the Nkandla scandal. Before asking a series of questions of President Zuma around that, I said that the cost of the lack of trust we are experiencing is incalculable.
When you disarm the people of our communities of their trust in our leaders,” I added, “you not only offend them, but more seriously, you show our communities that you distrust them…. You are afraid of their ability to make informed, values-based decisions, or you distrust our constitutional values. You are afraid of their opinion or do not trust them to exercise their choices responsibly.”
That was an appeal to Government, but we too as Church need to act to bring about what I have called a renaissance of trust and responsibility in South Africa. As faith and church communities, we are still rated as trusted institutions. But this trust cannot be taken for granted. It must be nurtured and we must be disciples, following Jesus in ways that show integrity, that we are acting out God’s love and nothing else. We can be trustworthy communities only through mediating God’s love for the world to the world. William of St Thierry writes that to experience God, we must become one with God and for that to happen we must learn to love. (Brian P. Gaybba, in “God is a Community”)
The modalities of how we go about putting all this into practice will inevitably vary because of our differing contexts, but we should all be formed and sent to proclaim the love of God, feeding on God’s love and sharing it with others. In our innermost being, each of us is longing in this pilgrimage to have a confirmation that what is hoped for us is true; with the Psalmist we cry, “why are you disquieted within me?” and our souls long for the love of Jesus in our lives, just “as a deer longs for flowing streams.” (Psalm 42)
As I end I want to reiterate that nothing is impossible with God. With just the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains, we hear in Matthew 17 (v. 20). We need each one of you to rekindle hope by testifying to what God is up to in each of your lives. To borrow a metaphor from Richard Stearns, in his book “The Hole in Our Gospel,” we each need to pick up our shovel and get to work, and together we can mobilise, as he puts it “the power of a mountain of mustard seeds” in working for a hope-filled world in which all flourish.
The world will ask: Where is this hope? Where is the evidence? Why is it held hostage by the powerful who pursue ideological ends, leaving the powerless to despair? My responding call is: Scatter seeds of hope without fear or favour in all the corners of the earth. God in Jesus Christ is the sure hope, and in the action you take in response to God’s love will be found the evidence.
Hope as an anchor for the soul can’t end with the big social ideas only. What it boils down to is actually very simple: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Don’t wait for the grand plan: Become the mustard seed in your parish and community, and combine with others to change your environment and the world.
May God set you ablaze to worship him, serve him and to be anchored in hope through faith in Jesus Christ, our living hope.
Join us from 14 - 16 October 2014 to explore how you can lead your church to transforming your community.
“A church full of life and love, working for the good of the community in which God has placed it, is the proper end of mission. Transformational development that does not work towards such a church is neither sustainable nor Christian… It is impossible to
imagine a without a transforming church in its midst.”
- BRYANT MEYERS
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town convened a group called the Electoral Code of Conduct Commission (ECOCC) during the recent South African elections held on May 7 2014. I was privileged to join ECOCC on the day, joining a diverse group of religious leaders from around the Western Cape to observe the election as independent observers.
It was a unique opportunity to see the election from a perspective beyond that of a participant. As part of a team of 5 I visited 9 polling stations on the day beginning as the day started at the IEC headquarters and finishing up that evening many hundreds of kilometres later.
In reflecting on the day I found myself reflecting on a few things:
* The salt and light presence that we can play in ensuring fairness and integrity in the democratic process. We take these freedoms for granted very easily and yet the nature of sin in this world is that they will be eroded unless we actively sustain them.
* The exuberance, enthusiasm and committed participation on the ground by South Africans. In every polling station I visited I was struck by the good humour and collective desire to participate of those who were there.
* The stark contrast between democratic participation and economic participation by so many in our society and the recognition that the differences in these two marks of a society do not represent God’s shalom justice and isn’t the society we yearn for.
As believers we should be seeking ways of growing the participation of all people both economically and democratically.
By Craig Stewart
Saturday 5th July
Every tribe and nation! A time of story-telling, worship, intercessory prayer. There are also opportunities to serve in the Urban Gleaning ministry.
9am to 12pm
Tuesday 8th July
Transformational Development workshop
A one-day introduction to Transformational Development
9am to 2pm
Beautiful Gate, Nyanga
Thursday 24th July
Labour and Exploitation
A mini forum of discussion around the issues of labour and a Christian mandate to address exploitation
2pm to 4pm
The primary focus of our work is engaging churches in longer term transformation strategies addressing poverty, injustice and division. In this context inappropriate crisis based relief can actually do more harm than good. However, there are times of crisis when relief is required due to a disaster incident and in these times appropriate relief should be effectively delivered within an appropriate time period.
Over the past two years we have been working with the Consultation of Christian Churches in Cape Town to increase the effectiveness of the collaborative response of churches in the City of Cape Town and surrounds to larger scale disaster incidents. The core working group now has committed participants from 15 different church networks and denominations along with key NGO support partners. The scope of this network is as follows:
1. Provide an effective centrally coordinated church response to disaster incidents affecting more than 500 people within the City of Cape Town (CoCT) and Stellenbosch areas that interacts effectively with government and civil society partners.
2. Improve collaborative church based responses to smaller incidents within this area through increased capacity and communication networks.
3. Increase the disaster mitigation and preparedness capacity of churches within its impact area.
Over the past month sadly we’ve had to activate the network for two separate incidents each impacting just under 1000 people. A fire in the community of Masiphumelele destroyed 250 homes and very shortly thereafter approximately 235 households were evicted and their homes destroyed in the community of Nomzamo. In both these incidents those impacted had to face severe Cape winter storms in the days after the event. It was tremendously gratifying to see the church network responding rapidly and appropriately providing incident coordination support, large amounts of clothing and blankets and food support.
If you’d like to support our work in developing this network you can find out more here:
Or you can click here
Jayakumar Christian, in his book God of the Empty Handed, grapples with the question: How can the kingdom of God transform the powerlessness of the poor?
Christian worked among the poor in India for over thirty years, exploring the relationship of poverty to powerlessness. Within this exploration he integrated a vast range of subjects into his studies including anthropology, sociology, politics, and theology. He avoids the easy solution and offers a new paradigm within his book, which can shape our responses to the poor and provide a workable framework for grassroots organizations.
In this book, Christian begins with a narrative approach: stories that capture the human dimensions of poverty. He then examines and analyzes secular development theories, including Liberation, Dalit, and evangelical theologies as well as several historical responses to poverty. He questions the meaning of powerlessness and describes challenges facing the modern church. Finally, he explores the fundamental understanding of power according to the theology of the Kingdom of God. He concludes by stating: “only when we realise that we are all empty-handed before God can brokenness in relationships be fully restored.”
For those who work with impoverished communities, this book will challenge, inspire, and hopefully impact your worldview and understanding of relationships in regards to poverty and power.
By Rachel Self
Rachel Self is a new intern with The Warehouse. She is currently studying studio art with a concentration in graphic design at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. She is excited to be a part of a team of individuals who also desire to see transformation, justice, and shalom become a consistent reality for the vulnerable in their city.
June 7 2014 saw another significant Justice Saturday. People attending included newcomers and old friends alike, including one young woman who was “told by a friend to come”.
Kids for Justice engaged 15 children around the issue of safety for children. They made cards and wrote out letters for the families of the Nigerian girls who were abducted. The children then went on a noisy march around the inside of The Warehouse declaring safety for children.
During that time fifteen adults were led in a contextual Bible study of Matthew 2:16-20, the passage in which Herod kills the children, and Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt. The group was particularly struck by the verse about Rachel weeping for her children, a scripture that was beautifully contextualised as the group moved to Manenberg to meet and pray with two women who spoke their hearts, their joys and their pain.
One of the women, who had lost a son, said she had never shared with anyone what she shared with us that morning.
All who attended returned uplifted, declaring that it was a really valuable experience.
The Lwandle evictions, Masi fire and ongoing freezing cold weather - there are many people in need of some neighbourly love at the moment.
Here are some ideas for helpful giving ...
1. Clothing donations
Clothing must be sorted and bagged according to gender, age (child - teenager - adult) and type (pants - skirts - shirts - jackets - shoes etc) and should be clean and in decent condition. Please can we arrange for this to happen either by the people donating or at our individual churches and then we can collect them centrally. There is a very particular need for children’s and infant clothing.
2. Baby care kits - these are helpful and needed.
2 Wash cloth
1 Baby Towel
1 Small Tub Vaseline
1 Small Baby Powder
Bottles / Nipples
4. Plastic sheeting, gumboots, umbrellas
If you’d like to contribute financially to the relief effort please donate into The Warehouse account and reference the donation as Disaster Relief
Account name : The Warehouse Trust
Account number : 071 883 053
Account type : Current
Bank : Standard Bank, 4 Dreyer Street, Claremont, 7700 South Africa
Branch : Claremont
Branch Code: 025109
Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ
Or you can click here
Thanks so much for your care!
Why I joined in on the Walk of Witness
At our weekly staff meeting a colleague asked why I was committed to joining in the Walk of Witness over the Easter weekend, a walk initiated by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and other religious leaders to express concern over various issues facing our nation.
I believe that for many South Africans that which we thought was going to be bring our ‘salvation’ has not been, and in different ways we have to mourn that. People like Ronnie Kasrils and his peers are mourning it; and they are not quite ready to let it go yet, to vote for someone else. I was struck when reading an article where Kasrils was saying that there are powerful people in government who are afraid to speak up. I thought NO, if one can’t speak up now, one would not have spoken up against apartheid. The cost of speaking up now is nothing compared to the cost of speaking up against the previous regime, it was a dramatically higher cost back then. I was struck again by the thought that we are living in the ‘Friday’ of our nation’s history, we are living the death of a dream, but we, as believers, have to be willing to call out ‘Sunday” – declaring the good news that society can and does change.
What does that declaration look like? Sitting around a dinner tables moaning and groaning? Liking a post on Facebook? No. There are many ways to proclaim the good news of hope and transformation. One of them is in the work we do at The Warehouse. Another way is to proclaim. The Archbishop called us to proclaim over the Easter weekend – to join in a walk to parliament from District Six, a symbolic icon of our past – that it may be Friday, but Sunday is coming.
There does come a time when the bulk of society needs to start tipping towards justice and change, towards standing up and saying no, this is not what we want anymore. Its not the only way, it’s not the primary way, but it is one way. By proclaiming we are saying that we give witness to the fact that we want something different for our people; that we are not willing to stand by and let our country slip away or be taken away from its people. The arrogance of the government, the kind of grabbing of power that we are seeing, the complete disregard of the citizens whom our leaders are there to serve – where that takes us in ten years time is not where we want to be.
By joining in the walk with my family, we make a statement that we are willing to move. We are making a stand. We are strengthening society’s arm. Whilst we may not be at the center of power as citizens, we need to keep pushing into those spaces. It takes courage to stand. I walked as a follower of Jesus who wants to see change in our nation and believes that citizens have the power to bring it about in non-violent, participatory ways.
Some thoughts to pray about and reflect on as we approach the elections, by Colleen Saunders
1. Acknowledge what God has done
Luke 10:13-15; Matt 11:21-23
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Sodom is well known for its sexual sin (Gen 19 & Jude v7); less so for its social sin of being “overfed and unconcerned” and not helping the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). Jesus compares disregarding his miracles to sins such as these.
- What are the miracles that are happening in South Africa that we are not acknowledging?
- List the things that are GOOD about our systems and institutions, our governance, our resources.
- Repent of not acknowledging them, and then spend time thanking God for what he has done.
2. Acknowledge the influence, authority and call of the Church
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength. For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.
- What is the war that the church is waging, and what does victory look like?
- What is the knowledge that we, the Church have that should be shared?
- In which ways have we not been using our power and strength to influence society?
- To whom should the church be giving guidance and kingdom advice?
- Pray for the church and our role as we prepare for the elections.
3. Ask God for open hearts and ‘eyes’ to see
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it?
It may sometimes seem that our country is “staggering towards the slaughter” ...
- What are we not seeing? What we are claiming to know nothing about? What does God want us to see in the spiritual realm?
- Repent and pray as God leads.
4. Repent of slumber
I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
South Africa is threatened by thorns, weeds and broken walls – poverty, corruption, scarcity, division, loss of hope – while much of the church is thriving. Why and how have we allowed these things to creep in? Have we been so fast asleep?
- Pray for God to awaken the church
- Pray for God to awaken you
- Repent of slumber and ask him to give you direction for your prayers and actions.
5. Pray for hope
Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
- List the things that are destroying hope in our nation
- List the things that are threatening hope in our churches
- Pray into those issues, and pray that hope may be restored.
In the life and activities of every group of people there comes a moment of realisation that something significant is happening – a moment worth stopping, noting and marking. The Bible is full of stories of how the people of God point us to the ancient art of remembering, of marking moments. Sometimes with an alter built in memory of God’s intervention, or a meal that helped them ‘stop and notice’ what God was doing in their lives. Recently, we experienced such a moment in one of our staff development workshops, and we stopped to notice what God was doing.
We had been exploring the ongoing and sometime heavily divisive debate regarding the definition of the gospel, mission, evangelism and social justice. As we looked at some opposing views and tried to understand them in the light of the work we do with churches, a picture was drawn, depicting two different camps on opposite sides of the paper: those who are pro-evangelism on one side and those who are pro-justice on the other. The picture shocked us! While it depicted an extreme but very present reality in the global church, the realisation dawned on us – just how entirely anti-gospel in spirit it was!
As we debated and listened to varying perspectives, we began to realise that over the years we, The Warehouse, have positioned ourselves - not always, but definitely sometimes - in the “social justice” camp, as a reaction to those who have positioned themselves in the “evangelism camp”. This could have made it sound as if we don’t believe that salvation or preaching the good news to all people is necessary. And while we may know that that’s not the full theological picture, our assumptions that others understand it as such may have alienated some of the very leaders that we have hoped to work alongside over the years. As humans we haven’t always been the best listeners and when debates get heated we tend to revert back to our ‘camps’ and argue from that polarised place of conviction.
Jesus didn’t do that. He answered challenges with questions and stories that often started with “The Kingdom of God is like…”. Instead of choosing a position on the opposite end of the spectrum to make his point, he lived, embodied and told stories about the only reality he could faithfully speak of - the Kingdom of God. He ate, slept, walked and breathed Shalom - the whole good news for the whole world – even when he acknowledged that this would not bring the kind of peace for which the world was searching.
In this ongoing debate (that should never have been a debate in the first place) the invitation is to be the kinds of disciples that do not “meet fire with fire” and choose the polar opposite view to the stated argument to try to make the point for social justice. No, we are all called to be ones who respond with the way of shalom, with the kinds of answers and stories that begin: “The Kingdom of God is like…”. We want to be disciples who invite the whole church to understand the whole gospel that impacts the whole world: Shalom for souls, families, communities, cities, political systems and eco-systems.
We regret the words we have chosen that may have put us in a camp on the far side of Jesus’ Kingdom way, and are sorry if that has made anyone we interact with feel that we do not represent the whole saving work of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. As a community of staff, we have committed to holding each other to language and actions that point to this full shalom and to challenge one another when we recognise the temptation to encamp ourselves in polar arguments.
To mark this moment, we set light to the piece of paper that depicted the two opposing camps of thought - the either/or mentality that has fuelled this debate over centuries, the ‘pendulum’ swing of the church in history. It was a significant moment. We invite you, our friends and partners in this co-labouring work with the King, to join us in this commitment, to challenge us when you see us erring and to explore together what the whole gospel for the whole world looks like in 2014.
By Caroline Powell
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- Every week hundreds of items of clothing, food and blankets distributed
- In South Africa a girl has a better chance of being raped in her lifetime than of learning to read
- An estimated 1 million south african children are used for labour