God's Word for today

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The relevance of our calling in South Africa today

No matter what stage of ministry we may be at, it does us good to be reminded just why we are called to be ministers. I was going through one of my previous TEEC assignments, and was once again challenged by one of the answers I had previously submitted.

I have reproduced it here as a reminder to myself (and perhaps others as well) as to what it is we should be doing in ministry. (The references and other "academic bits" have been removed to make for easier reading.)

Why are we called by God? Is it to strap a collar around our necks, and be addressed with a fancy title? Or is it to be a prophetic voice in our communities?

When we think of how God calls His prophets, there are three elements that are never isolated from each other. Firstly, we need to remember that it is God who calls. Secondly, we need to be conscious that God has called us. Thirdly, and possibly the most difficult part of all, God gives us specific instructions as we are commissioned to bring forth His voice.

We cannot claim to have had an encounter with God, yet not be spurred on to bring about change. This change must start with us – we need to be transformed ourselves before we can think of transforming others. Our calling depends on how we encounter God, and how we respond to that encounter.

The struggle for freedom in South Africa is far from over. Political freedom is meaningless to a person who lives in a shack, is unemployed, and has no idea where their next meal is coming from. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu speaks of “visions of a land where we will discover that we were created for fellowship, togetherness, love, joy, peace, reconciliation, justice, goodness, and compassion”.

The prophet Amos told the Israelites that they were no different to the Cushites (Amos 9: 7), because of their rebellion against God. Far from being God’s chosen people, it’s as though the Exodus had been robbed of any special meaning – it’s as though it was just another migration, no different from that of anyone else.

Yet we continue to live in comparative luxury while people are starving. As we speak women and children are continually being abused. We respond to efforts by those such as the Central Methodist Church, which has opened its doors to hundreds of refugees who would otherwise have nowhere to go, by sending nasty letters to their offices, complaining about how that “beautiful building” has been “desecrated”.

Just like the Israelites, these responses show us as Christians as being no different to anyone else.

Bishop Paul Verryn said that “[u]ltimately a nation can be judged on what realistic hope it offers to its poorest people. How can we be more effective? What is the Christian response to the marginalized? How can we be more effective?”

This is the challenge to us as a Church. The tasks may seem insurmountable. And while it is true that individually we cannot address every need, we can start within our own congregations. Those who have plenty sit in the same pew as those with nothing. Are we challenging those folks? And more importantly, are we setting the example ourselves? Can we call ourselves Christian, “called of God”, when we would stand by idly while others suffer?

Isaiah 11: 4 says that “with righteousness He [God] will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth”. How will God judge us who stand and watch the world go by, without being true to our call to make a difference?

No comments: