Monday, February 20, 2006

I was so challenged with the word of today... I just had to share it all over....

Reflection from Scripture Sunday, 19 February 2006

Dr Sipho Senabe

John 4:1-24. 39 e.v

Dr Sipho shared powerfully how Jesus came to touch the life of a woman….In this, he overcame the conventions of His time, in order to save, restore relationships. Hence he had to break barriers that the consequences of sin wrought.-
These barriers are: how we look at each other via racial, gender and economic stereotypes
1st barrier was in his birth in the flesh- he identified with humanity, he shared the realities of our existence and hence at a young age had to flee- he became a refugee… he had to cross borders of race, culture, geography… Having grown up in
Egypt (Africa) it influenced his ideas. Psychologically the 1st 7 years are critical: Hence he was not a typical Jewish rabbi. His ministry challenged traditionalists, there was conflict, hence he expanded his ministry. He moves to the margins, Samaria, a context of the social outcasts. He had to cross social, cultural, racial barriers… on the edges.

As reformed Christians, we are challenged to go through our own Samaria’s; we meet people who are different from us, culturally, religiously and in terms of their heritage and traditions. We have to go past the Sychar’s of our time, where we are confronted with gender stereotypes, sexual stereotypes, class, and racial stereotypes. On our life’s journeys, we have our own Sychar’s and Samaria’s the question is how he deals with it?

1 He acknowledges his humanity-he asks for water. He breaks conventions, by speaking to a woman, and then a woman of low class, a woman who is vulnerable. He takes a radical position- he defies tradition and teachings, in order to reach out to this women and to restore peace, justice, righteousness, healing…. Yes, there are times where we need to challenge and defy teachings and tradition that entrench the wrong.

A few weeks ago we as a congregation’s ministries met and grappled with our vision. We referred to family, friendship, fellowship, etc. A church that aims for these will be a church that must break barriers, which defy the norm. In the past we (as Reformed church in particular) bowed to the gods of apartheid. We as a church accepted it, but we need to break the barriers that divide us. This woman accepted the status quo, for her it was right to be divided and excluded and to hide when she came out for water. Her culture was right- yet we need to accept that fact that in all cultures there is sin, oppressive tendencies, but also in all cultures there are also life giving and wonderful elements that we could embrace and celebrate. Hence we need to challenge those sin-stained aspects with the blood of Jesus; we need to challenge those aspects that deny the gospel. Hence, in answering her political response, Jesus elevates the debate by introducing the “Jesus perspective’. The question that confronts us more pertinently (v10) –do we know who we’re dealing with here? This is the same question that Jesus asks the disciples: Who do you think I am? It is our Christian convictions above political choices and ideologies that motivate our engagement in politics, campaigns… we do it because we are Christians, because of the values we live for. Hence we need to know Jesus... We need to grapple with who he is …. He is the one who has authority to intervene and calm the storms.

The dialogue continues with the women wanting to stay in the past. One area we as a church need to grapple with is with regards to our history- we need to face our history and redeem it, break away from it. The Afrikaners, a very religious community, learnt that hard way, by blind allegiance to the ancestors.- the difficulty in breaking with the past…As Christians we need to affirm our Christian identity first and then our racial, cultural or class identity. We are first a Christian and then a coloured, Zulu, Tswana or Afrikaner… sometime we turn these categories around…
In our church we haven’t yet dealt with the issue of African traditional religions, culture and identity. Sometimes we rightly proclaim: Jesus is the answer, but what is the question to which He is the answer to? We are confronted with the questions of racial division, our past conflicts, stereotypes etc. He is the response of God to these vexing questions... Faith in him brings a deeper and eternal insight, knowledge- hence eternal life (Joh 17:2-3), “This is eternal life- that we know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have send’. Aspects of our culture, language, education technology are limited, temporary, and secondary and don’t fulfil our deepest human and spiritual needs. We have the need to eternity, transcendence. Hence, the challenge that we need to be a church that challenge people to know God! It is from this well spring that liberation movements in the past were inspired.

Lastly, the woman accepted this invitation, but Jesus points to a deeper level of need … personal. Maybe she was (in terms of today) HIV positive (she had 5 partners of which we know of), maybe abused, had different children and a single parent… we don’t know. But Jesus touch her deeper- he does not condemn her- he does not ignore her needs. Some times the church does not speak to these women... but Jesus speaks to her- he wants her to come out, tell her story so that she can be restored from obscurity. A church must be a safe place for people to come out, to be cared for, to be cured. It is when transformation starts at this deeper level that her identity change and she becomes a subject, a witness.

Riverlea URC, we are challenge to come out in the open with our stories. Last year Bolivia held their first elections and is still struggling with racism, division and the hurt of the past. There must be Christians in Riverlea that will be able to tell our story and witness about the restoring, reconciling grace of God in SA. Maybe some of us can go out as a lawyer; church worker to support and strengthen God ate work in for e.g. Bolivia. This calls for a commitment…..

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