Today is world communion Sunday. On this Christians around the world or at least those that are a ware of this day rally in hope a midst local and global realities. As people of God we believe in the biblical story that God looked at creation and pronounced it “very good” other translations say “excellent”! (Gen. 1:31) as such we are unsettled by the fact that this biblical statement is in sharp contrast to current global realities.
There is nothing good or excellent in the senseless killing of innocent people including children in a mall in Nairobi, or the bombing of the church in Pakistan, or the killing of innocent people at Navy Yard in Washington D.C or the millions of children dying of starvation, malnutrition, or lack of basic health care and malnutrition, or for people living in hopeless vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty to name just a few realities.
Ours is not unlike the story of God’s people in scripture whose realities of exile and occupation by pagans hardly matched their story as God’s people. These people believed that as God’s people they had a special relationship with God a relationship they called a covenant, which means a pact, agreement, or a treaty between two parties. We see examples of this special relationship with Noah (Gen. 9:9-17) with Abram (Gen. 15:18; 17:2 etc).
In the Biblical story God has always remained committed to this relationship and at certain points of uncertainty like during Egyptian slavery God spoke; “I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant…. I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment” (Ex. 6:5-6).
We know today that many people are oppressed, broken-hearted, and mourning. Many are captive to selfish needs and desires; many are trapped in addictive behaviors, many experience broken relationships, or are caught up in exploitive systems and structures. Their spirits are crushed; their hopes fade. Too frequently cities are ravaged by war and lay in ruin – communities are devastated.
In the book of Lamentations we see how God’s people lived with these realities. They lamented the state of their city Jerusalem;
How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.
She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.
Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.
Through this lament we are reminded that God’s people can experience pain and that it is okay to express our pain. On this world communion Sunday we can join our sisters and brothers in lamenting the brokenness of our world and together remember our Lord who loved the world and gave his life for the world. We live hopefully even though we cry in anguish because of these realities. We can lament with the undocumented immigrants, with families who have lost loved ones through gun violence, lack of basic health care and unending conflicts and wars.
In Psalm 37 God’s people are reminded of God’s faithfulness a midst the prosperity of the wicked. The psalm insists that God is the final arbiter and that there are consequences for unrighteous living.
Amidst these realities, let us hear a prophetic voice of hope:
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
This transforming power is at the heart of EMM’s vision. We believe that through the church this renewed hope is shared and embodied; we proclaim hope, do deeds of justice, and live righteously believing that such a living brings forth praise! This is good news! Through the church the world and its people experience transformation; a transformation that touches the body, mind, soul and spirit. This is the good news for all people that we must tell and embody for,
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:1-4). This is a prophetic proclamation of hope which comes through God’s intervention.
In 2 Timothy we see the apostle Paul who was in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ whom he believed was lord over against Caesar. Paul while suffering for his faith in Jesus exhorts Timothy reminding him of his identity which had been formed by his mother and grandmother and the laying on of hands by the community. Paul reminds him that he had been equipped by God’s spirit, which is not a timid or fearful spirit, but a spirit of power, of love and sound mind or prudence. Like Timothy we must rise up to our calling as a people shaped by God’s story yet living a broken and yet to be fully redeemed world. We are to use power wisely; to protect the weak and the vulnerable instead of exploiting and destroying them. Our use of power ought to change situations and God’s love ought to help us live prudently. God calls us and holds us but also releases us to live faithfully for him in the world embodying his story in our own lives and hence bringing for God’s kingdom and God’s being done on earth as in heaven. On this world communion day as we come to the table let us fully remember Jesus our Lord who is both the host and the guest at the table.
JAMES ST MENNONITE CHURCH
OCTOBER 6, 2013
BY NELSON OKANYA