Jesus wys die onreg uit

Written by webmeester on . Posted in Multikulturaliteit

Dit was normaal dat handelaars offerdiere aan tempel gangers verkoop. Daar was ook geldwisselaars. Hulle het die buitelandse munte vir Joodse munte geruil. Net dié Joodse geld mag in die offerkiste gegooi word. Daarmee is ook duiwe en soms ander en groter diere soos lammers gekoop. Die handelaars het net Joodse geld aanvaar. ‘n Deel van die winste uit die verkope het vir die instandhouding van die tempeldiens gegaan. Dinge het tog soos gewoonlik sy gang gegaan. Waarom het Jesus so reageer?

Oor mense uitgesluit word

Die verklaring lê in Jesus se woorde. Hy haal uit Jesaja 56:7 aan. In Jesaja 56:7 verwag God toegang vir alle mense, nie net Jode wat in die tempel aanbid nie, maar almal wat met Hom identifiseer. Hy sê in my huis van gebed sal ek vreugde aan alle volke gee, hulle offers sal vir my aanneemlik wees.

Die area tussen die buitemure en die eintlike tempel was bekend as die binnehof. Dis waar die vreemdelinge en verstote mense, geringstes en gebrekkiges, siekes en slawe, die bywoners en buitelanders toegelaat was. Hulle mag God daar aanbid. Maar die area was met die handelaars se stalletjies en geldwisselaars se tafels gevul. Daar was nie plek vir die mense van elders of wat anders was nie. Dié aanbidders was dus heeltemal van die plek van aanbidding uitgesluit.

In die Apartheidsjare was garage dienste vir swart mense in wit woon buurtes bekend gewees. Later met ‘n groot gespook het sommige wit gemeentes hul kerksale vir dienste beskikbaar gestel. Die binnehof van die tempel sou mens vandag met die kerksale vergelyk. Indien ‘n kerksaal gebruik sou word om fondse vir die instandhouding van die gemeente te gebruik en nie meer vir swart gelowiges toeganklik is nie, sou mens dit met die omstandighede wat Jesus in die tempel ontstel het, kan vergelyk.

Die godsdienstige aktiwiteite het meer eksklusief en na-binne gerig geraak. Die instandhouding van die Joodse godsdiens het die ander mense van hul aanbiddings ruimte beroof.

Oor mense uitgebuit word

Waarskynlik was Jesus verder die josie in vir die geldwisselaars wat die wisselkoers tot hul eie voordeel gemanipuleer het. Die buitelanders was uitgebuit. Hulle moes baie van hul geld vir min Joodse geld wissel. Vandag vind mens ook dat buitelandse toeriste duurder vir produkte moet betaal. Vreemdelinge word daagliks uitgebuit. Jesus neem soortgelyke onreg, maar in die tempel waar. G’n wonder Jesus noem die huis van gebed ‘n rowersnes nie. Hy verwys na Jeremia 7:11. Jeremia het by die ingang van die tempel die mense van Juda en Jerusalem gewaarsku dat God nie daar is waar die tempel staan nie. God is daar waar daar reg geskied. Hulle geloof word deur hul lewe en dade getoon. Hulle moet die onreg teenoor vreemdelinge, weeskinders, weduwees en onskuldiges stop. Dit en ander gruwelike dinge soos moord, steel, egbreuk het die huis wat die Here se Naam dra ‘n rowerspelonk gemaak.

Die Here spreek hom nie teen die besigheid by die tempel uit nie, maar hy is uiters ontsteld oor die gesindheid, onsensitiwiteit, selfsug en selfs die onreg wat met die besigheid gepaard gaan.

Hoe oop is ons gemeente regtig vir ander?

Waarmee hou ons as gemeente onsself besig? Hoe oop is ons rêrig vir ander mense. Is ons besig om tradisies in stand te hou en ons aan gebruike blind te staar wat verhinder dat ons God se wil onderskei en raaksien? Of is ons ‘n gestuurde gemeente, op weg na die buitestaanders en oop vir alle mense wat na God soek of na wie God ons stuur.

Ek is moeg vir al die politiek in die kerk. Terwyl ons tereg pres. Zuma se hemel betwyfel, wonder ek oor ons aardse geloofwaardigheid. Ons vertoon God se genade gebrekkig, die hoop wat in Christus se opstanding lê, halfhartig. God is daar waar mense hom die nodigste het, dit roep gelowiges en gemeentes uit hul gemaksones na die gekwestes en gestrandes. God se genade is vir almal bedoel.

Hierdie gemeente is nie die kerkgebou, die kerkraad, nie eers ons as lidmate sin nie, maar dit behoort aan die Here. Omdat dit aan Hom behoort stel ons dit tot beskikking van ander. “Kerkwees” is besig om weg van die gebou te beweeg op weg na die gemeenskap rondom ons en anderkant die mensgemaakte skeidslyne soos kultuur- en klasgrense. Ons word deur Jesus gestuur die wêreld in.

Dit help nogal wanneer ek skaam oor ons kerkgebou en geriewe is, in vergelyking met die ander kerkgeboue waar ek al besoek het, want dit is nie waaroor kerkwees gaan nie. Hierdie gemeente bestaan ter wille van die Here se koninkryk. En Hy stuur ons nie na mekaar nie, maar na mense en plekke waarheen die Here van plan is om self te gaan of waar Hy reeds aan die werk is.

Jesus wat die tempel reinig, het nie ‘n af dag gehad nie. Hy was op en wakker. Hy het ‘n fyn aanvoeling vir geregtigheid en is ontstel wanneer Hy onreg waarneem. Dit gaan oor sy alles insluitende genade wat alles oortref. Dis deur Hom wat almal, swart en wit, man en vrou, vrye toegang tot God kry. Die muur van skeiding wat mense van mekaar skei is finaal afgebreek. Dit het Sy lewe gekos, die skeiding in die tempel is afgebreek. Sy bloed reinig ons van die sonde van verdeeldheid onder gelowiges. Dít skep ‘n nuwe mensheid waar gelowiges saam mekaar se laste ken en dra, mekaar nodig het en mekaar opbou, saam diensbaar is aan al God se mense, ook of veral diegene wat Hom nie ken nie. En dit is baie belangrik dat ons gelowiges nie ander mense verhinder om saam te kom bid nie.

Multi-kulturele ervarings uit Lusaka

Written by Frederick on . Posted in Multikulturaliteit

  • Die Here se multikulturele gemeente hier in Lusaka is ontstellend broos. Net God hou ons bymekaar vas. Om dit te sien en te glo is partykeer meer ontwrigtend as wat mens sou wou hê.
  • – ‘n taamlike deel van die gemeente se samestelling is Afrikaanse ‘ex-pats’. Ek is een van hulle.

    – Verreweg die meeste van hulle is hier of om geld te maak of omdat hulle nie elders ‘n lewe kan maak nie. En geld is mag, beheer en veral onafhanklikheid.
    – Hulle moet aanpas om in ‘n ander land te woon en te werk. Sonder om daarop in te gaan: dis glad nie maklik nie — vir hulle persoonlik in hulle werk en vir hulle families hier en in die RSA.

    – Om dus net in hulle eie taal te mag aanbid, is vir hulle ‘n hemelse hawe. En om mede-volksgenote rondom hulle te sien; te hoor Afrikaans praat [onthou in die werk is dit net Engels] en naweke saam die pragtige Afrika bosse en vol riviere met vis te mag verken, is nog meer hemels in hierdie vreemde land. Hulle is dus entlik ‘n kliek!

    – Verreweg die meeste van Afrika se oorspronklike inwoners vertrou doodeenvoudig nie witmense nie; veral nie as hulle nog ook uit die RSA kom nie. Hulle ken ons geskiedenis beter as wat ons mag glo hier in Zambië. Onthou Zambië het menige ANC vlugtelinge uit die RSA, nie baie lank gelede nie, moes huisves.

    • Die volgende faktore ‘overide’ dus eenvoudig vir ons as God Drie-enig se geredde/vrygemaakte en gedoopte ‘Trinitarians’. Daarom is ons so verskriklik broos en sê ek ‘multikultureel’ gewoonlik baie sag.

    – Die vloek van die ‘volkskerk’ wat in die murg en gebeente van Afrikaanse mense veral deur boere-Calvinisme, soos Ferdinand Deist dit duidelik raakgesê het, ingebrand is. Ek het persoonlik terugvoer van die oorsese verteenwoordigers van die Gestuurde-Gemeentes-projek gehad, wat sê: nêrens in die wêreld waar hulle werk, is die volkskerk so erg as in die RSA nie.

    – Wat hiermee saamhang dat Afrikaanse mense glo mens kan net in jou moedertaal aanbid. “Ek sal liewer sonder kerk en erediens bly as ek dalk gevra moet word om die Here saam met ander in Engels te aanbid.

    – Lidmate met geldmag en beheer, want hulle het nie regtig ander mense nodig nie; hulle hoef hulle nie op te soek en te ken nie; hulle kom self goed reg en het veral die middele om hulleself lekker te vermaak en naweke op te bou saam met hulle Afrikaanse maters.

    – Die ekstra stres wat die werk en lewe in ‘n ander land meebring, laat ‘ex-pats’ sonder die energie om ook nog moeite met ander te doen; jouself te kruisig om na vreemdes — nie volksgenote — uit te reik nie.

    – Wantroue/vrees vir swartmense en koloniale onderdrukkers wat gesien word as uitbuiters. Europeërs wat Afrika sommer net kom vat het; Afrika baie vroeër eenvoudig net uit ‘greed’ opgedeel het by ‘n konvensie in Europa. Ter illustrasie die volgende verhaaltjie: Susan Sakala is die gemeente se ‘Office Coordinator’. Ek het haar hier kom kry as ‘n jongmens; haar ouers en hulle familie is toegewyde lidmate en voorgangers. Sy het, omdat sy bietjie ouer is as die ander jongmense, persoonlik, dws een tot een katkisasie vir twee jaar by my gehad. Ons ken mekaar goed! Ons is lief vir mekaar. Sy is later as Office Coordinator aangestel en ‘n jaar gelede vra ek haar: “Susan op ‘n tien-punt-skaal, hoeveel vertrou jy my?” Sonder om vir een oomblik te aarsel, antwoord sy: “5 out of 10, Abusa” Vir haar openhartigheid en eerlikheid, só het ek haar geantwoord, gee ek haar 10 uit 10. Ek het hierdie wantroue net so bevestig gekry by Barbara, ‘n ander swart dame en een van my stapmaats oggende vroeg.

    • Ek het ook die volgende begin ontdek:

    – God het oor baie jare heen, byna lewenslange Europeërs wat hier leef en werk oortuig, in die woorde van een van hierdie lidmate: “Martin, iemand wat in Afrika ryk word, doen dit altyd ten koste van die oorspronklike inwoners”. Hierdie lidmate is hoopgewers vir die Here se “Trinitarian-gemeente”.

    – Hier is ou ingesetenes in die groter Lusaka gebied wat regtig verskriklik armoedig en eenvoudig is. Hulle is vir my Kuyper se “kleine luyden”. Hulle is totaal gemarginaliseer. Geen Afrikaanse kerkraadslid het my ooit van hulle vertel nie. Daar was nie eers so ‘n wyk nie. Hoe kan hulle nou deel wees van ons ‘smart’ ouens? Ek moes hulle self in hulle wegkruipplekke stuk-stuk gaan ontdek. Hulle voel in elke geval glad nie welkom in die gemeente nie. Maar hierdie “magtelose” mense het nie probleme met swartmense nie en hulle het geen probleem daarmee dat ons in Engels aanbid nie — daar ver in die bos een keer per maand. En hulle nooi self enige een wat in die omgewing is om tog asseblief saam te kom! Hulle is elke maand die hoogtepunt in my bediening.

    – Ons bly op die kerk-werf reg langs die ‘Caretaker’, Adam en sy vrou, Donna Lungu en hulle twee klein kindertjies, Lize en Chisomo. Donna werk in ons huis, maar hulle is eintlik ons enigste werklike bure. Ons bly hier slegs die afgelope jaar en ‘n half. Ek ken hulle eintlik al 5 jaar, maar nou eers baie beter omdat hulle ons enigste bure is. Dit is slegs in hierdie nou buurskap dat ons mekaar regtig leer ken het; dat ons moes uitvind Donna is die slagoffer van ‘n Pa wat haar sedert haar elfde jaar gereeld verkrag het; sy op veertien uit die huis gevlug het en met Adam getroue het, net om uit die ellende weg te vlug. Onnodig om te sê, sy is op 24 ‘n alkoholis wat haar seer probeer wegdrink. Hulle het enorme huweliksprobleme. Ons het die geweld in die huis eers agtergekom toe ons nagstiltes wreed met vrees-gille onderbreek is. God is goed. Donna is nou al vier maande sonder drank en die huisgeweld het totaal opgehou. Hulle is albei besig met katkisasie. “Trinitarians’ kan eintlik net multikultureel in die gemeente in eenheid leef as hulle naby mekaar leef en werk. Die ander vloek in die RSA, is dus groepsgebiede. Eintlik bestaan dit nog net soos altyd voort. Geld en mag bepaal mos waar ek lekker apart kan bly. En dit staan vierkant in die pad van ‘n multikulturele gemeente. Dis so goed om dit nie hier in Lusaka te hê nie.

    ‘n Multikulturele gemeente leef baie broos en dis glad nie eenvoudig nie, maar nog nooit het ek in die 40 jaar van my werk soveel van God se goedheid en [wonder]werke met groot dankbaarheid en blydskap raakgesien nie. Wat kan mens ooit meer vra! Ek weet nie hoe ek ooit hier kan ophou werk nie.

    Hoe breek ons uit die monokulturele gemeentes

    Written by Frederick on . Posted in Multikulturaliteit

    1. In die Koninkryk is meer-kulturele geloofsgemeeskappe normaal en monokulturele geloofsgemeenskappe abnormaal.
    2. In Suider Afrika is meer kulturele geloofsgemeenskappe ‘n groeiende realiteit waarvan baie gelowiges ongelukkig uitgesluit is.
    3. Meer kulturele geloofsgemeenskap is ‘n Missio Dei
    4. In ‘n meerkulturele geloofsgemeenskap word kulturele voorkeure en taboes vloeibaar, en vind ransformasie van houdings en uitgangspunte plaas.
    5. Kultuurmeerderwaardigheid is een van die grootste uitdaging om meer kulturele geloofsgemeenskappe te bou.
    6. Meerkulturele geloofsgemeenskappe is broos en voel maklik blootgestel in die samelewing.
    7. In meerkulturele geloofsgemeenskappe word daar ‘n dieper identiteit in Christus gevorm as in monokulturele geloofsgemeenskappe.
    8. “Displacement” of gemeenskappe wat in liminaliteit is, is vrugbare grond vir die vorming van meer kulturele geloofsgemeenskappe.
    9. Meer kulturele geloofsgemeenskappe is ook sosiale gemeenskappe waarin saam eet, saam leef en saam bly baie belangrik is. Ons kan nie meer kulturele gemeenskappe vorm as ons net saam in ‘n erediens is nie.

    The Holy Spirit made the church grow by crossing boundaries

    Written by webmeester on . Posted in Multikulturaliteit

    The Gospel of Luke and Acts

    1.  Luke tells the story about Jesus and the spreading of the gospel in two more or less equal parts, The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostels.  The Gospel focuses on the ministry of Jesus to the Jewish nation and Acts on the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the believers to the nation of the world.

    The two parts of his story correspond to one another in an ingenious way:

    • Luke 1-9 tells about the spreading of the Gospel as does Acts 1-12 – the geography is just turned around: in the Gospel Jesus starts and works mainly in the rural areas of Galilee and Judea, whereas in Acts the Spirit leads the church from the city Jerusalem to the rural areas of Galilee and Judea.
    • Luke 10-19 tells a travel story as does Acts 13-20 – in the Gospel Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the consummation of his mission and in Acts Paul takes the gospel to Asia and Europe on three missionary travels.
    • Luke 20-24 tells the story of a hearing as does Acts 21-28 – Jesus and Paul appear before the same three tribunals, the Jewish Sanhedrin (Luke 22 – Acts 22), the Roman governor (Luke 23 – Acts 25) and one of the Herod kings (Luke 23 – Acts 25).

    Luke’s Gospel thus focuses on the spreading of the gospel to Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish nation, and his Acts focuses on the spreading of the gospel to Rome, the heart of the Roman empire.

    The implication for a missional theology, of this way the gospel spread in the first century, is that in its focus on the locality of people in the community, it must always also reckon with the communities across geographical boundaries, the Judea’s, Samaria’s and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Going local should never stand against going global.

    2.  Another interesting fact in comparing the two halves of Luke’s story, is that this spreading of the gospel across geographical boundaries, always went across sociological boundaries as well, which included language, economic, culture, ethnic, religious and  intellectual boundaries.

    In Luke the gospel spreads in a vertical manner through every level of society and reached the rich and the poor, the men and the women, the healthy and the sick, the Jews and the (in the eyes of the Jews) half-breed Samaritans.  The Gospel invites all Jews into a living relationship with Jesus.

    In Acts the gospel message does the same but spreads also horizontally across all national boundaries, Africa, Asia and Europe.  The Gospel invites all peoples and all cultures into a living relationship with Jesus through His Spirit.

    This makes the different sociological boundaries that divide people in one nation and also in different nations almost irrelevant in terms of the gospel.  All people from whatever group or nation are welcome in the kingdom of God.

    This is thus also a key element in the developing of a missional theology.  The spreading of the gospel and the inclusion of people into the kingdom across sociological boundaries are more important than the identity concerns of any specific sociological group, whether they are believers reaching out or not.

    3.  This sociological crossing of boundaries also entails that the dominant space where the presence of God is encountered changes.  In Luke’s Gospel the temple is still quite important – it begins and ends with scenes in the temple.  In Acts this changes and at first alternates between temple and the houses of believers, but after Acts 3-4 and the opposition of the Jewish Council, the household of believers become the dominant space where the presence of God is encountered.  Acts ends with Paul  in a house, albeit under house arrest, but unhindered in spreading the gospel to those that visit him.

    Elliot[i] shows how in Acts the tempel becomes “an alienating form of collective institutional life” while the household shows “a creative form of integrative group life”.  The temple takes life (Stephen) and the household gives life.  And this we find right through Paul’s ministry, where, although the synagogues stay the main starting point for his ministry in the different cities and towns, it is the households of believers that become the lifeblood of the congregations that begin to grow in the various locations across the world.

    The implication of this for a missional theology is that the crossing of boundaries will always entail some form of institutional destabilising  that will ensure that deep relationships can be formed between a diversity of peoples and groups.

    4.  This crossing of boundaries, although linked in the Gospel mainly to the work of Jesus  and to the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, is always also Trinitarian in character.

    The impression that one gets right through the book of Acts, is that the spreading of the gospel stands under the authority of the Trinity:

    • It is the Father that knows the times and dates that He sets by His own authority (chap. 1) and is linked with the Son to the gift of the Holy Spirit (chap. 2). In the rest of the book the He is not called by the name Father. The believers uses the name God and Lord in their prayers.
    • It is Jesus Christ that sets the agenda for the Great Outreach in chapter 1 and to whom is prayed with the choice of a 12th disciple (1:24) and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father (2:33) and pours it out on the disciples. He also talks with Saul at various times and once with Peter and Ananias respectively.
    • It is the Holy Spirit that is the leader in the practical business of the crossing of boundaries, that gives the conviction and inspiration right through the story of Acts, which could be more fittingly named The Acts of the Holy Spirit. But then, He is not self-referential, giving the honour to Jesus and the apostels and spreading His gospel to all nations, even being named once the Spirit of Jesus.

    The work of God is therefore done in a Trinitarian community.  And it is this God that works in the lives of individuals and groups to cross the boundaries to Him in faith and to the world in witness and calls us to also spread this community to all peoples and cultures.

    Crossing boundaries in Acts

    Acts can be divided into 6 broad movements that closes each time with a few summarizing redactional comments from Luke concerning the growth, spreading and eventual establishment of the Word of God in a certain area or group of people.

    It is as if Luke creates a pause with those comments, before the story moves in a new direction, whether geographically or ethnic or ethically or culturally.

    And each time these movements are linked to the work and witness of the Holy Spirit.

    Chapter 1:1 – 6:7 – jewish boundaries

    The good news of Jesus spreads to Jews in Jerusalem through the proclamation and ministry of Peter and John and the other apostles.

    • This includes a list of “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.” (2:5) Each one hears the apostles in his or her own language: “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs. (:9-11)
    • The news also spreads to the Jewish Council who vehemently opposes the spreading of the gospel by the apostles in two different sessions, but in the end decides to suffice only with threats and flogging.

    Luke ends this movement with the remark in 6:7:

    “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

    The first internal Jewish boundary to the Jewish Council is thus breached by the church with at least some of the priests that enters into the faith.  The first external albeit still Jewish boundary is also breached alongside with the breaching of the language boundary with the proclamation on Pentecost by the apostles to all the God-fearing Jews from other nations.

    And although God leads this movement also through the work of angels, the focus is on the Acts of the Holy Spirit who filled the believers on Pentecost and enabled them to proclaim the gospel (2:4).

    • We see it in Peter’s interpretation of the experience to link it to God’s promise to pour out His Spirit (2:17) and to the gift of Jesus: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (2:33)
    • We see it in the response of Peter, accompanied by his quiet companion John, to the Jewish Council that is also linked to being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (4:8)
    • We also find this in the gathering of the believers after the hearing: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (4:31)
    • And when the apostles are questioned at the second session with the Jewish Council about their audacity to disregard the command not to speak about Jesus, they respond by saying that they cannot but witness, as indeed the Holy Spirit does: “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (5:32).
    Chapter 6:8 – 9:31 – geographical boundaries

    The good news about Jesus spread further geographically, after the persecution that started with Stephen’s martyr death, mainly by ordinary believers witnessing to other Jews in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Assyrian-Jewish people) as well as Africa (Ethiopian official who could have been a God-fearing Jew).  “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (8:4)

    Special mention is made in two boundary-crossing stories of the Greek-speaking Philip, one of the seven, that leads the way into Samaria and Africa.

    Luke closes this geographical  movement with specific mention of the Holy Spirit in the remark in 9:31:

    “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

    The Horizontal growth of the gospel begins its advance although the boundaries crossed are still mainly to Jews or Samaritans in the cities and towns of Judea, Galilee and Samaria.  We are not told what happens in Ethiopia, although from church history we know that a church was established there very early with links to the church that eventually began in Alexandria. This is thus also an ethnic boundary that is crossed.

    This movement is also intrinsically linked to the work of the Holy Spirit.

    • Luke tells us specifically that in the growing opposition, that arose from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, who were Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia, that these men could not “stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” (6:9)
    • Stephen also castigates the resultant hearing of the Jewish Council for resisting the Holy Spirit, as their fathers did also. (7:51)
    • And when he ends his speech by looking up to Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Luke describes him as full of the Holy Spirit (7:55).
    • The crossing of boundaries to Samaria also includes the specific prayer ministry of the apostles so that the believers there could receive the Holy Spirit (8:15).
    • And in the crossing of boundaries to the Ethiopian, it is the Spirit that tells Philip to go to the chariot and stay near it (8:29) and takes him away afterwards (8:39).
    • The movement closes with the observation that the church was encouraged by the Holy Spirit, as indeed Saul was in receiving the Holy Spirit by the ministry of Ananias (9:17-19).
    Chapter 9:32 – 12:24 – gentile boundaries

    The first intentional religious boundary crossing to gentiles – Cornelius was an Italian soldier – takes place in Caesarea through the ministry of Peter.  Just before his visionary paradigm shift he was working very effectively amongst Jews in Lydda, Sharon and Joppa: “ All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” (9:35)  But this movement of the Spirit to include gentiles from Caesarea in the kingdom changed the face of the church radically.  And in accepting Peter’s explanation of the events back in Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians had to let go of their exclusive understanding of who God includes in His kingdom.

    This outreach to gentiles also occurred almost simultaneously in Antioch.  Those believers who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen spoke to Jews as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.  But some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, began to speak to Greeks also when they came to Antioch and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (11:19-21).  Thus the church in Jerusalem sent them Barnabas: “full of the Holy Spirit”. (11:24)

    The movement to the gentiles in these chapters closes with the remark in 12:24-25:

    “But the word of God continued to increase and spread. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.”

    The first religious boundary crossing to gentiles in these chapters changes the whole way the church operates and becomes the main theme for the rest of the story of Acts.

    This movement is also intrinsically linked to the work of the Spirit.

    • When the three men arrive at Joppa, just after Peter’s vision, it is the Spirit that says to him to go with them.
    • And it is the outpouring of the Spirit that clinches the paradigm shift for Peter that gentiles are included into the body of Christ: “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (10:47)
    • And in his explanation to the church in Jerusalem he links the gentile outpouring of the Spirit to the promise of Jesus: “‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?'” (11:17-19)
    • The Spirit is also seen at work in the life of Barnabas (11:24) and Agabus, the prophet (11:28).
    Chapter 12:25 – 16:5 – Religious, Ethnic and ethical boundaries

    The next movement of the Gospel is to Asia when Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the church in Antioch on the first of three missionary travels.  A wide range of peoples are reached including the governor Sergius Paulus in Cyprus (chap. 13), the priests of Zeus in Lystra (chap. 14), and a number of ordinary people in Lystra, Derbe and Iconium, although the Jews made it very hard for them at various points on this journey.

    The most important outcome of this missionary outreach for crossing boundaries was the way ethical questions came to the fore that had to be settled by the church in Jerusalem (chap. 15) before the church in Antioch could extend their missionary endeavours.

    On the one hand the questions were related to the identity of the Jews linked especially to the necessity of circumcision, and on the other hand related to the identity of the various gentile people, especially with regards to eating and sexual habits.  The church made the far-reaching decision to let go of circumcision as a necessary identity signature, and to only forbid the drinking of blood, the eating of strangled animals, the eating of food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality.

    With this decision the church crossed the ethical-religious boundary that not only affirmed their inclusivity but also guaranteed the sustainability of the further outreach of believers across other boundaries.  It also included the crossing of ethnic boundaries.

    Luke closes this section with his remark in 16:4-5:

    “As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”

    The Holy Spirit is again the principal inspiration and motivation not only of the outreach as such but also of the church’s ethical-religious decision.

    • In Acts 13 it is He that tells the congregation in Antioch during prayer and fasting to set Barnabas and Saul apart for the work He has called them (13:2).
    • And when they obey this calling and set out for Cyprus, Luke again tells us that they were sent on their way by the Spirit (13:4).
    • Saul ministers in the witness to Sergius Paulus “filled with the Holy Spirit” (13:9).
    • Even when they encounter radical opposition, Luke tells us, that they were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (13:52).
    • At the church’s meeting in Jerusalem to decide on the religious-ethical issues, one of the arguments raised for a lenient approach towards gentiles, is the fact of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on gentiles(15:8).
    • And when a decision is reached, and sent by letter to the church in Antioch, it is attributed firstly to the Holy Spirit (15:28) in combination with the church.
    Chapter 16:6 – 19:20 – socio-economic, ethnic and intellectual boundaries

    The good news spread even further into Europe through two subsequent missionary journeys by Paul that leads to the situation that the church have more and more gentile believers.

    • In Philippi (chap. 16) the church starts with people from different ethnic groups (Jewish, roman and a slave girl from an unknown group) and also from different socio-economic groups (Lydia, a business woman, a middle-class jailer and a slave girl from the bottom of the social ladder). This causes the authorities and magistrates to take notice of the spreading of the gospel to their city, resulting in a time in jail for Paul and his companions.
    • In Thessalonica a number of Jews, even Jason that came from Tarsus (Rom 16:21), as well as a number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women (chap. 17).
    • In Berea a number of Greeks, men as well as prominent women came to faith with even more eagerness than in Thessalonica.
    • In Athens Paul engages the philosophers, Epicureans and Stoics, at the Areopagus (chap. 17) that leads to one of their members, Dionysius, coming to faith, as well as a women Damaris and a few others.
    • And then in Corinth another Jew, Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his house comes to faith.
    • On the third missionary journey Luke tells the story of Ephesus, where a few believers receive the Holy Spirit, having previously only received the baptism of John (chap. 19). In the lecture hall of Tyranus Paul proclaimed the gospel so that Luke reports, so that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (19:10)

    This movement into Europe with the last bit back into Asia closes with the remark:

    “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (19:20)

    On this wide-ranging journey a wide number of boundaries were crossed: religious, ethnic, economic-social and intellectual.

    As was the case in all the other movements of the gospel, this movement into Europe is also linked to the work of the Holy Spirit.

    • It starts off with the report that the Holy Spirit made very sure that they crossed the boundary to Europe. Luke writes that Paul and his companions had to travel through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they thus came to the border of Mysia, and they tried to enter Bithynia, the “Spirit of Jesus” would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas where Paul had the vision of a man of Macedonia asking him to come over. Luke reports this in the first person: ” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
    • The movement into Ephesus was also accompanied by a few disciples of John receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.
    Chapter 19:21 – 28:31 – political boundaries

    The last movement starts while Paul is still busy with his third missionary journey, when he decides to go back to Jerusalem and departs from Ephesus.  When in Jerusalem, things went against him and he ended up in jail and were finally brought into contact with the political leaders of both the Romans and the Jews.  And the book of Acts ends with him in Rome, the capital of the empire, where he stayed for two years preaching the gospel.

    This movement across political boundaries closes with the remark in 28:30-31:

    “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.  Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    The boundary towards the political rulers of his time was thus crossed with ample time for witnessing, although it had happened a few sporadic times previously.

    This movement towards the political leaders of his time is also linked to the work of the Spirit.

    • In Ephesus he explains this to the elders: “”And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. ” (20:22-23) He urges the elders to “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” (20:28)
    • In Tyre they stayed with a few disciples who “through the Spirit” urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem (21:4), presumably because of the hardships that Paul himself explained previously and Agabus also voiced: “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'” (21:11)
    • Interestingly enough the Lord Himself also appears to Paul at different times (9:5; 18:9; 23:11) as also to Peter (10:14).

    Concluding remarks

    I conclude this paper by making a few summary remarks in closing.

    I think the way Luke tells the story of both his Gospel and Acts shows that the crossing of boundaries is a key element in understanding the way the gospel works.  In Acts it is one of the most important ways the Holy Spirit grows the church.

    From Luke’s Gospel we learn that the salvation of Jesus Christ impacted all levels of Jewish society in a vertical manner and that this remains a foundational aspect of the way God works in any society.  All people are welcome in the kingdom of God and therefore in the church.

    This is thus also a key element in the developing of a missional theology.  The spreading of the gospel and the inclusion of people into the kingdom across sociological boundaries are more important than the identity concerns of any specific sociological group, whether they are believers reaching out or not.

    From the book of Acts we learn that the Holy Spirit inspired the believers in various ways to cross horizontal boundaries.  We read of the crossing of language, economical, sociological, geographical, cultural, ethnic, religious, intellectual and political boundaries.  And those terms are just a selection – the truth is, there is no boundary that the Spirit would not urge us to cross, if that could mean that the kingdom could come for a few more people unto the ends of the earth.  All cultures are welcome in the church.

    From the point of view of Acts, this far-reaching horizontal boundary crossing forms an integral aspect of the dynamics of a missional understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and indeed of the way the Trinity works.

    The implication for a missional theology today, is that in its focus on the locality of people in the community, it must always also reckon with the communities across geographical boundaries, the Judea’s, Samaria’s and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Going local should never stand against going global.

    This also means, as was shown by Elliot in the sociological paradigm shift from temple to house, that the crossing of boundaries will always entail some form of institutional destabilising  that will ensure that deep relationships can be formed between a diversity of peoples and groups.

    The promise that Acts gives us in encouragement, is that nobody can stand in the way of God crossing boundaries: not the Jewish leaders (5:39), not the unbelieving Jews (9:1 – Saul), not the church in Jerusalem (11:17), not the Jewish king (12:23 – Herod was consumed by worms), not the Jewish conservatives (15:10), not the religious and secular opposition of the Greeks (chap. 16; 19) not even shipwreck or poisonous snakes (chap. 27-28).

     

    Chris van Wyk

    acv.vanwyk@gmail.com



    [i] Elliott, J. H. “Temple versus Household in Luke-Acts: A Contrast in Social Institutions”. Pages 211-40 in The Social World of Luke-Acts. Edited by J. H. Neyrey. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.

    Western Culture Observed by a Cross-Cultural Missionary

    Written by Frederick on . Posted in Multikulturaliteit

    One day Issac Newton was sleeping under an apple tree and was awaken when an apple fall on his forehead. Of course, Newton was not the first person who had ever seen an apple falling from the tree. And there were thousands of people who would mention, “The apple had grown big enough so that it was time to fall down” or “It was a matter of natural law that things above fall dawn below.” But the greatness of Newton lies in that he refused to be satisfied with that kind of explanation and continued to ask the question why the apple fall down until he discovered the law of gravity. No less great is the insight of Newbigin the missiologist. People usually attributed the stagnation of the English Church in the twentieth century to secularization, and if asked why the English society was going through secularization, they would vaguely attribute it to the trends of modern times. But Newbigin did not stop there and investigated until he attributed the root of the secularization of western culture to the wrong assumptions of the Enlightenment.

    Like the Queen Mother of the British monarchy, Rev. Lesslie Newbigin was born at the beginning of the twentieth century, and lived almost a century. If the Queen Mother is the history of the British monarchy in the twentieth century, and Newbigin the history of English Church mission movement in the century. Just as Moses in the Old Testament had become a leader of the Exodus after forty years of his life in Egypt and forty years of cross-cultural experience, Lesslie Newbigin had become a leader of the “gospel and culture” movement after forty years of his life in Britain and forty years of cross-cultural experience. With his unusual gift of communicating all the difficult philosophical, sociological, and theological concepts, he tells us what he experienced in his life and ministry.

    Returning from his forty years of missionary service oversees (with most of his service in the East) Newbigin saw that Britain was no longer the same Britain he saw before his departure to his mission field in India. The Great Britain in the past was the center of modern civilization to where people from every side of the world came to learn advanced civilization including government and medicine. But about the time he was returning home, he saw English young men in India wandering the city in unwashed clothes to learn the oriental wisdom. Issac Newton’s vision of modernism was to export the light of enlightenment and civilization to the whole world. But here were the British young people who were disappointed by the civilization that modernism had brought. The hope for the promise of modernism had faded away!
    His pastoral experience as a retired missionary was another illustration of the cultural context of modernity Newbigin observed. When a small church in the district of the Asian immigrants was about to be closed by the presbytery, Newbigin appealed for the preservation of the congregation and was allowed to assume the pastoral position of the church on the condition of no pay for his pastoral ministry. When he was visiting the neighborhood to win a chance for evangelism, the English family often met him with cold refusal on the door. It was rather the pagan Asian families who invited him to the living room for tea. And when rarely an English neighbor opened the door, it was no longer the Bible but the television which occupied the center of the English family living.

    In this context Newbigin experienced that far more difficult than to evangelize a Hindu was to evangelize a British. To bear witness to Christ to a Hindu is a hard work enough. But even though they opposed to Christian faith, the Hinds were, at least, not uninterested in a spiritual topic. And far more difficult was to evangelize who were not interested in spiritual affair than who oppose to Christian faith. It was the kind of society where faith was considered as a matter of personal choice, and therefore evangelism was taken as intruding one’s privacy. And that in the homeland of the Puritan movement, in the land with the heritage of the Wesleyan spiritual revival, and the hometown of the great preachers such as Spurgeon! This illustrates that the same Britain can be a spiritually productive land in one age, and barren in other age.
    As Newbigin’s life and ministry demonstrate it, a cross-cultural missionary sees his or her own culture with the Christian eyes of a foreigner, and the foreigner can see what the native cannot see (Newbigin 1994:68). This is why cross-cultural mission has implications for theology. Even a brief survey of the history of western theology illustrates this. Because of the total dominance of European culture in the ecumenical movement, there has seldom been any awareness among Western theologians of the extent to which their own theologies have been the result of a failure to challenge the assumptions of their own culture. This failure reduced Western Christianity to what Karl Barth calls “Culture Christianity” whose theology was a mere reflection of the modernist assumptions. Now it was Lesslie Newbigin who challenged the false assumptions of the western culture shaped by modernism.