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Friday 04 September 2015

Nkosivumile Gola

What if we are leading people to a distorted view of God?

In many cases people who oppose Christian involvement in politics say that politics, in a way, fixes peoples’ eyes on ‘temporary things’ instead of on eternal things. My question is: what if the ‘temporary things’ lead to people having a different and distorted view of God? Many atheists are people who have their roots in Christianity, but our continuous neglect of all the possible injustices may have lead them into walking away from a God who does not care about the suffering of the world. They are like the prodigal son of the New Testament.

Every prodigal son is drawn back to the father’s bosom as they see the goodness of the father, as they see that there is no father’s servant or son that sleeps without food, as they see that there is no lack in my father’s house. As long as the church acts with the status quo the prodigals will never return to the house of the father for the father is malevolent. Anything that has the potential of painting God in a way other than who He really is sounds the bell for the Christian to speak up, act, change and transform. And so it is for politics. 

We have to be clear that there is no apolitical being; we are all involved in politics whether consciously or unconsciously. The most unfortunate part is that those who are unconsciously involved in politics are unconsciously part of the status quo. Therefore, if there is oppression in the system they are siding with those who oppress (often unaware of their complicity). Most of those who are consciously involved are against the status quo because they get to see that the ‘norm’ is unacceptable.

With all of the above said, we have the great commission which has been turned into a vision of many churches. My own church put it like this: “His last command is our first concern”. But the question is: have we truly seen what is entailed in that great commission? The great commission tells us that “as we go we disciple, as we go we teach and as we go we baptise” Matthew 28. This means that the evangelism of the nations is not an event for a Christian (like evangelism in Khayelitsha, for example), but it is a life of a believer. Therefore, how you spend your money is evangelism, how you treat your workers is evangelism, how you live your life is evangelism, how you treat the next person you see is evangelism. That is why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

In the gospel of Matthew it is said “Let your light shine before all men, so that people may see your good works and give honour to your father in heaven”. This verse in simple terms says that in our daily social and public lives, we are to be the model of what God intended for people in the beginning. It is in them (the people who are seeing the good works) seeing what God had always intended for them that they will be transformed and come to know the Lord Jesus.

The mere point of politics has always been about the question of ownership. Now is the bible quiet about this? The question that is asked in politics is often related to who owns and runs the means of production? The church is called to model and proclaim who should own the means of production. Our proclamation is our speaking of the truth to power, and our modelling is found in the book of acts where it says of the church, “No one was lacking amongst them”. Why is it so easy for our church to speak against abortion, to speak against or stand for same-sex marriage but yet we fail to speak against policies that continue to side-line the majority of our people in South Afrika? Just as no one was lacking amongst them, so it is our church that will demonstrate that there is a possibility of no lack in our churches today (Acts 2). Politics is Zaccheus being reconciled with God and also reconciled with his own community through the act of restitution. The Church’s core mission is the ministry of reconciliation (Luke 19, 2 Corinthians 5) – politics, again.

In anything that concerns humanity, God is involved. Anything that concerns the “neighbour” is an area in which the Christian should be involved. May we stop side-lining God in His own affairs! The church is the opinion of God in all matters of life.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Siki Dlanga

What’s in a Name?: Reflections on #CapeTownRain

The original name for Cape Town is said to be a Khoi word, spelt often as “Camissa” by early colonial writers. It means “the place of sweet waters.” However, knowing how colonials always misspelt our African languages- my mother is furious each time she reads something about her culture that has been written by colonials because it is always mis-informed-  leads me to believe that the place known as “Camissa” may in fact be the word, Ncamisa, misspelt to better suit the tongue of the colonial writer.

Ncamisa is a Xhosa word- although much Xhosa vocabulary is from Khoisan languages anyway. In actual fact, the word “Xhosa” itself is not a Xhosa word but a Khoisan word. If “Camissa” is supposed to mean “The Place of Sweet Waters” then the Xhosa meaning of Ncamisa is not far from that interpretation. Ncamisa means “to taste”, usually something good.

As we know, Xhosa words often have 3 meanings.
Ncamisa means: firstly, to taste something good, secondly it means “to kiss,” lastly it means “to completely defeat/overcome.”

The meaning “The Place of Sweet Waters” in a land that is now suffering great drought is interesting. The Place of Sweet Waters was renamed as Cape Town as a sign that colonialism triumphed and apartheid flourished, and subsequently, the waters became bitter. Democracy did not lift the bitterness of colonial history and signs of apartheid still operate in various forms all over Cape Town.

The sweet waters became bitter because the people of the land were forced out of the city. Sweet Waters were made bitter because of self-seeking violent settlers who eventually created forced removals which have led people to self-destruct in gang wars. They say stolen bread tastes sweet, but stolen land, racism and elitism have been stirring bitterness and anger for a while now. Sweet Waters have been made bitter until even the bitter waters have dried out.

NCAMISA: To Kiss - To Worship
In the Bible, the word ‘worship’ often means “to kiss towards” (e.g. John 4:23,24: Those that worship Him shall worship Him in Spirit and in truth). Do you remember the woman that Jesus said would be famous because of her worship? What did she do? She kissed His feet (Kiss the Son Ps 2:11-12). She poured expensive perfume on His feet, that cost her a whole year’s worth of wages. This was a sacrifice of love. Worship is sacrifice, not mere lip service. She did not merely sing but she poured tears of repentance and love on His feet. She became a living sacrifice at His feet. Jesus also bemoaned how Simon did not welcome Him with kisses. Kisses are worship and Judas’ kiss was false worship that led to death.

Flirtatious kisses are not worship: The Cost of Worship
There have been numerous prophetic words about Cape Town being a city whose calling is to become a worshipping center. The symbolism of worship as “to kiss” is that it is also a symbol of love and reconciliation. True love. Love that is not lip service. Love that is not blind to injustice and the suffering of God’s children. Love that is not self-seeking or self-preserving or cowardly. There is no reconciliation without justice in Cape Town. There is no love without sacrifice. Therefore, there can be no cheap worship.
King David once refused to take a free offering to God. He insisted on paying for it because he said; “I will not give to God that which costs me nothing.” True worship is costly because it is an act of deep love. It cannot come from lukewarm hearts, hearts that are lukewarm about justice, hearts that are far-away from God and therefore far from God’s people that He wants to feed. (Peter do you love Me? Feed my lambs).
True worship is costly and the worshipper worships gladly. She brings a year’s worth of wages if that is what her heart tells her to do. God already owns everything and a true worshipper worships with this knowledge and without fear. God does not ask for anything He has not already given or already provided.

The story of Cape Town is around water and land. Jesus is the Living Water and as my young brother Nkosi would say, Jesus is on the cross and He is thirsty. The thirsty Jesus represents the suffering poor.

To Kiss: to taste Reconciliation:
We know that when Jesus spoke about His thirst, He went to Samaria. Samaritans and Jews did not get along, but it is there that Jesus offered His Living water. It is there that Jesus revealed that He is the Messiah. Many had been asking and He would not reveal who He was to them regardless of their high status. Yet Jesus chose to reveal Himself to this woman who supposedly belonged to a “lesser people,” an enemy tribe.

Ncamisa: To Kiss is to End Apartheid
Jesus went where she was. He did not stay separated from her simply because that was the system of the day. In fact, Jesus humbled Himself before her, and asked for something He knew that He could offer her. The Creator asked a human being for water, a substance He created. Here Jesus models the profound humility written about Him in the book of Phil 2:6. Jesus also crossed racial and gender stereotypes which still exist today in Israel. Modern day Israel has even built walls so that it does not interact with Palestinians. The book of Ephesians calls these the walls of hostility. Jesus came to destroy those walls and even tore the curtain that separated us from God, with His last sigh on the cross. Priests do not talk to gentiles or women in Jerusalem to this day, and yet King Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, is not interested in apartheid. He came to destroy the hostile dividing walls of gender, race or class.

Ncamisa: To completely overcome, to completely defeat:
Worship brings about the complete defeat of the enemy. King David’s life shows how a worshipper completely defeated Goliath.

Ncamisa also means “to defeat:” I don’t have to spell out all that needs to be defeated in Cape Town for it to become a Place of Sweet Waters again. The secrets are in plain sight. The story of Cape Town is written in water and land. Ncamisa. Overcome, Cape Town. Overcome.
Overcome the hostility of the dividing walls, and with your worship, make Cape Town the place of sweet waters again.

Ncamisa, even as Elisha turned bitter waters to Sweet Waters. This is my prayer for Ncamisa (Camisa), Cape Town. Be sweet again. Be sweet again for the people who have been marginalized and the people living in gang violence. Be sweet again. Be sweet for the people whose land has been stolen and the people who have been forced out of the city and forced into poverty. Be sweet. Kiss. Overcome. In Jesus Name.