For more than thirty years I have been a part of the Western Suburbs Ministers’ Fraternal in Nelson Mandela Bay. Over those years there has developed a mutual respect and loving fellowship second-to-none among the local ‘ministers’ (I use a small ‘m’ to reflect the function of ‘service’ rather than church office as commonly used). They have served the Lord and one another through thick and thin, pastoral heartbreak and joys. Though I broke from church institutionalism and denominationalism over nine years ago, I have still been the recipient of love and respect despite quite radical ecclesiological differences between me and them.
Just over a week ago we had our regular coffee and muffins gathering in a local church hall. For me at least, it was one of those occasions when Jesus seemed to draw especially close. There were several features to the gathering that morning (as seen through my eyes):
- We hosted two young visitors from the OM ship Logos Hope, presently in our harbour. They told us their story of sharing the evangel and the discipleship mandate with all and sundry around the world. George and Kim, from England and South Korea respectively, shared stories of many lives touched by the ship’s visit around the globe, including when berthing in Muslim countries where hundreds queued to buy books and Bibles, seeing and hearing the Good News demonstrated in one form or another. Heart-warming stuff!
- At our previous Fraternal we had neglected to appoint someone to bring a short ‘word,’ and so when no one was forthcoming, I found myself sharing something somewhat personal (I am essentially introvert!). I had just recently read an article on Daniel ch. 9 by a new-found friend, a professor from our local university. It was along the lines of recognising the current ‘kairos’ moment in our country and world, and being able like Daniel in his day, to fulfill the role of ‘post-modern mystics,’ reading and interpreting God’s unchanged purpose in and for our times. ‘We need those who through many years of study and fellowship with God have learned God’s wisdom through His Word, who have brought up children and grandchildren, who truly know the human soul, and have become reservoirs of God’s wisdom so that they can guide the community of faith.’ The intention is that the Church can once more begin to shine as a beacon of hope and give answers to the confusion and pain of our world. This demands we enter the world of interpreting the signs of the times, dreams, symbols, intuition, etc, that lead to authentic spirituality. Now as a Baptist pastor for thirty-eight years I have never been into ‘dreams’ and their interpretation much (lol), although perhaps I’m now a little more open because of my journey with God the last nine years! All my life my dreams have been generally nonsensical, and I have envied those mature believers who have experienced otherwise. Recently I have been dreaming a particular kind of ‘dream’ (I qualify as one of the ‘old men’ in terms of Joel 2:28ff and Acts 2:16ff), sharing a common thread: I’m in a large church gathering of sorts made up predominantly of children, teens and young adults and a scattering of older saints fervently worshipping God and serving one another in witness, song, dance and acts of power reminiscent of Joel 2 and Acts 2. My ‘interpretation?’ that it may be a picture increasingly being realised in our time, viz that of young and old, male and female, visions and dreams, breaking through traditional church barriers to express Christ and his love in a new ‘kingdom way.’
- The leaders present seemed to identify with the picture. A local city intercessor related how many hundreds of our township youth are gathering regularly for worship, fellowship, prayer and sharing Christ’s love tangibly in the community.
- A local Methodist pastor shared how Lk. 7:11-17 had been burning in his heart and he hoped to preach on it that Sunday. It is the well-known story of Jesus raising a widow’s only son, at Nain. The pastor explained from v. 13 how when Jesus saw the widow’s heartbreak he ‘had compassion’ on her, told her to dry her tears, touched the bier, and raised the young man from the dead to the astonishment of all, the word spreading throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside. The original for ‘had compassion’ is ‘esplanchnisthe,’ the word for intestines, the bowels (African culture gels with this), the ‘heart.’ It wasn’t a head thing but a gut thing! The lesson? Those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps, as they act with gut-compassion in the face of need, will see divine life springing forth! Someone suggested that if this could happen across our metro, by the doing of the Lord’s hand, how blessed we would be as Church and community!
- Again prompted by our Methodist friend, the group began to sing a capella ‘Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya (loosely translated ‘come on by, my Lord’). Song gave way to fervent prayer: for the Logos team, the local pastor, and one another. There was such a spirit of unity, love and grace among us! [more about Kumbaya below]
At our house church this past Lord’s day, I sensed that I should relate the above events. During the week we had decided to focus on the Joel and Acts passages, put them in historical context, and draw out their import for ourselves as a community. There was immediate resonance from the folk present, followed by participation around the reference to a ‘remnant,’ etc. After sharing the Luke 7 passage and the message emerging at the Fraternal, one of our women read some lines from Susan Lenzkes that she had meditated on that very morning:
‘Compassion invites the honesty that voices the unspeakable and brings healing!’
Wow! Is it possible to act again with this specific kind of compassion in the face of specific need? And why not? It will take a little courage and faith on our part, as a believer, as a community – the outcome is assured, for the living Christ is in us and among us and he has promised! Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya! Come on by, my Lord, come on by!!
A little about Kumbaya, and a prayer suggestion…
The song seems to have originated in the mid 1920’s as a traditional spiritual of the South Carolina area, possibly deriving from the creole spoken by the former slaves of South Carolina and Georgia. The revival group, the Folksmiths, thought it originated from Angola in Africa, and popularised the song during the early to mid-1960’s. It was also sung by Joan Baez in 1962 and became associated with the civil rights movement of that time. The lyrics differ, but here is one version you may want to pray/sing with us:
Someone’s singing, Lord, kum ba ya (x 3)… O Lord, kum ba ya.
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum ba ya (x 3)… O Lord, kum ba ya.
No more war, my Lord, kum ba ya (x3)… O Lord, kum ba ya.
Someone’s laughing, Lord, kum ba ya (x3)… O Lord, kum ba ya.
Someone’s crying, Lord, kum ba ya (x 3)… O Lord, kum ba ya.
Oh I need you, Lord, kum ba ya (x 3)… O Lord, kum ba ya!’
[Now if you prayed/sang those words with us, perhaps let us know below (under ‘Leave a Reply’) in which country, and let the song go round the world!]