Friday 1 December 1996
'Nations will come to your light, and Kings to the Brightness of your dawn!'
Last week some of us gathered in Nairobi (Fidelia, James, Abiola, Ronald). The Consultation focused on 'Bridge-building' and meant the relationship between the African Independent churches in Africa and Europe and the former mission-churches. It was the first of its kind and showed us the tremendous need to get together, bury our bitterness of the past, and embark on a joint mission into the future. On Sunday we met for worship with two of the African independent churches of Kenya, the African Holy Ghost Christian Church (or Akorino Church) and the African Divine Church, one Kikuju, the other Suaheli. I shall never ever forget the joy, the mutual sharing, the singing and drumming, the joint participation of each and everybody - and the highly alert, positive critical attitude of these Christians! 'We are in a crisis,' the preacher began, 'and Jesus was in a crisis, and Paul was in a crisis, and we are there to deal with the crisis of our people.' And I will always remember the large procession of hundreds of people, women, men and children with banners and in white-red-green gowns, who witnessed to the liberation in Jesus Christ on the streets and among the poor and marginalised.
When in the past I have been asked what my 'VISION' is of ecumenical togetherness, of genuine 'partnership' between people, or of the Kingdom of God, I never could answer with words. I had to draw a picture. Or better, I had to draw attention to Jesus' parable of the ROUND TABLE to which people will come from East and West, North and South, and will eat and share and rejoice. This still stays with me today and also for this conference - that the Kingdom of God is at hand when we meet directly and personally, when we see each other face to face, when privileges and injustices and superiority feelings are gone, when we begin to share our power and resources, and when we all are concerned, supporting people to reclaim their cultural identity and human dignity. Or as Martin Luther King Jr once said: As a Christian I can never be patient or complacent, as long as there is ONE person whose dignity still remains violated or trampled upon! But then, this ROUND TABLE is also a gathering of people with CRISES. This means that it is not just the harmonious picture as which some, often traditional, Christians would have it portrayed. It is tied up with the immediate explanation Jesus adds, and which we tend to forget - that at this very table FIRST WILL BE LAST, AND LAST WILL BE FIRST. For instance, first and foremost it will be the weak, the hungry, the dispossessed, the victims, also women and children, who will be allowed to sit down and rest! Just like on the streets of Nairobi, the Kingdom of God will be there where people understand the human crisis and deal with the injustices and inequalities of this world.
And this, quite obviously, involves an element of JUDGEMENT, not on others but on ourselves. I was struck by the context of Jesus' Round Table picture in the Gospel of Luke. In his words: 'You will begin to say, apologising, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our Leeds, London or Geneva streets." But I shall say, "I do not know you", and you will wonder who else will come from all directions and sit with Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel - and all the unrecognised prophets in the Kingdom of God! All the unrecognised prophets. This is what it is all about!
The UNRECOGNISED PROPHETS here in this room and everywhere. We are called to come to God's Round Table freed from self-interests, privileges, denominational fights, cultural superiorities and serve God's people on the streets. This is what counts, also in our considerations today. God's Mission not inward-looking but outward-looking, or again with Jesus' easy to understand pictures: like a mustard seed which will, no doubt, grow into a tall tree for multitudes to enjoy - or like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of ordinary flour until all of it was leavened.