Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reading Acts (again)

Had a challenging, yet fascinating, conversation the last few days, with some (powerful!)New Testament scholars, on the book of Acts. I still wonder why I was also 'hosted', but, being the humble person that I am, it felt like a safe space to offer my irreverent questions, from the sidelines, so to speak. I should congratulate those who thought of this. Maybe, like one of the retired missiology scholars said, we should take the conversation further and invite poets and artists next time, because perhaps they might be even closer to the questions that real people ask.

For me, I am reminded that we all read texts differently. By posing only one authorative reading, we might miss some of the richness of the messages, in and also behind the wonder-ful stories in the texts. Let me illustrate: for some the emphasis on the 'kingdom of God' (1:3 & 28:31), meant the letting go of our kingdoms, empires and power. This imply that we acknowledge that the church operate within a world where external authorities and powers claim absolute adherance and worship (idolatry). This new movement, within Judaism, following Jesus of Nasareth, however now claim that there is a new emperor, a new emerging, alternative authority, called the 'kingdom of God'. The heart of this new movement lies then in the cross and ressurection of Jesus Christ. It calls for a vulnerability and alternative lifestyle of affirming that God is the real authority and power, not the church.

I can live with that, but I also argued that the reality is that people want to experience the power of God. People want to experience the 'hidden powers' of the kingdom, otherwise they remain trapped and in bondage-they are raped again and again by the powerful of this world. For them verses of 1:8, 'you will recieve power, when the Holy Spirit...' becomes critical; they read of the miracles, driving out of demons, of how the apostles and leaders confronted the powers and overcame them. The kingdom of God means a literal liberation from bondage, from the shackles of poverty, injustice, racism, from sickness, which are defined as the curse. Here, the gospel of prosperity make sense and churches that preach this message are hailed as hopegiving, as successful. At least one has to affirm that they are more attractive then churches, that still calls for vulnerability and 'laying down our lives'.

This little conversation illustrates how we might read the same text diffently.

There are also other themes within the book namely essence of work of the Holy Spirit, Mission, the Unity of the church as she crossed cultural borders, the contest between Paul and the political and economic auhtorities

I wondered also about the question, why Luke only focussed on expansion of the church Westwards. This relates to a statement by RS Sugirtharajah, a biblical scholar, where he states, 'The story of the expansion of the Church as it is told through Paul's journeys in Acts is selective and partial...It celebrates and priviledges only the Hellinistic expansion of the church namely from Jerusalem to Rome, and the Jewish mission to Gentiles in the Roman Empire. What the author of Acts fails to record is that there was another history of the founding of the Church east of the Euphrates and throughout the Persian Empire, whose territorial control extended to the borders of India'(2003:25). For Sugirtharajah, these considerations has implications for the old idea (myth) that Christianity only grew westwards and the so-called closed lands and Africa only recieved the gospel, 'as a gift from a benevolent West to enlighten the heathen'. Anyway, I think this line of thinking is worth exploring, because the 'Spirit goes (blows) wherever it will'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another celebration through dance

Our church had a dance festival, last weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The children and young people had a real enjoyable time and hosted by Hosanna Dance Ministry, they succeeded in presenting an excellent demonstration of what is possible in terms of Dance Ministry in our churches, but more-so in developing our children young people.

I want to probe deeper into the possbilities that exists, for faith communities and youth organisations. A few comments would be enough for now:
1) Dance ministry, as we have seen this weekend, is not simply about entertainment, it is ministry. Ministry, relates to service, giving up of ourselves and relates to compassionate caring..its more then simply an 'item' in a concert.
2) Dance is rooted in holistic understanding of development or growth. Here the whole of a person is involved, i.e. the emotional, the body, the mind. We have come long way since the time where it was only the knowledge of people were valued. If I pass the exam, then I can become an adult, in the church, in the community, in the workplace. With the emergence of concepts like emotional intellegence, we slowly become aware of a bigger reality.. the appreciation of our integrated development, is demonstrated where children and young people dance and laugh, where they appreciate the power of music, beat and play.
3)If dance is about sexuality and an expression of the fact that we are also sexual, then we should explore this relationship. For too long our communities, espescially our faith communities did not want to ackowledge this reality. In the meantime, young people discovered their sexuality, explored it (on their own) and, in many cases hoped for some-one to guide them (or at least accompany) in making sense of these exiting discoveries. Dance provides a space for exploring this and for talking about it.
4) Dance ministries should be integrated in the centre of communities experiences, rituals and practices. In churches, we should seek to integrate it in our weekly worship events-not as a side show or (again) an item, but flowing out of and into what the community does and experience.
5) Lasly, I would hope that dance ministry should not only be about enacting the ancient forms of dance. These remain special and important. We also need to allow our newer generations, in terms of current youth cultures, to creatively explore new vistas, new styles and genres, to explore the contextualisation of the old cultural forms, with the new.

This is an exiting area for us all to explore, as it opens up new possibilities for, at a deeper level our 'spiritual'(?) development.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Flooding in the Phillipines- A call for prayer and support

Hi there, I got this mail from a dear friend, Marilyn CamaClang, this morning. She was part of the Making a Difference Actionteam of WARC (MADIP), working in South Africa on the themes of the Accra document. Tyrone du Preez initiated a call for prayer and lets heed this call and see how we can make a differnce.

Marilyn (on the pic, in the makeshift boat) writes:

Dear All,
In spite of the alarming news from the Philippines, I still have much reason to greet you all with love and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First, my family and the rest of those in our province, which is only kilometers away from Manila, are spared from the recent flooding.

Second, we are now able to connect with you after a week of silence. Our office was also affected by flood and telecommunications and computer system were all down. (We are located in one of the finest residential areas in Pasig City and residents were shocked for experiencing this for the first time!)

Third, we have experienced how much love and compassion we can draw from each other to be able to surpass this trial. (We have already organized two relief operations in favor of our community center in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City. Until now, the whole community is submerged with waist level of floodwaters. Christian Mission Service Philippines, Inc, my employer, has a community center here providing subsidized educational services to pre-schoolers, educational support from grade school to university and congregational ministries to the community. We have stopped operation since last week and our people are just waiting for our help. Please note that this community is at the heart of Pasig City, only few meters away from the city hall but is now accessible only by boat.

Lastly, for you and all concerned for remembering us in your prayers. It is indeed what we need in these times of great crises in our country.

Please continue praying, still many are suffering and need our helping hands. Pray for awakening, that we may now hear the cries of creation and the message of our Creator.

Let us continue to give thanks for we are at our best to extend help and to care.

Best regards,

Marilyn M. Camaclang
Technical Assistant/Admin Supervisor

“The best place on earth is at the center of God’s will”

Christian Mission Service Philippines, Inc. (CMSP)
Mailing Address: #188 Kaimitoville, Kaimito St. Valle Verde II
Pasig City, Philippines 1600
Tel/Fax: +632 631 1413; +632 637 2906

Personal Contact Info:
CP Nos.: + 639 17 351 3454

+ 639 22 880 4259