Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Middle Class Christians

"It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians- I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians- go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing human need all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side...Christians, alas, they are many- whose ambition in life seems to be building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves."

- J.I. Packer, Knowing God, pg. 63

Monday, September 23, 2013

Archbishop Thabo of Capetown on the Nairobi Mall Terrorist Attack

Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

The following media statement was issued on 23 September 2013

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The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, has written the following letter to his counterpart, the Most Revd Dr Eliud Wabukula, the Archbishop of Kenya:

‘My dear brother in Christ

The Bible tells us that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer together.

Yet I write to you, and to the Bishop of Nairobi, Rt Revd Joel Waweru, following the terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall, to express not only that the Anglican Church of Southern Africa stands in solidarity with you at this time, but that we too share in the grief that this senseless attack has brought. For a very dear churchwarden of my own Diocese, Mr James Thomas, has been confirmed among those whose lives were so brutally taken.

We have watched events unfold with shock and horror, knowing only that violence and death inevitably beget further conflict and loss of life. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, as well as to the injured. We hold them in our hearts and in our prayers, knowing that we are united both in our humanity and in our grieving.

And so we pray for the fractured human family, in which such inhumane acts can be perpetrated. Alongside our desire for a swift end to the siege, and for justice to be done, we ask also that God will guide you with his holy wisdom. As you speak and act in response to these terrible events, may you be a channel of God’s grace: to comfort the bereaved, bind up the broken hearted, and proclaim the triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over both evil and death. In condemning this appalling crime, may you also be able to bring God’s redemptive possibilities into the complex political, historic and religious context in which it arose. May the God whose light shines in the darkness shine through you, as a beacon of the hope and promise that are at the heart of the gospel.

Yours in the service of Christ our Lord and Saviour – crucified, risen and ascended

+Thabo Cape Town

Cc: Bishop of Nairobi, Rt Revd Joel Waweru

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Rich African and African-American Heritage of Christianity




African and African-American Christians have a rich, diverse Christian heritage.

St. Luke specifically mentions that there were pilgrims from Africa- from Egypt and Libya- present on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church.



We read of the Ethiopian Eunuch, a minister of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia, accepting Christ through the witness of Philip in Acts Chapter eight.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest national Churches in Christendom. Athanasius consecrated her first bishops. Emperor Haile Selassie, who claimed to be ancestor of King David, was a devout Orthodox Christian, and sent an Orthodox Bishop to Jamaica to evangelize the people there. Bob Marley, the great reggae star, Rastafarian, and prophetic voice, was Baptized in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, died in its bosom, with the Name of Jesus on his lips. His Baptismal name was Berhane Sellasie, Light of the Holy Trinity.
 St. Mark the Evangelist was the first Bishop in Alexandria, and a martyr there.  Some of the greatest  Church Fathers in the ancient Church are from Africa- Tertullian; Clement of Alexandria; the greatest scholar of the ancient church, Origen; Athanasius, the defender of Orthodoxy at Nicea; Cyprian, bishop and martyr; Augustine of Hippo, one of the two greatest doctors of the Church; Cyril of Alexandria, the defender of Orthodoxy at the council of Ephesus.

There are great female and male martyr-heroes in the Ancient African Church, most notable being Perpetua and Felicity. Saints Perpetua and Felicity are Christian martyrs of the 3rd century from Africa. Perpetua (born around 181) was a 22-year old married noblewoman and a nursing mother. Her co-martyr Felicity, an expectant mother, was her slave. Her family pleaded with her to renounce Christ and avoid being put to death, but she wouldn’t, and the two young Christian women were fed to the lions. They suffered together at Carthage in the Roman province of Africa, during the reign of Septimius Severus, about 203 CE.

Two of the greatest heroes of ancient orthodoxy are from Africa. Athanasius of Alexandria prevailed at the Nicene Council in 325, and Cyril of Alexandria presided over the council of Ephesus in 431 CE.  These councils provided dogmatic definition for how we understand the Person of Christ today. The very canon of Scripture as we have it now was codified in Africa, in ancient church synods at Carthage and Hippo in the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
 
The ancestors of most African-Americans came in bondage to this country; yet they put their faith in the Lord. They composed spirituals, and took the Exodus as their narrative, a narrative of Liberation. The Church operated as a base for the civil rights struggle the last two centuries, and gave us Martin Luther King Jr. African-Americans suffered centuries of oppression and persecution, by fellow or professing Christians, and they were sustained by their faith in Christ in the Church.

 
American and European missionaries came to Africa, to evangelize “the savages,” and the missionary enterprise went hand-in-hand with imperialism; yet Christianity took root in Africa, and now has grown to the point where the future of Christianity lies in Africa, not the West. The Anglicans, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals are some of the largest and fastest growing Churches in Africa. The Anglican Church in Africa has produced Bishop Desmond Tutu, who is a prophetic voice for our time, and who led the non-violent opposition to Apartheid.

There is a wonderful African-Christian heritage, from the Ethiopian Eunuch to Martin Luther King Jr. and Desmond Tutu.
 

Haile Selassie on the Holy Bible

WE IN ETHIOPIA HAVE ONE OF THE OLDEST VERSIONS OF THE BIBLE, but however old the version may be, in whatever language it might be written, the Word remains one and the same. It transcends all boundaries of empires and all conceptions of race. It is eternal.

No doubt you all remember reading in the Acts of the Apostles of how Philip baptised the Ethiopian official. He is the first Ethiopian on record to have followed Christ, and from that day onwards the Word of God has continued to grow in the hearts of Ethiopians. And I might say for myself that from early childhood I was taught to appreciate the Bible and my love for it increases with the passage of time. All through my troubles I have found it a cause of infinite comfort.

"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11.28)" who can resist an invitation so full of compassion?

Because of this personal experience in the goodness of the Bible, I was resolved that all my countrymen should also share its great blessing and that by reading the Bible they should find truth for themselves. Therefore, I caused a new translation to be made from our ancient language into the language which the old and the young understood and spoke.

Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realise that the Bible is his refuge, and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great Message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible.

-    Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (+1974).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Jesus is the Divine Avatar of My Enlightenment and Liberation


Jesus is the Divine Avatar of my enlightenment and liberation, and I am devoted to Him; His grace will turn all my karma into ashes.

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Chanting the Name of the Lord:

Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya
Om Namah Christaaya

Hare Yesu Hare Yesu Yesu Yesu Hare Hare
Hare Christa Hare Christa Christa Christa Hare Hare.

Om Namah Christaaya (I bow to the Christ, the Anointed One, or, I worship the living presence of the Anointed One).

Om Ishaaya Christaaya (Lord and Christ we worship you)

Namo Namaste Christo Namaste (Christ we adore you)

Om Namah Kristaya
Om Sri Yesu Bhagavate Namah
Yesu Om

A Nest, not a Cage

Perhaps the most influential spiritual teacher in my own personal life is the late Bede Griffiths, of blessed memory.

Bede was truly a holy man, and challenged us to go beyond religion to God. One of his favorite verses of sacred writing is from the Hindu tradition:

I know that Great Person of the brightness of the sun beyond the darkness. Only by knowing him one goes beyond death. There is no other way to go.  — Svetasvatara


One of the metaphors that Bede used for religion was that of a bird's nest. Religion in this metaphor is like the bird's nest, it nurtures us, and helps to give us our start in the spiritual life; but then, like a bird, we must grow up out of religion, and fly away into the vastness of sky that is God.


But often religion instead of a nest, becomes a cage; it traps us and keeps us from growing up and flying away on our own. Sometimes the gatekeepers of religion are like a jealous mother bird, who does not want the young birds to grow up, but to keep them imprisoned in a cage.


But we are meant to grow up. Religion helps us on our spiritual life, but eventually, we must grow up, and fly away into that vast expanse that is God, for God is infinitely beyond religion.


Father Bede's successor at the Holy Trinity Ashram in India is Brother John Martin Sahajananda, OSBCam. Brother Martin wrote a wonderful book, You are the Light: Rediscovering the Eastern Jesus. In this book, he further develops the Nest and Cage metaphor, and relates many other beautiful ideas about spirituality and realizing our oneness with God.