Monday, April 10, 2006

Ministering to a Broken World

Dear sisters and brothers,

Here is a reflection from a Kenyan Quaker, Margaret Makhoka, who is a faculty member at Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya.  I was especially drawn to the queries/ questions for reflection in the second half of the article.

May it somehow bless you as you begin the week!

For the revolution of love, grace, and justice,

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace


Friends United Meeting
101 Quaker Hill Drive
Richmond IN 47374-1980
Phone (765) 962-7573
Fax (765) 966-1293

Quaker Life
June 2005

Ministering to a Broken World

By Margaret Makokha

Jesus began his ministry with these first words: “The time has come,” he said, “the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

Underline the phrase “kingdom of God.” In the Sermon on the Mount, the Kingdom is a life of goodness; Jesus tells us that hatred is the same as murder, and lust as adultery to God; that divorce is not the way of life; that forgiveness will be the way of life even when wronged; that love, even love for enemies will be the supreme mark of Jesus’ disciple, because God is Love. Disciples should live a life of generosity, modesty and prayer, not show off or hoard money but give much of it away, for the real investment is in heaven, be totally single-hearted and have a life marked by peace.

After all, God looks after the flowers and the grass and the birds. Can he not be trusted to look after us? What then is the point of worrying? Or of amassing great wealth or fine clothes? That is the way of the secular society. But his disciples should “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

In this kingdom you have to ask, to seek, to knock. You have to enter through a narrow gate. You have to build your very life on the rock, Jesus. This is amazing, yet it is the reality of the kingdom. These ideas attracted many people to Jesus.

Then Jesus told us that our eternal destiny hung on our decision. He made it clear that you could be either safe with God or lost without him. You could either build on the rock Jesus or on the sand of anything else, and that sand would prove no adequate foundation in time of flood.

You could be a sheep in his flock if you are willing, or you could remain a goat outside. You could accept his invitation to the wedding feast, or you could stay outside in the dark. Jesus did not only talk about the kingdom of God, He also did something about it. He did not come simply to proclaim the kingly rule of God but to bring it to bear directly on our everyday life.

While outlining his ministerial goals, Jesus told people he had come to bring healing to our broken world. He had come to bring salvation, God’s wholeness and rescue at every level of our need. How did he do that? The kingdom was characterized by action. He healed many with diseases ­ the leper, the blind, the deaf. He raised the dead, drove out evil spirits and fed the hungry. His salvation was not only from physical and demonic ills, but he also rescued people from sin.

In the kingdom, Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, where peace and justice will rule. The day will come when the dead and the living will be judged and their final destiny determined. The day will come when God’s kingdom will come to its complete fulfillment. But that day is not yet.

Is the incarnation and the ministry of Jesus significant in this 21st century? Despite scientific and technological advances, human nature has not changed and society is not so different from that in Jesus’ day.

In our world today, we see violence and hatred, cruelty and lust, starvation and greed, corruption and strife, disease and accidents (to name but a few). These things are at familial, national and international levels. Humans wonder how they can survive with such threats.

When the human heart cries out for love and forgiveness, for meaning and reconciliation, for peace and hope, these are the very issues Jesus addressed. Friends maintain Jesus continues to address them today. For disciples to be true disciples, they should pursue the values of the kingdom that make for peace, justice, truth, reconciliation, righteousness, freedom, hope and love.

Jesus focused on the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed. Then in a wonderful parable of the sheep and goats, we are told that when Jesus Christ comes back, he will hold a final judgment. The judgment is likened to a shepherd separating sheep from goats with each designated to its right place. The sheep represent the righteous and blessed while the goats represent the unrighteous and cursed. (Matthew 25:31-46)

The judge will judge us by our reactions to the needs of the poor and needy (the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and prisoners). Jesus calls them “the least brothers of mine.” The result will be that people will be surprised in two ways. First, those who offered help didn’t think they were helping Christ. Their helping was natural and instinctive, flowing out of a loving and generous heart. After all, life in the kingdom was to be characterized by love and generosity (a cheerful sharing of our possessions with believers). And secondly, those who failed to help didn’t know they failed to help Christ. They thought they just failed to help some common people. The questions that come to my mind when I think about the life and ministry of Jesus are so many, such as:

1. Do we need training to do such simple things as feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, cheering the sick, visiting the prisoners or clothing the naked?
2. Do we need the special gift of hospitality or helps for us to minister those in need? One of my teachers said she does not have a gift of hospitality, but what does Jesus say?
3. As individual members of the body of Christ, can our participation in ministry be a blessing to an aching world?
4. How often do we preach or teach about the necessity of helping the needy? Or do we take most of the time preaching and teaching about tithes and offerings?
5. How can we be channels through which hope can be restored to the hopeless?

6. What is our role as a chosen generation in the transformation of the society in which we live?
7. Are there ways we can express our commitment and desire to participate together with God in the ministry of restoring hope and comfort to the “least of these?”
8. Why is it becoming so hard for us to minister to the needs of our brothers and sisters? Is it greed, selfishness or waste?
9. Must we have ten “gorogoros” (20 kg) of maize for us to give the hungry in Kenya today, when more than 20 districts are faced with starvation because of rain failure? Should we strictly embrace the idea that when we have excess, that is when we give?
10. Do we fear to visit hospitals and homes where sick people are? Is there fear we will contract the diseases?
11. Why do we fear welcoming strangers in our homes? Do we fear that they could be con men and women or do we strictly hold that we don’t know them, they didn’t inform us they are coming and we’ve not even budgeted for them? Should we practice hospitality only to friends and relatives?
12. Do we need to have two suitcases of clothes in order for us to clothe a naked child in an orphanage, or are we guided by our customs and beliefs?
13. Do we fear the cost of making a phone call to a weak individual?

May God teach us to be sensitive to the hurts of others and teach us to internalize the hurt, pain and grief of others so we may be transformed. May we always crave for justice and peace in our society, although ours is a “culture of hopelessness” ­ of abject poverty, unemployment, marginalization, homelessness, massive public suffering, the cry of abandonment and loneliness.

May we help others experience the Gospel as the good news of the kingdom of God. Let us delight in Jesus, who is our perfect model, by pursuing the values of the kingdom that make for peace, justice, truth, reconciliation, righteousness, freedom, hope and love.

Margaret Makokha is a faculty member at Friends Theological College in Kaimosi, Kenya.
From Quaker Life, June 2005


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