Originally posted on 7 May, 2007
I attended a conference in Uganda in 2007 which was a significant moment in my “emerging church” journey. It as the first time I really understood that the “stories” of my faith were incomplete, and that a future church would need to find new ways of expressing what it meant to be church. The talk I make available below was one of those “aha” moments for me. I hope it can be for you, too.
A message by Claude Nikondeha, from Burundi, delivered at Amahoro Gathering in Uganda
The sections marked (GC) in italics are my commentary, not Claude’s words. This is a message we should be hearing at church, but are not.
The problem with a Gospel that only promises release when Jesus returns, is that Jesus has not yet returned. The people are not released – they live in suffering, poverty, famine and wars.
“The Gospel is not a doctrinal formula for the salvation of the individual but it is the Good News of God’s movement through Jesus Christ to carry out his purpose for the entire human race.” Rene Padilla
Jesus did not come to announce an evacuation plan, but a transformation plan.
“The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Jubilee.’”
The concept of Jubilee goes right the way back to Moses. In Leviticus 25 and 27, the Jubilee is spoken of. Key to it is that in the 50th year, land is to be given back to those from whom it has been taken. Prisoners of debt are to be released – from prison and from debt.
Jubilee is a practice that was intended to close the gap between rich and poor. Every 50 years we are meant to level the playing fields. This stops rich getting over rich. It stops the hoarding of assets. It relieves poverty.
In most countries where the gap between rich and poor is increasing, the poor start to resent the rich, and the rich spend increasingly more money on security. This happens to individuals, as well as nations (think of how much , the richest nation in history, spends on arms and security). If that money had been spent on helping the poor people – maybe even simply given to the poor – there might not have been a need for the spend of security.
This Jubilee message is Good News, especially for the poor. But it could also be good news for the rich, as they inherit a safer and better world.
In Luke 4, Jesus announces that THIS is his reason for coming – to announce that the Jubilee – (GC) of which we have no record in Scripture, it had never been practiced – is now here. This is what the Kingdom of God is.
Jesus is Jubilee – the good and the hard. And the term of Jubilee set for Promised Land is also a term Jesus adopts for the His Kingdom. We have to divest for others, that is how we show true love to one another and build a viable kingdom community.
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
In my tradition, we believed all these verses, except we skipped the stuff about miracles, and we skipped the stuff about sharing our possessions. A hundred years ago, the Pentecostal revival brought back the signs and wonders. I wonder if its time to a have a Jubilee revival, and bring back the “having everything in common” and “no one being in need”. This, too, can happen at all levels – from individual to national.
Comment by Pat Burke (NY, ) in our small group afterwards: God sent Jesus into the world, not to make us spiritual, but simply to make us human.
GC – To make us what he intended us to be when he created us.
We need to recover a Gospel of Transformation.