Friday, June 08, 2012

Sharing Christ

SOURCE:  "Sharing Christ" by David Gambrell.
KEYWORDS:  fellowship, communion, persecution, freedom

On Monday I heard a fascinating interview with Professor Fenggang Yang of Purdue University about the surprising wave of conversions to Christianity that took place in China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. In part of the interview, he was talking about a specific kind of Bible study that has sprung up at McDonald's restaurants in China. People move from table to table learning about the gospel, and finally how to share it with others.

The reason they meet at McDonald's has to do with government restrictions on religious activity—it can only take place on the grounds of church property, and presumably these groups don't have a building. But they've discovered that if you buy a meal at McDonald's you "own" the table for as long as you're sitting there. The government has since discovered this and cracked down, and the people have signed documents saying, okay, we promise not to go to that McDonald's (now we'll go to a different one).

And this has me wondering ... is there a sense in which these gatherings are "eucharistic" meals?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Holy Spirit

SOURCE:  "The Holy Spirit" by M. Catherine Day.  From her May 2012 Newsletter, reprinted in an e-mail from the Foundation for Reformed Theology.
KEYWORDS:  pentecost, holy spirit, trinity, acts 2,

Dear Friends and family,

Pentecost greetings from the Warm Heart of Africa.

This Pentecost weekend I had a conversation with a Malawian friend that gave me a whole new insight into the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He was telling me about his early life in a village in Nkhata Bay, in the central region. The economy was bad and a number of the men from the village went to South Africa and Zambia to work. After they had earned money over a number of years, they came back to the village to provide for their families. They were expected to provide the material needs not just for their wives and children but for their nieces and nephews, for aunts and uncles, for all the extended family. And they did so. They knew what was expected of them. Because they had lived away from the village and had seen other ways of life, they were regarded as wiser than the rest of the villagers. They were called upon to settle disputes within their extended families. People from the village came to them for counsel. They were expected to advise the younger members of the family in issues they were facing. They were sought out when decisions needed to be made in the family and in the village. My friend said that no one ever asked them about their lives away from the village or what they had done to earn the money to support so many people. The villagers just looked upon them as provides and as wise men. They were called "nkhoswe." That is a Chichewa term that means comforter, mediator, advocate, counselor/advisor, intermediary, or witness. All of these meaning applied to the one who came back and cared for the physical and emotional needs of the village family.

Today in wedding ceremonies here, nkhoswe are those who stand, one with the bride and one with the groom, as the couple says their marriage vows. These individuals are expected to stand by the couple throughout their married lives, to be there to give advice and to help settle any disputes that might arise in the marriage. They are the advocates for the bride or the groom, and the counselor to both.

Interestingly, the Chichewa translation of the Bible uses nkhoswe in John 14:16 in describing the Holy Spirit. The Chichewa says that the Father will send Nkhoswe to you. In English we translate that Counselor. That has a limited meaning. But Nkhoswe carries so much more of who the Spirit is in our lives of faith. I found that description of the Holy Spirit refreshing and encouraging as I thought about the role of Nkhoswe in this society.. It helped me to think afresh on the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. I see it in the lives of my Malawian friends who live more clearly in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit at work in everyday activities as well as in the big events of life. They understand that they have a powerful Nkhoswe in the Holy Spirit.

My prayer for you this Pentecost is that you will know the power and presence of the Nkhoswe in your own life. Pray that we may all live in the power of the Holy Spirit in all that we do.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Love of a Mother

KEYWORD:  help, busy, care, silence, love

  An exhausted young mother dragged herself to the telephone when it rang and listened with relief to the kindly voice on the other end. “How are you, Sweetheart? What kind of day are you having?”
  “Oh, Mother,” said the woman, “I’m having such a bad day. The baby won’t eat, the washing machine broke down, the house is a mess, we’re having two couples over for dinner tonight and I haven’t had a chance to go shopping yet. And to top it off, I just sprained my ankle.”
  The mother was overwhelmed with sympathy. “Oh, Honey,” she said, “sit down, relax and just close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll do the shopping, clean the house and cook your dinner for you. I’ll feed the baby, and I’ll call a repairman to fix the washing machine. Now stop crying. I’ll do everything. In fact, I’ll even call Sean at the office and ask him to come home and help out.”
  “Sean?” said the housewife. “Who’s Sean?”
  “Why, Sean, your husband, of course!”
  “You mean Jim, don’t you? You’ll call Jim at the store.”
  “Isn’t this Julie?”
  “Sean? ”No, it’s Tiffany.”
  “Oh,” said the kindly person, “I must have dialed the wrong number. I’m sorry.”
  There was a long silence. Then the desperate young homemaker asked, “Does this mean you’re not coming over?”