freedom, dignity and the spirit

[a follow-up passage on the freeing work of the Spirit in the individual, in community – in the context of Latin American “base communities”]:

But now a new experience is making itself felt in the Christian communities that have arisen from this context: that of freedom. This is not something that they receive from outside. If freedom were something brought by governments, by revolutionary groups, even by the church, it would not be a true liberation. No one can make anyone else free. The experience of the communities is one of self-liberation. They themselves experience liberation in the act of making themselves free; freedom is won in the struggle for liberation….

Those who become free, become free from sin. They cease collaborating in the social sin [of oppression and domination particularly]. They hold their heads high, feeling their dignity for the first time. This experience of dignity recovered is one of the most visible signs [of the freeing work of the Spirit] in the communities.

  • Jose Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (1989)

 

light and bread?

[I usually avoid re-posting something that I read on Inward/Outward – excellent as it is, too many people receive both emails – but with last week focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr, I couldn’t find anything better and more apt than this quote]:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause [people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of [humanity] and fire the souls of men [and women], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. [People] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Source:

a good question

[This is the other poem that Rachael shared with us at last week’s talk on uncertainty and questions:]

A Good Question

Never underestimate the power of a question.
Don’t dismiss it as mere herald to the all-powerful answer,
Or despise its uncertainty as feeble or unsafe.

A good question is full of life.
It bursts with the curiosity and promise of undiscovered worlds.
Its key turns the lock of never-opened doors.

So don’t let your own question spill heedlessly from your mouth.
Instead, turn it,
Like a hard toffee between tongue and teeth.
Savour, smooth and hone it.

Hold and admire it, a wild bird balanced on your faltering hand,
And when you release it to another’s charge,
Be ready for it to return to you unfamiliar,
Changed beyond recognition,
And pulling in directions you did not predict or desire.

Learn to listen,
Just listen,
And to let answers be extended questions.

Likewise, when another’s question comes to you,
Don’t push it away if an answer does not spring instantly, comfortingly, to mind;
For this question’s gift was fashioned in the ferment of someone else’s strange soul.

A question should be given space
To roam through forgotten rooms.
Perhaps at first it will seem to bounce like a discarded rubber ball,
Its lonely thud echoing against the emptiness of abandoned space,
Bareness of untrodden floorboards.

But refrain from picking it up to thrust again into a cosy pocket,
And its ricochet will knock open closets,
spill chests,
split windows,
Drawing invisible arcs to connect random points,
Until the tangle of lines
Suddenly
Reveals a picture.

This picture you may pick up
And wonderingly exhibit,
Or carefully fold to store in your heart’s chest.

But the question?
Let the question bound on…

  • Rachael Barham – Saturday 29th December 2012

hospitality and freedom

[Our faculty are currently exploring the challenges of interfaith dialogue in the context of an academic and Christian community. At our last faculty meeting, we affirmed the role of hospitality and vulnerability and the next morning I read this passage from Henri Nouwen:]

Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.

: Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

the freedom of god

[excerpts from the final chapter of a book exploring how we respond to the fear of death]

….”God” and the religious institutions can become as enslaved to the fear of death as everything else in the culture….

So how are we to be set free from this idolatry? How are we to proclaim and experience the freedom of God? In the Old Testament, the battle with idolatry was fought by the prophets. And at its heart, the prophetic impulse is to proclaim the emancipation of God, the freedom of God, the liberty of God. The ambition of the prophet is to end the slavery of God….

This capacity for prophetic imagination, that God is free to be against us, is the great weapon against idolatry. Whenever and wherever the people of God lose this capacity, God becomes enslaved. When the prophetic imagination is eclipsed – when God can no longer be imagined as being against us and for those we oppress, exclude, stigmatize, marginalize, ignore, or aggress against – God is no longer free but a slave….

And what might be the sign of this eclipse of the prophetic voice? What are the symptoms of this failure of the prophetic imagination? Simply put, the alignment of, equating of, and identification of our voice and interests with God’s own….

This is how we know that God has been emancipated and set free from our slavery to the fear of death: When we can hear the voice of God crying out against us in the voices we ignore, marginalize, victimize, exclude, ostracize, harm, and kill, we know that God has been set free. The radical, prophetic freedom of God is fully realized when we see the face of God in our victims and our enemies. In that moment our slavery to the fear of death is fully overcome. In that moment the sacrificial love of Christ becomes fully manifest.

In that moment the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death (2014)