I finished a couple of good books this morning: Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps and With God in the Crucible: Preaching Costly Discipleship by Peter Storey. I’ve quoted Peter Storey previously on this blog, after an opportunity I had to share a meal with him some months back. Storey is the former president of the Methodist Church of South Africa and professor emeritus at Duke Divinity. With God in the Crucible is a collection of sermons and messages he preached during the apartheid years in South Africa. Really powerful words that spoke strongly against the oppression of a state overrun by corruption, racism, and violence.
A few quotes from Storey’s sermons:
The giants of history are those who have put high principle not only into words but action. They lived as visible examples, signs of what they cherished for all people. In a world of cynicism, where the ugly and selfish dimensions of human nature are too often uppermost, there is something surprising and beautiful about a living example of the difference. Racism is a disease of the heart; it is rooted in the fear that casts out love; it cannot be divorced from our selfishness and pride. That is why we cannot be Christ’s peacemakers in this land unless our inward spirits begin to match our outward ideals. People must be able to look at how we live and say: “Perhaps it is possible for people to repent of their divisions, to come together and work and pray and struggle together, and to live a common life.” Christ’s peacemakers must be signs of hope (31).
So the Jesus we preach is a Jesus who breaks the walls, who has destroyed the middle wall of partition, and who has brought together black and white, making them one in his single body on the cross (Ephesians 2:14). The evangelism we offer preaches Christ and his burning passion for the world. We lift the cross, not as a way of escape but as that place where at his invitation we are nailed to his passion and where he nails us to our neighbour – that is the evangelism I speak of. (68)
Who is the focus of the Church? Who is the person we are concerned about? The person we exist to serve? For Jesus there was no question. In the Kingdom, the humble are lifted high and the most vulnerable have pride of place. That is why you cannot ask Jesus into your heart alone. He will ask, “Can I bring my friends?” You will look at his friends and they will consist of poor and marginalized and oppressed, and you will hesitate. But Jesus is clear: “Only if I can bring my friends.” (154)
Successful? The word doesn’t belong in the Christian’s lexicon. Faithful? Ah, yes! That is what we must ask ourselves everyday. They will truly be the Church, because they are determined to let God be God. They will proclaim a Gospel big enough for both personal salvation and social transformation. They will live the servant way and be messengers of peace. And they will seek simply to be faithful, trusting God with the rest. (157)