hey there church of South Africa,

how you doing? just thought i’d take this opportunity to catch up a little…

my wife, tbV and i have been back in South Africa after three years working with non-profits in Americaland and it’s been fun and interesting taking some time to visit different sunday congregations and see and hear about some of the stuff God is going around Cape Town. i have really enjoyed the diversity in a number of congregations that we visited. that feels like a good direction we have been heading into and hopefully we will see more of that and dive much more deeply into this race-reconciliation-united South Africa thing, which i’m guessing might be a lot more of a spiritual activity than some of you think.

on Saturday we attended a small gathering called un-Fence that happened at the Warehouse in Wetton and as tired and non-amped as we were to go after another crazy event-filled day, we decided that it sounded like it fit in with our vision and our heart and included some of our favourite people and so we decided to suck it in and go. i’m so glad we did.

it was nothing huge or dramatic or flashy, but it really had a deep impact on me, just being there with those people in that place sharing thoughts and impressions and pictures we felt were from God and worshipping and dreaming together.

i wanted to share one particular one that i had with you and i hope that if you feel it is significant, you will pass it on as well.

The picture i had was of the Israelites and two scenarios they were involved in:

[1] The Israelites in Egypt where, as far as i can imagine, the best they could dream about was that tomorrow would be a better day than today – ‘Maybe i’ll find the material to make the bricks a little bit faster today so that i will be done a bit earlier.’ ‘Maybe i won’t be whipped quite as much.’ With no sense of a greater picture or anything to aspire to [it didn’t seem like those Egyptians were going away any time soon] it would have been a focus on today and just doing my best and trying not to cause trouble and making it through the day.

[2] Jump forward to the Israelites in the desert and suddenly there is a picture and a vision and call to this thing known as ‘The Promised Land’. They had been given some descriptions of it – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ and been told that God had prepared it just for then. And it motivated them to be able to walk around in the desert for 40 years and to keep on going – because of the thing that was ahead.

For me that feels like a picture of South Africa. In some ways it feels like a lot of South Africans are in Egypt – read comments sections on any race-related posts, or my blog. People just trying to get by without too much trouble and hoping to be kept safe from violence and not to be around when the impending violent revolution happens [which many people seem to fear].

But every now and then, you come across a South African who has managed to escape from Egypt, a small group of them who have made it into the desert and when you stop them and ask them why they seem to have hope and life despite wandering around in the middle of what looks like a desert, they will tell you they have been given a dream, a vision, of what might be.

And that, dear church, is what i want to share with you today.

If you have fallen into a place of focusing on teaching people to avoid being bad, then i want to encourage you to direct them towards a way of thriving in the area of living well.

i literally just read this on Facebook and it sums it up:The Gospel isn’t about escaping the world, it’s about transforming it.

church

i wrote this on my song sheet on Saturday night as i was in a place of just listening and trying to connect with God:

i don’t know if i’m interested in a church that doesn’t have any kind of active involvement in/pursuit of racial reconciliation and unity in this country.

in some ways i imagine it must have been easier during apartheid times to see where the line was drawn in terms of being a church that engaged with the societal evil that was taking place all around it, or if as a body of people it was easier to bury your head under the metaphorical sand and just go about the business of sunday meetings.

i could be wrong on this, but i feel it so strongly. Something about ‘Love God, love your neighbour.’ Even love God, love your enemy for some of you who may feel like your neighbour is your enemy. It doesn’t seem like there is an easy way to escape this. And this was the number one Jesus command, right?

So what i want to invite you to do as a local church congregation that is part of a broader church body in South Africa – the hands and feet of Jesus – is to start [if you haven’t already, and many of you have!] praying and preaching for a dream to be in the hearts of your people – for that vision and picture of the promised land – we already know the geographic location of it, now we just need to see it take place.

Speak about it. If they see and hear you doing it from the front, then they will know it’s okay for them to do it as well. Don’t relegate this to the ‘Religion and Politics should be kept separate closet’ – this is kingdom vibe right here.

There are many, many people in this country who are not living a ‘good news’ kind of life [and let’s be honest for a second, most of them are black, and it is not because of Zuma and Nkandla! It is not helped by them perhaps, but the majority of it is remnants of the apartheid legacy] and we are meant to be a ‘good news’ kind of people.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2

Come on church, let’s take those words off the screen and start really living them:

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’

‘May our homes be filled with dancing, may our streets be filled with joy, may injustice bow to Jess, as your people turn and pray’

‘May we be a shining light to the nations’

‘i want to take Your word and shine it all around, but first help me just to live it, Lord’ 

‘May we be a healing balm to the nations’

What words did you sing yesterday?

This is not a criticism, by the way. It is a call to action. Some of you are doing this stuff so very well and we need you to show the rest of us how we can be better at it. Up til now, i have mostly been trying to create space on my blog for other voices to give us some of their ideas on what first steps towards this unified country might look like. Soon we hope to host some dinners and get people face to face around the table for more idea sharing. And hopefully soon there will be action to speak of.

But in the meantime we must dream. Of a land that is possible. Where we embrace the notion that ‘Freedom is not freedom until it’s freedom for all.’ A tough one to embrace when i look to my right as i drive to the airport.

This will not be easy. There will be a cost and that cos may involve comfort and privilege. It may really involve stepping back from the microphone so that other voices can lead and direct and just showing up. Or by handing over mantles of leadership to those who we have built relationship with over the last few years that we can see are ready to lead. It will likely be messy. But it feels important. It feels crucial. And this is not a church-only thing by any means. But with our name and our mission and the calling that has been placed upon us, we really should be found in the front lines of what is to come.

So how about it, church of South Africa? Are you willing to dream of what might be and rally your troops together to being moving towards that picture of promised land?

There is going to be a revolution, some day soon. It is just the nature of it that we may have some influence over.

love brett fish

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