Oude! Weblog van Henk Medema

juli 21, 2010

Cape of Good Hope

Filed under: Uncategorized — henkmedema @ 5:37 am

One of the southernmost places in South Africa is Cape Town. The old Dutch sailors in the 16th century, when going from the Atlantic into the Indian Ocean, coined the phrase Cape of Good Hope (actually a spot somewhat more to the east). I like the expression, and would use it to share with you the good hope I have while looking forward to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism.

One of the central metaphors of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – the biblical topic during the congress – is to be found in 3:18, where we read about the heighth, breadth, depth and length of God’s purposes. One could well use this as an equivalent for the Congress’ motto: The whole gospel, through the whole Church, for the whole world. Let me use this 4D metaphor to give you a personal glimpse into my heart’s desire for Cape Town 2010. What is a small, already somewhat older guy like me looking for while travelling to the other side of the world?

Biggest desire: finding in Cape Town the Most High One, my Lord, whom I so often try to find and do find in expected and unexpected places. He will be there, as I pray, to manifest Himself to all of us.

Breadth: this Congress is an opportunity to be together ‘with all saints’ – well, not all of them, but at least some 4500 from nearly all countries and nations.

Depth: I am looking forward, actually, to a head-on confrontation with the misery and suffering of this world, and the people living therein. I don’t imagine to be doing in the last decades of my life something completely different from what I did so far in Christian media, but honestly: I feel quite a bit ashamed for so much of hanging out rather passively in this wealthy western world of ours.

Length, then – though exegetically not quite correct, probably, let me apply this to the South-North distance. This is what matters most to me: what will happen in Cape Town is of vital interest for all Christians in my own country, the Netherlands, and I want to bring it to the hearts of many of them. My book TOTAL CHRISTIANITY, which I hope to write before and during the Lausanne Congress, is a meant to be a main channel for this. Indeed  in my blogs I am already doing something into this direction.

Here’s the core of what I am stretching forward to. Great expectations. Cape of Good Hope.

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juli 15, 2010

Why God was an Author, but Jesus was not: thoughts on orality and literacy

Filed under: Uncategorized — henkmedema @ 7:01 am

As a publisher and author, I continue to marvel about the phenomenon of writing. What is the advantage of literacy above orality? Or the other way around? Why is Christianity (with Judaism and Islam) a religion of the Book, the written Word? Or is it at all, if we realise that for so many centuries until Gutenberg most Christians did not have any Bible at their disposal?

Starting from the other side is René Munnik, who in a recent paper (Radix 36, p.91ff) connect writing with the power of self-revelation. The enormous advantage of JHWH, he says, in comparison to other gods in the Middle East or even in Greek or Roman culture, was that they were analphabetic. JHWH was using writing skills from the moment on that His people began to be able to read. This was a turning point of the history of revelation: a God who could write, and indeed wrote the Ten Words on tablets of stone, while Moses was looking.

We are living through a new turning point in times, with new media coming up – and let’s not just think of the computer age, or indeed Web 2.0., but new media started already to appear in the 19th century: photography, the phonogram. Munnik suggests that literal Text, after the first new media came up, lost its role as a vessel of sheer information, which other media could fulfil as well, and better. Written, literal text became fixed expression of lingual meanings (Munnik, 97). This has been worked out by Walter J. Ong, in his 1988 book Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. But there is a lot more reason to take a fresh look into the topic, now that the social media are emerging in an unprecedented way.

Where does that bring us? What are the opportunities and challenges of this new development? I suggests it is in conversations which affect people, as contrasted with the letter of the law which condems people. And that these conversations, if used in a creative way, have the potential to recover the lost art of story-tellling, lost for such a long time since the age of orality.

This needs a lot of elaborating, but let’s just take a look at Jesus. We have no written words from His pen, not even one. But Jesus does not refrain from writing for being analphabetic. He is fully aware of what literacy means. He speaks about tittle or iota of the Law. He commences His bar-mitzwa by cross-questioning the scribes in the temple about written Torah. He starts His ministry by publicly reading the Word in the synagogue of Nazareth. Yet there is only once situation in which we find Him writing: John 8, in the presence of an adulterous woman and the champions of the written Law who wanted to stone her. Jesus wants a sinner to be alive. So He purposely and expressly refrains from writing anything in stone, but He writes in the dust, with the deep desire to write His own person into her heart and into her life. External words are not His ways: it is from deep within that He wants to reval Himself to a convicted sinner. Speaking into her heart and situation, He wants to develop His story within her story.

How do I know that this was what Jesus had in mind? Of course, I am well aware of the exegetical perplexity of this paragraph, as well as of the problems of textual criticism surrounding it. But I think that the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 are helping us here. Under the old covenant, JHWH wrote His commandments by His own finger on tablets of stones. Under the new covenant, it is the Spirit who writes the person of Christ in our hearts.

Of Shakespeare or Plato we know next to nothing but of the corpus of their writings. But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not content unless He is able to write His Son into our lives, by His Spirit, in order to make us a message from Him that everybody can read.

juli 7, 2010

The God Who Sends Himself: Missio Dei

Filed under: Uncategorized — henkmedema @ 12:15 pm

There’s a lot of talk about mission, and particularly around such an event like the Lausanne Internationl Congress on World Evangelism. Mission is about being sent, of course, and much of the time what we’re talking about is that it’s us who are in the middle of this spiritual process of being sent, and how we view that and how we handle that.

Since the middle of the last century, however, stimulated by influential theologians like Barth and Hartenstein, the notion has come up of missio Dei. This is a Latin expression, meaning ‘the mission of God’, but it should be read in a double way: naturally as a genitivus subiectivus, God is the author of mission, but also as a genitivus obiectivus, God is the object of mission. God sends Himself, He is both the Sender and the Sent One. Believers are part of this mission, bearing the same burden that God laid upon Himself. Together they are the incorporation of the Son, the Body of Christ. Collectively and individually they are the ‘in-dwellings’ of the Spirit.

This is such an important notion, as it helps not to make ourselves the source, nor the target of missions.

Two paradigms had been introduced (as Barth and Hartenstein said), respectively in the nineteenth and twentieth century, which cannot be sustained as the right way of thinking about missions. First, seeing Christianity in a pietistic way; second, stressing what I would call an ethicist line of thinking. Pietism would concentrate on the spiritual benefits coming to us through the Christian faith; we should thankfully accept these blessings, it is said, and move others to accept them equally, the net end result being maximized by as many people as possible reaching the greatest eternal bliss. This is a strongly vertical paradigm.

Ethicism puts us under the ethical norms of the Bible, as we find them especially in the Prophets and in the Sermon on the Mount, and they make us responsible to be concerned about this world, and in a horizontal paradigm take action for it.

Darrell L. Guder, in his brilliant book The Continual Conversion of the Church (Grand Rapids, 2000), clarifies why both paradigms need to be rejected. Read the stories of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Paul – their lives where not about securing spiritual benefits, but rather about being changed, to what the Bible calls ‘glory’ (Hebr. kabood, Gr. doxa), the effulgence of God Himself. The central aspect of the Gospel is its fundamental ‘translatablity’, the possibility AND necessity to translate it, not only lingually, but also culturally. A Dutch missionary working in Belgium would already experience this, and an American working in Bangladesh even more. The most radical translation of the Gospel happened when the Son of God moved into our world, taking on the form of a servant and entering into death itself.

This is why Guder emphasizes the need for a continual conversion of the Church: everything should be constantly open for communicative change. We don’t go into this world claiming to possess Gods authority. He never borrows that to us. The problem of theocracy, to quote Rick Warren, is that so many of us want to be Theo. Humbleness and willingness to adapt to people should be the mark of our missional attitude. What should charactarize us, is not so much Christ’s authority coming through us, but first of all Christ’s eternal life flowing through us. What we should be looking for, in short, is the incarnational paradigm of missions, where we show forth the life of our Lord.

This is a summary of a paper to be published in ELLIPS (2010) # 299.

juli 1, 2010

Midzomernachtsdroom: BetEl conferentie

Filed under: Uncategorized — henkmedema @ 6:10 am

Dit is een midzomernachtsdroom – niet van Shakespeare, maar veel gewoner, van mezelf. Het is precies midzomer, 21 juni, als ik deze droom onder woorden breng. ‘t Is nog bijna drie maanden tot aan de BetEl conferentie, die van 17 tot 19 september van dit jaar weer gehouden zal worden in De Kroeze Danne, in Ambt Delden. Maar nú al droom ik ervan, terwijl vroeg in de ochtend op een van onze vakantiedagen de zon opkomt boven de Middellandse Zee.

Ik zie de vele honderden gasten, bekend én nog onbekend, via de receptie binnenkomen. Ik stel me voor hoe de kinderen, mét hun ouders, op ’t puntje van hun stoel zullen zitten terwijl Matthijs Vlaardingerbroek op z’n eigen, onnavolgbare manier ons allemaal mee laat lachen. Terwijl we al lachend merken dat dit over iets heel moois gaat, iets heel serieus. Ik vorm me er een beeld van hoe Rikkert Zuiderveld met z’n briljante invallen ons aanport om vreugdevol het thema van het weekend in te gaan.

JOUW LEVEN, GODS KONINKRIJK – dáár gaat het over.

Zullen we bij aankomst de gasten enthousiast begroeten? Reken maar. Zullen we ze ook allemaal in hun hart kunnen kijken? Natuurlijk niet – evenmin als je zelfs de bodem van je eigen hartje kunt peilen. Een mix van geloof en zorg, misschien wel een beetje bangheid, van blijdschap en verdriet en hoop. Maar we hebben dit weekend samen de woorden van Paulus uit 2 Timotheüs 1:7vv voor ons: geen geest van bangheid heeft God ons gegeven, maar van kracht, van liefde, en van bezonnenheid.

Daar kunnen we het mee doen, al die kinderen en volwassenen, uit allerlei gemeenten en kerken, evangelisch, charismatisch of traditioneel gereformeerd, en (jazeker!) uit de vergaderingen van gelovigen. Waar we vandaan komen, dat mogen we best even vergeten bij de poort van de Kroeze Danne; waar God ons wil hebben, daar gaat het over, en daarover gaan Fenny van der Laan, Evert Jan Ouweneel, Jan den Ouden en anderen spreken. Jouw leven, Gods Koninkrijk.

Een midzomernachtsdroom? Nee, toch niet. We worden helder wakker, en kruisen de datum aan in de agenda. We gaan ervoor.

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