We are called to have a stubborn faith which believes good will come out of bad and resurrection will come out of death. This week in PMB our stubborn faith in our God of Good News is a requirement towards restoration of a city in tatters. As conductors of this Good News, we are peacemakers glorifying God in what we say and do. Matt 5:9 *Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.* We are children of God, co-inheritors with Christ, living for the praise of God’s Glory.
*A City in Tatters*
As a church we lament the destruction of the city around our church. As we walked the city block, we witnessed burnt out buildings, broken glass, metal doors ripped from their hinges, empty cavities where shop goods had been looted and rubble from the destruction of the past week. We spoke to shop owners, pastors and pedestrians, listening to shock and disbelief in the state of the city centre around us. We heard stories of rubber bullets and tear gas, and heard the question: What is God trying to tell us? What is God trying to tell us through Covid?
What is God trying to tell us through the terror of last week?
What do we not have ears to hear and eyes to see?
As we walked Church and Langalibalele streets, we also saw something else: the efforts of rebuilding and restoration. The rubble from Monday & Tuesday’s havoc had been cleared by citizen and church groups on Thursday. The streets were swept clean and the area was remarkably clear of even what is considered ‘normal’ debris. Broken windows, mangled burglar guards, shells of shops were the storytellers of the trauma which had overrun the city centre 48 hours earlier. The ‘tatters’ of the city had been swept clean, with only the scars of deep wounds were left to tell the story.
*A Resilient People*
What we witnessed as we walked the streets was a resilient people who refuse to be overcome. Shop owners were repairing windows with make-shift hammers and scheming their next move to be able to make things work. Small business owners were trading, and ‘greengrocers’ were selling cabbages from their cars on the curb side. Community groups gathered to safeguard families and belongings, unifying residents across racial divide. We are a resilient people who responded to the crisis with clarity of vision and purpose. For many of us our outlook is now neighbourly, actively involved in what happens around us. Food security & sharing is normal, and we are compassionately responding to others in need. In the aftermath of the destruction of retail outlets I have witnessed individuals procure scarce food products to share with work colleagues, I have read about prescription medicine being delivered throughout the city, and food recipes describing how to cook with substitute ingredients. We will not only survive this ordeal, but we may even become more aware of the needs of our neighbours in the process.
*Where to from Here*
As called and gifted children of God we are ‘Sealed with Love’ of the Holy Spirit for the praise of God’s glory (Eph1;13-14).
We are called to have faith, to share hope in the face of despair, to choose and defend a narrative which brings dignity to all people.
We are called to continue to ‘feel’ and to keep our emotions in tune with God, weeping when God weeps.
We are called to be conductors of God’ Good News, peacemakers for the Kingdom of God (in light of the past week) in areas which resemble the brokenness of a war-torn people.
We are called to de-escalate violence through the small and big action seeds God plants in our lives.
We are called to respect others and not to “Dis” people (‘dis’respect, ‘dis’empower, ‘dis’engage), but rather to listen and improve communication.
We are called to chart a path of restoration which involves more than sweeping our city streets clean, although the symbolism of the physical action heralds a deeper Spiritual renewal.
Last week we read Amos’s prophetic words of truth spoken to power, and considered his humble declaration to King Amaziah that he was just a lowly shepherd following God’s wishes. Further in the book of Amos, God declares restoration for Israel:
*“Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit.*
The prophet Ezekiel promises, *“on the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.”* (Ezekiel 36:33)
Isaiah 61:4 declares *“Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.*
The fullness of God’s restoration rests in the cross of Jesus’s sacrifice, when God and humanity were reconciled completely and eternally.
The situation we find ourselves in is not normal, and there is no ‘normal’ to return to. Between Covid and the trauma of the civil unrest in KZN we continue to try and hear the whispered shouts of God. As disciples of Jesus our desire is to rebuild the ruined city with the plumb line of God so that we do not perpetuate injustice and inequality. Our spiritual architect requires a value-based point of view, so that the ruins are rebuilt with Godly proportions. By God’s grace you and I are called to speak Gospel truth when we see deviations in the coming days of renewal and rebuilding. We will live in what we re-build, so I trust and pray we will follow God’s blue print to chart the path of restoration.
Some of the ways we are able to hear God’s whispered shouts in our deaf ears is through the following:
· Know each other’s stories. Narratives of fear, joy, strength and weakness contribute to our unity in Christ.
· Be present. Even in this time of social distancing, phone calls and messages of hope share dignity and build bonds of Godly Love.
· Listen, without trying to fix. Facilitate good decisions rather than making decisions on behalf of others.
· Pray without ceasing.
Renewal and rebuilding is necessary. My prayer is that we will incorporate Spiritual renewal and rebuilding in the coming days, weeks, years. I pray we will allow the trauma of the past week to be a healing catalyst towards a Kingdom without end, God’s Kingdom Come, on earth as it is in heaven.