By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan
“The church exists for mission, to be a sign of God’s saving presence among God’s people. This presence is not abstract but is always concrete in a particular locality.” (Emmanuel Katongole. The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa).”
In Sunday’s reflection from the Canadian Baptist Advent Reader, we find the story of Paride Taban and witness the thick gospel in action, where the church lives a life of the incarnational, of being present with God’s Presence in our world as participants in righteousness and justice that restores community relationships – humans to God and humans to one another.
Psalm 89 tells us that the foundations of the Kingdom of God is righteousness and justice. Our foundations as God’s kids are different. The pillars of this family are righteousness and justice: primary concern for other-ishness rather than self-ishness.
And somehow in the midst of surrendering our drive for making our own lives better, we find the blessing of God which is more abundant than anything we could build for ourselves. Even beyond that, as we begin to walk in the light of the Lord’s presence (Psalm 89 again), the Lord promises to take hold of our hand, mentor us in the way of the light so that we become the expression of His light in the world (Isaiah 42:6).
Reflect upon the story of Paride Taban below, asking ourselves, how are we, the church, lean into an “ecclesiology, a vision of what the church is called to be.”
Paride Taban is a fascinating and compelling figure in the African church today. Formerly a Sudanese bishop, he recently received the illustrious United Nations peace prize for promoting peace in South Sudan. Throughout his many years of service as the Bishop of Torit (1983-2004), Sudan was marred and afflicted by civil war. Bishop Taban found himself displaced and homeless as he worked among his people who were likewise displaced by the violence. Despite all these challenges, he remained a tireless advocate for peace.
But when peace finally came to South Sudan, instead of seeking a position of leadership and authority, Taban retired and established a new community in Kuron called the Holy Spirit Peace Village. He dreamed of a community where tribal rivalries could be set aside so that peace, cooperation and mutual respect might be the rule. He relocated to Kuron and lived in a tent as he began to share his vision and invite people of good will to join him. Families from several different tribal groups and faiths have chosen to live in this community. It has become a model of what is possible.
In commenting on the Holy Spirit Peace Village, the theologian Emmanuel Katongole wrote “What Taban is driving at—or better, what is driving Taban—is ecclesiology, a vision of what the church is called to be. That is why relocation is not simply about a change in geography or location but a theological category, an essential ecclesiological mark – indeed, the very mission of the church. The church exists for mission, to be a sign of God’s saving presence among God’s people. This presence is not abstract but is always concrete in a particular locality.” (Emmanuel Katongole. The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa).
As we reflect on the incarnation at Christmas, it is a time to consider God’s missional calling on the church to be an incarnational people, to set aside our status and privileges in order to live out a vision of the Kingdom which brings peace, reconciliation and hope. Whether you live in South Sudan or Southern Ontario, we are called to have the same mindset as Christ, who emptied himself for others.
Immanuel Baptist Church, Toronto
This Advent season, and always, let’s remember that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne love, that love and faithfulness go before Him. And, as we will discuss more next week, let’s surrender to Him and become the ones about whom the Psalmist says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord” (Psalm 89:15).
Visit baptist.ca/advent to read more reflections from the Canadian Baptist family.