Thursday, August 25, 2016

That Note about Generous Reassurance

So, 2 Corinthians 9 is Paul's appeal to the Corinthian church to follow up on a previous promise for donation to his work and ministry. The topic of money and giving is always a touchy one for most congregants, especially for those aware of all the prosperity gospel preachers, who then become acutely worried their pastor may be turning into one such individual. (Or, maybe it's just me, because I know I've had moments like that, being the cynic and skeptic I am)

That being said, It's not unheard-of for those in ministry to live off the donations of worshippers, after all, that was one of the reasons for the tithe back in Old Testament times - without it, the Levites would have had nothing to live on. Similarly, today, most pastors live off of either tithes alone or tithes plus a side job. To take an even more extreme example, missionaries rely almost completely on donations so as to not overly burden those they are ministering to (following the example of Paul himself).

So, giving is important, but, as Paul writes here, it is not compulsory:
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Cor 9:7
Yes, Paul writes the verse before that one reaps in proportion to what one sows, but it is the verses following that stand out to me:
"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. ... Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." 2 Cor 9:8, 10
Paul is addressing what I often feel as someone looking to give, particularly outside of tithe. Basically, he's saying, "Don't be afraid to give; God will make sure you have what you need."

That's a pretty critical perspective. If we withhold charity out of fear of not being able to survive without what we'd give, the reassurance that God will give us what we need, in this case as a response to godly, charitable giving, is very, very freeing.

So, then, my question to you, the reader, is this:

What work or ministry are you missing out on because you are afraid to go without?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Aotearoa, A Cultural Heritage

One of the amazing things I am grateful for from my time in South Africa is the exposure to other cultures and ideas, different ways of celebrating facets of life. One amazing way I was able to see this was through the international rugby scene.

You see, the first time you watch rugby, it can be a little confusing, seeing all the scrums and lineouts that are called seemingly at random until some of the rules are learnt, but something that stands out for anyone, whether a tenderfoot or a veteran, is the All Blacks.

You see, New Zealand has this amazing national policy celebrating their Maori heritage, after all, they were there on Aotearoa before the very first Englishmen ever called it "New Zealand". The policy was made as part of an effort to help retain the Maori culture by making it a part of the national image.

Now, most people may look at the Haka as a war dance, or something done before sports games to intimidate opponents, but it has a far richer meaning that, as a foreigner, I do not even begin to have the right to express.

I remember a couple years ago, when the NZ national basketball team was playing in the US in the Spain Basketball World Cup, the majority of the US was dumbfounded, watching the New Zealanders shouting, stomping their feet, slapping their bodies, and making ferocious grimaces. I remember watching the replay, listening to the ESPN commentators, watching the confusion on the US teams' faces. To me, it was priceless.

Now, New Zealand's not the only nation to do some kind of war dance before sporting engagements. Samoa has the Siva Tau, Tonga has the Sipi Tau, and many other polynesian nations have a similar performance. Even the University of Hawai'i football team performs a haka before games, though the NCAA does not allow them to do it with the other team on the field as they are not allowed to "intimidate" the opponents.

But the Haka goes deeper. Like I said before, it's a celebration of a deeper heritage. Take, for example, Jonah Lomu's funeral. Arguably the greatest rugby player, he was a national icon for New Zealand.

Or take this haka performed by the family of the bride at her wedding.

What I enjoy seeing, though, is my American friends' interest and celebration of the Haka. That awareness of celebration of cultural diversity is an amazing catalyst to begin discussing the problems within our own country. America is supposedly the melting pot, but as I wrote a long time ago (albeit far more naively), we seem to be more like a really chunky stew, or, better yet, a potjie. We have a diversity of cultures here. we are not a homogeneity of whiteness. There is African-American culture, various Hispanic cultures, Asian cultures, African cultures, Native American cultures (unfortunately, many are mere remnants), even varying European cultures, and yet, the only ones we routinely celebrate and accept are the last.

Now, I'm not talking about heritage months, but I am talking about what heritage months are symptoms of. I'm sorry, but if we have to put in place heritage months for cultures to be celebrated and recognised, then we don't really celebrate and recognise them, do we?

So, to Aotearoa, New Zealand, I applaud you for recognising and seeking to celebrate your cultural heritage.

America, what would you look like were you to truly accept and celebrate the diverse members within yourself?