justice in Kameeldrif and my “test” sermon

May 29, 2008

Didn’t get round to blogging this so far this week. Not exactly sure why. In our church, as I believe churches worldwide might be doing, by the end of our theological education you have a sermon which have to be delivered as a kind of “test” sermon. In all honestly, I think it’s a very stupid idea. I’m preaching on a near-to-weekly basis at the moment, and now I have to do this one service which is supposed to be the ultimate test!

Mine will be this coming Sunday, and you are invited. I’ll be preaching from 1 Kings 21:1-16. It’s the story of how Jezebel killed Naboth, the guy with vineyard. We preach from a lectionary, so my text was pre-determined. However, the context is not pre-determined, which make it somewhat difficult.

Crime is continuing in Kameeldrif and the surrounding area where our congregants live. Woman get raped, men killed, children are traumatized. We’ve been having a lot of meetings on this in the past weeks, meeting with the police and other role players in the community. Last week a number of us shaved our hair in response to violent crimes and got the front-page of the Beeld, as well as articles in a number of other papers (see Beeld). Our congregations also launched an “action plan” against crime (see our congregation blog. Both these links will take you to Afrikaans pages). No, we are not going to start play Rambo (as my one colleague like to remind us), but we are searching for the role of the church within all this.

In this context, I must preach about Jezebel killing Naboth. I’m not comfortable preaching that the criminals will be trailed by God. I don’t see how that will help, and I’, not exactly sure whether that is always the message of the Bible. No, I would rather like to look at why Jezebel was wrong.

You see, within her own context, in her own country, her actions would have seemed normal. But in Israel it was absolutely unacceptable. The prophetic tradition, of which Elia was a part, had a very strong sense of justice, and I think understanding something of the Old Testament concept of justice can help us in understanding how wrong Jezebel and Ahab was within the eyes of Elia.

For the people of the Old Testament, justice was more than just somebody getting punished for a crime, which is what I sometimes feel we have made justice. No, justice meant working for a just society. A society where everyone had their share. A society where those who suffer was helped.

When we are searching for the role of the church in a time like this, then this understanding of justice might help. Yes, we need to find crime. Organized crime is breaking down a just society, and needs to stop. But as church we do more. We also fight the poverty which lead to a violent society. The rich-poor gap which lead to a violent society. We fight against the perception that this is black against white, which it is not.

As a congregation we will be supporting the initiative to put numbers on our plots, because this is a serious problem, the police and ambulances cannot find the plots in the night. But as a congregation we must also go beyond the fight against crime, and change a society which cause crime…

Well, if you’d like to attend church with us on Sunday, attend this test I’m supposed to go through, you’re welcome. Church will start at 9:00, and I’ll be preaching in the church hall.

One Response to “justice in Kameeldrif and my “test” sermon”

  1. […] discussion afterwards. Last week my son blogged about his plans for the sermon, which you can read here. South Africa does have an extremely high crime rate and the area where my son is staying (and […]

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