When I read Luke 21 I'm immediately taken back to my time in Soweto, an (in)famous suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Soweto is mostly known for it's student uprising in which black students protested that they were being instructed in Afrikaans while their white counterparts were learning mostly English. Afrikaans has cultural significance for parts of the country but English put white South Africans ahead of their black counterparts for higher paying and wider career opportunities. In 1976 a massive student organized and led protest resulted in a deadly show of force by South African police and military killing at least 176 students with some estimations as high as 700. When the police started opening fire on the kids the Catholic Church in the heart of the village opened its doors and told the kids to hide inside. For two days the church barricaded its doors, openly denied police and military access or a list of names of those hiding and sustained gunfire that can still be seen in the stained glass today. (the church is not financially struggling but keeps it there as a reminder to never forget) While we were there we attended church and during the offering time the people formed a big line and danced forward with their offering. They dropped in piles of Rand (South African money) to the plate and danced all the way back to their seats. I was really moved by this scene because I know Soweto to be an extremely poor area of South Africa even to this day. The priest talked with our group after and explained that many of the people that attended church there were children during the uprising and to this day they give nearly all they have to the church who protected them when they had nothing. When I read Luke 21 of the poor widows offering I think of Soweto, black Jesus (and Mary) painted on the wall, and the bullet holes and cracked altar of hatred and forced oppression and I'm reminded of just what the church is called to do. Below, I share with you a few of the pictures from my time in South Africa related to this day and story.
(Hector Pieterson was one of the first boys shot during the uprising at 12 years old. His sister, Anntoinette is running alongside. We met and shared lunch with anointette at the Hector Pieterson Museum who shared with us the power of forgiveness and persistence for a more just world. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.
(Antoinette Sitole (Peterson) speaks to us about that fateful day and picture. Doesn't it just give you chills to see her in present day? But it also gives me hope.)
(Jesus and Mary, portrayed as Africans. "Madonna and Child of Soweto" caused me to tear up standing in that holy church where scared children hid. Lord, in your mercy.)
(Gift to Regina Mundi (the church) in memory of that day. I find the message to be exactly what the church should be for the world.)
(Mural showing armed police, children, and Regina Mundi church as refuge)
(Jesus statue and a bullet hole in the "narthex" area of Regina Mundi. Oh, the irony. The tragic and unspeakable irony.)
With this somber story in mind I invite you to read Luke 21 - 22.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about Jesus?
What is different about Luke's account of Jesus final days before his arrest? what is the same?
One of the aspects of Luke's gospel that has puzzled scholars for years and excited narrative authors is his depiction of Jesus and his disciples with purchasing swords and readying to fight back in the garden. "Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!" (Luke 22:49) Why do you think Jesus and his disciples carried swords? What does that speak about our own countries conversations about weapons and specifically guns?
One of the absolute best sermons I've ever heard in my life was from Pastor Adam Hamilton preaching about how to be Christian in relation to gun laws and rights. It is an incredibly pastoral account that is respectful to both sides while still calling us to peace and to rely on God, not guns, for our safety and well being. I invite you to check it out if this is a topic you are passionate about (on either side, despite what you may hear from naysayers, Hamilton is a centrist and an exceptional pastor.)
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 277 in our hymnal - Tell Me the Stories of Jesus. Growing up this was one of my favorite hymns after Amazing Grace, Spirit Song, Lord of the Dance, and Hymn of Promise. I apologize for the somber tone of today's blog but that parable of the poor widow always gets me emotionally, and when I think of that parable that is one of the stories of Jesus that I personally love. What stories do you love? Think of them while you pray this hymn.
1. Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; things I would ask him to tell me if he were here: scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
2. First let me hear how the children stood round his knee, and I shall fancy his blessing resting on me; words full of kindness, deeds full of grace, all in the lovelight of Jesus' face.
3. Into the city I'd follow the children's band, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; one of his heralds, yes, I would sing loudest hosannas, "Jesus is King!"