by Roddy MacKenzie
WCC Korea 3: Trains & Peace (continued)
I had to abruptly cease my message late last night when I’d taken you to only three of the WCC Metaphor Train’s Six Stations. Now follow the remaining three Stations. Again, there’s lots that’s so good to report. Ka Hyun and I hope you find something of great meaning herein.
Metaphor Train Station Four: Working for God’s Justice
This one is of particular interest and importance to me because I’m a lawyer. Justice is central to Holy Scripture and justice is central to the mission of the Global Church so justice is central to WCC. Ever increasing obscene disproportionate wealth accumulation is contributing to equally obscene human impoverishment and ecological devastation. The Bible is crystal clear: God continuously opposed practices and systems that were unjust, especially in their effect on the poorest. I spoke in my previous message about recent interfaith Buddhist-Christian Dialogue on structural greed in today’s global economy. As the prophet Jeremiah declares: “From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain“. Not much has changed in 2,500 years! But we must now assume this is inevitable and unchangeable. We must instead look to what God desires as declared by the Prophet Amos and immortalized a half century ago by The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
The WCC’s focus is on poverty, wealth and ecology. The WCC mission is to shift world Christianity’s focus from the perspective of centres of power and affluence seeing poverty as a problem to be relieved to the perspective of the poverty-stricken where extreme wealth is seen as a fundamental problem. From that fresh perspective of the marginalized and downtrodden, Christians are better able to see and understand how unrestrained accumulation of wealth exasperates systemic poverty and the destruction of creation — the land, air and water — that sustains all life.
Greed has become systemic — but as I mentioned we are wrong to assume it is inevitable. That assumption is like the one of slavery being inevitable as expressed in St. Paul’s writings (for example, Romans 6). But sticking with this erroneous assumption about greed has life and death consequences. For example so many Europeans are now committing suicide it’s being called by the media “Suicide by Economic Crisis“. The virus of insatiability, of thinking we never have enough, has turned into a worldwide epidemic.
Esteemed theologian Water Brueggemann says “Despair may be the defining pathology of our time, robbing the Church of missional energy.” The WCC’s Mission is to move the world from despair and hopelessness to empowered hope. Churches in South America, Africa and Asia are conducting audits of external debts and challenging mining and resource-extractive companies to be accountable for human rights violations and environmental damages. Churches in Latin America and Europe are learning from sharing their differing experiences of globalization and are now building solidarity and strategic alliances with each other. Christians are defining indicators of greed and are now having intentional dialogues with Buddhists and Muslims from which common ground is emerging to fight against greed.
What does this inspire you to work on in your context?
Metaphor Train Station Five: Praying for God’s Peace
As I advised in my first message, this WCC 10th Assembly here in Korea is fast becoming known as the Praying Assembly because so much prayer of everyone together is being worked into each day’s packed schedule. Prayer takes us more deeply into the most troubling situations in the world. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Prayer is a means of more deeply “thinking our way into God’s world” [Douglas John Hall, When You Pray, Valley Forge, Judson, 1987].
We must never forget our God of life does not condemn the world, but is committed to it being healed, reconciled, saved (John 3:17). God became incarnate in the world in Jesus Christ, who becomes the peace that the world cannot give on its own. Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
A powerful personal experience I had in Seoul this week with humanity’s urgent need for peace instead of immersion in the horrors of war was the discovery of a temporary display on the broad sidewalk of one of Seoul’s most beautiful boulevards. It was surrounded by gleaming office towers a block from City Hall (and my hotel). The display is photgraphs taken during the Korean War from July 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953. A world record 67 nations came to the aid of South Korea through the United Nations. Of these 16 such is Canada sent armies to fight. The remaining nations sent materials and a myriad of other forms of support. Never in history had so many nations come to the aid of one. In the display, I encountered 67 large, framed black and white photographs placed on stands, each with a large flag pole flying the flag of one of the 67 nations who came to South Korea’s rescue.
These 67 pictures were all taken during the Korean War, and each has in Korean and English a description of what is being photographed and the date. These pictures take one’s breath away. Some almost make one physically ill. The total devastation — Seoul was reduced to rubble. The endless refugees, freezing, starving, in rags, terrified. A powerful picture of the bodies of US Marines, British Royal Marines and South Korean troops lying frozen in the snow. Most of all, the unforgettable pictures of Korean children, enormous numbers of totally terrified, starving, freezing children in rags orphaned by the war and surviving by their wits with nothing to help them but one another. Children caught in the middle of the actual fighting, crouching defenceless covering their ears while just a few feet away United Nations soldiers are firing artillery at enemy positions. Pictures which so accurately capture the total horror of war. And then there are pictures of Christian Church gatherings, of worship for the first time by some North Korean refugees, of the incredible power of the Holy Spirit inside these terrified people drawn together in worship, and in prayer.
And so today we come to prayer here at the WCC in Korea as those who have been freed, saved, or liberated enough from our self concerns to be able to identify with others, or to bring others before God. Praying together is the deepest form of solidarity we can show one another as human beings. Prayer is a practice of solidarity with other, which in turn leads to responsible discipleship. And that leads us to our Metaphor Train’s final Station — Station Six.
Metaphor Train Station Six: Transformative Spirituality for Discipleship
.What is “Transformative Spirituality“? Many types of spirituality can be transformative, especially in personal terms. Here the WCC’s focus is on how, in community with Christians who are significantly different than ourselves, can each of us experience transformation that empowers us for discipleship, especially on the topics of the previous five Stations of the Metaphor Train.
Transformative spirituality is finding the truth of our existence and discovering the fire of the Holy Spirit inside each of us. It provides us with a new understanding of how to be a follower of Christ in today’s context. It gives us a new image to inspire us in solidarity with the poor in their struggle for freedom from all forms of unjust systems and structures present in society [Rico Palaca Ponce]. Transformative Spirituality re-connects us to others.
And, as is clearly stated in Holy Scripture, transformative spirituality provides us with the means to discover the grace to be satisfied with enough, while sharing with any who have need (Acts 4:35).
God puts us together — in the Body of Christ — with those we do not choose. Jesus tells us: “You did not choose me, but I chose you … to bear fruit.” (John 15:16). The WCC says our solidarity is spiritually grounded in Jesus Christ, and inspired by how He related, as do we, with those quite different from ourselves. As when we connect with them, as what members worldwide of WCC including Ka Hyun and me hope and pray will happen at this 10th Assembly here in Korea, new power emerges.
And so we pray the Theme of the WCC’s 10th Assembly: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” [Olav Fykse Tveit, 2012].
And Thus Concludes the WCC Metaphor Train’s Six Stations
And thus concludes the Six Stations of the WCC Metaphor Train taking Christian Congregations worldwide on a virtual Pilgrimage to Busan for the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches this month. For these last three Stations in particular, I have borrowed heavily from superb passages in the WCC’s “Leader’s Guide Pilgrimage to Busan“. For this I am most grateful because I find them inspiring. They express these important concepts so much better than I can. Thank you WCC!
Christian Greetings to everyone and especially from my wife The Reverend Ka Hyun MacKenzie Shin to her beloved Congregation of St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby, Canada. God be with you all!
Yours faithfully, Roddy