Monday, July 17, 2006

Nazareth & Antioch... and Wool?

In the latest (July 14) post in her Lectionary Blog, Sarah Dylan Breuer quotes at length from an excellent Christianity Today interview with the Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye, Assistant Bishop of Kampala in the Church of Uganda. I'm not going to quote it again here, - I'd strongly encourage you to read it in full - but Dr Niringiye's point is that he has "...come to the conclusion that the powerful, those at the center, must begin to realize that the future shape of things does not belong to them. The future shape of things is on the periphery. The future shape of things is not in Jerusalem, but outside. It is Nazareth. It is Antioch."

I've been thinking a lot about being here in Wool. This is a village in rural Dorset, hidden away from what makes 21st century Britain the way it is, just a dot on the map between Poole and Weymouth. The centre it is not. Yet even years ago, Jan and I were certain that the Lord was calling us here, and that certainty has only grown in the intervening time.

It is very easy, when one reads of the things going on in the church nationally and internationally, the big festivals, the major inner-city evangelism programmes, the National Centre for This and the International Forum for Something Else, to feel a bit irrelevant, as though God had far better things to do than pay much attention to Wool.

Dr Niringiye is right, though. Jesus was from Nazareth, much to Nathaniel's disgust. The Lord's Anointed never was crowned King of the Jews. The closest he got was an ironic label on the Cross where he died, outside the city walls, and when he rose again on the third day, disbelief and rumours. The beginning of the baby church's cross-cultural push, without which it might (had God allowed it) have remained an obscure Jewish sect in the footnotes of history, was in Antioch, not in Jerusalem. St Francis (with the exception of some notable journeys) and St Clare spent all their lives in and around Assisi, not in Rome. Martin Luther, the child of obscure country folk, lived and worked his whole adult life in Wittenberg, not in Paris or Berlin.

The cosmos swung on the pivot of Bethlehem, 2000-odd years ago, far away from the might of Rome or the conceit of Jerusalem, and it was a bunch of tatty local shepherds who brought the first worship to the Saviour of the World. Even now, we don't know their names.

It is not for us to try and assess the importance of what God calls us to do, or where he calls us to serve. Our only answer is the answer Jesus gave to Peter in John 21, "...what is that to you? Follow me!"

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I needed that reminder, since I too pastor a small congregation. Not in the middle of anything, except God's thoughts.