1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11),22-30,41-43
by Reverend Dr. Mansita Sangi (Church in Angola)
A BIBLICAL MEDITATION ABOUT CREATION
1 Kings 8: 1, 6, 10-11
1 Solomon gathered the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the country, from among the children of Israel before him in Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the covenant of lord of the city of David who is Zion. 6 So the priests brought the arc of the covenant of the LORD to their place, the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubs. 10-11 the priests coming out of the house of the Lord…a cloud filled the house of the lord, the glory of the lord filled the house of the Lord.
Verse 1 speaks of Solomon who gathered the people of Israel to fulfill a great task: to raise up the ark of covenant of the Lord of the city of David, which is Zion. This indicates the Congregational capacity of the Leader, in this case, Solomon. From an ecumenical perspective, this quotation expresses the efforts of all, regarding the work related to the construction or development of the Church. Division between the Churches is in contradiction with the message of truth that Christians have the mission to expand; it invalidates and fundamentally alters the Christian witness in the world. Emphasizing the importance of the common effort in Christian witness, and notably its link with the kerygma and Diakonia, Paul VI exhorts believers in the following way:
“We must offer Christ’s faithful not the image of people divided and separated by disputes that do not edify, but of people mature in the faith, capable of overcoming real tensions thanks to the common, sincere and disinterested search for the truth. Yes, the result of evangelization is really linked to the witness of unity given by the Church […] We intend to insist on the sign of unity among all Christians as a way and instrument of evangelization. The division of Christians is a serious state of affairs that hinders the work of Christ .”
How can Christian witness, or presence in the world, be made effective and evident when Christians of different denominations remain divided? However, the common witness, according to the Evangelization Commission of the Ecumenical Council of Churches (CEI), is “particularly common in pluralist societies. It is through common efforts that the Churches can contribute and more effectively promote the expression of Christian values in public affairs and in matters of lifestyle”.
The Church must teach men and women, at all times and in all places, that they must participate, in an implicit, private and authentic way, because of their original natures and functions arising from creation, in the creative work of God.
Like David, the leaders of the world under the auspices of religious leaders must act in synergy, seeking to deepen the reasons for human creation and existence. Faced with the misfortunes suffered by different peoples around the world, the leaders of the world, together with people of faith , must, as David did, ask themselves about the nature of the concrete actions to be undertaken. It is a question of stepping back and questioning the role by which they were raised in dignity in order to refound and reframe their actions and interventions on the new bases and perspectives for future generations. This will be able to revitalize and enhance their worthy and legitimate functions, thus attracting on them the glory of the Lord, Owner of the creation under their care.
God is One and His chosen people cannot be divided. The agreement of the Church’s unity is found in the Gospel of John 17. Christ asks His Father to bring about this unity and He does not wait to obtain that from the effort of his disciples. This unity cannot be destroyed by the distance of cultures, neither of time nor geography. The One Church is where God wants to progressively gather all humanity around him. There is one and only flock and one Shepherd (John 10:16). When we confess our faith, we are in communion with the faith, the faith of the entire Church. Individual faith is made in communion with the faith of the entire Church and this faith confirms and affirms the trust we have in God. The uniqueness of the Church is compared to the human body which is made up of many members. The body is indivisible and has only one life and its members work in harmony (Rom 12: 4-5).
Diversity in unity results from the expression of particular situations in the Church’s history and highlights the richness of the One Church of Christ. According to the Reformers, the sufficient and necessary condition for the unity of the Church is agreement in the faithful preaching of the Gospel and in the administration of the sacraments. Churches can recognize each other as an authentic and full expression of the one Church of Jesus as soon as there is a compromise between them in the understanding of the Gospel. They mutually declare themselves in communion in preaching and administering the sacraments, striving to reach the greatest possible unity in common witness and service to the world. Received in Christ, this communion is also based on the fact that it “inaugurates a new quality of relationships among human beings; it means mutual compassion and mutual participation in suffering and joy (2 Cor 1 : 6-7, Phil 4 : 14-16) ; it exerts mutual help that comes from belonging to the community; Any participation that does not have such a consequence will, however, be a counterweight and denial of the Christian faith and of God’s love for the world (cf. 1 John 4: 20)» .
In verses 4-6, the Psalmist desires happiness for those who dwell in the house of the Lord and for those who find their strength in the Lord, whose heart is in the smooth ways.
In the rest, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 17 take the helmet of salvation… which is the word of God.
The Psalm and Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians have a didactic and catechetical perspective as they constitute an appeal addressed to the faithful to accommodate their action in the precepts of God and to manifest them through a rational faith wherever they are in order to achieve the salvation and the happiness provided by the Lord.
To dwell in the house of the Lord is to express your faith by following the suffering Christ with a pure heart and a generous will. The house of the Lord is an appropriate place where the seeds of vocation are cultivated with believers, giving them spiritual direction and a religious education adapted to the mission. With the support of pastors as a spiritual monitor, they learn, through Bible studies, to live in the familiarity of the Father, and in the intimacy of Christ, acquiring a firm and coherent knowledge about God and about life in society. In this way, the hearts of those who dwell in the house of the Lord remain on the smooth paths, implying that they practice justice and peace as an essential foundation for human existence
With hearts that remain on the flat paths, it is possible to transform the unjust structures of society. In this, the Church sees itself indebted to the conditions that make human existence viable. In Jesus Christ, society, despite all its ambiguities and contradictions, can be rediscovered as a place of a peaceful and happy life. Addressing the issue, at Lambeth the Anglican Bishops state the following:
For Anglicans, and for the whole Church, the Gospel is not only the proclamation of redemption and personal conversion, but also the renewal of society under the kingdom of God, the end of injustices and the restoration of good relations with God and between human beings and creation. We recognize that the issues of social justice and world relations are very complex and powerful .
With a view to effectiveness and performance, the Church’s commitment to justice remains open to cooperation and ecumenical dialogue with other religious denominations and confessions, and relentlessly accepts all the opportunities that are offered to it, and gives access to contact with other governmental and non-governmental organizations operating for peace and justice, to make, in accordance with the cases, similar, concomitant or parallel actions resulting from the same purpose, the good of all in society.
Joshua 24 :1-2a:
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel, and called the elders of Israel, and their heads, and their judges, and their officers, and they stood before God. 2 Then Joshua said unto all the people, Thus hath the LORD said; from that part of the river formerly inhabited your parents.
17 For the Lord is our God, He who brought us up out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery and who has done these great signs 18…Therefore we serve the Lord because He is our God…
Joshua received from God the mission to bring the people of Israel to the Promised Land. A noble mission that implies, however, a Congregationalist spirit on the part of the Leader and hope on the part of the people. Joshua’s congregational capacity is seen in verse 1 which takes into account the fact that Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel by calling the elders, judges and officials to present themselves before God. The verse 2 where Joshua transmits the words of the LORD to the people, saying to them, from that part of the river of old dwell your fathers. This implies that before being transported to Egypt, the fathers of the people of Israel inhabited another side of the river. Moreover, Joshua received the mission to take back the children of Israel across the river, achieving salvation. However, this noble mission implies, in the first place, the ability to unite the people on the part of the Leader Joshua, which he demonstrated in verse 1, but also to invite the people to hope, as crossing another side of the river or the sea implies sacrifice and perseverance
Hope is one of the great theological virtues, and it´s also a specific task of the Churches. They must not only call for a fairer society, but also give reasons for hope for the future, so that people have the courage to live. Hope must not be blind and naive expecting everything from heaven; it invites perseverance and endurance, despite the difficulties of the moment.
When it concerns an entire people, as is the case with the people of Israel under the leadership of Joshua, hope involves and invites unity and raises the question of the meaning of the present and the future in the process of history and social development. From this perspective, hope is not exclusive and concerns both Christians and non-Christians. Therefore, we must not lose sight of the fact that society itself, in which all people live, and from which they derive their vital substance, though secular and secular, is also, and based on the hope of eternity.
What is Christian theology’s conception of the concept of hope in the face of the various challenges to be overcome in an ever-changing world, as was the case with the people of Israel? In 1964, Jürgen Moltmann dedicated an in-depth study to the Theology of Hope, seeking to express the Christian faith in a way adapted to the context and realities of the world. Recalling the horrors suffered during Nazism in Germany, Moltmann “highlights the implications of hope for the Church and for his personal life. What generates in the hearts of the oppressed the hope or the glow of a new day at the bottom of the abyss, the hope of new situations despite a certain amount of uncertainty» .
The bread that came down from heaven refers to the Eucharist considered from the theological point of view as being the prefiguration of the heavenly banquet that the people of the Church experience in advance here on earth and definitively in the end of time. We can see here an eschatological and ecumenical perspective at the same time as there is an idea of an inclusive happiness at the end of time. This bread, Jesus said, is not the same as the manna that your parents ate and died. Here we have the idea of the Priesthood of Christ that is heavenly and eternal in opposition to the Old Testament priesthood in the order of Aaron that was earthly and ephemeral.
The Eucharist is strongly centered on the Paschal mystery. The Christian is introduced to fraternal charity linked to the Eucharist through Baptism. The baptized person who broke with the pagan past in which he lived becomes a new and holy creature, and the Church is seen as a vital space in which he will live and grow in faith, bearing the fruits of holiness. Thus, the liturgy takes place as a synergy between the believer’s incorporation into the ecclesial body and his personal conversion. Through worship, celebrated in local or vernacular languages, through music, song, and dance, in ways created by the tradition and contemporary creation of believers, faith penetrates the depths of life.
In the Eucharist, the sacramental body and blood of Christ are present as an offering for the believer who hopes to receive Christ. When the offering is received by faith, the result is a vital encounter with Christ, which enlivens the Communicant. This presence of Christ through his body and blood can only be understood, however, within the framework of his redemptive activity. In this perspective, Christ invites the people of the Church to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to reach salvation.
In verse 58, Christ adds this saying: this is bread that came down from heaven; it is not the case of your parents who ate the manna and died – whoever eats this bread will live forever. In this way, Jesus refers to his priesthood that is eternal, in opposition to the priesthood in the order of Aaron.
However, the purpose of the Church is, therefore, to transmit the life of Christ crucified and risen with his body, so that its members may be fully united with Christ and with one another.
But it is here that the Eucharist, in its concrete celebration, puts the Church to the test: is it possible for Eucharistic sharing between members who are not of the same ethnicity or whose families are in conflict?
From this point of view, the Eucharist inevitably presents itself as a fundamental possibility for the conversion of hearts and reconciliation among people. There is, therefore, in the Church and in the community, a newness of life that arises from a Eucharist shared also between rivals. A similar situation was observed in the 1970s for the reformed churches in South Africa that favored apartheid: “the acceptance of apartheid prevented black and worshipers of colour from participating in worship. As a result, the other Churches of the Reformed World Alliance froze their status as members of this world community, with the following argument: apartheid prevents certain believers from receiving the Eucharist and therefore separates members of the same Church, it cannot, therefore, be maintained ».
These churches accepted this argument and changed. Here we see how the Eucharist has a transforming force if we take seriously, what it means to share the same Eucharistic faith. But it also requires that there be real theological training that shows the consequences of a truly lived faith.
In fact, the Eucharist expresses that in faith and obedience, the baptized person lives for Christ, his Church and the world, the field of mission. In the same way, each local Church “recognizes, in the Eucharistic celebration, the fullness of the Catholic Church and prepares to address the world with words and deeds of love”. The spirituality that emanates from the Eucharistic celebrations sanctifies the believer, gathers and awakens in him the buried spiritual energies to manifest them, generates in him a sea of love that gives him strength to witness and a generous will centered on service.
by Rev Dr Mansita Sangi, Ph.D