One of the highlights with every cohort cycle we run at Isiphambano Centre for Biblical Justice is our final session where we invite the participants to engage in an exercise of what theologian Walter Brueggemann has called prophetic imagination.
Prophetic Imagination is the call to move beyond the world as it seems to the world as it might be. God’s vision for the world as it might be.1 The task of prophetic imagination is two-fold. Firstly to critique and expose the dominant powers thus creating among the “hearers” a profound dissatisfaction with the prevailing status quo or the “way things are”. Secondly, it is to energise, or stir to hope and action, the imagination of a different reality and vision for the world shaped by the vision and values of the Kingdom of God. 2
Over the next few weeks, Isiphambano will be publishing a number of these contributions. Read this piece “Children of the Kingdom” by Rebecca Meissner below, inspired by Acts 4:32 and a vision for a culture and expression of Christian community, so different from that often found in the white middle-class church today.
Children of the Kingdom
My two-year-old has recently learned the word MINE – “It’s not yours it’s MINE”. He says this with such conviction, snatching away anything you might have dared to touch – even if the item actually belongs to someone else. He’s developed an obsession with possession. Dare to mention the sh word… ‘share’, and a meltdown might ensue. Even when there is objectively more than enough to go around.
As a parent, my child’s self-centered behavior mortifies me. But I know his brain is still developing; it’s normal for a two-year-old to behave this way, and so I attempt to show him patience and grace. Being confronted with the daily onslaught of I, me, my, and mine, has made me realise how often we as adults – even adults who profess a Christian faith, continue to behave as toddlers do.
“IT’S MINE!” My home, my car, my land, my money, my time. Me. Me. Me. I worked hard for this. I stayed in school and got an education. I deserve the things I have. I didn’t grow up rich. It’s not my fault apartheid happened. I wasn’t even there. It’s not my fault people are poor. Maybe they should work harder. Maybe they should have stayed in school. There are soup kitchens that will feed the hungry. And didn’t Jesus say the poor will always be amongst us? I give my 10% (unless money is tight this month). I donate the things I no longer like or need, and I sometimes give to charity too (I also don’t forget to post about it on social media). What’s the least I can give and still be deemed a good Christian?
Forgive us God, our exceedingly patient, gracious, and generous Holy parent, when we behave as toddlers do. Extend grace to us as we tantrum and cry, when we pity ourselves and when we, in our spiritual immaturity forget what you and your kingdom are like. Help us to see that there’s another way to be a child in your kingdom, that in fact “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”
We are all your children, help us to sit on your lap and learn from you, Our father who provides generously to all who live under his roof.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.
The prevailing culture tells me it’s mine. But in truth Father, Everything we have is Yours. Your home, Your car, Your land, Your money, Your time. Every gift is from You and for You. And what we do for the least of these, we do for You. Yes, I worked hard, but so do my brothers and sisters. Perhaps I can learn something about hard work from them if they are kind enough to share this with me, and more generous with me than I have been with them. Perhaps my education is lacking after all. It has provided me with counterfeit answers and has not taught me to ask the bigger questions.
Soup kitchens can feed the hungry, but why don’t we gather around a table together as a family instead, feeding each other as there is need. Maybe the need is not always physical. When it comes to kingdom life, maybe it’s me who has been starving? If we were breaking daily bread together, and asking each other how we can all live with open hands maybe the queues at the soup kitchens would dwindle. Speaking of daily bread, I could also learn something about when enough is enough. Help me learn from my holy siblings about contentment, and about what it is that I truly need.
And when it comes to giving, Why stop at 10%? When my toddler-like brain perceives scarcity, show me how to be generous, because in your Kingdom there is more than enough to go around. Oh creator God, help us to be creative. I could learn a lot about creativity from my brothers and sisters who have had to make a little go a long way. How can we collaborate so that one person’s resources and another person’s creativity can collide and create more abundance for the whole community? This property has my name on the deed, but it could be used to grow food to feed all who gather at the table. If only someone would teach me how to grow vegetables.
Father, a final prayer, because sometimes, like a toddler, I need a lot of repetition to help me remember things.
Father help us create communities that reflect your Kingdom
Where communal good is valued over individual gain
Where collaboration replaces competition
Where contentment replaces covetous consumption
Where belonging replaces longing
Where abundance replaces scarcity
Where humility overcomes hubris
Abba, in your love, repeat these words to us until we learn them by heart, like a childhood nursery rhyme that becomes part of our history, part of our culture, and perhaps after enough time and repetition, part of who we are.
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- Mark van Steenwyk: What is Prophetic Imagination
- Brueggemann, Walter. 2001. The Prophetic Imagination (2nd Edition). Minneapolis: Fortress Press. p11