Context Changes Everything

During the period after WW2, a Christian Theologian in Germany
was trying desperately to come to grips with the world he had been living through.
He had been drafted into the German army.   He had served as part of that army
and he was captured and served as a POW  under the allies

He learnt of the atrocities committed against the Jewish peoples
and was wracked with guilt about the impact of Nazi Germany on the rest of the world.
Working with the writings of other theologians
such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth,
he started to put together his views of the Christian faith
that was a “praxis” – putting belief into life-action.
His belief was that the church’s mission was to give the “Wretched of the earth” a voice.
For this writer – Jurgen Moltmann – theology wasn’t about supporting the status quo,
but about striving to change the world for the better.
It was his context, his experience, his setting in the world that shaped his message.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, in another part of the world – South America –
was in the middle of a strong political and social movement
that promoted strong nationalism, and a competitive desire to become “developed”.

It was a rather right wing movement of Government,
with military coups and dictatorships, and major political repression.
This is the era of the setting of the musical “Evita” for all you musical fans.
And arising from that setting, and echoing the writings of Moltmann
came a movement that has been particularly strong in Latin America: Liberation Theology.

Liberation Theology places orthopraxis higher than orthodoxy:
living the way of Jesus is more important than believing correct doctrine.
And the actions of disciples is to free the oppressed – literally to bring about liberation.
It was the context, the experience, the setting in the world that shaped the message.

And much much earlier, back in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries
there were a group of Christian writers were increasingly despairing
at the absence of attention they saw being given to individual responsibility for living faithfully.

Much of the early teaching in this particular movement
was at a Charity school for orphans in Glaucha in modern Germany
and much of the teaching about personal responsibility for living more ethically
was given to orphans from a very poor background.
This movement became known as the Pietists, and it greatly influenced a group in England
who combined this sense of personal responsibility
with a personal – individual – experience of grace and forgiveness
and who became known as the Evangelical movement.

Once again, it was the context, experience & setting in the world that shaped the message.

Why this wander through bits of Church history?
Apart from the fact that you are deeply inspired by Church history, I am sure,
it is a reminder that our faith and our understandings
are rooted and grounded in experience.
We are not, as people, disconnected from our settings
and our faith is not something that is vacuum sealed and transferrable without thinking.

When we look at Matthew’s gospel, we deliberately do so with a sense of its setting
When we look at the way that Mark’s gospel presents things differently
it reminds us that people right from the beginning,
            were shaping and reshaping Jesus’ teachings and example, for their setting.

There is nothing new or startling here

So it is also important for us to do the same for Jesus’ own setting.

From what we can tell, Jesus teachings, his views on life – and in that sense his theology –
is shaped in and around one particular part of the world.
The Sea of Galilee, or Lake of Genesaret and the area immediately around it
was the scene of almost all of Jesus’ ministry.
This is his setting, his context, and it is here that he has his experience
and they will have shaped his message.

In the very generation of Jesus, the Roman impact on this area was made real

It was in Jesus’s generation that the Roman arms
reached in to the Sea of Galilee and dominated the economy.
The ruler of the area – Herod Antipas – wanted desperately to be given more kingdom space
and the best way of convincing the Emperor of that
was to provide more taxes for Rome

And so he went about adding to the impact on the farmers,
by taking over the Lake and getting the fishermen to be part of the Roman economy.

This was taking place around the early 20s.
Jesus’ ministry in the area was in the mid – late 20s

So what?
Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ lifestyle
Jesus’ call to his disciples to be “fishing for people” arises from this setting.
In our small groups this week,
our groups will be exploring more and more of what this means

Our faith is deeper and stronger when we realize its connection with,
and not its disconnection from its immediate economic, social and political settings.
What is the understanding and the expression of faith
that will grow from our context and our setting?

What is it about our community and our economy
what is it about our political and social settings
what is it about our place in the world and our place in Australia
that opens the door for a fresh way of looking at being a disciple of Jesus.

Lent is a time for us to consider – consider deeply –  how it is that we are shaped.
Not just how we may re-act in some way, but truly who we are.
At and around the Lake, Jesus invites people who are feeling the domination of Rome
to consider where it is that they get their daily bread
and how it is that they may fish for people.

At and around our place, what are we called to discover about ourselves?

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