Church

The Faith of Nelson Mandela

Gateway News:

Nelson Mandela was one of the world’s most revered figures.  Imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years, he rose from prisoner to president, leading his nation from 1994 to 1999.  It is believed that he suffered lung damage while working in a prison quarry; he also contracted tuberculosis in the 1980′s while being held at windswept Robben Island.  After retiring from public life in 2004, he has been rarely seen in public.

We know about his fight against apartheid and triumphant election as South Africa’s first black president.  But what about his personal faith?

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela tells the story of his early engagement with Christianity: “The Church was as concerned with this world as the next: I saw that virtually all of the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about through the missionary work of the Church.”  As a result, Mandela became a member of the Students Christian Association and taught Bible classes on Sundays in nearby villages.

A few weeks before he was elected South Africa’s president, he gave a speech at a Christian church’s Easter conference.  After reading the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), he began by praising God for “the Good News borne by our risen Messiah who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind!”  He consistently proclaimed his commitment to Christ as his Lord throughout his adult life.

As his health has declined, Mandela’s daughter told an interviewer, “All we do every day is take one day at a time and pray to the good Lord.”  Makaziwe Mandela said that her father was at peace, and that the family hoped for a peaceful transition: “All I pray for as a daughter is that the transition is smooth. . . . He is at peace with himself.  He has given so much to the world.  I believe he is at peace.”

So do I.  In his Easter conference speech, Mandela proclaimed, “Each Easter marks the rebirth of our faith.  It marks the victory of our risen Savior over the torture of the cross and the grave.”  Soon that victory over the grave will come to Nelson Mandela.  God’s promise will come true for him: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

The same God delights in you as well.  Whether you are a president or a prisoner, what matters is not where you are but whose you are.  Is your identity today based on earth’s opinion or heaven’s promise?

 

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Church

Church of England Considering ‘Champagne Christenings’

Just the other day, I wondered aloud: ‘How far will the CofE still fall?’ Well…

The Church of England is considering offering “champagne” christenings based on wedding receptions to attract people who rarely attend their local parish.

I keep saying: All they need to do is return to the basic: Preach the Word, faithfully, and stick to Biblical truth and sound doctrine!

The Telegraph has the details.

 

Church

Obama Heads to South Africa as Mandela Still Critical

News 24:

Pretoria – US President Barack Obama flies to South Africa on Friday hoping to pay homage to the legacy of his critically ill hero Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill in hospital.

Mandela’s ill health means the two men, who shattered racial boundaries on either side of the Atlantic, are not expected to have a long-anticipated meeting for the cameras.

Still, reflections on Mandela’s extraordinary journey from prisoner to president are likely to permeate Obama’s three-day stay.

Critical condition

Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was rushed to hospital three weeks ago with a recurrent lung disease and has since appeared close to death.

On the eve of the visit, Mandela was said to be in a critical condition, but had stabilised since a scare forced President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring Mozambique.

“He is much better today,” said Zuma after seeing Mandela on Thursday for the second time in less than 24 hours.

Yet South Africans, including Mandela’s family, remain braced for the worst.

“I won’t lie. It doesn’t look good,” daughter Makaziwe Mandela said. But “if we speak to him he responds and tries to open his eyes – he’s still there”.

“Anything is imminent, but I want to emphasise again that it is only God who knows when the time to go is,” she said.

Mandela’s plight has lent a deeply poignant tone to the visit, around which Obama has built a three-nation Africa tour, and his plans could yet be upended by sudden developments in the ex-president’s condition.

Legacy

“The president will be speaking to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and that will be a significant part of our time in South Africa,” said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.

“The president will treasure any opportunity he has to celebrate that legacy.”

The White House says it is in the hands of the Mandela family and the South African authorities on any aspect of the visit.

“We will obviously be very deferential to the developments that take place and the wishes of the family and the South African government,” Rhodes said.

A visit by Obama to Mandela’s former jail cell on Robben Island, off Cape Town on Sunday would now take on extra “profundity”, he added.

‘Hero of the world’

Speaking in Senegal on the first leg of his long-awaited African trip, Obama described Mandela as “a personal hero.”

“I think he is a hero for the world, and if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages.”

The US president recalled how Mandela had inspired him to take up political activity, when he campaigned for the anti-apartheid movement as a student in the late 1970s.

South Africans have also been marking the life of a man who led their country out of apartheid.

Outside Mandela’s hospital a wall of messages and flowers has become the focal point for a nation saying a long goodbye to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.

“There is no sadness here. There is celebration. He is a giant,” said Nomhlahla Donry, 57, whose husband served time with the revered leader.

Mandela has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for a stubborn lung infection.

 

Bible Archaeology

Two Thousand Year Old Evidence of the Siege in Jerusalem

Some more Biblical Archaeology with which to starts the day (depending on where on earth you live). Far better than the other filth doing the rounds. In an archaeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority near the Western Wall:

 

The Antiquities Authority on Thursday unearthed for the first time a small  2,000-yearold cistern near the Western Wall that connects an archeological find  with the famine that occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem during that  era.

The cistern – found near Robinson’s Arch in a drainage channel from  the Shiloah Pool in the City of David – contained three intact cooking pots and  a small ceramic oil lamp.

According to Eli Shukron, the excavations  director for the Antiquities Authority, the discovery is  unprecedented.

“The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp indicate  that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that  was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them,” he said. “This is  consistent with the account provided by Josephus.”

In his book The Jewish  War that describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Jewish scholar  Josephus detailed the resulting hunger that ensued.

In his account,  Josephus, also known as Yosef ben Matityahu, wrote of Jewish rebels who sought  food in the homes of other starving Jews confined to the city. Fearing these  rebels would steal their food, many Jews used cisterns to conceal their meager  provisions, and later ate in hidden places within their homes.

“As the  famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it,” Josephus  wrote.

“For as nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the  houses and ransacked them,” he continued.

“If they found some, they  maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they  suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured  them.”

Josephus recounted that many Jews suffering from starvation would  barter their possessions for small quantities of food in order to stay  alive.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of  corn-wheat if they happened to be rich; barley if they were poor,” he  wrote.

“They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses,  where some, through extreme hunger, ate their grain as it was; others made  bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table  laid.”

The artifacts will be on display during a July 4 conference on the  City of David, organized by the Megalim Institute.

Earlier in the week,  the Antiquities Authority uncovered in Beit Hanina a well-preserved section of  an 1,800- year-old road leading from Jerusalem to Jaffa during a routine  excavation prior to the installation of a drainage pipe in the northern  Jerusalem neighborhood.

Source

 

Church

Ethiopian Monastery in Jerusalem’s Old City

The Ethiopians have no property in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, only access rights; but they do have a little monastery nearby, known as Deir es-Sultan, that is worth a visit.

Haaretz has the article:

Jerusalem speaks with many voices, and in a babble of tongues. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in the heart of the Old City’s Christian Quarter. The cavernous medieval structure stands, it is believed, where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is shared today – unequally and uneasily – by several Christian denominations (none of them Protestant). The Greek Orthodox are the major “shareholders,” followed by the Roman Catholics (“Latins”), Armenian Orthodox, Copts (Egyptian) and the marginalized Syriac Orthodox.

The Ethiopians have no property in the Holy Sepulcher, only access rights; but they have a little monastery, known as Deir es-Sultan, on the roof of a medieval annex. The entrance to the compound is from the Ninth Station of the Cross, up a slightly obscured stairway off Suq Khan e-Zeit, the artery of the Arab market that slices from the Damascus Gate toward the Jewish Quarter. If you can spot a sign on the street leading up to Mike’s Center, a hole-in-the-wall Internet café halfway up the stairway, you’re home free.

Step into the Ethiopian courtyard opposite the Coptic monastery. A weeping willow (rather symbolically) casts some shade across the bare stones, where a defunct water pump, ruined Gothic arches and tiny monks’ cells cower under a skyline of rival crosses. The Ethiopian church has known better days: it lost its lands in a Marxist coup in the 1970s, and the gentle monks sent to the holy city live quietly in scriptural poverty.

In the middle of the courtyard is a small domed structure. Put your ear to one of the barred windows and you’re likely to hear voices from the Chapel of the Cross far below. Once part of the larger Church of the Holy Sepulcher of the Byzantine period, and only accessible from within today’s church, the chapel is also known as the Chapel of St. Helena, for the mother of Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor. The devout empress visited the Holy Land in 326 CE and initiated the building of the first major sanctuaries, among them the Holy Sepulcher itself and Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. The basement chapel is reputed to be the spot where Helena found the True Cross.

Duck through the low stone doorway into a tiny Ethiopian church. The wooden screen at its eastern end is topped by an image of Jesus on the cross. Above his head is a plaque with the translation in Ge’ez (the Ethiopian ecclesiastical language) of “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” recorded in the New Testament as the inscription affixed to the cross. Conventional Western art shows the feet of Jesus crossed, but here they appear separated and resting on a block of wood – a more realistic depiction, say some scholars. Beneath the cross, the blood of Jesus drips through a crack in the rock onto a human skull, said to be that of Adam, the first man – a legendary explanation for why the site of the crucifixion is known as Calvary or Golgotha (the place of the skull).

On the long wall of the chapel is a 20th century oil painting depicting the biblical story of the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon to “prove his wisdom” with “hard questions.” Her impressive kingdom apparently included Yemen and northern Ethiopia; and she came with a great entourage bearing wondrous gifts. Among Solomon’s counselors in the rendition appear two (startling!) latter-day ultra-Orthodox Jews, complete with the black Hassidic garb so common in the modern city. The artist apparently looked around and identified the most Jewish-looking people for inclusion in his modest masterpiece.

According to Ethiopian tradition, more transpired between the two monarchs during the visit than is recounted in the Bible, and the Queen of Sheba returned home pregnant. The son she bore was Menelik, destined to become the first Ethiopian emperor. The Ethiopian version of events is that the boy was groomed for greatness in his mother’s court, and when he came of age was sent to Israel as heir-apparent to the throne of his biological father.

King Solomon’s legitimate sons did not welcome the interloper, and the king realized there was nothing for it but to send the young man home again. But not empty-handed, surely! At Menelik’s request, says the tradition, he was given an army of the first-born of every family in Israel and the unique, irreplaceable Ark of the Covenant (some versions say “merely” an entourage of aristocrats and priests and a replica of the Ark). According to the Ethiopians, the Ark survives in a carefully guarded sealed crypt beneath a church in Ethiopia.

From the chapel, where a brass plate lies for visitors’ offerings, descend to a lower-level chapel and out the back door to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulcher.