Freedom Day on Lockdown: Place Matters
The new dawn of freedom in our country began when every person was able to exercise their agency. Freedom day marks the day we acted towards the belief that freedom for a limited few undermines the idea of freedom for the whole.
The insidious lie of the Apartheid State was that the minority group of white South Africans held the power to make choices on behalf of black and coloured South Africans and that this was okay. The regular citizen needed not to worry themselves of the details of the structures that helped this benevolent violence to flourish. But “history is a witness” as Willie James Jennings writes. It remembers how we remember stories and the places they create.
Today, we may be witnessing the insidious lie of the present democracy that says if the few are comfortable, we can bear with the suffering of the many as collateral damage. The present reality of the corona virus is peeling away the illusion that what happens to the abandoned communities of our cities, need not affect us. The story of the under-resourced places in our midst has taken centre stage, my prayer is that its summons would be welcomed to ask deeper questions about the importance of place in our theology and in our worship.
During this lockdown, we are now able to clearly see the cracks in our world, as these have become visible. I believe we can also make ourselves available to respond from a place of repentance, as well as an agent of eternal love. My prayer is that we ask ourselves questions that usher us into our next level of being witnesses of Jesus, whose life was poured out for the world. We are a people who lead by repentance. Transformation for love and from love is in our DNA, we do not need to hide from the hard histories that incriminate us.
At least we should not have to. Our Saviour looked at death in the face and welcomed it swallowing questions for our sake, and perhaps that can give us the strength to reflect honestly, in community, on things that can be seen, so that we can broker an overcoming reality that undermines placidity and complacency. On the other side of the wrestle, He overcame and so can we.
On this freedom day, may we grapple with place, and more specifically the places that we find ourselves in with respect to the places that are rendered invisible in our current space. May the hospitable and courageous love of Jesus allow us to enter into this confessional room in order to wrestle in community towards transformational and incarnational love.
There is a gift in our liminality, of our being in the world, but not of the world. My prayer is that we would allow it to broker a lavish posture of love that supersedes our places of comfort and safety. If place mattered enough for Jesus to be born into a specific place, its stories and complexities being part of the redemptive story, then perhaps place should matter to us too. If place mattered enough to God that He gave us his only Son, then the resurrected Son has a bearing on our bravery to enter into the damning narratives that might also incriminate us. Yet we enter in because of love’s invitation, and that invitation can help us move beyond condemnation and paralysis, every time.
If a given location was a person, what does it remember about itself?
What does it remember about others?
Do our spaces see how connected they are to the wellbeing of other spaces?
What is our theology of place?
Do we see the symbiotic connection between places?
What do we tell ourselves about why they exist?
What do these stories summon from us as a response?
What does freedom day during a lockdown make us think about the existence of polar economic realities?
Can we see the confessional space that this lockdown is inviting us into regarding the different locations where human beings are living in South Africa?
Can we feel the tug of love’s motion towards others who live in places that are harsher than ours?
Can we be brave enough to take the bludgeoned hands of Jesus and move to the margins, into the forgotten places?
Can we respond to the call of repentance for living in oblivion to the children who drink from polluted sources of water, while we water the already green grass within our complexes?
Repentance always invites us to love, never to paralysing condemnation.
Irrespective of how wrong we have demonstrated our understanding and application of transformation, I am comforted that as long as the church exists, She has a chance to keep living in repentance, towards loving better, and seeing the world more clearly.
The most refreshing response of heaven to a world that has complex stories of place and contested human flourishing is a witnessing, self-reflective and repentant community; whose trajectory is towards growing in love and service to God and neighbour. It is a community that testifies to the arrival of another kingdom into our own; inviting humanity to a new way of being, belonging and thriving. It is a community that bears testimony that our “places” have been visited by another place, a Holy place that invites us and the world to a story of lasting transformation. As we ponder on what it means to exercise agency in a new South Africa, may we be the picture of an exiled community living in liminal place, in the world, but not of the world. May we always have the courageous edge to ask difficult questions that invite honest reflection and lasting action fuelled by love, to change the face, the material, the soil and the soul of place.
Let freedom reign.
Written by Lusanda Mashua | 2020