Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It takes work .... (Acts 16)

I believe Muslims experience an eruption of nostalgia from time to time. A charismatic teacher arises, and seeks to lead the faithful back to the unspoiled, pristine, original faith.

This is also a regular occurrence in American Christian culture. A faith big enough to apply to all of life is redefined as a simple devotional hobby, something that can safely be re-invented in every generation. After all, as the cliche goes, "God has no grandchildren." And just look at the amazing story of the Early (Primal, primitive[1]) church, that had thousands of converts climbing on board day after day! If only we could be like them, we could enjoy the same kinds of miracles! The overflowing love, generosity, purity, and power.

Well, as this chapter indicates, it takes work to keep the community working. Even these people living within days of the Resurrection, filled afresh with God's heavenly Presence, still acted like -- people. They still found it easiest to associate with their own, and take care of their own.
Act 6:1 İsa'nın öğrencilerinin sayıca çoğaldığı o günlerde, Grekçe konuşan Yahudiler, günlük yardım dağıtımında kendi dullarına gereken ilginin gösterilmediğini ileri sürerek İbranice konuşan Yahudiler'den yakınmaya başladılar.
Act 6:2 Bunun üzerine Onikiler, bütün öğrencileri bir araya toplayıp şöyle dediler: "Tanrı'nın sözünü yayma işini bırakıp maddi işlerle uğraşmamız doğru olmaz.
Act 6:3 Bu nedenle, kardeşler, aranızdan Ruh'la ve bilgelikle dolu, yedi saygın kişi seçin. Onları bu iş için görevlendirelim.
Act 6:4 Biz ise kendimizi duaya ve Tanrı sözünü yaymaya adayalım."
Act 6:5 Bu öneri bütün topluluğu hoşnut etti. Böylece, iman ve Kutsal Ruh'la dolu biri olan İstefanos'un yanısıra Filipus, Prohoros, Nikanor, Timon, Parmenas ve Yahudiliğe dönen Antakyalı Nikolas'ı seçip elçilerin önüne çıkardılar. Elçiler de dua edip ellerini onların üzerine koydular.
Let's look at a few phrases:
  • Tanrı'nın sözünü yayma işini bırakıp -- Of God / the Word / to spread (this is a "light" infinitive. Sometimes, when using an infinitive as a noun, you can drop the k from the end.) / the work / to leave (the -ip ending and its kin are placeholders that can be used when a sentence contains a number of parallel verbs, so that you only need to hitch the full complex apparatus to the last verb.)
  • maddi işlerle uğraşmamız doğru olmaz -- physical, material / the work, the business / in order to apply ourselves to / right, true, correct / is not
  • Bu nedenle, kardeşler, aranızdan Ruh'la ve bilgelikle dolu, yedi saygın kişi seçin. -- This / therefore / brothers / from among you / with the Spirit / and / with wisdom / filled / seven / considered thus / folks / select
  • Onları bu iş için görevlendirelim. -- To them / this / work / in order to / they may be entrusted.
Already, issues arise that need specialized attention. Maintaining a community, and a sense of community, doesn't just happen, no matter how spirit-filled and "primitive" people are. It takes work. I attended a mosque service with a Turkish friend, and saw the full "spectrum" of humanity present, men from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the USA. The eloquent imam, whose English had no discernible accent, and whose singing voice is magnificent, spoke of how important it is for the umma to keep its act together, to avoid fitna. Muslims who toy with, indulge in, or encourage fitna by that action deny their faith, and are not really Muslims at all. Suleyman later explained that fitna means civil strife, unrest, insurrection. Wikipedia described fitna as the civil wars that split the Muslim community into its Sunni and Shia factions.

When Suleyman joined our family for church the Sunday after, the theme was repeated. It takes work to make community work. Especially if, as with our church, the community deliberately includes people from many different backgrounds. Sometimes, the white guy learns to clap on the off-beat. Or, the people selected to manage the church's charitable resources on behalf of the Greek widows -- are all from that community.

[1] Yes, there is an American denomination that glories in the name of Primitive Baptist Church. As Yaakov Smirnof would say, "What a country!"

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