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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Bonhoeffer called it "The Cost of Discipleship".

Cold comfort when your life is actually on the line.

I am shocked and saddened by the news this morning that threats have been made on the life of the Rt. Rev'd Jo Seoka, Anglican Bishop of Pretoria, South Africa.

According to a report from the Pretoria news service:
Four armed men on Tuesday went to Seoka’s home and threatened to kill him and his wife, warning that they knew of his whereabouts even if he tried to hide.

They visited his home twice on Tuesday and have since made repeated phone calls to his home threatening to kill him.
Fortunately, the bishop and his wife were not at home.

Questions have been raised as to any links between these death threats and the death in November of Seoka's lay chaplain, Ntombekhaya September, a 45 year old business woman.

September, the first woman and lay person to be chaplain to the bishop, was found lying face down on her bed, fully clothed, by Seoka and her domestic worker.

There were apparently no visible signs of injuries to her body, which was found after Seoka called a locksmith to open her house when he could not contact her.

Police have declared the death a murder and are on the hunt for a Congolese national they believe may be able to help them in solving the murder. The man is believed to work for a security company and is involved in selling clothes and fixing computers.

The Pretoria news also reported that:
Seoka’s security has since been intensified amid fears that the suspects might attempt to act on their threats.

“At the moment, we have no information about who is behind these threats or their motives,” said the SA Council of Churches, of which Seoka is the president.

“However, we recognise that Bishop Seoka has long been an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

“He is also a courageous opponent of corruption and unethical business practices in his capacity as a leader of the ecumenical movement.

“We cannot take these threats lightly because we know that clergy are often vulnerable.

“We have been shocked and saddened by past incidents in which clergy and church leaders have been murdered,” the council said.

Brooklyn police station commissioner Brigadier Andre Wiese was not yet aware of the threats made to the bishop but said police were hot on the trail of the man they were looking for after September’s murder.
Obviously, there is much to the story that can not, perhaps, at this time, be revealed.

The work of the Gospel does not come without risk or cost.

There is both risk and cost to being a disciple and an "outspoken advocate for social and economic justice" and "a courageous opponent of corruption and unethical business practices".

I ache for the people of South Africa as they continue the long struggle of pulling themselves up out of the ashes of Apartheid to form themselves into a nation.

I grieve for the people of Haiti, as they, with amazing, inspirational displays of faith and hope, pull themselves up from the ruins of the earthquake and the after shocks of cholera and dysentery.

I weep for the people of Japan as they pull themselves up from the ruins of the Tsunami with dignity and deep spirituality in a nation which has been called "non-religious".

Having a window on the world's suffering is both sobering and humbling. Prayers and donating a few shekels at humanitarian agencies are about all I can offer. It seems such a small thing in the face of such monstrous disaster.

I find comfort in the story of the "Good Samaritan" who tended to the man as best he could, leaving the man he found beaten and left for dead on the side of the road in the hands of the ancient manifestation of that cultural equivalent of social service agency.

I can't be there - in Japan, South Africa, or Haiti - but I can provide for those who are. And, I can pray.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Seoka said:
“I have not done anything stupid or anything to provoke anybody.

“We have tried to identify who our enemy might be but we cannot come up with anybody.

“They have phoned here a number of times and repeated those (death) threats.

“They have also said they know where I am and where I will be, but my schedule is published by the church for all to know anyway.

“We suspect they have been following us because after the police came here, they said now that we have informed the cops about them, we must try to be safe and sleep well,” he said.

Asked whether he had beefed up his security, all Seoka would say was “the Lord is my Shepherd”.
"The Lord is my Shepherd."

The 23rd Psalm is so familiar, I sometimes say the words without considering their importance and significance in times of trouble.

I had forgotten the solace and comfort these words have brought me in times of grief and anxiety and fear and desolation.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.
As I continue to pray for the people of Japan and Haiti, for the people of Christ Church, New Zealand, for those in NOLA who are still trying to rebuild their lives after Katrina, and now, for the people of South Africa and especially, Bishop Jo Seoka, his wife and family, I will use this wonderful psalm as part of my meditation and prayer.

I invite you to join me.

The world has more suffering than one person can possibly bear. Thank God we don't have to bear it all. We have a Shepherd to help us carry our burdens which can bring us confidence and hope in times of danger and trouble, sorrow or grief.

May The Good Shepherd continue to visit all the places in the world where there is pain and suffering so that goodness and mercy may follow all the days of our lives.

We live in sure and certain hope.


Muthah+ said...

Thanks for this piece of news of +Pretoria. I will add him to my prayers too.

We have all laid our lives down for God in some kind of way. It is hard to face the nastiness of the world. But it we do it day in and day out, not because we are brave or better prepared, but because we have a God who loves us.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Muthah+

walter said...


Actualizing potential or better said: in ‘actualizing potential’ we could use “actualizing” as a noun, an adjective, or even an adverb but its empowering truthfulness comes only when, in the context of realized potential, we use it as Word-Verb without any ‘adverbial’ infinitive and to do this we do not need Presidential’ coinage. Does it sound familiar to you? We Live in Sure and Certain Hope.

Walter Vitale