And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.” — Matthew 8:11 (NLT)
In June 2017, I was in transit from Augsburg, Germany, to Indonesia. After several hours of waiting for my next departure in Schiphol Airport, my flight was canceled and I had to spend one night in Amsterdam, Netherlands. That night, I met two Muslim scholars from Indonesia who were studying at Vrije University in Belgium, working toward their master’s degrees in trauma healing and peace studies. We became friends and stayed in touch. Both have since become professors at Islamic universities.
Saiful, one of these friends, visited me in Semarang, Indonesia, several years ago. He brought 30 students to learn about Christianity, and we ended up visiting one of the Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI) churches near my office with the GKMI Synod. This is such a great friendship and an example of interreligious dialogue, born out of our common misfortune in Amsterdam, that became fertile soil for our friendship and partnership.
This is the spirit of “Gotong Royong,” a sense of solidarity across barriers, especially in times of crisis.
Earlier this year, I joined the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as an Asian Mennonite Ministries representative. During this time, I heard a presentation about the challenges of the church in North America, where religiosity seems to be declining but spirituality is not. As a newcomer and a sojourner in this land, I asked myself, “What kinds of things I can contribute, as a Chinese-Indonesian person, who has been living in the U.S. for four years?”
In my work with Mission Network this past year, I have been listening to many stories about our workers across Asia/the Middle East, as well as our partners from many other countries. I began to ask myself, “What can I contribute to many conversations that I might not be able to understand fully?” Does anyone want to hear a voice from the Global South?
How can we face these challenges and uncertainties as a global communion of believers in North America and in other parts of the world? As global citizens, we have common suffering, a sense of unity amid any challenges, regardless of our ethnicity, nationality or demographics. We can find hope by seeing the future through the lens of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
Jürgen Moltmann writes in The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, “In God’s creative future, the end will become the beginning, and the true creation is still to come and is ahead of us.” Moltmann offers four horizons for a Christian understanding of the end of time:
It is hope in God for God’s glory.
It is hope in God for the new creation of the world.
It is hope in God for the history of human beings with the earth.
It is hope in God for the resurrection and eternal life of human people.
These horizons are important to help us in our understanding of the kingdom of God, which is already and not yet. It gives us the strength to endure the present challenges in our lives and gives us patience/hope to await the desired future. The Chinese language captures this complexity in “wei ji” which means both “crisis” and “opportunity” at the same time.
In life, there are many crises, as well as opportunities; how can we see this tension and dynamic?
What are the new opportunities that are opening, especially for the church post-pandemic? Pope Francis’ in the “Inside the Vatican” podcast says that the pandemic can provide a moment to think, “How are we going to live tomorrow? Do we want to change the way we live economically, equally or unequally?” He talks about the importance of solidarity, or a common understanding of living interconnectedly more than individualistically.
Pope Francis says that this pandemic revealed a new way of staying with family more, and it has even helped us think about what matters most in life. It has caused us to rethink the way we do business and think about people on the margins of society.
It is exciting to hear someone as influential as the Pope share about these new possibilities and this vision of solidarity toward the marginalized in society. This is my hope for the future, that people from all tribes, nations and tongues will work hand in hand, preparing the feast on the Lord’s table. No one is left behind. People from all over the world are welcomed and rejoice with Jesus. We will experience love, peace, justice, harmony, solidarity and joy together. There will be no more injustice, no more prejudice, no more hate, no more disease, no more pain, no more suffering.
Shall we eat together now?