April 3rd, 2008 Print Print Email Email

One day before his crucifixion, our Lord Jesus Christ bowed down and washed the feet of his disciples. He then said to them: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet”[1]. (more…)

One day before his crucifixion, our Lord Jesus Christ bowed down and washed the feet of his disciples. He then said to them: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet”[1].

Some of us may have made mistakes. However, the message of our Lord Jesus is that we must serve and love one another, live together in peace and brotherhood, share what we have to those who are in need, lift up our brethrens who cannot walk and wash one another’s feet. We may be fasting or regularly attending church services. We may have graduated from big biblical colleges. We may be patriarchs, bishops, priests, pastors, evangelists …We may be revered by millions because of our status in the church hierarchy. We may know how to perform “Kedasse” (mess) in Geez. We may have angelic voices when we sing gospel songs. We may have built a big church building of our own. All these are good things.

However, the most and critically important item that makes God happy is our love and service towards our brothers and sisters. Any sacrifices offered without love of our brothers are NULL and VOID in the sight of God. Any prayers or fasting will not be heard. “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash Your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wring, learn to do right! Seek Justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” says the Lord in Isaiah[2].

Currently we are in a season of one of the major fasting, called “hudade”, a fasting season dedicated to remember the passion of our Lord Jesus. In Isaiah Chapter 58, we read particularly what kind of fasting is acceptable to the Lord. “Is it not this kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide wanderer with shelter? [3] “Says the Lord in a clear and unambiguous manner that He is more interested not in rituals, hypocritical sermons and the type of food we eat but a true service offered with Love and compassion. He wants us to go one step forward towards our brothers and away from our selfishness. He wants us to stand for justice and be voice for the voiceless. This is the essence of a true worship that is acceptable by God.

Being a servant may be considered by some as being inferior and backward. However, being a servant is being great. Greatness is measured by the degree of our services to others and not by our titles, class status, wealth, education or ethnic identity.

“If you want to be important.. wonderful. If you want to be recognized; wonderful. If you want to be great; wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness it means that everybody can be great because everybody can server. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subjects and verbs agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of Thermodynamics in Physics to serve. You only need a heart, full of Grace and a Soul generated by Love. Then you can be that servant.[4]” said once Dr King from his church podium.

In Luke chapter 10 there is a story of a man who fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him from his clothes and beat him, an act of lawlessness and injustice. The man was half dead and alone looking for help and assistance. A priest came in and saw the man. He passed by on the other side ignoring the wounded man. A Levite came in. As the priest he passed by on the other side of the street as well. (Levites are men who spend their time in the temple to assist priests and were supposed to serve God). A Samaritan (people usually considered as inferior and cursed by the other Israelites) took pity on the wounded. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring an oil and wine. Then he put him on his donkey, took him to a motel to take care of him. [5]

The priests and Levites may be busy thinking about what they will do at the temple or what they will dress during the “prayer” ceremonies. They may be eager to quickly reach at their destination and hear the “kentu Wudasses” (flatteries) from people around them. They may be contemplating what part of the Torah (the five books of Moses who are At the beginning of the Bible) they will be teaching the people who may be gathered at the temple. However, all what they do was unacceptable to God, for they have closed down the door for love and compassion.

These days, we see some similar trends among the spiritual leaders of our generation. We see a complete silence towards injustice in our country and lack of moral authority and boldness to speak the truth. (In exception to the Catholic Church who once boldly protested the killing of innocent civilians). Is it not the will of God that we stand for justice and the right of the oppressed? Is it not the will of God that we confront authorities who defies humanity as the prophet Nathan confronted King David, a man who committed adultery and murdered one of his soldier called Orion?

Where was the voice of the church when blood is pouring down on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ambo, Ginche, Ogaden .. ? When unarmed innocent civilians are being killed, when tens of thousands are being brutally incarcerated, when villages are being burned down in Ogaden, when dictators are gearing up to more devastating wars in Northern Ethiopia, when the very few are amassing the wealth of the country to themselvesand bankrupting the economy …our so called spiritual leaders have been silent. They are ignoring everything and everyone that has nothing to do with promoting their agenda and benefits as the priest and Levite ignored the wounded man. Some church leaders may be silent because they get some financial subsidies from the regime. Some may be silentbecause the regime returned back some old buildings confiscated by the Derg. Some may be silent because they were promised lands to build schools or Universities or NGO offices they control. Whatsoever the reasons they may have it is immoral to be silent in front of immoral actions.

“Bless are the peace makers, for they shall be called the sons of God[6]” says the Bible. What we see from our spiritual leaders is not a peacemaking mission. These days our country has been very polarized. We needed a force that has the moral authority that can bring people together. We needed someone who can convince opposing groups to come together so that they can solve their differences in a dialog. We needed fatherly figures.

Spiritual leaders were the best people for such noble and holy assignments. They could have formed a committee that works in the reconciliation process. They could have formed a task force that visit all prisons in Ethiopia, count all of them and speak out for their release. They could have mobilized their people and lead the struggle for equality and justice as John Pope the second did in his native Poland. They could have been agent for peace as Bishop Tutu of South Africa.

Unfortunately our leaders do not have time to come down from their golden-chair and address the concerns of our poor people. They are happy with the status quo. They are busy building their empire and destroying one another. They are no where near the great and courageous Abune Petros who died for the cause of freedom, dignity and the well-being of the people of Ethiopia. They are identified as spiritual leaders only with their external clothes and their title. (Abba or Pastor …)

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church leadership is very disappointingly in chaos. There are two patriarchs who have been shamefully engaged in condemning each others, unwilling to show the message of love and forgiveness to the millions of their followers with their deeds. Our Lord Jesus, they say they are worshipping, has sacrificed his life for all of us. Should the patriarchs humbled themselves and worked out some arrangements to glorify God and preserve the Unity of the Church, would that be much to ask from them? Would that be big sacrifices in view of what our Lord Jesus did to us? These people may think they know and worship Jesus. They are lying. Their failure to come together as Christian leaders and bring the unity of believers is a clear indication that they are not worshipping Jesus at all. They are worshipping themselves.

Some Ethiopian Evangelical Churches’ disputes have gone extra miles that the EPRDF controlled court system is trying to mediate their differences. One group is accusing another with bitterness. Aren’t these people telling us that they know the Bible? Where is it written that they have to fight in public? For sure it is not for the glory of God they are fighting for, for God is glorified only with mercy and love, not fight and accusations. They are filling the gates of the court to gain more power and more influence within the church. Shame on them!

To our spiritual leaders, who are profiting in the name of God but not reflecting his holy messages of justice and love in their deeds, I remind them of the stories of the sons of the high priests Elli and Aaron who were stricken down by the mighty hand of God.

To the rest of us, I say let us not be diverted and discouraged by the actions of the few. Despair and hopelessness are the major enemies of humanity. Let us all do our parts and commit ourselves to lift up one another. Let us not pass by our wounded people and be ignorant towards the plight of millions of our fellow Ethiopians who are living above the dead and below the living. Let us all be part of the movement to bringing peace, democracy, stability, justice, prosperity and reconciliation in our country. Let us all be like the Samaritan who said “no” to inaction and silence and said “yes” to standing up for the wounded, oppressed and helpless people.

Today we may think we are safe. We may say “I don’t care about others as long I am not affected”. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the wounded man and imagine what we would feel when individuals pass by us. Let us all remember that the wounded man was “OK” before he met the robbers. We may fall in the same situations as time goes on. There can never be safety and well-being on our own. Our safety and our well-being emanates only from our unity and mutual respect. Let us all embrace greatness by serving and looking to one another. Together, we can come out from our misery and long tradition of blood shed. Together we can make Ethiopia again a proud and respected country.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your night will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.”[7] says the Lord in Isaiah. As we embrace one another, turn away from our old ways of hate, ethnic division, war, bloodshed, corruption, insensitivity towards the need of others and revenge the Grace of the Almighty God will be upon us. As He promised, our healing will quickly appear.

[1] Gospel of John Chapter 13, verse 14
[2] Isaiah Chapter 1, versus 16 to 17
[3] Isaiah Chapter 58, verse 6
[5] Gospel of Luke Chapter 10 versus 30 to 36
[6] Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5 verse 9
[7] Isaiah Chapter 58, versus 9 to 10

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