Lights at the end of the tunnel
Brazilian theologian and biblical scholar, Paulo Ueti, talks about his threefold vision for Christians being salt and light in today’s world.
Paulo, who is based in the Diocese of Brasilia Brazil, works for the Anglican Communion Office in theological education and also works with the Anglican Alliance – the Communion’s development, relief and advocacy agency.
“I think we’ve been called to be salt and light in the world, not to the church and not within the church only. So that means we also are called to listen carefully to the signs of the times, to be attentive to the context that we live in, because we are a communion – a worldwide family.”
Paulo believes everyone is connected from India to the Pacific. “We are all tied up. We are all in this ‘bake’ together and live in an amazing web of relationships, sometimes good, sometimes conflicted, but they are relationships to be nurtured. I’m a Brazilian; the Brazilian with the Japanese mother and Italian father, working globally for the past 20 years, and speaking different languages all the time. In my context in Latin America, to be salt and to be light, first of all should be prophetic; to speak the truth to power and every power. So, that includes the political powers and the religious powers, to speak the truth against any kind of social norms that are oppressive and exclude people.”
Being salt and light for Paulo is like the church or Christians shining a light in the darkness of a tunnel. He said, “I think we are called to understand and to realise that we are people of hope, we are the people of resurrection. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, when there is a problem, when there is conflict or when there is maybe darkness, there is light, because we are there. We are the lights everywhere, not only in the good things, in the garden of roses, but everywhere. We are the ones called to be the light and to help people to understand and to realise the light is there, not to get into despair.”
“Sometimes we are caught in desperate situations, and we fall into despair. Despair is part of our daily life. I think we should embrace it as part of our way to learn from God and to learn from the community,” Paulo said.
He believes a loss of connectivity and of belonging to a community, can lead to despair. “Sometimes we have got into despair because we are losing this bond that God gave us.
We have to be attentive to the people in despair. It is not about myself and God, it is about how God is revealing himself through the community. So, the community is actually the glory. In Hebrew this is the presence of God.”
Paulo said while the church supports each other, there is less place for desperation, “We have to practice active listening, we have to practice it to want to care. I think hope and love and community will flourish and we will fight desperation.”
Full of pictures, Paulo also compared being salt and light in the world to being a midwife.
“We are called to support new things, which is quite a challenge because we never know what’s going to happen. We are just helping a child to come into the world, but we don’t know what’s going to happen to this child. We are supporting the mother, we are supporting the family, and we are caring for the child that’s about to come.”
Summing up his vision for the church being effective in the world he said, “Being salt and light is to act as a parable, to act as a prophet, and to act as a midwife in this chaotic, but also helpful world.”