Banana or Orange?

Banana or Orange?

Jan 28, 2018  |  Covenant Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Banana or Orange?

1956: “A young 16-year old Hugh Masekela leaping in the air, clutching the trumpet that had been sent to him by Louis Armstrong.”

Photograph by the late Drum photographer Alf Kumalo.


Grace and peace to you

The other day I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about how to get people to change. The article explains the “Banana Principle”. It goes like this: On the office counter there are two bowls of fruit for all employees to freely help themselves. A bowl of bananas and a bowl of oranges. Every day without fail the banana bowl is emptied first. And many of the staff who arrive after the bananas are finished, choose to leave without taking an orange even though there are plenty of oranges still to be had. On reflection and research they realised that the reason for this is not because bananas are deemed that much more delicious than oranges, but rather that they are easier to eat. They are easier to manage. Easier to peel. Bananas are less messy than oranges.

So according to the authors, if you want people to start doing something that they are not – give them a banana-like-option. In other words make it easy. And if you want people to stop doing what they are doing – give them an orange-like-option. Make it more difficult or costly, because people employ the principle of the least effort. This is obvious in each of our lives I am sure.

But it raises this question for me: what if the change needed is not easy and cannot be made to be easy? What if the change needed is messy – like much meaningful change is.

This raised another question: is easy really what we want? Surely we have enough insight into our lives to know that easy seldom hits the spot within us that is crying out for transformation.

More than easy I think we desire truth. The truth that we can change. The truth that it is difficult. The truth that it is costly. The truth that it may happen in hidden ways over long periods of time. The truth that we will be helped along by grace again and again.

This is why I think the Covenant Commitment still holds our attention over 250 years after it was first prayed. It holds our attention because it holds the real desires of our heart. In our depths we want truth, not easy. As it states in the introduction: “Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.”



Covenant Prayer

We are no longer our own but yours O God. 

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering*;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you;

let me be full, let me be empty;

let me have all things, let me have nothing;

I fully and freely yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,

You are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the Covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.


*NOTE: “Put me to suffering” – does not mean that we are asking God to make us suffer! Rather it means that we are even willing so suffer if that is a consequence of being faithful.

The Gospel according to Yellow and Stripe

The Gospel according to Yellow and Stripe

Feb 1, 2015  |  Covenant Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Gospel according to Yellow and Stripe

Grace and Peace to you

Hope for the Flowers was one of the first books I remember my mom giving to me. I have never stopped reading it and never stopped trusting in its truth. It could have been called The Gospel according to Yellow and Stripe.

It is about two caterpillars named Yellow and Stripe. Yellow and Stripe were in love with each other. They decided that there was more to life than getting to the top of the caterpillar pile and decided to journey in a new direction. To live for each other instead of themselves and to focus on loving. For caterpillars this meant that they did a lot of hugging – well actually caterpillars don’t hug, they curl. They really are good curlers!

I won’t spoil the whole story for you … but just to say at some point they had to make a big decision. It was full of risk. The decision terrified them both. They had to give up the only life they knew in the hope of a new life they barely thought possible and yet somehow they could not give up the belief that it was possible. They had to die … in order to live more fully — yes even fly.

For me this is the most beautiful and clear picture of the new life that Jesus invites us into when he invites us to walk in his ways. It is a huge risk and it is terrifying. It involves dying to oneself and giving ourselves to each other in love. Just the idea bubbles with promise within my belly — how about yours?

In today’s Covenant Service we are invited to risk giving up our lives for Love’s sake. When we do we die. When we do we are re-born. When we do, we soar like on the wings of eagles … or is it butterflies?

Grace, Alan

Prayerful Preparation

“I shall look at the world through tears.
Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.
The tears streamed down, and I let them flow as freely as they would,
making of them a pillow for my heart. On them it rested.”

– St Augustine