Humility and Honesty

Humility and Honesty

January 21, 2018  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Humility and Honesty

Grace and peace

Two essential ingredients necessary for continued learning are humility and honesty. Humility keeps the door open to learn more and honesty makes sure that, that which comes through the open door, is genuine and true. Humility is knowing that we don’t know everything. Honesty is knowing that not everything we know can possibly be 100% accurate. Humility is knowing that we don’t know what we don’t know. Honesty is knowing that what we know will need to be corrected and re-corrected.

Humble and honest people have a high sense of curiosity.

The opposite of a curious person is someone filled to the brim with assumptions about this and that and everything else. Making assumptions about other people make it less likely we will ever get to know them for who they are. Making assumptions about different cultures or countries does the same.

Some assumptions are very difficult to spot because they have been so deeply accepted by the dominant culture in which we live that few of us ever think of questioning them. They are the invisible building blocks of society. They are promoted and protected by the systems they embed – like religion and education, entertainment and law, etc. Like a computer virus these assumed values attach themselves to every file of our lives corrupting them without us sometimes knowing, until of course life becomes more and more sluggish and eventually stopping altogether.

Think of the assumptions (perpetuated through education and sports, etc.) in “their preference for competition over cooperation; for self-promotion over humility; for analytical over holistic thinking; for individual rather than collective success; for direct rather than indirect communication; for hierarchical rather than egalitarian conceptions of status. So in school we urge our children to strive to be better than their friends and we praise them publicly if they succeed, where many other societies would consider this to be extremely bad manners. We focus on our children directly and tell them exactly what we want them to know, where in many other societies adults expect children to observe their elders closely and follow their example voluntarily. We control and direct and measure our children’s learning in excruciating detail, where many other societies assume children will learn at their own pace and don’t feel it necessary or appropriate to control their everyday activities and choices. In other words, what we take for granted as a “normal” learning environment is not at all normal to millions of people around the world.” [An extract from]. 

One of the reasons Jesus was crucified was that he brought to the surface and challenged the hidden assumptions and values of his day. This too is our calling.

May we: Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk HUMBLY.


We are one

We are one

January 14, 2018  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on We are one

Grace and peace to you

Last week by the rivers of baptism we heard how the heavens were “torn apart” enabling Jesus to hear the heavenly voice declare his belovedness. The long-thought-of divide between heaven and earth has been torn apart and the false dualism between heaven and earth forever exposed as a lie. Heaven and earth are one. Therefore, all of space is sacred. The earth is heavenly. The water and air are hallowed. The land – all the land – every land – is holy and to be treasured. Now our work is to live on earth as in heaven.

There are many people in the world who arrive at this conviction through different routes – using different languages to describe it and different rituals to honour it (or no rituals at all). That we arrive at the same place is to be celebrated and the route we took should not be cause for argument.

A beautiful example of this is Albert Einstein who from a different angle reaches the same unified conviction. As someone has suggested, this was Einstein’s other great equation, namely a formula for the survival of the living world and its people.

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He (sic) experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”

Other versions have Einstein state:

“This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 

How we come to this conviction is less important as what we do with it. When we accept, trust and live into the truth of our oneness with every living creature and all the universe, it is then that our fear diminishes and our compassion deepens – as is the case every time our sense of connection to something or someone grows. Sadly we live in a world where the narrative of separateness dominates all other narratives – so it is not easy to hold on to the deeper truth of our connected oneness. Therefore, “the striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion”.

This is where religious practice comes in. [Remembering that the word ‘religion’ comes from Latin and its most prevalent roots take us back to the Latin word “Re-Ligare” meaning to ‘bind’ or to ‘connect’.] Therefore religious practice is to result in binding, bridging and connecting us with the Divine, the creation, others and ourselves. In other words, religious practice is to affirm our connected oneness. It is to widen “our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”. To the extent it does this, is to the extent it facilitates life within us and through us. When religious practice builds barriers rather than bridges it is no longer religious in the true sense of the word, and would be better if put aside.

Each Wednesday evening from 18h30 – 20h30 there is an opportunity to grow in our religious (bridging and connecting) practice. Please consider coming to practice.


Baptised in grace

Baptised in grace

January 7, 2018  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Baptised in grace

Grace and peace to you

When Jesus came up from the Jordan waters his identity was affirmed as Beloved Child from the Heavens. As we remember Jesus’ baptism so we re-affirm our own Baptismal Belovedness.

One of the reasons why we baptise infants (who obviously don’t have a clue about what is going on other than feeling cold water on their forehead) is that we announce for all the world to hear that this child is beloved. Beloved even before they understand they are beloved. Beloved before they have done anything to merit being beloved. Beloved before they believe this or that about God or Jesus. Beloved simply because the Heavenly Voice declares this to be so. It is called grace. Great grace! Grace is love that cannot be earned, achieved, manufactured or manipulated. It just is. Grace is the primary building block of the cosmos and the original essence of each one of us.

This great grace is for all. For the baptised and for those who have never been baptised. In other words Baptism does not manufacture grace or capture it, rather it celebrates and announces it for one and for all.

During a baptismal service we as a community commit to living life in such a way as to inform and remind the baptised among us of their beloved status. This understanding of Baptismal Belovedness is unsurprisingly confirmed to be at the heart of growing self-acceptance in others which psychologists would insist on as necessary for a person’s mature and healthy sense of self. As Jungian therapist, James Hollis writes:

“Jung has so eloquently written of this biblical admonition: Acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then?” 

James HollisFinding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up

Remember you are beloved,

“What would happen to our lives, our world, if the parent could unconditionally affirm the child, saying in so many words: “You are precious to us; you will always have our love and support; you are here to be who you are; try never to hurt another, but never stop trying to become yourself as fully as you can; when you fall and fail, you are still loved by us and welcomed to us, but you are also here to leave us, and to go onward toward your own destiny without having to worry about pleasing us.”

James HollisFinding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up

Fear casts out love

Fear casts out love

January 11, 2015  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Fear casts out love

Grace and Peace to you

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;..” from 1 John 4:18. This insightful verse of Scripture warrants a lifetime of pondering.

If true, it allows us to make two further statements:

[1] Perfect fear casts out love.
[2] The opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

This then helps us to understand something of the loveless acts of terror that we witnessed in Paris this week.

Acts of terror are not rooted in a religion or a sacred text. They are not even rooted in hate. They rest in fear. Fear first! Only when a person or group of people feel fear-full will they be prepared to commit an act of terror. Feeling under threat justifies the need to “defend” ourselves, which is the second step towards terror. It is not long before “any means” is acceptable to defend ourselves, including pre-emptive measures which is step three and close to the final step which is to seek out a “blessing” for these measures from an accepted source of authority. This fourth step is where religion often comes into the picture. The aim is to find a sacred text that can be used to justify the decisions already made. This transforms (at least for those involved) hideous acts into holy deeds.

Fear is the motivating factor and religion or an ideology of sorts is the justifying factor. With these two factors in place terror is unleashed and the innocent casualties will be put down to the accepted arithmetic of war.

If we want to reduce terror in the world we must ask who is terrified and why, and seek to address the causes of that fear. We can start by refusing to live in fear ourselves as the Bible continually commands us to “Fear not!”

Gandhi knew this, he said: “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear.”

Grace, Alan

Prayerful Preparation

O God, who am I now?
Once, I was secure
in familiar territory
in my sense of belonging
unquestioning of the norms of my culture
the assumptions built into my language the values shared by my society.

But now you have called me out and away from home
and I do not know where you are leading.
I am empty, unsure, uncomfortable.
I have only a beckoning star to follow.

Journeying God,
pitch your tent with mine so that I may not become deterred by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions
toward a wisdom not based on books
toward a strength not bolstered by might
toward a God not confined to heaven
but scandalously earthed, poor, unrecognised…

Help me to find myself
as I walk in others’ shoes.

~ Kate Compston

Break one, a thousand will rise: Lucille Clerc
A call to arms: Francisco J. Olea

Faith & Finance

Faith & Finance

February 23, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Faith & Finance

We read the Gospel as if we had no money,
and we spend our money as if we know nothing of the Gospel.

John Haughey – Virtue and Affluence: The Challenge of Wealth

Money is an emotionally-charged issue. Our feelings about money run deep. It is extremely difficult for many of us to speak openly and honestly about money. What we earn is often our best-kept secret (sometimes even from our spouse), assisted of course by the fact that many of us from a young age were taught that it is impolite to ever ask someone about their personal financial matters. Financial matters are deemed private. Yet, there are few other areas of our private lives that are as publicly influential.

This hesitancy to speak openly about money is equally prevalent among Christians as it is among any other group of people. This may not surprise us, but it should disturb us on at least two accounts.

First, it perpetuates the false belief that faith and finance have nothing to say to each other – as if they were meant to live in blissful independence of each other, seemingly replacing the old slogan: Politics and religion don’t mix.

Second, it differs remarkably from the testimony of Scripture and above all the example of Jesus, who it seems, couldn’t speak enough about money-matters. In fact, outside of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, he spoke more about money-matters than any other topic.

“In the Old Testament, the subject of the poor is the second most prominent theme. Idolatry is the first, and the two are often connected. In the New Testament, one out of every sixteen verses is about the poor! In the Gospels, the number is one out of every ten verses; in Luke’s Gospel one of every seven, and in the book of James one of every five” (Wallis 1994:149).

The fact that Scripture is saturated with references to money-matters and that Jesus speaks about issues of wealth and poverty constantly throughout his ministry makes money a central concern of Christian spirituality. By Christian spirituality, I simply mean “living with Jesus at the centre” (Nouwen 1988:5). To live with Jesus at the centre is more than a commitment to a particular kind of lifestyle, it is the acceptance of and trust in “another reality” (Willard 1988:67).

Another reality that “celebrates a divine reality that pervades every aspect of our existence, where the harmony intended for the universe can already begin to be experienced” (Wink 1998:13).

To live with Jesus at the centre means that we accept and trust that the world really is the way Jesus described it to be. It means that we adopt Jesus’ operating assumptions about the nature of the universe. This means that vulnerable love, humble service, sacrificial generosity, bold gentleness, deep truth-telling, open and inclusive community, measureless mercy, justice for all, especially for the least are the truest expressions of God’s character, the construction of the universe and the core image of the human person. Christian spirituality calls us to live into and out of this reality. And this is the reality that we are called to honour in the relationship we have with our money.

Sadly the Church has a history of only speaking about money when it needs money itself. This has often been combined with the motivation (manipulation!) that “giving to the church is equal to giving to God”. Giving to God involves giving to the least — as Jesus said, “what you do to the least of these you do to me”. So to the extent that the Church (like any other group, organisation etc.) is being good news for the poor is to the extent that our giving may be equated to giving to God.

Just as the Gospel invites, commands, calls and reminds us to be more loving, truthful, gentle, fair etc. so the Gospel invites, calls, commands and reminds us to be more generous. Generous in creative and thoughtful ways that aim to partner God in sharing good news with the poor (all the vulnerable of the world) by healing this world of its injustice.

Live generously, Alan


Prayer-FULL Lent

You will further recall that at the Conference 2013 we focused on the theme: “TOGETHER a transforming discipleship movement,” and I am pleased with the reports of serious engagement of this theme around the connexion. This must be pleasing to the Lord. Resolution 2.36 on page 96 of the Yearbook 2014 further reads:

“Seeing that prayer is the heart of the life of discipleship, Conference resolves that Lent 2014 be set aside as a focused time of prayer for repentance which leads to discipleship and also about the social ills affecting our people at this time.”

My dear sisters and brothers, I urge you to take this request very seriously. I know that some local churches have already made some plans in this regard. This is not additional to your plans, but an integral part thereof. Please encourage all Methodist people to use this time for lament for ourselves; our communities and the whole of creation. Let us use the time to listen each other’s stories, asking God to open our hearts to each other’s pain, fears and hopes. May the God of Life help us all to be fully human – working TOGETHER against violence, hatred, abuse and lack of care for the vulnerable. We are a praying movement.

Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa: Ziphozihle D. Siwa

Use the Law. Save a Life.

Use the Law. Save a Life.

February 16, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Use the Law. Save a Life.

The media coverage around the
killing of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius
is about to begin again –
just days after the first anniversary of her death.


In South Africa the HOME is the most dangerous place for a woman.


The trial of Oscar Pistorius for the killing of Reeva Steenkamp is soon to take over the airwaves. The court will have to decide whether it was murder or an accident.

It is very important to note however that apart from being celebrities, Reeva and Oscar’s story is not unique. Of course we were shocked at the killing but we should not have been surprised. Sadly their story is all too common in this country: A man legally buys a gun to protect himself and those he loves from a stranger/intruder; instead he uses his licensed gun to kill the person he loves.

In 1999, 34% of women murdered by their intimate partner were killed with a gun; in 2009 this figure dropped to 17%. At the same time, the percentage of women killed in other ways (e.g. strangled, stabbed or beaten) remained the same. The researchers at the Medical Research Council assert that the single most important intervention that contributed to halving the number of women shot and killed by their intimate partner was the implementation of the Firearms Control Act (2000).

The Firearms Control Act (2000) protects women from being threatened, injured or killed by a gun owned by their intimate partner. The law limits who can own what gun for which purpose. It excludes anyone who is not ‘fit and proper’.

The Firearms Control Act also allows the police to remove a gun from a legal gun owner if he is not ‘fit and proper’, for example if he:

• Points his gun to threaten or intimidate someone.
• Misuses his gun, for example, by shooting it negligently.
• Handles or shoots his gun while drunk or on drugs.
• Fails to store his gun in a safe.

For the police to take action, someone (the person being threatened or a family member, friend or neighbour) must make a written complaint at their nearest police station, detailing why the gun owner is a risk or how he has abused his gun. By law, the police are required to take action after receiving such a complaint.

The two additional charges laid against Pistorius for the negligent use of a firearm (shooting through the sunroof of a moving car, and accidentally shooting a gun at a restaurant) indicate that he may have flouted the law, and if found guilty, that he was not ‘fit and proper’ to be granted the responsibility of gun ownership.

I urge all of us to use the law to make our country safe from gun violence: If you know anyone who owns a gun and shouldn’t, because he is a threat to the people he loves, I urge you to take action by reporting it to your closest police station.

Gun violence can be prevented. Know the Law. Use the Law. Save a Life.

Grace, Alan

Goodness and Mercy

Goodness and Mercy

February 9, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Goodness and Mercy

On Wednesday my day was hemmed in behind and before with goodness and mercy.

My day began by visiting a TrashBack delivery station in Canterbury Street by the Service Dining Hall. It was awesome to witness the interaction between the TrashBack staff member and one of the participants in the programme who had brought his bag of white-paper to be weighed and recycled.

It was lovely to see how excited the staff member was to announce how much money the collector was to be paid for his bundle of paper, as he said to this modern day gleaner: “Wow — well done — you have earned R56 today. I hope you have another good day collecting. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” It was so cool to witness the genuineness of delight by this paymaster and to witness the joy of one in desperate need receiving affirmation and payment for work done.

TrashBack is therefore not just a recycling business but it is also an employment business for those who would otherwise most certainly be unemployed. TrashBack does not always deal in cash. It has developed a system of responsible rewards, where earnings can be spent on beneficial items such as food and clothing with local vendors. Cash vouchers allows for leveraging off existing retailers, resulting in a flexible rewards programme that contributes towards greater economic empowerment. Furthermore the broader community reaps the rewards of a cleaner environment and the associated health and safety benefits.

I left inspired…

My Wednesday concluded with Connections in the evening. It began with 30 minutes of silence.

Silence, is a magnifying glass through which our lives are brought into enlarged focus. Silence makes us more sensitive to the Spirit of Love that runs through all of life. Silence primes us to hear God’s still small voice. Silence is to our soul what food is to our body.

After the silence a handful of us discussed the Covenant Prayer from last Sunday’s worship service. That great prayer and promise of abandonment to Christ that is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The prayer that leaves us vulnerable and scared as well as providing us with a goal and deep sense of belonging. The prayer that invites us to worry less about our circumstances, good, bad or ugly, and more about honouring Christ in all circumstances.

It was encouraging to hear from others just what praying the Covenant Prayer meant to them. Without pretense people shared and in doing so we were nourished by one another’s continued commitment to faith and life.

I left inspired.

These mid-week Connections are like a welcome watering table in the middle of what often feels like a marathon week. The Alpha and Omega of my Wednesday was truly filled with goodness and mercy.

Another opportunity to be watered and fed during the week starts this Thursday when we begin DISCIPLE III. This is a great study course on the Old Testament Prophets (first half of the year) and Paul’s Letters (second half of the year). Today is the last day to sign up for it. If you in two minds — let me help you — just do it!

 Grace, Alan

Covenant Faith

Covenant Faith

February 2, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Covenant Faith
One of my favourite quotes from John Wesley is  about preaching:

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” 

As I write this I am stuck at JFK Airport in New York after a week of teaching in Yakima, Washington State. Apparently the aircraft is not fit to go so they’re putting us up in a hotel for the night. This unexpected day of doing nothing has given me an opportunity to chill a little in the relaxing sense which is a whole lot better than chilling in the snow — which I have also done on this trip. And no matter how often I travel I am never able to pack suitably for the cold when it is hot at home. It is difficult to dress for another climate. As it is difficult to live in the world and not of the world. As it is to live the Covenant Prayer we will pray today in a world of fearful selfishness.

On this day of “doing nothing” I have been reading a beautiful book of poetry by Mary Oliver called Thirst, and through her poems I am reminded again of what it means to live out our covenantal faith. She writes in

The Messenger:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.

Another called, Musical Notation 1:
The physicality of the religious poets should not be taken idly. He or she, who loves God, will look most deeply into His works. Clouds are not only vapour, but shape, mobility, silky sacks of nourishing rain. The pear orchard is not only profit, but a paradise of light. The luna moth, who lives but a few days, sometimes only a few hours, has a pale green wing whose rim is like a musical notation. Have you noticed?

Another Mary Oliver poem called, When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention:
“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant.  Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground.  This
is our unalterable task, joyfully.”
And they went on, “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but
lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

A Pretty Song:
From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but a doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.


To live out our covenantal faith we need the poet’s gift of attentiveness. To pay attention to the miracle of life that is saturated with holiness. “Our [covenant] work is to love the world … it’s mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…”

With gratitude, Alan

Claim this Covenant

Claim this Covenant

January 26, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Claim this Covenant

Next week we renew our Covenant as a community of faith. I have included the words of the Covenant below and invite you to prayerfully live with it this week as an act of preparation.


Beloved in Christ, let us once again claim for ourselves this Covenant which God has made with God’s people, and take upon us the yoke of Christ.

To take Jesus’ yoke upon us means that we are content for him to appoint us our place and work; and himself to be our reward.

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. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.

Therefore let us make this Covenant of God our own. Let us give ourselves to God, trusting in God’s promises and relying on God’s grace.

The Covenant

Lord God, Holy LORD, since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious Covenant, we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience and, for the love of you, engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.

We are no longer our own but yours. 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. Amen.

Justice is a journey

Justice is a journey

January 19, 2014  |  Epiphany, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Justice is a journey
In the year 2000 $13 billion was spent on chocolate in the USA alone. The largest cocoa producing countries are in Western Africa: Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. In Côte d’Ivoire it is estimated that half of the country’s 14 million inhabitants participate directly or indirectly in the production of cocoa. In 2002 it was estimated that 284 000 children were working in the cocoa industry — at best this breaks international laws preventing child labour or worse it is forced or slave labour. Check out:

Last Sunday, together with Jesus, we heard the heavenly voice claim us as beloved children. The voice that powerfully called the cosmos into being now claims us as beloved — we have been chosen. To trust that we are beloved. This is where Jesus’ public ministry begins and it is where our relationship with the Divine becomes conscious — in “accepting that we are accepted”.

It is not easy to hear this voice because there are so many other voices disputing its truth. Voices that undermine our God-given worth and tempt us to fall into the trap of self-rejection. As Henri Nouwen says: “Of not feeling truly welcome in human existence.”

Nouwen also insightfully informs us that “to be chosen does not mean that others are rejected” and that this is difficult to grasp in a competitive and comparative world. “Our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosen-ness of others … it is impossible to compete for God’s love.”

To realise all have been chosen and that all are beloved of God must surely move us to love all whom God loves. A friend of God’s is a friend of ours. The purpose of the heavenly voice is to love us into loving. We can love those close at hand but to love those beyond our reach or beyond our shores or beyond our present times demands that we spread our love by seeking justice. As someone once said: “Justice is love distributed.”

In the Isaiah reading for last Sunday (42) we heard over and over again how God’s chosen servant is called to establish justice throughout the nations. To establish justice is God’s will and work for our lives. It is not the work of a few courageous people we sometimes call prophetic. It is the work of every follower of Jesus. No one is exempt! As we read in Micah: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” [6:8].

When we talk about justice in the biblical sense we are not referring to the popular use of the word as in “punishing criminals”. We are referring to the social conditions of fairness and equity.

Julie Clawson has written a great book to assist us to understand some of what it means to “do justice” called Everyday Justice.

Clawson’s book begins with the words: “Don’t panic!” but that is exactly what I did. I felt instantly overwhelmed at the extent of injustice in the world and how dependent I am on injustice for the “normal” running of my day to day living. I don’t know about you but I often feel like I am going to drown under it all and it is not long before I feel paralysed by a feeling of inadequacy.

It is important to remember that injustice was created by human beings and therefore it can be undone by human beings.

One of the first things we need to do is develop a critical awareness of the issues of injustice in the world — and within our local area.

We should always see how we ourselves are complicit in establishing or perpetuating the injustice. This will help us to “walk humbly with God”. It will prevent us dividing the world into an “us and them”. When we start with ourselves we will also realise just how difficult it is to change our habits and behaviour and this should help us to be merciful towards those we may seek to persuade and pressure or even protest.

Further it is important for us to realise that all our decisions from what we eat, drink and wear have far reaching consequences. As Clawson says: “Our circle of influence is actually much larger than we think … every decision has a price tag.” We should therefore always ask: “Who is paying for this?” Are we paying, or exploited labourers or the Government through taxes or is the environment paying — which means future generations will ultimately pay.

Achieving justice is not a static act. Justice is a journey. When resources are in short supply or when perceived to be in short supply then the anxiety of getting “my fair share” and making sure others don’t take “more than their fair share” precipitates the need for doing justice. Who decides who gets what? Who decides who decides, etc.? All these questions are the continuous work of Justice.

Furthermore because there are multi-levels of decision-making — local, national and international to name three — all using different justice principles. Think for a moment about the conflict surrounding the allocation of fishing licenses. Those who did not receive a license say their jobs have been stolen. The ministry says that are trying to protect SA’s environment and natural resources to prevent the collapse of line fish stocks. Both have a “just point”. Doing justice is difficult work. But it is ultimately God’s work through us and therein lies the hope that God will faithfully bring it about.

Grace, Alan