Repentance = Healing

Repentance = Healing

May 10, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Repentance = Healing

At an anti-FIFA protest on Mother’s Day, May 11 2014, a mother fights police trying to arrest her son. She cries: “We cannot accept that the working poor youth continue to be terrorized and murdered throughout the whole country by the military police. Nor can we accept that every time we decide to lift our voices against injustice, we decided to protest and speak out, the state calls ‘security forces’ to repress us. They treat us like criminals, accuse us of ‘conspiracy,’ ‘vandalism’ etc. No! We are not criminals! We do not accept the criminalization of social struggles! We demand the right to free expression! ”


Grace and peace to you …

Except for a week of sleepless jetlagged nights, it is good to be back home! On my trip to the U.S. I returned to Holden Village (www.holdenvillage.org) in Washington State. It remains such a beautiful place of inspiration and hope for me. Some of you will know that Holden Village is a Lutheran ministry situated high up in the North Cascade Mountain range close to the Canadian border where there is no cell phone coverage which is glorious. The Village welcomes people of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds, offering modest yet comfortable amenities in a wilderness setting. Life in the village is punctuated with Bible Study and worship which is what I was involved with while there.

Holden Village used to be a copper mine until it closed down in the 1950s and over the past three years they have undergone a huge project of mine remediation. This is basically big business practicing repentance.

The Holden mine remediation project is a multi-million dollar effort to clean up contaminants (potential threats to human and environmental health) that were left from the Howe Sound Holden Mine era (1937-57). Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining groups, is managing and paying for the cleanup under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service.

Witnessing the remediation process is both hopeful and disturbing. It is disturbing to realise the extent of humanity’s wounding of the planet. Wounds that bleed many years after the last cut was made. Wounds that ultimately lead to the wounding (poisoning) of our own selves. Yet hopeful to see that we can begin to act justly towards the earth and do the costly work of restoring what we have destroyed.

Repentance is always going to be costly. The only thing more costly than repentance is not repenting.

Grace, Alan

Let's change

Let’s change

May 3, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Let’s change

Grace and Peace to you

Tershia’s letter

The letter (picture above and text below) was sent to the media by Pam Jackson – Director of Ons Plek Projects for Female Street Children – a project of CMM. Her accompanying letter gave context to the impact of Xenophobia on the vulnerable girls “local and foreign” at Ons Plek. The young girls react and respond differently. For some there is real fear, flashbacks to their previous life, living in hope, but often disappointed, at risk of abuse of all kinds and struggling to see Christ in their lived experience. Threats even, from other girls of xenophobic bullying. And then the big fear. That violence will come into their very home.

The staff actively dealt with the issue. Tough discussion, with hard questions helped to ease the tension. Part of the process was letter-writing by all the girls. Tershia, a South African, expresses her feelings of the pain of rejection. Her letter is addressed to our President and her appeal is clear. Read it carefully. Think of all the vulnerable children of foreigners in our homes, shelters, schools, Sunday schools, sports clubs, on our streets … wherever.

Have we as adults engaged on the issue of xenophobia in a meaningful way? Have I?

We all need to look deeper at our own bias, prejudice and yes, our xenophobic attitudes and tendencies.

We read in 1 John 4 :” There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear Those who say, I love God and hate their brother or sister are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

With Tershia will we “keep on praying and doing my bit to help those who feel hopeless”?

Peace, Gilbert


Tershia’s letter

Dear President

It is so sad to see innocent people die.  People in south Africa are very selfish. They don’t care about how others feel of killing their families and as well they loved one’s. To watch news everyday and watching people die or physical abuse its so hurting. We as South Africans should understand that we are Africans and should treat each other with equal rights and they should feel welcome here in our countrie. One biggest commandment that God said was we should love one another and also accept each others difference’s. I will keep on praying and doing my bit to help those who feel hopeless. You the president you in charge of this country stand up for the righteousness and speak up for the hopless. LETS CHANGE SOUTH AFRICA TO A BETTER COUNTRY. We really love our brothers and sisters and don’t want them to get hurt just because of jealousy.

From Ons Plek Girls – Tershia

NO XeNOphobia

NO XeNOphobia

Apr 26, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on NO XeNOphobia

Grace and peace to you …

On 18 May 2008 Alan wrote the following letter to the Calvary Methodist Church congregation during his time of ministry in Midrand:

“Dear Friends

The violence this past week towards foreigners in Alexandra has been terribly frightening and casts a worrying cloud over the peaceable future of so many of our communities.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Xenophobia to be the ‘morbid dislike for foreigners’. The extent of xenophobia that seems to plague so many of us – yes us – is alarming. At present there seems to be a morbid dislike for Zimbabweans – ‘coming to take our jobs, our women, our opportunities, cause trouble and commit crime – they should go back to where they came from’. Well that is the sort of stuff I have heard – yes personally heard – and it frightens me.

It frightens me because it seems that we have forgotten that we are all family – the human family. That the Apartheid between nations is an Apartheid system that will also one day crumble – because Jesus has prayed that we all be One like he and his Father are One – and nothing is going to stand against that prayer forever. It frightens me because it seems we have forgotten that our deepest identity does not come from which country (piece of God’s earth) we have been born in, but rather from the image of God that is carved at the core of each of us. It frightens me because making foreigners into scapegoats for our problems never helps us solve our problems. It frightens me because it seems we have forgotten so soon how our neighbours assisted many of our people who were once in exile – assisting with jobs and education and opportunities to develop in order to have skills that will one day be fruitfully employed when they return.

May God cleanse our thoughts and mouths of the morbid dislike of foreigners. Alan.”

_________________

Although it appears as if little has changed since 2008, there are those who are brave and saying NO to XeNOphobia and continue to welcome the foreigner among them! Please continue to pray for courage and God’s grace to help us embrace the Holy Trinity – the widow, the orphan and the foreigner – among us and stop our ‘morbid dislike of foreigners’.

Peace, Alan!


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they know
the unutterable beauty of simple things.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they have dared
to risk their hearts by giving of their love.

Blessed are the meek, for the gentle earth shall
embrace them and hallow them as its own.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall know the taste
of noble thoughts and deeds.

Blessed are the merciful, for in return theirs is
the gift of giving.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall be
at one with themselves and the universe.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is a kinship
with everything that is holy.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, for the truth will set them free.

~ F. Forrester Church

 

We are Rhodes

We are Rhodes

Apr 19, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on We are Rhodes

Grace and Peace to you …

We are better at dealing with consequences than with causes. The cause throbs in the disguise of legal acceptability while the consequences rage as unruly mobs. This makes it easier to condemn the consequences than the cause. We are better at addressing the symptoms than the source. There is internal bleeding at the source while the symptoms gush through open gashes. This makes it easier to see the symptoms than the source.

And perhaps the most powerful motivating factor for us to deal with the consequences rather than the causes is that it is easier for us to approach the consequences from a place of innocence, after all everyone can see that I am not chasing people out of SA with a panga in my hand. Yet when we dare to address the causes, we expose ourselves to our own complicities with the crime.

We are sad, ashamed and horrified at the violence that we have witnessed in our land this week but we are not as sad, ashamed or horrified at the systemic crime and violence which is the source and cause of so much of the violence we see today. Day in and day out millions of people are robbed of hope. Hope understood simply as the belief that tomorrow will be a little better than today. To be robbed of hope for tomorrow is be imprisoned in the despair of the present. This violent crime that is endemic in our land is mostly ignored by those of us who are outside of that prison.

Let us energetically address the symptoms and consequences that surround us – and to this end I trust that if needed CMM will be a sanctuary to protect the vulnerable but let us go deeper – asking the difficult questions that take us to the source and have the difficult conversations that expose us to our own crimes against humanity. Where we fail to protect and promote Holy Communion.

Grace, Alan


From the Lusaka Times…

Dear South Africa,

This is not Xenophobia, this is Afrophobia.

You bring down statues of hate and yet you build the biggest statue of all. To kill the very people who helped liberate you. You have made this soil a monument of hatred for your brother.

We trained Mandela, we funded and armed uMkhonto we Sizwe. Chief Albert Luthuli was born in what is now Zimbabwe.

The Greek lives safely in this country.

The Asian lives safely in this country.

The American lives safely in this country The English The Dutch The Jewish The Indian lives safely in this country.

Yet the brother who shares your story, the very sisters who share your bloodline. This is who you burn on the streets, axe and slaughter. You are divided against yourselves and that has always been the bedrock of failure. The brothers and sisters who bled by your side, the blood that helped liberate this great nation. You thank their seeds with fire and unforgiving blades.

RHODES HAS NOT FALLEN.

The greatest achievement of the colonial project was to divide and conquer. To create hatred where none existed. To draw false borders of division. That is how Rhodes grew the British empire in Africa. Through planting seeds of hate.

So you took his statue down, and three days later began to murder your own brothers. Who is the fool! For Rhodes lives in you. The seeds he planted are bearing fruit in your lives. Rhodes does not turn in his grave, he is smiling jubilantly, to see the seeds of hate he planted sprout.

Mzilikazi fled from Shaka, settled in Bulawayo and two hundred years later, the very same bloodline class him foreigner and says he must return home. Isizulu and Isindebele are the same language, isiXhosa is a very close relative. These are massive signs of a bond that unites.

Umfecane never ended.

Colonialism never died, it flows in our blood. When kings call for the killing of cousins, RHODES HAS NOT FALLEN.

WE ARE RHODES.

By Mighti Jamie

Kingdom of God living

Kingdom of God living

Apr 12, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Kingdom of God living

This “Sprite” car was parked outside CMM the other day.
Back in the day Adam and Eve had to deal with a “talking snake”
while today we have “talking cars and talking sugar drinks” telling us who we should obey.


Grace and peace to you

The single biggest stumbling block preventing us from experiencing resurrection life is our reluctance to die. And not just to die, but to be crucified. And not just to be crucified, but to be crucified as a result of living lives of grace, truth, justice and mercy. And not just the result of living lives of grace, truth, justice and mercy, but living lives of grace, truth, justice and mercy for ALL, especially those on the margins of society. Jesus called this kind of living — Kingdom of God living. This type of living honours the real reality of God’s creation.

And here is the promise of the Gospel: When we live Kingdom of God lives. When we live according to the real reality of the world. When we live lives of grace, truth, justice and mercy (as revealed in the ways of Jesus) we will disrupt the false realities/kingdoms of this world that entrench privilege for the few and pain for the many.

This disruption will not be welcomed by the privileged and they will use everything in their power to first co-opt the disrupters and if that doesn’t work they will seek to destroy the disrupters — in other words crucifixion.

What will look like defeat and failure on the part of the disrupters will in actual fact be the seeds that must die before they can sprout forth new life — new life that breaks through the false realities of oppression and exclusion. This is resurrection life.

Resurrection life is miraculous not because it is continuous after death, but because it is transformative of the false realities that rely on death and perpetuate death to survive in the world.

While writing the above I couldn’t bring myself to identify with the privileged. I preferred to see myself as anything but… Yet I know at a level that I am not comfortable writing about that I am one of the privileged.

It takes courage for the marginalised to be a disrupter but it takes a miracle for the privileged to be a disrupter. In fact for the privileged it is impossible… but with God all things are possible.

Grace in disruption, Alan


I believe …

I believe in God, the source of all life, wholeness, and love.

I believe that God is revealed in Jesus Christ.

I believe that in his life, Jesus reveals God in grace, mercy, forgiveness, and justice.

I believe that in his death, Jesus reveals God’s determined presence in the world even in the face of hatred, violence, and pain.

I believe that in his resurrection, Jesus reveals God calling us to abundant life both now and forever; life beyond our fearful and fragile imaginations.

I believe that God lives among us, within us, and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that God moves us to be together in communities of faith, hope, and love.

I believe these things not out of certainty but out of faith; as one who trusts in the reality of God revealed in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

~ Dan Sire


Thirst

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.

~ Mary Oliver

Jesus is the way

Jesus is the way

Mar 15, 2015  |  Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Jesus is the way

Grace and Peace to you

We are fast approaching Holy Week. As usual we will begin this final week of Lent with the showing of a movie on Palm Sunday evening (29 March). Our Holy Week journey to the Cross and Empty Tomb will include evening reflections on The Jesus Way. The basis for our reflections will be Eugene Peterson’s book entitled: “The Jesus Way” — a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way.

Peterson writes: “The world as such has no interest in following the crucified King. Not that there isn’t plenty of lip-service offered along the way across a spectrum ranging from presidents to pastors. But when it comes down to an actual way of life, most of the language turns out to be court protocol — nothing to do with the way we actually order our affairs. Those of us who understand ourselves as followers of Jesus seem to be particularly at risk of discarding Jesus’ ways and adopting the world’s ways when we are given a job to do or mission to accomplish, when we are supposed to get something done “in Jesus’ name”. Getting things done is something that the world is very good at doing. We hardly notice that these ways and means have been worked out by men and women whose ambitions and values and strategies for getting things done in this world routinely fail the “in Jesus’ name” test. Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ ways, it doesn’t take us long to realise that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”


During the week of 29 March — 5 April we are invited to be attentive to the intensity of Jesus final days. To help us keep focused, I encourage us to fast during this week. Our fast can take various forms. We could change when we eat, what we eat and how much we eat. The purpose of fasting is not to self-justify ourselves but rather to tune ourselves into the remarkableness of Jesus’ journey.

Grace, Alan

Marked by Ashes

Marked by Ashes

Mar 8, 2015  |  Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Marked by Ashes

Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given,
or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness
and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day,
for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around
on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with some confidence,
only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

~ Walter Brueggemann

 

We are grateful to Lee Slabber for the picture.

Wade into the Psalms

Wade into the Psalms

Mar 1, 2015  |  Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Wade into the Psalms

Grace and Peace to you

Last week we reflected on the Psalms. Psalm 25 to be specific. We noted that Psalms are better pondered than preached. They are best prayed or sung than read. There is a depth to Psalms that cannot be known, explained or explored by reading them as mere prose. They must be felt to be understood. We need open hearts and not simply alert minds.

They demand that we drill down into the words and not merely brush their letters on the surface. The Psalmist cries “Deep cries to deep”. And that is how it is. We are most often drawn to the Psalms when we find ourselves in the depths. And I can say with confidence that the Psalms will always be able to go the deep distance with us. They will never forsake us to our darkness.

Strange that what brings us comfort through the Psalms (most of them anyway) is not the voice of God addressing us but the voice of the Psalmist addressing God. We find comfort in the rawness of the truth spoken. We find courage in knowing that we are not alone — that another has tread this path before us. The Psalms give us permission to speak what we would otherwise think is unthinkable or blasphemous. This was true for Jesus too who turned to Psalms in his distress from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Psalm 22:1].

This Lent we are invited to seek silence — to contemplate our faith and life. This is the cry of Lent to each of us. The Psalms are a wise companion in introducing us to our human condition.

Go on, wade into the Psalms and don’t come out until you are drenched.

Grace, Alan.


Prayerful Preparation

“Contemplation cannot construct a new world by itself. Contemplation does not feed the hungry; it does not clothe the naked … and it does not return the sinner to peace, truth, and union with God.

But without contemplation we cannot see what we do in the apostolate. Without contemplation we cannot understand the significance of the world in which we must act. Without contemplation we remain small, limited, divided, partial: we adhere to the insufficient, permanently united to our narrow group and its interests, losing sight of justice and charity, seized by the passions of the moments, and, finally, we betray Christ.

Without contemplation, without the intimate, silent, secret pursuit of truth through love, our action loses itself in the world and becomes dangerous.”

~ Thomas Merton

A God of few words

A God of few words

Feb 22, 2015  |  Lent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on A God of few words

Roy going up Chappies
12/12/1945 — 17/02/2015


Grace and Peace to you

As with last Sunday, today’s Gospel reading resounds with the voice of the Divine. Last week we heard it from on top of a mountain: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” [Mark 9:7] and today we hear it from the Jordan River bank: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:11].

These are the only two moments in the Gospels that we get to ‘overhear’ Jesus hearing his Heavenly Parent’s voice. The first time is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Baptism) and the second as Jesus turns his face towards Jerusalem (Cross).

Note the repetitive nature of what is being said. God is a God of few words. It is as if the Divine knows what Jesus needs to know more than anything else, namely, whose child he is and that he is loved.

The other day I asked the new group I am working with at the Carpenter’s Shop which two things they would want their children to remember from them more than anything else. The overwhelming majority of them said: “They must know where they come from/they must know that I am their father … and they must know that I love them … yes I will tell them again that I love them.”

So there we have it. Parents on earth and heaven agree! Knowing who we belong to and that we are beloved is not only vital but it gives our lives grounding validity and purposeful vitality. It is the foundation of faithfulness.

This Lent we are invited to contemplate on the grace-full truth of our belonging and belovedness by the Divine.

Grace, Alan


Prayerful Preparation

“Contemplation cannot construct a new world by itself. Contemplation does not feed the hungry; it does not clothe the naked … and it does not return the sinner to peace, truth, and union with God.

But without contemplation we cannot see what we do in the apostolate. Without contemplation we cannot understand the significance of the world in which we must act. Without contemplation we remain small, limited, divided, partial: we adhere to the insufficient, permanently united to our narrow group and its interests, losing sight of justice and charity, seized by the passions of the moments, and, finally, we betray Christ.

Without contemplation, without the intimate, silent, secret pursuit of truth through love, our action loses itself in the world and becomes dangerous.”

~ Thomas Merton

Contemplation

Contemplation

Feb 15, 2015  |  Sunday Letter, Transfiguration Sunday  |  Comments Off on Contemplation
André Brink died this week.

 A Dry White Season – André Brink

“I had never been so close to death before.
For a long time, as I lay there trying to clear my mind, I couldn’t think coherently at all, conscious only of a terrible, blind bitterness. Why had they singled me out? Didn’t they understand? Had everything I’d gone through on their behalf been utterly in vain? Did it really count for nothing? What had happened to logic, meaning and sense?
But I feel much calmer now. It helps to discipline oneself like this, writing it down to see it set out on paper, to try and weigh it and find some significance in it.
Prof Bruwer: There are only two kinds of madness one should guard against, Ben. One is the belief that we can do everything. The other is the belief that we can do nothing.
I wanted to help. Right. I meant it very sincerely. But I wanted to do it on my terms. And I am white, and they are black. I thought it was still possible to reach beyond our whiteness and blackness. I thought that to reach out and touch hands across the gulf would be sufficient in itself. But I grasped so little, really: as if good intentions from my side could solve it all. It was presumptuous of me. In an ordinary world, in a natural one, I might have succeeded. But not in this deranged, divided age. I can do all I can for Gordon or scores of others who have come to me; I can imagine myself in their shoes, I can project myself into their suffering. But I cannot, ever, live their lives for them. So what else could come of it but failure?
Whether I like it or not, whether I feel like cursing my own condition or not — and that would only serve to confirm my impotence — I am white. This is the small, final, terrifying truth of my broken world. I am white. And because I am white I am born into a state of privilege. Even if I fight the system that has reduced us to this I remain white, and favored by the very circumstances I abhor. Even if I’m hated, and ostracized, and persecuted, and in the end destroyed, nothing can make me black. And so those who are cannot but remain suspicious of me. In their eyes my very efforts to identify myself with Gordon, with all the Gordons, would be obscene. Every gesture I make, every act I commit in my efforts to help them makes it more difficult for them to define their real needs and discover for themselves their integrity and affirm their own dignity. How else could we hope to arrive beyond predator and prey, helper and helped, white and black, and find redemption?
On the other hand: what can I do but what I have done? I cannot choose not to intervene: that would be a denial and a mockery not only of everything I believe in, but of the hope that compassion may survive among men. By not acting as I did I would deny the very possibility of that gulf to be bridged.
If I act, I cannot but lose. But if I do not act, it is a different kind of defeat, equally decisive and maybe worse. Because then I will not even have a conscience left.
The end seems ineluctable: failure, defeat, loss. The only choice I have left is whether I am prepared to salvage a little honour, a little decency, a little humanity — or nothing. It seems as if a sacrifice is impossible to avoid, whatever way one looks at it. But at least one has the choice between a wholly futile sacrifice and one that might, in the long run, open up a possibility, however negligible or dubious, of something better, less sordid and more noble, for our children…”

____________________________

There are so many aspects of this piece from A Dry White Season that deserve our attention, but I would like us to pay attention to Brink’s ability at pay attention. His insight into himself and his relationships as well as the socio-political history and immediate context in which he lived is piercingly insightful. This does not come easily or quickly. It comes as a result of the longest of journeys — the journey within.

Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. The journey of self-examination demands much contemplation (as Thomas Merton invites); as well as great courage to connect with others who see the world from a different angle to ourselves. And because they see from a different angle they will help us to see shadows where we only see light and help us to see light where we only see shadows.

The season of Lent more than any other invites us on this journey of self-examination. In other words, Lent calls us to deepen our contemplation and stretch our connections with others. This is not easy and nor can it be rushed but it is essential if we want to live life in ways that honour Jesus.

Grace, Alan


Prayerful Preparation

“Contemplation cannot construct a new world by itself. Contemplation does not feed the hungry; it does not clothe the naked … and it does not return the sinner to peace, truth, and union with God.

But without contemplation we cannot see what we do in the apostolate. Without contemplation we cannot understand the significance of the world in which we must act. Without contemplation we remain small, limited, divided, partial: we adhere to the insufficient, permanently united to our narrow group and its interests, losing sight of justice and charity, seized by the passions of the moments, and, finally, we betray Christ.

Without contemplation, without the intimate, silent, secret pursuit of truth through love, our action loses itself in the world and becomes dangerous.”

~ Thomas Merton