Live the Word

August 22, 2011  |  Sunday Letter, Words  |  Comments Off on Live the Word

This past week I read an article by one of SA’s preeminent social commentators — Justice Malala — entitled “What does SA believe in?” The powerful point he was making is that on paper (the constitution) we declare our belief and trust in the most compelling values of compassion and justice yet we have failed to internalise these values.  This failure is heard in the divisive public dialogues that fill the newspapers and it is seen in the moral ambivalence of our foreign policy, as well as the blatant lack of accountability within public office. He held up our relationship with Swaziland as a sad example of our silence concerning one of the King’s wives under house arrest.

All this is very disturbing as our hypocrisy is exposed. It reminds us that a new constitution does not make a new country. The real problem does not lie outside us but within us. We have new laws but we need new hearts and minds to incline ourselves towards these laws.

What Malala is saying about our nation could easily be said about us as Church. We have the most radically liberating words and testimony of Jesus — that some of us may even be able to quote off by heart, but whether these same words are at home in our hearts is another story.

For example, what if the words of Jesus “What you do to the least of these you do to me” actually took over our heart — how would our living change — knowing that each time we encounter the poor and vulnerable it was a sacred privilege to be in the presence of the Holy One?

We are called not only to read the Word but to live it. This is not easy but it is what we are designed by God to do. We start living the word by naming those words which we are not living.

Towards a deeper integrity, Alan

Confession as gift

August 22, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Confession as gift

Confession simply understood is truth-full talk to God in the presence of a witness. We confess not to get ourselves into heaven or to secure forgiveness. This is grace-fully given to us by God already. We confess in order to be healed. Confession is a healing act insofar as we place our brokenness beyond denial (secured by the presence of a witness) and by doing so, experience our messed-up-ness being heard and held in love. Confession (as truthful talk to God in the presence of a witness) is a gift for us to use especially if the following quote from Richard Forster connects with us in any way:

We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness, and though we hope we have been forgiven we have sensed no release. We have doubted our forgiveness and despaired at our confession. We have feared that perhaps we had made confession only to ourselves and not to God.

The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We had tried to convince ourselves that God only forgives the sin, God does not heal the memory, but deep within we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our life we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not meant to affect our lives now; or that we are not worthy of the forgiving grace of God.

If these words ring true I would invite you to seek out someone you trust and respect to witness your truth-full talk to God.

Courage, Alan
Sunday 7 August 2011

Sunday 24th July 2011

July 24, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday 24th July 2011

Lately I have been reminded of the privilege it is to be in the presence of  people who risk being real.  Real, as in being, genuine and authentic without the protective mechanisms of pretence at play.  Real—in all its rawness by those who open their hearts and not simply their mouths when they speak.  People who are not content to paddle in the shallows of public approval—but who put out into the depths—beyond their own ability to control and manage.  Those who dare to grapple with the countless contradictions and boundless beauty of their human condition.  People who speak difficult truth — confession-like — regardless of how vulnerable it leaves them.

There is something about witnessing the “risking realness” of others that is not only inspiring but inviting.  For isn’t it true that one word spoken in truth enables another and another.  One confession uttered makes it easier for someone else to follow with their own…and so on.  This is an invitation for us to live “risking realness”.

At Wednesday Church we were told by an ‘angel’ named William (who heard the music in the Sanctuary and came in to see what was happening) that fear and pride are probably the greatest stumbling blocks preventing us from “risking realness”.  If this be so then it may mean that our first act of risking realness is to name and face our fear/pride, and for the courage to do this we best start with a prayer: “Lord, enable me to trust that nothing can ever  separate me from your love…nothing… now knowing your loving hold on my life help set me free to name and face my fear/pride.”

Joy-full journeying, Alan.

 

Sunday 17th July 2011

July 24, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday 17th July 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADIBA

 

Tomorrow is Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday.  It is also the Nelson Mandela  International Day, marked as a day to honour Madiba’s legacy by people   engaging in selfless acts of service. Many people have responded. People of faith or no faith, young and old, all over the world. Even here at CMM.

Media houses are running stories of how individuals will be spending their 67        minutes. How will you spend Mandela Day?

As Christians we are expected to give our lives in service to those created in the image of God. Through love, care and compassion we follow Jesus’ example.

How awesome it would be if as Christians we went beyond the Mandela Day gift and continued our minutes or hours of service on a Christ-inspired basis, daily, weekly…… to meet the needs of  our neighbours.

The Mandela Day hype has a challenge for us to turn our words and speech into truth and action. Let us share in the words of a hymn:

 

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all,

Healing pain and sickness, blessing children small,

Washing tired feet and saving those who fall;

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all.

 

Take my hands Lord Jesus, let them work for you;

Make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do;

Let me watch you, Jesus, till I’m gentle too,

Till my hands are kind hands, quick to work for you.

(Margaret Cropper)

Gilbert.

Sunday 10th July 2011

July 24, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday 10th July 2011

Our lives are forever in flux and we find ourselves constantly entering         different seasons. It is with tremendous sadness that we travel into a winter season… a time to say goodbye to a dear and precious friend, a talented    musician, and an energetic servant of Christ…. Mike Spann.

 

Time to Say Goodbye

 

Funny how time flies, we meet in a blink, we say goodbye.

Time would have flown away.

 

When seconds become minutes, minutes become hours and the dark hour passes by.

To signal the break of a new dawn. Time would be moving.

 

When days become weeks, weeks become months and new leaves bloom.

They signal the beginning of Spring. Time would be approaching.

 

When months become seasons, seasons become years, and flowers become fruits.

They signal the arrival of Summer. Time would be nearing.

 

When seasons fly past and trees dry again. They signal the arrival of Winter.

Time would have come. A time to say goodbye.

 

By Sandy Whitfield-Carter

 

 

May we draw nearer to our Lord as we discover the fruitfulness of Summer.

May we reap the rewards of time spent with God during harvest in Autumn.

May we courageously journey through the tough pruning stages of Winter.

May we all be inspired to seek out the youthful energy of Spring, as Mike did.

Blessings in Christ.        Beulah

 

Sunday 3rd July 2011

July 24, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday 3rd July 2011

Not sure how many of you know that the first Church Service to be broadcast live by the SABC took place here in this sanctuary in 1925?  (See the plaque in the “Time Tunnel” next to the bathrooms).  It was cutting edge technology back then and this community was at the forefront.  Since then things have moved on….a long way.  Here are some interesting facts about technology today that may interest some of you…

  • It took 38 years for Radio to reach 50 million users while it took only 13 years for TV.  Yet it took only 4 years for the Internet, and 3 years for iPod while Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year.  If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest in the world (China and India ahead and the USA in fourth place).   Lady Gaga—Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more twitter  followers than the entire populations of: Sweden, Israel, Australia and Chile.
  • eBooks surpassed traditional book sales during Christmas 2010.  If the online  encyclopedia, Wikipedia, were made into a book it would be 2.25 million pages long and would take you 123 years to read.
  • 1-in-5 couples meet on line.  Some babies in Egypt have been recently named  Facebook as a tribute to how instrumental it was in their recent revolution.    Facebook was the first social media site to insist on users using their real names—some say this has contributed to their success.  Could this mean that people still long for real, authentic relationships?

Things that many of us know little or nothing about consume much of our children’s lives—with “virtual reality” seemingly taking over real reality.  What does it all this mean?  What does it all mean for us as a community?  I am not sure, but I am interested in what you think it means.  Lets talk,  Alan.

 

Sunday 26th June 2011

June 26, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday 26th June 2011

Welcome…

Do these words by JRR Tolkien also resonate with you?  “It is the job that is never started that takes the longest to finish.”

Yes there are things I just never get round to finishing because I never get round to starting them!  Yet I expect them to get finished and I am annoyed when they don’t.  Crazy but true.   This can include things like cleaning out my office, or replying to mail received an embarrassingly long time ago.  Or at a deeper level, like the perpetual postponement to prioritise my time and energy around what I know to be the passionate core of my life, as well as the reluctance to attend to “inner work” that has been biding for my full attention forever.

What are the “unfinished” areas of your life?  Are they unfinished because they have never been started?  Lets begin to begin….    Alan

 

When trust is stolen

May 29, 2011  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on When trust is stolen

You may remember a few weeks back I asked if you ever stop and reflect on how much stuff you carry around with you … things like … cell phone, keys, wallet, driver’s license, glasses, bag (never mind what is in the bag…). Well, on that very Sunday my car was broken into and everything in the above mentioned list (and more) was stolen. This past Tuesday the Church’s TV walked out of our offices in broad daylight, and last Sunday about 30 m of copper piping was stolen from within our servitude lane.

So all in all I have spent far too much time lately in Police Stations. Besides the goods themselves, and the time and hassle it takes to replace everything — even when things are insured — there are some things that take much longer to replace, namely trust. Yes, every time I have something stolen from me I realise that far more has been taken than can be written on an insurance claim. My trust in people — especially strangers is also stolen.

I notice how much more suspicious I am of strangers. Suspicion that feeds into my prejudice and racism. I become paranoid. Paranoia that can easily imprison. There is such a temptation to become so security-conscious, especially around the Church property, that we end up restricting access to the very people we are called to journey with.

Lord give me (and all others in the same situation) back what no insurance company can give — a love and openness for the stranger.

Praying, Alan

More than a fresh coat of paint

May 27, 2011  |  Sunday Letter, Words  |  Comments Off on More than a fresh coat of paint

A special welcome to the Bishop of the Cape of Good Hope District, Rev. Michel Hansrod. It is our joy and privilege to have you sharing the Good News with us this morning at CMM.  Please trust that you are among family.

Over the past couple of months CMM has gone to great efforts to restore the beauty of this glorious sanctuary. We still have a great deal to do because our aim stretches much further than a fresh coat of paint. We long to be a community that is a source of abundant life within this city. Very soon the wooden doors of this sanctuary will stand open 24/7 with warm light shining through the welcoming-glass-doors.

A few years ago we were encouraged by our Presiding Bishop to tell the story of God’s movement, through the people called Methodists, in Southern Africa. Today we celebrate our rich heritage stretching back to John Wesley himself — as we display an original hand-written letter from Mr Wesley dated 1772.  Please be sure to read some of his thoughts on the display boards — they are amazingly relevant for today. Next to the Wesley letter is the relocated tombstone of Rev. Barnabas Shaw, not to mention the “time tunnel” of CMM memorabilia that has been dusted off to be shown off. This display is the beginning of our on-going story that will be added to over time.

Take a bow — all of you who have generously given of your support, money, time and energy to enable this restoration work to come this far.

Peace, Alan
Sunday 22 May 2011

Life takes practice & daily discipline

May 15, 2011  |  Sunday Letter, Words  |  Comments Off on Life takes practice & daily discipline

Wow, this morning (meaning this past Thursday morning) I spoke to someone at the gym who in the last couple of months has lost 35 kg. I have often seen him grimacing when his personal trainer takes him through his daily routine between 6 – 7 a.m. His language is sometimes quite colourful as a result of the physical exertion his personal trainer demands. He is still a big guy but unrecognisably so. I salute his persistent discipline. I admire the extent of his investment in his health — personal trainers are not cheap — but they are a whole lot cheaper than heart attacks. I also admire his honesty and humility to recognise that without a personal trainer holding him accountable and coaching him, the change he dreamed of would remain just that — a dream, never to see the light of day.

Last night (meaning Wednesday night) during Wednesday Church we learnt from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk, the great need to practice, practice, practice. To practice ‘deep listening’ — to listen without judgment and blame. To practice ‘deep looking’ — to look within ourselves to locate the origins of our own anger and violence. To practice walking calmly and gently on the earth. These practices will produce understanding and with understanding  our hearts are opened to compassion. “Only a drop of compassion can put out the fire of hatred in ourselves and others”.

Is this difficult? Sure it is! Like loosing 35kg is difficult. It takes practice and daily discipline and to do this we need coaching and accountability.  In Church, like gym we need personal trainers.

Lets chat, Alan