The Hierarchy of Disagreement

The Hierarchy of Disagreement

June 7, 2015  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Hierarchy of Disagreement

The Hierarchy of Disagreement by Paul Graham


“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

Grace and peace, Alan

What concerns Christ?

What concerns Christ?

May 31, 2015  |  Sunday Letter, Trinity Sunday  |  Comments Off on What concerns Christ?

Grace and Peace to you …

This past week I have been attending Synod in Stellenbosch. Let’s just say the idea of attending Synod does not set me on fire with enthusiasm, yet every year it never ceases to be a gift. Synod is a gift in that it reminds me that I belong to the Church universal – a very LARGE body, and not merely the local church. Synod is a gift in how it connects me to the experiences of joy and suffering of others who live the Gospel in contexts that I am ignorant of. Synod is a gift in that it reminds me of my calling and holds me accountable to the promises I have made.

Synod begins with a “witness” service. Here we listen to the faith stories of the ordinands as they prepare to take their final steps towards ordination. Thanks to load-shedding the service began in darkness. Then a child came forward and lit a candle with the words: “Jesus said to his disciples ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’”. Nothing else needed to be said!

During the first ordinand’s testimony (while he was making a powerful point!) the lights came back on. Besides being humourous it was a beautiful reminder of what happens when we honour the way of Jesus. I was reminded that when we honour the way of Jesus the lights come on that enable us to see one another. As the lights came on, I found myself looking around seeing the people around me who up until that point I had not been able to see. Jesus’ presence helps us to see each other – to really recognise each other. Our eyes were opened.

The next morning we began by “answering the questions”. This is a solemn moment when we stand before each other to reaffirm our faith, calling and discipleship of Jesus. Some of the questions jump out at me: “Will you continue to be faithful in prayer, in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures and with the hold of the Holy Spirit continually rekindle the gift of God that is in you?” We reply: “I will God being my helper”. “Will you commit yourself to God’s mission in the world, seeking in this context to bring healing and reconciliation, justice with peace and empowerment to the poor and marginalised. “I will God being my helper”. And then in closing, “Remember that you are called to serve rather than be served … and to look after the concerns of Christ above all.“ This last line really klapped me: My primary concern is to be concerned about Christ’s concerns!

Then we close with the following commitment: “We accept the responsibility of our call out of love for the Lord Jesus … we are resolved to unite ourselves more closely to Christ and to try to become more like him…”

These questions and these answers are not only for clergy, but they are for all followers of Jesus. Therefore your primary concern is to be concerned about Christ’s concerns too! So best we start asking: “What concerns Christ?”

Grace, Alan

Authentic Community

Authentic Community

May 24, 2015  |  Pentecost  |  Comments Off on Authentic Community

Grace and Peace to you …

Today is Pentecost. The forming of authentic community was one of the miracles that took place that first Pentecost. The author of the Pentecostal story writes that every nation under heaven was present. The author’s exaggerated point is clear. No one was excluded. In fact the author does something even more imaginative. Out of the 16 nations that the author lists, some of them no longer existed at the time. They were literally extinct. Pentecost is therefore the forming of what is deemed ‘impossible community’. Yet this type of community where no one is excluded is the only community worth striving for because it is the only community that will save us in the end.

As deep and as difficult as the race issue is in South Africa I think class is our biggest challenge when it comes to forming truly diverse community. Having worked in many non-racial church communities, I am yet to find much evidence that the rich and poor can come together to form any sort of authentic community. It seems impossible.

In short, the rich fear the poor and therefore avoid the poor. Who am I talking about when I refer to the rich? I am speaking about myself and others like me. According to www.globalrichlist.com when I plug in my +R15 000 p.m. (R180 000 p.a.) net salary into their smart little app, I end up in the top 0.95% of the world, making me the 56,932,476th richest person on earth by income. It further tells me that I earn R93.75 per hour while the average labourer in Zimbabwe makes just R2.89 in the same time and that it will take the average labourer in Indonesia 44 years to earn what I do in a year. This means the next time I protest about the world’s wealthy 1% I should bring a mirror. [www.globalrichlist.com uses 2008 figures for their calculation so they may be a little out of date yet the point still stands.]

These sobering stats should give us a clue why the rich fear and avoid the poor. I fear and avoid the poor because I know that for authentic community to exist the inequality must end. And for the inequality to end means that I must change my lifestyle, which feels too much like loss, until of course my eyes are opened to the richness of a truly diverse community where no one is excluded.

Rich and poor forming authentic community may seem impossible but what really is impossible is the continued sustainability of the divide. If this divide is not addressed voluntarily then in the end it will be addressed violently. A nation that has bricks to build high walls to insulate the wealthy but not houses to shelter the poor will collapse because God will not be mocked.

Grace, Alan

Beam me up Scotty

Beam me up Scotty

May 17, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Beam me up Scotty

Grace and peace to you

Thursday past was Ascension Day. The “beam me up Scotty” moment in the Christian Calendar. Well actually not really. Ascension Day has more to do with theology than geography. In other words Ascension addresses the question of ‘who is Jesus?’ rather than ‘where is Jesus?’. An Anglican priest, Keith Ward has said: “We now know that if Jesus began ascending 2 000 years ago he would not yet have left the Milky Way — unless he attained warp speed.” I find that hilarious to imagine!

You will know that it was only in 1543 that Copernicus corrected the false cosmology of his day by revealing that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round. And today we have the Hubble Telescope which some hail as the most productive scientific instrument ever invented revealing to us the wondrous ever-expanding cosmos as it is able to see 4 billion times further than the naked eye and enlightening for the first time to our 13.7 billion year old cosmic self.

So we should unlock Ascension from the false cosmology of ancient time. Ascension is not about Jesus defying gravity but rather defying and defeating the principalities and powers that weigh down on the shoulders of the marginalised poor and vulnerable of society with a force heavier than gravity.

Ascension Day is a radically (deep rooted) political day as the early disciples of Jesus reached the conviction to start singing that Jesus, and not Caesar, was Lord. It was a very disturbing day for the powers that be! And of course it was a very dangerous day for the followers of Jesus who were now deemed a great threat by the powers. But more than dangerous it was hope-full. Full of a hope that was able to disperse their fear and despair and en-courage them to face the danger. Their hope rested in trusting that Jesus reigns — that Jesus is the power above all other powers. That’s why we continue to have hope for our land and world because the powers that oppress have been checked by a greater power. The early disciples knowing they were on the winning side were released to imagine a new world and creatively live it out.

Grace, Alan

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

April 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

 

Cry the crucified country

April 21, 2015  |  Articles & Reflections  |  Comments Off on Cry the crucified country

Please click on this link Cry the Crucified Country to read an article written by Alan Storey which was published on 5 April 2015 in the City Press – National Sunday newspaper in South Africa.

We are Rhodes

We are Rhodes

April 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

April 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