Life vs Life

Life vs Life

June 8, 2014  |  Day of Pentecost, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Life vs Life
Newspaper House parking garage flooded on 18 May 2014

 

 PENTECOST PROMISE

At Pentecost, the church celebrates the coming of the Spirit — the outpouring of the sudden power of God to transform a wounded and disillusioned band of stragglers into a community that changed the world.

It was a power that was both awaited in obedience, and utterly unexpected in its energy and urgency. It generated both a deep interior fire, and immediate, compelling and outrageous public witness.

~ Janet Morley

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This past week we witnessed the cruel eviction of some 200 families from the informal settlement in Lwandle. Who was actually responsible for the eviction or whether it was “legal or not” is not the issue. The timing and the manner in which it was conducted was neither just nor merciful and therefore it was anti-Christ-like.

We are collecting food, clothes, blankets, toiletries, baby food and the like. If you would like to drop them off here at CMM during the week we will make sure that they are delivered with your love.

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On 18 May at the time we were getting ready for our morning service a driver hit a water pipe in the basement garage of Newspaper House around the corner from us. With nowhere to run the water quickly rose — reaching a height of 1.5 m in some areas — that is up to the windows of some cars! As a result of the “flood” an electrical grid was “knocked out”. And since 19 May until 3 June about six of these giant generators have been keeping the lights on (see insert). For nearly three weeks these generators have been rumbling noisily 24/7. This has provoked many thoughts within me — most of which have not been polite, especially as the sleepless nights add up.

But now I think it’s good to have had the non-stop rumbling to be reminded of our incessant consumption of fossil fuels that we rely on to sustain our unsustainable modern lives. The truth of the creation groaning in agony (Romans 8:22) is too often hidden within the silence of electrical currents allowing us to pretend that our way of life is less harmful than it is. So I began to hear the assaulting noise of the generators as the earth’s cry in response to our assaulting extraction of coal from which most of our power supply comes. I fear we will only stop destroying the planet when we are personally disturbed.

As I write this I have just received an invitation to sign an online petition calling the new Minister of Mineral Resources to scrap the possibility of a coal mine being developed right on the borders of the spectacular Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park — the world’s greatest rhino sanctuary. The humbling truth is that it is easier to sign an online petition than to reduce my own dependency on fossil fuels. In my mind I ask: Where does one even begin and what difference will it make? But this is the challenge that should be occupying all of us.

Grace, Alan

Desire nothing but God

Desire nothing but God

June 1, 2014  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Desire nothing but God

 Mr Wesley the founder of the Methodist Movement.

He travelled over 400 000 km (mostly on horseback)
and preached over 52 000 sermons.
This meant that he preached around 2-3 times a day for 53 years.

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If you want to know with 100% certainty if it is going to rain or not — just check when the Methodists are having their annual Synod. Yes, over the last week about 290 of us have been attending the 185th Synod of the Cape of Good Hope District which took place in Wynberg.

Synod is always a reminder to me of the broader family to which I belong. It is inspiring to be reminded of those who have gone before us with great courage for the Gospel and then to listen to fresh candidates for the ministry bubbling with enthusiasm as they share their call to preach and serve. We listened with the words of John Wesley echoing in the background:

“Give me one hundred ministers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergy or lay, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of God on Earth.”

And Wesley’s terrifying warning:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist … but I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect having the form of religion without its power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit and discipline with which they first set out.”

Synod is also the place where we are held accountable. Parents know that children need and actually desire boundaries and guidelines no matter how they may throw tantrums in opposition to it. Well, clergy are like children! What we may dread and resist we know deep down we actually need. There is something profoundly comforting to know that others are “watching over us in love” and that we are called to give an account of who we are.

I hope all of us will seek out places of accountability for ourselves in our living. Please consider signing up for Warm Winter Worship — small groups that will gather in people’s homes during winter to reflect on our faith journey together.

Grace, Alan

Africa's Day

Africa’s Day

May 25, 2014  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Africa’s Day

25 May is Africa Day

Remember Africa’s truth-tellers and truth-seekers.

At the birth of our democracy South Africa’s press freedom ranked first in Africa.
In the last decade we have fallen to 5th place, 
42nd worldwide!
www.r2k.org.za

A critical, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.
Nelson Mandela

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What a great day to gather together and to worship the Lord! It is an especially joyous day for me since I have the opportunity to be with you in this breathtaking city and in this wonderfully welcoming worship community. My name is Alease Brown and I will be with you throughout June and July as a ministerial intern from Duke Divinity School in the U.S.

A little about me: my family is American with no other known country of origin (except that one great-great-grandparent came to the U.S. from Ireland). I was born and raised in New York and practiced law before embarking on my journey in church ministry.

I was raised in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), which is an offshoot of the Methodist church. After finishing school, I joined a non-denominational charismatic church, The Brooklyn Tabernacle. It was there that I was mentored as a Christian lay leader and received my call to serve God in a more official capacity. Since entering divinity school, I have become a member of the United Methodist Church and plan to pursue ordination as an Elder. My prayer is that my life would be a testament to a desperately needy world of Christ’s aliveness, of Christ’s love, and of Christ’s power, so that in our generation we might continue to bear witness to miraculous transformations in our own lives and within our culture.

Intentionally, I studied little about South Africa and Cape Town before arriving. My hope was to learn about the people and the country, your triumphs and struggles, by living among you and listening to your stories. To this end, it would be a privilege and an honor for me to be able to spend time with you (yes you), perhaps over coffee or over a meal, and to listen to your story of life as a Capetonian. The few stories that have been shared with me thus far have been fascinating and enlightening and I am eager to know more! You must feel free to ask me anything as well!

I am truly looking forward to the next nine weeks of us learning and growing together.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all in a special way during this season.

Peace to you, Alease

Be filled with mercy

Be filled with mercy

May 18, 2014  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Be filled with mercy

AN EASTER REFLECTION OF PROMISE

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness.  They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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On the recommendation of a friend I watched the 2003 movie The Last Samurai the other day. The movie portrays an American officer whose personal and emotional conflicts bring him into contact with samurai warriors in the wake of the Meiji Restoration in 19th Century Japan. The film’s plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori, and on the westernisation of Japan by colonial powers, though this is largely attributed to the United States in the film for American audiences.

As you might imagine it was a pretty violent movie and if you look it up on the web 99% of the images are of warriors charging off to battle. This is not what thrilled me about the movie.

What inspired me was the Christ-like figure. Her name was Taka the widow of the Samurai warrior killed by Algren the American officer. Taka was given the responsibility to care for Algren who had been wounded in the fatal fight with her husband. She nursed her husband’s killer back to health. A beautiful picture of Christ-like mercy. And in doing so she was able to heal Algren not only of his flesh wounds but also of his spiritual and psychological torment that lay in his depths too deep for hands to touch and words to address but which grace could reach and resurrect to new life.

It also struck me that Taka is hardly mentioned in any of the reviews — the focus is on the warriors that are played by the big box office actors like Tom Cruise. I would have to look up her real name. So it is with Christ. He more often than not comes to us unknown. His glory is not revealed through glitter and glamour but through humble acts of compassionate service. (By the way Samurai means “to serve”.) I pray that we will be given the eyes to recognise the Christ-figures in our lives and in our times.

The movie also beautifully depicted lives lived in devotion and discipline that were in harmony with the seasons and in joyful appreciation for the blossoms. Lives of simplicity and prayer are always going to be the soil in which Christ-likeness flowers.

Grace us with silence and stillness that we may bless others with mercy Oh Lord.

Grace, Alan

The Lord is my President

The Lord is my President

May 11, 2014  |  Easter  |  Comments Off on The Lord is my President

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness. They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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As we continue to mark 20 years of our democracy and begin to digest the election results of the past week, Psalm 23 reminds us of who our true leader is as well as the Divine job description set for all leaders.

To declare “The Lord is my Shepherd” was in those day equivalent to saying: “The Lord is my President/Premier.” Sadly because we have tended to turn to this psalm almost exclusively within the context of a funeral service (due to that hauntingly beautiful line, best heard in the Old King James Version: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”) we have lost the political nature of its original intent.

This political use of the term “shepherd” is easily seen in Ezekiel 34 where the prophet accuses the leaders/shepherds of “feeding themselves” while failing to “strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bound the injured and seek out the lost”.

If the psalmist were asked: “So who should I vote for?” the answer would have been clear: “Vote for the Lord!” Meaning, make sure your ultimate loyalty, trust and obedience is for the Lord’s ways. To vote for the Lord is to vote with the vulnerable widow, orphan and foreigner in our hearts. It is to vote for good news for the poor and a deep love for those considered to be least among us.

Therefore a leader’s first task is to prevent people living in ‘want’. In other words a leader must make sure that people have enough to live on — providing food (green pastures) and water (still streams) and education (right paths, rod and staff). Conversely the psalm is a challenge to those of us who live with more than enough. And if we don’t think we are one of those living opulent lives — then maybe Mr Wesley can help us with a little perspective. Wesley said: “…when you are laying out that money in costly apparel which you could have otherwise spared for the poor, you thereby deprive them of what God, the proprietor of all, had lodged in your hands for their use. If so, what you put upon yourself, you are, in effect tearing from the back of the naked; so the costly and delicate food which you eat, you are snatching from the mouth of the hungry.”

Dare we still vote for the Lord? The poor are praying that we do.

Give us courage to vote with our lives, O Lord.

Grace, Alan

Give us your justice, O God

Give us your justice, O God

May 4, 2014  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Give us your justice, O God

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death.  That is the plan of its creator.  But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it.  Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves.  Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness.  They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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As we continue to mark 20 years of our democracy and prepare again for elections this week I am drawn to Psalm 72 which is a prayer for guidance and support for the king…

The first verse of the psalm highlights what the psalmist believes to be the most important attribute of a good king:

“Give the king your justice, O God.”

The psalmist knows what the people and the land need more than anything else is a just king. Note that the prayerful request is for God to give the king God’s justice. Yes, there is a big difference between God’s justice and the world’s justice. God’s justice goes deeper than the law of the land. God’s justice is not to be reduced to what is legal or not — because as we know the laws over time can be manipulated to secure privilege and entrench poverty. God’s justice is radically rooted in the equality of all people and therefore a king’s primary task is to establish equality among all. This alone is good news for the poor and it is also good news for the rich although few of us will feel like it is.

The whole motivation given by the psalmist for God to let the king’s life endure like the sun and moon throughout all generations is:

For the king delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live!”

This is not only the reason why the king is to be granted breath but it is also the reason for each of us to have breath. It is also the reason for the church to exist. We have breath to live out the dream of equality that God has for this world. This is the true praise and worship that makes God rejoice.

Give us your justice, O God.

Grace, Alan

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Appeal from the Presiding Bishop

I ask that we use 27 April for prayer, celebration and honest reflection on the state of our communities and nations of the Connexion. Let us also pray for the South African Elections on 7 May 2014. There will be also ecumenical activities planned, but these must not stop our morning services to be special services of reflection, celebration, lament and accompaniment. I further encourage you to join the ecumenical activities planned in your area either in the afternoon or during the week. As we do this let us seriously be aware of what is happening in all the countries of the Connexion and include these in our prayers. The Communications Unit and Justice and Service Desk will publicise indicators for our reflection from time to time.

Presiding Bishop: Ziphozihle D. Siwa
Freedom & Shacks

Freedom & Shacks

April 27, 2014  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Freedom & Shacks

We have come a miraculously far way…

 

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness. They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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and … we have a miraculously far way to go.

 

Those first to the empty tomb were told to go and tell the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. Dr Kistner, an old mentor of mine, used to teach that this was another way of Jesus saying: “Go back to the beginning and start following me all over again — but this time do it in the lived knowledge of the promise of resurrection”. In other words this time do it without fear and trust afresh that the impossible is no longer impossible.

As we re-start to follow Jesus we hear Jesus say to us again: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. In this Jesus invites us to live life as he lived life — with the poor as our priority. This is not a call to charity but rather a call for justice that will make charity unnecessary. He is saying that we are to seek first and foremost “good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” — meaning the year of Jubilee (Luke 4 and Leviticus 25).

This time we will not be surprised that the Jesus way of living life will result in rejection and suffering because we now know that it will be vehemently and violently opposed by those who have a vested interest in the status quo. The status quo that is arranged around the investments of the privileged few.

The promise of resurrection is for those who die on this cross that results from orientating one’s life around seeking equality in society with justice for the poor. Could it be that only these will know the joy of resurrection?

Today we celebrate our 20th Freedom Day. We have something to celebrate as a result of the many people who picked up the cross described above and walked faithfully with it — some to their death.

New life — resurrection — have been granted to us by God who is ever faithful in honouring the suffering and death that comes from the cross-carriers of justice and jubilee.

The days we are living in, call for us more than ever to make the poor our priority. We have been given the privilege of witnessing the resurrection 20 years ago so we should be more willing than ever to pick up our cross without fear and follow Jesus.

Let’s meet in Galilee, Alan

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Appeal from the Presiding Bishop

I ask that we use 27 April for prayer, celebration and honest reflection on the state of our communities and nations of the Connexion. Let us also pray for the South African Elections on 7 May 2014. There will be also ecumenical activities planned, but these must not stop our morning services to be special services of reflection, celebration, lament and accompaniment. I further encourage you to join the ecumenical activities planned in your area either in the afternoon or during the week. As we do this let us seriously be aware of what is happening in all the countries of the connexion and include these in our prayers. The Communications Unit and Justice and Service Desk will publicise indicators for our reflection from time to time.

~ Ziphozihle D. Siwa

 

Resurrection hope

Resurrection hope

April 20, 2014  |  Resurrection Sunday  |  Comments Off on Resurrection hope

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12

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An Easter Prayer of Promise

I live each day to kill death;
I die each day to beget life,
and in this dying unto death,
I die a thousand times and am reborn another thousand through that love …,
which nourishes hope!

Julia Esquivel, Guatemala

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To trust in the Resurrection is the most radical of HOPE-HOLDING.  It is to hold onto hope regardless of anything and everything.  It is to hold onto hope even when all is dead and buried.  It is to hold onto hope when there is no hope left to hold….but to do so in any case.

I invite you to Meditate on the Brazilian theologian, Rubem Alves’ poem What is Hope?

What is hope?
It is a presentiment that imagination is more real
and reality less real than it looks.
It is a hunch
that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress is not the last word.
It is a suspicion
that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe
and that the frontiers of the possible
are not determined by the limits of the actual
and that in a miraculous and unexpected way
life is preparing the creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…
The two, suffering and hope, live from each other.
Suffering without hope
produces resentment and despair,
hope without suffering
creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness…
Let us plant dates
even though those who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
This is the secret discipline.
It is a refusal to let the creative act
be dissolved in immediate sense experience
and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren.
Such disciplined love
is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints
the courage to die for the future they envisaged.
They make their own bodies
the seed of their highest hope.

With the HOPE that we will live with the love of what we will never see.

Grace, Alan

Wisdom

Wisdom

April 18, 2014  |  Good Friday  |  Comments Off on Wisdom

Where love finds its perfect form … cross-shaped love

I thought of Jesus on the Cross when I read the following from Ben Okri’s amazing novel called Starbook.  He is writing about an elder among a secret tribe of artists.  He speaks of the wisdom this elder had received.  A wisdom so powerfully embodied in Jesus:

From the ancestors he received signs that things must decompose if they are to give birth to immortal fruits of time. From the hidden masters of the tribe he learnt that evil must triumph for a season if an even greater good that will change the world is to come into being; that good, in its gentleness, needs its true character and resolve tested, primed and strengthened by the suffering brought on by evil; only then will good have the moral force, and the great integrity, and the deep certainty, and the boundless power to step forth and overcome evil and transform the world into the reality of a higher vision.
From the oracles he learnt that only one who is not fit to be a suitor can possibly win the hand of his daughter, only one whom no one notices can truly rule, only one who is unofficial can be truly official, only the lowly can be on high. Also, from the oracles he learnt that an unlikely contest will decide all things; and that the future is a dark hole beyond which, in time, a great kingdom of unimaginable splendour will be found. Through sorrow and pain, all will be well. All things will be transfigured. All will be redeemed. A joy beyond description will crown all stories. These things the oracles told. The maiden’s father was comforted, and acted with perfect tranquillity. He ignored the rumours and set about a long-term plan; for he was a man who always regarded present problems as excuses for long-term vision and preparation.
He was thinking now of the future of the tribe, beyond the time of its disappearance. He began preparations for its rebirth out of the decomposition of its present state, a life after the death of a tribe.
… Only those who have accepted the death of their people can dream so clearly so miraculous a future. Only one who has accepted death can see so clearly that impossible things can be done beyond the limits that are there.”

May we trust “that good is primed and strengthened by the suffering brought on by evil” rather than the norm of retaliating in order to protect the good.

Grace, Alan

Queers of Africa

Queers of Africa

April 15, 2014  |  Latest News  |  Comments Off on Queers of Africa

On Tuesday 15 April 2014 another yellow banner in protest against injustice – this time in solidarity with those persecuted for their sexual orientation – was raised by friends of David Olyn as well as a representative of the Triangle Project.

The banner reads:

To all the Queers of Africa:
Thus says the LORD:
“I love you as you are.”

From Ugandan Queers to David Olyn
murdered for being a “moffie”.
22 March 2014