God is always near

God is always near

December 25, 2013  |  Christmas Day  |  Comments Off on God is always near
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace. Isaiah 52

I love the way Charles Wesley describes the incarnation: “Our God contracted to a span / Incomprehensibly made man (sic)….He deigns in flesh to appear / Widest extremes to join… And we the life of God shall know / For God is manifest below.”

Nothing could ever be so unexpected. The God of heaven has an earthly address. As Karl Rahner has written:

Now we no longer need to seek God in the endlessness of heaven, where our spirit and our heart get lost. Now he himself is on our very earth, where he is no better off than we and where he receives no special privileges, but our every fate: hunger, weariness, enmity, mortal terror and a wretched death. That the infinity of God should take upon itself human narrowness, that bliss should accept the mortal sorrow of the earth, that life should take on death — this is a most unlikely truth. But only this — the obscure light of faith — makes our nights bright, only this makes them holy.

I met someone the other day from Belgium. She came to be in South Africa especially for the 10 days of mourning that followed Nelson Mandela’s death. She was irresistibly drawn to be here — to the soil and the people — to share and to love and to hold. Having visited South Africa before she carried a permanent sense of connection within herself for us. “I just had to be here at this time”, she said.

God’s earthly visit to share and to love and to hold is what Christmas is all about. And forevermore God carries a permanent sense of connection within God’s self for us.

Look around you. God is near. Look inside you. God is near. Take comfort because God is near. Tremble with awe because God is near. And get this … now it is impossible to escape God loving you.

Prayer of Preparation
YOU are with us!
YOU are with US!
YOU are WITH US!
YOU ARE WITH US!

O Lord give to us the gift of knowing your presence and the blessing of peace and courage that flows from it. Amen.

Grace, Alan

 

The gift of stories

The gift of stories

December 23, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The gift of stories
Look the young woman is with child… Isaiah 7

Since Nelson Mandela’s death we have experienced the resurrection of his life in myriads of interviews, op-eds, personal testimonies. From every possible quarter stories are being told and re-told. From politicians, neighbours, family members, sports people, jailors, presidents, priests, lawyers, factory workers, domestic workers, the poor and the rich — all adding a word about the Madiba they met. From every age group and from every cultural orientation — all sharing stories of his greatness, humility, humour, surprise, grace, inspiring presence, firmness, warmth. Seeming contradictions added to the brightness of the truth. A fighter. A forgiver. A father of a new nation. And then the reams and reams of comments — the words about all the words — in response. Forming the richest tapestry of the one we were blessed to share time with on this earth.

I therefore believe that we have not only witnessed a great person and moment in history but we may also have witnessed an echo of the greatest moment in history. In these past days we may have witnessed how the Scriptures and especially the story of Jesus found its way into print.

Then as now, the people began to tell their stories and it wasn’t long before a rich tapestry of Jesus’ character and what he stood for and why he died and how he lives on began to circulate. Stories complemented stories making a marvelous tapestry of liberating truth that could only be described as miraculous. Editors did amazing work in collating and communicating his core. His fully human core “reflected God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” [Heb. 1:1-4].

The Gospel writers and editors of old all concluded with the same invitation — do as Jesus did. He has passed on to each of us his Cross (mantle) to carry. Imitate him. Follow him. Seek out his Spirit. Continue his long walk to liberation for all.

The age where faith communities alone mediated the meaning of memorials for the rest of society is past. Little “shrines” of memory were built in shopping centers, hospitals stadiums, entrance halls to businesses, the lobbies of hotels, etc.

Grace, Alan
Sunday 22 December 2013

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

December 15, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

 

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

The time comes in the life of any nation when there remains only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa.
We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future,
and our freedom.

 

 

Let there be justice
for all.
Let there be peace
for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt
for all.
Let each know that for each the body,
the mind and the soul have been freed
to fulfil themselves.
 

 

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

 

We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

 

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…
Great peacemakers are all people
of integrity, of honesty,
but humility.

 

 

 

 

Scroll down for Words of Reflection on Mr Nelson Mandela by both Rev. Dr. Peter Storey and Alan Storey.

 

Mandela Memories

December 15, 2013  |  Reflection  |  Comments Off on Mandela Memories
Many have gathered in and around CMM since Friday December 6, 2013 to pay homage to Mr Nelson Mandela. Flowers were presented, candles were lit,
prayers were offered, pictures were taken.

Mandela

December 9, 2013  |  Words of Reflection  |  Comments Off on Mandela

Have you noticed how so many claim Nelson Mandela as theirs? The Methodist church that I serve through has done this more than most. The church’s statement in response to Madiba’s death recounts and shows off every single Methodist aspect of Madiba’s life. It is proud to be associated with this great person and even prouder to have possibly contributed to his greatness. But sadly the statement reads more like a sales pitch for the Methodist Church than a celebration of the Mandela-gift to the world.

The truth is Mandela belonged to all and to none at the same time. A prisoner for years but he was never held captive for a second. He was not a captive of the colour of his skin or clan or culture. He broke free from the bonds of language, nationality, religion and political affiliation. The roots of his humanity went deeper than these accidents of birth. He was more than all these social constructs. And he reminds us that we too are more than these. You are more. I am more. We are more.

I want to mention just two aspects of Mandela’s living that constantly challenge, convict and comfort me. To fight and to forgive. To fight oppression and to forgive oppressors. To do both and to do them over and over again.

Mandela the Fighter of Oppression
Madiba fought oppression. Madiba fought against the dehumanization of people.

The time comes in the life of a nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defense of our people – our future – our freedom.

Madiba’s fight for justice never died. Prison did not subdue his fighting spirit. He reserved it for his opponents, his followers, his elders and those beyond our shores. As it was with Jesus whenever he witnessed people being excluded and exploited.

As we hear him address FW de Klerk in 1992:
You are going to give in. Because if you don’t we are going to humiliate you. And I will see to it that that happens.

Or to the people of Khatlehong in the same year:
I am your leader. You want me to remain your leader? Yes? Well as long as I am your leader I will tell you always when you are wrong.

Or to Matanzima in 1995
I respect custom but I am not a tribalist. I fought as an African nationalist and I have no commitment to the custom of any tribe.

Or to George W Bush in 2003
It is a tragedy – what is happening. What Bush is doing. Bush is now undermining the UN. Why is the USA behaving so arrogantly? All that Mr Bush wants is Iraqi oil. A president who has no foresight – who cannot think – will plunge the world into a holocaust.

Mandela the Forgiver of Oppressors
Mandela forgave not only his enemies but he forgave our enemies. To shake the hand of Mandela you knew that that same hand had previously held the hand of our enemy.

It was one of the difficult things to accept about Mandela as it was with Jesus. That he refused to allow anyone to determine who he should associate with and who he should ignore. There are photos of Mandela hugging children – the elderly – the poor – the rich – Castro and Clinton and Gaddafi and FW – the Queen and Mugabe – Granny Verwoerd and communists and springboks and super-models. While everyone wanted to be his favourite, he seemed to have no favourites – except maybe the children.

Mandela to be followed not worshiped
I am convinced that while Madiba was still alive he would not want anyone to bow down before him. Rather he would say: “If you really want to make me happy then stop kissing my feet and rather make sure the children of this land have shoes on their feet. Tend to the poor and the homeless. Work for the day that all have houses to live in and lands to cultivate and schools and hospitals to attend.”

I am equally convinced that Jesus would say the same. “You have made me into an idol. You have allowed your worship of me to replace following me. You think you are pleasing me by singing my praises but all it shows is that you have failed to understand me. To love me is to love those who I loved – all people everywhere. I have no favourites except I do have a special place in my heart for the poor and vulnerable of society. To care for me is to care about that which I cared about – namely justice and fairness for all. If you really want to worship me – then follow my example like Mandela did (whether he did consciously or unconsciously matters less) and fight oppression and forgive oppressors.”

Alan Storey
Mandela Memories – Service at Central Methodist Mission on 6 December 2013

The Nelson Mandela I knew and loved

December 9, 2013  |  Words of Reflection  |  Comments Off on The Nelson Mandela I knew and loved
The Nelson Mandela I knew … and loved
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Peter Storey

I met Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela exactly fifty years ago in his jail cell on Robben Island. I was a newly ordained part-time Chaplain to the prison there. He, together with his fellow Rivonia Trialists, had been flown secretly to the Island after being sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for the rest of their natural lives. The guards were very edgy about their new prisoners, determined to show these ‘terrorists’ how tough they were. Sunday, when I visited, was their one day off, but it was spent in total lock-down. I was not allowed to gather them for a normal service of worship, but had to walk up and down the hallway between the cells, trying to make eye contact with each occupant as I passed. Apart from Ahmed Kathrada, a Muslim, the rest had all experienced mission-school education and were familiar with Christian worship. Preaching was difficult but I tried to leave each one with a word of encouragement. Singing, on the other hand, was not bound by iron bars and the great hymns of the church, which were well-known to them, echoed powerfully through the hallways, their melodies often taken up by prisoners in other blocks. My memories of Mandela were of a strong, vital character in the prime of his manhood, all strength and contained energy. He had a ready smile and clearly appreciated the dilemma of a young minister trying, under the cold eyes of the guards, to bring a moment of humanity into this desolate place. Only once, on a very cold day, was I able to persuade a guard to let the group out into the prison yard where we gathered in a sunny spot. That day I changed my text to, ‘If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed,’ letting them choose how to spell Son/sun. They enjoyed the joke. The guards did not.

Given these impossible limitations, I have sometimes felt embarrassed being introduced as ‘Mandela’s prison Chaplain.’ Yet, looking back I realize that being confined to sharing nothing other than the healing, strengthening words of Scripture and the songs of the faith, required one to put one’s trust entirely in the power of the Gospel – nothing else. More than one of the Rivonia group, including Madiba, have told me since how that ministry and those who followed me (my security clearance was abruptly withdrawn after a few months) meant to them. Ahmed Kathrada, now the only Rivonia trialist still living – and the Muslim in the group – has also shared how, in those early horror days on Robben Island, that brief moment of humanity helped them all.

It was 20 years later when I next heard from Madiba. Still in prison, he used one of his precious letter-writing privileges (initially one per month and later relaxed to a half dozen) to congratulate me on being elected to lead the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, and to express his appreciation for the care the church had shown to him through its Chaplains and to Winnie his spouse, in her banishment and suffering at the hands of the ‘system.’ It was in that letter that he referred to his first encounter with the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg in the 1940s, when he was struck by the message outside: ‘The greatest glory in living is not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.’ That message, he wrote with typical understatement, ‘tended to steel a person against the host of traumas he was to experience in later years.’

In the years following his release our paths crossed often. From a personal point of view I guess the most special occasions were when I shared a platform with him in 1993 speaking at the Centenary of Gandhi’s arrival in South Africa and in 1995 on the first anniversary of Freedom Day, presenting him with a sculpture forged out of melted-down guns collected by Gunfree South Africa, which I headed at the time. On both occasions we had some laughs about this proud former commander of the ANC underground army/become peacemaker and these two determinedly non-violent moments.

The Mandela I knew became beloved by me, not so much for the grand gestures, although he was a master at political theatre, but for the lesser known acts that revealed a truly human genius for Ubuntu – the awareness that his life was inextricably bound up with the lives of all his fellow human beings, especially his enemies. He was the great includer; nothing was too much trouble if he could cajole or charm another opponent into friendship.

This man who would not bend an inch in his determination to win freedom for his people, nor to be humiliated by the cruelty of his prison guards, yet who said to his comrades as soon as they arrived on the island, ‘Chaps, these Afrikaners may be brutal, but they are human beings. We need to understand them and touch the human being inside them, and win them.’ And did…

This man who, on behalf of the one Muslim among them, badgered the prison authorities literally for years – six, I believe – until they at last yielded and granted permission for Ahmed Kathrada to walk the 50 yards outside the prison entrance to pray in the Kramat (a holy place commemorating a Muslim Imam exiled to the Island by the Dutch in the 1740s). The whole Rivonia group accompanied him…

This man who, when former spouse Winnie shamed the Mandela name by her involvement in the kidnapping of some young men in Soweto and the killing of one of them, struggled to understand the role of his church in the drama and criticized our actions from his prison cell. And who, when we managed to send him a true record of what had happened, sent a personal apology via his lawyer, requesting ‘forgiveness for having misjudged you…’

This man, who in his first Parliamentary speech as President, announced that nursing mothers and children under six would receive free health care, ‘whatever had to be done to pay for it…’

This man, who, when he invited the spouses and widows of former white Presidents/Prime Ministers to tea, received news that Mrs Betsy Verwoerd, widow of the most virulent racist of them all, had ‘diplomatic flu’, decided to surprise her in her whites-only redoubt instead, arriving in his helicopter and knocking on her door, and appearing later with her in a smiling photograph…

This man who, when told by his staff that they were changing the name of the Parliamentary office building named after Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, suggested they hold off until Verword’s widow had passed on. ‘There is no need to hurt her unnecessarily. It can wait…’

This man who, when told that one of his personal armed bodyguards had links with a far right-wing racist group and had been removed, said, ‘I don’t think we should do that. He is young and immature and it will destroy him. Let’s give him another chance …’

This man, who when we presented him with our list of nominated Truth Commissioners for him to make the final cut, asked first, ‘Have we sufficient women on the list? We must have gender equity…’ And when we told him that we had been able to find only one candidate of integrity from strife-torn KwaZulu-Natal, he disregarded the process and just went ahead and appointed a Methodist bishop from the region, knowing that unless KZN was better represented, the Truth Commission would not be accepted there…

This man, who when I led a small delegation to meet with him about the crisis of guns and killing going on in 1994, came shuffling into the grand conference room next to his Presidential office in Pretoria wearing an old pair of slippers. He sat down and said, ‘I’m tired Peter. It’s been a hard day, you chair the meeting please,’ and closed his eyes. He wasn’t asleep, however: at some point he looked up from the list of participating religious groups and asked, ‘Where are the Dutch Reformed Churches?’ I said that they had been very difficult to persuade about the gun hand-in campaign. ‘Well, he said, ‘if I’m to be patron of this, you need to get them in…’

This man who asked me to write a speech he was to give to a church conference, and who, wherever I referenced the ‘role of the churches’ in the liberation struggle, or in leading protests or caring for victims, struck out the world ‘churches’ and inserted the words ‘ faith communities,’ in order to be more inclusive of other faiths in the land he now governed…

This man who never tried to hide his feet of clay, lived comfortably in his skin, and never lost an opportunity to deprecate his own accomplishments, lightly deflecting praise to others…

What a very human being!

How blest are those of a gentle spirit …

How blest are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail …

How blest are those who show mercy …

How blest are those whose hearts are pure …

How blest are the peacemakers …

How blest are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of right …

We are so grateful that God made Nelson Mandela, purified him in suffering and gave him to our divided land to help us become different – the kind of people we were meant to be.

We are so grateful that he now rests.

He always said the future was in our hands. Now it is.

Peter Storey
Cape Town
7 December, 2013

How is your Advent training going?

How is your Advent training going?

December 8, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on How is your Advent training going?
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. ~ Isaiah 11

Today we start the second week of our Advent training program to get ourselves into shape for Jesus’ birth. Last week Coach Isaiah told us in no uncertain terms just how unfit we were and how desperately we needed to start training. The Coach was also quietly confident that we could be transformed and even come out tops in the end.

So how has your Advent training been going?

What inspires me to train more than just about anything else is to witness others training. One such inspiring moment happened for me on Tuesday morning last week. I was attending a meeting at Bishop’s Court. The meeting began at 7am and there were many pressing things to talk about by all those in attendance. At 2 minutes to eight, Archbishop Thabo said: “We need to draw this meeting to a close because I have another appointment at 8 o’clock.” There were still a number of people who had indicated their desire to speak — this meeting was not ready to conclude. “My 8 o’clock appointment is with God”, the Archbishop continued, “so let us close in prayer”. The Archbishop was sticking to his training program regardless! To witness this was inspiring.

And while we on the topic of Archbishops and training programs here is a reminder of another prophetic athlete’s training program that I hope you find inspiring. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s training program included the following …

• 04:00 Personal prayers (on weekdays)
• 05:00 A fast 30 minute walk. 5:30 shower
• 06:00 Devotional reading and work at his study desk
• 07:30 In Chapel to recite morning prayer
• 08:00 Daily Eucharist
• 08:30 Breakfast
• 09:00 Back in his office for a series of 30 minute appointments
• 13:00 Personal prayer for 30 minutes
• 13:30 Lunch and a hour long nap
• 15:00 Afternoon tea followed by a series of appointments
• 18:00 Evening prayer in the chapel followed by personal prayer
• 19:00 Supper
• In bed by 21:00 or 22:00
• Asleep by 23:00 after saying Compline Prayers

Archbishop Tutu’s daily training program therefore included around about 4 hours of prayer. To those of us who struggle with prayer this sounds quite crazy. Yet when we hear of sports people or musicians who spend an equal amount of time training for their art it seems less crazy. Dancers, pianists, cyclists and gymnasts can spend over 6 hours a day training for gold. So I am sure Tutu would reason that 4 hours is not too much when training to be Godly.

And what we have learnt from Tutu’s life is that when one person takes his or her training to be Godly seriously an entire nation benefits in the process.So let me ask you again: How is your Advent training been going?

I hope you feel equally inspired to put in a couple of extra hours in the coming week.

Grace, Alan

Disarm and rethink

Disarm and rethink

December 1, 2013  |  Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Disarm and rethink

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”

 

Happy New Year on this first Sunday of Advent. Yes, Christian New Year begins with four weeks of preparation for the coming of Jesus. And in Jesus we welcome God’s life enabling vision for all of creation. In Jesus we witness true humanity and true divinity walking hand in hand. In Jesus we witness life lived as life was intended to be lived — in love, by love and for love.

The prophet Isaiah is going to be our guide through these Advent days. The One thing we will soon learn about the prophet Isaiah is that he was not short on imagination when it came to expressing God’s heavenly dream for earth.

For Isaiah the first step for us to prepare for the coming of the prince of peace is to convert our weapons of destruction into instruments of nourishment — ”swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks”.

Sadly his words are yet to be taken seriously. We are still addicted to the lunacy of war. As John Wesley so clearly wrote many years ago:

Here are forty thousand men gathered together on this plain. What they going to do? See, there are thirty or forty thousand more at a great distance. And these are going to shoot them through the head or body, to stab them, or split their skulls, and send most of their souls into everlasting fire, as fast as they possibly can. Why so? What harm have they done to them? O, none at all! They do not so much as know them.
But a man, who is king of France has a quarrel with another man, who is king of England. So these Frenchmen are to kill as many of these Englishmen as they can, to prove the king of France is in the right. Now, what an argument is this? What a method of proof? What an amazing way of deciding controversies!
What must mankind be, before such a thing as war could ever be known or thought of upon earth? How shocking, how inconceivable a want must there have been of common understanding, as well as common humanity, before any two governors, or any two nations in the universe could once think of such a method of decision! If then, all nations, Pagan, Mohammedan, and Christian, do, in fact, make this their last resort, what farther proof do we need of the utter degeneracy of all nations from the plainest principles of reason and virtue? Of the absolute want, both of common sense and common humanity, which runs through the whole race of mankind? 
From: Works (Jackson) 9:221 The Doctrine of Original Sin (part 1)

Our first Advent task is to disarm and to rethink the way we “decide controversies”. None of us are excluded from this task. It involves how we decide controversies within our most intimate relationships as well as the most expansive public policy.

Manenberg Interfaith Prayers for Peace

Grace, Alan

Jesus first

Jesus first

November 24, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Jesus first
Focus more time and energy on what we are for
than on what we are against.

Today is Christ the King Sunday — it is also the last Sunday of the Christian year. This is perfectly appropriate for it reminds us where all of time is headed as well as the purpose of our year-in and year-out living — putting Jesus first in all things. As the author of Colossians puts it: “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created though him and for him … so that he may come to have first place in everything.” (Col 1:15-16 and 18).

I was listening to a preacher the other day that left me feeling very perturbed. The sermon was saturated with devil talk — even though the text made no mention of the devil (in fact very few do!). I was hearing more about the devil than I was about Jesus.

Aldous Huxley — of Brave New World fame wrote a book called, The Devils of Loudun. This 1952 non-fiction novel is a historical narrative of supposed demonic possession, religious fanaticism, sexual repression, and mass hysteria which occurred in 17th century France surrounding unexplained events that took place in the small town of Loudun.

This is what Huxley says:
The effects which follow too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptively worse than it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself, (p.192)…

No man can concentrate his attention upon evil, or even upon the idea of evil, and remain unaffected. To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous. Every crusader is apt to go mad. He is haunted by the wickedness which he attributes to his enemies; it becomes in some sort a part of him. (p 260)

On this Christ the King Sunday we are reminded to put Jesus first in everything we think, say and do as our years focus. To focus more on what we are “for” than on what we are “against”. This will protect us from focusing too much on others and not enough on our own need for transformation. It may also prevent us from being perpetual faultfinders with nothing better to do than issue complaints. Even if our complaints have some validity it is tiring to be in the presence of one who only ever finds fault.

As our New Year begins next week — on the first Sunday of Advent may our default stance be for Jesus. What does it mean to be for Jesus? It means to be for what he was for. To be for: truth, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion for the vulnerable, to live lives of prayer, peace, joy and justice etc. This stance for Jesus is the most faithful way we can prepare for his birth among us.

An Alcohol-Free December

Why an alcohol-free December? Well why not?

Alcohol is very very expensive! I am not referring to the cost in Rand terms — although this is no small amount. I am referring to its cost in relationships and ruined lives. So many arguments, ugliness, child neglect and abuse, fights, killings, road accidents … you name it … are all exacerbated by alcohol.

For those of us who struggle with addiction December is one of the most difficult months and it would be great to know that others are FASTING in SOLIDARITY with us.

Peace, Alan

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

November 17, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Mindfulness

Thích Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He lives in the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France.

Below follows Thích Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings which represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair.

Remember the first key (Manna and Mercy) of Christian interpretation is to ask: “Would Jesus say amen to this?” I invite you to hold this question as you read through these Five Mindfulness Trainings…

The Five Mindfulness Trainings
1. Reverence For Life
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

2. True Happiness
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.

3. True Love
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

4. Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

5. Nourishment and Healing
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

By: Thích Nhat Hanh | www.plumvillage.org