News24.com article on the Christmas Complications #RememberKwezi: Kwezi Sermon was outside the brief
There were complications at birth.
Mary nearly lost the baby.
Jesus nearly didn’t see the light of day.
I am not talking about any complications during her pregnancy or during labour or the moment of delivery.
I am talking about life-threatening complications of a different type. These complications were the consequence of at least three things that, when mixed together and stirred almost always result in death. This remains as true today as it was 2000 years ago.
Life is threatened:
- When discrimination is written into law or at least saturates the dominant culture.
- When those called to hold the powerful accountable, don’t.
- When the powerful use their power for their own promotion and protection.
Once we have explored these three complications – witnessing how they conspire to threaten life – we will turn our attention to what it was that enabled Mary and the baby to survive – and thereby receive a few hints at how we need to live today in order to engage the same life-threatening complications of our time.
1] The first life-threatening complication – according to the text for today – occurs when the powerful use their power exclusively for their own benefit.
King Herod was such like. He employed his power for his own privilege and protection. In other words: The No.1 priority of No.1 was to look after No.1 . This determined every one of Herod’s policy decisions that he signed into law. It also informed every cabinet re-shuffle. For Herod, self-preservation was the only real item on every meeting’s agenda that he attended.
This meant that Herod violated the constitution of God who implored all leaders – especially No.1 – to shepherd God’s people – all people. In other words to lead with pastoral care which meant to take special care of the poor, the weak, the foreigner and the vulnerable. This meant it was the king’s responsibility to provide green pastures of food and still waters to drink especially in times of drought. It meant that No.1 . was to safeguard and guide the people through the shadowed valleys of death and to successfully negotiate with enemies around a table and provide housing for all … all the days of their life. King Herod was however more focused on building his holiday home and housing the homeless poor who surrounded him.
Though the Roman State-owned media gave him a free ride, the people on the ground grew in resentment. On a few public occasions king Herod was booed – so he soon stuck to his popular ghettos of support. King Herod was hyper vigilant ever adding to his army of personal bodyguards. He was more than a little paranoid with his speeches sounding like strange riddles. The police were on permanent standby and he relied heavily on spooks for the latest info.
One day Herod was informed that there were three so-called “clever people” looking for the king. But they weren’t looking for him … they were looking for another king! As this news were told in the ancient text that “Herod was frightened … and all the people with him”. Yes, because when the elephants fight the grass suffers.
Herod was afraid. A fearful leader is a very dangerous leader because fear casts out love. Therefore a fearful leader is a loveless leader. And a loveless leader is a ruthless ruler. Herod did not care how many casualties as long as he stayed No.1 . Some called for him to resign, but he lived by the motto: “If I go down all will go down”.
So we read that Herod called the priests and scribes to enquire of them where the Messiah is to be born. They correctly state – “it will be in Bethlehem”. King Herod then arranges a secret meeting with the three so-called clever people requesting they search diligently and if they are successful, to return to him with the address so he too can go and worship.
But it was a trap. Herod had never worshipped anyone besides himself and he wasn’t going to start now.
2] The second life-threatening complication according to our ancient story is when those who are called to hold the powerful accountable, simply don’t.
Here we see the priests and the scribes (the public protectors of their day) forsake their sacred duty. Their primary role was to hold the powerful, especially the king, accountable for his pastoral responsibilities and by doing so to uphold God’s constitution of care for the poor. Yet in our text we find them living in comfort and ease close to the king. Some investigative journalists named this “priestly capture”. It still happens to this day.
Instead of fearlessly speaking truth to power – they turn out to be praise-singers for the king. They tell the king what he wants to hear rather than what God wants him to hear. In this way, religion is used to validate and condone what it should challenge and correct.
Note, according to the story we see that these priests and scribes knew the constitution. They knew where the true king was to be born – in Bethlehem, yet they were happy to remain in Jerusalem. Go figure? To forsake the single most important task of one’s vocation can only mean that Herod’s system of patronage must have been extremely lucrative.
3] The third life-threatening complication according to our ancient story is when discrimination is written into law or at least saturates the dominant culture.
The system of discrimination – that was legal at the time – was the system of patriarchy. Patriarchy is simply understood as the belief and practice that men are superior to women. That women are inferior to men. That women are not their own person, but gain their human worth by either belonging to their father or husband.
In other words – it’s a man’s world and women exist in it to please and serve men while men get to decide about the role of women in society and this includes men having control over women’s bodies. This system of patriarchy was underpinned by the Scriptures – with numerous verses being quoted by men to support the view that it was in fact God’s design that women submit their worth to men.
One example, pertinent to this Christmas reflection is that some ancient texts state that if a woman is pregnant yet unmarried or worse still pregnant from one man while engaged to another man – she could be flogged or stoned to death for this “sexual deviance” that brought shame on her or her in-laws’ family. And don’t think for a moment that back then anyone was buying into the virgin birth – which would have been deemed “fake news”.
Mary’s life was in deadly danger resulting from the patriarchal laws and culture of her time. Not dissimilar to the terrifying vulnerability of gay and lesbian people in our land today as we were gruesomely reminded a few weeks ago with the murder of Noluvo Swelindawo – a lesbian woman almost certainly targeted specifically for being lesbian – by men. By insecure men. By men who locate their masculinity in their sexual domination of women and who are therefore offended by lesbians who by denying them sex deny their manhood. Despite our liberating and protecting constitution the dominant culture remains anti-gay and this is in no small measure a result of how the Scriptures have been used to validate such discrimination – enabling people to do evil while believing they are doing good.
For the combination of these three reasons stated above, Mary nearly lost the baby.
To see how she and the baby survived we must take note of the following three things:
1] First, we see the Magi – the three so-called clever people. They were not fooled by the charm of No.1 . They defy his order to return to him with the information he requested. This is a risky act of civil disobedience. Here we see the power of principle trump the abuse of power. It would prove to be costly returning home another way – certainly no royal tenders coming their way in the future.
Note that the three so-called clever people were from the East. In other words they were outsiders. In other words not necessarily religious but they were truth seekers. They carry a longing to know – for the R2K where true power lies. In their truth seeking they shame the religious insiders who had long since exchanged the search for the truth for personal comfort.
2] Second, we see that the discriminatory law and culture of his day did not determine Joseph’s behaviour. Joseph’s character was one of compassion and mercy – his humaneness revealed in how he honoured the humanity of Mary. He respected her. Whenever someone refuses to discriminate against another – especially when law or culture encourage one to discriminate – life is saved.
3] Third, we see Mary’s own courageous imagination. Mary dared to imagine another world. A world true to the ancient constitution of God. A world where the powerful exist to serve the least. A world where the public is properly protected from the abuse of power. A world where women and men are respected and treated as equal and of sacred worth – each bearing the priceless image of the Creator.
Mary’s courageous imagination released the first Christmas Carol – which is very unlike the soppy and sentimental carols we sing today. Hers was a carol about knowing of her own favoured worth despite the demeaning laws of her land. Hers was a song about God who rules above the kings of the earth. A song about mercy and not judgment for the vulnerable. A song about the powerful falling from their thrones. (Mary was the first “fallist”.) A song about the hungry being filled and the rich sent away empty handed.
In other words Mary pre-dated Jean Jacques Rousseau who said: “One day the poor will have nothing left to eat … but the rich”.
Mary pre-dated Frantz Fanon: “What counts today – the question which is looking on the horizon – is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity must reply to this question or be shaken to pieces by it”.
Mary pre-dated Martin Espade in his poem “Imagine the Angels of Bread” when he imagined: “Squatters evict landlords”.
She pre-dated the four women who in silence loudly called the nation to #RememberKhwezi. Fezeka Khuzwayo – publically known as Kwezi wrote a poem. Her poem is no less courageously imaginative than Mary’s song of a different world. And she like Mary also had to flee for her life. The poem is called: “I am Khanga”.
I am Khanga
I wrap myself around the curvaceous bodies of women all over Africa
I am the perfect nightdress on those hot African nights
The ideal attire for household chores
I secure babies happily on their mother’s backs
Am the perfect gift for new bride and new mother alike
Armed with proverbs, I am vehicle for communication between women
I exist for the comfort and convenience of a woman
But no no no make no mistake …
I am not here to please a man
And I certainly am not a seductress
Please don’t use me as an excuse to rape
Don’t hide behind me when you choose to abuse
That’s what he said my Malume
The man who called himself my daddy’s best friend
Shared a cell with him on [Robben] Island for ten whole years
He said I wanted it
That my khanga said it
That with it I lured him to my bed
That with it I want you is what I said
But what about the NO I uttered with my mouth
Not once but twice
And the please no I said with my body
What about the tear that ran down my face as I lay stiff with shock
In what sick world is that sex
In what sick world is that consent
The same world where the rapist becomes the victim
The same world where I become the bitch that must burn
The same world where I am forced into exile because I spoke out?
This is NOT my world
I reject that world
My world is a world where fathers protect and don’t rape
My world is a world where a woman can speak out
Without fear for her safety
My world is a world where no one, but no one is above the law
My world is a world where sex is pleasurable not painful
‘This is also my home’
The Magi’s power of principle together with Joseph’s humaneness together with Mary’s courageous imagination are what saved Mary and her baby.
And to the extent that we imitate them will be to the extent many others will be spared from the life-threatening complications of the abuse of power and the failure to hold the powerful to account as well as the presence of deadly discrimination.
Central Methodist Mission – Cape Town
Christmas Day broadcast service for SAFM – click on link to listen to the full recording of the sermon as recorded 0n 2016 12 11.
Text in red and italicised was edited out of the broadcast.
Grace and peace to you and through you
Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year for people. The expectation to be “happy” as in “Happy Christmas” is sometimes at complete odds with our lived experience and this can provoke an even greater despair than usual. So this is for all of you in despair at this time. David Whyte writes in Consolations on Heartbreak:
“Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away.
Despair is a haven with its own temporary form of beauty and of self-compassion, it is the invitation we accept when we want to remove ourselves from hurt. Despair, is a last protection…
Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.
Despair is strangely, the last bastion of hope; the wish being, that if we cannot be found in the old way we cannot ever be touched or hurt in that way again. …Despair is the place we go when we no longer want to make a home in the world and where we feel, with a beautifully cruel form of satisfaction, that we may never have deserved that home in the first place…
Despair turns to depression and abstraction when we try to make it stay beyond its appointed season and start to shape our identity around its frozen disappointments. …Despair needs a certain tending, a reinforcing, and isolation, but the body left to itself will breathe, the ears will hear the first birdsong of morning or catch the leaves being touched by the wind in the trees, and the wind will blow away even the grayest cloud; will move even the most immovable season; the heart will continue to beat and the world, we realize, will never stop or go away.
The antidote to despair is not to be found in the brave attempt to cheer ourselves up with happy abstracts, but in paying a profound and courageous attention to the body and the breath, independent of our imprisoning thoughts and stories, even strangely, in paying attention to despair itself, and the way we hold it, and which we realize, was never ours to own and to hold in the first place. To see and experience despair fully in our body is to begin to see it as a necessary, seasonal visitation, and the first step in letting it have its own life, neither holding it nor moving it on before its time…
Despair is a difficult, beautiful necessary, a binding understanding between human beings caught in a fierce and difficult world where half of our experience is mediated by loss, but it is a season, a wave form passing through the body, not a prison surrounding us. A season left to itself will always move, however slowly, under its own patience, power and volition.”
May we discover the grace of despair,
Grace and peace to you and through you
One of the means of grace that holds our lives together is friendship. Friends who know us and love us for knowing us. To be known is one of our greatest needs. To be loved is another one of our greatest needs – if not the greatest. Yet these two great needs often clash as we wonder to ourselves: “if they really knew me would they still love me?” This is the haunting question that true friends answer for us. Friends by definition both know us and love us and herein lies the grace that holds us.
The poet and philosopher David Whyte explores friendship in his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
FRIENDSHIP is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.
In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.
The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armoured personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.
Over this holiday time – gift your friendships with your time.
Grace and peace to you and through you
The service today is being recorded by the SABC in order to be broadcast throughout
SA on Christmas Day. So in other words we get to celebrate Christmas early. Happy Christmas today!! At first I thought that this is a little odd, but then I realised that the followers of Jesus are to live life in the constant celebration of his birth among us.
“Joy to the world – the Lord is come…” should be on our lips everyday! Everyday
we should be on the look-out for the Divine among us.
If Jesus is consistent (which he certainly is) his presence among us will be undercover, just as his first coming among us. I mean what could be more “undercover” than a baby
of an unmarried peasant girl cradled in the feed trough of a cattle shed? Even the wisest
of sages went to the wrong address to look for him. We are always told to “follow the money!!!” Well that is exactly what the so-called wise men did and all they found was an ignorant and paranoid head of state. Following the money doesn’t lead to Jesus … it leads to the powers of death.
Many of the homeless people of our city have similar stories to tell. Very often treated like trash. Sometimes they are mistreated by security guards … who themselves are not treated much better. Homeless people are told to “move on” all the time – convincing them that they do not belong.
Thank you to everyone who each Sunday provide lunch for around 300 people at the Service Dining Rooms. Today we all get to join in this act of service as we occupy Church Street to host a Christmas Banquet for the people who are marginalised within this city. There will be over 500 people for the seated meal and around 200 takeaways – so please we need all the help we can get.
Be on the lookout for Jesus – for the Divine is come to be our guest today.
This morning marks the second Sunday of Advent. The word before us is Peace. Peace has become a political word, where when spoken of, one is hoping for the end to wars and the great conflicts of our day. Yet, peace is also a gift we can receive within. Jesus names for the waters in a stormy sea to, “Peace be still” naming the link to stillness and peace. To be centered enough in our life of faith to experience stillness within, no matter what is going on around is a true gift. It is not a quality that we can will within it is one that arises as one lives in their center trusting in God’s great truth.
There have been Peace and Justice witnesses serving on the University campuses during the exam writing. Reports came in that a petrol bomb was set off in one of the buildings at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) where students were writing. The debris was cleared, security heightened, and the exams continued. One has to wonder how the students were able to manage to stay focused while the outbreaks were occurring. Many of them shared their thanks for the presence of the witnesses who were there to observe and work to bring a de-escalating peaceful presence on campus.
There are over 200 witnesses who have been trained to serve on campuses. A couple of weeks ago, I served myself at the CPUT Belleville campus. It was the night of the super moon. The mediators who have been negotiating during the education crisis were able to reach an agreement at Belleville that day for the private security to be removed and the old CPUT security to come back. The students were so excited they worked to man the security gate until the CPUT security made their way back.
The witnesses who were serving at Belleville that evening were all ones who had been serving quite consistently. I worried about our ability to sustain the effort. You can imagine the gift when a taxi full of clergy from Khayelitsha showed up to serve as the night shift. It was amazing to see them prepare for their time of service. One of the witnesses took out her guitar and began singing songs. It was one of my favorite memories. The beginning of our time on that campus was to be present in the midst of communication between parties that was disintegrating. On this night, it was as if peace was witnessing to us.
As I have served with the Peace and Justice Witnesses, I have grown more fully in my realization that we must be a people who work to stand in the midst of great divides witnessing to another way. The inner peace that is gift in this work is the fruit born to those who learn how to wait in the center of their being, trusting in the ways of God.
In Advent, we strengthen ourselves in the wait for the promise of something more that is held in the life and teachings of Jesus. Advent is meant to be a journey in the darkness of our unknowing. As we acknowledge that we don’t know the way forward becomes known to us, and we commit simply to walk in it.
With you on the journey,
This Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season in the life of the Christian faith. The word Advent essentially means “to come.” If you were to do a bible search, you would not find the word Advent for it is not contained within the scriptures. It is a practice that began in the 4th and 5th centuries as those being presented for baptism prepared for that marked time in their journey of faith. It was a penitent time of prayer and fasting, very similar to Lent. Pilgrims preparing for baptism would fast Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays leading up to the day of their baptism which happened on the 6th of January, the day of Epiphany.
The season of Advent invokes a posture of waiting. Waiting is not something we like to do, so one can understand how over the years, the practices began to morph until today the practice of Advent has become something quite different and can in some communities barely be distinguished from the Christmas season and all it has come to be. What might it mean for us to revisit the Advent of yesterday and engage in a period of fasting and reflection around our baptismal commitment?
Though waiting is not the favorite sport of the human family, it is necessary for us if we want to be formed and shaped into people who can receive the newness of life and to engage in the work of practicing the message of Christ in ways that give life in the world around us. The image on the front of this cover was painted by a woman I met in Cape Town a little over ten years ago. I didn’t have a lot of money on me and so I decided I would simply sit and talk with some of the artists and learn about their work. I sat with this woman long enough to learn she had HIV/AIDS and her concerns about the health of her unborn child.
This woman asked me to pray with her. I did. The next day I came back to visit with her again. I shared with her I had borrowed some money from a friend to purchase one of her paintings, for I felt like it spoke to me in a way that left me changed. The artist sold me the painting on the cover and gave me a second. She shared that I would know who to give it to when the time came. I did. When my friend Enuma Okoro was struggling to write her first book, I gave her the second painting for her birthday. She names it in that book–Reluctant Pilgrim: A moody somewhat self-indulgent introverts search for Spiritual Community.
My copy of this painting has hung on the wall in every place I have lived. It continues to speak to me quite powerfully providing for me two messages at the same time. The first is simply the awareness that God is always busy preparing to give birth to the promises of something more in the world. The second is this, that there are people desperately waiting for “something more” to be realized in their lives. The woman so long ago with HIV/AIDS, those involved with the education crisis in this country, people who have been impacted by Gun Violence around the world, those who live with too little to eat, those who do not have clean water to drink, those who live under attack for the color of their skin, their gender, or sexuality. The list is very long.
During this Advent season, my hope is that you will engage in a time of fasting from a place where you experience abundance in your life. Maybe it will be fasting from food, but it might not. It might be something else. Allow time in the Spirit to let that answer rise in you. As you engage in limiting in the area where you live with abundance, you will be creating space within yourself for a deeper awareness of your need and when we live with need, God can give birth to something new in us. I hope you experience a meaningful Advent journey, where your faith is deepened for the struggle and wrestle in it.
With you on the journey,
Grace and Peace to you and through you
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is also the last Sunday of the Christian Calendar. Yes, the Christian year ends with Christ on the Throne. It serves to remind us that all of creation is hemmed in behind and before by Christ who is the Alpha and the Omega. Christ is the enfleshment of love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy. Therefore to say Christ is on the throne is another way of saying love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy reign above all else (despite headlines to the contrary) and warrant our worship through our own enfleshment. To do so is to imitate Christ. And to imitate Christ is to worship Christ. This alone is our task. Not only is Christ the start and the finish, but Christ is also the bond that holds everything together. As we read in Colossians: “Jesus is the firstborn of all creation… Jesus is before all things and in him all things hold together…”
Col. 1:15. Enfleshed love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy are the authentic center that holds…
This reminds me of William Butler Yeats’ (1865-1939) poem: The Second Coming that he penned in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Next Sunday is the first week of Advent and it is always dedicated to the second coming of Christ… surely some revelation is at hand!? A revelation that exposes our false centers that cannot hold and calls us to recommit to the true center that always holds – Christ.
Open and vigilant to grace,
This Sunday the service will be a play – Ubuze Bam –
a worship experience with a difference.
As a result there will be no recorded sermon.
One Reviewer of Ubuze Bam had this to say …
“Literally translated as ‘my nakedness’, Ubuze Bam is a theatrical interpretation of the life events of four ex-inmates, all of whom have spent 10 years or more behind bars.
Theatre Arts Admin Collective has joined arms with the programme Young in Prison to create this searingly honest piece in which the performers – Lazola, Eric, Ntsika and Bongani – have spent just over a month rehearsing under the direction of Thando Doni. Prior to this performance, the young men had never acted, let alone witnessed a theatre production.
Young in Prison is a rehabilitation initiative which assists former inmates to transition back into society. The theory is that many ex-cons can learn a number of life-skills which will positively impact their behaviour, and thus reduce the reoffending rate. Originally, the project was meant to engage with youth and young adults who were still in prison, but due to the rat infestation and quarantine at Pollsmoor, the current post-release programme was conceptualised.
The initiative focuses on revisiting the past in a healthy and productive environment. Through a focused, five week-long process, these four participants have been encouraged to engage with and creatively express their stories, and have learnt more about what it means to a powerful piece of art also helps to break down their own negative perception of themselves. And this was made so evident when, as the show ended and the lights went out, above the cheering of the crowd we could hear the actors shouting celebrations of victory from behind the scenes.
As a prologue, the young men explain that the play is “about me and my friends; it’s our secrets”. And the resonating truth of that statement was only fully felt after the show was over. When meeting people, we often only reveal the best parts of ourselves for fear of being judged or ridiculed. So to find myself easily conversing with these men – just minutes after they been describing the violent crimes they had committed – was revelatory. I didn’t see former prisoners; I saw four lionhearted men who are breaking society’s mould which states that you have to wear a mask in order to be accepted.
Despite their lack of experience on a stage, the performance from the young men was deeply emotional and often chilling in its rawness. The level of bravery needed to admit their crimes and their failures and to show their vulnerability was awe-inspiring. While the show itself is artistic, impactful and astonishingly truthful, the greatest significance lies in the road these men have taken.
The heart behind the performance is something to be reckoned with as these young men undergo a journey of breaking chains in every sense.”
Reviewer: Public Spirit
To find out more and to support/donate:
Young in Prison | www.younginprison.org.za
Theatre Arts Admin Collective www.theatreartsadmincollective.weebly.com
Next Performances at Theatre Arts Admin Collective:
18 November at 19:00: Made in India | A Performance Lecture by Amrita Pande
29 November – 3 December at 20:00: Reparation directed by Ameera Conrad
Methodists Call for Prayer and Fasting
in the Wake of State Capture Report
For Immediate Release | 8 November 2016
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa joins the South African Council of Churches in expressing our shock at what appears to be calculated “intrigue” in the goings on catalogued in the “State of Capture” report.
We acknowledge that the report is preliminary and inconclusive and that the Public Protector has recommended further investigation by a Judicial Commission of Enquiry. We support this call and hope that due processes will be expedited post haste. We find it very unfortunate that as mentioned in the report, the position of the Head of State is becoming increasingly untenable.
We call on all Methodists to commit to prayer and fasting for the nation of South Africa and all creation. We ask that church bells throughout South Africa be rung at 12 noon for 7 days from Sunday 13 November, culminating in concerted prayer on Sunday 20 November 2016. We will, at this time, also pray for President Zuma and all those implicated in the report to interrogate their consciences and do the honourable thing by voluntarily stepping down for the good of the country should they be founding wanting. We acknowledge that in the event of their resignations, this will not dig us out of the political and economic quagmire we find ourselves in today but it will send out a clear signal to a commitment to a new dawn of statesmanship and political accountability.
We further ask all our members to engage in courageous conversations as we pray and seek to discern God’s will for the country, irrespective of our narrow and partisan political persuasions.
Statement released by the office of Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa
Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa
More Information : Bongie | 011 615 1616 |078 131 5137
Grace and peace to you and through you
Hope in the Dark – Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, by Rebecca Solnit is an amazing book. A Gospel book. A book about Resurrection that refuses to deny or skirt around Crucifixion. It is a book that reminds us how social change and how history is made: It happens mostly from the margins, incrementally and incompletely while enabling small shifts that are mostly unnoticed multiplied by further small shifts that eventually are noticed with the accompanied declaration: “Things have changed”. Paradoxically change does not feel like change while it is taking place. Change is known in hindsight, and even then very briefly, because when the change is for good it soon feels like things have always been like this.
Just this week an organisation called Right 2 Know secured an unnoticed victory for us all. For two years it has worked to overturn the Parliament’s Intelligence Committee decision that CVs of candidates for Inspector General should remain secret. I love their letter to the Committee: “We invite you to reverse your view taken … kindly advise us by not later than close of business on Thursday 3 November 2016 as to whether these documents will indeed be made available. If not, we will pursue all legal options to ensure their disclosure so as to ensure a properly informed and fair selection process.”
They received a reply before close of business 3 November 2016: “The Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence has since reversed its decision with respect to the CVs of the candidates for the position of the Inspector General of Intelligence. Consequently the CVs will be available on Parliament’s website.”
Now you may not have noticed – but since last Thursday – the sun is shining more brightly over SA.
Thank God for those who steadfastly work for social change. Securing small victories for our freedom that take many years and with little or no public acknowledgement.
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Grace and peace to you and through you
You have heard me say over and over again that “God is very, very Big”. God is so big that no doctrine, or church or denomination or religion or all the religions combined can have a monopoly over God. All efforts to try and capture God within our language, rituals, traditions or institutions are foolish and futile. At best – seriously – at best we get to see a tiny piece of the hem of God’s garment and by grace we may have within our reach a thread…a single thread…and you know what? That is enough…a thread of Love is enough.
Today however, I want to let you know that God is also very, very small. God is even as small as a four year-old’s little hand. I know this for a fact. Let me explain…
This past Wednesday I spent much of the day in the hot sun. I was surrounded. To my right there was a diesel-spewing Nyala police vehicle irritatingly idling. To my left and behind there was a dehydrated crowd of singing students – angry and passionate and determined. In front of me were Kevlar-clad Police holding see-through-scratched-shields and who were heavily sweating from under their blue helmets. It was a long day for everyone.
At times I felt tense and anxious, disconnected and desperately helpless especially when things began to break up under the sound of stun grenades. And at other times I had a deep sense of gratitude to be part of an active citizenship courageously calling the powers to account, as I too believe that education should never be a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. There were speeches spoken with prophetic power and compassionate clarity
and others that were inflamed with unhelpful rhetoric. Even as I was trying to process it all I rejoiced to be living in a country where people could speak freely regardless of whether everyone agreed with their every word or not. Sadly the peaceful day ended less peacefully and we were just very fortunate not to have any serious or even fatal injuries.
All in all it was an energy sapping day, both physically and emotionally.
As evening approached I made my way to Stepping Stones Preschool to chair the AGM. We gathered to honour the achievement of getting through another year – which is no small accomplishment in the light of what it costs to provide quality early childhood education. It was my delight to thank the hard working parents of the 104 children for their faithful contributions of fees that keep the school going as well as thanking all the dedicated staff.
The afternoon and the evening couldn’t have seemed more different from each other and yet they were inextricably linked – for pre-school education is a complete game changer when it comes to providing a solid foundation for the rest of a child’s educational endeavours.
After the meeting I walked home with a parent and her 4 year son who has only recently joined the pre-school and who still live semi-homeless lives. As we began walking the little boy looked up at me with his arm outstretched: “Hold my hand…” he said to me. His tone was a mixture of telling me and asking me. So I did. I held his little hand.
At first I thought he needed me to hold his hand. Perhaps he did. After a little while I realised that it was I who needed to hold his hand. And then I wondered whether he knew that I needed to hold his hand and that is why he said: “Hold my hand”.
Holding his little hand filled me with hope. Holding his little hand reignited my commitment to working for a more just future in the present so that the four year olds of today have greater access to life’s crucial resources when they turn twenty.
I now know for a fact that God contracts to the span of a 4 year old’s hand, especially on days when we are tempted to give in to despair for a world ever echoing with stun grenades.