Gratitude and Faithfulness

Gratitude and Faithfulness

January 13, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Gratitude and Faithfulness

A car crash. A moment of Gospel-witness by those involved.
The one responsible came across and immediately owned up —
apologising and taking responsibility while the injured innocent one
offered him his forgiveness: “It’s all okay — these
things happen — relax and take a seat and have some water”.

 

Last Monday afternoon I was driving along Boyes Drive to my parents’ home. Just past where the Shark Spotters for Muizenberg beach sit and stare at scary shadows in the water, I heard an almighty crash. In the fraction of a second that these things happened, I remember thinking that the noise was so loud that I thought someone had crashed into me — yet I was surprised that my car continued smoothly forward. Simultaneously I saw in my rearview mirror that the car behind me had spun across the road having been hit by the oncoming car that had passed me a split second earlier. What had happened was that the oncoming car had drifted across the center line and hit the car behind me head-on. The car following me was only about 20m behind me — so had he drifted across the road a 100th of a second earlier it would have been me. All this on a perfectly clear and sunny afternoon.

I have shared this story with a couple of people yet the following response by some disturbed me: “Oh Alan — see how the Lord was looking after you”. My immediate reply is: “Well if that is so — then why wasn’t God looking after the person driving behind me? In fact why didn’t God keep the person alert enough in the oncoming car to prevent him from crossing the center line in the first place?”

Now don’t get me wrong. Am I thankful to God that it was not me that was crashed into? Absolutely. Does it mean that God loves me more than the person driving behind me? Absolutely NOT! You see God does not discriminate and none of us have done anything to deserve increased love and Godly favour. Life is vulnerable by its nature — this is part of what makes life so precious. We are not robots who have our every move (or drive) controlled by God. We are created with freedom to drive as we will — thoughtfully or recklessly. And sadly, thoughtfulness is not a guaranteed protection against recklessness. But the Gospel reminds us that whether we have been crashed into or not, God’s love and presence is permanent and herein lies our deepest safety and protection — that of our relationship with God, the Giver of Life — in this life and the next — is forever secure. To grow in this trust is to be given the gift of peace and to be set free from the fear we have for our personal safety that for so many of us is our ultimate priority which is in fact a false god.

Yet moments like these remind us of the precious gift of life we are invited to live with gratitude and faithfulness.

Peace, Alan

PS: Remember Covenant Preparation on 23 January (Jesus’ Invitation) and 24 January (Jesus’ Dream) at 19:00 in the sanctuary – see post of 1 January 2013 for more info.

Journey with Jesus on the single track

Journey with Jesus on the single track

January 6, 2013  |  Epiphany Sunday  |  Comments Off on Journey with Jesus on the single track

The Gospel in Brief by Leo Tolstoy – a fascinating read.
You will be relieved to know that it has fewer pages in it than
War and Peace but it is equally powerful.

After the New Year’s Eve Service I felt like I had eaten a beautifully nourishing and tasty meal. You know that feeling when your body rejoices – when the meal “hits the spot”? Well that is how I felt. And I don’t know why I was surprised really because we have been told that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. And on New Year’s I was fed by the word.

The two hours of shared silence provided the sacred setting to read a single passage of scripture (Colossians 3) over and over and over again – until it literally became part of me – like food fully digested. As I read the scripture, the scripture read my life – convicting me and inspiring me – and leaving me energised to run the race of faithfulness set before me.

Not only did I need this nourishing time, but even more, I needed the reminder that without silence and meditation I would be left malnourished and without the necessary strength to journey faithfully.

Like the other day when a friend took me mountain bike riding; it was my first time out on the dirt. He chose a single track going up past Rhodes Memorial. It was too much for me. My level of fitness and skill were not up to it so we sought out an easier path – a broader road that was not as steep. As any mountain biker will tell you, it is the single track (narrow way) that you live for (even born for), but this takes hours in the saddle. It takes training. It takes practice.

Jesus invites us to journey with him on the narrow way, the single track that we were born for. It is the way of compassion and kindness. The way of humility and gentleness. The way of truth and mercy. It is the way of generosity and justice. It is the way of accepting the grace-full gift that we have been forgiven and we should forgive ourselves and learn to forgive others for therein lays our peace as well as the peace of the world. This all takes training – training in silence and meditation.

Let’s start, Alan!

PS: Remember Covenant Preparation: 23 and 24 January at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary – see post below.

Be warned, this Baby grows up quickly!

Be warned, this Baby grows up quickly!

January 1, 2013  |  Happy New Year  |  Comments Off on Be warned, this Baby grows up quickly!

Today we welcome Jesus the baby, but he does not stay a baby for long!

Soon Jesus will be inviting us to leave all our Christmas presents behind to follow him on the narrow road of generosity, gentleness, justice and infinite mercy. A road that includes ridicule and death yet never will we be more alive. This radical-world-healing-way is a difficult road but strangely it is the very road we were designed for and the road we desire to travel more than any other.

To prepare for this baby that grows up quickly as well as to deepen your sense of belonging at CMM, I invite you to join me for two evening discussions:

7 p.m. on 23 January: Jesus’ Invitation
7 p.m. on 24 January: Jesus’ Dream

These evening discussions will also prepare us to renew our Covenant relationship with God on Sunday 27 January, remembering that “…Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both… Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.”

The most dangerous prayer we will ever pray … and the most fulfilling!

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Risk delight

December 25, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Risk delight

Have mercy on us O God. We are a forgetful people. We forget what it was like when others hemmed us in — behind and before with a wall of violent oppression topped with the razor wire of bigotry. So we do to others as they have done to us. There used to be a Wall that ran through Berlin now another Wall runs through Bethlehem. Heal us of our amnesia and bring down the walls of division in our day. Amen.

 

This poem below by Jack Gilbert defends the right to delight in a world saturated with suffering and division. I share it with you because Christmas is God’s invitation for us to delight…

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.

Forget all the pictures you have seen of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus painted in serene holiness. This modern day picture from Palestine is probably much closer to the truth of their experience.

Pray for the children like Jesus who see too much
too soon!

 

Mary courageously consented …

Consent

Denise Levertov

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
Spirit,
suspended,
waiting.

She did not cry, “I cannot, I am not worthy,”
nor, “I have not the strength.”
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Source: “Annunciation” in Breathing the Water

Bring Jesus Joy

Bring Jesus Joy

December 23, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Bring Jesus Joy

As we enter the last week of Advent we remind ourselves of how it all began. Four weeks ago we celebrated the beginning of a New Year. The New Year of the Christian Calendar is very different to the New Year of January 1st. Instead of making a list of resolutions based on our good intentions – Advent invites us to practically and prayerfully prepare for the coming of Royalty into our midst.

The question we need to ask is: How do we make room for Jesus in our life and world? To wrestle with this question is how we start a truly New Year. It is a question that is not focused on ourselves but on Jesus. Yet, to answer it we need to have some insight into what brings Jesus joy.

And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to Jesus… (Luke 21:38)

In his own words Jesus called those who recognise their need for God and who feel the grief of their neighbours as blessed. He rejoiced in those who hunger for justice and practice mercy while praying for the light of the Holy One to make their own hearts pure. Jesus claimed the peacemakers as his family. To focus practically on these things will go a long way in preparing for Jesus’ presence among us, but not all the way.

We are called to underpin our practical preparations with prayer. To pray is to recognise our limits – it is to recognise that we do not have what it takes and that we need help from beyond ourselves to make room for Jesus.

May the next few days begin early in the morning in prayerful listening to Jesus.

Jesus is coming, Alan

Make room for Jesus

Make room for Jesus

December 16, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Make room for Jesus
The first solar bulbs installed in Cape Town by Touching the Earth Lightly and Liter of Light Foundation. Take a 2 liter empty plastic Coke bottle, fill it with water and a bit of bleach to prevent algae growing, cut a hole in your tin roof, whack in the bottle and jam in some silicon glue around the sides, and – BAM! – you’ve just built your own solar roof light. Visit www.wakawakalight.com for more information.

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Advent invites us to practically and prayerfully prepare room for Jesus in our lives and world. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians we are given such a beautiful example of prayerful preparation.

He begins the book with these words:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 1:3-6

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:4-9

Paul invites us to pray for one another in joyful gratitude for each other and with bold hope in Jesus. I pray that you wade into the depths of these prayerful words in your own prayers.

Peace, Alan

Occupy Church Street

December 9, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Occupy Church Street

Toronto’s Walk A Mile in Her Shoes March
to end violence against women

Today we “occupy” Church Street in the most Jesus-like way! We set out a banquet table with an abundance of food to share with the hungry and homeless of this city. Those who are forever told to “move along” will be invited, welcomed and served. It is probably as close as we will ever get to truly sharing Holy Communion. Lord help us to do so with reverence for each other.

And here is the thing — those of us preparing and serving are the really fortunate ones — far more so than those receiving the meal. We are fortunate for the incredible privilege to serve. If we think our service is a “sacrifice” we still have not understood what it means to live life centred around Jesus. Service is a privilege not a sacrifice because we are all born in the image of a Serving God and therefore to serve is to be who we are originally designed to be. To serve is to speak in our mother tongue — though sadly many of us have not learnt to speak it fluently.

It is a privilege not only because we have an opportunity to live out our Godly design, but also because we get to serve Jesus in our midst. Jesus who comes to us hidden in the swollen face and torn feet of the vulnerable. If the Gospels are to be believed we are more likely to meet Jesus out on Church Street than inside this church building.

It is a privilege to live out the teachings of Jesus who told us that when we throw a party we should invite the blind, crippled, deaf and lame. Jesus also instructed us to be sure to invite people who would never be able to return the favour.

Today is not a “once off” event. It is the culmination of a consistency of service shown throughout the year by a dedicated group of people who have provided a meal and an affirming grace for the vulnerable of the city every Sunday lunch time. Thank you for your witness. Alan

The Situation in Khayelitsha

Despite declines nationally in key crime indicators, Khayelitsha has seen an increase in the number of murders, attempted murders and sexual assaults over the past four years. Between April 2011 and March 2012 there were 360 murders in Khayelitsha. During the same period, there were 648 sexual offences. Complaints by organisations prompted the National Police Commissioner to commission a task team to investigate the efficiency of policing in Khayelitsha. The report revealed that the community police forums in Khayelitsha are not operating effectively. At Khayelitsha Police Station, only one vehicle and one officer are assigned to each sector for visible policing; suspects are often held for more than 48 hours without charge – a severe violation of people’s constitutional rights; and police officers also often fail to take witness statements, resulting in cases being thrown out of court.

Given the lack of trust in the police to provide safety and security, some Khayelitsha residents have taken the law into their own hands, resulting in an explosion of vigilante killings – according to the SAPS, 78 such killings were reported between April 2011 and June 2012 in Khayelitsha. Residents explain that because police and the courts are failing their communities, people are taking the law into their own hands to ensure that justice is done. More recently we have witnessed brutal warfare between rival gangs of schoolchildren, resulting in the deaths of a number of young learners and many children not going to school fearful of being caught in the violence.

GOING FORWARD On 13 December 2012, the first hearings will be held in the Cape Town High Court to determine if the SAPS interdict application will be successful. In the build-up to the hearing we will be actively campaigning to raise awareness of the Commission of Inquiry.

There will be a gathering outside the High Court at 10 a.m. on 13 December 2012.

Do time differently

Do time differently

December 2, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Do time differently

Happy New Year — yes it is that time of year again — Advent. Today is the first day of the new year according to the Christian calendar. The Christ-ian Calendar is centered around Christ — his birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, ascension and reign — that invites us to “do time differently”. To live according to a different time — God’s time revealed in Jesus. Having just returned from a short trip overseas I know what is it like to live according to a different “time zone”. When everyone is asleep I am wide awake and vice versa! It is not easy to be “at odds” with local time — and yet that is the consequence of following Jesus — or as he said: “be in the world but not of the world”.

Instead of speaking about New Year Resolutions we speak of Advent Repentances. Repentance means to turn around to face God again. The purpose is to ready ourselves to receive the coming of Jesus into the world. To be alert and watchful for his coming because we know that Jesus comes in the most unlikely ways and to the most unlikely places — a stable instead of a palace. During Advent we repent — we change. We look inside ourselves and ask what of us Jesus longs to touch and heal and cut out or add in. We look at our families and ask which relationships Jesus longs to transform. We look at our communities and ask where there is a hunger for justice and a thirst for fairness. And in these four weeks of Advent we make the commitment to fast and pray — to reflect and act on these areas of our living — so that when Christmas is celebrated the Christ child finds room in our lives and world.

If we knew that Royalty was coming for a visit on 25 December to our home, business, church, city, etc., surely we would not be sitting around idly? We would have a sense of urgency and excitement about us. We would make preparations. We would change. We would repent.

Strength for your Advent preparations, Alan

Inner contradictions

Inner contradictions

November 25, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Inner contradictions

Cape Town’s own Charlie Chaplin protesting (silently) outside parliament this week. Insightfully holding a model airplane (bought during the arms deal) to his head like a gun in the one hand and a copy of our Constitution in the other. I am always inspired to see “Charlie”. He has never spoken to me (or anyone), but he is present among us as a silent but very graphic parable. He is an “old” person yet he gets out and makes his voice “heard”.

 This past week has felt heavy. the spilling of blood in Israel / Palestine highlights again the deep veins of fear and hatred that embed our humanity. Even as we pray for the peace deal to take hold we must ask when we will learn that after all the blood has been shed – we will still have to come round a table to talk – so why not learn to do so as the first response and not the last response. This is simple logic but difficult practice!

And even as I reflect on this with regard to international conflict I cannot ignore the fact that it is as true in many of our personal relationships. It is not easy to “be angry and not sin” [Eph. 4:26] or to “speak the truth in love” [Eph. 4:15]. Sometimes we think that because what we are saying is the truth (at least as far as we perceive it to be) then we can say it any way we want to – but this merely plows the field for further animosity to be sown in the field of that person’s life. Oh Jesus help us to learn to speak the truth with the hope that love will flower. But sometimes the desire to see another hurt is too delicious a taste, and let us not be too quick to deny this.

I find the following words from the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung challenging – inviting us to look within ourselves to discover our own inner contradictions that play out as conflict in the world:

Today humanity, as never before, is split into two apparently irreconcilable halves. The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his (sic) inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves. C. G. Jung 1959

Some of you are aware of the work of Peter Rollins – a theologian from Ireland. We have reflected on a couple of his parables from his book: The Orthodox Heretic.

Here is an extract from his up-coming book called the Idolatry of God. I find him a challenging author to wrestle with …

Strength for the journey inwards, Alan

Moonlight Mass is this Wednesday evening!

Speak the truth ...

Speak the truth …

November 18, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Speak the truth …

Above is a quote from Maggie Kuhn who dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues. At age 65 she founded the Gray Panthers — a national organisation dedicated to social justice — specifically against Age Discrimination in the areas of retirement, housing, and health care.

 

The Secrecy Bill is set to pass through the NCOP by the end of this month and the securocrats have dug in their heels. Yet across the country, there has been a rise of a massive people’s movement to fight for the free flow of information, tackling not the Secrecy Bill but broader threats to our right to know. It’s time to bring it all together.

Starting on Monday 19 November, R2K is hosting a week-long ‘Camp-Out for Openness’ at the gates of Parliament, calling for ‘Free Information! Full Participation! Fair Process!’

The Right 2 Know campaign is bringing together communities and causes from across society who want not only to stop the Secrecy Bill, but fight for broader openness in our society.

Join the Day & Night Camp-Out! There will be workshops, teach-ins, rallies, pickets and even a film festival that will be showing each night at 19h00.

R2K Freedom Film Festival

Details Here

Films will screen outdoors every evening at 19h00 in partnership with the Tri-Continental Film Festival.

Monday: Cointelpro 101 (56 min)
Tuessday: Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (91 min)
Wednesday: Bitter Seeds (88 min)
Thursday: Man on Ground (88min)
Friday: Five Broken Cameras (90 min)

Camp-Out Programme

Engaging MPs:

Every morning and late afternoon we will be outside the MPs entrance/exit with placards at 08h30 and 16h30.

Monday 19 November: Towards the Right to Know

10h00 Teach-in: Camp Leadership Agreements
13h00 People’s Parliament: Rally to Stop the Secrecy Bill!
14h30 Teach-in: Is the Constitution Pro-Poor?
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Tuesday 20 November: Right to Know for Basic Services

10h00 Teach-in: The Education Crisis
13h00 People’s Parliament: Keep Our Schools Open / Solidarity with Bisho Camp!
14h30 Teach-in: Electricity Price & Energy Future
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Wednesday 21 November: Workplace Democracy

10h00 Teach-in: Where does all the money go: Wages, profit, taxes
13h00 People’s Parliament: Marikana & De Doorns solidarity
14h30 Teach-in: Housing, Land & Evictions
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Thursday 22 November: Women’s Power, Women’s Struggle

10h00 Teach-in: Rural Women’s Struggles
13h00 People’s Parliament: 16 Days of Act: Stop the Violence, & End Patriarchy
14h30 Teach-in: Paying for National Health Insurance
18h00 Night vigil for Openness: Lead by Religious Leaders
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Friday 23 November: The Right to Communicate

10h00 Teach-in: Communication Rights in Reality
13h00 People’s Parliament: Demanding Free Basic & Affordable SMS and Airtime
14h30 Teach-in: The Right to Call
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

We have the right to know, Alan