Unpardonable stupidity

Unpardonable stupidity

June 24, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Unpardonable stupidity

Do you remember Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes? Prof. Njabulo S. Ndebele reminded me of it again in his Sunday newspaper article entitled, “The Emperor is Naked”. It tells the story of a fashion-obsessed Emperor who has no time to govern his country, care for his people and show leadership. With a coat to show off “for every hour of the day”, he spends all his time and money on clothes.

One day two swindlers come into town posing as master weavers. They claim to make clothes out of the most fabulous fabric. The clothes made from this fabric become invisible to anyone “unfit to hold office” or who is “unpardonably stupid”. Such clothes, the Emperor reasoned, should enable him to discover not only those in his service unfit for office, but how to distinguish the clever from the stupid. Without hesitation, the Emperor advances huge sums of money for this wonderful “fabric” to be manufactured.

Soon, through astute marketing, the weavers ensure everyone in the city knows of their wondrous creation. The entire population is curious to see who among them will be found unfit for office and stupid, nogal!

So afraid of being thought of as unfit for office or stupid, everyone including the Emperor is convinced that the non-existent new clothes of the Emperor are magnificent. It was a child who recognised reality for what it was and called it out: “The Emperor is Naked”.
This story has stood the test of time because it contains great truth about our human condition. I was reminded again of how pride and fear so easily prevent us from seeing things as they are and how they also silence us from speaking the truth.

Jesus said, “You must become like a little child if you want to enter the Kingdom of God”. Indeed …

Peace, Alan

Gardening is Godly

Gardening is Godly

June 17, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Gardening is Godly

One of the things we agreed to at our Congregational Meeting the other night was that we would go ahead with the GREENING around the sanctuary. So, between the sanctuary and the metal railing we are going to plant a garden — imagine granadilla creepers interspersed with tomatoes and goose/blue/raspberries.

 And here are the reasons why:

  • Gardening is Godly! Remember right back in the beginning — God planted a Garden. Genesis 2:8.
  • To celebrate the beauty of God’s creation.
  • To be a sign of Jesus’ promise of abundant life.
  • To honour the Biblical teaching that we must “not reap to the very edge of our fields — leave them for the poor” and vulnerable of society: the widow, orphan and foreigner. Leviticus 19:9 reminds us that the poor are legitimate shareholders of every business.
  • To extend what we do outside into a educative display inside — to encourage all of us to become Godly gardeners — planters of food for the nation. Imagine if the boarders of our property overflowed with food for the hungry.
  • To offset some of the carbon emissions that we as a community generate. (Today we will be launching our “carbon tax — green box” — more details later).
  • All the planting will take place within used Dairymaid milk crates — to prove that we don’t need a big garden to grow our own food. This is the creative work of Touching The Earth Lightly (www.touchingtheearthlightly.com).

This week the seeds will be planted (off-site) with the hope that in Spring they will be well established to “come to Church”.

Peace, Alan

Perceptions

Perceptions

June 10, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Perceptions

It has been a full week at CMM. It began Monday evening welcoming the @MoonLightMass Cycle Ride. About 900 of us set off from Green Point Circle and enjoyed a leisurely ride taking over the streets from 9 p.m. to about 10.30 p.m., ending on Greenmarket Square. To match the free beer that was being offered on the Square — we invited people to taste our Heavenly Coffee and Wicked Cupcakes. It was an instant hit for those who dared to come inside the sanctuary (which remains an intimidating place for many to even enter). And they brought their bikes with them. What struck me was how many people asked: “Is this a fully functioning church?” or “Does this church still operate?” It was great to be able to say YES! But it just goes to show the distance that exists between the church and the rest of society (especially among young adults) if when the church reaches out in a creative way it makes people think “others” must have taken over the church and turned it into something else.

On Wednesday we had our Second Congregational Meeting for the year and I will highlight a couple of things that came out of this gathering today and in the near future.

On Thursday evening some of us demonstrated outside the Labia Movie Theatre because of their continued refusal to screen the movie Roadmap to Apartheid after first agreeing to do so. We then came to CMM to watch the documentary. It not only enlightened us to the vast array of Apartheid-like injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, but also reminded us of our own not too distant past. The “Land” is a huge issue in the Middle East — and so it remains a crucial issue in South Africa that needs to be speedily addressed or else peace will continue to escape us.

 Peace, Alan

 PS. A special welcome to Stepping Stones Children’s Centre.

Authentic conversation

Authentic conversation

June 3, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Authentic conversation

Pentecostal Prayer

Lord, give us the strength to listen to the whispers of the abandoned, the pleas of the afraid and the anguish of those without hope.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Truth and Reconciliation Commission

___________

This coming Wednesday we will be having our quarterly Congregational Meeting at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend — whether you have been at CMM for years, or have just arrived. This is an opportunity for us to discuss anything and everything that is on our hearts and minds with one another. It is also an opportunity to be “filled in” about things taking place in and through CMM, and the broader Circuit (group of churches) that we form part of: like the Youth and Sunday School Developments, Finance, Maintenance, Sunday Lunches with the Homeless, Sunday Worship, the Jesus School and “As it is in Heaven Coffee” e.g. “Are we now like the money changers in the temple?”

___________

Last week we heard that Pentecost is not only the birth of Church but the birth of authentic conversation. Or maybe we could say that Pentecost is the birth of the Church because it was the birth of authentic conversation. I say this because for there to be authentic community (the Church) there must be authentic conversation. Authentic conversation neither denies nor is determined by power relationships. The result of Pentecost is the powerless speaking and the powerful listening.

A helpful acronym that should make us pause is: W-A-I-T — Why-Am-ITalking?

Do my conversations bring life? Do they bring freedom and joy for all? Are they true? Are they gentle and merciful? Who am I afraid to speak to? Who may be afraid to speak to me?

A few questions to live with … Alan

Fast for the vulnerable

Fast for the vulnerable

May 28, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Fast for the vulnerable

While the most powerful person in the country seeks protection — protection of his dignity that he believes has been violated by a painting — the most vulnerable of our land remain exposed to just about every form of violation one can think of.

When violation is multiplied by violation it is not long before it manifests itself in violence. The first victims of this violence are those who are equally vulnerable, and so the cycle of violation among the vulnerable spirals into self-sustaining self-destruction.

It is this violation/violence cycle that really threatens the dignity of this nation and exposes the nakedness of our President. The fact that it fails to secure the immediate attention and urgent action of us all is even more worrisome.

This has been highlighted by the knowledge that in the last two months eight people have been ‘necklaced’ to death in Khayelitsha. That is one person per week!

Stoned — crushed — burnt and all this while bystanders as young as 14 years old dance and celebrate. We are killing ourselves, I say “we”, because we cannot divorce ourselves from the vicious cycle of violation and violence. We perpetuate it through “ignorance, through weakness and through our own deliberate fault.”

I encourage you to FAST for a day this week to mourn and grieve for our nation’s real violations of dignity.

Lord have mercy,
Alan
Sunday 27 May 2012

Words to inspire

Words to inspire

May 20, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Words to inspire

This past week I have been at Synod in George. Today we will be sharing in the Worship Services of all the surrounding Methodist churches.

I leave you with a few quotes, some which I have used in a few sermons of late:

You can safely assume that we’ve created God in our own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people we do.
Fr. Thomas Weston

I really love God as much as I love the person I love the least.
Dorothy Day

Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible.
Dalai Lama

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Anon

We are what we repeatedly do … excellence then, is not an act but a habit.
Aristotle

The biggest difference between you and God is that God doesn’t think he is you.
Anne Lamott

The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependent upon what is wrong. But this is the addict’s excuse, and we know that it will not do.
Wendell Berry

Grace & Peace, Alan

PS. Vacuum cleaners also need to be cleaned.

Suffocating sadness

Suffocating sadness

May 13, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Suffocating sadness

Last week’s sermon entitled: Suicide — When Sadness Suffocates is up on our website: www.cmm.org.za. The sermon by no means covers all that could or should be said about such tragedy, but the hope is that it will nudge us towards a less judgmental and more compassionate place of understanding. Here is a brief summary:

  • Suicide is not the unforgiveable sin.
  • Suicide does not defeat God.
  • Suicide is most often the result of an illness called depression.
  • Suicide is often done as an act of love — thinking it will free others of the burden that one feels one has become.
  • Suicide causes immeasurable pain and grief (and guilt) for the living.
  • Suicide may end the physical pain, but I wonder when we meet Jesus face-to-face whether we will be invited by him to deal with all the unresolved areas of our lived life.
  • Suicide highlights the need for all of us to be sensitive and available to each other to listen.
  • Suicide highlights that we are (+) powerless to change/cause/control another person’s life.
  • Prayer, medication, counselling/therapy, diet, exercise, all can contribute to healing.

Suicide is not a desire to die so much as a fervent wish not to go on living.

In the light of this darkness I remind you of the promise-filled road to Emmaus that we walked three weeks ago: • Jesus meets us on the road paved with pain • Jesus comes to us even before we invite him • Jesus’ presence is not dependent on our ability to see him • Jesus has already defeated what has defeated us • Our eyes are open to Jesus among us when we do the Word.

I pray that these promises will pull us through the pain, Alan

When tragedy dwarfs words

May 6, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on When tragedy dwarfs words

Some weeks are soaked in sadness. When words are dwarfed by tragedy. When feelings shut down because they fear to feel too much. When meaning evaporates without a trace. When answers give way to questions and questions don’t make sense to ask. This past week felt like that for me.

Last Sunday I heard that Zviko (the caretaker at Calvary Methodist Church — and he really is a “care-giver”) was gruesomely stabbed in the neck during the early morning Sunday service. He is still in ICU (stable) but every day that passes gives us hope that he will recover — although for at least 24 hours we were not so sure he would.

I ask you to pray for that community who are deeply traumatised.

What makes the attempted murder of Zviko even more distressing is that I know the person who did it. In fact he has been worshipping, on and off over the past two years, here at CMM. I helped him with transport to get home to Lesotho two weeks ago. I knew he was not completely well in his mind, but I never ever thought he would be violent in any way. He is now in prison (unstable) and every day that passes I know he will be further traumatised.

I ask you to pray for him — O Lord have mercy.

On Wednesday I received the tragic news about Rev. Dr. Ross Olivier’s (the previous General Secretary of the Methodist Church of SA and present head of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary) death. In the darkness of his depression he took his own life. An enormously gifted minister — everything he touched turned to be a sign of the Kingdom of God — through his words I, and so many others, heard the Words of God.

I ask you to pray for Shayne and the boys and all the seminarians.

O Lord, grant us your peace, Alan

 Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus — the one who understands our suffering.

 And also with you.

O Lord — you were once locked in a tomb — dead and buried. Some of us here have recently breathed in the cold air of death and the stale air of despair.

 Breathe on us Holy Spirit the breath of life.

 O Lord — light of the world — you who experienced darkness at noon. Some of us here stumble in the night.

 Lord the darkness is as light to you. May your light fall gently on our path.

O Lord — you who once cried out in prayerful abandonment — pinned down by wickedness on all sides. Some of us here groan silently, unable to even pray.

 Hear the groans of your people — receive them as our prayers of longing to have our voices returned and our lives resurrected.

 Amen.

 Amen.

Freedom

Freedom

April 29, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Freedom

On Friday we celebrated Freedom Day and on Tuesday we mark Workers Day, or otherwise known as May Day. There is something significant about these two days being so close together. The first reminds us that even the most oppressive systems can be overcome. The second reminds us that freedom without work and the means to provide for one’s family and future is no freedom at all. Both remind us that our lives today are a precious result of what others have done before — leaving us in debt to those who come after us.

Take for example the eight-hour working day that many of us take for granted, but this was hard won. First a 12-hour working day had to be demanded — then a 10-hour day. Utopian socialist, Robert Owen of England, had raised the demand for a 10-hour day as early as 1810. French workers demand for a 12-hour day was granted after the February revolution of 1848.

In the United States, where May Day was born, Philadelphia carpenters campaigned for a 10-hour day in 1791. By the 1830s, this had become a general demand. In 1835, workers in Philadelphia organised a general strike, led by Irish coal heavers. Their banners read, “From 6 to 6, ten hours work and two hours for meals.” From 1830 to 1860, the average work day had dropped from 12 hours to 11 hours.

Already in this period, the demand for an eight-hour day was being raised. In 1836, after succeeding in attaining the 10-hour day in Philadelphia, the National Laborer declared: “We have no desire to perpetuate the 10-hour system, for we believe that eight hours daily labor is more than enough for any man to perform.”

At the 1863 convention of the Machinists and Blacksmiths Union, the eight-hour day was declared a top priority. The heart of the movement was in Chicago, organised mainly by the International Working Peoples Association.

Business and the state reacted by increasing its support for the police and the militia. Local business in Chicago purchased a $2 000 machine gun for the Illinois National Guard to use against strikers. On 3 May 1886 police fired into a crowd of striking workers, killing four and wounding many.

We think of Andries Tatane who was killed by the Police on 13 April 2011 during a service delivery protest in Ficksburg. There is much WORK for FREEDOM left to do.

Alan

The Blessedness of Unity

The Blessedness of Unity

April 26, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Blessedness of Unity

On Wednesday evening this sanctuary was packed — as we hosted a public dialogue on Palestine/Israel. It was packed with people who don’t normally come here. In fact it was packed full by people who would normally never come here — people of other religions and people with no religion: Jew/Muslim/Christian/Atheist and others.

Lots of people expressed their real appreciation that the Church would be “willing to host us”. A few asked: “How does your congregation feel about us being here?” At this I was reminded about last Sunday’s readings “how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” [Ps 133], and I could respond: “They are cool about it!”

I have included this graphic “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” to remind us that there are many different practices from different traditions that people through the ages have found to be means of grace. The question we should each ask ourselves is: “how many branches are on our tree?”.

Without branches we will not be able to hold any fruit …

Peace, Alan
Sunday 22 April 2012