Pray the Scriptures

Pray the Scriptures

September 23, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Pray the Scriptures

This coming week I invite you to be deliberate in carving out time to pray the Scriptures. We don’t need to know the Bible backwards to do this — so all of us can give it a go.

First we carve out a quiet moment of solitude — acknowledging our desire to connect with God through the Scriptures. After an initial prayer for openness to God “who is at work in you” (Phil. 2:13), we read a passage from the Gospels, perhaps the Gospel lesson from the Lectionary readings (see next week’s Scripture readings — Esther 7: 1-6; 9-10; 9: 20-22; Psalm 124; James 5: 13-20; Mark 9: 38-50).

Then, as Wendy Miller suggests: Read the passage slowly, lingering over the phrases and words, as you would enjoy and linger over a good meal. As a word or a sentence catches your attention (even slightly), pause and stay with those words.

Meditate/reflect on the word or phrase; turning it over in your mind and heart. Listen deeply to the meaning, allowing the word to enter all the rooms of your life. Respond to God in prayer about what you are discovering as God uses the word from Scripture to read your life. Be still, and rest in the spacious and gracious presence of God. Following the times when you embark on this inner journey, you may want to pause and notice how the journey was for you: How has God’s presence surprised you through praying the Scripture? What feelings or attitudes did you carry with you as you began? What change in feeling/attitude has occurred in you? Where is this shift taking you? In what way are you more aware of what is within your heart? Gently remember, that God invites us to turn to him with all of our heart.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Alan

We are already one

We are already one

September 16, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on We are already one

Last week we heard the piercing question from the letter of James asking us: “Do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (James 2:1). James was referring to the different ways his congregation treated the rich from the poor. It made James question whether they really believed in Jesus or not. That is heavy stuff!

James is correct to connect his congregation’s behaviour to his congregation’s beliefs — because ultimately it is our behaviour that reveals what we truly believe — not the songs we sing or sermons we preach.

One of the areas we have struggled with as a congregation is how we can share tea/coffee after worship with one another — and with the homeless that visit. Many of us feel overwhelmed, inadequate and uncomfortable. We leave rather than stay. We “hand-out” rather than share. In so doing we miss an opportunity to imitate God’s free welcome and undeserved hospitality of us. We also miss attending to Jesus who comes to us in those who society says are the “least”. How we behave around the tea/coffee table is probably more important to God than what we do around the Holy Communion table. In fact, the tea/coffee table is the real Holy Communion table that we should “do in remembrance of Jesus”.

I know this stuff is not easy — but we must wrestle with it as a community if we are to try to hold Christ at the centre. The truth is that we are all family. No one is a guest. No one is a visitor. No one is a stranger. We are one. Maybe this is the great underlying sin — that leads to so many other sins, and that is the belief that we are separate from God and others when the truth is we are all ONE. We do not have to become one — we are one already.

When we resume tea/coffee again let us accept Jesus’ invitation to live out our oneness.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Lord have mercy on us, Alan.

Time as currency

Time as currency

September 9, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Time as currency

A little while back I watched the movie: In Time. It’s a parable in which time (years, hours, minutes and seconds) is the currency of the day. Instead of being paid in money one is paid in time. The first 25 years of one’s life is given for free — after that your clock (implanted in people’s forearms) starts ticking. When that clock reaches zero, one dies instantly. Society is divided by social class living in specialised towns called ‘Time Zones’. The poor live in the ghettos, where youth predominates, and must work each day to earn a few more hours of life. The rich live in a bubble of luxury where the middle-aged and elderly predominate, though they look young because they have stopped aging at 25 years old as well.

Society is structured in such a way that “for few to be immortal, many must die”. The poor are always in a hurry — anxiously mindful of every second — where the smallest delays (like missing a bus) can result in their death. The Salvation Army equivalent receives donations of time to distribute to those with only seconds to live. All the while the rich have ‘immortal’ amounts of time but very little meaning — or as one character says, “I have time, but no life”. Indeed, there are none so poor as those who only have time/money. The movie continues in Robin Hood fashion where ‘Time Banks’ are robbed causing a global time-crash for the rich. As time is redistributed the time zones of the rich are ‘occupied’ by the poor.

Using time as currency is clever because we have an innate sense that time is free and fair for all. The fact that some have too much while others have too little is easily discerned as unjust, yet in our society today inequality is often justified on the basis that some are more deserving than others. Marikana has unearthed for us again the brutality of inequality where some risk their lives every day doing hard, hard work only to earn 152 times (there is that word again) less than the manager of the same company.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Lord have mercy on us. Alan

We see what we see...

We see what we see…

September 2, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on We see what we see…

These photos remind us that where we stand determines what we see. We see what we see according to our position and place in society. Where we live and what we earn. Our gender and skin colour, etc. May this reminder humble us in the way we share our own point of view and inspire us to welcome the different points of view of others. Together we may see the truth more fully.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Peace, Alan

Live more like Jesus

Live more like Jesus

August 26, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Live more like Jesus

Last weekend I was attending the Methodist Heritage Indaba in Durban. People from all over Southern Africa were invited to tell the story of Methodism in their area. It was an amazing history lesson that lasted three full days. (Historians can talk!) I was inspired by the courage of the early Methodists. I reckon we could move mountains if we had just a mustard-seed-amount of their courage!

We also visited other Heritage sites like Gandhi and Albert Luthuli’s home. Both of these great leaders came across Methodists. Luthuli’s experience was educative and life-giving but sadly Gandhi’s experience was one of rejection.

Gandhi was barred from entering the church door with the words: “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?”

In a speech to Women Missionaries on 28 July 1925, Gandhi said, “… although I am myself not a Christian, as an humble student of the Bible, who approaches it with faith and reverence, I wish respectfully to place before you the essence of the Sermon on the Mount … There are thousands of men and women today who, though they may not have heard about the Bible or Jesus, have more faith and are more god fearing than Christians who know the Bible, and who talk of its Ten Commandments…”

To a Christian missionary Gandhi once said, “To live the Gospel is the most effective way, most effective in the beginning, in the middle and in the end. … Not just preach but live the life according to the light … If, therefore, you go on serving people and ask them also to serve, they would understand. But you quote instead John 3:16 and ask them to believe it and that has no appeal to me, and I am sure people will not understand it. The Gospel will be more powerful when practiced and preached.”

“A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon the fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer and subtler than that of the rose.”

In Peace, Alan

Gandhi’s advice to Christians, “First, I would suggest that all Christians, missionaries begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, practice it without adulterating it or toning it down. Third, emphasise love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people.”

Toilet revolution

Toilet revolution

August 19, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Toilet revolution

Cape Town was cold, wet, windy and miserable this past weekend. In a story headlined “Brace yourself for a stormy weekend”, the Cape Times advised its readers that “you might be wise to opt for the duvet, a crackling fire and a good supply of something to warm the cockles”. This was surely a sensible suggestion for those with a warm place to sleep and a bit of cash for supplies.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, when the northwester was pounding in at more than 50km/h, accompanied by torrents of rain and a spectacular lightning storm, I woke up with the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in mind. These two organisations have been arguing as protests engulfed the Cape Flats in recent weeks.

Last Friday, about 500 residents of Kanana and New Rest informal settlements occupied the N2, reportedly threw stones and faeces at the police, and disrupted flight schedules at Cape Town International. Clearly the toilet revolution is yet to be settled.

A recent report by Municipal IQ says that this year has been the biggest protest year in South Africa since 2004, with the Western Cape leading at 24%. Karen Heese, Municipal IQ’s economist, is quoted as saying: “It was worrying that 88% of protests last month were violent. Almost half of the protests in July occurred in informal settlements.” Indeed, the protests claimed the life of a bus driver in Khayelitsha earlier this month.

These protests are everywhere, including Johannesburg’s financial hub, Sandton, where violence flared up last week, partially closing the highway. Their national profile indicates that poor people are simply fed up and are fast losing any remaining confidence in the ability of any government to change their living conditions.

So why do Western Cape premier Helen Zille and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille believe Cape Town to be different? If we buy their argument, residents of Kanana and New Rest got up at 4am on Friday and occupied the N2 because the youth league told them to make the city “ungovernable”.

The mayor and the premier were so terrified of this youth league that they filed a criminal complaint under the Intimidation Act seeking recourse through the criminal justice system. The youth league must really be powerful.

But this is a straw man. Zille and De Lille are calculating politicians. They aim to create a different narrative aimed at reassuring the core base of the DA. The message is that an otherwise beautiful and functioning Cape Town has suddenly come under siege by a violent and unruly youth league and that the police will be all out to restore law and order.

This narrative is meant to make it “acceptable” to see images of police shooting rubber bullets in battles with residents who are living in shacks. The subtext is that the cops are out looking for criminally violent youth leaguers.

This has a strong whiff of “swart gevaar” — the message of the apartheid government when it faced stiff resistance. The government tried in vain to reassure white South Africa by claiming that “terrorists” were putting schoolchildren in the front lines of protests.

So when De Lille says, “What is particularly disturbing in this well-directed action — with evidence again indicating that this was led by the (youth league) — schoolchildren were deliberately put in the front lines,” it sounds disturbingly familiar.

But what should come as a surprise to the mayor and the premier is that the N2 is not permanently occupied. Anyone driving along the highway is aware that those settlements are a time bomb waiting to explode — a place where any populist campaign will find fertile ground.

The reality is that protests are breaking out across South Africa because millions of poor people are sick and tired of the conditions they encounter every day. And the DA is facing the same crisis of legitimacy in the areas it rules that the ANC faces on a national scale.

The real SA is full of angry poor people. They are in revolt. Zille and De Lille can’t wish or charge them away. Instead, they’d better do something — fast.

• Morudu is a writer based in Cape Town.

[I would just add that we ALL better do something fast! Praying for courage, Alan]

 

We are one

We are one

August 12, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on We are one

I mentioned last week that I was invited to attend prayer at the Ottery Road Mosque and to break the fast with the congregation.

The sermon from the Imam revolved around his opening statement: “Work in this life as if you’re going to live forever and work for your next life as if you’re going to die tomorrow.” Well those of you who know some Methodist history will know that John Wesley said pretty much the exact same thing over 200 years ago. Isn’t that incredible? The Imam was visiting from Iran to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in South Africa and I get to hear echoes of the founder of my own faith being spoken.

We are called to “do to others as we would have them do to us” yet this is too often forgotten when it comes to how we relate to people of other faiths. Jesus commands us to love one another. To love is to be open to learn from another. I pray that we will be open to learning from people of other faiths — to learn not only about their faith, but about God.

Witnessing the prayer and fasting of Ramadan I have been challenged to take my own faith journey more seriously. Fasting has never been a large part of my spirituality but I am inspired to grow more in this area.

I invite you to pray for the victims of the Sikh temple in Wisconsin last week. I agree with the Rabbi who spoke at a vigil following the tragedy: “It’s so easy to come together when there’s a terrible tragedy. It’s more difficult to come together when things are going well because we get caught up in our day-to-day lives, we re-erect the walls that separate us and we wait until the next tragedy, well, it can’t be that way anymore. It’s really time to demonstrate every day – not just on a terrible day like today – to demonstrate every day that we are one, that we are in this together, that our skin colours, that our religion and our nation of origin is meaningless in the face of our unified humanity.”

We are one!

In Peace, Alan.

Finding our way

Finding our way

August 5, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Finding our way

The Aral Sea

The faint outline is the shoreline of the Aral Sea in 1960 while the dark areas (top left) indicate the reduced size of the Aral Sea by 2009. It has shrunk some 250 km.

Some of you will know that when it comes to directions — I need a little help. In fact, I need a lot of help. I am sure that I could make a significant reduction to the world’s carbon emissions if I didn’t get so lost.

Before I came to Cape Town my brothers gave me a GPS to help me find my way around. This has definitely helped me, although I fear I have become over-reliant on it.

This past week I was in Wellington where I was facilitating a workshop on conflict resolution with colleagues. On my way home I had a real sense that I knew the way but I plugged in the GPS nevertheless. At one point the GPS was telling me to turn right but I was pretty certain that home was to my left. And despite me knowing my history of having no sense of direction it took everything in me to humbly go in the direction that the GPS was telling me to go. So I betrayed all my natural inclinations and turned right — and what felt like a mistake was actually correct.

This experience made me think of the Covenant Prayer that we pray at the beginning of each year:

“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 material interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves…”

It was good to be reminded that it is in my best interest to sometimes go against my natural inclinations.

I am aware that this illustration is simplistic and that it is not always so easy to discern God’s voice as it is to hear the voice of the GPS. It may take time to discern, and quite often we will need the help of others to do so. For this reason we would do well to seek out a spiritual director/mentor/coach/counsellor to share the journey of our life with. Over time as they get to know us they may be able to help us to hear the directions to help us find our way home.

In Peace, Alan

To travel is to learn!

To travel is to learn!

July 29, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on To travel is to learn!

One of things I learnt on my trip was that C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast. (I always thought he was born in England.) I was taken to the St. Mark’s Church where he was baptised by his Grandfather Rev. Thomas Hamilton who lived in the rectory alongside.

 

The doorknob of the rectory was a bold brass Lion in the centre

of a bright red door and the inspiration for Aslan, the Lion, in

The Chronicles of Narnia.  

 

On a nearby statue of him it reads: “Born 1898 and reborn 1931.”

Lewis once wrote: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

In The Four Loves he wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

In Peace, Alan

Our Deepest Fear

Our Deepest Fear

July 22, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Our Deepest Fear

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Nelson Mandela

Each year at this time we are reminded of the fact that one person can indeed make a difference. To me, this poem by Marianne Williamson (and often quoted by Dr Nelson Mandela), clearly encourages us to have faith in the faithfulness of God and become the person Jesus longs for each one of us to be.

I am grateful that Madiba had the courage to stand up and shine and manifest the glory of God that is within him, regardless of the consequences.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the
glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

May each one of us be liberated from our deepest fear!

Grace & Peace, Adrienne