Sunday, 30 August 2009

August 31, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 30 August 2009

Dear Friends,                                    

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Last week while we were reflecting on the Armour of God in Ephesians 6:10-20, we were reminded that this text is not a call to arms but a call to armour—not a call to fight, but a call to stand—not a call to defend God, but a call to imitate God. 

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I quoted from a famous old preacher by the name of John Henry Jowatt who suggested that too often we want a shield to make us comfortable but Paul wanted a shield to keep him holy…he went on to say:

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Paul wanted a shield, not against failure…but against the pessimism that may be borne of failure.  Paul wanted a shield, not against injury…but against the foul offspring of revenge.  Paul wanted a shield, not against pain…but against the spirit of murmuring which is so frequently borne of pain, the deadly, deadening mood of complaint. 

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Paul wanted a shield, not against disappointment…but against the bitterness that is borne of disappointment, the mood of cynicism which sours the milk of human kindness and perverts all the gentle currents of the soul.  Paul wanted a shield, not against difficulty…but against the fear that is borne of difficulty, the cowardice and disloyalty which are so often bred of stupendous tasks.

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Let us pray for this shield that Paul prayed for.

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Peace, Alan.  buy The Great Race

 

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Sunday, 23 August 2009

August 28, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dear Friends,

Below I include part of a graduation speech given by Paul Hawken, an award-winning environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and Journalist. May it inspire and challenge you as much as it has me — Peace, Alan.

“You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system and we need it within a few decades. You are the programmers. This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat, have been broken.

There is invisible writing on the back of the certificate you will receive, ‘you are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.’ When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science behind what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to this world.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organisations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.

Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in ideas, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, business people, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisher folk,
engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America and, as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
4
The living world is not ‘out there’ somewhere, but in your heart. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The generations before you failed. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

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Sunday, 16 August 2009

August 18, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 16 August 2009

 

Dear Friends,                                                                    

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Every now and then we need to be reminded about our calling in life.  The Scriptures are filled with powerful reminders like Paul’s amazing suggestion that we are called to be “Christ’s ambassadors” [2 Cor. 5:20].  Take a moment to think about what it means to be an ambassador…..

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Recently I read: “An ambassador is a representative who bears someone else’s message in their absence. 

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Ambassadors live in foreign countries, which they never really call home.  Living within a country other than their own, their practices, loyalties, national interests and even their accent appear strange to the citizens of those countries where they are posted.” 

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[Katongole and Rice: Reconciling All Things].  In short, ambassadors represent another authority within a foreign land.  I think this is just what Paul had in mind as he hopes we will represent Christ in the world. 

 

So I reckon we should see Sunday School  as “Christ’s Ambassador College”.  

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This should be our greatest hope for our young people: namely that they graduate with degrees in “Jesus Studies” that inform their practices, loyalties and interests which will ultimately transform the world. 

Sunday School should not be seen as “keeping the children occupied while the parents are in church”, but rather a campus of radical learning that will facilitate world liberation.  To this end I invite you to please pray for the future of our Sunday School—I mean, “Christ’s Ambassador College”.  The Witches of Eastwick dvd Peace, Alan

 

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Sunday, 9 August 2009

August 9, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 9 August 2009

Dear Friends,

space

Below I include part of a graduation speech given by Paul Hawken, an award-winning environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and Journalist. May it inspire and challenge you as much as it has me — Peace, Alan.

space

“You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system and we need it within a few decades. You are the programmers. This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat, have been broken.

space

There is invisible writing on the back of the certificate you will receive, ‘you are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.’ When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science behind what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

space

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to this world.

space

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organisations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.

space

Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in ideas, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, business people, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisher folk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America and, as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

space

The living world is not ‘out there’ somewhere, but in your heart. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

space

The generations before you failed. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

Sunday, 2 August 2009

August 9, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 2 August 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                                        

 

How blessed we have been the past two months as part of the CMM community!  You have witnessed the grace and mercy of the Living God to us—embracing us immediately, inviting us into your lives and homes with love, and supporting us at all times.  The stories you have shared with us—your stories—have deepened our understanding of God’s work in the world.  Your stories are a chapter in God’s story and we are thankful to have heard and participated in these stories.

 

As we gather at the Lord’s Table this morning, we rejoice that the Eternal One feeds us with abundant love and truth.  We rejoice that we have had the privilege of breaking bread with so many of you and we pray that CMM will continue to feed the hungry and invite them to feast on the Bread of Life. 

 

We pray that you will be confident in the work of the Spirit in the lives of us all.  You are our sisters and brothers in Christ; know that if you find yourselves in North Carolina there will be a table to eat at and a place to rest your heads.

 

With thanksgiving in our hearts,  Diana and Jennifer

 

 

Sunday, 26 June 2009

July 29, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 26 June 2009

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Anxiety:  That tight fisted knot in our stomach that doesn’t go away.  We sometimes don’t even know where it comes from, but it remains and remains.  It keeps us awake at night and shadows us during the day, making us tense.  We can’t relax.  We are on edge.  download The Big Sleep We are short  with people and our tongue is either raiser sharp or lame.

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Know the feeling?  Well if you do I really want to encourage you to submerge yourself into Ephesians 3:14-21.  Let us make Paul’s prayer for the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit our own:

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  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your   hearts, living within you as you trust in him.  May your roots go   down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you  

be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should,   how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is;   and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great   that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand   it.  Smokin Aces download And so at last you will be filled up with God himself [sic].

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        —The Living Bible

Deep peace, Alan

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

July 22, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 19 July 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                       

 

It is wonderful to welcome Dr. Gilbert Lawrence as our preacher this morning—may God give us open hearts and attentive ears to discern God’s voice through his.

 

Last week during my sermon on John the Baptizer, who lived to please God by telling the truth and was beheaded by King Herod as a result, I quoted from Thomas Merton who was writing to encourage a friend.  Here it is again:

 

“Do not depend on the hope of results.  When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work (like peacemaking), you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.  And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.  The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real.  In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything. 

 

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.  The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important.  You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness.

 

You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation.  That is not the right use of your work.

 

All the good that you do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used for God’s love.  Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.  Our real hope … is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.  If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process.”

 

 

May we all be strengthened to do God’s will.  What is God’s will?  In the very least it is that we speak the truth.  Lets start there!   Peace, Alan.  (See you next Sunday)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

July 15, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 12 July 2009

 

Dear Friends,                                                                                                

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You may have heard of the term: Red Letter Christians.  It comes from the fact that some versions of the Bible print the words of Jesus in red ink. 

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Red Letter Christians are therefore people who emphasize the words of Jesus above all else.  The teaching of Jesus is not only the focus of their understanding, but the lens through which they seek to understand everything else.  I invite you to be a Red Letter Christian and be sure to invest large lumps of time reading RED.

 

This past week I came across another version of the Bible—a Green Letter Version.  The Green Bible prints every verse that has anything to do with the creation or the environment in green ink.  The subtitle is: The Priceless Message that Doesn’t Cost the Earth.  Chéri video

 

In the Green Bible, the Lectionary Psalm for this Sunday begins in green ink:  The Earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.  [Ps. 24:1-2].  This is the single most important reason why we are called to care for the creation—because it is not ours!  It  all belongs to God.  Sadly we have tended to see the world as a resource to exploit instead of a gift to treasure.  The Bible does not remain silent about the environmental devastation we have caused. 

In the green ink of the prophets we hear: The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated the statues, broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.  [Isaiah. 24:5-6]. 

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Let us learn to read our bibles in colour—Red and Green—that we together with the earth may be saved.  Peace, Alan

 

Sunday, 5 July 2009

July 15, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 5 July 2009

 

Dear Friends,                                        

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The other night I listened to Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein do some wonderful Bible Study.  I have found his interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures a real treat to listen to.  Not only are they profound and insightful but they enlarge my understanding of the tradition that Rabbi Jesus was immersed in.  O how much we can learn from our Jewish sisters and brothers!  Try and find him on Radio 2000. 

 

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Drawing on his rich tradition the Chief Rabbi wrestled with four questions: Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

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What does it mean to be wise?

What does it mean to be powerful?

What does it mean to be wealthy?

What does it mean to have honour?

 

I invite you to think about these questions for a minute before you read on.  Lethal Weapon 2 What comes to your mind? 

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

The Rabbi reached the following conclusions that I believe are worth our reflection:

 

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The wise person is someone who is humble enough to learn from all.

The powerful person is someone who can resist temptation.

The wealthy person is content with what s/he has.

The person of honour is the person who gives honour to others. 

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Grace and peace, 

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Alan

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

June 28, 2009  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Sunday, 28 June 2009

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On Wednesday night I joined a Warm Winter Worship group (www@home) in someone’s home. 

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Even though there were only five of us, it felt like the whole world was present!  You see all five of us came from different countries: Sierra Leone; Zimbabwe; Nigeria; Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.  I am sure it brought a smile to Jesus’ face knowing how much he hopes we will discover the truth of our oneness beneath the shallow identities of nationality and language that too often divide us.  Aenigma dvd The Sword in the Stone film As we mentioned last Sunday—Jesus would rather cross a stormy sea to the “other side” than accept separation between any peoples.

 

In last week’s sermon I mentioned that one way in which we can journey to the “other side” as a community is to broaden the way we worship, in both language and style.  Remembering what we learnt during

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Connections, that long before worship is for Hidalgo video us, it is for God. 

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The question we are to ask ourselves is not, “what do we enjoy” but rather “what does Jesus enjoy”.  

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The way we worship paints a picture of who we say God is.  Therefore another question we should ask ourselves is: “what are we saying about God in the way we worship at CMM?”  Surely God would enjoy worship that includes the rich diversity of the languages represented among us, not only because God created and understands every tongue, but also because God is passionate about everyone feeling at home in God’s house.  And if there is one thing that makes us feel at home more than perhaps anything else—it is to speak and hear our mother tongue. 

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May our worship be a rich blend of God-given diversity.  Alan

 

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