The Execution of Jesus

Survey the Wondrous Cross


Friends,

We look forward to opening the sanctuary this Sunday. We hope to see some of you here in the flesh, although we understand many of you will continue to connect via Zoom (email welcome@cmm.org.za for link) – this is especially true for those of us potentially more vulnerable to COVID.

Please continue to make your safety and the safety of others a priority.

On entering the sanctuary:

  1. Use the hand sanitiser available.
  2. Wear your mask for the full duration of the service. (Note: There will be no singing.)
  3. Keep 1.5 m personal distance from others.
    In addition to the pews there are also individual chairs available to use. The pews are marked with yellow tape to indicate seats that are spaced 1.5 m apart from each other. (See photo: the yellow stripe is to be behind your back.)

 

 

Please click on this attendance form – it is very quick to complete and with one click it is returned to us.

The attendance form will help us limit numbers to 75 persons. (We are allowed 100 persons according to COVID regulations.)

The attendance form will also relieve congestion on entering the sanctuary because less people will need to fill in the COVID regulatory register at the door.

Once again, I ask for your patience and understanding through this process. We are bound to “drop some balls” on the way. Please let us know if we do.

Holy Week is an invitation for us to stop. It is an invitation for us to be silent and still as we “survey the wondrous cross”. The cross that reminds us of how we addictively choose death even when life is being offered to us, and the cross that reveals “anew what the Almighty can do”.

If you have struggled to stop and surrender to silence, stillness and solitude this Lent, I invite you to start again. Start again without self-condemnation or complacency. Just start again…

Mark 14-15 will be our guiding text for the week. These two chapters hold inexhaustible truth for our lives and world. Our task is to be attentive to the text in the light of our own context. By grace we may discover ourselves in the text and this in turn may help us to locate ourselves more truthfully in our own context.

Stop.
Be silent.
Be still.
And survey…

In grace, Alan

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Convicted to Confess

Sunday Sermon

2021 03 21 Alan Storey
Convicted to Confess
[Psalm 51:1-12]

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Orientation by the Psalms

Friends,

It is almost a year since South Africa went into Lockdown Level 5. It is not unusual to be “triggered” by an annual anniversary date, even sub-consciously. It has been a difficult and disruptive year for everyone and a painful year of loss upon loss for many. The loss of life and livelihood. ‘The loss of life and livelihood’ is a six-word sentence. It is spoken or written as a kind of ‘summary’ for our collective Covid experience, but it betrays itself by being unable to reach the depths of the loss that it is referring to.

None of us is exempt from loss. In other words, in one way or another all of us are grieving. I hope acknowledging this will give us permission to be patient and gentle with ourselves and each other. Grief may be a grace if we honour it by creating time and space for it. If not, grief may become a ghost that haunts us far into the future.

Another word to describe Covid’s effect is disorientation. In other words, the loss of our bearings or moorings. A sense of things being up in the air or in limbo. A sense of personally being uprooted or unrooted. Once again, the hope is if we are able to name and acknowledge this experience, we may be more settled in the unsettledness of it all.

This past Wednesday we were reminded during our Lenten reflection how contemplatives within the Christian tradition recite the Psalter on a daily basis. The psalms give expression to every manner of our human experience including grief and disorientation. The psalms gift us with words when we are wordless.

Many years ago Walter Brueggemann suggested that the Psalter may be understood to follow three movements: Orientation (a sense and celebration of the ordered reliable life: Psalms 8; 33; 104), Disorientation (the lament and petition of disordered life when everything seems skewed: Psalms 13; 35; 74; 79; 86; 88; 109; 137;) and New Orientation (praise and thanksgiving for the surprising gift of new life: Psalms 30; 40; 138).

Brueggemann notes that the Church has tended to avoid the psalms of disorientation opting rather for singing “happy songs” in the face or raw reality. This denial is not healthy. Praying the psalms of disorientation “is an act of bold faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way”, says Brueggemann. He continues, “On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God. Thus these psalms make the important connection: everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life.”

If disorientation describes your life experience at this time, then I encourage you to soak yourselves in the psalms of disorientation. Lent is an appropriate time to do so.

I mentioned last week that I would share with you more details about opening the sanctuary for in-person services on the 28th March – Palm Sunday. Truth is we are struggling to figure out how to do this. Besides having limited tech-ability on hand at the moment we are struggling to figure out how best to juggle the online and the in-person at the same time. I will share a little more about this on this Sunday. Sorry, I would have liked to be in a position to give you more information at this stage, but I am sure will work it all out. Once again if you are able to assist us with tech-ability or ideas please contact me or the office.

If you are not on the WhatsApp group and would like the zoom link for Sunday, please email welcome@cmm.org.za

In grace,
Alan

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Silence, stillness and solitude

Friends,

Throughout Lent, our Sunday services have begun with the following liturgy:

Merciful God, give us courage to follow Jesus,
By your Spirit make us brave to love. Make us brave to love.

Merciful God, we gather this Lent intent to follow Jesus to Jerusalem.
May your Spirit give us courage to name and to engage the principalities and powers.

Merciful God, we gather this Lent to follow you through the wilderness of silence, stillness
and solitude.
May your Spirit give us courage to name and to engage our own inner demons that surface in the silence, seek our attention in the stillness and keep us company in the solitude.

These words of call remind us that we are always on two journeys at the same time. The journey inward and the journey outward. They cannot be separated. Just as one cannot separate breathing in from breathing out without denying breath and dying. No one asks the question: which is more important – breathing in or breathing out? Because we all know the answer: both!

The oneness of these two journeys is a recognition that we are part of the whole and the whole is part of us. To change ourselves is to change the whole and changing the whole changes ourselves. I mention this to remind us that our journey into stillness, silence and solitude is not an escape or denial of the world we live in, but rather a specific place from which to engage the world. Repeatedly surrendering to the practice of silence, stillness and solitude gradually gifts us with a new knowing – a different knowing of ourselves and world. This is certainly the testimony of people of all contemplative traditions throughout the ages.

What makes this surrendering so difficult when on the surface it is so simple (I mean who can’t be quiet and still and alone?) is that when we are quiet, still and alone we are visited by a legion of “voices” demanding our immediate attention. What we thought would be a peaceful affair turns out to be a war. But here is the thing – if we are attentive to this war within us, over time we may be less tempted to go to war outside of us. With a deeper knowing of who we are we may confess: “We have met the enemy and they are us”.

Contemplatives within the Christian tradition – those who hangout in monasteries, etc. – all have one thing in common: they read, sing or chant the Psalms on a daily basis. Some go through the entire psalter each week while others do so each month. The Psalms honour the legions of voices within us. The Psalms voice every possible voice imaginable – the embarrassing, judgemental, murderous, othering, shameful, greedy, proud voices, etc. all get to speak. By going through the Psalter, we are invited to own each voice. In owning these voices without denying them, they paradoxically lose their power and influence within us.

On Wednesday 17th March at 20h00 we will continue our Lenten journey of silence, stillness and solitude by reflecting on a number of psalms. Please email welcome@cmm.org.za for the Zoom link if you do not receive in via WhatsApp.

We hope to be opening up for in-person Sunday Services on Palm Sunday (28th March) and for Holy Week services. I will share more details with you about this on Sunday during the service. We will be limited to 75 people within the Sanctuary. But as I say – more details will follow. If you would like to be part of a smaller “trial run” on Sunday 21st March, please email welcome@cmm.org.za.

As we try and navigate this change – I hope you will be patient with us. It is inevitable that when we are trying to connect with people online and people in the sanctuary that both groups may feel short changed. We are open to any suggestions you may have in this regard and we are certainly open to any help you can offer.

In grace,
Alan

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