Be filled with mercy

AN EASTER REFLECTION OF PROMISE

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness.  They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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On the recommendation of a friend I watched the 2003 movie The Last Samurai the other day. The movie portrays an American officer whose personal and emotional conflicts bring him into contact with samurai warriors in the wake of the Meiji Restoration in 19th Century Japan. The film’s plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori, and on the westernisation of Japan by colonial powers, though this is largely attributed to the United States in the film for American audiences.

As you might imagine it was a pretty violent movie and if you look it up on the web 99% of the images are of warriors charging off to battle. This is not what thrilled me about the movie.

What inspired me was the Christ-like figure. Her name was Taka the widow of the Samurai warrior killed by Algren the American officer. Taka was given the responsibility to care for Algren who had been wounded in the fatal fight with her husband. She nursed her husband’s killer back to health. A beautiful picture of Christ-like mercy. And in doing so she was able to heal Algren not only of his flesh wounds but also of his spiritual and psychological torment that lay in his depths too deep for hands to touch and words to address but which grace could reach and resurrect to new life.

It also struck me that Taka is hardly mentioned in any of the reviews — the focus is on the warriors that are played by the big box office actors like Tom Cruise. I would have to look up her real name. So it is with Christ. He more often than not comes to us unknown. His glory is not revealed through glitter and glamour but through humble acts of compassionate service. (By the way Samurai means “to serve”.) I pray that we will be given the eyes to recognise the Christ-figures in our lives and in our times.

The movie also beautifully depicted lives lived in devotion and discipline that were in harmony with the seasons and in joyful appreciation for the blossoms. Lives of simplicity and prayer are always going to be the soil in which Christ-likeness flowers.

Grace us with silence and stillness that we may bless others with mercy Oh Lord.

Grace, Alan

The Lord is my President

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness. They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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As we continue to mark 20 years of our democracy and begin to digest the election results of the past week, Psalm 23 reminds us of who our true leader is as well as the Divine job description set for all leaders.

To declare “The Lord is my Shepherd” was in those day equivalent to saying: “The Lord is my President/Premier.” Sadly because we have tended to turn to this psalm almost exclusively within the context of a funeral service (due to that hauntingly beautiful line, best heard in the Old King James Version: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”) we have lost the political nature of its original intent.

This political use of the term “shepherd” is easily seen in Ezekiel 34 where the prophet accuses the leaders/shepherds of “feeding themselves” while failing to “strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bound the injured and seek out the lost”.

If the psalmist were asked: “So who should I vote for?” the answer would have been clear: “Vote for the Lord!” Meaning, make sure your ultimate loyalty, trust and obedience is for the Lord’s ways. To vote for the Lord is to vote with the vulnerable widow, orphan and foreigner in our hearts. It is to vote for good news for the poor and a deep love for those considered to be least among us.

Therefore a leader’s first task is to prevent people living in ‘want’. In other words a leader must make sure that people have enough to live on — providing food (green pastures) and water (still streams) and education (right paths, rod and staff). Conversely the psalm is a challenge to those of us who live with more than enough. And if we don’t think we are one of those living opulent lives — then maybe Mr Wesley can help us with a little perspective. Wesley said: “…when you are laying out that money in costly apparel which you could have otherwise spared for the poor, you thereby deprive them of what God, the proprietor of all, had lodged in your hands for their use. If so, what you put upon yourself, you are, in effect tearing from the back of the naked; so the costly and delicate food which you eat, you are snatching from the mouth of the hungry.”

Dare we still vote for the Lord? The poor are praying that we do.

Give us courage to vote with our lives, O Lord.

Grace, Alan

Give us your justice, O God

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death.  That is the plan of its creator.  But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it.  Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed-in upon themselves.  Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness.  They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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As we continue to mark 20 years of our democracy and prepare again for elections this week I am drawn to Psalm 72 which is a prayer for guidance and support for the king…

The first verse of the psalm highlights what the psalmist believes to be the most important attribute of a good king:

“Give the king your justice, O God.”

The psalmist knows what the people and the land need more than anything else is a just king. Note that the prayerful request is for God to give the king God’s justice. Yes, there is a big difference between God’s justice and the world’s justice. God’s justice goes deeper than the law of the land. God’s justice is not to be reduced to what is legal or not — because as we know the laws over time can be manipulated to secure privilege and entrench poverty. God’s justice is radically rooted in the equality of all people and therefore a king’s primary task is to establish equality among all. This alone is good news for the poor and it is also good news for the rich although few of us will feel like it is.

The whole motivation given by the psalmist for God to let the king’s life endure like the sun and moon throughout all generations is:

For the king delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live!”

This is not only the reason why the king is to be granted breath but it is also the reason for each of us to have breath. It is also the reason for the church to exist. We have breath to live out the dream of equality that God has for this world. This is the true praise and worship that makes God rejoice.

Give us your justice, O God.

Grace, Alan

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Appeal from the Presiding Bishop

I ask that we use 27 April for prayer, celebration and honest reflection on the state of our communities and nations of the Connexion. Let us also pray for the South African Elections on 7 May 2014. There will be also ecumenical activities planned, but these must not stop our morning services to be special services of reflection, celebration, lament and accompaniment. I further encourage you to join the ecumenical activities planned in your area either in the afternoon or during the week. As we do this let us seriously be aware of what is happening in all the countries of the Connexion and include these in our prayers. The Communications Unit and Justice and Service Desk will publicise indicators for our reflection from time to time.

Presiding Bishop: Ziphozihle D. Siwa

Freedom & Shacks

We have come a miraculously far way…

 

An Easter Reflection of Promise

Life goes beyond death, because life is called to life, not death. That is the plan of its creator. But life blossoms into full flower only in those who nurture life here on earth; in those who defend its rights, protect its dignity, and are even willing to accept death in their witness to it. Those who violate life, deprive others of life, and crucify the living, will remain seeds that fail to take root, buds that fail to open, and cocoons that are forever closed in upon themselves. Their fate is absolute and total frustration.

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness. They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.

~ Leonardo Boff

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and … we have a miraculously far way to go.

 

Those first to the empty tomb were told to go and tell the disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. Dr Kistner, an old mentor of mine, used to teach that this was another way of Jesus saying: “Go back to the beginning and start following me all over again — but this time do it in the lived knowledge of the promise of resurrection”. In other words this time do it without fear and trust afresh that the impossible is no longer impossible.

As we re-start to follow Jesus we hear Jesus say to us again: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. In this Jesus invites us to live life as he lived life — with the poor as our priority. This is not a call to charity but rather a call for justice that will make charity unnecessary. He is saying that we are to seek first and foremost “good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” — meaning the year of Jubilee (Luke 4 and Leviticus 25).

This time we will not be surprised that the Jesus way of living life will result in rejection and suffering because we now know that it will be vehemently and violently opposed by those who have a vested interest in the status quo. The status quo that is arranged around the investments of the privileged few.

The promise of resurrection is for those who die on this cross that results from orientating one’s life around seeking equality in society with justice for the poor. Could it be that only these will know the joy of resurrection?

Today we celebrate our 20th Freedom Day. We have something to celebrate as a result of the many people who picked up the cross described above and walked faithfully with it — some to their death.

New life — resurrection — have been granted to us by God who is ever faithful in honouring the suffering and death that comes from the cross-carriers of justice and jubilee.

The days we are living in, call for us more than ever to make the poor our priority. We have been given the privilege of witnessing the resurrection 20 years ago so we should be more willing than ever to pick up our cross without fear and follow Jesus.

Let’s meet in Galilee, Alan

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Appeal from the Presiding Bishop

I ask that we use 27 April for prayer, celebration and honest reflection on the state of our communities and nations of the Connexion. Let us also pray for the South African Elections on 7 May 2014. There will be also ecumenical activities planned, but these must not stop our morning services to be special services of reflection, celebration, lament and accompaniment. I further encourage you to join the ecumenical activities planned in your area either in the afternoon or during the week. As we do this let us seriously be aware of what is happening in all the countries of the connexion and include these in our prayers. The Communications Unit and Justice and Service Desk will publicise indicators for our reflection from time to time.

~ Ziphozihle D. Siwa

 

The Silencing of Lady Justice

The Pain and Praise of our Birth…

“For it was you who formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know every well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
Psalm 139: 13-15

 

 No wonder there is a Jewish proverb that goes something like this:
“God could not be everywhere and therefore God made mothers.”

 
On Ascension Day I officiated at a wedding. The couple have been in love for a long time and finally decided to come out in the open and get married.

The ceremony took place at the World Economic Forum between Big Business and Government. To our surprise we walked right up to the entrance of the CTICC to where all the delegates were getting out of their cars. (Then again, others have recently managed to land a commercial aeroplane at a military base filled with wedding guests – so perhaps we should not be too surprised.) Then the cops moved us to the perimeter – after removing the “shower head” that was hovering over the beautiful bride’s (Government) head. Five SAPS vans, one Nyala and three Metro Police then followed us.

There were a number of corruption scandals who gathered to witness and celebrate the wedding.

Big Business and Government then exchanged vows: “I call on all the corruption scandals here present to witness that I Government do take thee Big Business to be my (un)lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better and NOT for worse, for richer and NOT for poorer, in sickness (of others) and in health (of us) to love and to cherish, and forsaking all others (especially the poor) till death us do part (or until the money runs out).”

Lady Justice tried to voice her objection but was quickly silenced by the Secrecy Bill and the Key Point Legislation Act. All the scandals applauded when I gave the couple permission to kiss.

Ascension Day reminds us that God alone has ultimate power and calls us to hold the powers of this world to account and to mock their belief that they have absolute power. To call them out every time they ignore the vulnerable who they are called to serve. In 2012 R30 billion was stolen through corruption. We say “No to R1 – one vote”.

This is one marriage that should dissolve. Alan