Economy and Ecology

Countless times a day we are given the exchange rates and the stock market indicators. These “numbers” are the benediction to every single news broadcast on both radio and TV. We may be tempted to think of these numbers as referring to the economy but that would be a terrible reduction of meaning.

There are three words that come from the Greek root oikos. Their meanings helpfully overlap and point to three vital areas every one of us should be concerned about.

The English word economy comes from two Greek words: oikos-nomos, meaning the management or rules of the household. Let’s take a moment to think about our own households. Surely the uppermost concern within our households is that everyone has enough? Regardless of the numbers our primary aim is to use our resources to secure the best and most equal opportunity for all within our home. To tolerate a situation in our homes where some have too much while others go without would result in the breakdown of our family. Similarly, world inequality results in conflict.

The economy is directly rooted/related to ecology — oikos-logos. This is not surprising because the earth is our home. Therefore the primary responsibility of the economy should be to care for the earth. Sadly this is not the case. Although we have only one Planet Earth, we leave an ecological footprint of 1.5 planets; that is, we are currently using 50 percent more resources than our planet can regenerate to meet our current consumption needs. As a consequence, one-third of our agricultural land has disappeared over the past 40 years.

Both economy and ecology are related to human solidarity/family or ecumenism. The word ecumenical comes from the Greek word oikoumene. Economy and ecology join together to provide an abundant living for all inhabitants. When the human family is divided and at odds with each other the economy and ecology will not be honoured as they should. Today we gather for Holy Communion which is the great sign of economy, ecology and ecumenism coming together as God had hoped and promised.

Grace Alan


We believe in the Merciful One
who calls us to reject all idols and who seeks a deep communion with us.

We believe in the Merciful One
who is not remote but who is immersed in the life of this world sharing its hope
and feeling its pain.

We believe in the Merciful One
who identifies with the poor and the oppressed and those who long for faith and who calls us to stand with them.

We believe in the Merciful One
whose love is vulnerable, whose heart is aching and whose covenant with all people
is unshakeable.

 Christian Conference of Asia News1

Lasting liberation

Holocaust survivor Reuven Moshkovitz (82) flashes a victory sign aboard a British-flagged boat named Irene.

And why was a Jew trying to break the blockade of Gaza?  In his own words: “It is a sacred duty for me, as a survivor, to protect against the persecution, the oppression and imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children.”

“I as a Holocaust survivor cannot live with the fact that the State of Israel is imprisoning an entire people behind fences … it’s just immoral.

“What happened to me in the Holocaust wakes me up every night and I hope we don’t do the same thing to our neighbours”, he said, adding that he was comparing “what I went through during the Holocaust to what the besieged Palestinian children are going through.”


We believe in the Merciful One
who calls us to reject all idols and who seeks a deep communion with us.

We believe in the Merciful One
who is not remote but who is immersed in the life of this world sharing its hope
and feeling its pain.

We believe in the Merciful One
who identifies with the poor and the oppressed and those who long for faith and who calls us to stand with them.

We believe in the Merciful One
whose love is vulnerable, whose heart is aching and whose covenant with all people
is unshakeable.

 Christian Conference of Asia News1


The great psychotherapist, Carl Jung wrote: “You always become the thing you fight the most.” And Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister reputedly said, “Even if we lose, we shall win, for our ideals will have penetrated the hearts of our enemies.” These words have once again sadly been proven correct in the horrifying violence in the Middle East.

Zionist Israel has become what they hate. They have so internalised their status as victims that they are unable to see themselves for the perpetrators they have become. They do to the Palestinians what anti-Semites have done to them.

It is especially sad when this happens because there is an expectation that those who know what it is to suffer so much would be determined not to be the cause of such suffering towards others.

To speak about the injustice and violence in the Middle East without naming USA-backed Israel as the overwhelming aggressor is to deny the truth, the cause and the carnage. What silences many on this matter of oppression is the fear of being labelled an anti-Semite. We are right to be sensitive about this but not silenced. As the prophets of old spoke directly to the people of Israel so should we: “Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood … the way of peace they do not know and there is no justice in their paths.” [Isaiah 59:7-8].

As for the retaliatory violence of Hamas it does not help the cause of Palestinian Liberation. They too risk becoming what they hate. Only creative non-violent resistance will offer lasting liberation because it is the only method that allows us to regard the humanity of our enemy and resist our enemy at the same time and thereby preventing us from becoming what we hate.

Grace, Alan


For we knew only too well:
Even hatred of squalor
makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
makes the voice grow harsh.
Alas, we who wished to lay
the foundations of kindness
could not ourselves be kind.

Bertolt Brecht


On Maundy Thursday 2013 a group of us went out onto Long Street offering to wash people’s feet. The one and only person who wanted his feet washed was a “bit out of it”.  He had heavy lumpy feet with torn socks and splitting shoes. Deep down we knew that we should have given him our socks and shoes after washing his feet –
but we didn’t. Inspired by the regret of that  moment the person
who actually washed his feet handed out socks on Madiba Day.


It’s hard for me to believe that my time with you has all but come to an end. This week I will be transitioning from Cape Town to Simon’s Town, where I will spend several days with Rev. Peter Storey and fellow Duke Divinity students who have been in other parts of South Africa. Next Sunday we will join with CMM for our last Sunday in South Africa. We will leave from here to head to the airport for our return journey to the States.

My time here has been full. I have been to St. George’s Cathedral and received Communion from Archbishop Tutu. I have attended service at the annual Synod of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. I toured crèches in Kensington, Langa, and Khayelitsha. I explored the Cape Town Book Fair. I stood as godmother for Joelma at her baptism. There was an Interfaith Service in Manenberg, a Unitarian Service on Hout Street, and a service at a Mosque that I was privileged to be a part of. We went to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. I found a place for myself serving at the Service Dining Hall. I’ve sat in on sessions in Parliament. I’ve danced away the night listening to live music (the Nomadic Orchestra. WOW!!!!!!), and found other new artists to love when Matthew Mole, Paige Mac, and Jeremy Douglas took the stage at a concert at CMM. I visited Stellenbosch University and attended events held by the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism here in Cape Town. Also, I did a little preaching, and began to understand the vital ministry of being present with those I am with.

None of this, though, compares to the joy of getting to know you. Thank you for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and tea; for history lessons, neighborhood tours, and real talk about South Africa; for lingering conversation, Bible study, wisdom, and laughter; for fetching me and returning me home. Thank you for embracing me as family.

God willing, I will return to you, my beloved friends, soon!

Love and Peace until then, Alease

Grace and peace to all

Gaza City after an Israeli attack on Tuesday.
Warplanes struck 150 sites that Israeli officials said harbored Islamist fighters. 

Credit: Mohammed Saber/European Pressphoto Agency


Limor Porin, 42, a mother of two, said she had come to shop alone after leaving her children at home close to a fortified room. “The family needs to eat,” she said, as loud booms from Gaza were heard. “Life is stronger than fear.”


When grace strikes …

During last week’s sermon I read from Paul Tillich’s life-giving sermon entitled: You are accepted. Here is the passage that I read:

We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.

Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace.

After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.

In the light of this grace we perceive the power of grace in our relation to others and to ourselves. We experience the grace of being able to look frankly into the eyes of another, the miraculous grace of reunion of life with life. We experience the grace of understanding each other’s words. We understand not merely the literal meaning of the words, but also that which lies behind them, even when they are harsh or angry. For even then there is a longing to break through the walls of separation.

We experience the grace of being able to accept the life of another, even if it be hostile and harmful to us, for, through grace, we know that it belongs to the same Ground to which we belong, and by which we have been accepted. We experience the grace which is able to overcome the tragic separation of the sexes, of the generations, of the nations, of the races, and even the utter strangeness between man (sic) and nature. Sometimes grace appears in all these separations to reunite us with those to whom we belong. For life belong to life.

And in the light of this grace we perceive the power of grace in our relation to ourselves. We experience moments in which we accept ourselves, because we feel that we have been accepted by that which is greater than we.

If only more such moments were given to us! For it is such moments that make us love our life, that make us accept ourselves, not in our goodness and self- complacency, but in our certainty of the eternal meaning of our life.

We cannot force ourselves to accept ourselves. We cannot compel anyone to accept himself. But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say “yes” to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hate and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. Then we can say that grace has come upon us.

May Grace strike us, Alan

Sacrifice & Obedience

The Sacrifice of Isaac ~ Rembrandt van Rijn 1635



Lover of the unlovable, we are captives of the world. Recapture our loyalties, not by defeating our will but by drawing it to yours. Seize our spirits, not by forcing us into your grasp but by freeing us from our ways of sin…

Our ears strain for the sound of you, our eyes for the sight of you; our hearts tremble in anticipation of your presence.

Make us your captives Lord. Amen.

E Tilson & P Cole


Last week while reflecting on the terrifying story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac (Genesis 22) we referred to Rembrandt’s painting of the scene which he did in 1635 (above). This bold 6 feet by 4 feet painting was done by Rembrandt in his prime.

In the painting we see that Isaac takes up the full foreground/half-naked/pale in the light/stretched open/vulnerable/neck exposed. Abraham’s disproportionately large left hand covers Isaac’s entire face. It doesn’t just cover — it smothers in a life-threatening manner. Abraham looks startled and puzzled by the angel’s “put down” — almost saying to himself “now where did you come from and why are you interrupting me?” The angel catches Abraham just in time. The angel’s left hand is raised signalling “stop” or perhaps even in rebuke “what are you doing harming your boy?” while the other hand has forced Abraham to drop the knife which is left in mid-air.

We then contrasted this painting with a small etching (6 inches by 5 inches) that Rembrandt did of the same scene twenty years later. The etching was done after Rembrandt had married, lost three children in infancy, and lost his wife after she gave birth to their only child who lived to adulthood.

Rembrandt’s 1655 interpretation of the scene is vastly different to his early painting. Here we are able to see the love Abraham has for Isaac who is kneeling next to him/head almost on his lap/held close. Abraham gently covers Isaac’s eyes wanting to protect him from seeing what he was about to do. Perhaps most interestingly, Abraham is holding the knife in his left hand — his weaker hand — such is his painful reluctance to go through with the killing. The angel is embracing Abraham — there is no sense of reprimand or force — a comforting hold and you can almost hear the words: “it’s okay … everything is going to be okay … spare the boy”. The angel’s wingspan almost touches the frame and certainly aims to cover the full multitude of Abraham’s anguish. Abraham is relieved but he is also scarred — never to be the same again.

In the first it looks to me as if the angel is focused on saving Isaac and in the etching it looks like the angel is almost more focused on saving/comforting Abraham. Only this week did I notice that the first is called The Sacrifice of Isaac, while the etching is called The Sacrifice of Abraham.

As our life experiences change I hope we too will see the scriptures — especially those most familiar to us — in new ways. May we never hold onto one interpretation so tightly that we cannot receive another.

Grace, Alan

Justice matters


At Pentecost, the church celebrates the coming of the Spirit – the outpouring of the sudden power of God to transform a wounded and disillusioned band of stragglers into a community that changed the world.

It was a power that was both awaited in obedience, and utterly unexpected in its energy and urgency. It generated both a deep interior fire, and immediate, compelling and outrageous public witness.

~ Janet Morley



I encourage you to observe Ramadan this year — or if you are unable to observe the entire month then choose a day or two per week. I encourage you to join your local Mosque for prayers and the joy of breaking fast together. In this way we affirm the faith tradition of others which is so important in today’s world where different religions are often a source of division and conflict in society.

To participate in another’s faith tradition on their terms is to do to others as we would have them do to us. It is to affirm their tradition as a means of God’s grace. We must always remember that the Christian faith does not have a monopoly on God’s grace. I firmly believe that we have so much to learn about the discipline of prayer and fasting from our Muslim faith family that we will be the richer for this experience.

The Holy month of Ramadan begins on 29 June. The fast from water, food and sex begins from sunlight (Sehri 06:18) until sunset (Iftaar 17:50). These times will get earlier (Sehri) and later (Iftaar) as the month progresses. By the last day of Ramadan Sehri is at 06:10 and Iftaar is at 18:06.

My hope is that during our fast we will grow in compassion and mercy for those who are hungry on a daily basis — those who are forced to fast due to poverty. My hope is that during Ramadan, we will have a heightened concern for the well-being of the community as we make more time for prayer and deeper devotions and courageous acts of compassion and justice.

Abstention for long hours can be very hard physically and spiritually. However, by the end of the long month you should feel cleansed and with a renewed spirit. Ramadan is an ideal time to break bad habits, to reflect on one’s personality and character — just as we are encouraged to do during Lent. Those who fast but make no change to their lives except delaying a meal cannot really expect to become any different in their behaviour during, or after Ramadan. In many ways, this is a wasted fast.

I invite you to journey through Ramadan with two passages of Scripture. May these Scriptures be for us a window through which we can see and reflect on our experience. Every morning and evening let us read Isaiah 58 and Matthew 2:1-11.

Strength for the fast!


A couple of weeks ago Pope Francis visited Israel/Palestine. As one would expect he had a tightly managed itinerary with many “minders”. He made many stops at both Palestinian and Israeli sites. He prayed at the western wall of the temple like other popes before him.

The most memorable image of his trip was his unplanned stop at another wall. The wall that divides Bethlehem and which carves up Palestinian communities into ghettos.

Bethlehem-based photojournalist Kelly Lynn has written about Mohammed Abu Srour, the young Palestinian activist who sprayed the graffiti message in advance of the Pope’s visit. Apparently, Mohammed and his comrades played an extensive game of cat and mouse with IDF soldiers and PA security before he was able to successfully spray his direct message just in time for the Pope’s arrival:

A few minutes before Pope Francis arrived, spray cans surfaced and activists from the previous day’s action began to paint over the newly, newly-painted wall and gate. Mohammed climbed his friend’s shoulders and because of the frenzy, security personnel could not be bothered. “They painted all of the wall silver, you couldn’t see anything we did yesterday, so we decided to write again for the Pope. We want him to pay attention to our issues as normal Palestinians,” explained Abu Srour.

And then, in a glass-covered pristine white pick-up truck, he came.

“I didn’t expect the Pope to go down and start to read the sentences and meet the children and people there. He shocked us,” said Abu Srour.

I admire the persistent tenacity of the shoulder-climbing-spray-painting activists. And I just love the fact that the Pope stopped and prayed at this “unholy” wall – enabling his bowed head to be neatly framed by the activist’s pointed message: “Pope, we need some 1 to speak about justice” and “Pope, Bethlehem look like the Warsaw ghetto.”.

From this parable-like event I am reminded that …

  1. No matter how confined we experience the itinerary of our life we can stop and break out of it. We do not have to be a victim to others setting the agenda for our life.
  2. The risky justice work of others beckons me to draw attention to it – sometimes without even saying a word.
  3. Where I pray matters. That praying next to an unholy wall may be the holiest thing I can do.
  4. That prayer at its best is political. It challenges the powers of domination in the world.
  5. That history is often repeated. That the victims of yesterday can become the oppressors of today.

Grace, Alan

We are all family

Cape Town is, without question, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it is the people of Cape Town that give the city its brilliant glow.

I have been in the city for just over a month, and my sojourn thus far has introduced me to the many faces of Cape Town.

I have met Thelma, a native South African, and found a sharing heart and a listening ear. By the end of our time together I felt that we were known to one another. I’ve met Gertrude, from Zimbabwe, via Dubai, who owns a prosperous business. By the end of our time together I was encouraged that, though the journey is difficult at times, and it IS difficult, God remains faithful. I’ve met Ziv, a Polish South African, by way of Israel, who has owned several successful businesses. Ziv was eager to talk to me, a minister, and to impress upon me the urgent need in society for moral instruction.

I have been greeted in isiXhosa and been delighted to be confused for a native daughter.

Mostly, though, I have been meeting you, CMM. Your kindness and hospitality have been so great as to allow no place for homesickness or lonesomeness. The cover of our church bulletin declares, “You are not a stranger or a guest. You are family.” I have, indeed, found this to be true.

My prayer for us, as we move through these cold winter days, is that I would not be alone in my experience. That Others would be drawn into the warm embrace of the CMM family. Let us be intentional in our efforts to include these Others at our tables, in our Warm Winter Worship, and in our prayers. And may we all encounter anew the life-changing fire of God on this Third Sunday of Pentecost.

Peace to you, Alease.