God

 

Friends,

Another poem for you: God, by Kahlil Gibran.

Even for a poet, it takes tremendous boldness to title a poem, ‘God’.

Yet, look closely, the poem moves slowly. So humbly. In 1000 year segments of time. The poet acknowledges that this poem has literally taken him 1000’s of years to write. The poet is bold but also humble. And when it comes to matters ‘God’, one must be both.

Insight spoken, is met with Silence. Repeatedly. A Silence that invites further wrestling and deeper knowing. A Silence that creates space for unlearning, the most difficult learning of all…

In grace,
Alan

 

God

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, “Master,
I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee
for ever more.”
 
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay
hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
 
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke
unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy son. In pity and love
thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall
inherit thy kingdom.”
 
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; I am
thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth
and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the
face of the sun.”
 
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, he enfolded me.
 
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
also.

by Kahlil Gibran

 

Poets are the brave ones

 

Friends,

When our own words feel so thin and brittle that we fear they may break for lack of meaning the moment we speak them, then it may be wise to turn to the poets. The poets are the brave ones, unafraid to pen their hearts down to paper for the world to poke and prod, looking for signs of life and searching line by line for love. The poets whose imaginations forever outsmart the intimidations of the “this is how it will be, because this is how it has always been” brigade. The poets who so beautifully voice our questions that we are no longer tempted to have a quick fling with an answer. The poets who so intricately and intimately describe our wounds, that we are healed by their understanding of them, and are able to wait less anxiously for a cure, or even surrender to there being no cure.

Here are four poems for you. The first poem makes a case for poems (well, “certain poems”). I hope the others prove the case.

In grace,
Alan

 

“Not many of them, it’s true” ~ by Gregory Orr

Not many of them, it’s true,
But certain poems
In an uncertain world—
The ones we cling to:
 
They bring us back
Always to the beloved
Whom we thought we’d lost.
 
As surely as if the words
Led her by the hand,
Brought him before us.
Certain poems
In an uncertain world.
 
 

A Blessing for one who is exhausted ~ by John O’Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like endless, increasing weight.
 
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.
 
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
 
The tide you never valued has gone out,
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
 
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the rush of days.
 
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
 
You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
 
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
 
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
 
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.
 
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
 
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit,
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
 
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

 

The World Has Need of You ~ by Ellen Bass 

everything here
seems to need us ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
 
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and the twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much.
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well. 

 

The Eye ~ by Kahlil Gibran

Said the Eye one day, “I see beyond these valleys a mountain veiled with blue mist. Is it not beautiful?”
 
The Ear listened, and after listening intently awhile, said, “But where is any mountain? I do not hear it.”
 
Then the Hand spoke and said, “I am trying in vain to feel it or touch it, and I can find no mountain.”
 
And the Nose said, “There is no mountain, I cannot smell it.”
 
Then the Eye turned the other way, and they all began to talk together about the Eye’s strange delusion. And they said, “Something must be the matter with the Eye.”
 
 

Loving Generosity

 

Friends,

It was Henri Nouwen who said: “Our greatest fulfilment lies in giving ourselves to others … beyond all our desires to be appreciated, rewarded and acknowledged, there lies a simple and pure desire – to give.”

This should not surprise us. Our faith invites us to trust that humanity is born in the image of a lovingly generous and generously loving God. In other words, we are born to be lovingly generous and generously loving. Is this not why we feel more in love with life when we choose to be generous and why we feel shrunken within ourselves when we decide against being generous? The generous choice is commonly motivated by love, and its opposite by fear. Deciding to pay someone the most we can afford tastes different to paying someone as little as we can get away with. Love is sweet on the tongue and nourishing for the body, while fear tastes sour in the mouth and fails to fill the stomach.

If there is any truth in what I’ve just written, then we would be wise not to leave our generosity up to “chance”, but rather do some planning. We make plans to earn money so why not make plans when we give money? Planned generosity actively searches for opportunities to be generous. Where our passions meet the pain of the world is a good place to start. And once we know where we want to give then we can set out to grow our generosity. For some, 10% of income is a good place to start, for others 10% of income is a good goal to aim for.

CMM as a community sets aside 10% of all offerings received. Over the years even when we did not actually have the cash in the bank, we kept the tithe amount on the books to remind us  that 10% of everything that comes in, must flow out for it simply does not belong to us. The giving plan of CMM works as follows: 80% of CMM’s tithe go to the following 6 areas: HIV/Aids; Education; Informal Settlements; Violence/Peacemaking; Poverty/Unemployment; Youth. 20% goes to miscellaneous concerns or emergencies. We also favour local (Western Cape) versus not local on a 70 – 30% split.

Recently we have been privileged to give R200k to pre-school education (including schools within informal settlements and the city). Another R50k will soon be going to pre-schools in Namaqualand. A remarkable organisation working to alleviate poverty and unemployment in the city received R50k on top of the R60k that they already receive annually from CMM. An organisation that has responded quite miraculously to the hunger crisis as a result of COVID-19 also received R50k. We continue to offer sustainable finance to city traders in the vicinity of the Church office. We foresee that these instalments of around R10k will need to be repeated a few more times to help traders keep their stores open until the passing foot traffic increases once again.

At CMM we are not taught to give to the church per se, as if funding a church equals “giving to God” (this teaching at best forgets that God so loved the world – not the church – and at worst it can be a manipulative disguise for personal and institutional greed). Instead, we are simply taught to be generous and to grow in a generosity that is good news to the poor. We do not give in order to get, but there is a definite reward in giving. The reward: We come alive when we give. We come alive because we honour the image of God at our core of who we are, and we honour our neighbour with whom we are one. The preacher’s task is to constantly invite us to come alive through generosity rather than determine the destination of our generosity.

I trust that every act of generosity that is good news for the poor and vulnerable is an act of life-giving partnership with the Lover-of-the-world-God. Writing out a cheque to care for vulnerable children; putting food into hungry bellies through Gift of the Givers; supporting an anti-gender-based-violence campaign; enabling reforestation to take root or for investigative journalists to continue to courageously expose death-creating corruption are all holy acts. As holy as any Sunday offering.

For this reason, I am aware that CMM is just one avenue for the gift of your generosity and therefore I write with gratitude to you. Your giving enables CMM to give. We do so with the hope of touching some of the pain of this world that God so loves with a loving generosity that heals.

Please continue to practice the COVID Trinity: [1] wear a mask [2] regularly wash hands [3] keep physical distance. As the 3rd wave surges to dangerous and deadly levels, please take this seriously. Attached is a letter from the Bishop (Synod COVID task team).

Please note that the  safest way to attend CMM’s Sunday service is via zoom (Zoom link available via welcome@cmm.or.za).

In grace,
Alan

 

God of the Oppressed

Friends,

Those of us doing the online Manna and Mercy course at the moment have been reminded that the Bible was not written into an empty void, but rather to contest an already existing and prevalent theology. This existing theology endorsed a hierarchy of human worth as God’s natural order. Starting at the top with the king. The only proof needed that the king was God’s favoured one was that he was the king. (The king demands you just ignore the circular argument of the last sentence.) The king alone had God’s ear as well as a military on tap, to pour out state-sponsored and spirit-sanctioned violence (a proxy for God’s wrath) on any and all who dared question the structured hierarchy of society – after all (so the theology proclaimed) it is God’s ordained ordering of the world and must not be challenged or changed. Those in power generously supported the seminaries that promoted this theology and therefore not surprisingly it dominated the religious market … and still does … be it in different ways.

The Bible on the other hand, introduces a God who has ears for the oppressed. A God who sides with slaves in their struggle for redemption*, demanding that the king let them go. A God who chooses the so-called “least” as partners, forever whispering to them: “you were born to be free … you were born to be free”. Called and convicted by God to freedom, they begin their long walk to salvation*. Bravely and imaginatively continuing to walk despite oceans of impossibility that lay before them. And oppressed people throughout history continue to respond to the whisperings of this liberating God while singing of God’s ordained ordering of the world as one of justice and equity for all.

Salvation used to mean ‘life before death’, and for that reason the Pharaohs of the world feared it, because it meant giving up their undue privilege and power. Then they co-opted the word … literally kicking the promise of life down the road into the next life. Now that it means, ‘life after death’ the Pharaohs smile and say ‘Amen’ and then remind us to read Romans 13:1-7 before we go to sleep at night so that we can wake up obedient to them in the morning.

This week’s psalm boldly declares:
“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed…” Psalm 9:9.

 

For this reason, James H. Cone correctly states:

It is my contention that Christianity is essentially a religion of liberation. The function of theology is that of analyzing the meaning of that liberation for the oppressed so they can know that their struggle for political, social, and economic justice is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.

In view of the biblical emphasis on liberation, it seems not only appropriate but necessary to define the Christian community as the community of the oppressed which joins Jesus Christ in his fight for the liberation of humankind. The task of theology, then, is to explicate the meaning of God’s liberating activity so that those who labor under enslaving powers will see that the forces of liberation are the very activity of God. Christian theology is never just a rational study of the being of God. Rather it is a study of God’s liberating activity in the world, God’s activity on behalf of the oppressed.

Theology can never be neutral or fail to take sides on issues related to the plight of the oppressed. For this reason it can never engage in conversation about the nature of God without confronting those elements of human existence which threaten anyone’s existence as a person. Whatever theology says about God and the world must arise out of its sole reason for existence as a discipline: to assist the oppressed in their liberation. Its language is always language about human liberation, proclaiming the end of bondage and interpreting the religious dimensions of revolutionary struggle.

~James Cone: A Black Theology of Liberation – Fortieth Anniversary Edition.

 

A question to guide our biblical and societal interpretations is simply: “Who benefits?” Who benefits from this interpretation? From this narrative? From this proposed action? Those in power or those oppressed by power? If it is not benefiting the oppressed, then it is not of God, for let us not forget that whatever we do to the oppressed we do to Jesus.

In grace,
Alan

*NOTE: Before the words redemption and salvation became “religious” words, they were political words for freedom.

Words worth savouring

Friends,

Last week I read a few paragraphs from Alice Walker’s amazing novel, The Color Purple. Some of you have asked for the quotes. Here they are, plus an extra one or two. Her journey “trying to chase that old white man [god] out of my head” is as profound as it is liberating. Walker’s words invite savouring.

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” 

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” 

“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

It? I ast.

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast.

Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.

Shug a beautiful something, let me tell you. She frown a little, look out cross the yard, lean back in her chair, look like a big rose. She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate
at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.

Shug! I say.

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ast.

Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love? and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast.

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing. Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of a bush in my yard, Mr. ____s evil sort of shrink. But not altogether. Still, it is like Shug say, You have to git man off your eyeball, before you can see anything a’tall.

Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere.

Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind,water, a big rock.

But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightening, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it.

Amen” 

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Abiding, Entangling Love

 

Friends,

In the introduction of his mesmerising book, Entangled Life: How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures, Merlin Sheldrake writes:

I attended a conference in Panama on tropical microbes, and along with many other researchers spent three days becoming increasingly bewildered by the implications of our studies. Someone got up to talk about a group of plants that produce a certain group of chemicals in their leaves. Until then, the chemicals had been thought of as a defining characteristic of that group of plants. However, it transpired that the chemicals were actually made by fungi that lived in the leaves of the plant. Our idea of the plant had to be redrawn. Another researcher interjected, suggesting that it may not be the fungi living inside the leaf that produced these chemicals, but the bacteria living inside the fungus. Things continued along these lines. After two days, the notion of the individual had deepened and expanded beyond recognition. To talk about individuals made no sense any more. Biology – the study of living organisms – had transformed into ecology – the study of the relationships between living organisms. To compound matters, we understood very little. Graphs of microbial populations projected on a screen had large sections labelled ‘unknown’….

Many scientific concepts – from ‘time’ to ‘chemical bonds’ to ‘genes’ to ‘species’ – lack stable definitions but remain helpful categories to think with. From one perspective, ‘individual’ is no different: just another category to guide human thought and behaviour. Nonetheless, so much of daily life and experience – not to mention our philosophical, political and economic systems – depends on individuals that it can be hard to stand by and watch the concept dissolve. Where does this leave ‘us’? What about ‘them’? ‘Me’? ‘Mine’? ‘Everyone’? ‘Anyone’? …. It made my head spin to think of how many ideas had to be revisited, not least our culturally treasured notions of identity, autonomy and independence. It is in part this disconcerting feeling that makes the advances in the microbial sciences so exciting. Our microbial relationships are about as intimate as any can be. Learning more about these associations changes our experience of our own bodies and the places we inhabit. ‘We’ are ecosystems that span boundaries and transgress categories. Our selves emerge from a complex tangle of relationships only now becoming known.21

The study of relationships can be confusing. Almost all are ambiguous. Have leafcutter ants domesticated the fungus they depend on, or has the fungus domesticated the ants? Do plants farm the mycorrhizal fungi they live with, or do the fungi farm the plants? Which way does the arrow point? This uncertainty is healthy.

Reading these words made me think of our readings from the Gospel and Letter of John these past two weeks. They both refer to the wonder of indwelling the Divine and being indwelled by the Divine…“Abide in me as I abide in you…” [John 15]. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” [1 John 4:16]. Talk about entangled life!

And then of course what if we take Jesus literally when his says: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” [Mark 12:31]. What if Jesus is not simply speaking about the extent of our loving but the extent of our actual selves? In other words, could Jesus be commanding us to expand our own sense of identity to include our neighbour? If so, then we are more than our skin can hold. If so, what happens to our neighbour happens to us for we all share entangled life. If so, then murder and war is suicide. If so, then an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

If so, what “concepts dissolve?” What “associations change?” “What culturally treasured notions do we need to revisit?”

A growing consciousness of our oneness with neighbour, the Divine, and the natural world lies at the foundation of the world’s salvation (healing and liberation). And obviously not simply a growing consciousness, but a way of life both personal and political, individual and systemic that abides in this consciousness and in which this consciousness abides.  I would call this consciousness of our oneness, Christ consciousness as Jesus prayed: “May they be one as we are one.” [John 17], but others may call it by other names. What we call it is less important than whether we live into and out of it.

If this makes our head spin – let us embrace our “disconcerting feelings” and rejoice that our many “unknowns” if nothing else, help us to walk our entangled life more humbly.

In grace,
Alan
Pronouns: he/him

Email welcome@cmm.org.za for the zoom link to the Sunday service.

To forgive is to resurrect

Friends,

This past Sunday we noted that forgiveness is nothing less than an act of resurrection. In short: To forgive is to resurrect. We noted how the story of the forgiven prodigal is framed as a resurrection story: “My child was lost and is found, was dead and is now alive”. To say that we believe in the resurrection while withholding forgiveness is equivalent to saying we love God while hating our sisters and brothers. This makes us liars. [1 John 4:20]

Forgiveness is not only a gift of new life to the forgiven, but also a gift of new life to the forgiver. To forgive another is to be resurrected from our own death that results from us not loving. As we read in 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Still further, to forgive someone is to resurrect them from the death of being “dead to us”. Our act of forgiveness brings them alive to us. Alive so we can be for them and no longer against them or indifferent towards them.

These were just two pieces of the forgiveness-jigsaw-puzzle that we mentioned last Sunday. We did not complete the puzzle, I am not sure one ever can, but our hope was to find and place enough pieces of the puzzle to give us a sense of what forgiveness is.

I ran out of time last Sunday to link the Acts 4:32-35 reading to the theme of Forgiveness and Resurrection. This link is crucial if forgiveness is going to be known at societal level. And what society is without sin? The recurring sin of society is the exploitative and exclusive debt economy that eventually makes slaves of the majority of people to sustain a small elite.

Forgiveness as resurrection is made real within society through the implementation of Jubilee. Jubilee is the “every-fifty-years-forgiveness-of-debt” policy. Financial debt. We would prefer forgiveness to leave our finances alone. No wonder we have changed the word “debt” in the Lord’s prayer, to the more general, “trespasses” or “sins”. “Forgive us our debt as we forgive those in our debt”.

Jubilee is a forgiveness-financial-policy of debt cancellation. To the extent that we practice Jubilee is to the extent that we will come alive as a society. If we don’t do so – we abide in death. And this death will eventually swallow us all up. Once again, the first letter of John asks the pointed question: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” [1 John 3:17]. This question is even sharper for us who live in the most unequal country in the world and therefore the country that has the greatest need for Jubilee economics.

The difference of course between forgiving others who have hurt us and practicing forgiveness as Jubilee in a society, is that when we practice Jubilee and cancel the debts of others we do so as those who need forgiveness. We need forgiveness because (even unwittingly) we have benefitted from systems that carry the favour of some at the deathly expense of the many. It matters not whether we like or dislike the systems that benefit us or not. The reading from 1 John 3:17 does not ask us if we designed the system or not. It does not care how hard we have worked for what we have. John simply says that if we have and withhold what we have, while others do not have, then we can’t say that the love of God is in us. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible”. Practicing Jubilee is “the all” taking responsibility.

A Universal Basic Income Grant is one way in which we can practice Jubilee. It is probably the very least of ways. We could call it “Jubilee lite”. I believe that South Africa’s resurrection depends on it.

There is a lot of information about a Universal Basic Income Grant on the net. Here is an introduction via The Daily Maverick podcast called: Don’t Shoot the Messenger, by Rebecca Davis.

In grace,
Alan

 

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