Thank you…


I have always found it a strange and wonderful gift arriving at a new congregation, not completely dissimilar to the transformation of “water into wine”. I would arrive as a stranger but instantly be welcomed as family. So, what was I, stranger or family? Water or wine? It might be the difference between fact and truth. The fact was, we were strangers (we simply didn’t know each other when we met) but the deeper truth was that we were family. Family, not only because of the tradition we share but as in the deepest sense of our shared humanity. Church at its best recognises the stranger as family. Living out the truth of our human family-ness is what I would call true enlightenment. Welcoming the stranger and discovering a sister, brother, mother or father. Drawing water … and … tasting wine. For this reason, I always pray before each sermon: “Water within each of us the desire to be your faithful family forever”. Thank you for allowing me into your homes and hearts as family.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the agony of being called to speak a word – an uncomfortable word to the world – only to have a greater agony trying to hold it in: “If I say, I will not speak any more in his name, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jer. 20:9). I know this damned if you do, damned if you don’t agony. To speak with one’s feeble voice or not. I have experienced it almost every Saturday night for 33 years. Maya Angelo wrote: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Up until now I have chosen the lesser agony. I will now no doubt experience the greater agony as I seek out silence and solitude.

I am grateful to the Methodist Church who trusted me to tell “the old, old story … of Jesus and his love.” I am also grateful for the responsibility and accountability that came with it. Truth be told I would not have chosen many of the places that the church sent me to, but each turned out to be unforgettably enriching as I met family across the rich diversity of this country: From the streets of Johannesburg city to Rustenburg and Mooinooi (1991), then Welkom (1995), then Midrand (1998) and finally CMM (2008).

I was 21 when I started. Looking back, I think it was quite crazy to let me loose on a congregation at that age. Yet, the other day I asked a barber how they learnt how to cut hair. I wondered if they started out practicing on wigs. The barber laughed and said – “I was thrown in the deep-end and simply told to cut a client’s hair … a real live human being. No wigs!” So, I guess this is how we learn. We learn with real live human beings. We learn by being trusted. Trusted to start. Trusted with an opportunity. Trusted to learn through doing. It’s crazy! And of course, we learn by sitting multiple classes with the great teacher called Failure, who hopefully gives us a degree in humility.

Thank you CMM for the last 15 years. It has been a tremendous joy and privilege to share life with you. Thank you for your love and care for me and for allowing me to love and care for you. A relationship of 15 years can only last with large amounts of grace and truth. Grace frees us to explore ever greater depths of truth, and truth inevitably exposes us to our need for grace. One without the other is either meaningless or mean. You have gifted me with both.

Thank you for allowing me to grow and change with you. I say this specifically in relation to preaching Sunday after Sunday. I will forever be grateful for the freedom to wrestle with the ancient texts in explorative and questioning ways in the hope to work out what it means to take Jesus’ teaching and example seriously in the world today.

Finally, a special thank you to Adrienne, Oscar and Sharon as well as all those in the Donkey Teams over the years – I am grateful to each of you.

In grace,
Alan and Jubilee

Pruned free of fear



Alexei Navalny is a political prisoner in Russia, facing potentially 20 years in jail. We know about political prisoners from our own history. Here he speaks before a closed court, consisting of 18 people, seven of which are wearing masks. I include it today because his words need to be heard by the world. Not only because he speaks truth about one particular violently corrupt and oppressive regime, Russia, but because he addresses the universal human question on how to act. How to live. What are we going to choose to spend our one God-given life on?  His clarity is rooted in courage pruned free of fear. Like Mandela’s Rivonia Trial statement. Like St. Paul’s prison letters. It is political. It is philosophy. It is poetry. It is real. ChatGPT could not write it. No need to get lost in the specifics. Focus on the principled truth. Make it your own.

Read the English transcript (go to Google translate and select English tab) from his latest trial.


Psalm 139



It is impossible to reflect on Psalm 139 too deeply. To reflect on its meaning too carefully. Regardless of how many times we read Psalm 139 we will always be defeated by its beauty.

For this reason we return again to read and be lead by Psalm 139.

In grace,

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

7Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
    and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
    and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.


Justice crucified


Our reflections throughout Holy Week have been premised on the belief that if Jesus were the preacher this week, he would not focus on what happened to him 2000 years ago. Rather, Jesus would focus on how he continues to be crucified today in the bodies of those who he names as his incarnation, “the least of these”. The bodies of the vulnerable poor. Therefore, our focus throughout the week was on the systems of religion, economics and politics that continue to collude in ways that exclude and exploit. Ways that blame the victims of society’s injustice for society’s problems which ultimately scapegoats and crucifies.

Jesus doesn’t call us to be his historians. He calls us to be his disciples. Discipleship happens in the now. History is important in how it can help us to see and understand the present, but it comes with the temptation to live in the past which means that we could end up worshipping yesterday’s Messiah and this can blind us from seeing that we are crucifying today’s Messiah. Together with this is the temptation to believe that just because we know the story of old means that we now know better. But as we have seen this week in our reflections, we do not know better now. The exact same abuses of religious, economic and political power exist today as they did 2000 years ago. Justice continues to be betrayed and the results are as deadly.

The other premise for our reflections this past week was that Jesus was crucified by “1000 cuts”. Each cut a tiny compromise of the truth, neither deadly nor very noticeable in themselves but cumulatively they constructed a cross. The cross was made from a million splinters of self-interest legally laminated together by fear, greed and prejudice. As it was then, so it is today. Yes, the cross was legal, of this the State’s lawyers were sure. We should know better than most that legal does not mean just.

William Sloane Coffin once said: “On Good Friday we crucified Jesus, the best among us, because we had crucified the best within us, and did not want to be reminded of it…”

Now there were many reasons why Jesus was crucified – not least because he threatened the status quo of the Empire elites, but I invite us to reflect on this insight from Sloane Coffin today.

Isn’t it true that when we are reminded of something within us that we have ourselves forsaken or betrayed, we are prone to respond with defensive denial and sometimes even vicious anger? When we betray something we hold dear within us there is a strong temptation to begin to see the world, others and ourselves in a way that justifies our self-betrayal as it becomes too painful for us to face and acknowledge. One way to stop the pain is to get rid of that which is reminding us of our self-betrayal. To shatter the mirror that reflects the reminder.

Jesus reminded the religious class what true religion is meant to be about – justice rather than ritual, and mercy rather than sacrifice – loving God by loving our neighbour. This way had long been forsaken, but not quite forgotten – so to eradicate evidence of their self-betrayal they called for his blood. Likewise, Jesus reminded those in power that they were to use their power to pastor the nation with care. The leaders had not forgotten they were called to be shepherds, but they had long since given up caring for anyone other than themselves. They took offense at Jesus and seized the opportunity to have Jesus permanently removed. Jesus reminded the ordinary people that they were born free and equal to all and therefore to pick up their mats and emancipate themselves from internalised slavery. The people wanted him to do to their enemies as their enemies had done to them. When Jesus refused, they cried “crucify” and voted for Barabbas instead.

May we see and acknowledge what we have betrayed in ourselves. And may we behold our self-betrayal with compassion rather than condemnation, with the hope that when it is revealed to us by others, we will not call for their condemnation. Perhaps this may avert another crucifixion.

With grace,


New Year’s Eve: A Time for Reflection

Dear God,

We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.

Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God lead us to our footpath:
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed
of natural creatures and feel the earth’s love
beneath our feet.

Lead us there where step-by-step we may
feel the movement of creation in our hearts.

And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.

Nothing can be loved at speed.

God, lead us to the slow path;
to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing:
another way of being.

Crucifying Friday


On this Crucifying Friday we gather to remember Jesus’ Crucifixion that took place long ago and as we do, we gather to name and engage the crucifixions of our time. Christ is crucified again and again … and again! Remember when the Spirit of Jesus confronted the persecuting Saul on that Damascus road? Jesus did not say, “Why are you persecuting them?” He said, “Why are you persecuting me?” In other words Jesus takes what we do to each other personally. This is especially true when the most vulnerable are the victims. As Jesus said, “What you do to the least of these you do to me.”

Therefore Jesus’ Crucifixion 2 000 years ago is more than a historical event. It is an archetypal lens. It is the Crucifixion archetype that is true the world over. According to the Crucifixion archetype whenever expedient politicians (backed by an unquestioning military), oligarch influencers and a self-serving religious establishment get together, society is soon to be littered with crucifixions of the poor and vulnerable who are scapegoated for the sins of this unholy trinity.

The Crucifixion archetype further reveals that people (especially religious people) have a tendency to crucify today’s messiahs while worshipping the messiahs of yesteryear. It is a perverse form of salvation (liberation) nostalgia that is a stumbling block to salvation (liberation) in the present. In other words we act like Herod today while praising Jesus of long ago. We act like Pharaoh today while praising Moses of even longer ago. We act like the KKK today while praising MLK jr. We act like the Apartheid regime today while we sing praises about the liberation struggle. We steal from the pensions of the poor while we call for radical economic transformation. Beneath the rhetoric of our worship we hide our acts of betrayal. And even this can be hidden from ourselves, such are the depths of our self-deception.

If Jesus’ Crucifixion recorded in the gospels does not illuminate the crucifixions recorded in today’s newspapers then we are denying the Crucifixion of old by the way we remember it.

This is true all over the world. This year we think especially of the civilian executions and bombed out communities of Ukraine. We think too of the economic war against the unemployed poor of our own land (See Sunday post from two weeks ago).

Today we gather beneath the wondrous Cross of the wounded one…

I invite you to carve out time today to name and hold vigil with the wounded of the world. Those who literally carry the sins (deathly actions) of the world in their living…

With grace, Alan

The Last Shall Be First

Along the way the pilgrims heard
        that a group of people
had set out for Jerusalem
        without a map.
Since each of us owned
        our own map
and read it daily
        and even then
had difficulty knowing
        which way to turn,
we were amazed
that they would set out
        on their own …
amazed and alarmed.

Many a day we had
        prayed and consulted
over choices
        in the road.
This news presented
        a greater dilemma:
Which of us would go
        in the rescue party?
Whoever went would
        most certainly
not get to Jerusalem
        on time.

        we prayed.
Then it was we realised
        that the ones who went
in search of the lost
        would be the first
to arrive in Jerusalem.

Certain in-charge church people
        expound upon the finer points of doctrine
while the disenfranchised await the verdict.

Meanwhile the holy fools rush in
       and touch the outcasts,
creating Good News once again.

Certain in-charge church people
       expound upon the finer points of doctrine
while the disenfranchised await the verdict.

Meanwhile the holy fools rush in
      and touch the outcasts,
creating Good News once again.

Ann Weems