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

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

Making meaning

Soweto’s inspiring soccer gogos risk losing their home field to developers. Aspasia Karras

 

Hi Friends,

I saw a group of people playing soccer in a park the other day. The teams at play were the shirts vs. the shirt-less. The shirts of the shirt-less marked the four corners of the soccer field. A couple of stacked bricks formed the goalposts. There was no referee. Everyone was the referee.

I remember playing similar games of soccer when I was a kid. With makeshift goal posts and no chalk lines to mark the field.  I also remember that we would have many arguments about whether the ball was ‘in’ or ‘out’. We had graphic ways of “proving” how the ball passed either below or over the invisible goal post. When ‘they’ scored the goalposts shrunk. We ‘we’ scored the goal posts stood tall. Quite miraculous.

During every neighbourhood championship we were not only improving our soccer skills. We were sharpening our debating skills. We were learning ethics. With the help of a couple of t-shirt corner-posts and brick-stacked goalposts and argued-out ethics, the game remained enjoyable. It remained enjoyable because it continued to have meaning.

It seems to me that one of the consequences of Covid-19 is that many of the ‘lines’ that demarcate the field of our lives have been erased. Think of how the ‘lines’ of routine have been erased or the ‘lines’ of employment, and of roles and responsibilities. With each line erased there is a threat of enjoyment fading because of the loss of meaning.

To the extent that we are able to creatively improvise with a couple of t-shirt corner posts and brick-stacked goal posts, may be to the extent that we are able to hold on to meaning and the joy that flows from meaning in these days of Covid erasing. To the extent that we are able to argue out an ethic of what is fair, may be to the extent that we learn greater truth about ourselves and society than we would otherwise have learnt without this Covid erasing. A truth that offers us the possibility of a deeper freedom if we give ourselves to it.

[I realise that this analogy can play the other way: The erasing of ‘lines’ gives us an opportunity to redesign the ‘game’. No ‘lines’ allows for new ‘lines’ to be drawn, etc. Yay! This may be a wonderful act of liberation. Take the analogy whichever way you need.]

Here is a link to a joyful and meaningful soccer story from which the top photo comes.

This Wednesday for our Lenten journey of deliberately designing our days with “sacred pause” by surrendering to Silence, Stillness and Solitude will move from theory into practice. Instead of meeting for an hour or so online this Wednesday evening, we are encouraged to practice Silence, Stillness and Solitude.

The CMM Sanctuary will be open on Wednesday 10th March from 17h30 to 18h30 if you would like to hold silence with others. (All Covid regulations will be observed … in silence.)

We will pick up our Lenten discussion on Wednesday 17th March at 20h00.

If you would like the Zoom link for Sunday please email welcome@cmm.org.za or request via that same email to be put on the WhatsApp group.

In grace,
Alan

A Work of Celebration

Friends,

South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Friday by Police Minister Bheki Cele. He reported that between October – December 2020 the number of people murdered had increased by 6.6% and the number of people raped had increased by 1.5%. This means that 4,124 people were murdered (2,481 people were murdered in public places and 1,643 people were killed at the home of the victim or of the perpetrator) and 12,218 people were raped, of which more than 4,900 took place at the home of the victim or the home of the rapist. All this in only 3 months!

South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Thursday by The Children’s Institute that launched the South African Child Gauge 2020.

The report describes the deteriorating nutritional status of children as “the slow violence of malnutrition”. The “slow violence” is “hidden” within the permanent negative outcomes that include, stunted growth, a compromised immune system and reduced cognitive ability. This will be a contributing factor in whether a child starting Grade 1 actually completes Grade 12. (On Friday the Matric pass rate for 2020 was announced as 98.07% – yet what is hidden within that percentage is that it only about 50% of the total number of learners who entered Grade 1 twelve years ago.)

South Africa is an extremely violent country. There is the explicit violence and the hidden violence. They are linked. The explicit is underpinned by the hidden. To address the explicit, the hidden must be uncovered, brought into the light and acknowledged if it is to be healed. Yet the explicit violence mentioned by the Police Minister is often the only violence actually recognised as violence. This is the violence one most commonly thinks of when we hear the words “South Africa is an extremely violent country”. As a result, according to the Police Minister, the solution is for the “the police to dig deep and put the shoulder to the wheel”. Yet the hidden violence of one’s human dignity being denied as a result of not having the very basics to live on, runs deeper and is far more extensive than any increased police beat.

Millions of people in South Africa literally live in a permanent state of violence. Of violation. A violation that is not seen or recognised as a violation. As Parker Palmer insightfully says: “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” One way to interpret what he is saying is that explicit violence will result from hidden violence not being validated.

Therefore, the first step to reducing violence in South Africa is to recognise the hidden violence. This is the violence that must come first into our minds when we hear “South Africa is an extremely violent society”. This is the crime that we must first consider when we speak of South Africa as a crime ridden society. This is the primary crime.

I refer you to a paper by Prof. Anthony Collins on violence. In my mind one the most helpful and insightful papers on violence in South Africa.

Within this paper he decides to turn things on its head and ask the question: How to create a violent society. Sadly, you will see that South Africa ticks all the boxes to create a violent society.

To reduce and end violence is our work. This is the work Jesus calls us into. This includes both the hidden and the explicit violence. This violence resides both within us and around us. It therefore includes work within our hearts as well as work on the streets and in the institutions that shape our lives. Our approach is always confessional. Meaning, that we start by asking ourselves where we are part of the problem. To the extent that we can be truthful in this, is the extent to which we can ultimately be set free and in doing so bring change within and beyond ourselves.

Ultimately the work Jesus calls us to in reducing and ending violence, is a work of celebration. The celebration of the sacredness of all Life.

We will explore this further this Sunday at 10am. The zoom link is available from welcome@cmm.org.za.

In grace,

Alan

Bonus: Interview with Prof. Julian May, from the Centre of Excellence in Food Security.


Unlike many of Jesus’ peeps through the ages, Jesus is not hung up on his name. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus go round repeating: “In Jesus’ name. In Jesus’ name…” Whether something is Christlike or not has little to do with what it is named, and everything to do with who is served. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus said it himself that “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21)

In fact, sometimes those who shout “Lord” the loudest can be the furthest thing from Christlikeness, while sometimes those who refuse to have that word on the lips can be end up being his most faithful friends. Once again this should not surprise us, because Jesus said as much in the sheep and goat story, we find in Matthew 25:31-46.

This sheep and goat story reminds us that whatever we do to the least (vulnerable and oppressed), we do to Jesus. And therefore this is the only authentic measure on whether something is Christlike or not.

With this in mind I would like to encourage you to subscribe and donate to GroundUp.  GroundUp, according to what I have just said above, is an incredibly Christlike newspaper. Not because it has any association with the Christian faith / church / religion / evangelism or anything Jesus-explicit etc., but because they exist to serve the least – the vulnerable and oppressed of society. Here is how they describe their work: GroundUp is a weekly online newspaper that reports “news that is in the public interest, with an emphasis on the human rights of vulnerable communities.”

GroundUp centers on those who are usually kept to the margins. They amplify the voice of those usually silenced. Instead of representing the interests of the privileged few, they put the hardships and suffering of the overwhelming majority of people in this country into words as well as documenting the resilience of the same overwhelming majority to rise to another day. It is despairing and inspiring reading all at once. The stories reveal how the political plays out in people’s personal lives, in harrowing and heroic ways.

GroundUp reminds me of the truth of my context that I am inclined to ignore and forget. Only when we take the truth they share week in and week out seriously and then respond by doing God’s liberating and healing will of doing justice, offering mercy while walking humbly, will we all be free.

Here are two examples from their latest Friday offering:

  1. Nomathemba Mali, 54, from Extension 8 said she has been renting for many years and could no longer afford it. “I’m a domestic worker and only work a few hours for three days a week. I get R1,440 a month and have to buy groceries, electricity, R24 per taxi trip to work, and R600 for rent. “I’m a single mother living with my 16-year-old granddaughter. For the whole month we depend on this money. The R600 rent we now won’t have to pay will make a difference,” said Mali. Read the full article here.
  2. A R120 chunk of the R350 Nomangesi Ndwayana and Nandile Ngemntu will each receive from the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant will go to pay the driver who brought them 50 kilometres from Peddie to Makhanda to queue outside the post office.The two travelled 50 kilometres from their Peddie village to Makhanda, arriving at 3 a.m., only to find people already queueing. Read the full article here.

 

I give thanks for GroundUp – a Christ-like incarnational newspaper without needing to say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

In grace,
Alan

 

P.S. I will be away for the next 10 days, sitting Vipassana.

P.S.S. Please remember to email: welcome@cmm.org.za if you would like the Zoom link for the Sunday Service.

Listening to Scripture as a Therapist

 

Friends,

Therapists listen.

Week in and week out – they listen.

Their days are divided into uncompromising 50 minute segments.

50 minute segments of listening.

Therapists listen to people weaving together the tapestry of their lives … threading words into patterns of meaning … hoping that the newly woven meaning will hold … will be a home to nest in … yet seldom do the first number of attempts satisfy. Each to be torn apart before attempting another – sometimes torn apart in a weaver-bird-like-tantrum.

Yet through it all the therapist is listening.

Listening through the endless repeats.

Listening for who or what is always mentioned and for who or what is never mentioned.

Listening for who is blamed and who is defended.

Listening for the words spoken with cement-like-certainty and for the words of doubt … knowing that they may be a proxy for each other.

Therapists perhaps especially listen for the contradictions or even the slightest variations within our stories. Not with the purpose to correct, catch out or even point out, and certainly not to accuse or condemn … but with curious hopefulness that here – where our story is inconsistent or simply uneven – that here there may be a potential “in” … a possible entry – like a picture or bookcase against a wall, that just needs to be touched in a certain way – for it to slowly swivel open – revealing a dusty web-strewn corridor … leading to a distant room filled with light.

Ironically and most thankfully, the words we most fear to speak, for fear of being judged and rejected, are often the words that move therapists to awe. Awe not for the content of the words but for the courage it took to speak them. Therapists, like poets know that “too much truth is hard to bear” and so they know how we must have wrestled with ourselves to finally speak it out … overcoming our fears, our guilt, our shame and our defensive denials. They know we fear the truth as much as we long for it. They know we defend ourselves from the truth even while we seek it. They know – and so regardless of what horrors our words reveal – the therapist takes an inward bow to the brave one sitting opposite them.

Now imagine you are a therapist. You are listening to the Scriptures as if they were a recording of the many sessions you have had with each of the characters in the text … in this case – the first three chapters of 1 Samuel.

What do we hear? What do we learn?

This is the introduction for our reflection tomorrow morning. I invite you to read 1 Samuel 1-3:20 in preparation.

In grace, Alan

If you would like to zoom link for the Sunday Service – please email welcome@cmm.org.za And if you would like to be sent the link each week – ask to be put on the CMM WhatsApp group.

‘Ma’ Winnie Lingeveldt

This plaque faced Ma’s bed – these are the first and last words Ma saw each day.
(As for me and my home, we we will serve the Lord.)

 

Friends,
On Friday we celebrated ‘Ma’ Lingeveldt’s life. Ma died on Tuesday, just three months shy of 100. A remarkable age, yet Ma’s life cannot be measured in years. The length of her life, though remarkable does not compare to her remarkable character. The salt and light of Ma’s life was a gift and guide to many of us at CMM. In the words of her daughter, Michelle “she taught us Jesus”. She did indeed.

There was something timeless about Ma – again not so much because of her age, but rather because of her consistency of character. She was the same, yesterday, today and forever. I share four observations of her beatitude-like-character with you, that I trust will continue to teach us Jesus. Ma’s life, like the beatitudes of Jesus, invites us into a way of paradox. More specifically, a way of paradoxical truth. A way of ‘both / and’ rather than ‘either / or’.

A Way of Paradox 1

Ma was grounded and transcended. From her, I understand what Jesus meant when he instructed us to be in the world but not of the world. When I spent time in Ma’s presence I got the sense that Ma, though vitally present to the moment had already entered the MORE of life. She had “passed over” to the other side, while still on this side. In this she gifted us with a curious openness to the MORE of life. In Celtic spirituality they speak of ‘thin places’ referring to places where the veil between this measured world and the mystery of MORE is so thin that one is able see through it. In this sense, Ma was a ‘thin person’.

One of the great privileges of my time at CMM has included walking into the sanctuary and overhearing Ma praying for someone. Someone she had taken fully into her heart in love. To hear her pray was to hear Jesus speak. She prayed ‘thin prayers’.

Humility is what holds grounded and transcended together as one. Ma was humble. She had no need to push herself to be seen, heard or noticed. She never drew attention to herself. She had no need to promote herself. She had nothing to prove and no image to protect. She embraced silence, stillness and solitude without effort. Ma’s humble presence spoke for itself. And … people were drawn to her. People from all round the world who visited this sanctuary were drawn to sit next to her and to tell her their story. And at the same time she was ever willing to “give an accounting of the hope within her”. [1 Peter 3]

A Way of Paradox 2

Ma became frail over the last few years. Frail, yet strong. In fact, the more obviously frail she became – the more her strength, fortitude, resilience shone through. As if to highlight for all of us (just in case we still didn’t get it) that her strength was given to her as gift.

Ma’s life taught us the meaning of these scriptures: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ: for whenever I am weak, I am strong.” [2 Corinthians 12]

“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have a little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” [Philippians 4]

Ma was content. Content does not mean condone. Ma’s contentment was rooted in a Centre that she trusted would hold. This released her to hold the circumstances that surrounded her, be they good or ill, more lightly. A good day for Ma had nothing to do with comfort or ease, but rather whether she was able to discern the presence of Jesus and walk in his ways. This will only sound glib to those who know not the history of her life. When Ma said: “Die Here is goed.” (The Lord is good.) it meant something.

A Way of Paradox 3

Ma’s experience of life taught her that she was no better or more than any other person. And her faith in Jesus taught her that she was no less than anyone. From this place of truth Ma was able to compassionately connect with everyone. Ma knew that people can’t live without bread, but she also knew that people could not live by bread alone. From this place of deep knowing Ma did to others as she would have others do to her.

A Way of Paradox 4

Ma gave birth to 10 children, and yet she was also the mother of us all. Her greeting to just about all of us, regardless of age: “Hello my kind (Hello my child)”. What her age gave her permission to do, her theology compelled her to do. She took seriously the words of Jesus from the Cross. Words spoken first to his mother and then to his disciple: “Woman here is your son. Here is your mother. Jesus came to remind us that we are all family, and he would even die telling us this truth. Ma dared to live this truth out. Calling everyone – be they the gangster from her Hanover Park and the priest from the church – “my kind” (my child). As a result of seeing everyone as family – she had love for all and fear for none.

In closing l once again read from scripture … the script of her life. Scripture that could have easily come from Ma – and surely does come from her to us through her living: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in [Ma], and the God of peace will be with you.” [Philippians 4:8-9].

In grace,
Alan

PS. Please remember that the best way we can care for others in this season of COVID, is to limit our physical contact and reduce our travel to only what is absolutely necessary. Our health sector is under huge strain. Please adhere to all the Government regulations and be weary of anti-mask and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Remember the Trinity: keep physical distance, wash hands and wear a mask.

 

A reminder that if you would like the zoom link for the Sunday Service 10 am,
please email welcome@cmm.org.za.

 

Time to pause …

 

Friends

As the clock completes its annual circuit, we are invited to pause…

To pause to examine our lives. To go through each month of the past year – remembering what took place around us and within us. We do so without judgement and without the need to justify anything. We steer between the unhelpful cliffs of condemnation and complacency. Instead, we hold all things – all situations and all people in compassion. Compassion is the life-giving combination of grace and truth. Truth without grace can be mean, while grace without truth is meaningless. Together they convict and comfort (strengthen)… this frees us to make our confession (get real about our living).

We pray: Spirit of truth and grace come and convict and comfort me today, that I may get real about my living. Amen.

This past year:

  • Who were the significant people?
  • What were the significant events?
  • What am I most grateful for?
  • What has this year (COVID year) revealed to me?
  • What have I learnt about myself? People? Relationships? Life? Jesus / God?
  • Who / what has made me angry, sad, hurt, disillusioned, resentful?
  • Who / what has made me joyful and free?
  • Where have I been the recipient of generosity?
  • Have I been truthful?
  • How have I done justice, been merciful and walked humbly?
  • What do I never want to forget?
  • What do I always want to take with me?
  • What do I want to leave behind?
  • What do I want to start doing…or start again?
  • What do I want to end?
  • If I were to die today, what would be my greatest regret?

 

These questions are simple signposts inviting us to explore a particular direction of our living. How far we would like to wander along each path is up to each of us…

Note: This time of pause is served best if we carve out unhurried time. We cannot “speed reflect” – like we may be able to speed read. We can only do 30 minutes reflection in 30 minutes – no more. If a question fails to connect with us straight away, we are invited to stick with it for a little longer …

___________________________

Below are a few reflections from Augustine of Hippo. A person known for his confessions. The Augustine Confessions is, next to the Bible, the most widely read book in history. It is also the first autobiography as we know them. It is devoted to telling Augustine’s passionate journey of faith and life. We are invited to read and re-read his words – sensitive to what convicts and comforts us.

“Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so…

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

Accordingly, I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

Clear is your response, but not all hear it clearly. They all appeal to you about what they want, but do not always hear what they want to hear. Your best servant is the one who is less intent on hearing from you what accords with his own will, and more on embracing with his will what he has heard from you.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!

You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would not have been at all.

You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  

I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labour for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter of joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day.

This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician, and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy.”

Grace, Alan

Rich vs Poor

Sunday Sermon
2020 12 20 Alan Storey
Advent Evangelism: Graced to Grace 2

Scriptures: Luke 1:26-38Luke 1:46b-55

2020 12 20 Sophie Joans ~ Opening Prayer


 

Friends,

It seems that Covid-19’s second bite is bigger than its first bite. “The Western Cape has more cases confirmed in the second wave, than compared to the first wave.” This is according to Dr Keith Cloete, the Head of the Department of Health in the Western Cape. My own anecdotal evidence confirms this. I know far more people with COVID-19 during this second wave than I did during the first. I also know of more people this time around who have died, and others who are struggling in ICU.

As many have said, if we are not careful over this Christmas time this could be our last Christmas. For this reason, we will not be having any in-person services at CMM. Our services will remain via zoom, including Christmas Day at 10 am. We will re-assess this situation only when there is a marked reduction in the spread of COVID-19.

Please remember to wear a mask, wash hands and keep at least 1.5 m away from each other. This prevention trinity is the kindest thing we can do for each other at this time. In the short term this will remain true until we have all received the vaccine. In the medium to long term, if we do not radically change the way we humans do life on earth, we can expect more lethal and frequent pandemics in the future. The choice really is, change or die.

Tragically not everyone agrees with the science. Some think COVID-19 is a hoax and sadly only find out it is not when they struggle to breathe. We may debate each other, but reality does not debate. Reality reigns. Gravity will bring us down every time.

Equally disturbing are those who are anti-vaxxers. History shows that vaccines are nothing short of miraculous in the way they have reduced death rates. From the mandatory smallpox vaccination in the 19th century to the polio vaccine of about sixty years ago, the world has been spared much suffering. Yet from the beginning of vaccines there has been opposition by a minority for a number of reasons, many of which continue to motivate anti-vaxxers to this day. Namely:

  • The assault on people’s autonomy.
  • Government overreach.
  • “Religious” reasons around “de-fouling” the natural order or a supposed link to the “mark of the beast” or the school that says, “simply have faith”.
  • Suspicion of big pharmaceutical companies’ manufacturing the problem or at least exploiting it.

 

We can go to the internet to find out the latest anti-vaccine theories and how they have been debunked, especially around the measles-mumps-rubella vaccines supposed link to autism. This continues to circulate even though it has long since been shown to have zero merit. With equal ease however, we can go to the internet to have any number of conspiracy theories validated. I guess this is a case of, “we will find whatever we are looking for”. This points to another deathly virus plaguing the world: the spread of misinformation.

Anti-vaxxers are not the only stumbling block to the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccination. Rich countries have placed hoarding orders (some countries have ordered up to six times more doses than their population size) making it almost impossible for poor countries to secure enough vaccines.

In the wilderness of old, the freshly freed slaves from Egypt learnt that hoarding stinks of death. When some have too much, others will have too little. One would therefore have hoped that we would have learnt something from COVID-19, that we are all interdependent, and that we are only as healthy as the sickest among us, but sadly not.

It reminds me of the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus and only one of them returned to say thank you. This person was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19). They were all united together when they suffered leprosy together, but as soon as they were healed, other divisions, like ethnicity, came to the fore. Separating them again. In today’s situation a nationalism and classism, rather than a world-wide humanitarianism, now determine who will be first in line for vaccine treatment.

This past week South Africa together with India and later supported by Eswatini and Kenya, requested the World Trade Organisation TRIPS Council that certain provisions of the TRIPS agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19 be waved to ensure greater ease to acquire the COVID-19 vaccine. This was not agreed to. Unsurprisingly, the debate was pretty much split along economics: rich countries vs poor countries. 

Time is running out for the human species to mature. To literally grow up and recognise the real reality (that does not debate, but reigns) of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all of life. Only then will we end the apartheid between nations that selfishly secures privilege for a few at the exclusion and exploitation of the many. In short, a mature human person recognises that all people are family. For this reason, we pray: OUR Father / Mother in heaven… To take that three-letter word seriously is to change the world we live in.

If you would like the Zoom link for Sunday’s Service – please email: welcome@cmm.org.za

Grace,
Alan