Birth may feel like death

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent — the period of 40 days that precedes Easter (excluding Sundays which remain forever days of resurrection celebration). 40 days is the great Biblical metaphor for new life — hinting towards the 40 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy reaching full-term. Lent is therefore an invitation for us to be open to conceive, labour and birth new life. In doing so, we fulfill our calling to imitate Jesus who came to bring new and abundant life.

This is why confession has always gone hand-in-hand with Lent. Confession is the courage to wrestle with the truth of our lives in the presence of another. Not so that they may forgive us — but that they may help us to accept the truth of our lives, as well as to accept the already-available forgiveness of God. You see, we can only fully confess (dare to touch the truth of our life) if we know that we are already fully forgiven. The grace of knowing that we are held is what sets us free to vulnerably let go. Only when I know that I am loved can I face the unlovable-ness of who I am.

Before we ask God to reveal to us our sin (our addictive self-centeredness) let us ask God to reveal to us God’s grace.

Defining sin as “addictive self-centeredness” reminds us that there are areas of our living that are uncontrollably dependent on that which is killing us (and others). And please let us not reduce addiction to alcohol and other drugs — some of us are addicted to blaming, exaggerating, working, interfering, controlling, gossiping and the like … all destructive in their own way. To give up any addiction feels like we are dying. So let us pray for God to remind us that birth may often feel like death. It is Lent — it is time to get pregnant.


Nourishing living

So I asked a friend of mine how to collect the seed from my present crop of tomatoes in order to have seeds to plant next season — this is what she told me to do:

“You need to identify the best plant (healthiest, strongest, prettiest, happiest) and on that plant identify the best tomato (same standards as above). Let it ripen on the vine, but not over-ripen.

Pick that tomato, set it on your kitchen counter for a day or two and smile upon it/smile as a result of it. Once it is perfectly ripe, cut it open and remove the seeds into a small bowl. Now eat the rest of it like it’s the gift from God we know it is. Let that small cup of seeds and juice sit on your kitchen counter for a day or two or three, until a layer of mould forms on top. Dispose of that layer of mould, and rinse the seeds clean. I usually get the tomato guts off them, then set to dry on a piece of foil or parchment, trying to spread them out so they don’t dry as a clump.

Once the seeds are dry, free them from the foil or parchment, put them in an envelope, and label (St. Pierre Slicer, and the date). They need to go through a period of being frozen, so here I just keep the envelope in an outbuilding for the winter (to replicate our season) but you can put them in your freezer for a month or two, which would work fine.

Obviously you can do this with more than one tomato, but even just one produces enough seeds to share.”

Oh my — so much to learn from a tomato! To live to nourish others — to die — to rise again (next season). And to think that God has chosen us and smiled lovingly upon all of us … enjoy the taste of that.


Loyalty is Truthful Living

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life”. In other words, to follow Jesus is to live in a particular way that honours truth more than anything else. Jesus did not say: “I am the way, the peace/provider/safety and the life”. If he had said this then we would be excused for shaping our lives around acquiring peace, material comfort and safety, which is what so many of us do. (We only have to reflect on the content of our prayers to see whether this is true or not.)

The truthful way is the Jesus-way. Therefore the truth-full way is the life-enabling/life-giving/life-receiving/life-creating way. The promise of the Jesus-way or the truth-full way, is LIFE. Truthful living brings life — life before death, and after. And when we experience this life — this abundant life — conceived, laboured and birthed — by truth-full living, then true peace is given to us (even in the midst of conflict), and material comfort becomes more immaterial, while safety is exchanged for salvation — which is (among other things) the liberation from the fear that provokes our need for safety in the first place.

Not only is truth-full living loyalty to Jesus — but it is also the highest loyalty we can offer others, organisations institutions, our country and world, as a whole. With this I conclude with a quote:

“Loyalty that hides problematic conduct is a false loyalty, for it elevates reputation over reality, and esteems image over character. Though we may believe we are acting to protect the institution, in reality we do the institution and individuals far greater damage …” John I. Jenkins


The First CMM Times of 2012

Our first CMM Times issue for 2012 is our ‘Back To School’ edition. Like school children all around the world, we too need to frequently enroll in classes on how to live loving and life-giving lives. As such our feature for the month is ‘The Jesus School‘, which reminds us how to live life and love others ‘The Jesus Way’. Below you will find a download link for this issue of CMM Times, as well as a link to the archives with all the previous CMM Times releases.

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Growing Community the Jesus Way

We have changed the name of “Wednesday Church” to the “Jesus School”. Why? What is in a name after all? Well, to be Church is to be Christ’s body. It is to live as Christ lived — to think, speak and act like Christ as well as to even die and rise again like Christ. In other words to embody Jesus in all things. Now I don’t know about you but I am nowhere near doing that — but in my more fearless moments — I long for that more than anything else. The way I see it is that I may call myself an astronaut all I like — I may even worship the moon and stick pictures of rockets on my bedroom wall and even dress in an astronaut suit — but that does not make me an astronaut. All I am doing when I call myself an astronaut is — well — calling myself an astronaut. Similarly we may call ourselves “Church” but that does not make us Church. Church is a Christ-centered community doing life the Jesus Way — risking being loved and risking loving.

The “Jesus School” reminds us that we will always be students of Jesus and never graduates!

Jesus will be our subject – week in and week out. Quite often we will be going through the gospel text for the previous Sunday.

Our prayer will not only be “Open my mind to understand your ways Jesus”, but also “open my heart to love you more.” We will study together — reading the texts — commentaries about the texts. Bring a bible and note book and let’s go on a journey together. It is for everyone — I promise you every one of us will have something to give and receive. School starts at 7 p.m. every Wednesday — or 6:30 p.m. for 30 minutes of silent-sitting.

Let the term begin, Alan

Picture: ‘WE’ — stands for West End — which is a marginalised suburb in Birmingham Alabama, USA. The Community Church Without Walls started an urban garden which was for me an amazing sign of the Kin-dom, Alan.

Introducing CMM Times

In 2011 we introduced a magazine-styled newsletter called CMM Times to serve as another tool for connecting with and engaging our community. In it we document the happenings in the life of our community, current outreach programmes we’re involved in, teachings, and opinion pieces. In many ways it serves a similar role to our website as we need to be mindful that not all members of our community have the resource to access online services.

Up until now, CMM Times has only been made available as a print newsletter. Now each issue is available for download. Click here to access any issue released to date.

Joyful and just generosity

At CMM we believe that we are born in the image of a very generous God who lovingly shares with us everything that has been created. We also believe that we are called to partner God in mending our universe by generously giving back what God has already provided so abundantly. We may choose to do this through CMM or any other organisation or individual or initiative. It is not important where we give but it is very important that we give. In order to become more like God, we are encouraged to give justly and joyfully so that we can help God mend our universe!

Remember …

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it, for the Lord has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.”  Psalm 24:1
Everything belongs to the Lord. We own nothing.

“There will, however, be no one in need among you … give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so … open your hand to the poor and needy.” Deut. 15:4,10,11
Everything of the Lord’s is to be joyfully and justly shared. 

“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
Sharing reveals God’s love in us.

As difficult as this may sound it is actually what each of us is born for – and here is why:
• God is joyfully and justly generous
• We are born in God’s image
• We are therefore born to be joyfully and justly generous.
We are on the journey from the image of God to the likeness of God!

Covenant love

Marriage vows are probably the only words that come close to the words of the Covenant Prayer that we will be praying today. To declare both Marriage vows and Covenant prayer one needs more than courage — one needs to be in love! For it is only love that casts out the fear that Marriage vows and Covenant prayer easily provoke.

Like Marriage vows the Covenant prayer expects faithfulness regardless of circumstances. In other words, we commit that our relationship with God is not going to be determined by riches or poverty, sickness or health. In other words, our relationship with God is not a contract that we negotiate with terms and conditions looking after our interests. Rather, it is freely giving-up our own interests because we are so in love that we are willing to trust — and trust fully and forever.

The one great difference between the Covenant prayer and Marriage vows is that we can confidently leave out the “till death us do part”. And this is no small gift. Knowing that we do not have to fear death sets us free to risk loving even more boldly and generously. We are set free to even risk giving our life. Now I know this sounds dramatic — and I guess it is — but it is also very natural and obvious. Think of how a parent would risk their life for the wellbeing of their child. Again we see how love casts out fear — even fear of death.

If we are going to grow in this kind of generous and self-sacrificial Covenant-love towards God we would do well to remember that this is a Covenant PRAYER. Prayer is intimate love-making with God. So before we make decisions to do this or that regarding the Covenant we could commit to making time for prayer trusting fearless action will flow out of this loving intimacy.

Peace, Alan

Donkeys for Jesus

You have often heard me say that Jesus needed a donkey to get around the city of Jerusalem and Jesus needs donkeys to get around our city of Cape Town.  Using the analogy of a donkey to remind us that we are called to be at Jesus’ service — to help him “get around”.  To be a worker — humble and persistent (I will leave out stubborn!).

This Wednesday the 25th you are invited to attend a CONGREGATIONAL MEETING to hear afresh the vision we have at CMM and to hear of the many opportunities for each of us to enroll as a donkey.

Please receive this as a personal invitation. EVERYONE is encouraged to attend. If you need transport let Adrienne (at the information desk at the back) know.

One of the signs of a mature Christ-like community is that the “regulars” do not attend for their own sake but for the sake of others —ever making the circle bigger — preventing an inner circle. This is a very important shift. As Jesus said if we want to save our life — we will loose it, but if we are willing to give it up — we will have it giving to us. If we come to worship just for ourselves — we will loose it’s real significance — but if we come open to attend to the needs of others then we will “find it”. In this we discover the great truth that our real need is to care for the needs of others — but we will only learn this mystery of the Gospel when we do so. Yes, some things can only be learnt in the doing.

A CONGREGATIONAL MEETING also allows for free discussion about our life together — raising any issue that happens to be on your heart. If you have any “topics” you would like to discuss please let Adrienne (at the welcome desk at the back of the sanctuary) have them.

Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday, Alan

Image credits: Håkan Dahlström

Silence & Service

Normally by this stage in January things are getting back to normal as we find our routine again after the holidays. While the year is still flexible in its youth I encourage you FIX time for silence and service into the pattern of your living.

Silence is a magnifying glass into the soul, i.e. the very essence of who we are. Silence is necessary if we are going to really be attentive to our life and world around us. And attentiveness to life is really the essence of any meaningful spirituality.

Service is the privileged moment for us to attend to God’s dream for this suffering world.

Silence and service need each other. Silence without service can be little more than naval gazing while service without silence can lead to a thoughtless exhausted frenzy. Silence and service should feed off each other as much as they should lead into each other.

One small moment for silence is from 9 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday before worship. And then there are so many opportunities for service following the silence. To find out about all these opportunities we will be having a congregational meeting on 25 January at 7 p.m. in our Sanctuary. I look forward to seeing you.

 Peace, Alan