I thought I would give you a heads up on a couple of things coming up in the life of CMM that I want to encourage you to put in your diary.
Palm Sunday: 28 March [6pm]
Movie: The Widow of St. Pierre (Staring Juliette Binoche) followed with discussion.
Holy Week: 29 March—1 April [7pm]
Theme for the week: The Way of Forgiveness
Good Friday: 10am Service followed by Three Hour Service starting at 12noon
Camps Bay outing: 11 April
Lunch and afternoon by the sea
Manna and Mercy: 23– 26 April
This is an opportunity to journey through the whole bible in one weekend. An awesome opportunity to get into the scriptures. Cost R60
Diversity Engagement: 14-16 May
A journey to unpack the bias and prejudice that lurks within us—be it sexism, racism or other forms of bias. This is truly life changing. Maximum 20 participants.
Church Camp: 8-10 October
Theme: The God of Surprises. Rocklands Centre Simon’s Town. Cost R270 for adults and R240 for children.
With great expectations, Alan
I am always intrigued by what sermons generate a surprisingly large and interactive response. Last week’s sermon on the Two Tones of Truth was one of them. From the amount of conversations, emails and sms’s I have received it seems to have touched a nerve of many. The overwhelming response has been: “That sermon was about me!” So it seems many of us participate in the dance between faith and doubt. The cry: “I believe, help my unbelief” is the cry of many of us. This is what led me to voice that strange sentence that I invited you to wrestle with: “I am still searching for what I have found”. I have no more light to shed on this but I can’t get away from its ring of truth for me. I would be interested to find out your reflections on this!
The psalmist may have spoken in the tones of bold declaration and doubting distress, but amazingly s/he longed for just one thing: the Lord’s presence and beauty.
To witness a life lived willing only one thing is hugely compelling. The psalmist’s desire drew me to a deeper truth of my own. It went like this: “I yearn for one thing.” Then I thought, “No that is not fully true. I long to yearn for one thing”. Then I thought some more, “No that is also not fully true. I am not even sure I long to yearn for one thing, but I know I need to and I know I need help to.” So I turn to Jesus—the one who has found me– and I search again for him.
I really want to encourage us all to read and reflect on the Psalms—the psalms that are better prayed than preached—the psalms that help us recognize our true selves. May you be blessed with both peace and disturbance. Alan.
I watched a documentary this past week on Howard Zinn – a long time historian and peace activist who recently died. As a young man he participated in the Royan bombing (dropping napalm for the first time in Europe) just weeks before the end of WWII: “And we don’t know how many people were killed or how many people were terribly burned as a result of what we did. But I did it like most soldiers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, thinking we’re on the right side, they’re on the wrong side, and therefore we can do whatever we want, and it’s OK.” said Zinn.
Only afterward did he learn the human effects of bombing, mostly harming civilians – including children, women, and the elderly. He flew at “30,000 feet, six miles high, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And this is modern warfare….soldiers fire, they drop bombs, and they have no notion, really, of what is happening to the human beings that they’re firing on. Everything is done at a distance. This enables terrible atrocities to take place.” And it’s happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“And that while some societies can rightly claim to be more liberal, more democratic, more humane than others, the
difference is not great enough to justify the massive, indiscriminate slaughter of modern warfare.”
He asked shouldn’t the real motivations for war be examined. Shouldn’t the claim of fighting for democracy, liberty, a just cause, and human rights be questioned. Wouldn’t it be clear that all nations fight for power, privilege, wealth, territory, supremacy, national pride, and dominance of one side over others, the notions of freedom, righteousness, and innocent victims never considered. Tyranny is in the eye of the beholder when one side is as bad as the other.
“War isn’t inevitable”, said Zinn. “It doesn’t arise from an instinctive human need. Political leaders manufacture it, then use propaganda to justify it to the public and mobilize them to fight. War is the moral equivalent of the worst kind of terrorism.”
Toward the end of his life he wrote: “Wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked they acted, and organized to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”
As we begin our service, they begin their trial
As we meet to support Ecclesia they meet to judge
As we meet in solidarity they meet in legality
As we begin in prayer, so do they
We are us and they are them
Yet we are one
We are them and they are us
As a body within Your body
We feel and see Flesh parting – from a flogging
The paschal range is played out before us
Bystanders from a distance
Some help to carry the cross
Mocking, hate, rejection,
The state watches, bemused
Blood and water flow, separated
The water no longer offering the eternal welcome of Baptism
We trust You Lord to have the last word.
[This is a prayer written by my colleague Rev. John Wessels. John prayed this prayer at a service that was held in support of and in solidarity with Rev. Ecclesia de Lange. The service of solidarity took place at the exact time as the Church appeal court met to decide on Ecclesia’s future as a Methodist minister as a result of her marrying her partner Amanda on the 15th December 2009. This past Wednesday we heard that Ecclesia had been discontinued as a Methodist Minister. If you would like to know more about Ecclesia you can collect a copy of “Ecclesia’s Story” from the back table. In grief, Alan]
It is a special occasion to have Stepping Stones Pre-School joining us in worship this morning. Today we salute the wonder-full work of all those involved in this amazing school. During the service we will have the opportunity to support the staff of Stepping Stones as they seek to re-dedicate themselves to the awesome task of caring for young lives and educating fertile minds. Thank you for being among us today!
Today is Valentine’s Day. A day on which our “Cardies culture” encourages us to risk telling another of our love for them with cards, flowers and chocolates. And this week is ASH Wednesday that marks the beginning of Lent—the long journey of Jesus to the Cross—the culmination of Jesus risking his life to tell us of his love for all the world.
A Cross—not a card—is the real sign of love. Let us bare this in mind that when Jesus commands us to love—both neighbours and enemies alike—he is not referring to a soppy or romantic feeling. He is referring to the constant commitment to pursue, promote, preserve and protect LIFE in and for the other. Cross-shaped love is for LIFE. Cross-shaped love will even give up its life for the sake of saving another’s life. Cross-shaped love will choose to be killed rather than to kill. Cross-shaped love continues to treasure the sacredness of life in both neighbour and enemy.
Today is Harvest Festival. Today we celebrate the life sustaining goodness of God. We declare our gratitude for God’s generosity for providing an abundance for all of God’s creatures.
In response to God’s generosity we are invited to consider our own. Today each of us is given an opportunity to commit ourselves to a way of generous living and giving. Inside this bulletin there is a pledge form. We are invited to anonymously write down the gifts we commit to offering God.
Please note that at CMM we do not believe giving to God should ever be reduced to giving to the Church. We “believe the world is our parish” and so we trust that every gift of generosity given to anyone or any organization anywhere at any time is a sacred offering to God to take and use to mend this broken world that God so loves.
The aim of today is to encourage us to become thoughtful and deliberate about our generosity in partnering God to make a Gospel difference in the world.
Please be reminded of my role at CMM. I am not here to fund-raise for the Church—as pastor I am here to remind us that we are called to grow in generosity just as we are called to grow in love and mercy and truth. Please also note that our aim is never to become a rich church but rather an enriching church.
At 6am this past Wednesday I was canoeing—doing my usual 10km stretch between 3 Anchor bay and Clifton. It was slightly drizzly without a breath of wind. The water was like glass. A few hundred meters out I came across a seal enjoying an octopus for breakfast (the octopus was not enjoying!). A little further out I saw two Southern Right whales and paddled right up close to them. They were around 15m in length. Huge animals—gently floating—powerfully blowing—and one waved at me with a vertical show of its enormous tale. A few minutes later I saw some other whales that were slightly smaller and finally on my way back again as the sun was breaking through the morning cloud I almost bumped into the original two whales who were now swimming only about 150m off shore.
This magical moment reminded me of psalm 19 that tells us how the beauty of God’s creation is ”day to day and night to night” preaching and proclaiming about God’s glory. According to the psalmist, God’s creation/creatures preach loudly yet silently:
“There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” [Ps 19:3].
There were no words spoken in my encounter with the whales YET I was surrounded with a sense of God’s glory and the pure and rich gift of just being alive. With gratitude, Alan.
In two weeks time we celebrate Harvest Festival Sunday. Traditionally Harvest Festival would have included parishioners bringing fresh produce from their own farms or plots to the church, but these days very few of us are tilling the soil in such a personal and fruitful manner. Modern life is lived with an increasing detachment between people and creation. We forget that we are dependent on the soil and in our forgetfulness we foolishly contaminate it. Perhaps one way we celebrate Harvest Festival is to make a commitment to grow a little of our own fruit, vegetable or herbs if we are fortunate enough to have a little furrow of soil where we live.
We are nevertheless encouraged to flood the front of the church with food (both fresh and non-perishables including potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, apples, cucumber, tomatoes, cauliflower, jungle oats, maize meal, weet-bix, peanut butter, baked beans and fishoil etc.) on Sunday the 7th February.
Food that will be donated to Ons Plek, Stepping Stone and City Care.
During the same Harvest Festival Sunday we will all have an opportunity to pledge to live as an ever growing generous people. We care invited to be deliberate in our generosity—not just towards the work of God in and through this place—but throughout all the world.
When Jesus sent out his disciples on their first missionary journey he instructed them, “…proclaim the good news, ‘The Kingdom of heaven has come near’. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…” (Matt. 10:7-8).
That is quite a mission statement! I believe if Jesus were among us today he would say exactly the same to us….including “raise the dead”!
I hope you will join me tonight as we wrestle with what this mission statement of Jesus means for us living in South Africa today and as members of this planet earth. Tonight we will take time to reflect on where we have come from as a country and church community and where we trust God wants us to be. Most importantly we will try and discern where we are right now.
I am sure you have seen those maps in the shopping malls, provided at the entrances. The one area of those maps that are always highlighted is the place that flashes “you are here”.
With the help of Scripture, tonight we hope to locate where we are as a nation, church and perhaps even where we are as individuals. Come and see!!!
We are still in the first fresh days of the New Year. Even if you are not a “New Year’s Resolution” type of person —I am sure the desire for newness stirs in you. The yearning to live differently—to walk more fully in the foot steps of Jesus…
Reminding ourselves of what Jesus and James both advised may help us to walk in the light-filled paths that lead to new Life: “…let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no.” (Matt. 5:37 and James 5:12).
Here they invite us to be clear in the words we speak and the deeds we do. In other words, to say or do what we mean and to mean what we say or do. To be unambiguous. To be authentic, genuine and transparent. This is no easy task. It will demand that we “know thyself”. This knowing and clear and unambiguous way of being will originate from silence—prayerful silence and reflection. This is where you and I are called to invest.
Furthermore these words invite us to reflect on when we should say “yes” and when we should say “no”. Sometimes we say the one instead of the other so not to offend someone or conversely to please them. At the heart of this may be a shallow trust in our own preciousness rooted in Jesus’ holding love of our lives. This trust will deepen through prayerful silence and reflection. This is where you and I are en-courage-d to begin. Alan