Welcome! In two weeks time we will celebrate the 130th anniversary of the dedication of this building way back on the 12 November 1879. Even though we know that the Church is more about a community than a building—this moment invites us nevertheless to celebrate the beauty embodied within the majestic architecture of this amazing sanctuary. Shallow Grave move
We only have to read the daily comments written in the visitor’s book from people all around the world to appreciate the gift of this building to so many. Almost every comment overflows in wonder at the beauty of this place.
I want to salute those who have over the years participated in OPEN DOORS which allows people every day to come and sit and rest a while in this sanctuary—to gather in a quiet space—and to be touched by a prayer-full silence that freely offers everyone a small gift of the sacred. We will never know the significance of this OPEN DOORS ministry! Thank You for Smoking download
I invite us to take some time this morning to gather in the beauty of this place and then even more importantly to gather in all what God has done within our lives as a result of being connected to this place. May our glad hearts show their gratitude on anniversary Sunday (15th November) with great generosity.
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A special welcome to everyone who is visiting CMM this morning!
This week I came across the following words from one of my favourite authors: “Membership is not about who is in and who is out. Shallow Grave dvd Membership is about who knows they are in and who does not.”
– Wendell Berry.
When I first read these words it was like taking a sip of an ice cold drink on a hot summers day—life refreshing. Berry touches the heat of why I have always felt uneasy with the concept of membership—especially church membership. Sadly throughout history the church has been obsessed with membership in the sense of who is in and who is out: Who is welcome—who is not. Who can preach—who cannot. Who can love—and who cannot.
Painfully contributing to the false and self-righteous belief that those in the church are more special, loved and blessed by God than anyone outside. A church who understands membership is this way is bound also to be a church that focuses more on rules than on relationships.
But what if the truth is that everyone is already a member—yes a member of God’s loving family and our role in “making members” is to let people know that they too are included. To let everyone know “you are in!”
This means we have just become a mega-church—every person on the planet is member! In Her Shoes dvdrip
Last Sunday evening I watched a documentary-type movie called Earth. It is beautifully, beautifully filmed.
Capturing both creation and creature in all its creative wonder. The movie covers the seasons of a year, pausing to highlight specific species on the way. It was amazing to be reminded about how each tiny aspect of creature and creation are inter-connected to each other.
If there is the slightest change seasonal flow there are immense knock-on affects all the way through the creation chain.
The overall aim of the movie, as I understood it, is to overwhelm us with such a sense of gratitude for the wonder of LIFE that we urgently begin to work against the rapid destruction of life on this planet. For the first time it struck me that it is not about saving the planet per se, but saving life on the planet! This in fact is the single biggest difference between our planet and every other planet that we know of, namely that on our planet there is life.
Jesus came to give Life and therefore as followers of Jesus this should be our single most pressing purpose—to protect and promote life. Life in every shape or form. If this is true then the real question we should be asking ourselves at CMM is, “how can we be a LIFE-giving community?”
Another way of asking this question is, “who or what would die if we were to pack up and leave town?” The answer to this latter question should help us to realize how LIFE-giving we actually are.
Towards LIFE! Alan
Welcome! Especially to the visitors present for the celebration of Baptism today. Candy movie download
In Baptism we rejoice that each child is a new creation in Christ and is thereby given the gift of a new context to live out their life and a new power by which to live their life.
The new context to live out their life is Jesus’ body (the church) where each of us is called to risk truthful togetherness, and the new power by which to live their life, is his grace, which is the merciful love of God that out stretches our sin and invites us to try again.
Now, we cannot with integrity, celebrate the sacrament of Baptism unless we ourselves, recommit to truthful togetherness, so let us be encouraged to find another person in this congregation with whom we will risk truthful connection. Someone we have known for years or someone we have just been introduced to. We will not be able to do this without the power of God’s grace, because truthful togetherness has the potential to unsettle us profoundly if it is not held with mercy. Jab We Met download
Mountains of mercy! Herein lies the way of true freedom—grace and truth. May the newly Baptised witness our grace-full and truth-full way of living.
I invite you to read and reflect on Nan C Merrill’s paraphrase of Psalm 25 verses 8-21 which was the set Psalm for last week…
You are gracious and just, O Spirit of Truth, happy to guide those who miss their way. You enjoy teaching all who are open, all who choose to live in truth. Your paths are loving and sure, O Holy One, for those who give witness to You through their lives.
For the honour of your Name, O Beloved, forgive my separation from You. I bow down before You; instruct me, that I might choose the way of love and truth. I would live in your abundance and my children as well. Your friendship is offered to all whose hearts are open. You will make known your promises to them. My eyes are ever on You, Beloved, keep my feet from stumbling along the way.
Turn to me, O Holy One, and envelop me with your love, for I am lonely and oppressed. Relieve the blocks in my heart that keep me separated from You. See all the darkness within me, fill it with your healing light. Look at my pain and all my fears, they shut out love and life.
Protect me and free me, let me not live as unworthy, for I would make my home in You. May integrity and wholeness fill me as I dwell with You, O Loving Presence.
Well it is good to be back in South Africa and especially back at CMM. I bring you greetings from Luther Seminary and Zumbro Lutheran Church in Minnesota as well as Central United Methodist and Wells United Methodist Church in Mississippi. I have missed being among you. Thank you for all your prayers! Over time I look forward to sharing with you some of the lessons I have learnt from my trip.
One of the lessons I learnt was that I need to re-learn old lessons! For example I have learnt many times before that I should not pack too much luggage, knowing how often I have returned with clothes un-worn and items un-used. Yet I made the same mistake again! I took too much! I could have managed on half the amount of pants and shirts, by doing a little washing and ironing here and there. Yet, in the back of my mind, while I was packing my suitcase, I had a recurring mantra: “but what if you need this” and “take this just in case”.
The fear of not having enough drove me to take too much. And this had its consequences—first I nearly put my back out lugging it all around!
Kinky Boots film And second I was more anxious than ever waiting at the airport baggage turntables dreading that all my luggage may have gone missing. Although I was not fined for my bags being overweight I did witness many who were and the check-in clerk would issue a minimum fine of $90!
I wonder if this may not be a parable for our time? That the fear of not having enough drives us to take too much and this may not only be detrimental to our health (and the health of those around us) but also cause us to have difficulty passing through the check-in counter into the Kingdom of God—as difficult as a camel trying to get through the eye of a needle! The only cure I know is to live more simply and generously.
Troubled, Alan Hell Night buy
Today is the first Sunday of Spring—even though this last week has felt more like Winter! Yet despite the cold wind and rain I see buds and blossoms pushing through with the promise of painting everything green and new. A reminder to us of God’s hidden yet faithful work during the Winter of creation. May this be a source of encouragement for us. When our own lives slip into Winter and the warmth of God’s presence seems very far away, let us trust that God is nevertheless at work in the deep places of who we are enabling new life to flourish once again. Our “Winter” will not last forever.
Spring is about new life. Allow me to suggest four things you may want to consider doing during September that may just bring new life:
Stop watching TV for one week and decide rather to read a book. If we have children or grandchildren lets read to them or lets simply be deliberate in connecting with our families instead of silently watching TV.
Read the Letter of James in the Bible (which is part of the Lectionary readings for this month) James is a kind of “how-to-manual” for the way of Life Jesus invites us into. Give it a go—it is only 4 pages in length.
Arrive at Sunday Worship 10 minutes early to silently pray in the Sanctuary—praying for an openness to God’s Spirit among us all.
Attend the Stepping Stones Rendezvous concert on the 26th Sep.
With the hope of new life, Alan
Last week while we were reflecting on the Armour of God in Ephesians 6:10-20, we were reminded that this text is not a call to arms but a call to armour—not a call to fight, but a call to stand—not a call to defend God, but a call to imitate God.
I quoted from a famous old preacher by the name of John Henry Jowatt who suggested that too often we want a shield to make us comfortable but Paul wanted a shield to keep him holy…he went on to say:
Paul wanted a shield, not against failure…but against the pessimism that may be borne of failure. Paul wanted a shield, not against injury…but against the foul offspring of revenge. Paul wanted a shield, not against pain…but against the spirit of murmuring which is so frequently borne of pain, the deadly, deadening mood of complaint.
Paul wanted a shield, not against disappointment…but against the bitterness that is borne of disappointment, the mood of cynicism which sours the milk of human kindness and perverts all the gentle currents of the soul. Paul wanted a shield, not against difficulty…but against the fear that is borne of difficulty, the cowardice and disloyalty which are so often bred of stupendous tasks.
Let us pray for this shield that Paul prayed for.
Peace, Alan. buy The Great Race
Below I include part of a graduation speech given by Paul Hawken, an award-winning environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and Journalist. May it inspire and challenge you as much as it has me — Peace, Alan.
“You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system and we need it within a few decades. You are the programmers. This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat, have been broken.
There is invisible writing on the back of the certificate you will receive, ‘you are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.’ When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science behind what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.
What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to this world.
You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organisations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.
Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in ideas, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, business people, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisher folk,
engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America and, as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
The living world is not ‘out there’ somewhere, but in your heart. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.
The generations before you failed. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”
Every now and then we need to be reminded about our calling in life. The Scriptures are filled with powerful reminders like Paul’s amazing suggestion that we are called to be “Christ’s ambassadors” [2 Cor. 5:20]. Take a moment to think about what it means to be an ambassador…..
Recently I read: “An ambassador is a representative who bears someone else’s message in their absence.
Ambassadors live in foreign countries, which they never really call home. Living within a country other than their own, their practices, loyalties, national interests and even their accent appear strange to the citizens of those countries where they are posted.”
[Katongole and Rice: Reconciling All Things]. In short, ambassadors represent another authority within a foreign land. I think this is just what Paul had in mind as he hopes we will represent Christ in the world.
So I reckon we should see Sunday School as “Christ’s Ambassador College”.
This should be our greatest hope for our young people: namely that they graduate with degrees in “Jesus Studies” that inform their practices, loyalties and interests which will ultimately transform the world.
Sunday School should not be seen as “keeping the children occupied while the parents are in church”, but rather a campus of radical learning that will facilitate world liberation. To this end I invite you to please pray for the future of our Sunday School—I mean, “Christ’s Ambassador College”. The Witches of Eastwick dvd Peace, Alan