Sunday, 9 August 2009

Dear Friends,


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.”

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                                        


How blessed we have been the past two months as part of the CMM community!  You have witnessed the grace and mercy of the Living God to us—embracing us immediately, inviting us into your lives and homes with love, and supporting us at all times.  The stories you have shared with us—your stories—have deepened our understanding of God’s work in the world.  Your stories are a chapter in God’s story and we are thankful to have heard and participated in these stories.


As we gather at the Lord’s Table this morning, we rejoice that the Eternal One feeds us with abundant love and truth.  We rejoice that we have had the privilege of breaking bread with so many of you and we pray that CMM will continue to feed the hungry and invite them to feast on the Bread of Life. 


We pray that you will be confident in the work of the Spirit in the lives of us all.  You are our sisters and brothers in Christ; know that if you find yourselves in North Carolina there will be a table to eat at and a place to rest your heads.


With thanksgiving in our hearts,  Diana and Jennifer



Sunday, 26 June 2009

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Anxiety:  That tight fisted knot in our stomach that doesn’t go away.  We sometimes don’t even know where it comes from, but it remains and remains.  It keeps us awake at night and shadows us during the day, making us tense.  We can’t relax.  We are on edge.  download The Big Sleep We are short  with people and our tongue is either raiser sharp or lame.

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Know the feeling?  Well if you do I really want to encourage you to submerge yourself into Ephesians 3:14-21.  Let us make Paul’s prayer for the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit our own:

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  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your   hearts, living within you as you trust in him.  May your roots go   down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you  

be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should,   how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is;   and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great   that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand   it.  Smokin Aces download And so at last you will be filled up with God himself [sic].

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        —The Living Bible

Deep peace, Alan

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                       


It is wonderful to welcome Dr. Gilbert Lawrence as our preacher this morning—may God give us open hearts and attentive ears to discern God’s voice through his.


Last week during my sermon on John the Baptizer, who lived to please God by telling the truth and was beheaded by King Herod as a result, I quoted from Thomas Merton who was writing to encourage a friend.  Here it is again:


“Do not depend on the hope of results.  When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work (like peacemaking), you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.  As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.  And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people.  The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real.  In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything. 


The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.  The next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important.  You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and your witness.


You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation.  That is not the right use of your work.


All the good that you do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used for God’s love.  Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.  Our real hope … is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.  If we can do God’s will, we will be helping in this process.”



May we all be strengthened to do God’s will.  What is God’s will?  In the very least it is that we speak the truth.  Lets start there!   Peace, Alan.  (See you next Sunday)

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Dear Friends,                                                                                                

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You may have heard of the term: Red Letter Christians.  It comes from the fact that some versions of the Bible print the words of Jesus in red ink. 

Red Letter Christians are therefore people who emphasize the words of Jesus above all else.  The teaching of Jesus is not only the focus of their understanding, but the lens through which they seek to understand everything else.  I invite you to be a Red Letter Christian and be sure to invest large lumps of time reading RED.


This past week I came across another version of the Bible—a Green Letter Version.  The Green Bible prints every verse that has anything to do with the creation or the environment in green ink.  The subtitle is: The Priceless Message that Doesn’t Cost the Earth.  Chéri video


In the Green Bible, the Lectionary Psalm for this Sunday begins in green ink:  The Earth is the LORD’S and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.  [Ps. 24:1-2].  This is the single most important reason why we are called to care for the creation—because it is not ours!  It  all belongs to God.  Sadly we have tended to see the world as a resource to exploit instead of a gift to treasure.  The Bible does not remain silent about the environmental devastation we have caused. 

In the green ink of the prophets we hear: The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated the statues, broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.  [Isaiah. 24:5-6]. 

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Let us learn to read our bibles in colour—Red and Green—that we together with the earth may be saved.  Peace, Alan


Sunday, 5 July 2009


Dear Friends,                                        

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The other night I listened to Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein do some wonderful Bible Study.  I have found his interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures a real treat to listen to.  Not only are they profound and insightful but they enlarge my understanding of the tradition that Rabbi Jesus was immersed in.  O how much we can learn from our Jewish sisters and brothers!  Try and find him on Radio 2000. 


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Drawing on his rich tradition the Chief Rabbi wrestled with four questions: Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

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What does it mean to be wise?

What does it mean to be powerful?

What does it mean to be wealthy?

What does it mean to have honour?


I invite you to think about these questions for a minute before you read on.  Lethal Weapon 2 What comes to your mind? 



The Rabbi reached the following conclusions that I believe are worth our reflection:


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The wise person is someone who is humble enough to learn from all.

The powerful person is someone who can resist temptation.

The wealthy person is content with what s/he has.

The person of honour is the person who gives honour to others. 

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Grace and peace, 

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

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On Wednesday night I joined a Warm Winter Worship group (www@home) in someone’s home. 

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Even though there were only five of us, it felt like the whole world was present!  You see all five of us came from different countries: Sierra Leone; Zimbabwe; Nigeria; Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.  I am sure it brought a smile to Jesus’ face knowing how much he hopes we will discover the truth of our oneness beneath the shallow identities of nationality and language that too often divide us.  Aenigma dvd The Sword in the Stone film As we mentioned last Sunday—Jesus would rather cross a stormy sea to the “other side” than accept separation between any peoples.


In last week’s sermon I mentioned that one way in which we can journey to the “other side” as a community is to broaden the way we worship, in both language and style.  Remembering what we learnt during

Connections, that long before worship is for Hidalgo video us, it is for God. 

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The question we are to ask ourselves is not, “what do we enjoy” but rather “what does Jesus enjoy”.  

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The way we worship paints a picture of who we say God is.  Therefore another question we should ask ourselves is: “what are we saying about God in the way we worship at CMM?”  Surely God would enjoy worship that includes the rich diversity of the languages represented among us, not only because God created and understands every tongue, but also because God is passionate about everyone feeling at home in God’s house.  And if there is one thing that makes us feel at home more than perhaps anything else—it is to speak and hear our mother tongue. 

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May our worship be a rich blend of God-given diversity.  Alan


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Sunday, 21 June 2009

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Today we celebrate Father’s Day.  The Ten full movie We thank God for fathers everywhere who nurture their children with gentleness and respect.  And for fathers who are providers of firm emotional foundations of trust and love that encourages children to play, and explore and question without fear.  We pray for fathers who live with regrets—for whom today is a reminder of their failure to spend time and show interest in their child’s life.  And for fathers who will be lonely—whose children have died or no longer visit or converse.  O God, Father these fathers today! 

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I remember reading a confession of a young father as he reflected on an incident in which he had lost his temper and irrationally lashed out at his child.  He said something like this: You see, my child, I’ve never been a father before, and I have to learn to be a father, just as you have to learn new and different things.  Fathers make mistakes, too.  Fathers get angry and lose their tempers, and fathers feel bad and want to say it, but don’t sometimes know how to say, ‘I’m sorry’.  It’s not easy being a father, but I am trying, and I am doing the best I can.  I hope you will understand and forgive and help me …


So today we also pray for children who struggle in their relationship with their father.  As in Pat Conroy’s

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In Scripture we are told of the Forgiving Father, but don’t fathers also need forgiving children?  May God give us power to forgive … that our lives may begin anew.

Courage and peace, Alan

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Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                             


This past week one of South Africa’s largest Pyramid financial schemes was uncovered—estimated to be worth up to R10—billion.  A Pyramid or Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned.  The quick payouts to the original investors end up encouraging them to reinvest, but the scheme is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the abnormally high payments.  In this particular Ponzi scheme investors were promised returns of up to 200% a year on their investment.  This encouraged people to invest millions hoping for even more millions in return. 


I agree with one commentator who suggested that: “The real obscenity here is not the crime.  The real obscenity is that those with unbelievably large sums to “invest” in the scheme actually desire more money than they have already accumulated….this is not common or garden greed.  This is a profound disease of the soul.  An addiction, if you will.  But, for some reason, it is ok and acceptable to be thus obsessed with money.  They are labelled “investors” and “entrepreneurs”, and serve as role models for the upwardly mobile.  In reality, in the depths of their being, they are nothing more than [sick addicts] in need of an intervention.”


In this same week we learnt that Real Madrid bought 24 year old Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for a world record transfer fee of 80 mill pounds!  This is another example of our sick society in need of an intervention, although very few, if any, are saying so.  And we are not exempt from guilt because we support the teams that pay such ludicrous amounts of money to individuals in a world that groans in hunger pains.  The fact that sports people get paid more than Doctors and teachers reveals again how skewed our  values have become.  Wargames: The Dead Code download Lord have mercy! 

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Sunday, 07 June 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                       



Last Sunday evening was the final of the TV program Britain’s Got Talent and Susan Boyle who wowed the world with her singing was the all out favourite to win.  Susan Boyle became a world wide wonder as more than 100 million  people watched recordings of her performance on the world wide web, which is more than any other person in history.  Overnight, she went from being a person that no one ever looked at twice, to someone who had thousands of cameras focusing on her every move.   What made Susan’s Cinderella-like story all the more amazing was that she never let go of her dream to become a professional singer even though she has struggled her whole life with certain mental difficulties as a result of being deprived of oxygen at birth. 


In the end, Susan came a shocking second which perhaps was caused in part by reports that the week prior to the finals she had sporadic temper tantrums with the press and members of the public.  This resulted in a wave of negative publicity with they suggestion that she was a fraud of sorts.  Backstage after the show Susan again “cracked” and was subsequently admitted to a clinic to find her breath and balance after all the pressure.  You can imagine the tabloids loving every second of the drama! 


On reading some of the media commentary about all this I came across a letter I found of value by someone who chose to remain anonymous.  Here is part of the letter:


My brother has moderate learning difficulties, caused (as in Susan Boyle’s case) by deprivation of oxygen at birth.  To him, all human relationships are about trust – which is easily broken. My brother sees the world in extreme terms: either someone loves him or hates him.


The slightest hint that someone is criticising him, even if it is friendly and well-meant, and he becomes angry. He loses it. It is so hard to explain the vast contradictions in him – he appears ‘normal’, but not quite. Normal enough to be judged for his actions; different enough to be teased, bullied, laughed at.


I suspect that Susan Boyle’s graciousness in defeat was quite genuine; she clearly liked the young boys who won, and felt she was amongst friends. But backstage would have been a different matter; any stray remark (or stray remark she thought she heard) would very likely have tipped her over the edge.


Those of us who cope daily with developmentally-impaired people have to have a vast reservoir of patience. It’s not always possible, admittedly, because one thing we find difficult to admit to is how angry and violent our loved ones can be. Susan Boyle isn’t a fraud.  She is both the innocent girl who never grew up and the foul-mouthed aggressive woman. Unlike most of the rest of us, she can clearly switch from one to the other in seconds, and be utterly unable to control it.


The letter writer’s amazing insights are humbling.  They reminded me: [1] that we can never say we know someone until we know their pain, and we could add, that we will never know ourselves either until we have faced our own pain; [2] that what we see of another person is seldom, if ever, the full truth, making opinionated judgements of others not only pointless, but baseless; [3] that all of us are living paradoxes, meaning that we are a “both/and” people rather than an “either/or” people—in other words we are both “sinner” and “saint” – containing vast contradictions like everyone else.


O Jesus, help us to be gentle with the people around us, ever aware that we do not know the full truth of who they are.  Open our eyes to their sainthood.  Amen.