Sunday, 6th December 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                        


Last Sunday was the first week of Advent— the beginning of the Christian year.  We reflected on how Advent begins with the end in mind by reminding us to prepare for Jesus’ second coming.  With this “end” in mind the hope is that we all start the year with a greater sense of urgency.  An urgency to prepare our lives and world in ways of Jesus.  As leadership guru, John Kotter’s latest book puts it: “We are too complacent and we don’t even know it ….a big reason that a true sense of urgency is rare is because it s not a natural state of affairs.  It has to be created and recreated.”  Well this is exactly what Advent hopes to do—create an urgency within us.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes with urgency in an Advent sermon he preached in 1928:

It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God . . . . We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience.


Today during the celebration of Holy Communion we will once again declare, Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ WILL COME AGAIN.  Perhaps only when we can keep this end constantly in mind—that one day we will meet Jesus face to face—will we be able to remain urgent about the pressing importance of following in the ways of Jesus. 

With the shiver of fear….Alan.


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Sunday, 29 November 2009


Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                


On the 1st December 1834 the Emancipation of the Slaves within the British Empire was announced from the Town House steps on Green Market Square.  It actually took another four years for the Slaves in the Cape Colony to be free because the colonial government of the day wanted to give the protesting slave owners time to adapt.  Slaves therefore worked as apprentices for their former owners without pay for four more years.  Many therefore regard 1st December 1838 as the real Emancipation Day.  This reminds us that freedom was something hard struggled for.  We think of William Wilberforce who struggled against slavery for 50 years of his 74 year life.  The following speech he made some 42 years before the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act:


Let us not despair; it is a blessed cause, and success, ere long, will crown our exertions. Already we have gained one victory; we have obtained, for these poor creatures, the recognition of their human nature, which, for a while was most shamefully denied. This is the first fruits of our efforts; let us persevere and our triumph will be complete. Never, never will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, under which we at present labour, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country. — House of Commons, 18 April 1791


Sadly Wilberforce’s words are painfully relevant for the 1st December 2009 in South Africa as we continue to live through “so long a disgrace and dishonour” of HIV / Aids.  Many still long for freedom!    Alan.


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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                


On my way home from Seattle, a week or so ago, I stopped over at my uncle’s place in New Jersey—a welcome “halfway house” that breaks the long flight home. 


Amazing how as our days get longer theirs become shorter.  It was getting dark at around 4:30 in the afternoon!  On one of the chilly evenings my uncle had the great idea of making a fire in the lounge fire place.  It was the first he had made since the previous winter.  A few minutes after lighting the fire I was startled by the sound of a piercing alarm going off within the house.  I didn’t know what it was.  I ran downstairs into a thick choking smoke.  I thought the house was on fire, only to discover that the reason for the smoke was due to the fact that my uncle had forgotten to open the flue  of the chimney which had been closed for the summer.  It was only after the flue was opened (and nearly every window in the house) that we found some relief and the alarm stopped screaming. 


I received this as a parable for my life:  For my living to bring life-giving warmth and not death-choking smoke, I need to open my flue-like heart to the God-filled heavens.   This will happen through prayer or I fear it will not happen at all.  A prayer-less life—not open to the heavens—pollutes the earth. 

Let us pray…..   Peace, Alan. 


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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                                               


Welcome everyone!  And a special welcome to Rev. Tim Attwell.  Just to let you know, Tim retired last week and when I called him a few months ago to ask whether he was available to preach today—he answered: “Yes I am free!”  I will leave it up to you to decide what he meant!  But thank you Tim for agreeing to preach one week after your retirement—it is a joy and privilege to have you here today helping us to celebrate the 130th Anniversary of the dedication of this building, way back on the 12 November 1879. 


Looking back over some of the records of this glorious sanctuary I came across its measurements.  “The spire is 46 m high and the nave 20 m high,   while the width is 18 m and is 34 m in length”.  That is an impressively high ceiling—surely hoping that we will have a sense of the High and Holy in our midst and reminding us of the Heights of God’s endless glory. 


It reminds me that in the early part of last century “Polish synagogues were built below the ground—like caves.  The reason for this was because the State prohibited synagogues to be built as high as churches.  But the Jews refused to have their reverence diminished by building codes.  The vaulted ceilings were still built; the congregation simply prayed deeper underground.”  (From: Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels).   Our high ceiling was built 130 years ago, now it is for us to pray deeper.  This is the core of our calling and our most pressing need on our journey towards future faithfulness! 

Peace, Alan. 


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Sunday, 8 November 2009

Dear Friends,                                                                               


Welcome everyone!  A special welcome to Dr. Gilbert Lawrence who will be preaching this morning.  Thank you Gilbert. 


I am in Seattle this weekend preaching this morning (well later in the afternoon your time) at Bethany United Church.  I have been teaching for the past few days together with my father (the first time we have ever done some joint-teaching) at the Seattle University.


I will be back in time for the Flower Festival on Friday/Saturday—so I hope to see you all then, as well as on Sunday when we celebrate the 130th anniversary of this Sanctuary. 


Just thinking about the long history of the Methodist Church both here and at Buitenkant Street makes me wonder where we will be a few years from now.  Tell you the truth I don’t have a clue, but I trust that together we will find the way of faithfulness by the Light God gives us.  As we continue the journey together I am reminded of the motto of the son of a friend of mine, who when he was head boy of his School last year, his rallying cry was: “The guts to dream and the will to work”.  I do not know where we will end up but I do know that if we are to step into the Light that God gives us it will take guts and work….and I would just add, “the gratitude of joy that comes from friendship with Jesus…” will be given us. 

To the future,  Alan.


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Sunday, 01 November 2009

Dear Friends,                              


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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

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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. 

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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


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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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Peace, Alan

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Sunday, 25 October 2009


Dear Friends,                    Dollman hd



A special welcome to everyone who is visiting CMM this morning! 

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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. 


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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. 

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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

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Now let us tell everyone…..   Refreshed, Alan. Moby Dick movie download 7 Seconds video

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Dear Friends,         



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


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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dear Friends,         Rose of Death hd            Crazy Animal movie                                                   

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Welcome!  Especially to the visitors present for the celebration of Baptism today.  Candy movie download

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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.

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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. 

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Peace, Alan


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Sunday, 4 October 2009


Dear Friends,                 




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…

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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.

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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.

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 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.


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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.

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Peace Alan

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