Mini-Messiah-Moment

Friends

The Winter Olympics are taking place at the moment. This would have passed me by were it not for a flurry of news articles about Eileen Feng Gu. I had never heard of her before, which is not surprising since snow is not really our specialty here at the tip of Africa. (I believe Beijing was also a bit snow-challenged for these Olympics, but that is another story.) Gu (18) won gold in the freestyle big air category. Her winning involved some crazy acrobatic stuff that included 4.5 revolutions in the air. Remarkable! She seems to stay in the air forever with every eye in the world watching.

But what I found even more remarkable than her beautiful acrobatics, is the way she answered questions at the press conference that followed. Although the press core seemed blind to the beauty of her answers. You see, Gu was born and raised in the USA but is competing for China, the country of her mother’s birth. The press wanted to know whether Gu was still a US citizen. After beautifully and acrobatically answering the question about her citizenship, another press person persisted: “Yes we understand you … but you were not clear if you still have your American citizenship … will you live in the US or China from now on?”

She repeated her beautiful acrobatics with the following: “I am just as American as I am Chinese. I am American when I am in America and I am Chinese when I am in China. I have expressed my gratitude to both the US and China for making me the person I am. Both have been super supportive. Sport does not have to be related to nationality. My mission is to use sport as a force for unity … to use it as a form to foster interconnection between countries and not use it as a divisive force.”

Isaiah said, “A child will lead”! Ok, in this instance Isaiah exaggerated a bit. But what a delight to see a teenager do summersaults around a press core. The press reminded me of the pharisees of old who would quiz Jesus on tax matters or acceptable Sabbath activity. They disappointedly did not receive the either/or answer their worldview demanded. By the way, the disciples also had to ask Jesus to “be more clear” on many occasions!

I know the book of Revelation says that: “He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him…” but I didn’t realise Jesus would make an appearance in the Olympics. Who knew he could ski? This is just it though. Jesus didn’t look very messiah-like back in the day either. In fact it is probably a safe bet to assume that if the messiah looks like the messiah then it’s probably not the messiah. This was a most unlikely mini-messiah-moment (as they all are) at a press conference from the Olympic village.

And so from the lips of a teenager, “an 18 year old just living her dream” we hear words of wonderous truth that have the power to heal our divided world. Blessed are those with ears to hear. If we incarnate Eileen Gu’s words within our flesh, the Apartheid of nations will come to a beautiful end. Can you hear Jesus say: “Amen”?

With grace,
Alan

Annual General Meeting

CMM’s AGM will take place after the Sunday Service on 6 March.

We postposed it from the end of last year. Due to COVID disruptions, etc. we have some catching up to do. We need to have nominations/elections for Treasurer as well as Society Stewards.

If there is anyone you would like to nominate or if you yourself feel called to be part of the leadership of CMM (what we call the Donkey Team) please do chat with me.

Thank you, Alan

PS: This will be an in-person meeting.

 

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Rewilding

 

Friends,

I heard the term ‘wild Christianity’ this week. As much as I found it intriguing, I thought it was also sad. For to preface the word Christianity with ‘wild’ is to admit that there is a Christianity that isn’t wild. A bit like prefacing the word ‘theology’ with the word ‘liberation’. If theology isn’t liberating can we really call it theology? But I get it, not all that is called Christianity is wild and not all that is called theology is liberating, therefore the need for one or other adjective to highlight what is now missing.

Even though ‘tame Christianity’ is an oxymoron, the taming of what commonly passes as Christianity cannot be denied. The wild of Christianity is tamed when control replaces curiosity as the primary spiritual value of community and where order and efficiency show freedom and wonder-wandering the door. The wildness of Christianity is most often traded-in for acceptance at the table of the powerful and privileged. At this table holiness is defined by uniformity according to strict criteria of sameness. Here everyone proudly declares: “We are one because we are the same”.  Throughout the ages Jesus has made it his business to rewild these tables. In fact he has been known to wildly overturn them. For those of us who covet sameness – we have been warned.

On Friday I was gifted with an opportunity to join in a tea* ceremony in one of the newly occupied shop spaces belonging to CMM. I have been asked what a tea ceremony is. Well, I am not sure, except to say …tea is made with love, poured with love, served with love and then sipped with love in the hope of tasting love. Anyway, for the tea ceremony Derek Gripper played his guitar … as always … in love, by love and for love.

Afterward he explained a little of the history of the tea ceremony. Its origins of simplicity only later to be tamed within a stiff fancy orderliness. He spoke too about how the guitar as an instrument had also been tamed over time. Originally it was an instrument for the bar and pub that would never have been allowed to (dis)grace a concert hall. Similar to the history of Methodist hymns that originated in pubs sung by less than sober beer drinkers and now tamed by Sunday choirs in suit and tie.

The once wild, now tame, needs rewilding. Of this environmentalists (https://www.rewildingmag.com) say Amen.

Today we join together as a community to renew our Covenant with the un-tame-able God. These Covenanting words truly are wild. I do fear that our familiarity with them however, may have tamed them. And so I pray that the Spirit that blows where it wills, comes and rewilds this Covenant in our hearts today.

With grace,
Alan

*Hibiscus tea from Burkino Fasso in memory and celebration of Malidoma Some who wrote “Of water and the spirit.”

 

THE COVENANT

Beloved in Christ, let us once again claim for ourselves this Covenant which God has made with God’s people, and take upon us the yoke of Christ.

To take Jesus’ yoke upon us means that we are content for him to appoint us our place and work, and himself to be our reward.

Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.

Therefore let us make this Covenant of God our own. Let us give ourselves to God, trusting in God’s promises and relying on God’s grace.

Lord God, Holy Lord, since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious Covenant, we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience and, for the love of you, engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.

We are no longer our own but yours. I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering*; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I fully and freely yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the Covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

*Please note: The traditional words, “Put me to doing, put me to suffering,” do not mean that we ask God to make us suffer. Rather, they express our desire to do any faithful act regardless of whether there is suffering involved.

 

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Being Peace

Friends,

Today I celebrate the life and teaching of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. A monk from age 16 until his death last week at age 95.

In 1989 my uncle gave me a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book: Being Peace. From each page a distilled wisdom flows. Poetic and parable-like. Each syllable soaked in years of silence. His simple words reach into the depths of human longing and the earth’s groaning.

He writes, “Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.” Nhat Hanh draws our attention to a child’s smile as “the most basic kind of peace” and then a moment later on the same page he names the horror of 40 000 children dying of hunger each day and superpowers who have enough nuclear warheads to destroy our planet many times – making “humankind the most dangerous species on earth”.

Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist practice is one of engagement and not escape. He acknowledged that there were so many things that made him want to withdraw, but “my practice helps me remain in society, because I am aware that if I leave society, I will not be able to help change it.” He continues, “I hope that those who are practicing Buddhism succeed in keeping their feet on earth, staying in society. That is our hope for peace.” We could describe Nhat Hanh’s “engaged Buddhism” as being “in the world, but not of the world”.

This spirituality of engagedness is in convicting contrast to much of what passes as Buddhist practice in the West today. Similar to how today’s dominant individualistic consumer culture has co-opted much of Christianity, the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, who some critics now insightfully call “McMindfulness” has sadly also been co-opted.

Nhat Hanh’s way of justice, mercy and humility is rooted in the reality life’s interconnectedness. A reality he refers to as “interbeing”. Speaking with deepened “Ubuntu” tone, he explains: “In one sheet of paper, we see everything else, the cloud, the forest, the logger. I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am.” In other words, not only is it true that what we do to our neighbour we do to ourselves, but what we do to the tree or mountain or river or sky, we do to ourselves and each other. Therefore it is not surprising that reverence for Life – all Life – is at the heart of his mindfulness training.

Included in this amazing book is Thich Nhat Hanh’s incredible poem: Please Call Me By My True Names. A poem that invites us to wake up to the truth of who we are. From the reality of “interbeing” we are all victim and perpetrator. The urgency to do justice, love mercifully and walk humbly will grow to the extent that we wake up to this reality.

After I finished reading Being Peace, I was convinced that Jesus would say, Amen – so be it. I believe Jesus would encourage his followers to drink deeply from the living waters of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching.

Here are a few other books you may want to explore.

Thich Nhat Hanh beautifully invites us to be present to the most ordinary aspects of our living. Sitting, walking and eating. See his series on How to

Another amazing book is the conversation Nhat Hanh has with Jesuit monk Daniel Berrigan, the justice and peace activist who challenges a tamed and co-opted Christianity to return to the radical steps of Jesus. (Bell Hooks, another voice of justice and life who died in December 2021 writes the forward.)

And finally I include a devastatingly beautiful novel written by Thich Nhat Hahn, called The Novice.

With grace,
Alan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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