To forgive is to resurrect

Friends,

This past Sunday we noted that forgiveness is nothing less than an act of resurrection. In short: To forgive is to resurrect. We noted how the story of the forgiven prodigal is framed as a resurrection story: “My child was lost and is found, was dead and is now alive”. To say that we believe in the resurrection while withholding forgiveness is equivalent to saying we love God while hating our sisters and brothers. This makes us liars. [1 John 4:20]

Forgiveness is not only a gift of new life to the forgiven, but also a gift of new life to the forgiver. To forgive another is to be resurrected from our own death that results from us not loving. As we read in 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Still further, to forgive someone is to resurrect them from the death of being “dead to us”. Our act of forgiveness brings them alive to us. Alive so we can be for them and no longer against them or indifferent towards them.

These were just two pieces of the forgiveness-jigsaw-puzzle that we mentioned last Sunday. We did not complete the puzzle, I am not sure one ever can, but our hope was to find and place enough pieces of the puzzle to give us a sense of what forgiveness is.

I ran out of time last Sunday to link the Acts 4:32-35 reading to the theme of Forgiveness and Resurrection. This link is crucial if forgiveness is going to be known at societal level. And what society is without sin? The recurring sin of society is the exploitative and exclusive debt economy that eventually makes slaves of the majority of people to sustain a small elite.

Forgiveness as resurrection is made real within society through the implementation of Jubilee. Jubilee is the “every-fifty-years-forgiveness-of-debt” policy. Financial debt. We would prefer forgiveness to leave our finances alone. No wonder we have changed the word “debt” in the Lord’s prayer, to the more general, “trespasses” or “sins”. “Forgive us our debt as we forgive those in our debt”.

Jubilee is a forgiveness-financial-policy of debt cancellation. To the extent that we practice Jubilee is to the extent that we will come alive as a society. If we don’t do so – we abide in death. And this death will eventually swallow us all up. Once again, the first letter of John asks the pointed question: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” [1 John 3:17]. This question is even sharper for us who live in the most unequal country in the world and therefore the country that has the greatest need for Jubilee economics.

The difference of course between forgiving others who have hurt us and practicing forgiveness as Jubilee in a society, is that when we practice Jubilee and cancel the debts of others we do so as those who need forgiveness. We need forgiveness because (even unwittingly) we have benefitted from systems that carry the favour of some at the deathly expense of the many. It matters not whether we like or dislike the systems that benefit us or not. The reading from 1 John 3:17 does not ask us if we designed the system or not. It does not care how hard we have worked for what we have. John simply says that if we have and withhold what we have, while others do not have, then we can’t say that the love of God is in us. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible”. Practicing Jubilee is “the all” taking responsibility.

A Universal Basic Income Grant is one way in which we can practice Jubilee. It is probably the very least of ways. We could call it “Jubilee lite”. I believe that South Africa’s resurrection depends on it.

There is a lot of information about a Universal Basic Income Grant on the net. Here is an introduction via The Daily Maverick podcast called: Don’t Shoot the Messenger, by Rebecca Davis.

In grace,
Alan

 

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The Execution of Jesus

Survey the Wondrous Cross


Friends,

We look forward to opening the sanctuary this Sunday. We hope to see some of you here in the flesh, although we understand many of you will continue to connect via Zoom (email welcome@cmm.org.za for link) – this is especially true for those of us potentially more vulnerable to COVID.

Please continue to make your safety and the safety of others a priority.

On entering the sanctuary:

  1. Use the hand sanitiser available.
  2. Wear your mask for the full duration of the service. (Note: There will be no singing.)
  3. Keep 1.5 m personal distance from others.
    In addition to the pews there are also individual chairs available to use. The pews are marked with yellow tape to indicate seats that are spaced 1.5 m apart from each other. (See photo: the yellow stripe is to be behind your back.)

 

 

Please click on this attendance form – it is very quick to complete and with one click it is returned to us.

The attendance form will help us limit numbers to 75 persons. (We are allowed 100 persons according to COVID regulations.)

The attendance form will also relieve congestion on entering the sanctuary because less people will need to fill in the COVID regulatory register at the door.

Once again, I ask for your patience and understanding through this process. We are bound to “drop some balls” on the way. Please let us know if we do.

Holy Week is an invitation for us to stop. It is an invitation for us to be silent and still as we “survey the wondrous cross”. The cross that reminds us of how we addictively choose death even when life is being offered to us, and the cross that reveals “anew what the Almighty can do”.

If you have struggled to stop and surrender to silence, stillness and solitude this Lent, I invite you to start again. Start again without self-condemnation or complacency. Just start again…

Mark 14-15 will be our guiding text for the week. These two chapters hold inexhaustible truth for our lives and world. Our task is to be attentive to the text in the light of our own context. By grace we may discover ourselves in the text and this in turn may help us to locate ourselves more truthfully in our own context.

Stop.
Be silent.
Be still.
And survey…

In grace, Alan

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Convicted to Confess

Sunday Sermon

2021 03 21 Alan Storey
Convicted to Confess
[Psalm 51:1-12]

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Orientation by the Psalms

Friends,

It is almost a year since South Africa went into Lockdown Level 5. It is not unusual to be “triggered” by an annual anniversary date, even sub-consciously. It has been a difficult and disruptive year for everyone and a painful year of loss upon loss for many. The loss of life and livelihood. ‘The loss of life and livelihood’ is a six-word sentence. It is spoken or written as a kind of ‘summary’ for our collective Covid experience, but it betrays itself by being unable to reach the depths of the loss that it is referring to.

None of us is exempt from loss. In other words, in one way or another all of us are grieving. I hope acknowledging this will give us permission to be patient and gentle with ourselves and each other. Grief may be a grace if we honour it by creating time and space for it. If not, grief may become a ghost that haunts us far into the future.

Another word to describe Covid’s effect is disorientation. In other words, the loss of our bearings or moorings. A sense of things being up in the air or in limbo. A sense of personally being uprooted or unrooted. Once again, the hope is if we are able to name and acknowledge this experience, we may be more settled in the unsettledness of it all.

This past Wednesday we were reminded during our Lenten reflection how contemplatives within the Christian tradition recite the Psalter on a daily basis. The psalms give expression to every manner of our human experience including grief and disorientation. The psalms gift us with words when we are wordless.

Many years ago Walter Brueggemann suggested that the Psalter may be understood to follow three movements: Orientation (a sense and celebration of the ordered reliable life: Psalms 8; 33; 104), Disorientation (the lament and petition of disordered life when everything seems skewed: Psalms 13; 35; 74; 79; 86; 88; 109; 137;) and New Orientation (praise and thanksgiving for the surprising gift of new life: Psalms 30; 40; 138).

Brueggemann notes that the Church has tended to avoid the psalms of disorientation opting rather for singing “happy songs” in the face or raw reality. This denial is not healthy. Praying the psalms of disorientation “is an act of bold faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way”, says Brueggemann. He continues, “On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God. Thus these psalms make the important connection: everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life.”

If disorientation describes your life experience at this time, then I encourage you to soak yourselves in the psalms of disorientation. Lent is an appropriate time to do so.

I mentioned last week that I would share with you more details about opening the sanctuary for in-person services on the 28th March – Palm Sunday. Truth is we are struggling to figure out how to do this. Besides having limited tech-ability on hand at the moment we are struggling to figure out how best to juggle the online and the in-person at the same time. I will share a little more about this on this Sunday. Sorry, I would have liked to be in a position to give you more information at this stage, but I am sure will work it all out. Once again if you are able to assist us with tech-ability or ideas please contact me or the office.

If you are not on the WhatsApp group and would like the zoom link for Sunday, please email welcome@cmm.org.za

In grace,
Alan

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