Get real or get out!

“Get real or get out!”  This is a slogan that is displayed in a drug rehab centre. It is direct and to the point as one would expect in a place that exists for the sole purpose of  facilitating life-saving change within a person. And if you think the slogan is a bit harsh, it may be because we fail to realise that life is going to get a whole lot harsher for them if they don’t get real.

I thought it would be a good slogan for a church, after all we too are in the business of life-saving change, namely the radical business of resurrection. Yes, that is exactly the job description Jesus gave to us: “cure the sick and raise the dead” (Matt 10:8). As has been said, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good.  Jesus came to make dead people alive.” [Ravi Zacharias].

Life-saving change will escape us if we do not get real, get open, get honest.  Resurrection will elude us if we do not get truth-full.  To be truth-full is to risk.  Resurrection is therefore risky business, for in opening the tomb others may smell the stench of our decaying lives.  I have a sense that we will only be truth-full to the extent that we trust that we are held in the hands of a grace-full God. This is the Good News that Jesus lived and died proclaiming — God is Grace-full. As Church we are given the joy-full responsibility to make God’s grace-full-ness known, with the hope that we will all risk realness more readily. And in doing so we get to rejoice in each other’s resurrection.

Sadly, we must admit that the Church is often more closely associated with judgment than with grace. When this is a reality we can be sure that the Church is filled with more pretence than truth, and with more death than life. So if we’re feeling stuck or even dead, it is time to get real. We have nothing to fear for we are held in the grip of God’s grace.

Alan

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Live the Word

This past week I read an article by one of SA’s preeminent social commentators — Justice Malala — entitled “What does SA believe in?” The powerful point he was making is that on paper (the constitution) we declare our belief and trust in the most compelling values of compassion and justice yet we have failed to internalise these values.  This failure is heard in the divisive public dialogues that fill the newspapers and it is seen in the moral ambivalence of our foreign policy, as well as the blatant lack of accountability within public office. He held up our relationship with Swaziland as a sad example of our silence concerning one of the King’s wives under house arrest.

All this is very disturbing as our hypocrisy is exposed. It reminds us that a new constitution does not make a new country. The real problem does not lie outside us but within us. We have new laws but we need new hearts and minds to incline ourselves towards these laws.

What Malala is saying about our nation could easily be said about us as Church. We have the most radically liberating words and testimony of Jesus — that some of us may even be able to quote off by heart, but whether these same words are at home in our hearts is another story.

For example, what if the words of Jesus “What you do to the least of these you do to me” actually took over our heart — how would our living change — knowing that each time we encounter the poor and vulnerable it was a sacred privilege to be in the presence of the Holy One?

We are called not only to read the Word but to live it. This is not easy but it is what we are designed by God to do. We start living the word by naming those words which we are not living.

Towards a deeper integrity, Alan

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Confession as gift

Confession simply understood is truth-full talk to God in the presence of a witness. We confess not to get ourselves into heaven or to secure forgiveness. This is grace-fully given to us by God already. We confess in order to be healed. Confession is a healing act insofar as we place our brokenness beyond denial (secured by the presence of a witness) and by doing so, experience our messed-up-ness being heard and held in love. Confession (as truthful talk to God in the presence of a witness) is a gift for us to use especially if the following quote from Richard Forster connects with us in any way:

We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness, and though we hope we have been forgiven we have sensed no release. We have doubted our forgiveness and despaired at our confession. We have feared that perhaps we had made confession only to ourselves and not to God.

The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We had tried to convince ourselves that God only forgives the sin, God does not heal the memory, but deep within we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our life we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not meant to affect our lives now; or that we are not worthy of the forgiving grace of God.

If these words ring true I would invite you to seek out someone you trust and respect to witness your truth-full talk to God.

Courage, Alan
Sunday 7 August 2011

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Bulletin 31st August 2011

Last week we were reeling in shock as we heard the news of the killings in Norway.  A tragic testimony of what one person filled with fear and prejudice can achieve.

The reporting of the events as they were unfolding in Norway were also disturbingly filled with their own fear and prejudice.  At first it was reported that it must be Al-Qaeda or some “Muslim fundamentalist”.  And when it was finally revealed that it was a Christian fundamentalist—then all mention of his religion became irrelevant, and he was thereafter referred to as a “far-rightwinger”.  Such is the continued prejudice of so much media coverage about Muslims.   This is shameful.

Shortly after the horror of the shootings I was moved by the amazing words from Eskil Pedersen, the youth camp leader where the killings took place, “We will meet terror and violence with more democracy…we will continue to fight against intolerance.”  How different these words are to what we heard after 9/11 and other such attacks!

It reminded me of 1 Peter 3:9 “Never return evil for evil…but on the contrary repay with a blessing.”  We thank God for people who live these words out—may their example inspire all of us to be more   Christ-like.  Alan

 

 

 

 

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Sunday 14th August 2011

Confession simply understood is truth-full talk to God in the presence of a witness.  We confess not to get ourselves into heaven or to secure              forgiveness.  This is grace-fully given to us by God already.  We confess in  order to be healed.  Confession is a healing act in so far as we place our brokenness beyond denial (secured by the presence of a witness) and by doing so, experience our messed-up-ness being heard and held in love.  Confession (as truthful talk to God in the presence of a witness) is a gift for us to use especially if the following quote from Richard Forster connects with us in any way:

“We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness, and though we hope we have been forgiven we have sensed no release. We have doubted our forgiveness and despaired at our confession. We have feared that perhaps we had made confession only to ourselves and not to God.

The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We had tried to convince ourselves that God only forgives the sin, God does not heal the memory, but deep within we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not   wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because    misery and bitterness remain in our life we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not meant to affect our lives now; or that we are not worthy of the forgiving grace of God.”

If these words ring true I would invite you to seek out someone you trust and respect to witness your truth-full talk to God.  Courage, Alan

 

 

 

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Sunday 7th August 2011

Last week we were reeling in shock as we heard the news of the killings in Norway.  A tragic testimony of what one person filled with fear and prejudice can achieve.

The reporting of the events as they were unfolding in Norway were also disturbingly filled with their own fear and prejudice.  At first it was reported that it must be Al-Qaida or some “Muslim fundamentalist”.  And when it was finally revealed that it was a Christian fundamentalist—then all mention of his religion became irrelevant, and he was thereafter referred to as a “far-rightwinger”.  Such is the continued prejudice of so much media coverage about Muslims.   This is shameful.

Shortly after the horror of the shootings I was moved by the amazing words from Eskil Pedersen, the youth camp leader where the killings took place, “We will meet terror and violence with more democracy…we will continue to fight against intolerance.”  How different these words are to what we heard after 9/11 and other such attacks!

It reminded me of 1 Peter 3:9 “Never return evil for evil…but on the contrary repay with a blessing.”  We thank God for people who live these words out—may their example inspire all of us to be more   Christ-like.  Alan

 

 

 

 

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Sunday 24th July 2011

Lately I have been reminded of the privilege it is to be in the presence of  people who risk being real.  Real, as in being, genuine and authentic without the protective mechanisms of pretence at play.  Real—in all its rawness by those who open their hearts and not simply their mouths when they speak.  People who are not content to paddle in the shallows of public approval—but who put out into the depths—beyond their own ability to control and manage.  Those who dare to grapple with the countless contradictions and boundless beauty of their human condition.  People who speak difficult truth — confession-like — regardless of how vulnerable it leaves them.

There is something about witnessing the “risking realness” of others that is not only inspiring but inviting.  For isn’t it true that one word spoken in truth enables another and another.  One confession uttered makes it easier for someone else to follow with their own…and so on.  This is an invitation for us to live “risking realness”.

At Wednesday Church we were told by an ‘angel’ named William (who heard the music in the Sanctuary and came in to see what was happening) that fear and pride are probably the greatest stumbling blocks preventing us from “risking realness”.  If this be so then it may mean that our first act of risking realness is to name and face our fear/pride, and for the courage to do this we best start with a prayer: “Lord, enable me to trust that nothing can ever  separate me from your love…nothing… now knowing your loving hold on my life help set me free to name and face my fear/pride.”

Joy-full journeying, Alan.

 

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Sunday 17th July 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADIBA

 

Tomorrow is Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday.  It is also the Nelson Mandela  International Day, marked as a day to honour Madiba’s legacy by people   engaging in selfless acts of service. Many people have responded. People of faith or no faith, young and old, all over the world. Even here at CMM.

Media houses are running stories of how individuals will be spending their 67        minutes. How will you spend Mandela Day?

As Christians we are expected to give our lives in service to those created in the image of God. Through love, care and compassion we follow Jesus’ example.

How awesome it would be if as Christians we went beyond the Mandela Day gift and continued our minutes or hours of service on a Christ-inspired basis, daily, weekly…… to meet the needs of  our neighbours.

The Mandela Day hype has a challenge for us to turn our words and speech into truth and action. Let us share in the words of a hymn:

 

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all,

Healing pain and sickness, blessing children small,

Washing tired feet and saving those who fall;

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all.

 

Take my hands Lord Jesus, let them work for you;

Make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do;

Let me watch you, Jesus, till I’m gentle too,

Till my hands are kind hands, quick to work for you.

(Margaret Cropper)

Gilbert.

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