Gospel economics

In the sermon last week we reflected on Gospel Economics as revealed to us through Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. The popular interpretation of this parable encourages us to not waste the gifts that God has given us and advises us to work hard.  Simply put: “God helps those who help themselves” (which by the way is not in the Bible).  But as we discussed last week (if you missed it you can listen to it at www.cmm.org.za ) it may well have been a peasant’s protest against the harsh master of economic inequality — who gave more to those who have, and took away from those who have little, leaving them with nothing.

In this light let me share some facts about South African income groups as printed earlier this year in the Business Report of the Cape Times:

24 060 179 people earn between R0-50k p/a

3 206 445 people earn between R50-100k p/a

3 489 549 people earn between R100-300k p/a

789 744 people earn between R300-500k p/a

304 767 people earn between R500-750k p/a

217 570 people earn R750k or more p/a

No wonder we are known as one of the most unequal countries in the world.   Alan

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Our spirituality is revealed through our finances

It is that time of year again — when we work on CMM’s budget for next year.  It is my hope that the budget will somehow honour God’s dream and answer God’s prayer for the people of this city.

I remember being taught that if you want to really see what a congregation believes in —  just ask to see the church financials.  We know that this is also true for individuals — maybe this is why we are so secretive about money matters.  Somehow we know that what we do with our money reveals the heart of our heart.  Money matters expose us and reveal us for who we truly are and not just who we say we are.  Jesus knew this to be true — he said: “Wherever you treasure it — your heart is there also.”  Money is like a GPS that automatically points out the location of our heart.

Join me in praying that in our budget planning for 2012 we allocate CMM’s money to draw us and others closer to God’s heart!  God’s dream and prayer is always about the vulnerable being cared for — the captives being released and the poor receiving good news, and so our budget should have this focus too.

It is also a good time for us to reflect on what our personal money matters say about the positioning of our hearts.  May God give us hearts that are grateful (and not resentful) for every opportunity to be generous in this life.

Alan

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Preventing atheism with sarcastic bites

What is the best way to stop your child becoming an atheist?  Here is someone’s answer.  Be warned, the sarcasm bites!  But maybe the bite will wake us up a bit…

“The best way to stop your child becoming an atheist is to not educate them, or expose them to critical thinking, logic or science.  Lie to them constantly about how the world works. … Make them loathe their own natural bodies and functions. Convince them they are small and weak and worthless and need redemption.  Tell them everything enjoyable is grievously wrong to even think about, and that their only fun should be in grovelling to an invisible friend. Ensure that they resent anyone who is not like them in every way — skin colour, nationality, political opinion but especially creed. Make such people out to be evil and vile and give them — impotent minorities — all the fictional power to somehow oppress and persecute the vast majority who think like you.  Teach them to laugh at and dismiss out of hand any faith but their own. … Instruct them with all severity and import to never question for themselves — to never think for themselves …”

It is maybe because so many Christians have lived out this sarcastic portrayal that others have decided to be atheists. If this is what it means to be a Christian then I am sure even Jesus would prefer us to be atheists.

Alan

 

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Sustainability vs Over-Consumption

During the time of Jesus the world population was around 300 million. It reached a billion in around 1800. The 2nd billion in 1927.  The 3rd billion in 1959. The 4th in 1974. The 5th in 1987. The 6th in 1999 and now tomorrow we reach 7 billion.

There is not doubt that the issue of population growth is an important social issue, but I believe we can use it as a scapegoat to save us from dealing with the single most important issue that threatens our sustainability on this planet — namely our over-consumption.

Ironically, it seems that the richer we are the more likely we are to blame population growth for the social and environmental troubles of our day. Yet the richer one is, the more one consumes and the more one is a burden to life on the planet.

Here are some facts: “An extra child born today in the United States, would, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra child in China, 55 times that of an Indian child or 86 times that of a Nigerian child.”

Oh Lord help us to consume less!  Alan

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Sacramental farming

This past week I planted my potted vegetable garden. It is always an amazing experience to bury these tiny tiny seeds into the soils darkness. It assaults my logic to think that life — nourishing life — will stretch forth in two weeks time. As I uttered my disbelief and doubt my farming friend Mario assured me: “Alan you must remember seeds want to grow — seeds want to grow.” And I silently questioned myself: “Do I want to grow?  And if so I must remember that growing may look and feel like burial — like death — to begin with”.

 When I handed out tiny lettuce seeds at Wednesday Church many people did not know what they were  holding.  One person even said “it looks like a dead flea”.  No one said — “I am holding a tasty nourishing lettuce”. So it is sometimes with the way we see ourselves, others and the world at large.  We see something that is dead and useless when in actual fact it is alive and life-giving.

 I know that the seeds that I have planted will not produce enough food for me to live off, at best they will add some variety to my salads over summer.  Then why do it?  Well I call it “sacramental farming” — in that it puts me in touch with the much larger mystery of LIFE. It reminds me that food does not come from a shelf in a supermarket, but that food comes from soil, and sun and water and the bended backs and muddied hands of labourers. It reminds me that I am dependent on others and creation for my life. That I am not a self-sufficient independent being!  And when I am more in touch with all that has gone into producing the food I appreciate it more — it actually tastes different!

 Remember God was a gardener. To garden is Godly. I hope you too will discover this to be true. Alan

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Brave faith

If you have access to the internet I recommend the following blog by Rachel Held Evans.  Here is one of her latest offerings that I have been challenged by:

“Some like to say that the bravest thing Christians can do is defend their faith, to stand their ground and refuse to change.

But it’s easier to defend our faith than to subject it to scrutiny. It’s easier to dig in our heels than to go exploring. It’s easier to regurgitate answers than to ask good questions. It’s easier cling to our beliefs than to hold them with open hands. It’s easier to assume we’re always right than to acknowledge we may be wrong.

I don’t want an easy faith, I want a brave faith.

I want a faith that takes risks, that asks questions, that experiments, that evolves, that thrives amidst change and obeys amidst doubt. I want a faith that engages both my heart and my head, a faith that operates out of love, not fear, a faith that leaps when it needs to and crawls when it has to. I want the kind of faith that moves mountains precisely because it is small: small enough to need, small enough grow, small enough to surrender to a God that is much bigger than it will ever be. I don’t want an easy faith.”

Nor do I … Alan

http://rachelheldevans.com/easy-faith

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A religion of kindness

Quotes by the Dalai Lama …

In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.

When you think everything is someone’s else’s fault you will suffer a lot. When you realise that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.

Through violence you may ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.

With these words from the Dalai Lama I think we can safely say that Jesus would have given him a visa into Galilee.

Alan

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