Well today I am 16 424 km away from you—in Seattle. As you gather this morning at 10am I am hopefully asleep because it is 1am! I will be preaching this evening when it will be about 3am your time—feel free to wake up and pray for me!
I am at an amazing place called Holden Village situated North East of Seattle surrounded by the abundant beauty of the Cascade Mountains high above Lake Chelan. “Holden Village is a center for renewal, a Lutheran ministry welcoming all people into the wilderness to be called, equipped and sent by God. Thousands of visitors come to Holden each year to experience learning, worship and hilarity.” I will be leading the morning Bible studies for the community this coming week. The entire place runs by volunteers—teachers, pastors, musicians, cooks, maintenance, pre-school care, medics, gardening—you name it. Everyone brings and shares their gift resulting in a rich tapestry of community life. See www.Holdenvillage.org
Next week I will be going to Vancouver to do a little teaching and sharing and a lot of learning at First United Church—a community at the margins where “post modern atheists, traditional Christians and members of other faith communities can make a difference together”.
Sounds like the lamb and wolf are lying down together!
Then I will return to Seattle to facilitate a Manna and Mercy weekend before returning home at Bethany United Church of Christ. See http://bethanyseattle.org Please pray for the gift of tongues so that grace and truth is spoken and the gift of ears so that grace and truth is heard.
See you soon. Alan
I was sent the following email this week from my friend Roger Scholtz entitled: “Why I support Slovenia.” It has certainly won me over…how about you?
“On Friday there was a fantastic supplement in the Mercury newspaper containing the national anthems (with English translation) of all the participating nations of the World Cup.
Many of the anthems draw on the imagery of war and bloodshed as their defining metaphor. Now I accept that some anthems emerged from the crucible of revolution, and so understandably reflect what was often a bloody struggle for freedom. The French anthem would be a classic example. The words of its chorus sound this call: ‘To arms, citizens. Form your battalions. Let’s march! Let’s march! May an impure blood water our furrows!’
The Algerian anthem includes the disturbing (albeit poetic) lines, “We have taken the noise of gunpowder as our rhythm. And the sound of machine guns as our melody.” The Mexican anthem also ain’t for the fainthearted. It starts with, “Mexicans, at the cry of war, prepare the steel and the steed, and may the earth shake at its core to the resounding roar of the cannon.” And then it carries on, “War, war! Take the national pennants and soak them in waves of blood. War! War!…May your fields be watered with blood”
It makes me wonder whether FIFA should release a PG advisory before such anthems are played.
[From the front page] Then there are those anthems that are unashamedly self-obsessed. Perhaps the best example here is Germany’s anthem. It begins: “Germany, Germany above all. Above all in the world…. Germany, Germany above everything. Above everything in the world.” And then it goes on to sing about German women, wine and song!!!
But then, in the midst of all this sabre-rattling and excessive nationalistic pride, there comes a beautiful surprise. Listen to these remarkable words of the Slovenia national anthem:
‘God’s blessing on all nations
Who long and work for that bright day
When o’er earth’s habitation
No war, no strife shall hold its sway
Who long to see that all men free
No more shall foes, but neighbours be.’
I’m convinced! Words of a national anthem like that have won Slovenia at least one more supporter this World Cup – moi! I may not get the pronunciation right in the native language of the song, but I’ll do my best to sing along heartily.”
I hope you will be supporting Slovenia too…and if you can’t bring yourself to do that then at least include their anthem as your prayers.
2010 Soccer World Cup Prayer
Lord God it is the year 2010. The year of the soccer world cup. The year when African soil welcomes the world to play and watch what is known as the beautiful game. Lord, people are excited and this is wonderful to see. Our nation is overflowing with pride and our continent is enjoying being in the news for something other than suffering and strife. To show off the beauty of this beloved country to an ever growing amount of tourists is a privilege. There are flags flying everywhere—none are being burned in protest instead they are being embraced with respect and regard, even the flags of our “enemies”.
Lord a little round ball has given us a unifying focus—our primary identity is no longer black or white; rich or poor; supburb or township; boardroom or street corner, parliament or pub—we are supporters with a comon hope and comon goal and even a comon noice —<<<
Lord, people have worked hard for this world cup. If not heaven, then atleast a lot of earth has been moved for it to take place and we marvel at the new infrastructure—a supersonic train—new buses—highways and walkways which have provided much needed jobs for which we are thankful.
But Lord even though I am excited I am equally disturbed. Why did we need a soccer world cup as a motivating factor to address matters of national infrastructure? And how come the bulk of the infrastructural change benefits the privileged over the deprived? How come we build bridges for fans that will be used for only a few weeks but there are communities living next to busy roads and railway lines without bridges forcing the young and old to risk their lives everytime they seek to go across to the other side?
Why are highway pavements paved where no one ever walks using far more bricks than it would take to enclose open toilets? Billions are spent on stadia while our housing backlog increases anually.
We have first class airports that really are beautiful but only the rich can afford to fly—in truth our public transport system for the majority remains overcrowded and unsafe. We hear of a nearby hospital that has been upgraded for this event only to be closed soon afterwards and we wonder how we can afford such waste.
Lord we are grateful for the jobs that have been created but we also know that the shareholders of the construction companies have made a disproportionate profit than those who have actually done the hard physical work.
Lord as we welcome thousands of visitors we do so with fear that human trafficking, child abduction and the sex trade may all increase. Finally Lord how did we get to this place where soccer players earn multimillion Pound salaries—and for what really—compared to educators and nurses and vocations that are dedicated to the development of the human person and the wellbeing of the planet. Have mercy on us for our skewed priorities Lord.
Have mercy on us for being more passionate about a little round ball than we are about feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and working for economic justice in the world you so love.
Today we say farewell to Mr Tobi after over 20 years of faithful service at CMM. It is wonderful to have Mrs Tobi present with us this morning and to have many family and friends sharing in this momentous occasion.
Please feel free to stay a little while after the service as we pay tribute to Mr. Tobi and share together over food. Everyone is welcome!
Last week I was preaching in Khayelitsha and loved every minute of it. What distressed me though was the fact that in the whole of Khayelitsha there were only two Methodist Ministers. I had known this in theory, but to actually witness the full expanse and density of the area and to be taken to all the different Methodist places of worship—it really hit home. I know how much I miss CMM if I am away for just one Sunday but in Khayelitsha the minister only gets to preach in each community once a quarter. There is no way one can build up a community with such irregularity. I hope we will be able to make connections with the Methodist people of Khayelitsha as we seek to “make the circle bigger”!
Challenged and disturbed, Alan.
Special thanks to Dr Gilbert Lawrence who is sharing the Good News with us this morning.
Over the last few days around 150 of us have been meeting in Lotus River for our Annual Synod and today all the clergy get to preach in different congregations. I find this a helpful exercise in that it reminds me that I am part of a much larger body. A larger body that challenges and comforts me in its rich diversity. A larger body that nurtures me and holds me accountable. I am preaching in Khayelitsha this morning and I am looking forward to it very much. (Make the circle BIGGER!)
According to the Christian Calendar, today is Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is a rather underrated Holy Day compared to Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. But it really is quite unique in that it higlights a doctrine of the early church rather than mark an event recorded in Scripture like all the other Holy Days. It is not without Scriptural reference however, the most well known being Jesus’ simple reply to Philip who asked Jesus to “show us the Father”. Jesus replied: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This must be one of the most radical things Jesus ever said. If it is true, and I trust that it is, then it means that we should measure every statement about God against the teachings and example of Jesus. In other words if what is being said about God “fits” Jesus then we can go ahead and say—”yes that is Godly” – but if it doesn’t sound like Jesus we reject it as an accurate statement about God. This may sound simple but it demands we all get to know Jesus really well to be able to use him as our Godly measuring rod.
Today we celebrate Pentecost—when the heavens sounded forth like rushing wind and roaring fire. Today we celebrate Pentecost when the frightened followers of Jesus were convicted and en-couraged to come out and be counted for the sake of the Gospel—the good news of Jesus.
Janet Morley puts it so beautifully when she writes:
At Pentecost, the church celebrates the coming of the Spirit—the outpouring of the sudden power of God to transform a wounded and disillusioned band of stragglers into a community that changed the world. It was a power that was both awaited in obedience, and utterly unexpected in its energy and urgency. It generated both a deep interior fire, and immediate, compelling, and outrageous public witness. … God’s power is potentially overwhelming, like the natural forces of wind, fire, storm, and flood. It is power to break down what is corrupt in the world’s patterns of thought and dominance. But the Spirit is also seen as the “breath of love,” the giver of life, the remaker of community, the waker of the oppressed, the one who sings in the hearts of the poor. … the power of the Spirit [is] to integrate profound change of heart with exuberant and effective action within the world.
A Holy Spirit filled community is a community that changes the world, so let us be warned as we pray: Come Holy Spirit Come.
With fearful excitement, Alan.
It is a great joy to have Dr. Peter Storey preaching today. We trust you will feel at home among us —knowing that you served many of the people in this congregation in the 1960’s at the Buitenkant Street Methodist Church.
Last week we reflected on the amazing healing story in John 5. We noted that the person who was healed never asked to be healed. He never reached out to even touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. There is no indication that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah or if he even knew anything about Jesus at all. There is also no hint that he was a devout person or religious in any way. If anything he had some rather superstitious beliefs about the healing power of a certain pool, not that it did him any good because he had been sick for 38 years.
YET Jesus heals him! Jesus simply orders him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus does not say anthing like “Your faith has made you well”. No, this is GRACE-healing (like all healing really).
We are invited to trust this story in John 5. To trust that God is at work IN all people all the time everywhere and that God is FOR all people all the time everywhere. Whether we know who Jesus is or not—he knows us and he longs to liberate and heal us. Jesus reveals a God who will not be boxed by our faith! Praise be to God.
Go in peace, Grace has made you well.
I invite you to read the passage of scripture below from the prophet Hosea while remembering that today is Mother’s Day. I hope your picture of God—who is so often only ever referred to as Father—will expand to include the depths and strengths of Mother-like-love…
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.
My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. (Hosea 11:1-5, 7-9).
When I read this passage of scripture I feel the stubborn strength of God’s love most closely imitated by mothers who go on loving whether their children return the love or not. Praise be to mothers everywhere. Alan
On November 12, 2009 in Washington DC, religious leaders from around the world, unveiled the Charter for Compassion. The Charter is a single document, endorsed by HH the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others. It was crafted by people from all walks of life, nationalities, beliefs and backgrounds with the intent to unify, inspire and bring compassion back into the heart of society. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and is often referred to as the Golden Rule – a tenet that is central to all major religions.
The Charter of Compassion is a co-operative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the centre of religious, moral and political life. One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace. In our globalized world, everybody has become our neighbour, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity.
The Charter, crafted by people all over the world and drafted by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers and leaders, seeks to change the conversation so that compassion becomes a key word in public and private discourse, making it clear that any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt ~ be it religious or secular ~ has failed the test of our time. It is not simply a statement of principle; it is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time.
You can read the full text of the below or go to www.charterforcompassion.org
Please diarise the Cape Town launch date of the Charter for Compassion – Thursday 20th May – in the company of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Towards compassion, Alan
THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds
violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Borne of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
The following is an essay written by Marcela H. P. Borges, a 13 year old Brazilian girl, entitled: Important things. I reckon she should be preaching today!
Sometimes people forget what is really important, what is supposed to be their priority. Nowadays, money is the biggest reason for us to do that, we are all crazy about money, we can’t stand the idea of losing money our best friend, our only friend, the one who gives us everything we want. “The Gift of the Magi’s” main idea is about losing, but for a good reason. It can be about other things, not just money, but futile and touchable things which we usually love too much and could perfectly live without. The characters gave up on futility only to please their loved one, which teaches us that what we only need can’t be bought: love, caring, thinking about the others before you, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I wish that this would inspire people, I wish we could change the way of living in the 21st century. Less people consumed by money, more human beings.
I fear someday people will wake up remembering a terrible nightmare, a nightmare where the evil store sells robots. Mother robots, father robots, you can choose, wouldn’t that be just awesome? It can cook for you, it can clean your room – it can let you do whatever you want, but it will always be an it. A cold it, an indifferent it, a metallic it, a $1, 99 it.
I fear someday schools will be only about learning facts, and nothing else. Wouldn’t that be just perfect? We could throw children into a solitary, cold and scary room, with a computer, and the goal will be obligation to learn. Nobody needs friends, laughter, human warmth, values, that’s not learning, that’s not important. Poor people should become rich, sad people should become rich, depressed people should become rich, it’s so easy.
In my home, I can’t talk about anything with my mother, and of course the reason for this is money. We always start arguing about buying a new air conditioner, a new apartment, and new pyjamas. Believe it or not, she is the grown up one and the one who always wants to buy all these things, the one who lives only for spending money. I don’t! What’s not necessary, for me is not important. Actually, I really feel bad if I spend a lot of money at once, even at the supermarket!
In the story, if love didn’t exist, they would have been able to keep their hair and their watch respectively, their North and their South, their world and their universe. However, along comes love ? money’s enemy. Love stops that selfishness, deletes that, and forgets that. Love is unselfish, it wants our mind only for it, and futility has no place.
I hope I’ll never forget what’s important and become a person obsessed by money!
If there was more love, more concern, less selfish thinking, we could have a better world. We need to be more like Della and Jim, if everybody were up to give up their “important” things for each other, everything would be different. I hope that happens someday!
(13yr) Marcela H. P. Borges