A couple of weeks ago on the Church Camp we punctuated our days with prayer (repeatedly setting aside 30 minutes of gathered silence) and committed to be a prayer practicing people going forward. Here are a few words from a poet and a Rabbi to inspire us on this prayer practicing journey…
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak. – Mary Oliver
The world is aflame with evil and atrocity; the scandal of perpetual desecration of the world cries to high heaven. And we, coming face-to-face with it, are either involved as callous participants or, at best, remain indifferent onlookers….
We pray because the disproportion of human misery and human compassion is so enormous. We pray because our grasp of the depth of suffering is comparable to the scope of perception of a butterfly flying over the Grand Canyon. We pray because of the experience of the dreadful incompatibility of how we live and what we sense.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel
This past week a single theme seems to have woven itself in and through almost everything I have been involved with, namely, the painful process of trying to re-build broken relationships. Be it marriage, work, or family relationships— they are all vulnerable to breakage.
There are basically three scenarios that I have witnessed:  At least one party is ambivalent about wanting the relationship to work and this results in a very long and difficult journey with an uncertain ending. It is saturated with mixed messages and can also be quite abusive.  Both parties want the relationship to (re)-work. This means they are 90% there already.  One party wants out and their mind is made up—here there is nothing one can do to save the relationship. Energy and focus should turn towards working for as “healthy” a breakup as possible. All three scenarios would be best served if we were all better able to genuinely dialogue with one another. These words by author, Elizabeth O’Conner may help us:
“Dialogue is more than your giving me space to say my words, and my giving you space to say yours. It involves our listening. We are all very different. We cannot have dialogue unless we honour the differences. How can I build a bridge across the gulf between me and you unless I am aware of the gulf? How can I communicate with you unless I see how things look from your side? Dialogue demands that I leave the place where I dwell—the landscape of feelings and thoughts that are important to me—in order to dwell for a time with your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, fears, hopes. I must deny myself—forsake the familiar, give up my life—in order to experience your life.”
May we be helped to experience another’s life….Alan
Welcome everyone! As we have been trying to calve out silent space while we have been practicing prayer more intentionally as a community over the last couple of weeks, I have been inspired by a Mary Oliver poem…
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out “Stay awhile”.
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple”, they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light and to shine”
Walk slowly, bow often. Alan
A special welcome to Rev. Rennie Mannie from Kensington Methodist Church. In turn I am preaching at Kensington this morning. Rennie be at home—you are among family!
This past week I watched two documentaries—the first was “Joan and Verne’s Wedding”. A documentary about a Lesbian couples Jewish wedding by an amazing Cape Town Rabbi.
The second documentary is the Oscar nominated “The Most Dangerous Man in America”. It is a story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file full of classified documents, decides to challenge an “Imperial” Presidency-answerable to neither Congress, the press, nor the people in order to help end the Vietnam War. In 1971, Ellsberg smuggled a top-secret Pentagon study to the New York Times that showed how five Presidents consistently lied to the American people about the Vietnam War. Ensuing events surrounding the so-called Pentagon Papers led directly to Watergate and the downfall of President Nixon.
Both documentaries celebrated the courage of people who dared to follow their conscience even though to do so was to go against entrenched social, religious and political norms. They risked rejection, condemnation and even prison for the sake of love and truth. There is something very Christ-like in this. Ordinary people living openly and truthfully is the way in which we give God our lives as a living sacrifice for the transformation of the world. May the Spirit sharpen our conscience! Alan.
A special welcome to all visitors with us today, especially those who have been attending the 3rd Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization.
The freedom of a nation rests on a number of crucial foundation blocks. One such foundation block is the free flow of information. We remember that Government censorship was at the heart of Apartheid policy and one of the sweetest fruits of our young democracy had been the right to access information, and the freedom of expression enshrined in our constitution.
I believe the gains of our struggle for freedom are threatened by the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) currently before Parliament. This Bill is reminiscent of our Apartheid past. The Bill allows for any state agency, government department, even a parastatal and our local municipality to classify public information as secret—if they discern it is within the “national interest”. Anyone involved in the “unauthorised” handling and disclosure of classified information can be prosecuted, (whistleblowers and journalists) up to 25 years in prison. This will lead to self-censorship and have a chilling effect on free speech.
I invite you to join me and the Right2Know Campaign this coming Wednesday 27th October in a march to parliament. The march will start at 10am at Kaizergracht street. Jesus said: “The truth will set us free”.
A special welcome to Rev Dr Keith and Carol Garner. Keith and Carol are attending the 3rd Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization being hosted in Cape Town at the moment. Keith will be sharing the Good News with us this morning. Keith is originally from Bolton in the UK, yet at the moment his ministry is located at the Wesley Mission in Sydney Australia. Thank you Keith!
Breaking news: Next year CMM’s weekend away will be on the 16th-18th September!! By then your stiffness will surely have eased and you will be ready to enjoy another wildly fun and meaningful time!
The time away was truly wonder-full. The beginning of new friendships and the deepening of relationships was so joyfully evident. There was a clear appreciation for how the programme was punctuated with “prayer practice”. We had seven opportunities to gather as a group for 30 minutes of silent prayer. We practiced the Examen Prayer (a prayer of self-examination) and Lectio Divina (a way of prayerfully reflecting on a Scripture passage—which we did as a community on the Sunday for a group sermon).
The division of our day, by prayerful silence, was so life-giving. To the extent that we have decided on a number of different times where we, as a community, may gather together for prayer practice. I will make these opportunities known to you soon so that we can all be part of it.
With thanks, Alan.
A special welcome to Roger Florist. Roger is from Kensington Methodist Church and he will be sharing the Good News this morning. Thank you Roger!
The reason why there are so many empty pews this Sunday is because most of the CMM congregation is in Simon’s Town. We have been enjoying a weekend away. The hope is that we will return celebrating new friendships and a deeper sense of connection with one another. Please pray for us. We promise to show photos next week.
I came across the following prayer this past week—as I try and live with it, I invite you to do the same…
Jesus our joy, when we realize that you love us,
something in us is soothed and even transformed.
We ask you: what do you want from me?
And by the Holy Spirit you reply:
Let nothing trouble you, I am praying in you, dare to give your life.
There are three main stages in human development. They include—infancy, adolescence and adulthood. Von Hugel shows that religion must take account of and nurture the predominant needs and activities of each stage, and so concludes that religion must include three essential elements:
“An institutional element corresponding to the needs and activities of infancy, a critical element corresponding to adolescence, and a mystical element corresponding to adulthood.”
This does not mean that the needs of infancy disappear in adolescence, nor do the needs and activities of adolescence disappear in adulthood, but they should cease to be predominant if we are to grow.
Infants enjoy boundaries that provide them with comforting protection, while teenagers question boundaries at every turn and adults realize that boundaries are necessary but more complex than first thought—even incommunicable—and if the boundaries are to be honoured in adulthood it will be out of love and no longer fear, a delight and not a duty contributing to ones freedom and not captivity.
There is a danger that we find the comforting protection of infancy so satisfactory or the questioning teenager so conveniently non-committal that we get stuck and never venture towards the terrifying freedom of adulthood.
This metaphor invites all of us to reflect on our own journey of faith. I am convinced that setting dedicated time aside for prayerful silence and reflection is the propelling power that will prevent us from prematurely getting stuck and keep growing. Alan.
Last week we wrestled with the puzzling parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16:1-8. It was puzzling because on the surface it sounded like dishonesty is being honoured by suggesting that we can do right by doing wrong. This would contradict everything else Jesus said or did—so it is highly unlikely that the surface reading is even remotely instructive to our following Jesus. Therefore we are compelled to reject the surface meaning and dig deeper.
With regard to digging deeper I find the work of Paul Duke very helpful. Instead of trying to tidy this parable up he invites us to find ourselves in the mess. He says:
Whatever open questions remain in the parable, this is the core of the storey: a participant in a crooked system, pronounced guilty and facing catastrophe, takes quick, risky, unauthorized action to save himself. He does it in a crooked way—how else? – dispensing crooked cash, reducing debts, making friends. The aim of his flurry of action is his survival; what he receives is his master’s praise.
It is a messy little story. It invites reflection on the messy systems we are part of, our own compromised and accused situation, our mixed motives and mixed means for acting redemptively….The parable, in the end is kind to us. It relieves our illusions of being good or of having to become good. It knows where we live and what we are and, remarkably, holds out gracious praise for the hopelessly wicked, like us, who will do what they must to be saved.
May God give us courage to reflect on the messy systems we are part of….and to give up the illusion of being good. Grace, Alan
Over this weekend I have been facilitating another Manna and Mercy course—going through that special book written by Dan Erlander that not only takes us on a journey from Genesis to Revelation in a humorous yet profound way, but also helps us to question our own faith understandings from a radical Jesus perspective. One of the hopes I have for CMM is that we continue to be a questioning community. A community that feels free to wrestle with God like Jacob of old. To test long-held beliefs and refuse to settle for shallow answers, and to do all this without judgment or the fear of rejection—remembering that our aim is not to always agree with each other but to grow. The letter quoted below is written by a friend of mine when she was 11 years old. I find her courageous to go toe-to-toe with God and I find her 11-year old logic compelling.
I’m not very religious in the sense of the Christian religion. I believe you gave us life to live it and not to praise you. You already have enough self-confidence, you don’t need me to praise you, well that’s what I believe. I love you Lord, you know I do so, why then should I praise you? Is praise not saying that I love you? I don’t praise my family. But I love them more than anything in the world. Why can’t we enjoy life? After all it’s the most precious gift given to us. I don’t believe most of the stories told in the Bible. They tell us how you helped kill Goliath. Should you not be a peaceful God? Aren’t there other ways of dealing with problems? Do you have to kill people? Why can’t you break his leg or something? No actually, I suppose that’s violent too. Well you could have thought of something. Still I don’t believe you did it anyway, so I’m not accusing you. When I go to a church service about you being an almighty God, and if we sin we will burn in hell. We shouldn’t feel threatened by you.
Encouraging you to question…Alan