When trust is stolen

You may remember a few weeks back I asked if you ever stop and reflect on how much stuff you carry around with you … things like … cell phone, keys, wallet, driver’s license, glasses, bag (never mind what is in the bag…). Well, on that very Sunday my car was broken into and everything in the above mentioned list (and more) was stolen. This past Tuesday the Church’s TV walked out of our offices in broad daylight, and last Sunday about 30 m of copper piping was stolen from within our servitude lane.

So all in all I have spent far too much time lately in Police Stations. Besides the goods themselves, and the time and hassle it takes to replace everything — even when things are insured — there are some things that take much longer to replace, namely trust. Yes, every time I have something stolen from me I realise that far more has been taken than can be written on an insurance claim. My trust in people — especially strangers is also stolen.

I notice how much more suspicious I am of strangers. Suspicion that feeds into my prejudice and racism. I become paranoid. Paranoia that can easily imprison. There is such a temptation to become so security-conscious, especially around the Church property, that we end up restricting access to the very people we are called to journey with.

Lord give me (and all others in the same situation) back what no insurance company can give — a love and openness for the stranger.

Praying, Alan

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More than a fresh coat of paint

A special welcome to the Bishop of the Cape of Good Hope District, Rev. Michel Hansrod. It is our joy and privilege to have you sharing the Good News with us this morning at CMM.  Please trust that you are among family.

Over the past couple of months CMM has gone to great efforts to restore the beauty of this glorious sanctuary. We still have a great deal to do because our aim stretches much further than a fresh coat of paint. We long to be a community that is a source of abundant life within this city. Very soon the wooden doors of this sanctuary will stand open 24/7 with warm light shining through the welcoming-glass-doors.

A few years ago we were encouraged by our Presiding Bishop to tell the story of God’s movement, through the people called Methodists, in Southern Africa. Today we celebrate our rich heritage stretching back to John Wesley himself — as we display an original hand-written letter from Mr Wesley dated 1772.  Please be sure to read some of his thoughts on the display boards — they are amazingly relevant for today. Next to the Wesley letter is the relocated tombstone of Rev. Barnabas Shaw, not to mention the “time tunnel” of CMM memorabilia that has been dusted off to be shown off. This display is the beginning of our on-going story that will be added to over time.

Take a bow — all of you who have generously given of your support, money, time and energy to enable this restoration work to come this far.

Peace, Alan
Sunday 22 May 2011

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Life takes practice & daily discipline

Wow, this morning (meaning this past Thursday morning) I spoke to someone at the gym who in the last couple of months has lost 35 kg. I have often seen him grimacing when his personal trainer takes him through his daily routine between 6 – 7 a.m. His language is sometimes quite colourful as a result of the physical exertion his personal trainer demands. He is still a big guy but unrecognisably so. I salute his persistent discipline. I admire the extent of his investment in his health — personal trainers are not cheap — but they are a whole lot cheaper than heart attacks. I also admire his honesty and humility to recognise that without a personal trainer holding him accountable and coaching him, the change he dreamed of would remain just that — a dream, never to see the light of day.

Last night (meaning Wednesday night) during Wednesday Church we learnt from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk, the great need to practice, practice, practice. To practice ‘deep listening’ — to listen without judgment and blame. To practice ‘deep looking’ — to look within ourselves to locate the origins of our own anger and violence. To practice walking calmly and gently on the earth. These practices will produce understanding and with understanding  our hearts are opened to compassion. “Only a drop of compassion can put out the fire of hatred in ourselves and others”.

Is this difficult? Sure it is! Like loosing 35kg is difficult. It takes practice and daily discipline and to do this we need coaching and accountability.  In Church, like gym we need personal trainers.

Lets chat, Alan

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Killing grieves God

This past week we heard the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed. President Obama announced that “it was a good day for America” and that it goes to show “that there is nothing we can’t do”. We have known Obama as a great orator but these words of his disappointed. They diminished rather than enlarged our common humanity. They added to the inappropriate gloating that took place outside the White House and Ground-Zero. Bin Laden’s killing — like all killing — is a tragedy that grieves God the creator and lover of us all.

In the Gospels Jesus says that Satan cannot cast out Satan. Equally, violence cannot cast out violence or killing cast out killing. Violence and killing beget more of the same. This tragic truth stains much of our human history. When will we stop doing to others as they have done to us? When will we take Jesus at His Word — and begin to love our enemies in the very least by refusing to kill them? If there was one thing Jesus was very clear about — in word and in deed — it was that we are called to love our enemies.

In reminding his congregation of this, St. Augustine proclaimed in a sermon: “Let your desire for him [your enemy] be that together with you he may have eternal life: let your desire for him be that he may be your brother. And if that is what you desire in loving your enemy (that he may be your brother) when you love him, you love a brother. You love in him, not what he is, but what you would have him be.” (Augustine, Eighth Homily, in Homilies on the First Epistle of St John).

God, encourage us to extend the circle of our love to include our enemies.

Sunday 8 May 2011

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“What would I say to Osama bin Laden”

“What I Would Say to Osama bin Laden”  A Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh answers this question in an interview with Anne A. Simpkins on the 28th September 2001.  During Wednesday Church we will be reflecting on his answer.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk in the Zen tradition, who worked tirelessly for peace during the Vietnam War, rebuilding villages destroyed by the hostilities. Following an anti-war lecture tour in the United States, he was not allowed back in his country and settled in France. In 1967, he was nominated by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is now internationally known for his teaching and writing on mindfulness, and for his work related to “socially engaged Buddhism,” a call to social action based on Buddhist principles. Thay, as he is affectionately called by his followers, shared his thoughts on how America should respond to the terrorist attacks.

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