Sunday 31st October 2010

Dear Friends

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.

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Sunday 24th October 2010

 

Dear Friends                                                                                                           

 

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”. 

Grace, Alan

 

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Sunday 17th October 2010

 

Dear Friends,                                                                                                         

 

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.

 

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Sunday 10th October 2010

Dear Friends,                                                                                                     

 

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.

 

Grace Alan

 

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Sunday 3rd October 2010

 

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                            

 

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. 

 

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Sunday 26th September 2010

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                      

 

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

 

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Sunday 19th September 2010

 

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                                 

 

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.

 

Dear God

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

 

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Sunday, 12th September 2010

 

Dear Friends                                                                                                     

 

 

Today is a very special day in the life of CMM.  It is the day that we celebrate the confirmation of Gillmore Manter.  In my mind only a wedding service comes close to the significance of this day.  A wedding is not only of comparative significance but is also probably the closest analogy for what we are doing here today. 

 

You see, today we gather to confirm the love and life-long commitment Jesus has always had for Gillmore, and we also witness Gilmore confirming her love and life- long commitment to Jesus.  Today, like a wedding, is all about lovers declaring their love for each other out loud for the entire world to hear and honour.

 

In a wedding service vows are made … for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.   These wedding vows connect very well to what we are celebrating today.  Gillmore is confirming that her love        relationship with Jesus is not going to be dependent on her state of wealth, health or comfort.  This is a brave confirmation to make and points to the glorious truth that Jesus’ love for the world and each one of us is constant despite the changing circumstances of our lives. 

 

Let us rejoice as Gillmore confirms her love for the One who has been in love with her since the very foundations of the world.  Today more than any other we can declare: “They are a match made in Heaven”.  May Gillmore’s love for Jesus grow to match his love for her.

 

Grace, Alan.

 

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Sunday 5th September 2010

Dear Friends                                                                                                    

 

A very special welcome to Rev Trevor Bosman who will be proclaiming the good news this morning.  Trevor is a retired Methodist minister who reminds us that we never retire from doing God’s work.   Thank you Trevor for your witness.

 

Today I am in Pietermaritzburg celebrating the opening of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary [SMMS].  The new seminary now makes it possible for every Methodist probationer minister to begin their journey towards ordination with three years of full-time study—study that will engage their heads, hearts and hands—preparing their whole person to proclaim the Gospel with grace and in truth.  I am pleased to let you know that CMM has given a gift of R20 000 from our tithe account towards the seminary.

 

Someone asked me why we were giving money to the [SMMS] when CMM itself is struggling financially.  Well the answer is quite simple really.  CMM as a community not only teaches tithing—it practices tithing.  This means that 10% of every offering or donation given to CMM is inturn given away to bless, heal, comfort, equip, feed, educate, inspire, love etc. etc. others beyond our own community. 

 

I invite us all to re-look at our own relationship we have with money in the light of our relationship with Jesus.  This is not always comfortable, but it is necessary if we are serious about naming Jesus Lord of our life.  It is also necessary if we are going to be faithful in living out God’s dream for the city through CMM.  Ministry costs money, and in the next few months we are not only going to be restoring this grand old building—but we are going to be venturing out in new and creative and hopefully life-giving ways to the city like never before.  As we share the vision I invite us all to actively share the cost.  Grace, Alan.

 

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Sunday, 29th August 2010

Dear Friends,

 

A very special welcome to Rev. Debbie van der Laar who will be proclaiming the good news this morning.  Debbie is the minister at Sea Point Methodist Church and she is doing exciting things there.  I encourage you to visit Sea Point and see for yourself – or if you know of people in that area, to encourage them to pop in.  I am preaching in Salt River and Observatory today.  It is always important for us to remember that we are not an entity on our own here at CMM, but that we belong to a larger body of other Methodist Churches. 

 

There are a couple of important events coming up in the near and distant future that I would like you to commit to prayer.  Next week on the 4th September the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary is opening in Pietermaritzburg.  This is a very significant step in the life of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa regarding clergy training.  Thank you to all of you who have made financial donations towards this ministry.

 

On the 7th September at 19h00 we have our first planning meeting for Synod 2011.  Our circuit (including Sea Point; Salt River; Observatory and Kensington Methodist Churches) will be hosting Synod on the 19th-21st May 2011.  This means for three days we will be caring for 250 delegates.  We are yet to secure a venue – so if any of you know of such a venue with parking etc. please speak to me.  If you would like to be part of this event simply write your name down on the yellow pad and hand it in during the offertory. 

 

On the 12th September we celebrate Gilmore Mantis’ confirmation.  Confirmation is like a wedding ceremony where before a congregation of witnesses a person declares their life long loving commitment to Jesus.  Please hold Gilmore in the LIGHT.

 

In the next month or two we hope to start maintenance on the leaking roofs of this sanctuary.  And after the damp has been removed from the walls we hope to re-paint in the new year.  This is going to be a huge, costly and delicate job.  The LOAN for this restoration work is being provided to us by the Kinsman Trust. 

 

Finally please pray for in-spirit-ation around starting the AS IT IS IN HEAVEN coffee lounge on the sanctuary balcony.  You will be hearing more about this in the coming weeks. 

 

And even as I am asking you to commit to pray for these things I am so aware of the trauma that persists around wages for labour and closed hospitals and schools – please God may we carry these struggles in our hearts!

 

 

Grace,

Alan

 

 

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