Today is the 3rd Sunday OF Easter (not the 2nd week AFTER Easter). Yes, according to the Christian calendar this year, Easter lasts for 7 weeks . Perhaps knowing that like the first disciples we too are slow to open ourselves to be transformed by the good news of Resurrection. Perhaps knowing that we need multiple Jesus encounters before we begin to live life in remarkable and radical Resurrection ways.
And so for the 3rd time we are reminded to not simply believe in the resurrection, but to live out the Resurrection.
One of the telltale signs of a Resurrection shaped life is a life that is saturated with praise. “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Ps. 150:6)
Some theologians, drawing on the fact that the Psalter begins with law and ends in praise, contend that the final scriptural expectation on humanity is adoration (surpassing obedience). A life saturated with praise is a life lived in constant gratitude for God’s great grace. “How great thou art” becomes the silent theme tune of our life. “Lost in wonder and love” we find our primary purpose in life, namely, to praise the Living God in all things! Let us pray to become praise-saturated people. Alan
In the sermon last week on Easter Sunday I said that Resurrection is not to be confused with the widely held belief in the “immortality of the soul”. “Immortality of the soul” is a left over belief from Greek mythology which is most often understood as there being some part within us (“the soul”) that survives death when we physically die. Resurrection differs from the belief in immortality in the following way:
“Immortality is a theory about human nature, that there is something within us that cannot die. Resurrection affirms something about God, that God acts for those who are dead. The resurrection refers to the act of God for a dead person, not the immortality of a being who cannot die. Human beings are not immortal and do not have immortal souls; they die and are powerless unless God acts to grant life ….Christian hope is in the resurrection , not in immortality; it is hope in God, not in ourselves.” [M.E Boring and F.B. Cradock in The People’s New Testament Commentary p101]
The resurrection is therefore the ultimate act of God’s grace! It shows more than anything else that God helps those who cannot help themselves!
“Easter is serious. Easter is a demand as well as a promise. Easter demands not sympathy for the crucified Lord but loyalty to the risen one; it demands an end to all our complicity in crucifixion.” [William Sloane Coffin].
Have you ever thought of Easter as serious and demanding? I must confess that these words took me by surprise but the more time I have reflected on them the more I agree.
Easter is serious because to trust in its truth is to affirm that the way of Jesus really is the way of Life. It is to affirm Jesus’ teaching and lived example which pretty much goes against almost all the accepted wisdom of the world like:
Welcome-in strangers! Hang-out with outcasts! Tell the truth regardless! Better to help someone lying in a ditch on a dangerous road than make it in time for church! Don’t hit back! You don’t own what you have! Give and give again without counting the cost! Worry not about tomorrow—not even today! Fall in love with the people who hate you! Fear no-one! Forgive people who are wrong—even if they are really, really wrong! Forgive again! Serve all people—especially the “least”! Make friends with the poor! Pray!
To celebrate Easter is to be loyal to the One who was raised! This is serious stuff!
Joyfully disturbed, Alan
The great preacher William Sloane Coffin once said, “On Good Friday we crucified Jesus, the best among us, because we had crucified the best within us, and did not want to be reminded of it…”
Now there were probably many reasons why Jesus was crucified, but the reason that William Sloane Coffin highlights is the one I want to invite us to reflect on.
Isn’t it true that when we are reminded of something within us that we have ourselves forsaken or betrayed we are prone to respond with defensive denial and sometimes even vicious anger? When we betray something we hold dear within us there is a strong temptation to begin to see the world, others and ourselves in a way that justifies our self-betrayal as it becomes too painful for us to face and admit to. One way to stop the pain is to get rid of that which is reminding us of our self-betrayal.
Jesus reminded the religious class of his day what true religion is meant to be about—namely, loving God and neighbour—which had long been forsaken but not quite forgotten—so to eradicate the memory altogether they called for his blood. Jesus reminded the ordinary people of his day that they were born free and equal and should therefore live free despite the political persecution from those in power—but they were locked in fear—so they too called for his life.
The question is what have we betrayed and forsaken in our own lives that is sometimes revealed to us by others? Do we call for their blood? Or label them and refuse to engage with them—a form of relationship crucifixion?! Alan
Today is Palm Sunday—the start of Holy Week. Holy because of how Jesus love for the world was RAISED to Crucifying heights.
Each evening this week we will be reflecting on “The Way of Forgiveness”.
What exactly is forgiveness? Do we always have to forgive? Is there a time when we say: “enough is enough”? How do we forgive if we are still hurting? How do we forgive if the person is no longer alive? What have I got to gain by forgiving and what have I got to loose? What other choices do we have besides forgiveness?
In the next few days we will be reflecting on these and other questions regarding forgiveness. The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday teachings will be building on each other so it will benefit you to attend them all. On Thursday we share in foot washing and Holy Communion. Starting 7pm.
We start tonight with the screening of the wonderful movie: The Widow of Saint-Pierre. A movie that explores the depths of forgiveness and love with daring sensitivity. We start tonight at 6pm followed by a brief discussion.
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”
A poem to ponder. “If” – by Rudyard Kipling.
I thought I would give you a heads up on a couple of things coming up in the life of CMM that I want to encourage you to put in your diary.
Palm Sunday: 28 March [6pm]
Movie: The Widow of St. Pierre (Staring Juliette Binoche) followed with discussion.
Holy Week: 29 March—1 April [7pm]
Theme for the week: The Way of Forgiveness
Good Friday: 10am Service followed by Three Hour Service starting at 12noon
Camps Bay outing: 11 April
Lunch and afternoon by the sea
Manna and Mercy: 23– 26 April
This is an opportunity to journey through the whole bible in one weekend. An awesome opportunity to get into the scriptures. Cost R60
Diversity Engagement: 14-16 May
A journey to unpack the bias and prejudice that lurks within us—be it sexism, racism or other forms of bias. This is truly life changing. Maximum 20 participants.
Church Camp: 8-10 October
Theme: The God of Surprises. Rocklands Centre Simon’s Town. Cost R270 for adults and R240 for children.
With great expectations, Alan
I am always intrigued by what sermons generate a surprisingly large and interactive response. Last week’s sermon on the Two Tones of Truth was one of them. From the amount of conversations, emails and sms’s I have received it seems to have touched a nerve of many. The overwhelming response has been: “That sermon was about me!” So it seems many of us participate in the dance between faith and doubt. The cry: “I believe, help my unbelief” is the cry of many of us. This is what led me to voice that strange sentence that I invited you to wrestle with: “I am still searching for what I have found”. I have no more light to shed on this but I can’t get away from its ring of truth for me. I would be interested to find out your reflections on this!
The psalmist may have spoken in the tones of bold declaration and doubting distress, but amazingly s/he longed for just one thing: the Lord’s presence and beauty.
To witness a life lived willing only one thing is hugely compelling. The psalmist’s desire drew me to a deeper truth of my own. It went like this: “I yearn for one thing.” Then I thought, “No that is not fully true. I long to yearn for one thing”. Then I thought some more, “No that is also not fully true. I am not even sure I long to yearn for one thing, but I know I need to and I know I need help to.” So I turn to Jesus—the one who has found me– and I search again for him.
I really want to encourage us all to read and reflect on the Psalms—the psalms that are better prayed than preached—the psalms that help us recognize our true selves. May you be blessed with both peace and disturbance. Alan.
I watched a documentary this past week on Howard Zinn – a long time historian and peace activist who recently died. As a young man he participated in the Royan bombing (dropping napalm for the first time in Europe) just weeks before the end of WWII: “And we don’t know how many people were killed or how many people were terribly burned as a result of what we did. But I did it like most soldiers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, thinking we’re on the right side, they’re on the wrong side, and therefore we can do whatever we want, and it’s OK.” said Zinn.
Only afterward did he learn the human effects of bombing, mostly harming civilians – including children, women, and the elderly. He flew at “30,000 feet, six miles high, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And this is modern warfare….soldiers fire, they drop bombs, and they have no notion, really, of what is happening to the human beings that they’re firing on. Everything is done at a distance. This enables terrible atrocities to take place.” And it’s happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“And that while some societies can rightly claim to be more liberal, more democratic, more humane than others, the
difference is not great enough to justify the massive, indiscriminate slaughter of modern warfare.”
He asked shouldn’t the real motivations for war be examined. Shouldn’t the claim of fighting for democracy, liberty, a just cause, and human rights be questioned. Wouldn’t it be clear that all nations fight for power, privilege, wealth, territory, supremacy, national pride, and dominance of one side over others, the notions of freedom, righteousness, and innocent victims never considered. Tyranny is in the eye of the beholder when one side is as bad as the other.
“War isn’t inevitable”, said Zinn. “It doesn’t arise from an instinctive human need. Political leaders manufacture it, then use propaganda to justify it to the public and mobilize them to fight. War is the moral equivalent of the worst kind of terrorism.”
Toward the end of his life he wrote: “Wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked they acted, and organized to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”
As we begin our service, they begin their trial
As we meet to support Ecclesia they meet to judge
As we meet in solidarity they meet in legality
As we begin in prayer, so do they
We are us and they are them
Yet we are one
We are them and they are us
As a body within Your body
We feel and see Flesh parting – from a flogging
The paschal range is played out before us
Bystanders from a distance
Some help to carry the cross
Mocking, hate, rejection,
The state watches, bemused
Blood and water flow, separated
The water no longer offering the eternal welcome of Baptism
We trust You Lord to have the last word.
[This is a prayer written by my colleague Rev. John Wessels. John prayed this prayer at a service that was held in support of and in solidarity with Rev. Ecclesia de Lange. The service of solidarity took place at the exact time as the Church appeal court met to decide on Ecclesia’s future as a Methodist minister as a result of her marrying her partner Amanda on the 15th December 2009. This past Wednesday we heard that Ecclesia had been discontinued as a Methodist Minister. If you would like to know more about Ecclesia you can collect a copy of “Ecclesia’s Story” from the back table. In grief, Alan]