I will be facilitating Diversity Engagement next weekend—and I hope you will join me. There is room for 15 people. Today may be the last opportunity for you do register—please speak to Sharon at the information table at the back of the Sanctuary.
Diversity Engagement is an amazing personal growth opportunity that really does hold out the real potential to heal relationships and transform this country. Diversity Engagement provides a respectful and safe space for each participant to uncover and explore our own tendencies to stereotype and prejudice others because of the colour of their skin, gender identity, age, nationality, sexual orientation or religion etc. The weekend gives us an opportunity to wrestle with our own internalised identity. To be sure this is emotionally stretching but also hugely liberating—again not just for us as individuals but for our nation.
My hope is that every person of CMM will attend Diversity Engagement at some point—this can only contribute to the healing and growth of our community. It would be wonderful to be able to train others to facilitate Diversity Engagement as well as to offer this relationship healing tool to organisations, businesses, schools etc. in the area. More often than not we are taught to fear difference. In Diversity Engagement we learn how to “do difference differently”…. Please join me next weekend. Alan
Last week’s sermon was entitled “Worry about your Worship” inspired by Psalm 50 and Isaiah 1:10-20. Both readings record God’s anger at our human tendency to worship the way we worship. To turn a means into an end in and of itself and to forget that telling God we love God is not the same as actually loving God.
Both readings (Psalm 50:7 and Isaiah 1:10) command us to listen to God’s voice. For us to listen we must first keep silence. So, seeking to honour this scripture we decided last week to spend 5min in complete silence after the sermon. I hope that this will become a permanent part of our worship liturgy.
As we sit in the silence I encourage you to be conscious of your breathing and deliberate about smiling. This may seem trite, but in actual fact it is an ancient form of prayer/meditation. The reasoning behind it is as follows: we breathe because God first breathed into us—it is the very origin of our life. We are alive and this is the greatest of miracles and so we rejoice—we smile. It is not a smile of happiness, but rather a smile of gratitude. Gratitude is the sacrifice that God longs for (Psalm 50:14).
Breathing and smiling, Alan
I am not sure about you, but I am still living with the rich symbolism of the movie that many of us watched just over a week ago: called AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. The day after the movie a number of us gathered to reflect on the message of the film with specific relevance for us at CMM. I asked those present if the movie contained any “miracles” for them—and if so what they were. I was surprised to hear just how many miracles were mentioned and very struck by the type of miracles that were mentioned. Here are some of them:
· Each person found their own unique voice…
· The fear that prevented them from really living was broken…
· There was no longer any finger pointing…
· There was no longer any name calling…
· People began to challenge the unfair status quo…
· The choir grew in confidence to sing on their own…
· Set free to say “the three words: I love you.”
Wow, what a list of miracles! But hang-on they sound so ordinary—yes but if you have seen the movie you will agree—they really are miracles and when added together with each other they literally transform the earth as it is in heaven! I hope you have a miraculous week!
[We are still having problems with our sermon down loads – hopefully the problem will be sorted soon – we are also in the process of re-designing this entire site with better sound quality assured for the sermons]
On Friday night many of us watched the amazing movie: As it is in Heaven, about a famous conductor who returns to his remote home town to recover from burnout. He ends up conducting the church choir, by which the entire community is transformed.
The movie is propelled by a dream. “A dream to create music that will open people’s hearts.” Gabrielle, a woman who breaks free of an abusive relationship, has her heart opened and this is what she sings:
It is now that my life is mine, I’ve got this short time on earth,
And my longing has brought me here, All I lacked and all I gained,
And yet it’s the way that I choose, My trust was far beyond words,
That has shown me a little bit of the heaven I’ve never found,
I want to feel I’m alive all my living days
I will live as I desire I want to feel I’m alive
Knowing I was good enough
I have never lost who I was, I have only left it sleeping maybe,
I never had a choice just the will to stay alive,
All I want is to be happy being who I am,
To be strong and to be free, To see day arise from night
I am here and my life is only mine
And the heaven I thought was there
I’ll discover it there somewhere
I want to feel that I’ve lived my life.
May our hearts be opened that we may truly feel we have lived our lives! Alan
[We are having problems with this website regarding the sermon down loads – hopefully it will be up and running soon].
Last week we met Jesus in Martha and Mary’s house. No sooner had Jesus taken a seat and the sisters started fighting! We would think that when Jesus visits us in our home he would restore calm, as he did to the stormy sea of Galilee, but that is not what happened. The good news however, is that Jesus still visits families that fight!
Martha’s accusing conversation is blunt with blame. It is bossy—telling Jesus to tell Mary what to do. Conversations with a blaming and bossy tone seldom make for healthy relationships because they lack respect. If we are always telling others what to do it really shows that we do not fully respect them. This includes our relationship with our children!
We also witnessed Martha speaking to Mary through Jesus and learnt that it is far more helpful to speak directly to people rather than through others which can be so manipulative. So in these coming days let us have the courage to speak to people and not about people. Let us pray for a growing respect for those who we struggle with. May we find Jesus in these relationships. Alan
It is good to be home again and I look forward to sharing with you the many experiences and learnings from my trip overseas – just as soon as I get over my jetlag. Thank you for your prayers to be able to speak and hear grace-full truth.
I must tell you that whenever anyone found out I was from South Africa they got all excited and asked me about the World Cup. So one thing is for sure, SA has had a lot of publicity! Well the 2010 World Cup may be over but 2010 is not over! We are only halfway through the year. And I am hopeful that the rest of the year will be a significant time for us at CMM.
To this end I would like to invite you all to another “movie” evening at CMM. On Friday the 30th July we will be showing As it is in Heaven. This is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen! It is a movie about the healing of a community where individuals are loved into loving. I really hope everyone of us will be able to make it. And yes there will be popcorn!
Then on the Saturday 31st July you (yes all of you) are invited to spend the day imagining God’s dream for CMM – hopefully insightfully inspired by As it is in Heaven . We will do this at Erin Hall, Rondebosch. It doesn’t matter if you have just started coming to CMM or whether you have been here for years – everyone is included because the dream of God is in the hands of us all. I trust that as we live life more and more orientated towards fulfilling God’s dream for this beloved world we will be gifted with renewed meaning and refreshed joy. Peace, Alan.
Today is the Fifa World Cup final in Johannesburg. Preceded by an abundance of excitement, and celebration amongst visitors and locals. Many visitors have praised the wonderful hospitality and friendliness of South Africans. African teams were warmly embraced. Bafana Bafana even became BaGhana, BaGhana, for the Ghanaians. We can be proud of the way we organized and delivered on the World Cup. What a jol!
Yet in the shadows of expensive stadia other foreign nationals, are fearful of their South Africans neighbours, whom they do not experience as hospitable and friendly, and who are threatening xenophobic violence. While so much of the threat is based on rumour and some criminal acts against foreign nationals, the horrific events of 2008, are still fresh, painful memories for many. The lack of services and competition for scarce resources in impoverished communities aggravate an untenable situation. All spheres of Government, NGOs and Faith Based Organizations have responded to the threats in different ways. A main concern is to ensure that the responses do not create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and precipitate violence.
We as church, Christians, community and South Africans are obliged to respond. Today’s lectionary reading shares the story of the Good Samaritan. Appropriately we could ask: But what if the attack on the traveller was xenophobic violence, then which character would we be?
We should respond to the current situation, but also in the longer term. Our humanity and unity in the faith is also harmed by this evil. Our own worship services provide a melting pot of human diversity and challenge. How are we becoming a more inclusive community at CMM? What are the deeper issues? What of our own demons?
We thank God for many who do act out their faith in society, sometimes at great cost to themselves. May we, as Jesus said, “then do the same”. Through the power of the Spirit we can. To do so, is living out our faith, individually as community and as church, and is affirming our humanity in the power and presence of God.
God’s Peace. Gilbert
Special thanks to Rev Ken Leverton who is sharing the Good News with us this morning.
It is a privilege to care for your children on a Sunday morning and I would like to share the following thoughts with you.
Children and context – our children live on the same planet as we adults do, but no longer in the same world we grew up in. Life has changed – children live in a highly automated environment. They are faced with the challenges of constant changes in technology, with bullies and peer pressure. Drugs and violence are constantly present, often in and around their school playground, the community or home environment. Is it any wonder that our children are becoming depressed at a young age, are “acting out” in various ways as they try to give expression to their feelings of frustration, anxiety, anger, rejection and isolation?
Our children need us to communicate with them. They need to be given opportunity to engage openly with parents, grandparents, care-givers, and others, with attentiveness, without judgement. We need to validate the words and feelings they share.
These are some words I believe children long to hear to help them realise God’s dream for their lives:
“I believe in you” – when I believe in you, you start believing in yourself. Let us build upon a child’s strengths rather than constantly correcting weaknesses.
“You can count on me” – children long for someone to rely on because life offers plenty of opportunities for disappointment. Keep your promises and act on your threats. When parents are reliable, a child trusts in God much easier.
“I treasure you “ – children need to feel special, valued and treasured, not because of any performance, but because they are our gifts from God and deserve our affirmation.
“I am SORRY, please forgive me” – tough words for a parent, but a sincere apology and a request for forgiveness shows respect. Such a request shows children that their feelings matter and helps them with taking responsibility.
“I love you” – children who consistently hear that they are loved will say those words more easily through their lives and it may also help them understand the concept of God’s unconditional love.
Saying “NO” effectively and with a clear message, if we want our children to be able to say no to drugs, alcohol, the influence of bad peers and other temptations.
This is the basis of our children’s ministry each Sunday – to love them unconditionally as God loves us unconditionally.
Our children are worthy of our Affection, Attention, Affirmation, Encouragement, Love and Respect at all times.
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.