This past week one of South Africa’s largest Pyramid financial schemes was uncovered—estimated to be worth up to R10—billion. A Pyramid or Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profit earned. The quick payouts to the original investors end up encouraging them to reinvest, but the scheme is destined to collapse because the earnings, if any, are less than the abnormally high payments. In this particular Ponzi scheme investors were promised returns of up to 200% a year on their investment. This encouraged people to invest millions hoping for even more millions in return.
I agree with one commentator who suggested that: “The real obscenity here is not the crime. The real obscenity is that those with unbelievably large sums to “invest” in the scheme actually desire more money than they have already accumulated….this is not common or garden greed. This is a profound disease of the soul. An addiction, if you will. But, for some reason, it is ok and acceptable to be thus obsessed with money. They are labelled “investors” and “entrepreneurs”, and serve as role models for the upwardly mobile. In reality, in the depths of their being, they are nothing more than [sick addicts] in need of an intervention.”
In this same week we learnt that Real Madrid bought 24 year old Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for a world record transfer fee of 80 mill pounds! This is another example of our sick society in need of an intervention, although very few, if any, are saying so. And we are not exempt from guilt because we support the teams that pay such ludicrous amounts of money to individuals in a world that groans in hunger pains. The fact that sports people get paid more than Doctors and teachers reveals again how skewed our values have become. Wargames: The Dead Code download Lord have mercy!
Last Sunday evening was the final of the TV program Britain’s Got Talent and Susan Boyle who wowed the world with her singing was the all out favourite to win. Susan Boyle became a world wide wonder as more than 100 million people watched recordings of her performance on the world wide web, which is more than any other person in history. Overnight, she went from being a person that no one ever looked at twice, to someone who had thousands of cameras focusing on her every move. What made Susan’s Cinderella-like story all the more amazing was that she never let go of her dream to become a professional singer even though she has struggled her whole life with certain mental difficulties as a result of being deprived of oxygen at birth.
In the end, Susan came a shocking second which perhaps was caused in part by reports that the week prior to the finals she had sporadic temper tantrums with the press and members of the public. This resulted in a wave of negative publicity with they suggestion that she was a fraud of sorts. Backstage after the show Susan again “cracked” and was subsequently admitted to a clinic to find her breath and balance after all the pressure. You can imagine the tabloids loving every second of the drama!
On reading some of the media commentary about all this I came across a letter I found of value by someone who chose to remain anonymous. Here is part of the letter:
My brother has moderate learning difficulties, caused (as in Susan Boyle’s case) by deprivation of oxygen at birth. To him, all human relationships are about trust – which is easily broken. My brother sees the world in extreme terms: either someone loves him or hates him.
The slightest hint that someone is criticising him, even if it is friendly and well-meant, and he becomes angry. He loses it. It is so hard to explain the vast contradictions in him – he appears ‘normal’, but not quite. Normal enough to be judged for his actions; different enough to be teased, bullied, laughed at.
I suspect that Susan Boyle’s graciousness in defeat was quite genuine; she clearly liked the young boys who won, and felt she was amongst friends. But backstage would have been a different matter; any stray remark (or stray remark she thought she heard) would very likely have tipped her over the edge.
Those of us who cope daily with developmentally-impaired people have to have a vast reservoir of patience. It’s not always possible, admittedly, because one thing we find difficult to admit to is how angry and violent our loved ones can be. Susan Boyle isn’t a fraud. She is both the innocent girl who never grew up and the foul-mouthed aggressive woman. Unlike most of the rest of us, she can clearly switch from one to the other in seconds, and be utterly unable to control it.
The letter writer’s amazing insights are humbling. They reminded me:  that we can never say we know someone until we know their pain, and we could add, that we will never know ourselves either until we have faced our own pain;  that what we see of another person is seldom, if ever, the full truth, making opinionated judgements of others not only pointless, but baseless;  that all of us are living paradoxes, meaning that we are a “both/and” people rather than an “either/or” people—in other words we are both “sinner” and “saint” – containing vast contradictions like everyone else.
O Jesus, help us to be gentle with the people around us, ever aware that we do not know the full truth of who they are. Open our eyes to their sainthood. Amen.
It is our custom that once a year during Synod all the preachers exchange pulpits throughout the region. This reminds us that we belong to a large , diverse and expansive family.
As a result I will be preaching in Blue Downs (not sure where that is yet, although by the time you read this I hope I do!) and the Rev. Michael Lambaatjeen is preaching here at CMM this morning. It is fitting that on Pentecost Sunday the Word of God is brought to you from a “different tongue”. Welcome Michael, be at home! Break ipod
I have referred before to Sally Brampton’s book: Shoot the damn dog: a memoir of depression. It documents the harrowing and hope filled journey from the desperation and darkness of depression towards light and life. What makes her words sound extra crisp when she is describing what contributed towards her healing is the fact that she describes herself as a “fully paid-up and passionate atheist”. She writes: “The only antidote to hopelessness is faith, trust, belief—call it what you like—and, through attending AA and seeing the love, kindness, compassion and respect that people regularly show each other in the meetings, I began to believe again in the kindness of strangers and in community. You might say that AA restored my faith. It taught me not to interrupt, to listen to other people and look at them without judgement.
It taught me compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and understanding and not just for other people but for myself.
Most of all, it taught me about the redemptive power of love and friendship.” Goodbye Lover hd
Wow! It was through her experience of a kind and compassionate community that was simply trying to deal with their hurting and often messed up lives in open and trusting honesty that taught Sally about the saving power of love. Sounds like she got to taste what Jesus hoped the Church would be in the world! Peace,
As you know every Wednesday evening we get together for soup and bread and song and prayer and sharing, to which EVERYONE is welcome. Thank You, Mr. Moto hd
This past Wednesday evening during our discussions, inspired by the Manna and Mercy workbook, we reflected on God’s plan to teach a partner people how to live trusting that the nations of the world will notice how these people live.
The nations will see how joyful life can be, and tired of war, oppression, and greed they will ask these partner people to teach them how to live.
Yes, God actually trusts that we can live life in gentle, healing and generous ways that will make the rest of the world want to stop in for lessons!
Inspired by God’s huge faith in us to live life in life–giving ways, we wondered what sort of community God would like CMM to be. Here it is in the form of a prayer:
Lord, please shape us into an all-inclusive, non-judgemental and non-imposing community, with integrity and without being self-righteous. Amen.
Then we went deeper, asking what “all-inclusive” means and wondering who in our surroundings may have any inhibitions about whether they would actually be welcome at CMM. The following came to mind:
homeless people; foreigners; sex workers; young people; gays and non-churched people. Now what?
How do you think God wants to answer this prayer through us? Lets pray the prayer and see. Peace, Alan.
Last week we were reminded that Jesus spoke more about money matters than almost any other issue. He did this for at least three reasons:  Jesus knew that money has the power to relocate our hearts—from a trust in God “to where our treasure is”. So for Jesus to speak of money-matters was in fact another way of speaking about heart-matters. And deep inside we know that this is true because we know how our relationship with money really is a revelation of our heart.  Jesus knew the “god-like-ness” of money. That any and everything seems to cost money — it is omnipresent — and therefore we are inclined to see money as a solution to all our problems and provider of all our dreams—in other words, our salvation.  Jesus knew that the more money we have the more independent we may start to behave, forgetting our neighbour because we seemingly no longer need them. As John Wesley said: “Having riches inevitably leads to trusting riches, for when people are fixed on storing up wealth for the future, they neglect to love God and neighbour in the present.”
To counter these dangers Jesus invites us to be a generous people. This gives us a clue as to why we have an offertory every Sunday during worship:  We have a weekly offertory to repeatedly re-locate our wayward and wandering hearts back to God.  To place the popular god of our age at the feet and service of the Living God.  That it may be used to bring life—abundant life—in this wounded world. This means our Sunday offertory is not about “fundraising” for the Church. During the offertory today and indeed during every generous act—I invite you to feel your heart move! Peace, Alan
Joy and peace to our Mothers as we honour their strength and courage!
Mother’s Day originated as a call for a day of peace in the United States by Julia Ward Howe who protested the carnage of war in her bold proclamation of 1870? Years later in 1907, the first Mother’s Day observance was held at a Methodist church service honouring the memory of Anna Reese Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia. Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, who organized women during the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions and to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbours.
Here is the Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe:
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, disarm! The Sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonour nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace. – Julia Ward Howe, 1870.
A special welcome to Rev Terry Moult who is leading the service of worship this morning. Terry is a retired Methodist Minister now living in Milnerton. Thank you Terry for being with us this morning.
Two thoughts from last week that I encourage you to journey with a little longer: First, please trust that Jesus’ presence among us is not dependent on our clarity of understanding or even our belief in him, but rather on his simple delight to be with us and his deep desire to facilitate healing in and through us. And this is joyfully true for all people everywhere.
Second, I quoted Douglas John Hall saying: “All things considered it is not suffering itself but our incapacity for suffering that is dangerous to our health.” In other words it is not suffering that destroys us but rather it is our fear and evasion of suffering that do that. How? In our desire to evade suffering we all to often sacrifice the truth. This helps entrench the wrongs of our life that ultimately return to threaten our livelihood and that of the world. The disciples escaped pierced hands and feet but their conscience as well as social justice ended up in shreds.
In these inauguration days may God raise up new leaders with humble hearts and sharpened consciences. People who realise their highest calling is to honour truth and fairness above all else. People who will protect the Constitution even if it means pierced hands for them personally. And for our new President why don’t we pray that it will be a moment of great grace for him – praying God’s gift of new life to come in him and through him! Alan
This past week I came across two quotes that touched me:
“Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy person. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager.” – O Guiness, quoting a Japanese business person.
“I wake early and sit in bed with a cup of tea and think. Not about anything in particular, it is my way of untangling the chaos in my head and establishing a sense of peace and order for the day ahead. I do this every day for half an hour, and then I meditate for twenty minutes. It’s a routine I’ve got into since I was ill. I don’t know how or why it works. I just know that it does.! – atheist author Sally Brampton.
The first quote reminds me of the deepest and most important call upon our lives. First and foremost we are called to be a holy people. Long before we are called to be effective and efficient we are called to be a people with pure hearts. Holy, not as in prudish but as in truth-full.
The second quote reminds me that we all (atheists included!) need daily habits of silent reflection, meditation – what I would call daily devotions or prayer. The difference to the quote above is that we are invited to be deliberate about what we think about. We are invited to reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus and how they connect with our lives and world. We too may not understand how, or why it works but “I just know that it does”. If Sally Brampton can take 50min a day in “daily devotions” I feel challenged to do the same. How about you? Alan
It is great to have Dr. Gilbert Lawrence sharing the Good News with us this morning. Thank you in advance Gilbert for the gifts you bring to us.
In these Resurrection days I remind you of theologian, Morton Kelsey’s insight into the significance of the Resurrection that literally turns our understanding of the world up-side down:
“On the first Easter morning the disciples were suddenly confronted with a world in which God was more powerful than the Temple, or Rome, or any other power … Of course part of them rejoiced in the hope that Jesus had risen, but still more of them were stupefied, paralysed with fear. The world was the way Jesus had described it. They had never quite believed him … If it were true, … then they had built their lives on all the wrong assumptions. If the Resurrection is true, then this world is not what it seems to be, and I may be called to follow the way of love revealed in this event.”
Easter affirms that the world is the way Jesus described it. This means that the truly blessed ones in this world are the ones who Jesus calls blessed and not the ones who Fortune Magazine or Vanity Fair call blessed.
Blessed are the poor and lowly. The marginalised and disadvantaged – the ones who always come last. The just and gentle. The humble and merciful. The non-judgemental and the joyfully sacrificial. The mourners who are not left cold by death. The truth tellers and pure in heart. The failing who try again and the generous who give again and again. The blessed are the prayers on their knees and prophets on their feet. The lover of enemies and forgiver of wrongdoers 70×7. The ones who worry not what clothes they wear having considered the lilies clothed in Godly splendour. The child who shares bread and fish with a crowd way to big and a convicted thief who asks for the one thing he couldn’t steal – to be remembered in love.
Welcome to everyone who is visiting CMM for the first time today. Be at home!
It is my prayer that as we celebrate the Raised Jesus among us we will experience with fresh faith the power of God to raise even us from the dead to new and abundant life. For is it not true that many of us live in tombs? Tombs of despair, bitterness, cynicism, jealousy, selfishness, pride, fear, prejudice…. Tombs that we are unable to free ourselves from. Tombs that need God to roll the stone away. May God reach us with rescue—with resurrection rescue today!
How? You ask. Well Sydney Carter writes in a poem: “No revolution will come in time to alter [a] person’s life except the one surprise of being loved.” Resurrection rescue happens when we are surprised by being loved. Loved fully by one who knows us completely. So hear the good news—you are precious beyond measure, beautiful beyond description, chosen and claimed by the One who knit you together in love, by love and for love. You are forever celebrated and enjoyed by God—the God who comes to save and not condemn—the God who has forgiven you in advance—the God who has rolled the stone away that you may have new life. Now go and surprise others with this same love. Alan