For unto us a child is born! In the Roman Catholic tradition, this day is the Feast of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Many of us have probably spent a lot of time with our families over the last several days—possibly too much! Others of us might be separated from our families—by physical distance, by emotional scars—and are feeling that absence acutely. Today, you’re surrounded by the family we’ve created together as Central Methodist Mission. These words might help us remember what family means:
“….We must carry with us mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and—please don’t forget—forgiveness. These virtues must be done out of love. Not always an easy task, but we are also called to be family to each other, and in strong families, these virtues are learned and encouraged. Family members—biological or not—remind us of these virtues, sometimes at the moments when we are least patient or when our tank of compassion is on empty.
Close your eyes and give thanks for the family that enriches your life, either the family into which you were born or the family you have found to support you, or, if you are doubly blessed, both of these communities. Close your eyes and consider how you are family to others. Close your eyes and celebrate the presence of God.”
(Judy Coode, Pax Christi USA)
With thanksgiving for family ties of many kinds….Alan
The busy-ness of the commercial side of the Advent Season distracts us from the real meaning of Advent – to reflect and be transformed by the amazing gift of God – His Son with us – Emmanuel!
Last Sunday we fed over 300 homeless people at a sit-down meal. A Wonderful celebration, but a mere moment in their lives. We have just ended the 16 days of activism: trauma, hardship as well as death and injury still made headlines. Many will not realize their God-given potential in life. For many vulnerable people nothing seems to change. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were also vulnerable. Yet this Jesus is the Son of God, who went on to engage with humankind and transform the lives of women, men and children. Joseph was vulnerable – homeless with an unmarried partner and baby. He responded in “silent activism”. He stood by Mary, he did not reject her (emotional abuse) harm her (physical abuse) or force himself on her (sexual abuse). He helped her to be the mother of the Messiah against all the “customs and culture arguments,” that we so heartily defend. Activism can also be making a stand from a position of vulnerability.
As we try to focus on the true meaning of advent, pray this prayer even if you yourself feel vulnerable. May God’s strength and grace be sufficient to help us bring peace and justice into our world.
The Grail Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to go your way.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind that you may think in me.
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in me, your Father and all humankind.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.
How do we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus – as Advent invites us to do? Jesus, who spent so much of his time at table, talking, eating and sharing with his friends. Table time was so much a part of Jesus’ life that we are encouraged to make it part of ours.
Table Tuesdays is an initiative of www.lifetalk.co.za that invites every family to start having dinner together on a Tuesday (or other) evening. It is very sad and serious that so many families no longer eat meals together, around a table, away from the TV and cell phone. Life’s pressures take precedence and we’re fast losing our connection to each other. But time doesn’t wait and suddenly years pass and precious moments and opportunities are lost forever. Many studies show that teens who have frequent family dinners (five or more) compared to teens who have infrequent family dinners (two or fewer per week) are less likely to become addicted to drugs and abuse alcohol; are more likely to do better at school; are more emotionally content and have a much lower risk of suicide; have more positive peer relationships.
Family mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity for communication and bonding, for learning about what’s going on in each other’s lives – and for conveying values. Children pick up language and vocabulary skills. There’s debate and laughter, and sharing of feelings, fears, successes, hopes and dreams. It’s a time when you can live in the moment, solve problems, enhance general knowledge, recharge batteries and take refuge from life’s hectic pace. Current challenges can be discussed and the best ways of dealing with aspects such as: alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, peer pressure and safety can be explored. Family stories and anecdotes are passed on, self-esteem can be built and parental example provides role models on which our children can base their lives. The benefits are limitless and they act as a ‘life-jacket’ that helps children to cope with life’s inevitable challenges…. Alan
How do we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus—as Advent invites us to do? Jesus—King of kings… yet born poor… yet born soon to be a refugee… yet born amidst state genocide. Jesus—Lord of all…yet born to serve…yet born to wash feet. Jesus—the exact image of God…yet born vulnerable in a shed…yet born anonymous…
One of the ways we can prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus this Advent time is to support International Human Rights day on the 10th of December 2010 which marks the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This unique declaration, supported by the countries within the UN, sets out 30 common standards that all human beings – whoever they are and wherever they are – should have the right to.
This year, we can support Human Rights day by taking a simple step—going bare-foot-against-poverty on the 10th!
1.4 billion people are still living in extreme poverty, their right to a healthy living free from want being denied. By going barefoot against poverty, you are taking a first step for human rights – thinking about people who barely have food to put on their table, let alone shoes to put on their feet. Check out the website: www.barefootagainstpoverty.org We can also serve the Christ-like-poor at the homeless banquet next week.
A special welcome to Rev John van de Laar. John is a Methodist Minister who travels widely helping local churches around the country to deepen our understanding and experience of worship. Enjoy his gifts.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent—which means, according to the Christian Calendar, today is New Year. Yes, our New Year begins today and it begins with four weeks of expectant preparation to welcome Jesus. We call the this adventurous season, Advent. Jan Richardson writes:
Advent is a dance set to the rhythm of waiting. We wait for the holy, we wait for the birth, we wait for the light. In our haste to make it to Christmas, we often fill our waiting with frantic steps. We may dance a frenzied tarantella of shopping, baking, Christmas card writing, decorating, and caring for others. We wear ourselves out in the process and then wonder why our spirits sink after the holidays. Or we may dance a slow, painful dance of aloneness, wishing that the images of happy, prosperous families and friends would hurry up and pass for another year. In this season, Mary reminds us that Advent waiting is an intricate, intimate process of receiving and bringing forth, of movement and stillness, of pain and joy, of darkness and light, of solitude and community. In pregnancy, one does not choose between these extremes; they are not opposites to be separated. Rather, pregnancy is a constant process of incorporating, of embodying, of integrating. In the intimate darkness of the womb, God continually weaves new life. Advent reminds us that we are a pregnant people, for God calls each of us to bring forth the Christ….the holy….
Well if you didn’t know you were pregnant …now you do! Alan
A couple of weeks ago on the Church Camp we punctuated our days with prayer (repeatedly setting aside 30 minutes of gathered silence) and committed to be a prayer practicing people going forward. Here are a few words from a poet and a Rabbi to inspire us on this prayer practicing journey…
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak. – Mary Oliver
The world is aflame with evil and atrocity; the scandal of perpetual desecration of the world cries to high heaven. And we, coming face-to-face with it, are either involved as callous participants or, at best, remain indifferent onlookers….
We pray because the disproportion of human misery and human compassion is so enormous. We pray because our grasp of the depth of suffering is comparable to the scope of perception of a butterfly flying over the Grand Canyon. We pray because of the experience of the dreadful incompatibility of how we live and what we sense.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel
This past week a single theme seems to have woven itself in and through almost everything I have been involved with, namely, the painful process of trying to re-build broken relationships. Be it marriage, work, or family relationships— they are all vulnerable to breakage.
There are basically three scenarios that I have witnessed:  At least one party is ambivalent about wanting the relationship to work and this results in a very long and difficult journey with an uncertain ending. It is saturated with mixed messages and can also be quite abusive.  Both parties want the relationship to (re)-work. This means they are 90% there already.  One party wants out and their mind is made up—here there is nothing one can do to save the relationship. Energy and focus should turn towards working for as “healthy” a breakup as possible. All three scenarios would be best served if we were all better able to genuinely dialogue with one another. These words by author, Elizabeth O’Conner may help us:
“Dialogue is more than your giving me space to say my words, and my giving you space to say yours. It involves our listening. We are all very different. We cannot have dialogue unless we honour the differences. How can I build a bridge across the gulf between me and you unless I am aware of the gulf? How can I communicate with you unless I see how things look from your side? Dialogue demands that I leave the place where I dwell—the landscape of feelings and thoughts that are important to me—in order to dwell for a time with your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, fears, hopes. I must deny myself—forsake the familiar, give up my life—in order to experience your life.”
May we be helped to experience another’s life….Alan
Welcome everyone! As we have been trying to calve out silent space while we have been practicing prayer more intentionally as a community over the last couple of weeks, I have been inspired by a Mary Oliver poem…
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out “Stay awhile”.
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple”, they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light and to shine”
Walk slowly, bow often. Alan
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.
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”.