Do time differently

Happy New Year — yes it is that time of year again — Advent. Today is the first day of the new year according to the Christian calendar. The Christ-ian Calendar is centered around Christ — his birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, ascension and reign — that invites us to “do time differently”. To live according to a different time — God’s time revealed in Jesus. Having just returned from a short trip overseas I know what is it like to live according to a different “time zone”. When everyone is asleep I am wide awake and vice versa! It is not easy to be “at odds” with local time — and yet that is the consequence of following Jesus — or as he said: “be in the world but not of the world”.

Instead of speaking about New Year Resolutions we speak of Advent Repentances. Repentance means to turn around to face God again. The purpose is to ready ourselves to receive the coming of Jesus into the world. To be alert and watchful for his coming because we know that Jesus comes in the most unlikely ways and to the most unlikely places — a stable instead of a palace. During Advent we repent — we change. We look inside ourselves and ask what of us Jesus longs to touch and heal and cut out or add in. We look at our families and ask which relationships Jesus longs to transform. We look at our communities and ask where there is a hunger for justice and a thirst for fairness. And in these four weeks of Advent we make the commitment to fast and pray — to reflect and act on these areas of our living — so that when Christmas is celebrated the Christ child finds room in our lives and world.

If we knew that Royalty was coming for a visit on 25 December to our home, business, church, city, etc., surely we would not be sitting around idly? We would have a sense of urgency and excitement about us. We would make preparations. We would change. We would repent.

Strength for your Advent preparations, Alan

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Inner contradictions

Cape Town’s own Charlie Chaplin protesting (silently) outside parliament this week. Insightfully holding a model airplane (bought during the arms deal) to his head like a gun in the one hand and a copy of our Constitution in the other. I am always inspired to see “Charlie”. He has never spoken to me (or anyone), but he is present among us as a silent but very graphic parable. He is an “old” person yet he gets out and makes his voice “heard”.

 This past week has felt heavy. the spilling of blood in Israel / Palestine highlights again the deep veins of fear and hatred that embed our humanity. Even as we pray for the peace deal to take hold we must ask when we will learn that after all the blood has been shed – we will still have to come round a table to talk – so why not learn to do so as the first response and not the last response. This is simple logic but difficult practice!

And even as I reflect on this with regard to international conflict I cannot ignore the fact that it is as true in many of our personal relationships. It is not easy to “be angry and not sin” [Eph. 4:26] or to “speak the truth in love” [Eph. 4:15]. Sometimes we think that because what we are saying is the truth (at least as far as we perceive it to be) then we can say it any way we want to – but this merely plows the field for further animosity to be sown in the field of that person’s life. Oh Jesus help us to learn to speak the truth with the hope that love will flower. But sometimes the desire to see another hurt is too delicious a taste, and let us not be too quick to deny this.

I find the following words from the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung challenging – inviting us to look within ourselves to discover our own inner contradictions that play out as conflict in the world:

Today humanity, as never before, is split into two apparently irreconcilable halves. The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his (sic) inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves. C. G. Jung 1959

Some of you are aware of the work of Peter Rollins – a theologian from Ireland. We have reflected on a couple of his parables from his book: The Orthodox Heretic.

Here is an extract from his up-coming book called the Idolatry of God. I find him a challenging author to wrestle with …

Strength for the journey inwards, Alan

Moonlight Mass is this Wednesday evening!

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Speak the truth …

Above is a quote from Maggie Kuhn who dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues. At age 65 she founded the Gray Panthers — a national organisation dedicated to social justice — specifically against Age Discrimination in the areas of retirement, housing, and health care.


The Secrecy Bill is set to pass through the NCOP by the end of this month and the securocrats have dug in their heels. Yet across the country, there has been a rise of a massive people’s movement to fight for the free flow of information, tackling not the Secrecy Bill but broader threats to our right to know. It’s time to bring it all together.

Starting on Monday 19 November, R2K is hosting a week-long ‘Camp-Out for Openness’ at the gates of Parliament, calling for ‘Free Information! Full Participation! Fair Process!’

The Right 2 Know campaign is bringing together communities and causes from across society who want not only to stop the Secrecy Bill, but fight for broader openness in our society.

Join the Day & Night Camp-Out! There will be workshops, teach-ins, rallies, pickets and even a film festival that will be showing each night at 19h00.

R2K Freedom Film Festival

Details Here

Films will screen outdoors every evening at 19h00 in partnership with the Tri-Continental Film Festival.

Monday: Cointelpro 101 (56 min)
Tuessday: Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry (91 min)
Wednesday: Bitter Seeds (88 min)
Thursday: Man on Ground (88min)
Friday: Five Broken Cameras (90 min)

Camp-Out Programme

Engaging MPs:

Every morning and late afternoon we will be outside the MPs entrance/exit with placards at 08h30 and 16h30.

Monday 19 November: Towards the Right to Know

10h00 Teach-in: Camp Leadership Agreements
13h00 People’s Parliament: Rally to Stop the Secrecy Bill!
14h30 Teach-in: Is the Constitution Pro-Poor?
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Tuesday 20 November: Right to Know for Basic Services

10h00 Teach-in: The Education Crisis
13h00 People’s Parliament: Keep Our Schools Open / Solidarity with Bisho Camp!
14h30 Teach-in: Electricity Price & Energy Future
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Wednesday 21 November: Workplace Democracy

10h00 Teach-in: Where does all the money go: Wages, profit, taxes
13h00 People’s Parliament: Marikana & De Doorns solidarity
14h30 Teach-in: Housing, Land & Evictions
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Thursday 22 November: Women’s Power, Women’s Struggle

10h00 Teach-in: Rural Women’s Struggles
13h00 People’s Parliament: 16 Days of Act: Stop the Violence, & End Patriarchy
14h30 Teach-in: Paying for National Health Insurance
18h00 Night vigil for Openness: Lead by Religious Leaders
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

Friday 23 November: The Right to Communicate

10h00 Teach-in: Communication Rights in Reality
13h00 People’s Parliament: Demanding Free Basic & Affordable SMS and Airtime
14h30 Teach-in: The Right to Call
19h00 Freedom Film Festival: Details Here
21h00 Fireside Chat: Topic to be confirmed

We have the right to know, Alan

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Secrecy Bill: Camp Out at the Gates of Parliament

Dear Friends

Starting on Monday 19 November R2K is hosting a week-long “Camp-Out for Openness” at the gates of Parliament, calling for “Free Information! Full Participating! Fair Process!”

Please click on this link: which will take you directly to Right 2 Know Campaign’s website for more information on how to become involved and participate in this campaign to stop the Secrecy Bill.

Please support and join the camp out in the open for OPENNESS. Please spread the word!
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Sainthood 101

During All Saints Sunday last week we reflected on Naomi in the book of Ruth. From her life we drew out the qualities of a Saint.

  • Saints are not spared from suffering. Instead they allow suffering to enlarge them.
  • Saints are open to meet and engage with their enemy.
  • Saints grieve (they value the preciousness of life).
  • Saints welcome foreigners as family.
  • Saints cry – they feel.
  • Saints feel the pain of others as if it were their own pain.
  • Saints respect the free choice of others – especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
  • Saints have the capacity to bless others even when their own life feels like it has been cursed.
  • Saints set others free.
  • Saints trust testimonies of God’s nourishing goodness even if they have run out of such experiences themselves.
  • Saints wrestle with God and tell God what for.
  • Saints are alive to God-lines in people, even if they don’t experience God’s presence and power in their life.
  • Saints stay in solidarity with the suffering.
  • Saints trust enough to start over often.

Continuing the fill the “spaces in-between”

The planting of our garden on Longmarket Street was a great success – the plants continue to flourish and generate discussion. Now we would like to do the same to the area behind the railings on Burg Street as well as the area around the main entrance.

Let us know if you wish to become involved in this next exciting phase of filling the in-between spaces around our sanctuary.

Peace, Alan

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Gardening is Godly

Thursday was All Saints Day – and it was also the day we planted an urban food garden on our boundary fence living out the word of Leviticus 19:9-10:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the foreigner: I am the LORD your God.

We planted the length of this Sanctuary – now we need to plant the breadth. But this time we are going to do it a little differently. Instead of getting an outside contractor to help us we are going to do it ourselves – after all we now know how.

Here are the instructions:

  • Find a grey or black milk crate
  • Line the bottom with 4 layers of hessian
  • Line the sides with a single layer
  • Fill with sexy soil
  • Pray – plant – pray some more
  • We will advise on the types of plants that will complement each other

Thanks to everyone for your participation on Thursday! And don’t forget that we also launched h e a v e n coffee – so when in town during the week be sure to visit.

This is the incredible new wall art that surrounds Ons Plek. This is something that must be seen to be believed. The artist goes by the name of FAITH47. Her artwork covers the globe and can be found covering high rise buildings and shacks in informal settlements and on the ruins of dilapidated buildings.

I encourage you to check out her website at

Peace, Alan

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heaven on earth

On Thursday this coming week we officially open h e a v e n (coffee shop). We also get our hands dirty while we plant a food garden in the “space in-between” the steel railing and this sanctuary on the Longmarket Street side.

The aim of h e a v e n is to contribute to the hospitality offered through the Open Doors Ministry of CMM. To provide a space – a sacred space – where people can meet. It has already introduced many new people to each other and to this place. Someone said to me the other day that he has walked past this church for 19 years but he had never before entered through its doors.

My real hope is that we will be able to communicate the values of Jesus that this broken world so desperately needs to embody for its healing in fun and creative ways. In ways that do not rely on people being churchgoers or religious or even Christian, to engage with. [See below what will be on the coffee cup sleeves.] All the profits of the coffee shop will go towards the vulnerable poor of this city.

With the food garden we are offering this city a parable to engage with – a parable with many different interpretations to get people thinking about God’s dream for this world. Through the garden we will be reminded that God commanded that we do not harvest all our crops – but that we must leave enough for the widow, orphan and foreigner (vulnerable) of society. I hope others in the city will be inspired to grow food in their “in-between spaces” too. And may we all be reminded that food comes from the earth, and not from the shops. Now I know parables are risky – not everyone will “get it”. Some people have also said to me that the plants may just be stolen. Which is of course true – they may. But what a great witness it will be if they are not! And besides we don’t just want to harvest the produce but the principle that hunger is all our responsibility to address.

things to remember on earth as it is in heaven …

you are born in love by love and for love • you are beautiful • your enemy is also beautiful • the stranger is actually a member of your family – in fact everyone is family – all 7 billion of us • all violence is family violence • forgive • the real heroes are those who wrestle with addiction in truth and grace • widows orphans foreigners are the holy trinity • breathe and smile • hunger is a weapon of mass destruction (disarmed by generosity) • it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kin-dom of God – affording to pay for this coffee means you are rich – uncomfortable? now you know why JC was crucified • you can’t have love without truth • start over often • God is not a possession of the church • love casts out fear • forgive again • the holy land is not a place to visit – it is every place to value • food comes from the earth and not from the shops • plant some seeds • seek silence • JC rode a donkey not a car • the gentle inherit the earth • humankind: be both • repeat out loud: “I am beautiful” • now tell someone else that they are beautiful • homeless people are people first • we own nothing – everything is a gift • when you throw rubbish away, ask yourself where away is • forgive yourself • to listen is to love • explore the mystery of prayer • to say that some people are saved and others are not is hate speech • walk back to your office the long way round • make time for music • difference is divine • don’t worship your religion • you are forgiven – like completely forgiven • grace makes the world go round • go in peace • all profits go towards the vulnerable of this city • twitter @heavenscoffee

coffee conversation checklist
is it true? • is it kind? • is it necessary? • does it improve on the silence?

Peace, Alan

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Gospel imagination

Prof. Jonathan Jansen (picture above) writes: “Unless it is part of a mandatory Anger Management Course, do not drive along the N12 on the road between Kimberley and Beaufort West; it will drive you nuts. What seems like every 15 minutes, you are forced to stop and wait forever so cars can travel from the other side on the narrow strip of tar road while your side of the national road awaits fixing. In your boredom, take a look at the three young workers at every stop-go station. One lazily waves a flag to slow you down; another sits chewing gum (you hope) while waiting to move the yellow barrier out of your way when they release you to go; and a third walks aimlessly back and forth across the road.

I watch these three young people and realise how this country delinks work from education, labour from development. The three youngsters are bored stiff. For the whole day, they sit in blazing sun waiting for cars and trucks to come and go while inhaling a steady dose of dangerous exhaust fumes. Yes, they have temporary jobs thanks to the massive roadworks springing up all over the country…

Now imagine if these young people at every stop were taught mathematics as they sat there. They would be required to count the number of cars passing by, and the number of trucks. They would count the number of occupants per stationary vehicle. And they could identify the origins of cars by number plates. That data would be very useful for all kinds of transportation planning purposes.

But, in the meantime, these youth could learn not only maths, but how to use a calculator and complete a self-administered survey questionnaire. They could discuss results and compare traffic flows on weekdays to weekends. In other words, not only would the hands be working, so would the heads.

Imagine an entrepreneur gave all these stations a mobile refrigerator with ice-cold drinks for sale in the Karoo sun. In the 10 or 20 minutes of waiting, the youths could learn how to account for income and expenditure on a balance sheet instead of sitting there waiting. While a vital cold drink service was offered in the heat, learning could be taking place.

With the growing number of unemployed youths floating in and out of temporary jobs, and with the increase in the numbers of semi-literate adults who did not finish school – or finished school with weak foundational competencies (writing, reading, calculating, reasoning and so on), we need to make every job count as a simultaneous learning experience.

We do the future of this country no favours by exacting physical labour from workers without asking three questions:

  • What are the educational inputs required for this work?
  • What are the educational experiences worth organising in this work?
  • What are the educational consequences of this work?

There was a time when South Africa had the most noble, inspiring visions for adult education and literacy. We recognised the many who were left out of schooling either because they sacrificed their education during the struggle or they dropped out to work to enable a sibling to continue in school. Now nobody in government talks in these elevated ways about non-school education for adults. We spend all our time fighting over the crisis in formal education. This loss of focus on the learning needs of working adults as well as unemployed youth and adults is a tragedy.

The three young workers will become unemployed again when the roads are repaired. Then what? They could either leave those jobs with the kinds of elementary skills and insights learnt on the job, or they could leave only with compromised lungs from car smoke.

This kind of ambition for learning is something I constantly raise with my colleagues. If the workers who work at the university do not leave with more and better education and skills – whether they work for the institution or for contract firms – we would have failed in our duty as a place of learning. This kind of orientation towards building a learning society requires a dramatic shift in the ways employers think about work, especially among those who had little opportunity for formal education.

So if your domestic worker leaves your employ after many years and she is still a domestic, let me be blunt: you are a terrible employer.”  [The Times 18/10/2012]

Prof. Jansen writes with a gospel imagination – an imagination that breaks open the way things are to allow for the way things should be, to be seen. He reminds us that people are more valuable than their function. In every situation and in every relationship we have an opportunity to provide ways for people to grow and flourish.

Let’s pray for gospel imaginations …

Peace, Alan

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Include the invisible One

The reason the sanctuary is so empty today is because many of us are attending CMM’s annual weekend away in Simon’s Town. So you will have to sing extra loud today!

Well actually what I have just said is not really true. The sanctuary is not empty — oh it may have fewer people in it today — but it is not empty. In fact it is full — really fully! For those with eyes to see and ears to hear — it is full of the grace-full presence of God.

It reminds me of a story that Barbara Brown Taylor (a preacher/author) told of the time when no one showed up for Holy Communion except her and her assistant Bernard. She writes…

“Do you want to cancel?” Bernard asked me. “I don’t think so,” I said, although my hands were starting to sweat. In the absence of a congregation, there could be no mistake about whom the service was for. Bernard looked at timid as I felt. “Will you come inside the altar rail and say the service with me?” I asked him, and he nodded. For the next 30 minutes we were the church. We praised God’s holy name. We proclaimed God’s word. We interceded on behalf of the living and the dead, and we confess the sins of the whole world. After we hand received absolution, we exchanged God’s peace. Then we broke bread and fed each other from God’s table.

After it was all over we returned in silence to the sacristy. We both knew that there was no sense trying to talk about it, so Bernard put on his coat, hugged me and left. I hung up my alb and turned to fill in the service book. Everything was obvious except “Number Present.” I knew that “2” was right, but it did not seem true. I would have written “infinity” if I had thought I could get away with it. I finally settled on “3,” to include the invisible One whose presence is all that really counts.” [Christian Century 2001-01-17]

Enjoy the FULL-ness of the Sanctuary today.

Peace, Alan
Sunday 14 October 2012

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Some of you have asked me lately: “What must I do to become a member of CMM?” Well, I must be honest and say that membership is not really what it is about. Everyone is ALREADY a member of Jesus’ family. So this church has 7 billion members — give or take one or two! We all know that we can have our name on some Membership List and it really doesn’t mean much. And please note there is no service that this church will not offer you because you are not on some Membership List. If you die I will bury you regardless — I promise. But if you want to get involved and really have a sense of belonging then I want to suggest two things: [1] Come away next weekend! We go away for a weekend once a year and it is a great time to get to know one another. You can simply pay what you can — and if you can’t pay anything — it is FREE. [2] Make a commitment to attend the Jesus School on Wednesday evenings (7 – 9 p.m.). If we are going to grow in community — and more specifically a Christ-centered community it will take more than an hour on a Sunday. I invite you to commit your Wednesday evenings to the Jesus School.

Finger Labyrinth Instructions

  • Lay the finger labyrinth on your lap or a table.
  •  Begin by taking a moment to reflect. Is there any thought, prayer or problem that you want to “carry into” the labyrinth? Or would you prefer to just open yourself to see what God might want to say to you?
  • Then, using the index finger on your non-dominant hand, trace the path into the centre of the labyrinth. Go at whatever speed feels natural to you, but try not to rush. As you trace the path, try to release any preconceptions, prayers or desires that might arise. The task here is to let go and prepare to open yourself.
  • When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, let your finger continue to rest. Relax your body, slow your breathing and open your heart and mind. If any insights come to you, take note of them, or meditate on them for a time. If not, just allow God’s peace to fill you.
  • When you’re ready, trace the path back out. Again, try not to rush. Think about how you will carry the insights, or peace of God, back with you into your daily routine. Take note of any new insights or practical ideas that may come to you.
  • As you end the path, take a moment to give thanks, to remember anything that you have received or learned from the journey. Then, when you are ready, put down the labyrinth and move on.
  • It may be a good idea to journal anything that came to you during the labyrinth journey.

Peace, Alan

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