Special thanks to Dr Gilbert Lawrence who is sharing the Good News with us this morning.
Over the last few days around 150 of us have been meeting in Lotus River for our Annual Synod and today all the clergy get to preach in different congregations. I find this a helpful exercise in that it reminds me that I am part of a much larger body. A larger body that challenges and comforts me in its rich diversity. A larger body that nurtures me and holds me accountable. I am preaching in Khayelitsha this morning and I am looking forward to it very much. (Make the circle BIGGER!)
According to the Christian Calendar, today is Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is a rather underrated Holy Day compared to Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. But it really is quite unique in that it higlights a doctrine of the early church rather than mark an event recorded in Scripture like all the other Holy Days. It is not without Scriptural reference however, the most well known being Jesus’ simple reply to Philip who asked Jesus to “show us the Father”. Jesus replied: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This must be one of the most radical things Jesus ever said. If it is true, and I trust that it is, then it means that we should measure every statement about God against the teachings and example of Jesus. In other words if what is being said about God “fits” Jesus then we can go ahead and say—”yes that is Godly” – but if it doesn’t sound like Jesus we reject it as an accurate statement about God. This may sound simple but it demands we all get to know Jesus really well to be able to use him as our Godly measuring rod.
Today we celebrate Pentecost—when the heavens sounded forth like rushing wind and roaring fire. Today we celebrate Pentecost when the frightened followers of Jesus were convicted and en-couraged to come out and be counted for the sake of the Gospel—the good news of Jesus.
Janet Morley puts it so beautifully when she writes:
At Pentecost, the church celebrates the coming of the Spirit—the outpouring of the sudden power of God to transform a wounded and disillusioned band of stragglers into a community that changed the world. It was a power that was both awaited in obedience, and utterly unexpected in its energy and urgency. It generated both a deep interior fire, and immediate, compelling, and outrageous public witness. … God’s power is potentially overwhelming, like the natural forces of wind, fire, storm, and flood. It is power to break down what is corrupt in the world’s patterns of thought and dominance. But the Spirit is also seen as the “breath of love,” the giver of life, the remaker of community, the waker of the oppressed, the one who sings in the hearts of the poor. … the power of the Spirit [is] to integrate profound change of heart with exuberant and effective action within the world.
A Holy Spirit filled community is a community that changes the world, so let us be warned as we pray: Come Holy Spirit Come.
With fearful excitement, Alan.
It is a great joy to have Dr. Peter Storey preaching today. We trust you will feel at home among us —knowing that you served many of the people in this congregation in the 1960’s at the Buitenkant Street Methodist Church.
Last week we reflected on the amazing healing story in John 5. We noted that the person who was healed never asked to be healed. He never reached out to even touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. There is no indication that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah or if he even knew anything about Jesus at all. There is also no hint that he was a devout person or religious in any way. If anything he had some rather superstitious beliefs about the healing power of a certain pool, not that it did him any good because he had been sick for 38 years.
YET Jesus heals him! Jesus simply orders him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus does not say anthing like “Your faith has made you well”. No, this is GRACE-healing (like all healing really).
We are invited to trust this story in John 5. To trust that God is at work IN all people all the time everywhere and that God is FOR all people all the time everywhere. Whether we know who Jesus is or not—he knows us and he longs to liberate and heal us. Jesus reveals a God who will not be boxed by our faith! Praise be to God.
Go in peace, Grace has made you well.
I invite you to read the passage of scripture below from the prophet Hosea while remembering that today is Mother’s Day. I hope your picture of God—who is so often only ever referred to as Father—will expand to include the depths and strengths of Mother-like-love…
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.
My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. (Hosea 11:1-5, 7-9).
When I read this passage of scripture I feel the stubborn strength of God’s love most closely imitated by mothers who go on loving whether their children return the love or not. Praise be to mothers everywhere. Alan
On November 12, 2009 in Washington DC, religious leaders from around the world, unveiled the Charter for Compassion. The Charter is a single document, endorsed by HH the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others. It was crafted by people from all walks of life, nationalities, beliefs and backgrounds with the intent to unify, inspire and bring compassion back into the heart of society. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and is often referred to as the Golden Rule – a tenet that is central to all major religions.
The Charter of Compassion is a co-operative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the centre of religious, moral and political life. One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace. In our globalized world, everybody has become our neighbour, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity.
The Charter, crafted by people all over the world and drafted by a multi-faith, multi-national council of thinkers and leaders, seeks to change the conversation so that compassion becomes a key word in public and private discourse, making it clear that any ideology that breeds hatred or contempt ~ be it religious or secular ~ has failed the test of our time. It is not simply a statement of principle; it is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time.
You can read the full text of the below or go to www.charterforcompassion.org
Please diarise the Cape Town launch date of the Charter for Compassion – Thursday 20th May – in the company of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Towards compassion, Alan
THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds
violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Borne of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
The following is an essay written by Marcela H. P. Borges, a 13 year old Brazilian girl, entitled: Important things. I reckon she should be preaching today!
Sometimes people forget what is really important, what is supposed to be their priority. Nowadays, money is the biggest reason for us to do that, we are all crazy about money, we can’t stand the idea of losing money our best friend, our only friend, the one who gives us everything we want. “The Gift of the Magi’s” main idea is about losing, but for a good reason. It can be about other things, not just money, but futile and touchable things which we usually love too much and could perfectly live without. The characters gave up on futility only to please their loved one, which teaches us that what we only need can’t be bought: love, caring, thinking about the others before you, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I wish that this would inspire people, I wish we could change the way of living in the 21st century. Less people consumed by money, more human beings.
I fear someday people will wake up remembering a terrible nightmare, a nightmare where the evil store sells robots. Mother robots, father robots, you can choose, wouldn’t that be just awesome? It can cook for you, it can clean your room – it can let you do whatever you want, but it will always be an it. A cold it, an indifferent it, a metallic it, a $1, 99 it.
I fear someday schools will be only about learning facts, and nothing else. Wouldn’t that be just perfect? We could throw children into a solitary, cold and scary room, with a computer, and the goal will be obligation to learn. Nobody needs friends, laughter, human warmth, values, that’s not learning, that’s not important. Poor people should become rich, sad people should become rich, depressed people should become rich, it’s so easy.
In my home, I can’t talk about anything with my mother, and of course the reason for this is money. We always start arguing about buying a new air conditioner, a new apartment, and new pyjamas. Believe it or not, she is the grown up one and the one who always wants to buy all these things, the one who lives only for spending money. I don’t! What’s not necessary, for me is not important. Actually, I really feel bad if I spend a lot of money at once, even at the supermarket!
In the story, if love didn’t exist, they would have been able to keep their hair and their watch respectively, their North and their South, their world and their universe. However, along comes love ? money’s enemy. Love stops that selfishness, deletes that, and forgets that. Love is unselfish, it wants our mind only for it, and futility has no place.
I hope I’ll never forget what’s important and become a person obsessed by money!
If there was more love, more concern, less selfish thinking, we could have a better world. We need to be more like Della and Jim, if everybody were up to give up their “important” things for each other, everything would be different. I hope that happens someday!
(13yr) Marcela H. P. Borges
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