2021 02 28 Alan Storey: Hoping against Hope
[Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38]
2021 02 28 Candle for Peace, Hope and Justice (Dr Gilbert Lawrence)
Cape Town, South Africa
31 January 2021: Liberated to Choose
Guest Preacher: Rev. Andrè Buttner
Scriptures: Psalm 111; Mark 1:21-28
2020 10 25 Alan Storey: Our first duty to the dead.
[Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Matthew 22:34-46]
To change, takes time. It is seldom, if ever, instant. This goes for individuals and society alike. Sure, we may be enlightened by something new in a split second, but we often miss the myriads of change receptors / ingredients that come before to make the change possible. Furthermore, authentic change demands a lengthy period of unlearning that requires grace and guilt and grace and truth and grace and work and grace and time and grace… This is not always communicated by motivational speakers or preachers. Sports coaches are probably more honest about the time and training that change demands!
Saul’s light blinding fall to the ground, voice-hearing, Damascus Road experience (Acts 9) is often falsely interpreted as “change in an instant”, but a closer reading reveals that it too took grace and time and … One prior change receptor / ingredient may have been Saul witnessing the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8). It also took a few days for Saul’s eyes to be opened and what is more, according to scholars, he spent a number of years living in communities like Antioch (Acts 11) before he started “being the change” and teaching the change.
The narrative of instant change sets us up with false expectations and ultimately for massive disappointment. The “name it and claim it in Jesus’ name” that is touted as a sign of “real faith” is not helpful. It is not helpful because it is not true. Singing praises to Jesus does not promise a quick fix. Just take a look at Peter and the rest of the disciples for proof: Jesus had three years with them and that was still not enough! Peter was still racist until Acts 10.
When we can embrace this truth about change and let go of the illusion of instant change / salvation then we may be able to be more truthfully present with who we are and simply with what is. The truthful acceptance of what is (free of denial, blame, wishes and should be’s) paradoxically unhooks us from what is and creating space for change.
Free from the quick fix illusion we may embrace a daily practice of acceptance rather than achievement. To give ourselves humbly to a practice (prayer, meditation, contemplation, art, walking …) that encourages us to be truthfully attentive to our lives and living and world.
The following poem describes the shift from a false to a truthful understanding of change:
You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,
catapults you into doing all the things you’ve put off
the great things you’re meant to do in your life,
but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift
the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.
Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes the job —
it all stacks up while you keep hoping
for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.
Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.
But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty…
and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom —
when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,
and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die —
and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it’s because the thing is too small, too small,
and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom
that this is what transformation looks like —
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,
the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day
you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn
and the dusk of the body,
just as you are.
~ Leza Lowitz
A window invites us to look through it. A mirror invites us to look into it. We need both windows and mirrors in our life. We need to look outwards and beyond and we need to look deeply within. We need to see the world at large in all its splendour and balance as well as its suffering and chaos. We need to see ourselves in all our beauty and purity as well as our compromising contradictions. What we see within and without calls for thankful praise and heartfelt lament. What we see will cause intrigue, doubt, confidence, questioning, liberation and resurrection.
Both windows and mirrors invite us to see new things and in new ways. This is one of the main reasons we gather here for worship each week: To see. To see all of creation, each other and ourselves through the window of Jesus’ healing vision of justice and equality for all and in the mirror of his accepting and engaging love of all. Authentic worship includes both windows and mirrors.
Windows get dirty and mirrors mist up. Both need cleaning from time to time to keep clarity. But here in lies a danger. We may be tempted to spend more time looking at the window than through it and at the mirror rather than into it — driven by an obsession to keep it clean. When this happens, our vision that the window had hoped to extend and which the mirror had hoped to deepen becomes myopic. We become professional window cleaners — wiping and polishing but no longer seeing or at least not seeing what the window and mirror had hoped we see. With worship we become a window cleaner when we worship the way we worship. With Church we become a window cleaner when we love our community more than the truth. With Jesus this occurs when we confuse idolising him with following him.
Where else this analogy is true in your living.
The following article was written by Rebecca Davis for the Daily Maverick [25/02/2013]. Be warned it is crucifyingly disturbing … which I believe is all the more reason we should read it. Today in our Lenten Learnings we reflected on “Blessed are those who mourn …” Only those who feel can actually mourn and only those who love can actually feel … may God help us love.
While the media (including the Daily Maverick) fed the public appetite for Pistorius-related news over the past two weeks, life continued as normal for many. In South Africa, “life as normal” involves daily violence against women.
The disturbing story of Mido Macia, the 27-year-old Mozambican who died in custody after being dragged through the streets by police, should not come as a surprise. The incident was horrendous and publicly shared on video. But it’s indicative of a police force that rapes and murders instead of serves and protects. By GREG NICOLSON.
Police brutality comes as a surprise? Really? Opinions of Prof. Pierre de Vos, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town:
Two weeks ago I joined 80 colleagues for a three day summit under the leadership of the Bishop, Michel Hansrod. As one does we began by sharing news about our lives since the last time we met. “So and so had a child”… “so and so is recovering from surgery”… “so and so graduated”, etc. Shockingly in these passing greetings we heard of six murders of family/congregational members. We would be hard pressed to find too many places in the world, (that are not at war), with that high incidence of murder. The heaviness of the violence has settled on all of us in recent days. Violence, especially violence against women is endemic in our society.
It is tempting to place the blame at the feet of others — distancing ourselves from responsibility for the violence that envelopes us, but it is not truthful or helpful. Rather we should take to heart the often quoted words by Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
I appeal to you — if you have a firearm, hand it in at a SAPS station to be destroyed. You may feel more safe, but you are not. In fact you are at a four times greater risk of being shot. Besides the fact that 95% of all gun owners will never use their gun for the purpose of self-defence, around about 2 000 licensed guns are stolen/lost every month — contributing to the increasing pool of illegal guns.
If you are in a relationship with someone who has a gun — talk to them about handing it in and removing it from your home. If you are in a relationship with someone who owns a firearm and has a history of violence or anger management issues, drug/alcohol abuse or who is unstable mentally, report this fact to your local police station and ask for the gun to be removed — this is not just your right but your duty. Men (18-29 years old) remain the overwhelming perpetrators and victims of gun crime in the world and in SA. The killing of women by a firearm is most often by someone known to them and in a so-called “safe” space like the home. In Liberia the women went on a “sex strike”. They refused to have sex until their men disarmed. Just a thought …
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.
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 www.faith47.com.
We struggle to change because we cannot change without actually changing. How then do we cope with changing, especially when we know we need to? The vid expresses a thought or two on how to go about tackling the problem.