The speed of life

Friends,

Two photos of exactly the same river from exactly the same position at almost exactly the same time, yet so different. The different shutter speeds of the camera captures the same reality … differently. On the left the water is sharp and distinct, while the exact same water on the right, taken at a slower shutter speed, is smooth and misty like the first faint brushstrokes of undercoat.

This is a metaphor for our Covid-19 times. The speed of our living has changed. In fact, the speed of everything has been forced to change. This enables us to see the same reality differently. That which was a misty blur, is now seen sharply defined. For this reason, to site one example, some of us have been able to see or at least acknowledge the dehumanising inequality that exists within our society and world at large. It has always been dehumanisingly present, but it is easily ignored at a certain speed. The forced speed change of Covid-19 has sharply defined this inequality as well as the systems that create and perpetuate it. This sharpness pierced our conscience with the knowing that we are complicit in what is wrong with our world. It also crystallised our convictions about what justice demands. This is the painful ‘gift’ of Covid-19.

As the speed of our living slowly increases again (even though we have not reached peak Covid-19 death and devastation) the temptation will be to forget the reality we were enabled to see under Covid-19 lockdown-shutter-speed. It is this we must guard against. Therefore, I invite you to write down the reality that was revealed to you by lockdown-shutter-speed. Write down what you felt. Write down what you said you would never do again. Write down what you promised to start to do …, etc. In this way our living may honour Covid-19 time as a Kairos time. In this way the grief of Covid-19 may also be known to us and others as well the creation at large as a time of grace.

Grace,
Alan

P.S. I will be on leave for the next couple of weeks. The Sunday CMM Chats will continue with some wonderful facilitators. I encourage you to tune in at 11h11 each Sunday. Please email welcome@cmm.org.za for the zoom link if you would like to join. I am also glad to report that the restoration of the Sanctuary will soon be completed. Thank you for your continued generosity.

 

P.P.S. Remember Max the fruit seller that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago? Well Max is back, which means Church Street is filled with nourishing colour again. Foot traffic is still low, so if you’re in town please support him.

Thank you.

Ascension of Love

May, 24 2020 Alan Storey: Problematic Praise [Psalm 68; Acts 1]

Over the years I have repeatedly recommended Nan C. Merrill’s Psalms For Praying – An Invitation to Wholeness. Her rendition of all 150 Psalms is exquisitely beautiful. It is also imaginatively courageous. She writes as a jazz musician plays. Keeping true to the original and underlying score while improvising on the surface in ways that allow us to hear the original melody with renewed wonder and appreciation.

Merrill’s artistry carries the distinct influence of Jesus, who also did with words as a jazz artist does with strings and keys. Allowing Jesus’ baseline to influence her own, Merrill demilitarises the Psalms. The trumpet of vengeance is silenced. The hum of humility replaces the beat of triumphalism. The enemy that must be fought is no longer out there, but within. To be fought with forgiveness, not fists. The childish schoolboy boast: “My God is bigger and better and stronger than yours” is quietened by the mature realisation that God is always for all … ALWAYS FOR ALL.

This is clearly witnessed in Merrill’s rendition of Psalm 47 – one of the Psalms set for Ascension Day. A Psalm that traditionally shrieks of nationalism and conquest with the psalmist boasting about the Lord’s kingly power that “subdued peoples under us”, biblically entrenching an ‘us versus them’ that too many throughout the ages have blindly followed. Read Merrill’s account to hear what the Psalm sounds like when the performing artist is tuned into Jesus.

Psalm 47

Clap your hands, all peoples!
       Acclaim the Creator with
             loud songs of joy!
For the Beloved of our hearts
       is mighty,
the Most High over all the earth.

Love invites the people to
     co-creation,
     the nations to peace.

Love is our birthright, our heritage,
       to be shared with all.

 

Let Love rise up to shouts of acclamation;
       join in the cosmic celebration!

Sing praises to the Creator,
       sing praises!

Sing praises to the Beloved,
       sing praises!

For Love has created the universe,
       let us dance to the flute
             and the harp.

Love reigns over nations,
       awaiting an answer to its call.

May the leaders of the nations
      gather to bring peace and
             justice to all.

For the earth belongs to Love,
Who yearns to see creation healed!

Sing praises to the Beloved!

 

©Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying

I remind you that the CMM Chat at 11h11 on Sunday will be a discussion with three healthcare practitioners from CMM who are directly involved in responding to Covid-19 on the ground in the Western Cape: René Goliath, Yvette Andrews and Ian Proudfoot. Please email welcome@cmm.org.za if you want to receive the link to the Sunday CMM Chat.

Look forward to seeing you then.

Grace,
Alan

God’s goodness is everywhere

Grace and Peace to you

This past week we earthlings managed to catch a ride on the back of a comet. Since blasting off in March 2004, Rosetta and its lander Philae have traveled more than 6 billion kilometres to catch up with the comet, which orbits the sun at speeds up to 135 000 km/h. Touchdown for the lander played out 510 million kilometres from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, on a comet hurtling through space at more than 18 km/s. At so vast a distance, even radio signals travelling at the speed of light take nearly half an hour to travel from Earth to the spacecraft, making real-time control of the landing impossible. Instead, the entire descent was pre-calculated, uploaded and run automatically.

The safe, if precarious, touchdown of the lander gives scientists a unique chance to ride on-board a comet and study from the surface what happens as its activity ramps up as it gets closer to the sun.

The £1 bn ($1.58 bn) Rosetta mission aims to unlock the mysteries of comets, made from ancient material that predates the birth of the solar system. In the data Rosetta and Philae collect, researchers hope to learn more of how the solar system formed and how comets carried water and complex organics to the planets, preparing the stage for life on Earth.

This sort of stuff just astounds me. I am filled with wonder and awe at the logistics and mathematics involved in such a mission. It is also profoundly humbling to be reminded how crazily huge the universe is, and how miniscule we are.

The stuff of creation is not only a gift from the Creator but a reflection of the Creator — like a painting is a reflection of the artist. Jesus tells us that God alone is good. And in Genesis God calls all of creation “good”. In creation then we are invited to see God’s goodness.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel warned us: “Forfeit your sense of awe and the universe becomes a market place for you.” This is why scientific exploration is so important, namely to expand our vision into the mystery of matter.

Did you know that rye plants have roots that are 11 000 km long and that they grow 5 km per day? Did you know that it would take one million earths to fill our single sun? Did you know that it took 15 billion years of birthing, dying and resurrecting the universe before we humans arrived? Yes, homo sapiens has only been around for a tiny fragment of time.

As Mathew Fox asks: “How aware are we of the wonders of our own bodies? Consider how, for example, every person has enough blood vessels in them to go around the earth two times (96 000 km worth when extended end-to-end). If we were to extend just one person’s DNA end-to-end it would travel from the earth to the moon and back 100,000 times! Our hearts do the daily work equivalent of lifting a ton five stories high and our bones are literally stronger than steel or reinforced concrete — yet when they break they grow back on their own.”

All this should move us to wonder and praise for the Creator and reverence for the creation. Humility should be our default position towards the planet.

Sadly, “we tear down forests, despoil the soil and the fisheries… and other species — we are destroying ourselves. We are living in the greatest period of destruction of the last 60 million years and the truth must be told: anthropocentric religion contributes to this devastation” says Matthew Fox.

We have been taught not to “worship creation” as divine (pantheism) but in the process we have lost all reverence for God’s handiwork. The pendulum has swung to the opposite end. We unthinkingly cut, exploit, mine and chisel away for profit and apparent progress without counting the actual cost.

 I confess that I think God would be more pleased if we worshiped the tree (that cleans the air we breathe) than not. In fact, many of us practice something far worse than pantheism — let’s call it bricktheism — which is the worship of buildings. This is especially true of places of worship. Too often they become places to worship.

 May our eyes be opened to the mystery of matter and wonder of creation. Grace, Alan


Pastor Xolo Skosanna was elected as the chairperson of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum this past week.