Jesus is the way

Grace and Peace to you

We are fast approaching Holy Week. As usual we will begin this final week of Lent with the showing of a movie on Palm Sunday evening (29 March). Our Holy Week journey to the Cross and Empty Tomb will include evening reflections on The Jesus Way. The basis for our reflections will be Eugene Peterson’s book entitled: “The Jesus Way” — a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way.

Peterson writes: “The world as such has no interest in following the crucified King. Not that there isn’t plenty of lip-service offered along the way across a spectrum ranging from presidents to pastors. But when it comes down to an actual way of life, most of the language turns out to be court protocol — nothing to do with the way we actually order our affairs. Those of us who understand ourselves as followers of Jesus seem to be particularly at risk of discarding Jesus’ ways and adopting the world’s ways when we are given a job to do or mission to accomplish, when we are supposed to get something done “in Jesus’ name”. Getting things done is something that the world is very good at doing. We hardly notice that these ways and means have been worked out by men and women whose ambitions and values and strategies for getting things done in this world routinely fail the “in Jesus’ name” test. Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ ways, it doesn’t take us long to realise that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”


During the week of 29 March — 5 April we are invited to be attentive to the intensity of Jesus final days. To help us keep focused, I encourage us to fast during this week. Our fast can take various forms. We could change when we eat, what we eat and how much we eat. The purpose of fasting is not to self-justify ourselves but rather to tune ourselves into the remarkableness of Jesus’ journey.

Grace, Alan

Love heals

Sam Nzima

Sam Nzima was born in the town of Lillydale. His father worked as a labourer. While still at school, Sam bought a camera and began taking pictures in the Kruger National Park. When the farmer pressed Nzima into farm labour, he ran away to Johannesburg after nine months of working on the farm. He found a job as a gardener in Henningham. In 1956 Nzima found work as a waiter at the Savoy Hotel. At the hotel a photographer named Patrick Rikotso taught him photography skills. Nzima took portraits of workers. When reading The Rand Daily Mail articles of Allister Sparks, Sam became very interested in photojournalism and, in 1968, he joined The World as a full-time photojournalist.  On 16 June 1976 the Soweto uprising began as police confronted protesting students. Nzima took the photograph of fatally-wounded Hector Pieterson (12) on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets in Orlando West, Soweto, near Phefeni High School. This image depicts an emotional scene of Hector being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, with Hector’s sister Antoinette Pieterson (17) right beside them. After “The World” published the photo the next day, Nzima was forced into hiding because of the subsequent police harassment.

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RAMADAN

I encourage you to observe Ramadan this year — or if you are unable to observe the entire month — then choose a day or two per week. I encourage you to join your local Mosque for prayers and the joy of breaking fast together. In this way we affirm the faith tradition of others which is so important in today’s world where different religions are often a source of division and conflict in society.

To participate in another’s faith tradition on their terms, is to do to others as we would have them do to us. It is to affirm their tradition as a means of God’s grace. We must always remember that the Christian faith does not have a monopoly on God’s grace. I firmly believe that we have so much to learn about the discipline of prayer and fasting from our Muslim faith family that we will be the richer for this experience.

The Holy month of Ramadan begins on 29 June. The fast from water, food and sex begins from sunlight (Sehri 06:18) until sunset (Iftaar 17:50). These times will get earlier (Sehri) and later (Iftaar) as the month progresses. By the last day of Ramadan Sheri is at 06:10 and Iftaar is at 18:06.

My hope is that during our fast we will grow in compassion and mercy for those who are hungry on a daily basis — those who are forced to fast due to poverty. My hope is that during Ramadan we will have a heightened concern for the well-being of the community as we make more time for prayer and deeper devotions and courageous acts of compassion and justice.

Abstention for long hours can be very hard physically and spiritually. However, by the end of the long month you should feel cleansed and with a renewed spirit. Ramadan is an ideal time to break bad habits, to re?ect on one’s personality and character — just as we are encouraged to do during Lent. Those who fast but make no change to their lives except delaying a meal cannot really expect to become any different in their behaviour during or after Ramadan. In many ways, this is a wasted fast.

I invite you to journey through Ramadan with two passages of Scripture. May these scriptures be for us a window through which we can see and reflect on our experience. Every morning and evening let us read Isaiah 58 and Matthew 2:1-11.

Strength for the fast!

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From Maria Popova : @Brainpicker

In the winter of 1969, shortly after a young woman he considered one of his brightest and most promising students committed suicide, Leo Buscaglia decided to deal with the flurry of confusion by starting an experimental class at the University of Southern California where he taught, exploring the most essential elements of existence — ”life, living, sex, growth, responsibility, death, hope, the future.” The obvious common tangent, “the only subject which encompassed, and was at the core of all these concerns,” was love. So he simply called his course “Love Course.” While some of his fellow faculty members dismissed the subject as “irrelevant” and mocked its premise, it later became one of the most popular classes at the university.

One of Buscaglia’s repeated points was how when we label people we cannot love them…

“How many kinds have not been educated just because someone pinned a label on them somewhere along the line? Stupid, dumb, emotionally disturbed. I have never known a stupid child. Never! I’ve only know children and never two alike. Labels are distancing phenomena. They push us away from each other. Black man. What’s a black man? I’ve never known two alike. Does he love? Does he care? What about his kids? Has he cried? Is he lonely? Is he beautiful? Is he happy? Is he giving something to someone? These are the important things. Not the fact that he is a black man or Jew or … Labels are distancing phenomena — stop using them! And when people use them around you, have the gumption and the guts to say, “What and who are you talking about because I don’t know any such thing.” … There is no word vast enough to begin to describe even the simplest of man. But only you can stop it. A loving person won’t stand for it. There are too many beautiful things about each human being to call him a name and put him aside.”

On this Father’s Day and about to be Youth Day let us ask to be cleansed of all the labels we pin on one another — not least the labels we pin onto members of our own families.

Grace, Alan

We are already one

Last week we heard the piercing question from the letter of James asking us: “Do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (James 2:1). James was referring to the different ways his congregation treated the rich from the poor. It made James question whether they really believed in Jesus or not. That is heavy stuff!

James is correct to connect his congregation’s behaviour to his congregation’s beliefs — because ultimately it is our behaviour that reveals what we truly believe — not the songs we sing or sermons we preach.

One of the areas we have struggled with as a congregation is how we can share tea/coffee after worship with one another — and with the homeless that visit. Many of us feel overwhelmed, inadequate and uncomfortable. We leave rather than stay. We “hand-out” rather than share. In so doing we miss an opportunity to imitate God’s free welcome and undeserved hospitality of us. We also miss attending to Jesus who comes to us in those who society says are the “least”. How we behave around the tea/coffee table is probably more important to God than what we do around the Holy Communion table. In fact, the tea/coffee table is the real Holy Communion table that we should “do in remembrance of Jesus”.

I know this stuff is not easy — but we must wrestle with it as a community if we are to try to hold Christ at the centre. The truth is that we are all family. No one is a guest. No one is a visitor. No one is a stranger. We are one. Maybe this is the great underlying sin — that leads to so many other sins, and that is the belief that we are separate from God and others when the truth is we are all ONE. We do not have to become one — we are one already.

When we resume tea/coffee again let us accept Jesus’ invitation to live out our oneness.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Lord have mercy on us, Alan.

Time as currency

A little while back I watched the movie: In Time. It’s a parable in which time (years, hours, minutes and seconds) is the currency of the day. Instead of being paid in money one is paid in time. The first 25 years of one’s life is given for free — after that your clock (implanted in people’s forearms) starts ticking. When that clock reaches zero, one dies instantly. Society is divided by social class living in specialised towns called ‘Time Zones’. The poor live in the ghettos, where youth predominates, and must work each day to earn a few more hours of life. The rich live in a bubble of luxury where the middle-aged and elderly predominate, though they look young because they have stopped aging at 25 years old as well.

Society is structured in such a way that “for few to be immortal, many must die”. The poor are always in a hurry — anxiously mindful of every second — where the smallest delays (like missing a bus) can result in their death. The Salvation Army equivalent receives donations of time to distribute to those with only seconds to live. All the while the rich have ‘immortal’ amounts of time but very little meaning — or as one character says, “I have time, but no life”. Indeed, there are none so poor as those who only have time/money. The movie continues in Robin Hood fashion where ‘Time Banks’ are robbed causing a global time-crash for the rich. As time is redistributed the time zones of the rich are ‘occupied’ by the poor.

Using time as currency is clever because we have an innate sense that time is free and fair for all. The fact that some have too much while others have too little is easily discerned as unjust, yet in our society today inequality is often justified on the basis that some are more deserving than others. Marikana has unearthed for us again the brutality of inequality where some risk their lives every day doing hard, hard work only to earn 152 times (there is that word again) less than the manager of the same company.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Lord have mercy on us. Alan

We see what we see…

These photos remind us that where we stand determines what we see. We see what we see according to our position and place in society. Where we live and what we earn. Our gender and skin colour, etc. May this reminder humble us in the way we share our own point of view and inspire us to welcome the different points of view of others. Together we may see the truth more fully.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.

Peace, Alan