The Shepherd Politics of Abundant Life

May, 03 2020 Alan Storey: The Shepherd Politics of Abundant Life. [Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-11. Also in PDF format.

 

Grace and peace to you,

Lock-down tiredness and other puzzlements and paradoxes …

Days during lockdown kind of roll into each other without any difference or distinction. It doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference whether the day is a Tuesday or a Saturday. There is movement but no progress. As if Sisyphus got hold of the calendar. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why many people have felt so tired during Lock-down? A tiredness that seems out of place because there is no glaringly obvious reason for the exhaustion. Some of us can’t point to anything we have done to make ourselves tired, yet tired we feel.

I wonder if the exhaustion results from absorbing the suffering and struggle around the world and throughout the country without being able to do too much about it. Feeling like an insignificant drop in the ocean. We have constant input about what is happening all over but like the Dead Sea very little outflow, so for most of the time we are just left to hold it. It feels like a dead weight. We might name this dead weight “Overwhelm”. And if we put “Overwhelm” down because it is too heavy then another weight steps in to replace it called “Guilt”. After all, how can we be chilling while others are crying? The knowledge of the vastly different social conditions of Lock-down weigh heavily and yet does not stop us from moaning about the trivial.

Some of us wish we could just stop eating while others wish for food to eat. Some of us share space with the one we love while others with the one we resent or fear.

Waiting on tender hooks is tiring. Waiting for the Tsunami of death to knock us off our feet as it has done in other countries. Some have already been swallowed up by the economic Tsunami – having lost their business and means of income and sit frozen in trauma. For these it’s the ‘cure’ that has taken their life rather than the disease.

Meetings via ZOOM are also said to be a reason for tiredness, because you literally have people “in your face”. https://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/zoom-fatigue-video-conferencing?utm_source=TreeHugger+Newsletters&utm_campaign=150c8b8395-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_11_16_2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32de41485d-150c8b8395-243784813

For some of us the peace and quiet is driving us bats, while others covet a single second of silence because we have children climbing up the walls. The desire for connection with people does not correlate into having the energy to make a phone call.

You have probably got your own Lock-down puzzlements and paradoxes. My invitation to you is that you honour your puzzlements and paradoxes without censor or judgement. Be attentive to them all. To deny our own experience is no less violent than to dismiss the experience of others. When in doubt, go with ‘both / and’ rather than ‘either /or’.

Grace,
Alan

Notices

  • We would like to have a “test” CMM gathering via ZOOM (Not more than 30 minutes. Hopefully not too exhausting!) at 8pm on Thursday evening 7th May. If you would like to participate please send your email address to Adrienne: welcome@cmm.org.za It will be good to check in with each other.
  • Thank you to those of you seeking to support Stepping Stones Children’s Centre. Here are the bank details:
    Stepping Stones Children’s Centre
    NEDBANK
    St. George’s
    Branch Code 100 909
    Account Number 1028 204 973

 

CMM Refugee & Coronavirus Update

I was informed early in the week that the refugees in the church will be evacuated by Friday. They will be relocated to a designated area determined by the City of Cape Town. The evacuation will be in accordance with the State of Disaster Regulations relating to Covid-19. This is good news because it would be unsafe for people to continue to remain in such a completely overcrowded space, such as the church, during this pandemic. Please pray for all those involved in this transition. It is traumatic for all those involved.

As in the rest of the world, slowing down the spread of Covid-19 is going to be an incredible challenge, and this is why we all need to take the directive to stay at home very seriously. This Lockdown will potentially save tens of thousands of lives. There is no other slowing-down-solution in the world at the moment. I plead with you to stay at home.

The consequences of not going into lockdown are unimaginably dire, but there are also dire consequences that come from this slowing-down-solution. This is what made it such a courageous call by the President. In South Africa this pandemic comes on top of other pandemics like poverty and unemployment and millions of people with compromised immune systems due to TB and untreated HIV. Small and informal businesses are now to close, placing even many of the employed at risk of little or no income. In other words, though we are all vulnerable to Covid-19, many will suffer from the “slowing-down-solution” which will in turn make them more vulnerable to the actual virus. The homeless of Cape Town will have no one to beg from. Their nothing will become less.

One thing is for sure, Covid-19 will expose the ugly face of inequality in the world and especially in SA. I plead with you to consciously keep your heart open to others and creatively reach out in care. I am not sure how we will do this exactly – but I am sure ways will emerge. We can all prepare ourselves to be part of the emergence by praying this prayer: By Your Love, set me free from fear to love. To love, according to our tradition, is to be just, merciful, humble, gentle and generous.

Our fast-from-gathering is not a fast-from-caring. As a church I remind you that “the world is our parish” and we are all ministers. The profound lesson in this crisis is to see the reality of our radical interconnectedness. Only now do we realise how impossible it is to live an untouched life. The truth is that our life is relational or nothing. May this great truth take root in our innermost being (soul) over this time so that it is incarnated by us in the present and into the future.

If you need someone to talk with, please don’t hesitate to call or message me. If you become ill over this time from Covid-19 or any other illness please let me know. Hospital visits are not allowed over this Lockdown period. Funerals are allowed as per the National Disaster Regulations.

Our Lenten fast-from-gathering deepens from tonight at midnight. It is now a forced fast, but I hope we can “freely choose” it as Jesus did [John 10:18].

Like you, I will be discovering along the way how to live these days. To live these days in life-giving ways. Though a national lockdown is unprecedented I believe we can learn from those who over centuries have freely lived a “vocational lockdown”. I am referring to those who live a monastic life. And here I am thinking particularly of the daily rhythm and daily practice of monastic life. A practice that includes prayer (meditation) study (reading) meals (community) manual labour (exercise) and sleep (rest) at set times every day. I invite you to create your own daily pattern of practice. If you live with others you may want to invite them to join you (or online) – or in the very least to let them know of your intended practice which will therefore determine times of togetherness and times of spaciousness.

In closing I hope you will take courage from the beautiful and challenging insights of Fr. Rus Blassoples about our 21 Day National Lockdown:

 “Our beautiful Chapel is but a dim reflection,
a faint echo of the sanctuary found within every human heart.

May our national lockdown awaken us to this sanctuary within and make us not be so reliant on mediated experiences of everything ? including God.

Every human being is but a breath away from an unmediated, first-hand experience of the numinous. 

Good spiritual practices will teach you to access this. Bad theology makes you unduly reliant on others to fatten and feed you constantly. It is God’s Spirit within that groans, murmurs and knows how to pray. 

Perhaps now’s the time to delve into that forgotten or neglected part of our nature, and not ? dare I say ? be spoonfed a diet of spirituality that distracts us from being alone with ourselves, alone with our demons, and alone with God for days (21 or more). We do Lent such lip service!

Nor is it a time to be too glued to our small or big screens, to be fed a streaming diet of Eucharists. I mean, honestly!

We are so addicted to our screens anyway. Why are we so afraid to be alone with the Alone?

This is our wilderness moment. Our Jesus in the heremon moment (often translated as desert, but better still, Jesus in a place of solitude, devoid of others, distractions and addictions, tablets, laptops, podcasts, cellphones)…

Good liturgies will always take you to a place where you will find the courage to dispense of them ? put them aside – for a first-hand experience of God.

I pray you the blessing of one such liturgy. 
The blessing of truly being alone with the Alone”.

Grace,
Alan