Prepare the way for the Lord

Grace to you

John the Baptiser heard the call to “prepare the way for the Lord”. His scriptural instructions were: to smooth the potholed path, to lower the mountainous path and to make straight the crooked path. Sounds like the construction business – road construction to be precise. This is difficult work – hot work – hard work – thankless work – anonymous work … and if you don’t believe me ask yourself when last you ever stopped to get to know and show appreciation for those who disturb the flow of traffic in order to reconstruct a highway or build a bridge?

On 5 December (the anniversary of Mandela’s death as well as Sobukwe’s birth) I spent the night on Robben Island. Pilgrimaging through the cells, I was struck by how many of the political prisoners I had never heard of. Some of them stayed on Robben Island even longer than Mandela! Truly the social con-struction business of preparing the way of the Lord – which is the way of justice, gentleness, generosity, truth, mercy, integrity, radical inclusion, etc. – is often a thankless and anonymous task that demands huge courage and deep humility.

All photographs are of political prisoners on Robben Island are photos of John the Baptiser with different names.

Grace,
Alan

 

Resurrection Moments

Grace to you

For those with ears to hear, do you hear the stone being rolled away? For those with eyes to see, do you see the light stretch into the tomb? With those with noses to smell, do you smell the stench of corruption being aired? We are witnessing another resurrection moment in our land. The stone is not completely rolled away by any means – but it has shifted to let a little light to squeeze in while allowing some stale air from bloated and corrupt power to leak out.

This small resurrection moment (like all resurrection) is birthed out of crucifixion when crucifixion is the consequence of a life lived truthfully in the service of love and justice. A crucifixion, like that of Jesus, is the result of living life in life-giving ways that challenge the powers-that-be who are dependent on death for their survival. Resurrection follows the willingness of a courageous few who give themselves so fully to truth that they are willing to be nailed for it.

The brave I am referring to are the whistle blowers – some of whom are still in hiding. They are the remnant of journalists and newspaper editors who tirelessly investigated, fearlessly wrote and boldly printed the truth. They include others in key positions who refused to budge from principle and bend for profit. Some of them were fired as a result. Their commitment to truth and justice is what made the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into tax administration and governance at SARS as well as the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture possible. These inquiries are what I see as a resurrection moment for our land. Through them we see death lose its sting as lies begin to bow to truth.

Many countries never come back to life from the deadliness of corruption that we have been buried in over the past couple of years. If the Gospel writers were doing the reporting they would begin with the words: “The Kingdom of God is like…” You think I am over exaggerating? Last week a Judge appeared before the SARS inquiry and confessed that his very own judgement declaring a certain investigative unit as rogue was incorrect. That is repentance with a capital ‘R’ and must be almost unprecedented. We also heard of the daring story of how a certain hard-drive carrying over 300 000 emails known for the #Guptaleaks was secretly cared for and stealthily released. Those who were intimidating the truth tellers with legal threats have been forced to drop the charges. This is of water into wine magnitude.

Moments like this are both rare and hard won. They are also not guaranteed to succeed or last. And they will provoke opposition. We can be sure that those deployed to guard the tomb will make up all sorts of stories about the body being stolen rather than embrace the new life on offer. This resurrection moment needs to be followed up by a Pentecost-like moment if it is to be sustained and spread. For we need the Spirit of truth and love to blow over us while igniting resurrection conviction and courage within us. Then perhaps we too will join the remnant of the brave who dare to seek truth and love even if it means we lose our lives (or jobs). Trusting afresh that if we want to save our lives we must give them away.

Grace,
Alan

 

Refuse to sit down

Grace to you

Question: How do you stop a jumbo jet from taking off?
Answer: You stand up. You refuse to sit down. You keep standing. (Eph. 6:13-14)

You may have seen the viral video clip by now of Swedish activist Elin Ersson (21) live-streaming her protest to pre-vent an asylum seeker from being deported back to Afghanistan. Ersson refused to sit down and fasten her safety belt. She delayed the flight until eventually the person to be deported was taken off the plane.

Facing frustrated and angry passengers she stood her Elin- Ersson-ground: “I’m not going to sit down until this person (asylum seeker) is off the plane. I’m just asking: What is more important, a life or your time?” Her protest was motivated by simple logic: “Afghanistan is a land at war, but European countries continue to deport people to a place where they can’t be sure if they will live for another day … It’s my firm belief that no one should be deported to a land at war.” This is long-hand for “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

The commentary about her actions have focused on the power of what “one individual” can do. This is crucial to remember when we are tempted to rationalise doing nothing because “I am only me … just a drop in the ocean”. Every week we end our service with the following words of benediction: “And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.” Ersson was surely blessed in this sense.

But on another level it is not true that Ersson was “just one individual”. This is crucial for us to remember. She was part of an organisation working to safeguard the lives and dignity of asylum seekers. She was well informed about the law. She knew her rights. She was following a well thought-out strategy. She was aware of the “pressure point” of the context: that the pilot could make the decision about the passenger being deported or not, and that the plane couldn’t take off while she was standing. She also strategically used livestreaming. In other words it is organisations employing creative actions that enable individuals to make a life-saving difference in the world.

Some have scoffed at her actions pointing out that she did not stop the deportation, but merely delayed it and what is more she may be charged for disobeying the pilot and receive jail time herself. This is true but it misses the point of her action. The power of doing what is right or just (as in choosing life when life and death are before us) does not rest on its so-called success, as in achieving one’s immediate and permanent goal without suffering any personal cost. The power of doing right (serving life) is immeasureably powerfiul in and of itself.

Like the tiny seeds distributed by a bursting flower hidden to the naked eye, doing justice spreads new life far and wide – only to be noticed in a season or two’s time. I foresee a beautiful field of Errson-flowers in the future.

Stand,
Alan

ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza
is a shining example of courageous leadership and integrity.

I have been trying to rest but now it is not the time for me to retreat.

I have been singled out as a troublemaker by those that would have me go quiet. I have been accused of extreme ill-discipline for standing for what I believe.

Whilst many of my comrades support me some have come after me, accused me of sedition as they have chosen to side with those that would hurt me, our movement and indeed murder of our nation.

I made a conscious decision when these death threats began that if indeed death was to be my reward then I was not going to die silently.

Many of our comrades have died silently – the memory of a young woman who dared to “cry rape” against a powerful man lingers in the atmosphere, even as she was banished to die a silent death.

Our comrades have dropped like flies in Richmond, Umzimkhulu and other areas – the deaths amount to over 80 in total; yet before even one person has been brought to justice for the merciless killing of our comrades, it is me that they would want to exact their sinister justice on. Yet, why should I die silently? Why should my body be added to those who have died innocently and keep quiet about it? Many of my comrades died while remaining silent, many of my comrades will die silently still, (especially as December approaches) yet those who accuse me have done nothing about it. They have let our dead comrades down, now they come for those of us who are alive. They can’t kill us all. Let them label me but I for one have made my mind up, I will not go quietly into the night. The death threats continue.

Makhosi Busisiwe Khoza
20 July 2017


 Grace and peace to you and through you

There is a modern day parable about a Monastery that had fallen on hard times…basically the old monks were dying without being replaced by the next generation. So the Abbot of the Monastery goes to visit a Rabbi who occasionally retreated at a hut deep in the forest. The Abbot asks for advice but the Rabbi says he has none to give…except a parting comment about “the messiah is among you” or as some versions say, “the messiah is one of you”. As the parable goes the monks begin to relate to each other in new and wonder-full ways…all due to the possibility that one of them may be the messiah. And slowly the monastery is revitalised with a new Spirit and this begins to attract the interest of visitors to the area.

As a parable there are beautiful meanings we can draw from it, not least we learn that often it is our parting or throw away comments that land and take greatest effect.

At other times when we go looking for guidance we find the Rabbi is absent and the destined forest hut unoccupied. Its emptiness enlarges our own sense of emptiness and its vacancy adds to our lost-ness.

With time and with grace we may be nourished in the emptiness or with more time and lots more grace, the emptiness itself may be transformed into nourishment. It is impossible to explain, a bit like water into wine.

For the passing comments that have given us new life – let us be grateful. And for the nourishment within emptiness and nourishment of emptiness – let us bow.

Here is a poem that invites us to trust if we find the forest hut empty…

A wanderer comes at last
to the forest hut where it was promised
someone wise would receive him.
And there’s no one there; birds and small animals
flutter and vanish, then return to observe.
No human eyes meet his.
But in the hut there’s food,
set to keep warm beside glowing logs,
and fragrant garments to fit him, replacing
the rags of his journey,
and a bed of heather from the hills.
He stays there waiting. Each day the fire
is replenished, the pot refilled while he sleeps.
He draws up water from the well,
writes of his travels, listens for footsteps.
Little by little he finds
the absent sage is speaking to him,
is present.
This is the way
you have spoken to me, the way – startled –
I find I have heard you. When I need it,
a book or a slip of paper
appears in my hand, inscribed by yours: messages
until I would listen.

“The Spirits Appeased” by Denise Levertov

Grace,
Alan

 

 

We are Rhodes

Grace and Peace to you …

We are better at dealing with consequences than with causes. The cause throbs in the disguise of legal acceptability while the consequences rage as unruly mobs. This makes it easier to condemn the consequences than the cause. We are better at addressing the symptoms than the source. There is internal bleeding at the source while the symptoms gush through open gashes. This makes it easier to see the symptoms than the source.

And perhaps the most powerful motivating factor for us to deal with the consequences rather than the causes is that it is easier for us to approach the consequences from a place of innocence, after all everyone can see that I am not chasing people out of SA with a panga in my hand. Yet when we dare to address the causes, we expose ourselves to our own complicities with the crime.

We are sad, ashamed and horrified at the violence that we have witnessed in our land this week but we are not as sad, ashamed or horrified at the systemic crime and violence which is the source and cause of so much of the violence we see today. Day in and day out millions of people are robbed of hope. Hope understood simply as the belief that tomorrow will be a little better than today. To be robbed of hope for tomorrow is be imprisoned in the despair of the present. This violent crime that is endemic in our land is mostly ignored by those of us who are outside of that prison.

Let us energetically address the symptoms and consequences that surround us – and to this end I trust that if needed CMM will be a sanctuary to protect the vulnerable but let us go deeper – asking the difficult questions that take us to the source and have the difficult conversations that expose us to our own crimes against humanity. Where we fail to protect and promote Holy Communion.

Grace, Alan


From the Lusaka Times…

Dear South Africa,

This is not Xenophobia, this is Afrophobia.

You bring down statues of hate and yet you build the biggest statue of all. To kill the very people who helped liberate you. You have made this soil a monument of hatred for your brother.

We trained Mandela, we funded and armed uMkhonto we Sizwe. Chief Albert Luthuli was born in what is now Zimbabwe.

The Greek lives safely in this country.

The Asian lives safely in this country.

The American lives safely in this country The English The Dutch The Jewish The Indian lives safely in this country.

Yet the brother who shares your story, the very sisters who share your bloodline. This is who you burn on the streets, axe and slaughter. You are divided against yourselves and that has always been the bedrock of failure. The brothers and sisters who bled by your side, the blood that helped liberate this great nation. You thank their seeds with fire and unforgiving blades.

RHODES HAS NOT FALLEN.

The greatest achievement of the colonial project was to divide and conquer. To create hatred where none existed. To draw false borders of division. That is how Rhodes grew the British empire in Africa. Through planting seeds of hate.

So you took his statue down, and three days later began to murder your own brothers. Who is the fool! For Rhodes lives in you. The seeds he planted are bearing fruit in your lives. Rhodes does not turn in his grave, he is smiling jubilantly, to see the seeds of hate he planted sprout.

Mzilikazi fled from Shaka, settled in Bulawayo and two hundred years later, the very same bloodline class him foreigner and says he must return home. Isizulu and Isindebele are the same language, isiXhosa is a very close relative. These are massive signs of a bond that unites.

Umfecane never ended.

Colonialism never died, it flows in our blood. When kings call for the killing of cousins, RHODES HAS NOT FALLEN.

WE ARE RHODES.

By Mighti Jamie

Stand face to face with the crucified Lord

Today we are called to stand face to face with the crucified Lord. Crucified because he refused to restrict his loving to the accepted contours of the socio, political, economic, cultural, religious and national interests of his day. He loved without fear and favour. This was too threatening for those who had a vested interest in the status quo and too disappointing for those who desired a violent overthrow of the status quo. Faced with the choice of limiting his loving or being killed — he chose to be killed and in his dying breaths he extended his love to new heights to include even his killers.

May his love pierce us today, Alan
Sunday 24 April 2011

“We have gotten so used to the ultimate Christian fact — Jesus naked, stripped, crucified and risen — that we no longer see it for what it is: a summons to strip ourselves of earthly cares and worldly wisdom, all desire for human praise, greediness for any kind of comfort; a readiness to stand up and be counted as peacemakers in a violent world; a willingness to let go of those pretenses that would have us believe that we really aren’t worldly. Even the last rag we cling to — the self-flattery that suggests we are being humble when we disclaim any resemblance to Jesus Christ — even that rag has to go when we stand face to face with the crucified Lord.” Brennan Manning in The Signature of Jesus.