We praise you, God

Invitation to Prayer

God, whose word spoke life and creativity into a formless universe,
and order to a nation of escaped slaves,
whose strong and compassionate voice challenged injustice through frail prophets,
we praise you.

Jesus, whose touch smoothed the broken skin of lepers,
and brought a bleeding woman back to health and belonging,
whose hand raised dead girls, and refused to throw stones at prostitutes,
we praise you.

Spirit, whose breath restores souls and bodies, and whose presence comforts the grieving,
whose fire ignites compassion within us for the healing of the nations,
we praise you.

In the noise of voices calling for revenge, judgement and punishment,
we pray for the courage to speak out for restoration.

When pain, poverty and persecution leave people blind to grace and compassion,
we pray for the courage to carry the light of love and forgiveness.

Where the quest to even the score has left our world angry and wounded,
we pray for the courage to release our grievances and seek wholeness for all.

As you intercede for us, Jesus, we intercede for our world that all may know
the Good News of restoration in Christ.

God of wholeness, we celebrate the healing you bring
to us and our world, and we celebrate the promised
wholeness that awaits all of creation in your eternal reign.

God of restoration, in our blindness and ignorance,
you open our eyes and lead us to truth;

in our arrogance and defiance, you still our souls and teach us humility;
in our weakness and displacement, you protect us and lead us home;
While we deserve only judgement and the heavy burden of paying our debts,
you offer us grace, and the hope of life renewed.

And so we praise you
and thank you,
with all our hearts. Amen.

~ Nicole Terblanche

 

By the grace of my higher power

The following powerful testimony was shared as the Candle for Peace, Hope and Justice on Sunday 19 July 2015:

My name is Fiona and I am a recovering addict. Years trapped in the cycle of addiction brought me to my knees. I had lost hope. Towards the end I couldn’t go a couple of hours without withdrawing and needing another hit. Fear was my constant companion. Given 6 months to live, I was dying. I attempted hypnotherapy, detoxes, psychiatry, medication and sheer will power. None of these had worked. The 12 steps tell me I am powerless over my addiction, that there is one power that can help me, and that power is God. This proved a challenge as I was a hardened atheist. Years of active addiction had crushed any faith I may have had as a child. The programme teaches me to have an open mind and I finally surrendered. I was asked, would I rather be right or happy? So I began to pray. Since embarking on my spiritual journey through the steps and by the grace of my higher power, I haven’t craved for over 3½ years. Especially given I struggle with anxiety and depression, this is nothing short of a miracle.

This doesn’t mean I have the whole God-thing waxed. When my head gets in the way, it doesn’t make any sense. I have no idea what God’s plan is for me. The spiritual principles of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are cornerstones of the 12 steps. All I can do is do the next right thing, which is what I see as God’s will, and along with that comes a sense of serenity. I feel much like a baby learning to crawl. I wasn’t born with the handbook of life. I was incapable of living life on life’s terms. The programme gives me the support and guidance I need to take the next step.

I firmly believe I wouldn’t have gotten out alive without the help of a power greater than myself. I am under new management. This brings much relief and I no longer have to have all the answers. If I put one in front of the other, do the next right thing, life unfolds the way it’s supposed to. I am exactly where I need to be. Having said this, acceptance is often tough. Why am I an addict, why can’t I be normal? It doesn’t end when I put down the drugs. In fact, that’s when the hard work really begins. If I want to stay clean I will have to attend 12 step meetings and work a programme for the rest of my life. Addiction isn’t curable, but it can be arrested one day at a time.

Self-centeredness lies at the core of my addiction. So if there’s one thing I can gleam from being an addict, my higher power has brought me into recovery to help others. The primary purpose of the 12 steps is to help the still suffering addict. For me it gives meaning to my own suffering and ultimately strengthens my recovery. This keeps me going in dark times. It’s not all about me.

Without faith in a higher power, I get lost in the senselessness of it all. Coming to believe has given me hope where I was hopeless. I am learning to let go and let God, hand over what I cannot control. I’m coming to accept my flaws and strengths, I am only human, and that’s more than good enough for me. I now know who I am, and with a higher power working in my life, just for today, I don’t have to pick up.

Please join me in prayer …

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

Money, money, money

Heaven Coffee

If you buy coffee in HEAVEN you get to decide the price.

It has been great to see people’s response
to this new method of payment.
Disbelief, followed by laughter,
followed by generously paying more :)!

 

This letter is a continuation from last week’s letter on money – see post below.

Nowhere are we told in Scripture that money is inherently evil or that the possession of money as such is a sin, but if we are going to live life with Jesus at the centre we should note that the overwhelming number of times that he spoke about money he did so with a warning tag attached.

In what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus quotes from the book of Proverbs which steers through the dangers that having either too much or too little money can cause:

“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

How many of us pray not to be rich?

Money can be a wonderful gift when it is seen as a means and not an end in itself and when it is used to glorify God by serving those in need and caring for the wellbeing of all of creation (as we see in the story of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:35 and the way some well-to-do women supported Jesus and his disciples – Luke 8:3). But according to Jesus it is potentially a very dangerous gift that needs to be handled with care. In fact according to Scripture even the desire to be rich traps one in ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9), while the love of money “is the root of all kinds of evil”, (1 Timothy 6:10). “[Paul] does not mean in a literal sense that money produces all evils. He means that there is no kind of evil the person who loves money will not do to get it and hold onto it. All restraint is moved; the lover of money will do anything for it. And that is precisely its seductive character …” (Foster 1985, 1987:30). In fact James blamed killings and wars on the love of wealth (James 4:2). All this differs greatly from the prevalent cultural assumptions that say that money makes you free.

It is also in stark contrast to the widespread belief today that wealth is the sign of divine blessing. It must be asked: If Jesus considered money and wealth to be so dangerous why would he then go and give a great deal of it to people as a blessing? It seems as strange as a parent giving their child whom they love a box of matches to play with. This prosperity teaching is one of the most prevalent and damaging heresies of our time. Would-be believers are promised material blessings if only they give their life to Jesus. Poverty is therefore considered a sign of God’s disapproval, even a curse, but that which conversion will speedily remove. Within this false understanding the wealthy are simultaneously set free from feeling guilty and responsible for the growing inequality.

In short, Jesus taught that the more money one has the more difficult it would be to follow him and remain faithful to God. Jesus put it this way: “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24). Here Jesus turns upside-down the long held belief that wealth was the sure sign of God’s blessing for the present and insurance for the future. Jesus’ audience, both then and now, is left shocked by his words. No wonder we read in the next verse, “When the disciples heard this, they were astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25).

It also turns upside-down the widely accepted definition of success in today’s world – that more is good and most is best. No wonder we struggle to hear it and try and rationalise that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said or say what he meant.

Jesus responded to his astounded disciples saying, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26). We see the impossible becoming possible in the life of Zacchaeus who we read “was rich” (Luke 19:2) and who in the presence of Jesus was set free to give his money away (Luke 19:8). With Jesus, Zacchaeus was enabled to restore his money-damaged relationships, especially with the poor.

Put plainly, money is dangerous and when it comes to managing money human beings need all the help we can get from God. We need God’s help to be faithful in how we earn money, share money, save money, spend money and even think about money. We need God’s help to be able to keep saying ‘yes’ to Jesus’ call to follow him regardless of what the bank manager in our head is saying.

Grace, Alan

Make room for Jesus

The first solar bulbs installed in Cape Town by Touching the Earth Lightly and Liter of Light Foundation. Take a 2 liter empty plastic Coke bottle, fill it with water and a bit of bleach to prevent algae growing, cut a hole in your tin roof, whack in the bottle and jam in some silicon glue around the sides, and – BAM! – you’ve just built your own solar roof light. Visit www.wakawakalight.com for more information.

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Advent invites us to practically and prayerfully prepare room for Jesus in our lives and world. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians we are given such a beautiful example of prayerful preparation.

He begins the book with these words:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 1:3-6

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:4-9

Paul invites us to pray for one another in joyful gratitude for each other and with bold hope in Jesus. I pray that you wade into the depths of these prayerful words in your own prayers.

Peace, Alan

Belonging

Some of you have asked me lately: “What must I do to become a member of CMM?” Well, I must be honest and say that membership is not really what it is about. Everyone is ALREADY a member of Jesus’ family. So this church has 7 billion members — give or take one or two! We all know that we can have our name on some Membership List and it really doesn’t mean much. And please note there is no service that this church will not offer you because you are not on some Membership List. If you die I will bury you regardless — I promise. But if you want to get involved and really have a sense of belonging then I want to suggest two things: [1] Come away next weekend! We go away for a weekend once a year and it is a great time to get to know one another. You can simply pay what you can — and if you can’t pay anything — it is FREE. [2] Make a commitment to attend the Jesus School on Wednesday evenings (7 – 9 p.m.). If we are going to grow in community — and more specifically a Christ-centered community it will take more than an hour on a Sunday. I invite you to commit your Wednesday evenings to the Jesus School.

Finger Labyrinth Instructions

  • Lay the finger labyrinth on your lap or a table.
  •  Begin by taking a moment to reflect. Is there any thought, prayer or problem that you want to “carry into” the labyrinth? Or would you prefer to just open yourself to see what God might want to say to you?
  • Then, using the index finger on your non-dominant hand, trace the path into the centre of the labyrinth. Go at whatever speed feels natural to you, but try not to rush. As you trace the path, try to release any preconceptions, prayers or desires that might arise. The task here is to let go and prepare to open yourself.
  • When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, let your finger continue to rest. Relax your body, slow your breathing and open your heart and mind. If any insights come to you, take note of them, or meditate on them for a time. If not, just allow God’s peace to fill you.
  • When you’re ready, trace the path back out. Again, try not to rush. Think about how you will carry the insights, or peace of God, back with you into your daily routine. Take note of any new insights or practical ideas that may come to you.
  • As you end the path, take a moment to give thanks, to remember anything that you have received or learned from the journey. Then, when you are ready, put down the labyrinth and move on.
  • It may be a good idea to journal anything that came to you during the labyrinth journey.

Peace, Alan

Praying for parents

Bruce Clark writes a heart-wrenching book as a stay-at-home-dad. A story of how becoming a father heals and humbles him. In its sadness there is joy — in its darkness there is light, and in its irreverence there is a hint of the sacred.

According to Bruce a parenting manual should “state clearly on page one, ‘The Clock is ticking’”. It is the first thing that every parent should see. The words should be rubber-stamped on your infant’s forehead the very moment he or she is born. You’ve got ten years — maybe fifteen — and only that. On some arbitrary day — which will arrive a lot earlier than you think — it will astonish you to know that your influence has gone. While you were out doing something you thought was important, Elvis left the building. Yes, you might still be doing the school run together and, yes, your opportunities to interact will seem limitless, but the tectonic plates will have shifted. Your child’s personality will be hard-wired. The little person who was once pliant is no more. In his or her place is a unique human being who may look like your child, but has his or her own unchangeable views. The structure is built. The floors, walls, and roof are in place. All that remains is the choice of curtains. And just who will that person occupying your child’s body be? It’s up to you; it’s entirely in your hands. Bringing up children will be the most selfless thing you ever do — if you do it right. If you don’t, if you leave things to chance, if you’re too busy, if you are not respectful of the word ‘promise’, it will be the most selfish. Your efforts will both pave the way for your child and reward future society a thousand-fold, or consign your child to a life of bad options. It’s easy to fix a bellyache but how do you fix bigotry? How do you fix things that require a time capsule to fix them? What can be done about yesterday? What can you do when your child exhibits behaviour of which you’re most likely the cause? … Having children is easy; bringing them up is not.” (Warning: Book contains strong language.)

Praying for parents! Alan

Pray the Scriptures

This coming week I invite you to be deliberate in carving out time to pray the Scriptures. We don’t need to know the Bible backwards to do this — so all of us can give it a go.

First we carve out a quiet moment of solitude — acknowledging our desire to connect with God through the Scriptures. After an initial prayer for openness to God “who is at work in you” (Phil. 2:13), we read a passage from the Gospels, perhaps the Gospel lesson from the Lectionary readings (see next week’s Scripture readings — Esther 7: 1-6; 9-10; 9: 20-22; Psalm 124; James 5: 13-20; Mark 9: 38-50).

Then, as Wendy Miller suggests: Read the passage slowly, lingering over the phrases and words, as you would enjoy and linger over a good meal. As a word or a sentence catches your attention (even slightly), pause and stay with those words.

Meditate/reflect on the word or phrase; turning it over in your mind and heart. Listen deeply to the meaning, allowing the word to enter all the rooms of your life. Respond to God in prayer about what you are discovering as God uses the word from Scripture to read your life. Be still, and rest in the spacious and gracious presence of God. Following the times when you embark on this inner journey, you may want to pause and notice how the journey was for you: How has God’s presence surprised you through praying the Scripture? What feelings or attitudes did you carry with you as you began? What change in feeling/attitude has occurred in you? Where is this shift taking you? In what way are you more aware of what is within your heart? Gently remember, that God invites us to turn to him with all of our heart.

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.

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