1987 – 2014
Grace and Peace to you
One of the privileges of our pain-filled oppressive past is that we have experienced first-hand a very similar context to that of the Gospels and early church. An experience, or in the very least, an understanding of Apartheid oppression should give us insight into the Scriptures. Sadly too often we forget to read the scriptures through the privileged lens of our past (and present!).
For example, think of Steve Biko for a moment. There is nothing one can read of or from Biko that is not profoundly political and subversive towards the dominant racist regime. That is a given. Yet when we read the writings of St. Paul for example we may be inclined to forget that Paul was the Biko of his time — or if not the Biko — then at least the Beyers Naudè. There was nothing Paul could say or write that was not political and subversively threatening to the dominant powers. Yet when we forget this, we begin to interpret Paul’s mission as trying to get people “saved” into a “heavenly” realm with little relevance or consequence on earth.
Remember Paul’s “struggle credentials”? Imprisonment; floggings to near death — with both whips and rods and to top it off, stoning. Let’s be clear one is not subjected to these “tribulations” for leading spiritual retreats, but rather for being a threat to the status quo of oppressive power!
When Paul writes: “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) he was doing so in a context where salvation was promised by confessing Caesar as Lord. In other words it was a political act of treason to confess Jesus. It was like claiming Mandela as president while P.W. Botha was still sitting in the Union Buildings.
Let us also not forget that almost every word — we have come to associate with “spiritual” matters was in fact a political term of the day. Words like: “Lord”, “Shepherd”, “Salvation” and “Redemption” were all social-political words which have since been privatised and individualised — in other words they have been tamed.
Further examples include the concepts of: “Eternal Life”; “Soul”; and “Heaven”.
- Eternal life is mostly understood today as life Jesus awards us when we die. This interpretation delays the promise of new life until after death. Its original meaning was the gift of new life NOW that death cannot take away. In other words it is the transformation of the present.
- Heaven is mostly understood today as a spatial place where we go when we die, yet for the Hebrews Heaven is the illustrative embodiment of the real, real world. Heaven is the clear picture of what we struggle to see on earth — namely that Jesus the Lamb actually is on the throne and not the Caesar-like-powers. Heaven is the truth that we are called to live into being. All we need to do is keep faithful to the end. Heaven is also the prototype of how we should be living on earth. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done ON EARTH as in heaven.”
- Soul is mostly understood today as that part of our being that is immortal. In other words the part of us that “goes to heaven” when our body dies and disintegrates. This segmented view of the human person is more Greek than Hebrew and it has subsequently encouraged a “saving souls” approach to evangelism which ignores the full context and condition of the human being. The Hebrew word we have translated into soul literally means one’s entire being. The person’s entire being is to be our concern.
Sadly the powerful world-changing words of the subversive Gospel story have had their meanings domesticated by being pushed to another time (eternal life), another place (Heaven) all the while reducing the human person (soul).
Back in Jesus’ and Paul’s day, salvation would have been celebrated if the previously segregated beaches and buses were open to all. Salvation was the victory ushered in by the winning combination of God’s grace and people’s faithful struggle.
Grace and struggle, Alan
Dare to have your life re-storied by the Gospel
The stories we tell ourselves and each other are how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Some stories become so sticky, so pervasive that we internalize them to a point where we no longer see their storiness — they become not one of many lenses on reality, but reality itself. Stories we’ve heard and repeated so many times they’ve become the invisible underpinning of our entire lived experience”. ~ Maria Popova
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It is Martin Bacchus from CMM all dressed up during the last Moonlight Mass cycle ride.
Moonlight Mass is a fun cycle ride each month during full moon.
The ride ends on Greenmarket Square and cyclists are invited into the sanctuary (with their bikes) for coffee and free cupcakes.
The next ride is Sunday 27th at 9 p.m. All welcome.
Two weeks ago we reflected on the story of the Magi in Matthew 2. Propelled with curiosity they followed the night star until they came to Jesus. Then courageously they refused to return to King Herod and in doing so they saved Jesus from a certain early death. We noted that before the Saviour of the world saves us — he himself is saved and instead of being obsessed with being saved by Jesus we should spend our energy on saving him. We “save him” by protecting the vulnerable, marginalised and oppressed.
The two qualities of the Magi that standout for me are their curiosity and their courage.
We are taught rather negatively that “curiosity killed the cat”, but curiosity also invented life-saving medicines and explored far-flung galaxies. The Magi were curious. They not only carried gold, frankincense and myrrh but they carried questions. Questions about the mystery of being and the meaning thereof. Questions about life and the giver of life and their life and the way to live life. The Magi were a curious and questioning people and we are called to be like them. Jesus has often been referred to as “the answer” but he also comes among us as “the question”. In relation to Jesus we are invited to curiously question the nature of the Divine as well as our own humanity, not to mention the beautiful majesty of creation.
The Magi also inspire us to be courageous. They risked their lives and future well-being to protect Jesus who lay exposed and vulnerable to Herod’s cruelty.
What a journey 2013 will be if we ask God to fill us with questions that make us curious about Jesus and courage to risk our reputations and lives to protect the vulnerable.
Make us curious and courageous Lord — for your sake, Amen.
PS: Remember Covenant Preparation on 23 and 24 January – see invitation below.
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.
Our lives are ruled by fear. If you live South Africa, the high walls are symbolic of the fear of what lives outside. Jobs we deplore that have good benefits are symbolic of our fear of not having security.
Yet, when we look beyond the walls of our homes, and embrace our neighbours and strangers, something beautiful happens. When we quit high paying occupations to pursue financially risky activities that bring us to life, something beautiful happens. We love those around us, and we love who we become.
And so, if we want to be saved, and we want to be loved, why are we slaves of our fears?
Following Jesus is not Safe
Persecution follows faith. Those proclaiming otherwise are lying. In fact, Jesus readily admits following him is unsafe. So what then is the value of following Jesus if you know it is not safe?
We’re very excited to bring you the very first of hopefully many videos in our new video series, entitled ‘Not a Sermon… Just a thought’. We’ll be doing one a week at least – every Tuesday – and on some weeks, we will release a second video on Thursdays. This first week is a ‘special week’ in that we have a double header, but don’t hold us to over achieving just yet. Remember, we’re taking a slow walk here, friends.
This first video will serve as an introduction so you have a good sense of where we’re trying to go, and how we’d love to see you getting involved. We encourage commenting, and any feedback given will hugely appreciated. Furthermore if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, please feel free to share in the comments section to. This is a communal project, and we hope you, the community, gets involved. Enjoy