2021 03 28 Alan Storey
I saw a group of people playing soccer in a park the other day. The teams at play were the shirts vs. the shirt-less. The shirts of the shirt-less marked the four corners of the soccer field. A couple of stacked bricks formed the goalposts. There was no referee. Everyone was the referee.
I remember playing similar games of soccer when I was a kid. With makeshift goal posts and no chalk lines to mark the field. I also remember that we would have many arguments about whether the ball was ‘in’ or ‘out’. We had graphic ways of “proving” how the ball passed either below or over the invisible goal post. When ‘they’ scored the goalposts shrunk. We ‘we’ scored the goal posts stood tall. Quite miraculous.
During every neighbourhood championship we were not only improving our soccer skills. We were sharpening our debating skills. We were learning ethics. With the help of a couple of t-shirt corner-posts and brick-stacked goalposts and argued-out ethics, the game remained enjoyable. It remained enjoyable because it continued to have meaning.
It seems to me that one of the consequences of Covid-19 is that many of the ‘lines’ that demarcate the field of our lives have been erased. Think of how the ‘lines’ of routine have been erased or the ‘lines’ of employment, and of roles and responsibilities. With each line erased there is a threat of enjoyment fading because of the loss of meaning.
To the extent that we are able to creatively improvise with a couple of t-shirt corner posts and brick-stacked goal posts, may be to the extent that we are able to hold on to meaning and the joy that flows from meaning in these days of Covid erasing. To the extent that we are able to argue out an ethic of what is fair, may be to the extent that we learn greater truth about ourselves and society than we would otherwise have learnt without this Covid erasing. A truth that offers us the possibility of a deeper freedom if we give ourselves to it.
[I realise that this analogy can play the other way: The erasing of ‘lines’ gives us an opportunity to redesign the ‘game’. No ‘lines’ allows for new ‘lines’ to be drawn, etc. Yay! This may be a wonderful act of liberation. Take the analogy whichever way you need.]
Here is a link to a joyful and meaningful soccer story from which the top photo comes.
This Wednesday for our Lenten journey of deliberately designing our days with “sacred pause” by surrendering to Silence, Stillness and Solitude will move from theory into practice. Instead of meeting for an hour or so online this Wednesday evening, we are encouraged to practice Silence, Stillness and Solitude.
The CMM Sanctuary will be open on Wednesday 10th March from 17h30 to 18h30 if you would like to hold silence with others. (All Covid regulations will be observed … in silence.)
We will pick up our Lenten discussion on Wednesday 17th March at 20h00.
If you would like the Zoom link for Sunday please email firstname.lastname@example.org or request via that same email to be put on the WhatsApp group.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. And on Wednesday Lent begins with smudges of ASH. The hope is that the vision we receive on the Mount of Transfiguration somehow sustains us when we are in the wilderness valley surrounded by sickness and suffering and sand and more sand. May this be so…
Our ASH Wednesday (zoom) service will begin at 8 p.m. We will meet every Wednesday of Lent at 8 p.m. for a Lenten reflection. A zoom link will be sent out on the CMM WhatsApp group. If you would like the link please email email@example.com
This past Wednesday some of us gathered online to prepare for Lent. We were reminded of the beautiful documentary called: My Octopus Teacher. The reason for the documentary in the first place was that a certain film maker who was suffering from burnout, made a commitment to enter the ocean every day for a year with the hope of renewal and reconnection to self and Life. In this act of daily “baptism” / commitment, the film maker was doing what people seeking renewal in just about every faith tradition have done for centuries: and that is to deliberately design one’s day to Pause. Pause consisting of a combination of silence, stillness, solitude. This Pause often involved an immersion in nature. We learn from The Octopus Teacher – that when a person honours their journey for healing with deliberate daily pause – they are gifted with renewed reconnection with themselves and Life and all that lives, and over and above that, the world is given the gift of a beautiful reconnecting story.
This Lent we are invited to deliberately design our days with Pause – silence, stillness and solitude. Our Wednesday Lenten reflections will draw partly from these moments of Pause.
Please note: We will not be opening the sanctuary for in-person services any time soon, even though Covid-19 regulations make this possible.
The reason remains that it is still too risky even though we are coming to the end of the “second wave”. In all likelihood there will be a third wave before we have all been vaccinated. And if trends continue, the third wave may prove to be more deadly than the first and second. For example, this week we were informed by our Covid-19 advisory team that “during the first wave it took three months to reach 5 000 deaths while the second wave took only four weeks to reach 10 000 deaths.
We therefore need to be very vigilant in these days. Keep practicing the Trinity: wear a mask, wash hands, keep 1.5 m distance.
This plaque faced Ma’s bed – these are the first and last words Ma saw each day.
(As for me and my home, we we will serve the Lord.)
On Friday we celebrated ‘Ma’ Lingeveldt’s life. Ma died on Tuesday, just three months shy of 100. A remarkable age, yet Ma’s life cannot be measured in years. The length of her life, though remarkable does not compare to her remarkable character. The salt and light of Ma’s life was a gift and guide to many of us at CMM. In the words of her daughter, Michelle “she taught us Jesus”. She did indeed.
There was something timeless about Ma – again not so much because of her age, but rather because of her consistency of character. She was the same, yesterday, today and forever. I share four observations of her beatitude-like-character with you, that I trust will continue to teach us Jesus. Ma’s life, like the beatitudes of Jesus, invites us into a way of paradox. More specifically, a way of paradoxical truth. A way of ‘both / and’ rather than ‘either / or’.
A Way of Paradox 1
Ma was grounded and transcended. From her, I understand what Jesus meant when he instructed us to be in the world but not of the world. When I spent time in Ma’s presence I got the sense that Ma, though vitally present to the moment had already entered the MORE of life. She had “passed over” to the other side, while still on this side. In this she gifted us with a curious openness to the MORE of life. In Celtic spirituality they speak of ‘thin places’ referring to places where the veil between this measured world and the mystery of MORE is so thin that one is able see through it. In this sense, Ma was a ‘thin person’.
One of the great privileges of my time at CMM has included walking into the sanctuary and overhearing Ma praying for someone. Someone she had taken fully into her heart in love. To hear her pray was to hear Jesus speak. She prayed ‘thin prayers’.
Humility is what holds grounded and transcended together as one. Ma was humble. She had no need to push herself to be seen, heard or noticed. She never drew attention to herself. She had no need to promote herself. She had nothing to prove and no image to protect. She embraced silence, stillness and solitude without effort. Ma’s humble presence spoke for itself. And … people were drawn to her. People from all round the world who visited this sanctuary were drawn to sit next to her and to tell her their story. And at the same time she was ever willing to “give an accounting of the hope within her”. [1 Peter 3]
A Way of Paradox 2
Ma became frail over the last few years. Frail, yet strong. In fact, the more obviously frail she became – the more her strength, fortitude, resilience shone through. As if to highlight for all of us (just in case we still didn’t get it) that her strength was given to her as gift.
Ma’s life taught us the meaning of these scriptures: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities for the sake of Christ: for whenever I am weak, I am strong.” [2 Corinthians 12]
“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have a little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” [Philippians 4]
Ma was content. Content does not mean condone. Ma’s contentment was rooted in a Centre that she trusted would hold. This released her to hold the circumstances that surrounded her, be they good or ill, more lightly. A good day for Ma had nothing to do with comfort or ease, but rather whether she was able to discern the presence of Jesus and walk in his ways. This will only sound glib to those who know not the history of her life. When Ma said: “Die Here is goed.” (The Lord is good.) it meant something.
A Way of Paradox 3
Ma’s experience of life taught her that she was no better or more than any other person. And her faith in Jesus taught her that she was no less than anyone. From this place of truth Ma was able to compassionately connect with everyone. Ma knew that people can’t live without bread, but she also knew that people could not live by bread alone. From this place of deep knowing Ma did to others as she would have others do to her.
A Way of Paradox 4
Ma gave birth to 10 children, and yet she was also the mother of us all. Her greeting to just about all of us, regardless of age: “Hello my kind (Hello my child)”. What her age gave her permission to do, her theology compelled her to do. She took seriously the words of Jesus from the Cross. Words spoken first to his mother and then to his disciple: “Woman here is your son. Here is your mother. Jesus came to remind us that we are all family, and he would even die telling us this truth. Ma dared to live this truth out. Calling everyone – be they the gangster from her Hanover Park and the priest from the church – “my kind” (my child). As a result of seeing everyone as family – she had love for all and fear for none.
In closing l once again read from scripture … the script of her life. Scripture that could have easily come from Ma – and surely does come from her to us through her living: “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 [Ma], and the God of peace will be with you.” [Philippians 4:8-9].
PS. Please remember that the best way we can care for others in this season of COVID, is to limit our physical contact and reduce our travel to only what is absolutely necessary. Our health sector is under huge strain. Please adhere to all the Government regulations and be weary of anti-mask and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
Remember the Trinity: keep physical distance, wash hands and wear a mask.
A reminder that if you would like the zoom link for the Sunday Service 10 am,
please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I feel so overwhelmed by the desperate state of the world.” I have heard this from a number of you in response to what is happening in the world and especially in relation to our conversations on Climate Breakdown over the past few weeks. I feel it too. Some of us have moved from denial directly to despair, without passing GO. From, “there is no problem” to “the problem is too big”. From, “no need to change” to “no change will make any difference”. We are left stuck, staring at the oncoming headlights shining on our imminent destruction.
Our work is to pause. To pause between denial – – and – – despair. In the stillness we may realise that change is possible while knowing that it is not easy and that it comes with no guarantees. In the pause we may realise that perhaps the main reason we struggle to change is because: We are dependent on our sin for our survival. In other words: We are dependent on a way of life that is killing us, for our survival. Spot the problem? To survive off what is killing us, means our survival will not survive. Death alone will win this race.
One of the first things to die is the human imagination, and with it our ability to envision living life in any other way. Soon thereafter we find ourselves reciting the cynic’s creed: “The way things are, is the way things will always remain”.
‘Dependent’ may be too soft a word. ‘Addicted’ is more accurate. We are addicted to a deathly way of life for our survival. When we try to kick our addiction, it feels like we are dying, so we stop trying and return to our deathly ways that falsely promise life. No wonder Jesus says, if we want to be his disciples (i.e. people living life in life-giving ways) we must be willing to die, for we first have to die to our deathly way of living before we can walk in a life-giving way. To change is to die so we can live. This takes great grace and enormous courage. The type of grace and courage that accompanies the alcoholic to AA and through the 12-step programme. This journey to sanity (not simply sobriety) to unsuicide ourselves begins with confession of our powerlessness to kick our deathly way of living.
Once we are able to confess our addiction and our state of powerlessness then we are ready.
On Sunday at 11h11 we will explore this a little more. We will do so in relation to the Gospel reading (Matthew 21:23-32) for this Sunday. If you would like to be part of the conversation, please email email@example.com for the zoom link.
Below you will find a number of resources that may strengthen us to pause between denial – – and – – despair.
Last week we focused briefly on the grieving soil that YHWH invites us to listen to. Here is a new documentary on Netflix about the saving power of soil.
Basically, we need to save soil (at least stop destroying soil) so that soil can save us. Soil remember is 24/7 busy with the miraculous work of resurrection. And here is some great information on how we can “save” the soil to save us.
Also following on from last week I invite you to watch this brief animated video about “talking trees”.