Monday, November 30, 2009

December 2009

Dear friends

 Time – African & Western

Arriving on time, or early, in our African context is difficult: to arrive early or on time for a meal is to imply that one has no food at home; to get immediately to the point is to imply that the person one is conversing with, along with their family and community, is of little value. From a more Western perspective to arrive late is a sign of disrespect both for the other people present and the event being celebrated, and is taken as a sign of personal lack of discipline.

My grandfather was a stickler for being on time, if not early. In my grandparents’ social circle was a couple notorious for being at least an hour late for social engagements. My grandmother, hosting a dinner, invited the notorious couple, and knowing they were always late, invited them to attend an hour early. The couple, aware that my grandfather was such a stickler for time, arrived on time – much to the consternation of all concerned!

What time should we arrive for worship? To arrive on time is to imply that there are problems at home; to arrive late is to miss the greeting and welcome. We need to develop a church culture that allows us to step away from our controlling cultural perspectives, and yet permits us to maintain the dignity that our different cultural perspectives provide.

My dream is to see us arrive a good half-an-hour before worship begins, and to gather in the gardens, using this time to greet each other, to ask the questions that give value to our existence, to recognise each other in good African Style. Then, when the first bell rings, to find our way into the church, to find a seat, to greet those sitting next to us, behind us, in front of us. When the second bell rings to fall silent and prayerfully prepare for our time with God together.

Perhaps this is a little over-ambitious, but I do ask for everyone’s cooperation in exploring this as a possible way forward.

Advent & Christmas

The call of Scripture during Advent is for us to move from darkness to light, to be transformed in preparation for the renewal of God’s call to for us in the New Year. It is a time – in the midst of the world’s busyness that we are all caught up in – to slow down, to stop, and to wait. We wait for God to speak, to act. And only then do we respond.

The Gospel calls us to a lifestyle of simplicity, and the recent economic recession has reminded us that it is possible to live more simply. The present tenuous economic recovery may tempt us to throw caution to the wind, but I do encourage us not to become victims of temptation in our Christmas spending. Let us explore other ways to be generous rather than recreating or increasing our levels of debt. Time together as families has far greater value than any material gift.

My young adult son, who has just left home for the third time – and returns weekends – has been questioning me on my goals for life and ministry. It has taken me some time to realise that he really wants to know where he fits into my life. While there is no doubt that he is not adverse to material gifts, it is my willingness to spend meaningful time in some joint activity with him that has the greater value.

What gifts will we choose to give this year that speak of the value to us of the people we give them to? How will our gifts enhance our core relationships with spouses and children, parents and siblings?

Christmas Blessing

Lots of love to you all for Christmas and the New Year from Dawn and myself. I came across this Irish blessing, which I pray will find place in all our hearts:

The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and goodwill of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.



Tuesday, November 03, 2009

November 2009

Dear friends


I was challenged again, listening to the confessions of our young people preparing for their Confirmation. The challenge comes each time I take on this daunting task, and it comes in the form of the sincerity and depth of trust that our young people take in making themselves vulnerable before God. The challenge is two-fold: how do I nurture this sincerity in my own relationship with God; and how do we as community nurture our young people in this very adult decision of Confirmation that they undertake? The world will do its utmost to draw them away, and we as Church will possibly not offer support in ways that help.

Our young people are in process of growing up, seeking their independence, and yet still needing the support of family while often seemingly rejecting it. While peer-pressure is a driving force, there remains the need for mentorship unencumbered by the subjective nature of family relationship. Both our Confirmation process and Sunday morning Teen Church offer opportunity for mentorship as well as the opening to explore questions of faith and life that may be difficult in the family context.

We would like to offer more opportunity for our young people in this regard, and believe it is important, especially after Confirmation, that they have the opportunity to continue to be nurtured in a Faith-focused environment. We have attempted over the last few years to offer youth activity outside of Sunday mornings, and struggled. I’m never sure as to whether it is parent-busyness or youth-busyness that undermines the process. There is always a lot of energy expressed about possible activities, but attendance is virtually non-existent. When I look at Church communities where youth work is thriving it is generally because substantial resources are invested in a paid youth-person who then has the time to invest in relationship development with our young people, and I suspect that this is the logical route to go. Our financial resources do not yet allow us to take this route, but prayer for such a step is not limited.


The following quote from Henri Nouwen was printed on the front of the Confirmation Service leaflet at St Francis (Waterkloof) last Sunday:

When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,” we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organisation needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness. It is important to think about the Church not as “over there” but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are a part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.

Sometimes (perhaps often is a better word) we forget that the Church is made up of broken people like ourselves, and our expectations and dreams for faith and life can be severely dented. It is through living in, yet looking beyond, the institutions we build that Christ is to be found. The temptation is to reject God because humanity is not God; to reject God because we do not find the depth of care and love in each other that Jesus offers. Henri Nouwen offers sage advice, which can be applied beyond the Church, more specifically in our family lives and relationships. It is in accepting each other as we are – broken, angry, hurt; flawed by destructive attitudes and actions – that we find Christ and each other. This all goes to the image of God that we carry, both in terms of our mental picture, and the image of God projected by the way we live and the attitudes that drive us. Too often God is not the mental picture we carry, and when life-crisis situations occur we find ourselves doubting both God and our relationship with him. Doubt is good because it gives us space to question both God and ourselves, and in the journey to discover God anew and ourselves anew; and to discover ourselves and our expectations of God transformed.

Sacramental Confession is one place the Church offers us, sacred and secure, to be transformed; in our vulnerability to be reassured, healed, strengthened; our brokenness received without condemnation; to find a renewed centre in God, in Jesus; a fresh start in the journey called Life.

Pray for me, also a sinner.



Monday, October 12, 2009

October 2009

Dear friends


I raised three points in our final focus on Stewardship last Sunday, and I share these for thought: stewardship is taking care of something we value and enabling it to grow; the foundation of financial stewardship is knowing what God wants us to do with our lives; we need to consider a commitment of time, treasure and talent to help sustain the faith community that nurtures our ideals.


October is the time we elect our Wardens and Councillors for next year (2010). The new Council will pick up responsibility immediately the election has been ratified at our Annual Vestry in January. Nomination forms are available at the back of the church, and candidates need to be Christians who are confirmed Anglicans and who are on the parish membership roll. Present Wardens and Councillors need to be re-nominated for election, along with new blood. These names only get onto the list if YOU put them there! Please pray, and then be proactive in placing names on the list.

I expressed my concern at a recent Council meeting that there appears to be a general feeling that things are going well in the Parish; the negative side of this has been a growing lethargy over the past two years towards either encouraging others, or putting oneself forward for leadership. I offered to create a CRISIS that would ignite a fire under us, and have everyone running to get elected in order to see to the sacking of the Rector! Council strongly advised against this (obviously!), so I need your help, please: caucus amongst yourselves and nominate people you feel will best represent the parish as either Wardens or Councillors.

The following may be of use to you in your deliberations (1 Timothy 3:1-12 from The Message):
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he's talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap.
The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women—same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
Please note that in the Anglican Church of the 21st Century the above applies equally to men and women!



Monday, September 07, 2009

September 2009 - Being Missional

Dear friends

Being Missional

In this early part of the 21st century the Church is finding itself increasingly marginalised, and society perceives the Church to be increasingly irrelevant. This is a fundamental shift for which we, the Church, are largely unprepared. The last time we found ourselves quite so powerless and lacking in influence was back in the 3rd century. A word that is being used to describe the Church in this time of changing awareness is the word “Missional”. The term itself is still finding definition, and there appears to be little consensus on the detail of this emerging paradigm, except that it is different to the paradigm experienced for almost two millennia since Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century.

There are a few building blocks. A new theological field, known as the Theology of Work, is beginning to give some definition to what it means to be Church in the 21st century. The momentum for this emerging theology is being driven by lay people reflecting on the relationship between their lives in the working world and their Christian faith. A key book in this regard is Joy at Work (A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job) by Dennis W. Bakke, cofounder of Applied Energy Services (AES). In his postscript to the book Dennis attempts to describe the integration of his faith and the secular work to which he has been called, and in so doing touches on some powerful theology that helps us understand what it is to be the Church in the 21st century, what it is to truly be “Missional”.

Your “Missional” Call

Key to this approach is that “our daily work is a sacred calling from God”.  This is a fundamental shift in thinking because it states that working in the secular environment is a sacred calling, no more and no less than working in or for the Church. Dennis says, “I am God’s representative at my place of work and … I am accountable to Him for my behaviour and actions on the job and especially for the service or product I help provide to society.” He goes on to say that, “A church’s service to the community should be measured by the sum of the work carried out by its members. This would include both voluntary and paid work at home, in business, at church, and in other not-for-profit organisations.” Dennis points to the fact that it is the influence of Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle on early theologians such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas that leads to the idea that “Christian work” is somehow superior to work in the secular environment.

If we are to be truly “Missional”, true to the emerging paradigm of Church in the 21st century, we need to take seriously the role that each member of the “Body of Christ” plays in representing God in the world. This requires us to change our perspective on stewardship. Our concept of stewardship is too often defined by the old paradigm in which those working in the secular world are required to resource the clergy and the missionary programmes of the Church. “Missional” stewardship is primarily about accountability and responsibility, rather than resourcing the Church; the “… local church [being] a primary vehicle for holding Christian people responsible for their vocational work.” Instead of resourcing the Church being a primary focus, “Missional” stewardship asks us to “… [manage] resources to meet physical needs”, “… [serving] the important goal  of stewarding God’s resources to meet societal needs.” In reflecting on his own church experience Dennis says, “Leaders of the church seldom discussed the need for accountability for the way we served God through our secular work.” I recognise this in my own ministry as an Anglican Priest over twenty years, more concerned that my stipend is paid and that our worship is staffed with readers and sidespersons on a Sunday; and less concerned that parishioners are meaningfully equipped to serve God in their work-a-day world from Monday to Saturday; frustrated by the 20/80 principle – that 20% of the congregation contribute to 80% of Parish life – instead of realising that perhaps only 20% of people have time to contribute, while 80% are busy serving God in the realm of homes, schools, business and government.


The above backs up another key “Missional” concept, and this is that God sends us, scatters us into the world; that we take the light of Christ into the world and its darkness through who we are, what we do and how we do it. Too often, in the older paradigm, Sundays were sacred moments that had little to do with our lives during the rest of the week, creating a kind of spiritual/secular schizophrenia. In “Missional” thinking Sunday – the Church gathered – becomes a celebration of what God has done in our lives from Monday to Saturday; it is a time of testimony, of sharing how God has been with us, how we have seen and experienced God as we have sought to live out our calling in the scattered environment of our week.


This then raised the question of what the church should be doing. Dennis says, “My own bias is that the church should concentrate its pastoral and administrative resources on evangelism, worship, and nurturing and equipping members for service. I suggest that churches run service programs … only in the rarest instances.” I am encouraged by this because it reflects the mission statement of our own Diocese (Pretoria), that every Parish become a forming centre of Spirituality, Mission and Ministry. My role as Parish Priest is to facilitate this process, which Dennis describes as follows: “One of the most important roles of the local church is helping people discover the work that God has planned for them and then empowering them to perform that work.

Biblical Imperative

Underlying this “Theology of Work” is the Great Commission in Matthew, as well as the creation stories in Genesis, which Dennis describes as “… the stewardship mission of Genesis.” Too often the church gets overly caught up on the redemptive nature of God; “Theology of Work” brings our lives into balance by reminding us of God as Creator and Sustainer, too.


September is “Stewardship Month” in our Diocese: how are you accountable to the “Body of Christ” for 100% of your life? How are you resourced by the Church to be responsible for your sacred calling to represent God in the secular environment? How are you resourcing the gathered Church that it may become increasingly effective in empowering you and others in your daily lives in the scattered environment of your week?

All quotes are from: Bakke, Dennis W. 2005; Joy at Work (A revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job); PVG, Seattle; Pages 245-275

September - Stewardship Month

As we consider how we are stewarding our lives, relationships and resources in the midst of a tough economic and social global environment, a short book by Klaus Nürnberger Making ends meet is of value. It is available from the CB Powell Bible Centre in Pretoria.

Prof Nürnberger states that poverty is the discrepancy between income and needs, and that the nature of need is that it is always greater than our financial resources. This means that even the most wealthy may be poor, and often deeply in debt! Could that be us?

We try to beat poverty by finding ways to increase our income, but in tough times like the present global meltdown, the best way is to decrease our needs. Prof Nürnberger describes needs as: basic essentials; social expectations; personal desires; pure luxuries.

He gives four tips on breaking even:

  1. Orient yourself down to the less privileged, rather than up to the more privileged.
  2. Don’t crave for what you don’t have, but praise God for the precious gifts God gave you.
  3. Avoid debt at all costs. If you cannot afford something, simply do without it.
  4. Make a budget and stick to it.
Here Prof Nürnberger suggests a budget formulated as follows:

ü       Work on a monthly basis.
ü       Get the whole family together.
ü       Be absolutely transparent.
ü       Add up all household income.
ü       Make a schedule.
ü       Allocate to specified items.
ü       Agree on priorities.

And he suggests we allocate it as follows:

ü       The money of God.
ü       Debt redemption or saving.
ü       Fixed items: rates and taxes, rent, water, light, school fees. 
ü       Household expenses: food, cleaning material, etc.
ü       Transport. 
ü       Clothing for each member.
ü       Pocket money for each member.
ü       New acquisitions.

Using these principles in the following order of priority for our allocation of available funds:

  1. The money of God.
  2. Debt redemption or saving.
  3. Fixed items: rates and taxes, rent, water, light, school fees. 
  4. Household expenses: food, cleaning material, etc.
  5. Transport. 
  6. Clothing for each member.
  7. Pocket money for each member.
  8. New acquisitions.
Prof Nürnberger says the challenge, however, in getting ourselves out of poverty are:

Ø       Can we trust God to provide for our healthy survival?
Ø       Can we trust each other?
Ø       Can we swallow our pride and be transparent to each other?
Ø       Can we overcome our selfishness and cooperate?
Ø       Can we sacrifice for each other?
Ø       Can we discipline ourselves?
Ø       Can we be an example for others? 

Thursday, July 30, 2009

August 2009 - An African Adventure

Photos of Botswana Trip

Dear friends

A Great African Adventure

I’ve just returned from a great adventure in Botswana and the Caprivi. Dawn’s dad, Glen, and I spent twelve days travelling through the length, breadth and depth of Botswana by 4x4. We were part of a group of 19 people in 9 vehicles all set up for the challenges of the bush, sand and mud. Our first destination was Lekhubu Island in the middle of the Kgalagadi Salt Pans with the main interest being a collection of Baobab trees. It took two days to get there, our second day taking nine hours to cover just under 50km’s due to lots of water and large amounts of mud: I learnt a great deal about vehicle recovery (including help winch a stranded twelve tonne Overlander vehicle out of thick mud), and our winches and snatch-ropes were put to extreme test. Thereafter the biggest challenge was soft sand: Botswana is in the main a big bowl of sand up to a kilometre deep in places!

We then headed through Maun to Lake Ngami, which was so full we couldn’t see it as water was right up into the bush, preventing us finding any good view points. We headed up the western side of the Delta, visiting Gcwihaba Caves (similar to Sterkfontein), and spending a few days at Drotsky’s Cabins on the Panhandle. This included some time on the water, and a moment of great excitement as my Father-in-Law managed to get a sighting of African Skimmers for the first time in twenty-five years (he’s a great “Birder”): he was heard to utter more than one uncharacteristic “Halleluia” in a moment of grand excitement!

Next stop was the Caprivi, where the major moments were being charged by an elephant, and meeting up with Kingsley Holgate and his entourage in Katima Mulilo. A poignant moment was driving through the old Buffalo Camp (32 Battalion), now peacefully “peopled” with Kudu. The cement foundations, collapsed prefabs and crumbling ablution blocks paid peaceful testimony to the violence of the past.

We headed back into Botswana through Chobe and spent an uncomfortable night in Kasane. We spent the next two days travelling an “Eco Route” down the Botswana/Zimbabwe Border, and a wonderful night at a waterhole in the middle of nowhere, listening to the sounds of elephant in the bush around us. Game was scarce as it was hunting season, and our human presence unsettled them. We found lion spoor, and felt the adrenaline-rush of being in the African Bush. All too soon it was time to set the GPS for home as we headed through Francistown for the Border at Martin’s Drift.

Wine Tasting

A very big thank you to Isobel Holden for organising last Saturday afternoon’s Wine Tasting. Katherine Simms presented us with some unusual wines from the Joostenberg Winery, increasing both our knowledge of different wine cultivars and the added value different cultivars bring to different foods. The snacks went down well, and a good afternoon was enjoyed by those who attended.

The only “sourness” experienced was that nearly half of those who bought tickets didn’t attend, resulting in Katherine addressing at least three empty tables, and valuable funds wasted on hiring glasses and preparing snacks that went uneaten, resulting in only R1,000 being raised towards the Equestria Building Fund. In South African society generally is seems increasingly acceptable to indicate attendance – either through a positive reply to an invitation or the purchase of a ticket – and then to not attend for whatever reason. This is certainly also most evident at Weddings. I suspect this has to do with the speed at which we live our lives, but also that we double-date and fail to keep a responsible diary. As Christians we need to set a better example in this regard, please!

With Church fundraising events it will be helpful in future if, when we know that we cannot attend but would like to contribute, that instead of purchasing a ticket we give a donation towards the function.

The Rector’s Birthday Bash

Thank you so much to everyone who attended our “Bring & Braai” on Sunday 5 July in the Church gardens. Dawn and my July Birthdays are really just an excuse for a mid-winter Parish get-together for fellowship and a relaxed time. However, thank you for all the good wishes, and the small gifts we received: in most cases the gifts have been much enjoyed, being edible and drinkable! We received a wonderful “African Mirror” from the Catering committee that now has pride of place on our lounge wall; however, it is strangely silent when I ask it if I am the most beautiful of them all!



Thursday, June 25, 2009

July 2009 - The Church Irrelevant

Dear friends


As a priest “Church” occupies a large part of my landscape. My faith and my profession are deeply intertwined. I can’t imagine what it may be like to live life out of touch with the Church, but increasingly society is filling up with people who do, and who don’t perceive any loss in this disconnection. For centuries the Church has operated in an environment in the West and in Africa where a connection – even if tenuous – has been the norm; evangelism and mission have focused on strengthening this connection, or on reconnecting people who have wandered off; society nurtured it. Increasingly urbanised society sees no inherent added value in religious connection, and if anything, perceives religion to be a limiting life experience.

At the June Equestria Family Breakfast discussion meandered around family values, Church, and reaching out to our peers. It became clear that for many young people the Church is perceived to be an outmoded social construct proclaiming an outdated moral lifestyle. For instance the Church’s teaching that sex should only be celebrated within marriage is looked on with disdain, and seen as a sign that the Church is lost in a puritan past, and therefore irrelevant to life in the 21st century.

As Church we believe that our moral outlook remains relevant, and yet our South African society – in which a majority of people still claim a Christian allegiance – demonstrates very little adherence to a Christian moral code. A recent survey conducted by the SA Medical Research Council (reported on 20 June 2009) found that just over 1 in 4 South African men admit to having raped, and just under half of these to having done so more than once. Many of the men surveyed had obtained some level of education and income.

And so the relevance of the Church to our society comes into question. We no longer influence our wider society to any meaningful degree.

We have relied for centuries on being politically powerful, on being the official religion of society in the West and in Africa since Constantine. The French Revolution led to the first marked societal move away from religion, and France today still guards its secular political dispensation with fierce doggedness (now under threat perhaps more from Islam than Christianity).

Where do we find our response? The answers lie not so much in the monarchical narratives of David and Solomon – as they have done for centuries – but increasingly in the stories of Israel’s time in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt, and in the experiences of a persecuted early Church. Our Christian faith, our existence as Church, needs radical review.

Family Life

Our response to the increasingly chaotic experience of family life in the 21st century is one road that may lead us towards a renewed relevance. Our diocesan theme of “turning houses into homes” provides a handhold. The months of May and June have provided us with three important family related events: our parenting workshop where Dr Mary Anne Harrop-Allin dealt with temperament (personality), self-esteem and relationship; our Ladies Weekend led by Dawn Long, Sabine Verryn and Olga Nel, where over twenty of our wives, mothers, daughters and grandmothers had the opportunity to spend time away from family commitments in worship, self-discovery and creativity; our Patronal Breakfast where we were able to celebrate being part of our wider Parish family over a relaxed meal.

The people of God since the time of Abraham have found relevance in relationship: with God, with each other, with the world. This can be true for us, in our time, and to our generation.


“Everything the Lord has said, we will do” - A sermon (edited) preached by Deacon Alan O’Brien on the occasion of our Patronal Festival on 14 June '09

Here we are this morning gathered as Corpus Christi - the Body of Christ. What a truly awesome responsibility it is to be the Body of Christ in this time and in this place! We are truly blessed to be able to meet together Sunday by Sunday to worship and adore our loving God who gives us life and to whom we owe so much for all we have received at His hands.

The Holy Communion is an act of supreme love. We need to be people of love to all God’s people in this hurting world in which we live. We need to seek out the marginalized in society so that they can be embraced into Corpus Christi. That means our family in this part of the city and all Christian communities around the world need to gather in all those who feel that they are being neglected by the communities in which they live. We are being challenged to do ‘everything the Lord has said’.

The various names that have been given to this central act of worship help us come to a better understanding of these holy mysteries. For some it is known as the Eucharist, that act of Christ’s praise and thanksgiving in which we join in Sunday by Sunday. For others it is known as the Lord’s Supper, the commemoration of Christ’s prophetic acceptance of his death on Good Friday. For some it is known as the Holy Communion, the fellowship meal which binds all of us together as the Body of Christ. Others know it as the Holy Sacrament, which is then for them the pledge of Christ’s real presence among his people. Whilst for others it is the Mass, the identification of ourselves with Christ’s once and for all act of sacrificial obedience which he eternally presents to his Father in heaven.

Just how do we live out this command to be Corpus Christi?

By looking at the various names by which we celebrate Communion week by week, I believe that we can get some insight into the manner in which we can truly be Corpus Christi.

The Eucharist: we are called to be a community of praise and worship and thanksgiving. As we meet weekly we have much to be thankful for. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving and so one of our major focuses on a Sunday must be one of thanksgiving and this through our praise and worship. We daily need to thank God for all the many blessings which he bestows upon us. We must give thanks for our life, and that we should do as we awake every morning and as we retire to bed every evening. We must give thanks for our families and friends and especially those who are our family in this place – God’s family who have been given to us to care and to nurture. Our praise and worship must be such that it brings glory to our God in whom we place our hope and trust. We need to people of prayer and so daily we need to offer up ourselves to God and in his service. ‘Everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

The Lord’s Supper: As we celebrate this day as the Lord’s Supper, we remember Christ’s prophetic acceptance of his death. We too are called to be prophetic witnesses in the world at this time. We need to be people who will be prepared to speak out against the injustices that are practiced against all God’s marginalized people. We think of those who are suffering as result of HIV and Aids and the lack of treatment which is given to them by the clinics. We think of those women who suffer as a result of rape and struggle to get the justice system to work in their favour. We think of those women whom I read about last week in the paper who struggle to get their maintenance from the courts, the very courts which awarded them the very necessary maintenance, but which now are totally lacking in compassion for them. We need to be the prophetic voice which calls all people to care for ‘their neighbour’ and that we know can be any one who comes and asks for our assistance and so ‘everything the Lord asks of us, we will do’.

The Holy Communion: Our celebration of the Holy Communion means that we are bound together by this fellowship meal. The Holy Communion began as a meal and as we know it has its roots in the Jewish meal which is celebrated Friday by Friday in a Jewish home. It is around a meal that one is able to enjoy the company of others. Just think back to the times in your own life when something important has been celebrated, it has normally been done within the context of a meal. It is important that as the family of God, we meet together around a meal. Later on this morning there will be a meal that will be shared together by the members of this family, God’s family – Corpus Christi. It is important that families at home take time to sit down at the family table and have a meal together. I think that in this modern or post-modern world in which we live, we have lost the ability to share experiences around a table and enjoy a meal together. As our diocese begins to focus on building houses into homes, so we need to reclaim this element of family life for ourselves. It is one of the aspects that we can control within our homes. We need to make time to be together and to share a meal together. We need to be able to share our hopes and our joys, our thanksgivings and our concerns, within the context of a meal. Our Holy Communion in its structure allows us to do just that, as we meet around the altar week by week. Our communion binds us closely together so that we will become one. Think of those beautiful words from that modern hymn: Bind us together Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken…’ And so ‘Everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

Holy Sacrament: Our Holy Sacrament means that Christ is truly present amongst his people. Christ is present in the here and now because of us. As St Teresa of Avila said: ‘Christ has no hands, but yours; he has no voice, but yours …’ We are therefore called to be Christ in and to the world. We are being called to be Corpus Christi, in and to the world. Again a modern hymn comes to mind: ‘Brother/sister let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you…’ So we are called to be servants, to serve those in our families, in this family; to serve those with whom we interact on a daily basis; those who are marginalized in society, those who I have mentioned earlier on in the sermon, they are the people to whom we have to be Christ. We need to be able to show Christ to others so that they might be drawn into this wonderful caring and compassionate group which we are. There has to be outward looking otherwise we will become too concerned with our own needs and not the needs of those who so desperately want our love and care. Are we being Corpus Christi? So we must do ‘everything the Lord has said’.

The Mass: In the Mass we identify with Christ’s obedience. Here we have been given an example that we have to show forth obedience in our lives. We are called to be obedient to God’s call on our lives. There are many passages in the scriptures which tell us that we have to be obedient, as the words from Psalm 40 tell us: ‘…my ears you have marked for obedience… and in the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will…’ How fortunate we are that we have the example of our Lord before our eyes who was obedient to what his loving Father called upon him to do in his life. Once again the challenge: ‘everything the Lord has said, we will do’.

And in conclusion I believe that if we allow ourselves to take each one of these in turn, we will be able to become more of the Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, to all God’s people in the different world’s in which we live.

‘Everything that the Lord has said, we will do’ these words need to become a vital part of how we interact and engage with the world as we share God’s love that He has given to us and which he commanded us to share. And so as we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist today, may our Lord be always at the centre and heart of our church and also at the centre and heart of the lives of each one of us as we become Corpus Christi. Amen

Friday, June 05, 2009

Pentecost 2009

Dear friends

Religion & Philosophy

In our last magazine I reflected on “The Nature of our Easter God”. I sense that some found it a little esoteric. Our Clergy Retreat director had focused on Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), a Dominican, who obtained his Magister in Theologia in Paris. Towards the end of his life he was accused by his Archbishop of heresy, for which he seems to have been largely exonerated, except for a few statements that it appears he recanted. His writings have influenced some of the major German philosophers and he is considered one of the foremost Christian Neo-Platonists of the 14th century. The challenge of the retreat – for me – became a call to allow God to truly be God, and not to limit him with my own humanity.


It was wonderful to have a full three weeks off! Parish Council informed me it was time to stop taking little bits of time off and get serious about recreating! We spent a wonderful ten days in Pringle Bay in the Cape followed by a weekend in Cape Town with very good friends from our Nelspruit days (the Cape weather was idyllic!). We came back via Bloemfontein so Dawn could put in two days work. Time off is always good, so good in fact that I will be taking some time off in July to go to Botswana with Dawn’s Dad.

Our time was not without its trauma. Just before we left, during a wedding reception on the Friday at which I had officiated, the Groom’s uncle was shot dead during an attempted hijacking, which rather threw the proceedings into some chaos. As the Groom’s family are part of our friendship group going back twenty years, and I’d spent the evening talking to the victim, the whole event was deeply traumatic. It appears the victim taunted the hijackers, and that he may have been shot with a weapon stolen from the hotel room of one of the guests at the wedding: sometimes we South Africans are our own worst enemies.

While we were in Cape Town our two children were involved in a very early morning car accident here in Pretoria: fortunately only a shoulder dislocation (from not wearing a seatbelt in the back) and bad bruising (from wearing a seatbelt in the front). It was a friend’s car, and not their fault, fortunately. On our way into Bloemfontein – thanks to the GPS – we ended up in the taxi-rank at 5pm, and looking like sitting ducks (two ‘Whities’ with GP registration and luggage on the back seat) we became the focus of a Smash&Grab in which Dawn lost her handbag … with I.D. … and Drivers License … and Bank Cards … !

Politics & our Future

The last month has been dominated by the elections, the inauguration of our new State President, the announcement of a new Cabinet, and a somewhat immature interaction between Helen Zille of the DA and the ANC Youth League and MK Military Veterans Association. Despite my qualms about Zuma I agree with Zapiro that the “shower head” should be suspended, and both Zuma and the new Cabinet be given time to prove their worth. Zuma’s inauguration speech and new Cabinet show some reflection of Obama’s inclusiveness, and I look forward to a possible new era for South Africa … time will tell! On an economic front it has been interesting to see the Rand strengthen on the news of a free and fair election process, and on the announcement of the new Cabinet. COSATU’s attempt to block the listing of Vodacom on the JSE has seen the first bump in the Rand’s value; and one wonders what the true agenda of COSATU is in this action – perhaps testing their strength under the new political dispensation?

Life – what fun!

In rereading the above, it strikes me that life, especially in South Africa – and probably Africa as a whole – is never dull! And we need to reflect on where God fits into it all. We carry misconceptions of God’s purpose as God, and often these are driven not by incorrect teaching but by our own need as human beings. We ask the question “Why?” of God, and become distrustful of God because God appears to be rather diffident to our need. God chose in Jesus to become incarnate in our world: Emmanuel – God with us. He remains incarnate through the presence of the Holy Spirit. And God’s purpose is just that: to be present. God is with us through the power of the Holy Spirit; not to save us from hardship, trauma, difficulty; but to walk beside us, with us, as a companion and friend, as a helper, as one from whom we can draw strength, comfort, and hope.

As Christians we are called to live this out, to be ourselves this presence in the world and in the lives of others. We are called to involve ourselves in human development, to give of ourselves and our resources; to make a difference that is different because it is part of us, not separate from us. Too often we involve ourselves in acts of charity, and not in self-giving. Charity too often equates to hand-outs; self-giving brings about transformation.

This is our country, our Nation, our society, our community: we have responsibility. How is God’s presence visible through us, God’s Body, God’s community, God’s Church?

Thank You

Thank you to all who contributed to the very generous Easter Offering that I received this year. It is a demonstration of your love, and is enhanced with your care and friendship. Thank you so much!


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Easter 2009

Dear friends

The Nature of our Easter God

In reflecting on our recent Clergy Retreat where we were challenged to not just expand our spirituality, but to seek greater depth, I realise that I need to re-explore my understanding of God. The complication is that I am comfortable with the ‘limited’ God I believe in; the God defined by Christian doctrine and Anglican tradition.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to worship the ‘God’ of plaster and gold – imposingly 27 metres high and almost 3 metres wide – created by King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3); and I ask why did Nebuchadnezzar find it necessary to create such a God? His anger at the three’s refusal to bow down in worship seems to have little to do with the ‘God’ and more to do with his own desire to control: “Who is the God who will deliver you out of my hands?” Nebuchadnezzar asks. He clearly believes this wondrous statue has no power, yet demands its worship.

And so I reflect on my ‘limited’ God, as magnificent and wondrous as my Christian faith and Anglican tradition proclaim God to be; and I wonder how much I truly believe, how much I –like Nebuchadnezzar – seek to use God as a form of control in a world increasingly chaotic?

I do not question God, exactly, but the limits we have placed on God. Can God be defined? If so, what drives us to define God? And if not, why do we place so much effort into doing so? And then what is the basis for our Easter hope?

Scripture and human experience point to God being both absolute and infinite.

That which is truly absolute and truly infinite cannot really be defined by what it is or is not (define ‘0’ for me …), but only, perhaps, by what it is greater than. To do otherwise is to declare it finite, and what is finite cannot really remain absolute. And so, because I am limited in my use of words, in my ability to fully imagine an absolute and infinite God, I – like Nebuchadnezzar – create a ‘limited’ God, designed to my own specifications, empowered by my own need and human limitations, and I become unhinged when you challenge my creation.

I am thus challenged to begin to believe in God who is always substantially greater than my ability to define ‘God’, who is continuously ‘beyond’ my understanding, who remains absolute and infinite ‘mystery’. Anything and everything else is anathema, without substance, without power, without true existence; unless it is embraced in the absolute and infinite mystery of God. A reminder, too, that all that I am, all that I have, is through the grace of God: absolute, infinite, mysterious.

I’ve always been attracted to the Baptismal Creed (An Anglican Prayer Book 1989, pg 59) because of its simplicity, its willingness to sacrifice the complexity of belief described by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. What better describes God than ‘Creator’, ‘Redeemer’ and ‘Life-Giver’? What better describes the absoluteness of God than declaring God to be ‘One’? What better handhold to the absolute, infinite mystery that is God than these concepts?

And yet we insist on defining God further, on making God like us, on using God for our own ends. Idolatry is, then, not the worship of other gods, but the worship of God diminished by our own attempt to define the absolute and the infinite, to demystify the mysterious. And then what is the basis for our Easter hope?

Our limitation of God is most visible in the religious rules and regulations we adopt. We see Jesus in his own context lifting two laws out of the plethora of Jewish rules that define not God, but our response to God: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind (Deuteronomy 6:5); and love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). And so our Easter hope begins to find value in our active response to God and neighbour.

Our Easter hope is manifest in the activity of the one and only, the absolute and infinite God: Jesus’ death and resurrection reveals God’s faith in us, and God’s gift of abundant life unlimited now by sin or death.

All things become possible because I have faith in God who is beyond my ability to comprehend.

And I respond by caring for my neighbour.

Easter Blessings