Thursday, February 26, 2009

30 minutes.

I will commit myself to half an hour of silence in the middle of each day of Lent. This will be a time of sitting still and doing.... nothing.
12 o'clock will be a moment to stop the headlong rush of my day and pause.
It will be a moment to remember those who suffer.
It will be my moment of listening to my breathing. And trusting that the Creator will breathe with me for a moment.
Why not join me? All it takes is 30 minutes a day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.
It is the first day of Lent, which marks the beginning of an intentional Christian journey towards Easter.

Lent is intended as 40 days of reflection and spiritual growth. Just like Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, so the ‘desert experience” of Lent invites us to fast/abstain from something. This absence in our lives then acts as a reminder to self examination and prayer.

Why am I telling you all of this? I think that this ancient tradition offers us a spiritual tool to take apart our lustful culture. We live in an acquisitive culture that seeks to persuade us that we deserve all those things that we think bring us pleasure: food, possessions, toys, comfort and flattery. Lent is the spiritual opportunity to say “NO” to this cultural seduction. It is the moment to be reminded that true contentment is not found in serving the demands of our lusts. As we choose to do without something, we are offered an opportunity to discover the richness of simplicity. We are also offered an opportunity to share (in a very small way) in the struggle of those who do not have all the opportunities that we do.

So allow me to encourage you to use Lent 2009. You won’t be less of a person for not participating in Lent. It’s really not about Lent - it’s about resisting the cultural invasion of our souls. Whether you feel you need to give something up for Lent or not, take a moment to do some of your own soul-searching and repentance.

* That the greedy rulers of Zimbabwe become compassionate.
* That the greedy leaders of South Africa become generous.
* That the greedy thoughts of our hearts become kinder.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spreading her Wings

She is the other side of the world.
Lisa, my oldest daughter, graduated from UCT at the end of 2008. She has now 'taken the gap' and finds herself in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This required initiative in getting herself there, finding accomodation and work, and negotiating her way through all the red tape of passports and visas and banks. I believe that it is the task of parents to help our children develop their own independence. But I am finding it hard to imagine 'my little girl' driving in a foreign land, organising her own finances, and sorting out her own values and norms. Lisa has growed up!

And I am proud of her.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

celebrating 300

So this is my 300th Blog posting. What began as a place for my thoughts to be stored has morphed into a place to express frustration, share joy, offer opinions, and generally get stuff out of my system. I am also amazed at how many people have popped in for a visit. And I am blessed with the many friendships that have come via the blogosphere.

I am grateful to people like Denise for her wonderfully rich writing; to Wessel and Dion for their inquiring minds; to two student ministers: Jenny H and Jen T for their enthusiams for the Gospel of Jesus; and to David and Steve for their skill in asking the difficult questions of life.

There are many more wonderful places out there. I found the following comment on the greed embedded in our market driven economy at asbojesus. This site is worth a visit:

I believe in Greed, the Market Almighty,
the creator of Money,
and in the Profiteer,
His only Son our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Capitalist,
born of the free market economy,
suffered under His own pompous piracy,
crucified himself, died and was buried.

We descended into Recession.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended into profit
and sits at the right hand of Greed the Market Almighty,
whence he shall come to fleece the living and the dead.
I believe in the holy catholic bank, the communion
of bankers, the covering of their sins, the resurrection
of the economy, and riches everlasting

found at asbojesus.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

...taking only what you need....

In the light of this week's budget speech of South Africa's Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel.
And of the stimulous plan of American President Obama:

"If one had taken what is necessary to cover one's needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need."

- Saint Basil,
fourth century theologian and monastic

Monday, February 09, 2009

Thank you

I had a great weekend:
Saturday morning was spent with the extended family: we had a late breakfast for 12 of us. This included my sister and her children, and my parents. It was great to have time to talk, without the pressure of time. Plenty of laughter and joy in being a family.

Saturday afternoon I met up with congregation members from a previous church. They came to tea, and I enjoyed catching up on the friendship. It did not matter that 8 years have passed, or that they are much older than us – it was great to see them.

The two Sunday morning Church services were a joy. I worshipped with kind, generous people who laughed at my jokes, welcomed strangers amongst us, and were able to share one another’s joys and struggles. They were patient with Audrey, while she spoke about struggling to understand banking (she was supposed to encourage people to place a stop order on their accounts in favour of the church). They loved dear cerebral-palsied Jenny through her spasms. They were kind to someone who recently faced a family suicide. And they were accepting of our Zimbabwean guests.

I shared Sunday lunch with my colleagues in this circuit. They and their families came together over lunch and we laughed and relaxed in our mutual respect and friendship. And I treasure their care and support.

I led worship at the church of a colleague in the next door circuit. I am helping Kevin to rebuild the evening worship team (who were destroyed when the previous leader threw a tantrum and walked out along with the team members). It was a very hot evening – but “cool worship”. And I count myself privileged to be welcomed into their church.

Then the family got together to play 60 seconds and eat pudding. Lisa leaves for the USA tomorrow for 6 months. So we decided to spend the evening together. Mainly laughed at each other’s attempts to describe things unknown, and enjoyed to moment of being a family.

The photograph is of my wife Jenny and me.

I count myself greatly privileged.... immensely wealthy ..... deeply joyful.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Ship is Sinking

The Church is falling apart.
There are factions that each try to get their own way. Different groups think that they are right and say that others are wrong. Each side has strong leaders who use our faith as a weapon. And the different groups sing, pray and claim Jesus’ blessing for their cause.

Oh – do you think I am describing your church? No, I am referring the Christians of Acts Chapter 15.
Act 15:1 Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." ........Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them.....
Act 15:39 The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

Here is the “body of Christ” divided by dogma, and culture, and history, and ideology. Factions strive for control, and use church rules to retain power. And there is very little trust in one another.

Which feels a lot like the Christian Church I experience today. We Christians are completely divided over issues like homosexuality, women Bishops, interpreting the Bible and methods of sharing human wealth. We hold synods and conferences as platforms to advance our agendas. And we convene pressure groups and garner votes. And we all claim to follow Jesus. The ship is sinking under the weight of our politics and desires. And it seems to me that the church has always been sinking – ever since the beginning.

I want to abandon this ship before it sinks. I do not trust the captains of this ship – Bishops and National Christian Leaders are the bane of my life. They have ulterior motives to their platitudes, and little interest in my struggles as a church pastor. It is as if the process of moving from local church leadership to regional leadership transforms decent Jesus-followers into followers of their own darker selves. I also have no faith in the direction of Church Conferences/Synods/Conventions/Gatherings. The stirring statements and the carefully corrected doctrinal positions of the national and inter-national church are the product of pressure groups and caucuses. A strategic use of meeting protocol will get an astute person almost any desired outcome.

There are some who say “The church is not great – but it is the best option there is”. Well I disagree. There are better organisations that the church – organisations that offer unconditional comfort, love and care to broken people in ways that the church has yet to learn. The church is floundering on the rocks with very little to offer our world.

This said, I am committed to this ecclesiastical ship. This has nothing to do with its ability to float. I know that this ship will not save me. I do not stay because I have faith in the organisation. I stay because I have faith in God. It is the call of God that keeps me here. I experience this as a deep, abiding knowledge that this is where I should be. I experience this in the accountability to friends and colleagues who I trust. I experience this in serving the people given to me by God.

In staying, I have discovered a deep joy in serving a local congregation.
I have experienced awe and wonder in the faith of anonymous people who follow Jesus with honesty and integrity. I have been encouraged by people who turn up week by week to share a faith expressed in the symbols of bread and wine, to share communal worship, and even to listen to my reflections on faith and scripture. I am humbled by their willingness to love me in all my imperfections. I am encouraged by their stories of struggle and joy. I am all too aware that my own faltering faith is kept alive by the wonderful people who choose to meet me each week.
And I am grateful that God has called me.

This is a calling that holds me on the crumbling deck.
This is a calling that will not allow me to jump ship.
So I stay.
And I fight fires.
And I trim the sails.
And I plug leaking holes.
And I encourage fellow sailors.
And I will do this until God tells me to stop.

1. You can see that I write from within a large denominational church. I have no clue what it feels like to be in an independent/congregational model of church.
2. You will also understand that I am not planning to leave this church.