Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Prodigal People

Hosea 11: 1-11 is a familiar story: it is the story of a prodigal nation. It is the story of a parent-God who has loved his child and given him everything he has ever needed. This was a child rescued from Egypt and given love and affection, only to have that child throw it all back in his parent-God’s face and go off to live life another kind of life.

At the time Hosea was a preacher, Israel was trying to make a treaty with Egypt in the hope that it would protect them from Assyria. This is the story of the people of God who refuse to trust God, and instead wanted to trust Egypt.

It is also the story of the rich people in Israel wanting to hang onto their wealth – so instead of sharing it with the poor people in Israel, they make a deal with the rich people in Egypt. They make an alliance that betrays every moral value they have : so that they can protect their wealth.

In the New Testament Jesus is confronted by a similar problem:
Two brothers are arguing about their inheritance, and Jesus spots the problem at the centre of the argument:
Luk 12:15 "Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be."
This is the stuff that destroys lives : that moment when we think that our stuff is more important than following God. And so in the words of Hosea, we hear of this Parenting God who watches as the people of Israel pursue wealth: and become more and more distant.
Hos 11:5 "They refuse to return to me, and so they must return to Egypt, and Assyria will rule them.

At this point I become aware of ways in which these passages speaks to us today: There are many of us who understand this because we have been parents – and have had to wait for our children....or had our parents waiting for us!
But this is also the story of God who has waited for us to respond:
This is the story of a God who has given us life
and nurtured us
and given us strength for each day
and given us gifts and abilities and talents
and we live our lives consumed by all our needs
and all our problems
and all the things we want to do
and all the things we still need to get

and at no point ever acknowledging our Creator’s generosity by being willing to share the wealth God has given us.

Perhaps this is the moments to pause – and be reminded that God is waiting for us to respond to His love by generously sharing our blessings.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am back home... after a week in the Cedarberg mountains. Nothing but fresh air and sunshine. No television or cellphone conection. But plenty of sleep, running on mountain roads, reading, and time with the family and with two wonderful friends - Eric and Angela.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


July 14 is Bastille Day.
On this day in 1789 the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, a prison that symbolized the power of the King over anyone who disagreed with the absolute monarchy. There were only 7 prisoners in the Bastille at the time, but the citizens saw their freedom made visible in the fall of this prison. And each year the French return to this day as a reminder of their freedom.

Which is why I find it so strange that yesterday – the day before Bastille Day – France chose to take away the freedom of some of her citizens. Yesterday France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils. While I am opposed to the imposition of this garment on unwilling women, I am as opposed to a government preventing people from choosing their religious mode of dress – no matter how strange it may seem to those outside of the religion.

Because I treasure the freedom of religious belief and expression for myself, I therefore need to defend this space for someone of a religious tradition different from my own.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Lekker Oke

This is Pieter Greyling. He is a man of great integrity, of unstinting generosity, and posessing a thoughtful spirituality. Pieter has a wonderful sense of humour and is deeply committed to his family. He loves his sport, as can be seen from this photograph of him at the final of the football World Cup. In fact his only weakness is his support for the Blue Bulls. I would recommend him to anyone and am privileged to call him a friend

Monday, July 05, 2010

First Things

This is the first gathering on the new campus of the new seminary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. It is morning worship for seminarians who have returned from their mid-year break. This is the realization of the dreams and hopes of my church. We lost a seminary at Alice to the twisted designs of the Apartheid masters in the old South Africa. We lost a second seminary in the social and polirical turbulence that gave birth to the new South Africa. And like the Old Testament story of people who wandered in a wilderness, we as a church have dreamed of a Promised Land. And i am a witness to this rebirth. I am uniquely blessed to be part of rhis.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Changing Location

Today I signed a new employment agreement. I have been asked to leave my church in Cape Town and move to a brand new Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg. I am privileged to have another opportunity to participate in the teaching of student ministers. This has come as a surprise to me... And to my congregation. I photographed this sign on an empty wall in a home for the aged where a clock used to hang: Most of the church members have reacted in the same way - they do not want me moved. But my ordination vows included an agreement to go wherever I am needed. And I am honoured to have been asked. So at the end of this year I will leave my congregation of nine years with deep sadness, and set off to the Seminary with eager anticipation.