Friday, December 16, 2011


This is the view for our breakfast this morning. Jenny and I have spent much of the week moving stuff. The big move was on Tuesday, when the removal company fetched our worldly possessions and trucked them off to Pietermaritzburg. Since then we have cleaned the house we rented for the past year, moved plants from this house to Jenny's sister's house in Newlands, and donated some excess furniture to the Plumstead Methodist manse.

It is finally over - and we are sitting on the stoep of Melissa's in Newlands having a mid-morning breakfast. Life is good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

jessie at UCT

Today is Jessica's graduation - with a BMus(Ed). This qualifies her to teach music. Her instrument is the saxophone and she has specialised in Jazz. She has a post at Camps Bay Primary School for 2012.

I am proud of her achievement, and of her passion to share her knowledge with others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The family is moving. All in different directions.

Jenny and I will stay to have Christmas with my parents and then head off to Pietermaritzburg - leaving all our daughters behind in Cape Town.

Amy will tutor until she leaves for Japan in June, where she plans to teach English. Jessie has a job as a music teacher at Camps Bay Primary School; and Lisa is waiting to hear if UCT has accepted her for Psychology honours.

The photograph is one of the packers at the storage facility where we have kept some of our stuff for this year.

Monday, December 12, 2011


This afternoon was spent at the University of Cape Town's graduation ceremony - well one of the many that take place this week.

I celebrated my daughter Amy's graduation with a BA in English. She also has studied Japanese over the past three years, and plans to travel to Japan in June 2012 to teach English.

I am very proud of her - and look with fascination to see where her life's journey takes her.

God bless you Amy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Christmas is time for family. Jenny and I drove to Pinetown to have tea with my aunt Marion and ended up attending a Carol Service with her at Doone Village.

She gets around on a four wheeler that can negotiate both the passages inside the buildings as well as the paths between the buildings.

It is a beautiful setting and was originally the property of Aaron Beare whose farm has been transformed into a haven for senior citizens.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flying Ants

There are tens of thousands of them flying at the moment - heavy rain predicted for tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Army deployed in Lavender Hill

Eyewitness News reports that the army has been deployed to the Lavender Hill community:

The Steenberg Community Policing Forum (CPF) has welcomed the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members in Lavender Hill. Seven people have been killed in what is believed to be gang-related shootings in the area over the past three months. The CPF's Kevin Southgate says the army’s intervention is long overdue. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and we are happy that the army has finally been deployed in the area. We’re just hoping that the government will sustain this,” he says.

It is a sad moment when conventional policing cannot keep a community safe. I have pastored people from this community for the past ten years. In fact I began my connections with this community in 1986 and have kept touch with its life since then. It is mostly concrete housing units that are home to people who were forcibly removed from their roots by the Group Areas Act. These people were dumped on sea sand – please disregard the pretty name for the area! It was not long before gangs became the way of life for many of the unemployed young people, and many of the residents live in fear of the gangsters. So I do understand the sense of relief when the army trucks roll in. But this cannot be a solution for urban living.

The police are trained to keep people safe, and ensure that we all live securely. The arrival of the army admits the fact we all know – that that there is something wrong with the police. I know many loyal police men and women who live with integrity and fairness. But we have lost faith in the police force as an institution to hold us accountable to the laws of our land. The wealthy have hired private security companies to keep us safe. And now the poor are calling for the army. We as a nation need a change of heart, mind and soul – to discover how to live within the laws of our land.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The King is Coming

My Sermon from Sunday 20 /11/ 2011

The King is Coming
Eze 34:11-17 & 20-24
Matthew 25: 31-46

We are at the end of the Christian year. Let me explain myself: we who follow Jesus use a religious calendar that helps us remember our faith.

Next Sunday is the first Sunday of our Religious year – a year that begins with the anticipation of a Savior – takes us to Christmas, the birth of the Saviour, and then through his life. We then celebrate the events of Easter, followed by the blessings of the Holy Spirit, which we call Pentecost. After Pentecost we remind ourselves of how the followers of Jesus ought to live. The journey from Pentecost to this week is one that should culminate with the reminder that this life is temporary, and that the moment will come when the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, will return. This year’s lectionary used the passage from Matthew 25 to do so. It speaks of a time when “the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him…… all the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate people

 Here is the teaching: The end of all time has come, and the Lord of the Ages has returned to judge the earth. This is an enduring theme, which has been the subject of many, many sermons. I have often heard it used to scare people into the Kingdom of God

-      “if you misbehave, God will come and get you.”

-      We might have suffered for our faith – but one day the powerful King will return and will wipe all the sinners off the face of the earth”

This sounds like Christian revenge to me!

 The fact is that this is an image based on Imperial Rome in the time of Jesus: the Emperor would leave Rome to conquer new lands – and would return in triumph: with rewards for the people who had faithfully served him, and vengeance for those who dared to oppose him. But this is not the way of Jesus – and such an image is a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus! I do not believe that this is what Jesus intended when he told this story. This is not a story about God rewarding good people and punishing bad people! This is a teaching about the compassionate King who comes for those rejected by the righteous.

 In order to understand this story we need to realize that we cannot just lift it out of the Jewish culture of first century Palestine and paste it in our post-modern world and expect to understand what is going on. We need to understand the culture in which this story was told.

This is a culture that divided people into two groups: the Righteous and the Sinners. The righteous were those who worshipped God in the temple. They obeyed the law, paid their temple dues, and kept themselves pure. The sinners were those who did not.

Which is not as simple as it sounds:
·                    If you were illiterate/uneducated, you struggled to keep track of the law and probably remained a sinner for life.
·                    If you were too poor to afford the required offerings and sacrifices – you stayed a sinner.
·        And you were a sinner if you did work that was considered unclean – work such as leather workers, traders, government officials. (Leather workers involved handling dead animals; Trade involved handling Roman coin with its forbidden engraved image; and Government officials meant dealing with the foreigners and suspected of taking bribes).
·        There were other categories of sinners too:

Ø Sick people were thought to be sinners – obviously they had done something wrong and God had cursed them with illness.

Ø The non-Jewish people were sinners: called strangers/aliens

So let us now return to the teaching of Jesus and see if we read it with new eyes:
Mat 25:31  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
Mat 25:32  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
Mat 25:33  and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
Mat 25:34  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
Mat 25:35  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Mat 25:36  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

The King is returning – and he tells us who the people are that he hangs out with:

·        “Hungry & Thirsty” – the poor people

·        “Strangers”  – aliens / non-Jews

·        “Naked” – those who have been publically shamed

·        “Sick” – those thought to be cursed by God

·        Prison – those who owed money/debtors

Jesus is emphasizing: God will return for those who were rejected by the righteous.This is not a triumphant King who comes to destroy the sinners: this is a merciful King who loves those who have been rejected by the righteous. In fact: those who so self-righteously rejoiced that they had kept themselves pure by throwing the sinners out: will find themselves thrown out.

Mat 25:43  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
Mat 25:44  Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?'
Mat 25:45  Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'
Mat 25:46  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life

 And so we ask ourselves whether this speaks to us today?

Good news: the King is coming: and he will gather all those who have been rejected and cast aside. If this is your experience of Life hear the good news: God loves you.
Eze 34:11  For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.
Eze 34:12  As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

But there is also a very difficult place in this teaching:

Is it possible that we too have developed categories of people we call sinners. Do we think of people who are beyond God’s salvation, and we congratulate ourselves on keeping ourselves pure?

 Certainly there are some groups of people that are rejected by some Christians:

Some think that Muslim people are beyond the love of God. I find the current debate in the Vatican fascinating: an advertising agency has put together a picture of the Pope embracing an Imam and the Vatican says it will sue. I wondered why? Can the Pope not show the love of God to a Muslim. Or is this one group of people Jesus commands us to hate

 Some think gay people are the group to exclude. There are Christians who spend all their energy insulting homosexual people, assuming that the Lord will return and crush them. It is almost as if some believe Jesus said to us “Hate other people as I have hated you”.

 Often this is rooted in our own personal prejudices:
A good test is to ask who “them” is. Whenever you want to blame someone for the problems of your world, ask yourself “Who are ‘they’?”

Ø Everything was great before “they” arrived.

Ø If only “they” were not my neighbours

Ø If only I did not have to work with “them”

Ø Why do “they” always get first choice – said by everyone who has a brother or a sister.

 There is a warning:
Eze 34:20  Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.
Eze 34:21  Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide,
Eze 34:22  I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

Conclusion: So as this Christian year ends, excuse me if I don’t get too excited about the vengeful Christ the King. I am on my way to Christmas – and I can smell the straw and the cow dung at a manger. The baby who will be born came for those who needed to know the love of God – and that is where God has called me to be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moving the Minister/Priest/Pastor

·         My friend and colleague Stafford Moses  noted the way clergy resist being moved by their bishop – and wondered why.

He received a really useful response from Jennie Liebenberg

I always thought it was because clergy are human, thus can't have ALL the gifts needed in a parish... so they give all that they are for however many years to their parish, then the bishop sees that the parish has grown in certain aspects and now needs a priest with different gifts to equip them further. And similarly, there's another parish that could grow further into the fullness of Christ by YOUR leadership”.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Invitation

We fail our children when we shut them out of our sacred rituals in worship. This was the challenge brought by Ansie and Willie Liebenberg, who led family worship at our seminary this week. Ansie used the analogy of a feast to teach about the Eucharist. They then helped us hear an invitation for the whole seminary family to share in Holy Communion as a "family feast".

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Bride

My niece Jenny got married this weekend. She was happy, spontaneous and relaxed - and I wish her and Etienne well for their marriage.

Come dance with me

My mother asking my 86 year old father for a dance at my niece's wedding.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Queue

I am in "The Queue". This is a great South African institution. We line up at the Post Office, the Bank, the Bus Stop - and in Government Offices.
I arrived at the traffic-office this morning with some trepidation because I knew I was in trouble. During idle chit-chat with friends on Saturday night we got talking about our driver's licenses, and their 5yr renewal. I got my card out to check when I needed to renew it, only to discover that my driver's licence had expired in February 2011. Oh crap!

And so I arrived at the building and looked around hoping for a clue where to go. Here's the sequence: Spot the information desk and find the friendly official who will hand you the necessary forms to complete. Look hopefully around for a surface to write on (and skip the first one because the glass on the counter is missing). Get to the second and fill in the form. Join the line waiting to be helped. This involved sitting on the empty chair at the end - and as the person at the head of the line is helped everyone shuffles up one seat. The chairs are closer than my western body space would like. And the conversation is louder than I would choose. But as I look around I see the gathering is inclusive and all are welcome to offer an opinion. We wait our turn with patient good humour. I reach the prized "window of opportunity" only to discover that I needed to have had my eyes checked and fingerprints taken ... at the room on the other end of the building!

OK. Another row of bums moving along another row of chairs. And I peer hopefully into a machine to tell the official where the shaded portion of the circle lies. I am reminded of the passing of the years when I discover that they are clearer with my glasses on. My fingerprints are captured in a computer, and do not disclose any unpaid traffic fines. I am safe to rejoin The Queue.

And in time emerge triumphant clutching a temporary licence and the invitation to return in a month's time for my new licence card. I am legal again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

fac et aliquid operis, ut semper te diabolus inveniat occupatum*

Luk 5:5  Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."

Western civilization has been built on the idea that hard work will produce success, wealth and positive results. Deep in its cultural bones are injunctions to succeed by  working hard – “the devil finds work for idle hands” / “Don't just stand there, do something” / “hard work never killed anyone”. I was raised on quotes on the Bible that bolstered this idea: “Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways” (Prov 6:6), “Hard work always pays off” (Prov 14:23). I have often worked hard, and more often I have worked very hard. But as the years have passed I have discovered the fallacy in the idea that hard work equates to success, because there are some people who work extremely hard without any success at all. Certainly this was the case of the disciples of Jesus in Luke 5:5 – they had fished all night without success.

This is also the case with many, many people who are trapped in the cycles of poverty, illiteracy and illness that characterize our modern society. Many people work hard all day for a pittance of a wage. They are not lazy, or stupid, or unfaithful to God. They are simply victims of their birth: born in the wrong place, in the wrong social class, of the wrong gender, or in the wrong culture. They do not have access to education, or to opportunity, or to the social conditions that enable their work hard to allow them an escape from their struggle for life.

I have come to see that hard work is not the panacea for all of life’s ills. Instead I have learned that the key to successful living is finding the person we were created to be. Luke 5:5 has the disciples moving beyond hard work, to obedience to the call of the Master: “If you say so, I will”. This is about an inner calling rather than our material successes; this is about our self-knowledge rather than our achievements and status; this is about our sense of God’s purpose for our living rather than a desperate striving to achieve goals and acquire more possessions.  Kipling, in his poem “If” captures this for me:

“…..If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same … you will be a Man my son.”

* [St. Jerome Letters cxxv. xi.] “do something, so that the devil may always find you busy”; cf. [c 1386 Chaucer Tale of Melibee l. 1594] Therfore seith Seint Jerome: 'Dooth somme goode dedes that the devel, which is oure enemy, ne fynde yow nat unocupied.'

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mourning Libya

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi ( 7 June 1942 – 20 October 2011) ruled Libya for 42 years. In 1969 he seized power in a military coup and was absolute ruler until 2011 when his government was overthrown by a popular uprising and foreign intervention. Born into the bedouin tribe of the Qadhadhfa, Gaddafi called himself “the Brother Leader" and "Guide of the Revolution”. He held his position through the use of nepotism, military force and the intrigue of the secret police. It is beyond dispute that he was a brutal, cruel man who personally supervised the execution of many who thought to oppose him. Between 1980 and 1987 Gaddafi employed his network of diplomats and recruits to assassinate at least 25 critics living abroad.  So I join the many, many Libyans who do not mourn the end of his rule.

But I do mourn the way his rule ended.

·         I mourn the summary execution of Colonel Gaddafi alongside the road. He should have gone on trial, faced his accusers, and been confronted with the consequences of his crimes. Life is sacred, and no-one has the right to execute a prisoner without trial.

·         I mourn the inevitable struggle for power in Libya. I am convinced that a transfer of power is always preferable to a vacuum where the ‘strong’ will battle it out to take over.

·         I mourn the intervention of western powers in African politics. I do not see why First World countries assume it to be their right to become the policemen of the world.

·         And I mourn our blood-thirsty nature that so easily embraces war as a solution for injustice, and so avidly watches violence as media entertainment.    

Let us pray for Libya: for all the families who have lost people they love, for the nation to grow in political wisdom, and for peace. Let us also pray for a world where  world leadership becomes less willing to send war planes to bomb the nations of others.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Completing the Days

Eze 4:8  See, I am putting cords on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

Today is my birthday.
Which is a useful moment to reflect on my life.

The one enduring theme of my life is a sense of God’s calling. I experienced this as an inner compulsion that binds me to a course of living - like Ezekiel I have lived a life where I sense God saying “ you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days” .

·         I felt a call to be trained at The Federal Theological Seminary – something I could not shake even when it was unpopular with my closest friends and family; even when it became a very hard place to be; and even when I wanted to resign and do something else.

·         I continue to experience a call to be an ordained minister of word and sacrament. I have had moments of great joy and satisfaction; and I have had times when I have understood Ezekiel’s reference to “the days of your siege “.  But since my ordination in 1984 I have never been able to shake off the cords that God has laid on my life.

·         I have felt an inescapable tug to issues of social justice. There have been moments when this has frightened me, and I would rather have run away from it. It has resulted in moments of great loneliness, accompanied by anger from some members of the congregation, financial boycott from some congregations, and the occasional encounter with the security police. But this internal spiritual compulsion has not allowed me to back off, and continues to ask me to challenge injustice as I encounter it.  

·         I have been bound to training student ministers. This has ranged from training student ministers in seminary, to those who have completed their seminary and are placed in local congregations.  Right now I am at the Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg. As this year has passed I have become more and more entangled with this place. It has become a call that ties me in every possible way – in my time, my emotions, my passion and my prayers,    

·         I am inescapably tied to my marriage with Jenny. We were married in 1982, and we have been through “trials and tribulations” and through “joys and celebrations”.  (Truth be told I know that there have been moments when Jenny has wanted to kill me – and there have been moments when I have allowed myself to forget her kindness and generosity).  I continue to be grateful for my marriage and still hear this inescapable tug that says to me “you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed” .

As I look back I see the presence of God in all of this. I would not have wished for a different life and am grateful for everything that has happened. I celebrate the passing of the years – and look forward to a new year of being led into the unknown by this inner spiritual compulsion.

Bandanna Day

The Sunflower Fund promotes a donor registry to assist people with bone marrow cancer. To fund this they sell colourful sunflower themed bandannas.

12 October is national Bandanna Day and the seminarians were challenged to each buy and wear a bandanna in support of the Sunflower fund.

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Monday, October 10, 2011


Today's news: "South Africa's defeat saw outspoken coach Peter de Villiers announce his resignation and Springbok captain John Smit confirm his Test retirement."

"It was a brilliant journey," said De Villiers. "There's a time to come and a time to go and I think the journey for me is over".

Farewell Peter. You added colour to the game - literally, figuratively, and emotionally.

Thanks John Smit. You are an example of good sportsmanship.

The game will miss both of you ... But the game goes on!
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Friday, October 07, 2011

Today: 7 October.

Today sees a number of significant dates in History:

 Some are sad:

1937 in Bengal (India) a 40 Ft wave sunk 20 000 boats and killed 300 000 people.

1963 Hurrican Flora struck the island of Haiti and Dominican republic and killed        7 190 people

1985 Four Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, killing passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

2001 The Unites States and Great Britain launched an air strike against the Taliban in Afghanistan in revenge for the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks.

 Lord in your Mercy – Hear our Prayer for all those who have lost their lives.”  

Some are happy:

1886 Spain abolishes slavery in Cuba

1953 Chuck Norris emerges from steel and carbon.

1959 Julie Brett gives birth to her son Simon Cowell.

1993 Toni Morrison is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

 "Lord in your mercy - hear our prayer of thanksgiving"

But nothing can match the joy of the birth of Desmond Mpilo Tutu on 7 October 1931.

I give thanks for his life and freely acknowledge the influence he has had in my Christian faith.

"Lord in your mercy - hear our prayer of gratitude"

Happy Birthday – my father in the faith.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Man of God

"a man who, with his powerful deeds and words, proved to be a prophet before God and all the people" (Luke 24:19).

There are many powerful preachers who claim to represent God. Some are powerfully eloquent; some derive power from their political acumen; some exert their power through intellect and great learning; and some exert power through religious rules and sanction. The Gospel of Luke tells of a different kind of power - the power of "deeds and words". This is the power that becomes visible in a life lived in service to other people.

This is neither the strutting of a demagogue, nor the largesse of wealthy donors. This is not the wheeling and dealing of political horse-trading, or the academic superiority of the educated.

Instead, this is a life that finds its power only when it is given away. This is seen when someone chooses to 'spend and be spent' for the benefit of the community. This is best epitomised by Jesus - who gave his life that the world might be redeemed.

There are many who have followed in the footsteps of Jesus - ranging from St Francis of Assisi in antiquity through to Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I choose to place my life at the disposal of my creator. And to use up my remaining days in serving God. Pray for me.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Holding each other accountable.

A key value in the life of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary is Accountability. The Seminarians are held accountable for their lives inside and outside of the classroom. It is this that makes us different from a university. A university exists to impart academic excellence, whereas a Christian seminary is expected to form ministers of the Gospel of Jesus. Therefore every seminarian is evaluated by the seminary staff, both for their academic life, as well as for their spiritual, ethical, and communal life. We sit once a year with each seminarian and give them feedback on this evaluation and work out ways to assist them in their personal growth.

This morning the seminarians participated in an accountability exercise that expanded this system. They filled in a questionnaire that examined the way the president of our seminary leads us. This is the culmination of a process that has seen a performance evaluation of each member of staff by both seminarians, peers and the president. An outside company has now been tasked to do the same for the president.

We believe that healthy accountability leads to a healthy seminary. Pray for us, that we might model accountability in a way that brings renewal to our church and society.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"According to the Will of God"

1 Peter 4:2,8 … for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God….Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

The letter of 1 Peter was possibly written somewhere between 60-80 years after Jesus. It seems to be the work of a student of the Apostle Peter – which was normal practice, especially when one realizes that Peter was an uneducated Galilean fisherman.
It was written at a time when the world seemed to be going mad:

This was a time of great terror:
• The Roman general Titus attacked Jerusalem, and burned the temple to the ground.
• The Emperor Nero set fire to a slum area to build his new palace - and blamed the Christians for the fire.
• The volcano Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii.

At the same time the morals of the Empire were disintegrating:
• The Emperor tried to protect his power by killing his brother and his mother.
• And when his wife could not produce an heir, he threw her out and took his best friend’s wife and made her pregnant instead.
• The crowds of Rome had become bored: and demanded ever more violent entertainment. It is at this time that the Colosseum was built where gladiators fought anything that could be killed.

It is in this context that Peter dictates a letter to those who followed Jesus: a letter that has one recurring thread: we are to live in such a way that we set an example to the world we live in:

1Peter 1:14 Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;

1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.
1Peter 4:2: live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

Do you hear it?
We are to be separated from the standards of this world:
We are to live to a different standard.
Then Peter sums it all up - he sets out the difference:
1Pe 4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

The essential dividing line between the ways of God and human ways lies in this one key concept: “love”.
It is here that our faith becomes difficult – because we are asked to practice a value that is not part of our culture….
You see I am OK with the idea that God loves me : but it is far harder to hear that I am to love other people in the same way!
1Pe 4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.

Be prepared to cover the sins of others with love.
Not a chance!!!!
Those who show me great love will get much love in return
And those who show me little love will get little love in return.
This is the stuff Peter is speaking about:
1Pe 4:2: live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.
We are not to reflect the standards of our world – we are to challenge them!
We are not to mirror our culture - we are to transform it.
It is this that sets the followers of Jesus apart – we dare to be different.
When our culture tells us to hate – we will choose to love.
 When our business environment says to step on people to get ahead – we will choose to serve people.
 When our side of the family wants to ignore the other side of the family – we will choose to go to build bridges.
 When some people of our religion curse the religion of another person – we will bless them.
 And when I see the sin in the life of another person – I will cover that person with love.

An Impossible dream? of course…. If I try to do this in my own strength! But I do not do this alone – I do it in the strength of God:
1Pe 4:10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
1Pe 4:11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Guess where?

This photograph is taken at my favourite spot in all the world. Let the detectives supply the location.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Knowing God

Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God's incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God.

Henri J.M. Nouwen
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Sunday, September 11, 2011


Birthday lunch at Col'Cacchio pizzeria for Jenny and Granny.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Growing up - Jumping down.

Amy jumped off Table Mountain this morning. Well ....more of an abseil than a jump!

My youngest daughter turned 21 on 27 August, and today she celebrated by jumping vertically down rocks on the end of a rope. This epitomises her growth into adulthood. As a little girl Amy clung to her mother for security and reassurance. But she has grown into a person who is courageous, determined, and capable of unexpected surprises. She is completing a BA in English and Film and Media studies, and has also spent the last three years studying Japanese. Amy plans to teach English in Japan next year. And I admire her determination.

Happy Birthday Amy. And may you have an interesting life full of fun, faith and fantasy.
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Jess' birthday cake

Today is spring day in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also my daughter Jessica's birthday.

Since she was little I dreaded this day - because schools make a great fuss of spring day. And so Jess was led to believe that her birthday was the beginning of summer. The class was asked to dress for spring, and every one anticipated a warm, sunny day. Jess would go to school dressed for a summer birthday - and year after year it rained on her birthday!

Today she is a grown up woman: and I want to wish her a fabulous summer as she completes her degree as a music teacher. I wish her lots of joy as she teaches the jazz saxophone. And to remind her that I am very proud of the way she is emerging into adulthood.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

A Rock in the Grass

"the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, a stumbling- stone and a rock to trip over." (1 Peter 2:7-8)

This is an image from the Bible that asks questions about the way we construct our lives. It refers to a stone collected for a building project, but unused. Peter tells of this rejected stone lying on one side, where it caused problems. The builders would trip over it - a rock lying in the grass.

This image appeals to me. The stone is still useful, but now in a subversive way. It reminds the builders of what might have been. It is the stone they curse when they stub their toe - yet at the same time this gives them a moment to pause and reflect. The stone trips up the busy builder as he scurries around the building site doing his important stuff. This then allows a halt to the relentless progress of the day. The stone refuses to go away, and so becomes the constant reminder of other building possibilities.

This is an uncomfortable analogy. It speaks of the interruptions that trip us up as we try to get on with our day: a child demanding attention; a spouse asking for help; a neighbour calling loudly; or a poor person intruding into our space. This is the irritating question asked by a preacher; the uncomfortable feeling when a piece of writing gets under our skin; the disquiet caused by an uneasy conscience. This is the Spirit of God acting like a rock in the grass.

We can ignore it and continue with our important, busy lives. Or we can consider the stone, and allow this interruption to our activity become a turning point, that moment to watch how the Master Builder takes it for the cornerstone - the load-bearing stone that gives shape to the rest of the construction. The rejected stone becomes the stone that gives direction to all the other pretty stones we use to build our lives.

Over the years of my living I have been challenged by this thought from the letter of Peter: to pay attention to the obstacles in my day’s progress. Perhaps they are that concealed rock that ought to become part of my life’s construction. I also aspire to challenge those who live comfortable, uncaring lives – to become a “rock in the grass” to those who live without a moral compass to guide their thoughts and actions.

Pray for the wisdom to discover that important building blocks to our living can lie hidden in the long grass, waiting to trip us up. Pray too for the courage to become that stone that trips people up when they try to construct their lives without giving thought to their ethical and moral responsibilities 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

balloons for a birthday

21 years old today! Jenny is blowing balloons for our youngest daughter Amy.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This weekend our seminarians become missionaries when they travel to the Durban Central Methodist Church. This is an inner-city church, located in the midst of a diverse population drawn from the people that live in southern Africa.

They are joining the Nzondelelo movement for the weekend. This began in 1870 in Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg, born out of a desire for the Christian Gospel to be heard in the words and idiom of Zulu people. Daniel Msimang challenged the white missionaries to trust the Gospel of Jesus in the hands of the indigenous Zulu people. And this missionary movement has become a vehicle for the liberating, joyful invitation to live like Jesus.

Pray for the 90 seminarians, that they might be faithful ambassadors for Jesus.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Covenant Discipleship Groups

The seminarians are divided into small accountability groups. These meet once a week and are a "safe place" where they can support one another as they work out the shape of God's call on their lives.

This group asks only one question: we use the ancient Wesleyan question "How goes it with your soul?" This is not group therapy, where individuals are coerced by the group's will. This is, instead, group accountability. Each member shares her/his life's journey of the past week, sharing joy and asking support in the pain. It meets for one hour, and closes with prayer for one another. And what is said in the group remains in the group.

And lives are being changed as a consequence. Not only are seminarians given a place to express their hopes and fears, but they are discovering companions for this fragile journey of life.

I ask your prayers each Monday evening between 5:30 and 6:30.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven." (Shakespeare)

Tim Attwell used this quote when he preached to us this morning and reminded us of the unconditional grace of God. Our Creator does not crush us for our foolish, sinful living. Instead, like the dew that surprises us in the morning, God continues to bless us with the gifts of life, love, joy and passion. As dew drops to the earth and nourishes the soil - so God goes beyond anger and retribution to a place of nurturing mercy. And in this we are challenged to become merciful towards other people.

"Teach us, Loving God, to participate in your surprising acts of grace as we love even the undeserving".
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


He humbled himself, by becoming obedient! (Philippians 2:8)

We live in a culture that avoids being obedient. Instead we are tempted to live without accountability - following the whim of the moment. Each day I am challenged to submit my will to a Lord who demands my obedience....a demand that humbles my spirit.

I do not find this easy. I am bent out of shape by my surroundings: I sit with my friends/colleagues/associates and am tempted to share their prejudices and world view. But there is a Creator who holds me accountable to values that are bigger than the whim of the moment. I want to be more than I am in this moment - and ask you to pray for me: that I might humble my spirit in order to be obedient to Jesus.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011


I am off to Durban to watch rugby. South Africa is playing Australia and I am a fervent participant in this part of our nation's worship. We gather in large stadiums to sing together, to cheer our team - and even pray (when our team is doing badly). All of us pursue an oval ball - 30 men on the field and 80000 around the perimeter of the field. We don our national colours, and drink beer and shout encouragement.

Isn't it great.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

First dancing shoes!

Kayleigh Duncan is getting ready for the matric dance. Today was about getting shoes. And I am privileged to share in her anticipation and excitement.
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Today we say farewell to Tom and Jeffrey, who have spent the past month with us as exchange students from Cambridge University. They are Methodist probationers who have been stationed at Cambridge University by the Methodist Church in Britain. We wish them God's blessing as they return home. Pray for them as they are sent by us to bring light a country with a troubled soul.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Morning Worship

This morning we welcomed the Rev Jim Harnish of the United Methodist Church, Tampa, Florida. He challenged us to become preachers who can bring the Good News of Jesus into a world that is characterised by bad news.

We were reminded that this can only begin when we are willing to listen to the stories of the people we meet. We cannot speak if we do not first listen! We do not "bring Jesus", but instead we point out what Jesus is already doing. Our task is to point away from ourselves to that which Jesus is doing. And to invite people to join Jesus in his work.

We thank God for the privilege of sharing in God's work. Pray that we might all be faithful.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Women's Day

Today South Africa celebrates the contribution women to our life. This evening's chapel service was led by Rev Diane Worringham - assisted by the wives of our seminarians. Please hold these women in your prayers as they face being expected to assume leadership roles in the congregations served by their husbands.
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Sunday, August 07, 2011


Delm Linscott, the senior pastor of Wesley Methodist Church in Hayfields, Pietermaritzburg, invited us to reflect on the value and importance of women in our society. He used Esther from the Bible as the example to inspire us.

Delm took us to the text: Esther 4:14 "It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!" He reminded us that our lives are intentionally and purposefully lived in the presence of God. And the place we find ourselves could well be exactly the place where we are most useful. So instead of complaining about our circumstances - let us seize the moment that we have as a God-given opportunity of life. Each moment is a moment where we can be exactly what God needs in this place "for such a time as this!"
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This is Roanne. She is a person of enormous courage, who takes on life with grace and laughter.

Her daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of two. (Greek leukos - white, and haima - blood - a cancer of the blood or bone). She and her husband Mark had to cope with chemotherapy and the rehabilitation of a lovely little girl - now growing into a lovely young woman.

And just as the family was back on track Rowanne discovered cancer in her own body. And who says lightening does not strike the same place twice? She is completing her second season of chemotherapy, along with daily antibiotics, vitamins and nausea.

I admire her tenacity and dogged refusal to give in to pessimism and despair. She inspires me.
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