Monday, August 28, 2006

An Act of Penance

The Sunday Argus reported that Adrian Vlok, the former minister of police during the days of Apartheid, visited Frank Chikane and asked his forgiveness for the past. He then took some water and washed Chikane’s feet as an act of penance.

What I found intriguing is that the newspaper chose to describe this as a “bizarre act of penance”. Which part was bizarre: washing feet, or saying sorry? I suspect that what this reporter found strange was the idea of saying sorry when there was no incentive to do so. It is too late for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and too late to avoid prosecution is the State chooses to do so. I suspect that the TRC has conditioned us to the idea that confession is rewarded. I suspect that we have also become used to the idea that confession is a prerequisite for forgiveness.

I came across the following quote by Robert Farrar Capon in the blogspot of Dave Lynch ( that makes sense of this for me:

In respect to the parable of the Prodigal Son...
The fascinating thing also is that when the father embraces the boy who has come home from wasting his life, the boy never gets his confession out of his mouth until after the kiss, until after the embrace. What this says to you and me who have to live with the business of trying to confess our sins is that confession is not a pre-condition of forgiveness. It’s something that you do after you know you have been forgiven. Confession is not something you do in order to get forgiveness. It’s something you do in order to celebrate the forgiveness you got for nothing. Nobody can earn forgiveness. The Prodigal knows he's a dead son. He can't come home as a son, and yet in his father's arms he rises from the dead and then he is able to come to his father's side.

Peter Woods would say that this is a perfect example of the unconditional love of God. Perhaps we should be learning more about forgiveness before confession!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Mission Field Too

To continue from my last blog:
You know – the one about the ordination service?

Well the venue was too small for the event. The pushing, the shoving, and the downright duplicity displayed by people grabbing at seats was reminiscent of the soccer hooligans that get arrested by the police. This was not done by people of another faith. This was the red, black and white uniformed members of the church. The seats were reserved, and tickets were issued. These faithful, but unticketed, members shoved their way in and plonked their bums on the reserved seats. When a plea was made for those without tickets to leave their seats, no one stirred. And people with tickets were shut outside.

Over the exit of this church is a sign informing us that on leaving we are “now entering the mission field”. This sign is profoundly wrong. The mission field is sitting in the pews of the church.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Go and read...

Tony Yengeni - Gus says it well so go check him out:

What an individual can do about making a difference - Jan is doing it:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Last weekend I attended a national gathering of my church. It was an ordination service – a consecration of people to ministry within my corner of the Christian faith.

I found myself amongst my colleagues. Here, amidst the greetings and the reunions, I discovered our deconsecration. We were the Presbyters – those appointed to lay hands on the Ordinands. But in between laying on hands and taking Holy Communion we spent the afternoon comparing financial statistics and numerical attendance; we dropped names and compared influence; we gossiped shamelessly; we wore the clothes of royalty, and left the event in cars of luxury. And I felt……deconsecrated.

Today I found another pastor who is as distressed as I am: Eugene Peterson, writing in Working the Angles, tells of pastors who have become
"a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns--how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money. Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists
You see – I discover these things in my heart too. I am seductively distracted by these things. But I am determined to be different. I see how this church is turning me into something that I do not want to be. And so if being an ordained minister is about church politics, status and power, then I do not want this. So I hereby declare myself ‘unordained’…..cut off from this kind of church practice.

But there is a glimmer of hope: those who made their ordination vows last weekend bring a breath of fresh air with them. I celebrate new colleagues such as Ecclesia, and Hilton, and Delm. They seek to be different. And I look to them to keep reminding me that the pastoral ministry is a response to the call of God, and not of this deeply flawed institution. Pray for me, that I may respond to life with a God pleasing integrity.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bikers are Players

In my last blog I noted my appreciation for “Men who had decided to set aside the cares of their lives and play a bit”. Well here is a player to be admired for his courage under fire. I suspect that all the lunatic, laughable, joyous moments in life are the work of the Creator. And I sense the Creator enjoying this moment.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Smelling the Viscera

Biking evokes all the senses of the body.
My motorcycle leads me to discover the joy of feeling alive in ways that are beyond reason. Biking is visceral. It touches the intestines - the stuff of feeling, and emotion and passion.

I was reminded afresh of this on Sunday.

I met with seven other two-wheeled enthusiasts just outside Port Elizabeth. We did the usual dog-like thing of sniffing around each other bikes to see whose arse sat on what size engine. And then we were off – howling down the highway testing the early morning air. This sunshine-warmed air soon gave way to the chilly Gamtoos valley, where we stopped to pee in the river. Then on through farms that exuded the distinctive smell of cows, followed by the fresh sea air of Cape St Francis. This section of the trip concluded itself with the smells of bacon, egg and sausage. And as we sat around the table I enjoyed the visceral passion of seven other men. Men who had decided to set aside the cares of their lives and play a bit.

And I sensed the Creator playing along with us: a Being who had sent a variety of sensory experiences our way. And I was content.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Gods are Dying

The gods are dying. The gods of this world are sick unto death.

Which gods? The gods that we worship. The gods that our enemies worship. Their sacred names? There is Science, for one: he who was to redeem the world from poverty and disease, on whose mighty shoulders mankind was to be borne onward and upward toward the high stars. There is Communism, that holy one so terrible in his predilection for blood sacrifice but so magnificent in his promise of the messianic age: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Or Democracy, that gentler god with his gospel of freedom for all peoples, including those people who after century of exploitation and neglect at the hands of the older democracies can be set free now only to flounder in danger of falling prey to new exploiters. And we must not leave out from this role of the dying what often passes for the god of the church; the god who sanctifies our foreign policy and our business methods, our political views and our racial prejudices. The god who, bless him, asks so little and promises so much: peace of mind, the end of our inferiority complexes. Go to church and feel better. The family that prays together stays together. Not everybody can afford a pyschiatrist or two weeks of solid rest in the country, but anybody can afford this god. He comes cheap.

These are the gods in whom the world has put its ultimate trust. Some of them are particular gods, and there are plenty of others, each can name for himself. And where are they now? They are dying, dying, and their twilight thickens into the night. Where is the security that they promised? Where is the peace? The terrible truth is that the gods of this world are no more worthy of our ultimate trust than are the men who created them.

And where are we? Stripped of our securities and bereft of our man-made gods, we stand as lonely and hypnotized spectators at the dance of death as it is being played out in our time. With the gods that we have created all going or gone, soon all that may remain is the God who created us, brooding over our darkness.

The former things are passing away and the gods are dying, just as the former things must pass away and the gods must die so that the new things can begin to come to life beneath the dark wings, so that creation can go on happening. My question is this: Are there in us, in you and me now, that recklessness of loving heart, that wild courage, that crazy gladness in the face of darkness and death, that shuddering faithfulness even unto the end of the world, through which new things can come to pass?

If not, God have mercy upon us, for we will soon be as yesterday when it is gone. If so, then we, even we, will have some part in the new heaven and the new earth the God is creating.

Excerpts from the second chapter of Frederick Buechner's book entitled "The Magnificent Defeat"....and thanks to the guys at for taking me to this. If you have not visited this site then I recommend that you do.