Monday, December 29, 2008

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their
pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor


This poem is a Franciscan Benediction found in Phillip Yancey's book "Prayer".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

O Come...

O come, all ye faithless, beat up, and defeated
Come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him, born the Friend of Sinners
O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord

Sing, choirs of vagrants, sing for inspiration
Sing, all ye citizens on earth below,
Glory to God, giving us new courage
O come, let us adore him O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord

Yea Lord, we greet Thee
born to bring us joy
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Hope for the Hopeless, now in flesh appearing
O come, let us adore him
O come, let us adore him O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord

- adapted by J. Barrett Lee, and readapted by P. Grassow

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Sex Please – It’s Christmas

Virginity was not always a Christian virtue.
And neither was Mary always a virgin.

The concept of virginity is older than Christianity. People believed in female virgin gods who protected wildlife, the harvest and natural woodlands. The virginity of the Vestal Virgins was thought to bring luck to the Roman populace. Occasionally, virgins were sacrificed as especially potent offerings (seven male and seven female virgins to the Cretan Minotaur, Iphigenia). Somehow human beings linked the absence of sexual activity with spiritual purity.

And then came Christianity. And idea of purity was indelibly linked to spiritual purity through the ultimate Virgin - Mary the mother of Jesus. The argument went something like this: the Lord and Saviour of all could not have come from an ordinary mother. She needed to be spiritually pure. And so Christianity borrowed from the Graeco/Roman concepts of virginal purity and suggested that Mary remained a virgin. This was a virginity before becoming mother to Jesus, and forever afterwards. (And some would add even during giving birth to Jesus.)

Why would a lack of sexual experience render anyone pure? One can be a glutton, or a covetous egotist, or an emotionally manipulative schemer, but your virginity guarantees your spiritual purity. Or does it mean that if you are a virgin then these sins will never enter your life?

And so Christmas rolls around – and people venerate Mary for remaining a “Virgin most pure” and fuck themselves silly at office parties and New Year binges. Like the ancient Romans, we want virgins for good luck – just as long as that virgin is not me!

(The photograph is taken by Margolove and is posted at:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


For those who asked me about the drawing of Jesus with two weeks to go - it is done by David Hayward, who describes himself as "an artist trapped inside a pastor’s body". Go and check him out here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Defending a Woman's Integrity

She was an unmarried pregnant girl. Probably fifteen or sixteen years old. To complicate matters she was engaged to be married, but her fiancée was not the father of her baby. To make matters worse she lived in a rural village that was bound by years of religious tradition that expected girls like her to be stoned to death.

Read more about this in Matthew 1: 18-25.

This is a common story that still ranges across the communities of our world.
• 4 May 2007: Du’a Khalil Aswad was beaten, kicked and stoned for 30 minutes at the hands of a lynch mob before one of her attackers launched a carefully aimed fatal blow. The murder was carried out in public, watched by hundreds of men cheering and yelling. Du’a’s crime? To fall in love with a Sunni boy. Her family practised the Yezidi religion
• Tehran, 5 Feb 08: Two sisters have been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for allegedly committing adultery. Lawyer for the sisters, Jabbar Solati, said they faced the death penalty after a previous sentence of 99 lashes had been carried out. The two sisters, Azar and Zohreh Kabiri, 27 and 28 years-old respectively come from the suburb of Shahriar, north of Tehran. Both are accused of an extra-marital affair and each has one child.
• Tehran, 18 Feb. 08: A man known as Sharif has reportedly stoned his fourteen-year-old daughter to death in southeastern Iran because for allegedly having a relationship with a man.
• On 28 October 2008 Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, 13, was killed by 50 Somali men who stoned her in a stadium in Kismayu in front of about 1,000 spectators.

Each of these situations is about men who are more powerful than women. And each required a man to stand up and defend the woman. This week in our church life we remember such a man: he was Joseph of Nazareth. He took the pregnant woman as his wife and defended her honour (Matt 1:24). And Mary gave birth to Jesus – and the rest is history! If more men were willing to defend women against men, we would have the possibility of a better society. Let us all learn from the example of Joseph.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Plenty of Potential

This week we hosted 150 children and 34 leaders.

My church runs a holiday club in the first week of the December school holidays. This is a free public service to our community, which is intended to assist parents who do not know what to do with their children while they go to work. The children are with us from 8:30 – 1:00 every day and are kept occupied with songs, crafts, games and a teaching component (2008 theme was accepting one another – in the light of the Xenophobia of this year).

It is an awesome privilege to work with both the children, and the holiday club leaders. I see this as an opportunity to show love to children, many of whom come from homes where parents are stressed, or absent. It is also an opportunity to develop leadership skills. The leaders are mostly in High School, with the senior leaders being University Students.

We have done this for 31 consecutive years – and now we are getting the children of parents who themselves were in holiday club. These parents have gone on to live full and interesting lives – often in other parts of the world. And I want to believe that we have had a part in uncovering the gifts God has given them, and encouraging them to trust God’s love for themselves.

I am extremely proud of the dedication of the leaders, who run the week with no thought of their own comfort or needs. They are the heroes of this week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Second Advent

The depletion of a contemporary recognition of the radically political character of Advent is in large measure occasioned by the illiteracy of church folk about the Second Advent and, in the mainline churches, the persistent quietism of pastors, preachers, and teachers about the Second Coming. That topic has been allowed to be preempted and usurped by astrologers, sectarian quacks, and multifarious hucksters. Yet it is impossible to apprehend either Advent except through the relationship of both Advents.

-William Stringfellow

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Proud Dad

There are moments to brag - and today is one of them.
Because my daughter Lisa graduated today, with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Town.

Over the past few years she has struggled with a hormonal disorder that drained all her energy. She often struggled to concentrate, and even more often needed to sleep when she got back from her lectures. But she persevered. And I am proud of her persistence.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Cup of Tea

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
Peace, peace, peace
- Satish Kumar

Satish Kumar is an Indian, currently living in England, who has been a Jain monk and a nuclear disarmament advocate. In 1962 Satish Kumar and a companion undertook a peace walk from India to the four corners of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London and the U.S. They decided to carry no money on their trip, which they called it a 'Pilgrimage for peace'.

While on their way to Moscow they met two women outside a tea factory. After explaining what they were doing one of the women gave them four tea bags, one to be delivered to each of the leaders of the four nuclear powers and to also deliver a message, “when you think you need to press the button, stop for a minute and have a fresh cup of tea”. This further inspired their journey and became in part the reason for it. They eventually delivered the 'peace tea' to the leaders of 4 of the nuclear powers.

He is the guiding spirit behind a number of ecological, spiritual and educational ventures in Britain. Satish teaches, lectures and runs workshops internationally on reverential ecology, holistic education and voluntary simplicity.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toy Run 08

They came in their thousands
• 8 000 motorbikes
• 24 000 toys
• And countless thousands of spectators lining the route and filling Maynardville showgrounds.

Today was Cape Town’s annual Charity Toy Run (the Teddy Bear Run). I proudly stuck my blond little cutie doll on the front of the bike; my brunette little cutie climbed on the back of the bike and we joined thousands of bikes on the M5 highway.

It was a spectacle of biking: everyone who owned two wheels was there: along with the thundering Harleys and the engine popping Yammies and Suzies, were chemist delivery bikes, schoolboys on 125’s; ancient scooters put-putting at 60kph; a one armed rider, and chrome and rubber and noise. Everyone was a hero for the day. Everyone carried a toy, which was delivered at Maynardville for Christmas presents. And Everyone shared in a happy moment that was community life in Cape Town.

And I loved every moment of it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sharing Our Blessings

United States President-elect Barack Obama was asked in an interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News if U.S. banking executives should forgo large bonuses. He replied:
“I think they should. That's an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, 'I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times.’"

Perhaps we all can decide that Christmas is not the moment for getting, but instead an opportunity for giving. There are many people in desperate conditions this Christmas: For example an outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe has killed 300 people. Thousands of people are fleeing across the border with sick relatives to South Africa for treatment. Health workers in Zimbabwe and South Africa see this situation as a national disaster.

Perhaps you and I can find ways of finding someone who is not experiencing Christmas-time as a blessing. And we can make some sacrifice to help someone else so that they can find joy in this season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Will You Go.....?

“Will you go where you are sent?”

This question is asked of every Methodist Minister when we candidate for the ministry of this church. And we all say “yes” – because if we do not then we will not be accepted! Of course we do not admit this at the time, saying instead that we really want to serve Jesus and will trust that “God knows best for my life”. But as the years pass this question is not as simple to answer as it might have been at candidature.

This is because we have other obligations that demand responsible choices of us. For example: Is my promise to go where the church sends me greater than my marriage promise to honour my wife in her choices of career, or housing preferences? I also have discoved that there are dark and devious places in this church to which I have given my life: the kind of dark places that will move me to solve other people’s political agendas, or to fill a gap caused by someone else’s mistakes. And so I am drawn into taking responsibility for my assent to the places the church wants to move me. “Will you go” continues to be a question that haunts each of us who work for this church.

After 30 years working for this church, I was again asked this question. My church leadership wanted someone to move immediately to Pretoria to take up a training post. I knew that I would go alone because my wife has a deeply fulfilling job here in Cape Town, and my children are committed to studies at the University of Cape Town. I knew too that I am not free to immediately abandon the congregation that I am serving. I tried suggesting that the job could be done from Cape Town, but the leadership disagreed.

So I did not get the job... mainly because I was given the privilege of being free to choose. And I realise that the tension between freedom of choice and the consequences of my choices will always be with me. And I continue to trust that my life has significance in the dreams of God.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There were five bikes in a row ... an even split between Dakars and GS 650’s and right at the end a classic thumper: an XT 500. And on the stoep of the restaurant were their owners tucking in to a traditional breakfast of sausage, eggs and bacon.

I left Port Elizabeth at 6am, scampering through a drizzle all the way down the Garden Route. It only stopped raining at Plettenberg Bay, where I stopped to refuel, before pushing on to Albertinia. Which is where I found this posse of bikers. They were returning from a bike rally in Heidelberg, 80 km down the road. They were a group of older guys (yes... I know “Like me”) who had thinning hair and age-lined faces. They were not trying to be “heavy bikers” – in fact one of them was wearing a floppy gardening hat, while another wore a flimsy jacket from Macro. And their conversation went something like this:
“Thanks for waiting for me guys”
“Well that’s what we do”
“When I go over 100kph the front wheel begins to drift”
“That’s because your thumper can’t go any faster”
“Well I didn’t know what to do – so I just moered on”
“No broer – you just throttle back and the compression will pull you right”

And I treasured this moment: this was not about bragging who had the best wheels, or who could do the best wheelie. These men were respectful of their friendship; they hung together; they were brother bikers – and when they pulled off they surrounded the XT 500 and ensured that he was part of the group.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going up a Hill

The ride from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown took me from the sea crashing alongside the road up into mist shrouded hills that dripped tiny water droplets down my neck. The road has some wonderful sweeping corners, and more than enough undulating hills that invite a biker to twist the right wrist wide open This monastery is just outside Grajamstown, where I will spend the next 4 days in silence. Well not totally silent, because I will join the monks in their regular cycle of prayer through the day. .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chrismas requests

Today I managed to sort out my Christmas wish list. Father Christmas was visiting the local Port Elizabeth mall and we agreed on the important items: I really need some stuff - like wisdom in knowing when to offer my daughters advice and when to trust their judgement and keep my mouth shut; and stuff like big ears to listen more carefully to my wife before forming an opinion; and stuff like many hours of patience with the WP rugby team and the Stormers Tri-nations team - oh yes, also a few stocking fillers like a laptop, and a Garmin GPS, and a new pickup for my 12 string guitar..... nothing complicated really. And I thanked His Red Whiskership for his help and wished him well over the next month of listening to lust and desire. Who knows - perhaps somewhere we might look past our acquisative impulses and ask for an encounter with the Christ who inspired the season.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Today I flew from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and back. And i seemed to spend so much time just waiting. I was summonsed by head office to interview for a job, which exposes the tension between being pastor to a local church and being at the disposal of my Bishop. I am committed to my local congregation for three more years, but the Bishops of the church can give me other work too. But today the work was in the waiting. I waited an hour to board the aircraft. I flew for 90 minutes. I waited 90 minutes to be collected in Johannesburg. I waited an hour after the interview for a lift back to the airport. And now that my flight has been delayed I will have waited 3 hours to catch the 90 minute flight bck to PE. Today I have learned two things: the vast majority of my fellow citizens wait patiently every day for transport, while I am amongst the fortunate few who does not wait because I own private transport. Secondly, if I get given this new responsibility I will get a laptop to cope with airports.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Downhill all the Way

Uniondale was the result of two villages (each centred around a Dutch Reformed Church) combining into one town. Sadly there are still two Dutch Reformed Churches, divided racially. The coloured Dominee was recently invited to preach in the 'other' church and members walked out to begin their own racially pure church. The trip from Uniondale was an easy 3 hour run. I encountered mist and rain, but the riding was an easy downhill run. One of the joys of being on a motorcycle is the immediacy of the environment to the senses. The wet earth leaves a rich loamy air. At Kareedouw I noted the pungent smell of tarred log poles. And passing Jeffries Bay brought the tangy salt air of this world renowned surfing heaven. I am now in Port Elizabeth ... This photograph is of my bike ioutside the Westering Methodist Church where my friend (and colleague) Charmaine is the minister.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wet and Wild

I am in Uniondale. And this guesthouse, run by Sue, is exactly what I need so that I can recover from a day of gusting winds and continuous rain. Riding over DuToits Kloof Pass was made interesting by the tree branches littering the road (on principle no biker goes through the tunnle because we get charged the same as a car and trailer). I crossed the bridge at the entrance to Montagu with water just easing over the edge onto the road. The traffic authorities closed the road soon after this. Lunch at the Country Pumpkin in Barrydale is obligatory because the owner personally welcomes bikers, offering a tot of Old Brown and ensuring that each biker leaves with a Route 62 metal badge.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Road Trip

Tomorrow I get on my BMW 11:50 GS and head west out of Cape Town.
It will be raining so I will be wearing rain gear over my bike jacket, leather pants and bike boots.
And I will feel great.
Because I will be on leave for two weeks.

From Cape Town through Robertson and up Route 62 to Port Elizabeth. And to Grahamstown. And home along the Garden Route.

I will spend some time with my friend and colleague Charmaine. And I will spend some time praying in a Benedictine Monastery. And in between I will be riding my motorcycle.

I will keep you posted.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Breakfast with Jacob Zuma

I am eating breakfast with Jacob Zuma.... and anorher hundred or so people. The Cape Town Press Club has invited the ANC President to speak. And I am curious. I do not agree with Jacob Zuma and dislike his personal moraliry. But he is a powerful politician who profoundly affects our country. He is a charming man with a sense of humour and a lovely chuckle. He is good at responding warmly to hostile questions. And like any good politician he avoids answering difficult questions by offering pleasantaries and a smile. I still do not agree with Jacob Zuma, but I will admit that he is wonderfully warm and friendly.

I am back home, and on reflection I am deeply uncomfortable with Jacob Zuma: He is good at reading his audience and keeping them happy. But he would not answer the questions that really matterted:
* Should he not reploy Thabo Mbeki away from mediating in Zimbabwe? he said that it was up to SADEC to deal with Zimbabwe, and that the ANC could not take a position on this matter.
* Should he not stop singing Umshini wam? He agreed that we must oppose any political violence and teach the young people to live peacefully - while ignoring the question
* Should he not silence Julius Malema? Zuma said that Malema is like any other hot headed young man who will mature with time. "Even Nelson Mandela was hot headed as a young man". But he did not say that he opposed Malema's utterances.
* Would is not be good to keep the current President of South Africa in office for a five year term for the sake of stasbility? Zuma replied that he had no opinion on this because he was the servant of the ANC.

Personally, I do not want someone who keeps us warm and fuzzy - I want a leader who is willing to stand up and give an opinion. And Jacob Zuma did not do this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I used to be a runner.

In fact I have run lots (and lots) of very long road races, many more 21km races, and countless 10km races as training runs. But I have stopped running. As I wonder why, I realise that it is because I have achieved all the goals I set for myself: I built a clock out of the 12 medals from the 90km Comrades Marathon; I got my double blue number for the 56km Two Oceans (more than 20 races); I ran a sub three hour marathon, a 94 minute 21km, and a 40 minute 10km race. And so I ran out of motivation to run.

Now my legs are tired, my knees are sore, I am 15kg heavier, and I am grumpy.
So I have decided to run the Two Oceans Half marathon (21km). This asks me to begin from scratch. I have not run since the middle of March. And I am asking you to help me:

For those who believe that God is the great Rule Giver: please send me messages from time to time reminding me that my salvation depends on me reading running books every day, and running regularly, and donating 10% of my time to the road, and confessing each moment when I failed to meet my training targets. You can add a rebuke such as: “You need to reform your life”, or “You are backrunning (aka ‘backsliding’), or “You will not be part of the crowd on the Great day of Reckoning.

For those who believe God to be Grace and Love and Peace: please send me messages that encourage me to see benefit in my suffering, and to discover that I am accepted on the road ‘just as I am’, and that all are welcome to run – even someone who has lost the faith as badly as me – and that I must run with determination because that great cloud of witnesses is waiting for me.

For those who look instead to the power of books, please send me messages that ask me to pursue “the Road Less Travelled”, and discover the “Long Road to Freedom”, and take “the Long Way Round”.

Just do not tell me that I am fat, and old, and lazy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

...Thy Kindom Come...

You are a Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in ... so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come.
- Henri Nouwen

Friday, October 24, 2008

Never Again

I will not travel this road again. For the past seven yearsI have driven the road from my home to the school every school day - twice. Today is my youngest daughter's Valedictory. Amy has completed her formal schooling, except for her final examinations. I am watching her with pride as she is awarded a music prize and honours for academic achievement. And my mind remembers her desperation not to be late for school [she never was], her quiet glare when I was late fetching her [I often was], her group of five good friends who hung together through the high school years, her outrage when she saw injustice... Oh the memories are sweet. I am proud of this little girl who has grown into a dignified young woman. And I know that I will never travel this road again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Diversity seeking Unity

I have spent the last three days at a meeting of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. We are trying to define a response for the MCSA to the Civil Unions of Gay\Lesbian Christians. This has identified two deeply held convictions that asks for mutual respect and understanding. It is hard to eat\talk\pray\sing with someone who believes something diametrically opposed to my own views. But I am convinced that following Jesus will always ask us to travel together with people who are 'not like me'. And it is in this encounter that we find opportunity for growth. Brian Jennings puts it this way: 'When we stand at the foot of the Cross we leave our differences up to Jesus'.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend.

Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this way Abraham went forth from his father, not knowing where he was going. That is the way of the cross. You cannot find it in yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man.

Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. It is to this path that I call you, and in this sense that you must be my disciple.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), quoted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The Cost of Discipleship."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A New Jerusalem

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. 2 And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband

We all have moments when we struggle with the way things are – and long for things to change: for example we have prayed for a renewed Zimbabwe; we long for better political leadership in our country; we seek new ways of managing international finance; and many of us want better physical and emotional health. As with the words of Revelation 21 vs 1 & 2: we wish to the first heaven and earth to disappear and for the New Jerusalem to become a reality.

But this is often a longing for that looks backwards – to the days when we imagine that things were simpler, and presumably better. We want a “Garden of Eden” that is less complicated than our present lives. But the image offered by Revelation looks forward and not back. It looks forward to a City, and not back to a Garden. It suggests an image of God being with us in the complexity, messiness and confusion of the city.

The Good News of our faith is that God is not “somewhere else” where life is tranquil and uncluttered. God is with us in the complications, the pressures and the disorganisation that is our life here on earth. And God “comes down out of heaven” to be with us. And God works alongside us like a husband with a bride in renewing the earth. God works in partnership with human beings as we struggle to find a just and equitable financial system for our world; God assists us as we work for a new South Africa; And God is in our homes as we build relationships with family and friends. Let us celebrate the unfolding new Jerusalem/ the new Earth with us in 2008.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Morality and the World's Resources

Feeling that morality has nothing to do with the way you use the resources of the world is an idea that can’t persist much longer. If it does, then we won’t.
- Barbara Kingsolver (Backtalk)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Roy died a week ago. And I find it hard to accept. He has been a friend for the past 21 years. He baptised my daughter Amy, and 16 years later he laid hands on her and confirmed her faith in Jesus. He helped me understand ministry in a Coloured culture. He told wonderfully crafted stories of his experiences in Namaqualand and Namibia. And he loved nothing better than bragging about his grandchildren. Roy - Thank you for enriching my life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

You Inspire Me

This is Jenny. She is very, very bright. But she has cerebral palsy, which means that she finds herself trapped in a body that does not listen to the instructions of her brain. She has muscle spasms and spends her day in a wheelchair. Jenny lives with her parents: her Mom is being crushed by emphysema and her Dad is slowly fading away from Alzheimer's disease. So the roles have reversed and Jenny now cares for her parents. Yet she gets up each morning and gets on with her day. She has a wicked sense of humour and a delightfulyl subversive desire to undermine stereotypes about people who are differently abled. So when I have moments when I am tempted to feel sorry for myself I am inspired by Jenny. She prevents my self pity. Thank you Jenny.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Hotel

This is the oldest colonial hotel in South Africa. Built in 1862. it is in the main road of Riebeek Kasteel, and unsurprisingly is called the Royal Hotel. Royalty is long gone and today the farmers are in the pub and their bakkies are parked outside.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Fireman's home

Tulbach is typical of many South African villages - it boasts a Church Street. The thing that sets this town apart is that its Church Street consists entirely of restored houses from the Cape Dutch period. This is a picture of the home of the fire chief of two hundred and fifty years ago. This was the era of water furrows alongside the roads and thatched roofed homes. The task of the firechief was to ensure that water always flowed in the furrows, that the chimneys of the homes were clean, and that nobody smoked a pipe in the street. I suspect that it is far more complicated today.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Riebeek K

On 3 February 1661 a party of Dutch explorers discovered a fertile valley that they named Riebeek Valley, in honour of their commanding officer. Here they established an outpost for the Dutch East India Company's needs. In time this became Riebeek Kasteel, a Swartland town that produced two South African Prime Ministers: Jan Smuts and DF Malan. I am here for the weekend, along with Jenny and her mom. We are staying in the Kasteelberg Country inn to celebrate Granny's 84th birthday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a Week!

Whew! So much has happened in South Africa in the past 10 days: The financial markets are like a rollercoaster; South Africa has a new President; and we have lost many of our national political leaders.

I believe it is important that we must not just accept the world as it happens around us: we need to question, and probe, and wonder what God’s opinion might be. So let me offer some of my own thoughts. I believe that much of what we have seen is fuelled by un-Godly motives:

1. South Africa has lost political leaders. No one ever thought that they were perfect, because they all had both strengths and weaknesses. What disturbs me is the way in which they left us. There is a spirit of vengeance in our country’s dominant political party. The determination to remove President Mbeki in a way that humiliated him can only be viewed as revenge by those who support Jacob Zuma. And no doubt many cabinet ministers felt the cold chill of this retribution too. This is not the way of God! Godly people do not put the knife into the back of a political comrade. Godly people can differ in opinion, but would always seek to respect the dignity of another person. “Vengeance in mine... says the Lord” (Romans 12:19) reminds us not to play God in another person’s life by exacting revenge.

2. We have seen lots of money change hands on the markets – banks have closed, building societies and banks have been bought out by the US Government, and many people have lost their work. This because of a combination of factors: people have taken loans that they cannot afford; the bonuses of many business leaders depend on companies profiting off people spending more than they have; and still to come is the crash of the credit card industry. We in South Africa are not immune to this. We want stuff that we cannot afford, and so buy on credit, and from house bonds, and from micro-lenders. We want immediate satisfaction and will not wait to get it. There is a name for this in the Bible: it is called “Greed”. Greed is not God’s way for our lives. We are to “put to death... greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5) Let us learn to live with less, and trust God for our needs.

Pray for our land – and our world - to learn and practice God’s values.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today, the same Christ is in people who are unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the state and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding.

- Mother Teresa

Monday, September 15, 2008


The most powerful nation on earth discovers that it is powerless:

Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Ike has humbled America's high-flying energy capital and the lives of millions of people across southeast Texas have been dismantled indefinitely by the loss of everything from power and water, to property and even people’s lives.

Wall Street crisis. In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street history, Lehman Brothers said it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself to Bank of America for about $50 billion.

Afghanistan. One of the most experienced Western envoys in Afghanistan said that conditions there had become the worst since 2001.

Pray for the United States of America:
- For strength to those who suffer loss.... that they have courage to put their lives together again.
- For humility for the President, Senators, Generals and business moguls who think that they rule the world.... to discover that their fragile power is not theirs to own, but rather theirs to benefit all of humanity, including the Muslims, and the Mexicans, and the socialists, and the gays, and all others crushed by “the American way of life”.
- For wisdom for the American people .... that they will choose a leader who seeks to serve the world rather than dominate it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dragons and Beasts

The Book of Revelation is a series of graphic images: some deeply disturbing, and some wonderfully comforting. All the images are intended to expose the things that frighten us – and offer the comfort of a God who conquers evil:
Today I shared the images of Dragons and Beasts with my congregation: Revelation 12 & 13.

This is the stuff of nightmares:
• A huge red dragon with 7 heads, ten horns, and a long tail.
• A beast that emerged from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. This beast looked like a leopard, with feet like a bear's feet and a mouth like a lion's mouth.
• And another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon
Clearly symbolic language.... written for an audience who would understand the symbolism. There has been much speculation since then:
- Some say the Dragon with 7 heads – represents the seven hills of Rome...
others say no it is the seven hills of Jerusalem.
- Some argue that the 10 horns represent the ten emperors of Rome,
and other say that they are the 10 rulers of Israel.

There are 500 000 articles about this on the internet...
I am not going to try to link this to historical events of the past or future: I would rather invite us to discover the spiritual truth that has kept this book alive. This is the truth that has transcended every generation.

What do we have?
A dragon that tried to kill the son of the woman, “whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12). But her son escaped death and now rules over all nations from the throne of God.
Not too difficult: this is the conflict between evil, which tried to kill Jesus; and the power of God, which raised Jesus to life.

Then we have a frustrated Dragon: That then tries to kill the work of the Son of God.And does this by means of two beasts.
1. A beast from the sea
2. A beast from the earth.

What do we know about the beast from the sea?
Rev 13:3 The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast.
Rev 13:4 They worshiped the beast also, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?"
Rev 13:5 The beast was allowed to make proud claims which were insulting to God
Rev 13:7 It was allowed to fight against God's people and to defeat them, and it was given authority over every tribe, nation, language, and race.

Here is a beast that invites people to follow it
A beast that claims authority over every tribe, nation, language and race
Here is a beast that makes proud claims that insult the authority of God.
This is the beast of politicians and political systems.
Of course we need politicians, and political systems.
– but we need them to remember that they are accountable to God.

But there is a second beast:
Rev 13:11 Then I saw another beast, which came up out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb's horns, and it spoke like a dragon.
Rev 13:12 It used the vast authority of the first beast in its presence. It forced the earth and all who live on it to worship the first beast.

This beast seems to be like the Lamb (“Two horns like lambs horns”) but it is not the lamb because it speaks like a dragon:
This is the beast of religious distortion:
This is the beast that uses its vast authority to serve the first beast:
Where religious values are placed at the service of political values:
This is the moment when politicians claim that their political plans are the will of God.

So where does all this leave us?
With the affirmation that all power, in heaven and on earth belongs to God.
Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, "Now God's salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King!God delegates authority to human beings –
- Political power is used in ordering towns and countries
- Religious power is practiced in church communities
But beware: they can become beasts that use their power to frighten people
They can become beasts that misuse their power to undermine the dream of God.

So when Jacob Zuma tells an ANC rally in Khayelitsha that it was the will of God that the ANC ruled the country, or that “the ANC will rule until Jesus returns” – the beast is loose in the land. But, like all political systems and leaders, this beast too will pass, and God’s rule will continue.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chile's 9/11 terror.

Thirty-five years ago today Chile faced its own 9/11 act of terror: the army of Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Socialist President Salvador Allende.

President Allende’s socialist views collided with the uncompromising stand of a formerly pragmatic political center and with the ferocious defense of the status quo by the right. At the same time the global standoff between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics led to Allende's Chile being judged a threat by President Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger. The White House declared a silent war to destabilize the Allende administration: slashing aid, denying export credits, refusing to renegotiate the Chilean debt, discouraging investment by American businesses and covertly funding strikes and terrorist actions against the government.

Many of those who backed the 1973 coup had wanted the armed forces to simply restore order and then call for elections. Pinochet did initially bring about order after a period of instability and chaos. But having seized power he decided to keep it. He ordered the murder of union leaders, the exile of thousands of dissidents, the torture and disappearance of political prisoners, and the terrorist bombing of exiled leaders.

But during that time, he also changed Chile’s economic system. Pinochet introduced major free-market reforms inspired by University of Chicago Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. Inflation was drastically reduced, state-owned businesses and social security were privatized, the financial system was deregulated, external tariffs were lowered and non-traditional exports fostered. There was a social cost though: Income distribution deteriorated, and Chileans living under the poverty line climbed from 20% in 1970 to almost 40% by 1988.

In 1998, a judge in Spain issued an arrest/extradition warrant for Pinochet in connection with the slayings of political prisoners, and the former dictator was arrested in London. He was returned to Chile, where he was hounded by those seeking justice up until his death in 2006, although he was never sentenced for his crimes.

Pinochet's memory still conjures up different meanings for different people. Some still view him as the leader who transformed Chile into a prosperous economy -- despite the human and social costs. But as Chile continues to prosper under democratic rule, Pinochet more likely will be remembered as a notorious symbol of repression, one that casts a shadow on the history of U.S. foreign policy.

Pray for the families of all those who disappeared.
And for wisdom for those who have authority and influence in Chile.
And that the USA will stop interfering in the lives of countries that disagree with US interests.

(with appreciation to the Los Angeles Times:,0,2739862.story)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

God used Joe Slovo, an athiest communist, to add impetus to South Africa's transformation. So says one of the chief negotiators of the transition, Roelf Meyer. He bluntly reminded us that God uses anyone to achieve God's will. I am participating in a conference in George. It seeks to move the church out of the building into the community. And last night we were reminded that God is already at work in South Africa - the challenge is for Christian people to join God. Roelf is positive about our land and our metamorphasis. I speak this morning and will be asking people where they need to be transformed, in order to bring transformation to South Africa.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Dave wants me to buy a painting.

He was with me in the South African Airforce in 1976. I did not know him then, be we have worked out that we were both at Technical Services base at the same time. I was a Physical Training Instructor, and he was one of the apprentice Aircraft Technicians that I chased around the parade ground.

We laugh about it today. But the circumstances are greatly changed. I left the SAAF and went to become a pastor in the Methodist Church, while he remained, and eventually became a Sergeant Major. Dave reminisces nostalgically about the evenings in the pub with all his SAAF mates. These are the same mates who persuaded him to resign - tempted by the prospect of a pension payout. These are the mates who then helped him spend his money. And now he lives on the streets.

Dave survives by painting aircraft on hardboard offcuts.
And he wants me to buy a painting, so that he can get some money for materials. The Ysterplaat airshow is around the corner, and he wants to sell his paintings there.

So I paid a deposit on a painting of a Cheetah in a hanger in Hoetspruit. It is still in his mind, and perhaps it might arrive in my office one day.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Isn’t Life Strange?

I have often written about Joe.
A man who has lived nearly sixty years, many of them plagued by an addiction to alcohol. A man of great kindness and sensitivity. A man who is able to turn his hand to many tasks, including woodwork, painting, gardening, welding, shaft-sinking on the mines, and much else. A man who is willing to work very hard.

But a man who has his own rhythm of life. After being extremely responsible for a while, needs to take off: which results in him sitting with a friend or two on the street corner outside my church doing nothing but drink from a secreted bottle. He is then either robbed, or does something stupid like get into a fight, and that is enough for him to sober up and begin the cycle with sobriety again.

Well here is the next chapter:
Lynn, my church administrator, came across an advertisement in the local “You Magazine”. This had been placed by two daughters looking for their father whose last known address was |somewhere in Cape Town. And she recognized Joe’s name, and the names of his daughters. He had often spoken of them, but had said that he could not contact them because he had messed up their lives too much. (He often added that he had done something terrible and could not go back.) Lynn showed the advert to Joe and he confirmed that it was about him. And he asked me to contact them as he feared that it was bad news.

So I phoned his daughter, who cried tears of disbelief. They have not heard from him in 12 years, and thought him dead. So they have been placing an advert each month for a year in the hope that someone knew him. And she told a complicated story. A story of a father who was in and out of her life. A father who was both lovable and kind, and irresponsible and unpredictable. A father who drove the family to exasperation, and who had been missed by his four daughters. As they got older so they longed for their father. And longed for a grandfather for their children.

I have spend time in telephone conversations with her. And she is under no illusions. All they want is to see him. And for the grandchildren to see their grandfather.

So yesterday Joe climbed on a plane to Johannesburg.
Pray for this family reunion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Peter is a car guard/traffic co-ordinator in the road outside of my office.
He used to work on the mines with Joe. He has also worked on oil rigs as a machine operator, and in his younger days he restored old cars. He has a daughter in a nearby town, which has been fostered by a caring family. He tells of how he once travelled to this town and sat across the road from her home to catch a glimpse of her. He did not want her to see him because he was ashamed of being on the streets.
He has been looking after traffic for about 5 years. And for four of those years he has slept in the front garden of the church at night. Many of these nights has seen him raging drunk by 8pm. He has destroyed our plants. He has used the garden as a toilet and our drains as a storage place for his clothes.

Now Peter wants to clean up his life. He met Beverly, who has managed to bring him closer to sobriety. They have been attending the early morning Sunday service for about six months. They sit right at the back, so as to be anonymous. More recently they took a small step out of the shadows: they asked if I meant what I said at the beginning of Holy Communion. I was blank: “What did I say?” “That all are welcome to Communion”. I replied that this is the place to discover the welcome of God. It is part of our mission statement that we are a “church for all people”. And so they have been coming forward for Communion....with great hesitation and gratitude for being able to participate in something that has deep spiritual significance for them.
Peter does not rage as he used to. Do not misunderstand me: Peter still struggles with alcohol. And I doubt that there are any days that he is able to avoid it completely. But he is much calmer.

Tonight he arrived at an orientation evening that welcomes new members. He and Beverly want to join the church. He was not entirely sober. But he had showered and was dressed in clean clothes. He told the group that he has landed up on the street, and wants to change his life. And that this church was helping him to do it.
The thing that encouraged me – was the way the other new members accepted him. I do not want to chalk him up as a victory (or carve a notch on my Bible for another conquered soul). But I do ask your prayers for someone who struggles very hard against the things that tie him in knots. And who sometimes wins.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Seven Weeks

We drove from George through to the Karoo via Seweweekspoort (Seven Weeks Pass). This winds for 17km through the mountains between Ladismith and Laingsburg, crossing the stream 23 times, while the mountain slopes on both sides reach 1500 - 2000m above sea level. The magnificent vertical rock folds, reaching for the skies on both sides of the road, reflecting volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

There are several stories explaining the origin of the name:
it took 7 weeks for mounted troops to escort a gang of highway robbers through the Poort; or it took 7 weeks for the authorities to catch a stock-thief who fled into the mountains; or it took 7 weeks for a gang of brandy smugglers to return through the Poort from Beaufort West. The most likely explanation is that the Poort was named after a missionary from Amalienstein, Reverend Zerwick. In time the local population turned “Zerwickspoort” into “Seweweekspoort”.

Irrespective of the name, it is worth the drive to appreciate the beauty of a Creative God.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Local Preachers

The Local Preacher is key to sustaining the work of many small Methodist churches. They are lay people who have experienced a call to preach. After training they are given authority to preach in local congregations. i am in George training 100 preachers. They represent the three language/cultural groups of the Western Cape. And I am stimulated by rhis diversity and the challenge of cross-cultural teaching. i love being in South Africa.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Outeniqua Mountains

The Outeniqua Mountains tower over the City of George (yes it is a city because it has an Anglican Bishop and Cathedral). The name is from the indigenous people who lived here before the settlers arrived, and means "they who gather honey". This from a mountain covered in heather, bees, and....honey! It is sweet to have arrived.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Visiting George

I am going to visit George.

For those who are not in South Africa, George is a town about 400km from Cape Town, proclaimed on St George’s Day 23 April 1811 and named after the reigning British monarch, King George III. The town originated in 1776 when the Dutch East India Company established an outpost for the provision of timber. It had 12 woodcutters, a blacksmith, wagon maker and 200 oxen plus families and hangers on. Gold was discovered in this area in 1873 and by 1875 there were 1500 diggers.

My personal interest is that in 1875 my great-great grandfather landed in Mossel Bay and moved into the George area. The family soon established a butchery in Oudtshoorn, and there has been family in George ever since.

The Methodist Church has invited me to teach. I will spend time with men at a breakfast on Saturday morning; I will be training preachers on Saturday afternoon; and I will preach at the morning services on Sunday. And I count myself privileged:
• Privileged to be able to return to the land of my ancestors.
• Privileged that people actually want to hear what I say.
• And privileged to be able to go with my wife Jenny.

We will return home via route 66, and the Seweweekspoort Pass (Literally ‘seven-weeks-cutting’) I’ll tell you more of this pass when we get there.
Pray for the George Methodist people.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ripples in the Street

The street outside my church is home to a community of street people.

Miela, her sister, her mother, Bennie and Prevan all live behind the flower sellers against the Seven Eleven wall. They store their things in a trolley across the road from my office. And each evening they pull out the double bed mattress and make a fire in a tin can to cook a can of baked beans, or some chicken off cuts. And their days are committed to gathering money to buy the alcohol that got them onto the street in the first place.

Peter looks after cars on the corner across from the bank. He is a qualified machine fitter, but has allowed alcohol to deprive him of this work, so now works as a car-guard. He comes to the 9:30 service on a Sunday with Beverley his girlfriend. Beverley has a job, and collects Peter at 5 each evening to take him home - before the allure of the pub across the road get too much for him.

Barry sits in the main road outside the print shop. He makes leather key rings and other trinkets which he displays on a plastic milk carton. He also gets occasional work inside the print shop when they are under pressure, where he collates paper, or cleans machines.

Dave was with me in the SA Airforce in 1976. He is qualified to work on aircraft, but too many evenings spent in an Airforce pub has robbed him of that ability. He resigned with the rank of a Sergeant-Major, and has spent his pension payout. Now he sits on the corner watching Peter watch cars, and sometimes paints aircraft on squares of hardboard.

And Joe. Right now Joe guards our church property at night...mostly with great diligence and responsibility. He worked with Peter on Rustenburg Platinum Mine, and they gravitated to Cape Town together. And Like Peter, he has alcoholic lapses.

But right now the street is not well. Because Patricia has arrived. She used to live in a caravan behind the Seven-Eleven, until it caught alight. Most street people think that the owner of the block of flats had a hand in this, as he had wanted the caravan moved. Patricia has taken up residence next to Barry. The complicating factor is that she has recently inherited money: sufficient to invest, with enough interest to buy a bottle of whiskey per day. She denies that she is in need of help: “I can stop drinking anytime I want to”.

And that one bottle on the street is like a stone dropped into a still pond.

Because Barry cannot ignore the bottle on the pavement between them. And neither can Peter pretend that there is not this bottle just around the corner. And Beverly seems to have given up fetching Peter at 5 and instead joins him on the block. And Joe sees the bottle too. And Clive, a long-gone resident boyfriend of Miela, has reappeared on the corner.

And Peter is no longer sober. And Dave is far too friendly. And Beverley had a papsak under her arm yesterday. And long-gone street resident, Clive, has made Benny jealous that he will take Miela away from him. And Joe has locked himself into our property: he has cleaned our toilets, and painted walls, and gardened in an attempt not to be distracted by Patricia’s bottle.

Pray for our streets.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In the Wilderness

I have found a section of the Old Testament that has helped me to understand my country. The book of Exodus tells the story of a newly-born nation.

• This is a nation that emerges from slavery and struggles to become free. The ex-slaves complain about the food, and the living conditions, and their leadership; and so develop a culture of entitlement that expects God/the authorities to supply their every need.
• This is the story of slaves who struggle to behave like free people. They want to get wealthy by hoarding their possessions; and they want to become very important people by dominating people who do not think like them (the Amorites, the Hittites, and the Canaanites).

And so God sends this nation to “Wilderness School”…. a place where life is not easy. This is a place where their common struggle for life welds them into a nation that trusts God. It is a place where their hardships force them to learn to share God’s blessings. It is God’s dream that they might become an example to the other nations of the earth: Isaiah urges them to become a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 61).

And as I read this it was familiar: because South Africa is in transition from the old to the new. And we have ex-slaves who believe in hoarding personal riches, and who practice a culture of entitlement, and who want to become Very Important People. This is not the stuff of a new nation. We are in the wilderness between the old and the new. And there are many lessons we need to learn before we become a new nation.

Sadly there are many people of faith who are unable to discover the call of God. Many, many God-followers have fled this challenge. Some spend their energy in complaining about our wilderness life; some avoid the wilderness by withdrawing into gated communities; and some have fled the wilderness by emigrating to other countries.

But South Africa is on a journey with God. This is a journey that asks us to become “a light to the nations”. And we are not alone: God is shaping us into something useful.

Pray for us to follow God faithfully through this wilderness.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beautiful day

My friend Dion, his son Liam and Mertyl the monster. Dion is passionate about life, his family, his scooter and following the way of Jesus. i am en-couraged by him

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Funerially Tired

I have averaged a funeral a week for the last 4 weeks.
But today I have two. And as I walked into the office between the two funerals I discovered that I have another on Thursday.

It is hard doing this.
Because I meet with the grieving family and offer comfort and support. I help them plan an appropriate celebration of the life for the person they have loved. And I think of ways of providing pastoral follow-up after the service
But at the same time I too am saying farewell to people I have loved.
 Audrey Smith: a petite 88 year young lady with a will of iron. She walked two km from her flat on arthritic legs to help us feed street people every Tuesday morning. And if we sold boerewors rolls on a Saturday morning she came especially to buy one. And every Sunday she always sat third row from the front…and her place is empty.
 Mercy Ricketts lost her Australian son very suddenly. Mercy turns 90 this year and he was to have come for her birthday. And she is grieving the unfairness of it all: because mothers ought not to bury their sons.
 And others: a family shattered by the suicide of one they loved. And a son having to bury his father. And a man of 96 who has spent a year grieving the loss of a wife of 66 married years.

So far I have had 19 funerals this year…number 20 on Thursday.
And I am emotionally tired…..
Tired of saying goodbye.
Tired of seeing empty places.
Tired of grieving the loss of really good people.

I will get over it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Getting Old

I have just visited a nearby home for senior citizens.
It is always a privilege to go there, because I receive more than I get. These are people who often have words of encouragement for me; who know how to make light of their problems; and who have a wicked sense of humour.

These are also lonely people who have children living in other countries and whose world has shrunk to the size of “what are we eating for lunch?” and “who is the nurse on duty?” Today was especially lonely for one of the ‘saints’ of the group, because her son in Australia died suddenly over the weekend. She had been eagerly anticipating his visit in October, when he was coming to celebrate her birthday. And now she tells me that she does “not feel like having another birthday”.

So I led a service, where we: sang a hymn (mostly me and one tone deaf lady), prayed for their families, and shared Holy Communion. While I distributed the sacrament two geese wandered in from the garden and carried on a loud conversation at the glass door. I was enjoying the reminder of the beauty of the world I live in, but one of the ladies did not approve – so she grabbed her crutches and shooed them away. They huffed off hissing disapproval while she held her hands out for the bread and wine as if nothing had happened. I wished there was a better connection between the exterior beauty of life, and the interior need for the sacraments.

I leave through the dining room, usually at about 11h30. Lunch is at 12h00 midday, and it is sad to see people sitting at the table in anticipation of the highlight of their day. I grieve a world where people are forgotten because of their frailty and age. But I also salute the courage of those who rise above their circumstances to tell me naughty jokes and ask me how my family are doing. I long for a world where all ages can live together in mutual encouragement

Thursday, July 24, 2008


She walked into my office already on the defensive.
Expecting to have to justify herself she launched into an explanation…that she and her husband were married in my church but had not come back because her husband was not able to sit still for long and so could not have managed to sit through a church service / and that her daughter was married in this church but that they were very busy people and Sunday was the only time that the family was together / and that….

I stopped her and asked what had happened.
She explained that her husband had died very suddenly two days ago. And she did not know where to turn for funeral arrangements. So I helped her with advice on undertakers, and agreed to take the service – which I have just completed, with reverence for the gift of life and compassion for people who have lost someone they loved.

Isn’t it sad that people think that they need a good attendance record before the church will show some kindness. This is probably because we church officials so often act like a religious club: demanding fees and attendance and participation as a condition of receiving benefits.

I am grateful that she came back to us for help: grateful for predecessors who agreed to conduct her wedding, and the wedding of her daughter. And that we could help her family and friends grieve with dignity and love. We do this without asking for anything – no commitments, no money, no bums on seats. This is God’s Grace in action.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Beautiful Game

I went to a football game this afternoon: Manchester United vs Kaizer Chiefs.
The hallowed turf of Newlands Rugby Stadium was transformed into a football pitch.
And the game was fantastic.... for many reasons.

So often our sporting spectatorship is divided along racial lines – white and coloured guys watch rugby and black guys watch soccer. But not today: The spectators came from every section of our country’s population. They wore the red of Man United or the yellow of Amakhosi....joined together by their love for this beautiful game.

The South African national anthem was enthusiastically sung by every person in the stadium. I often go to rugby matches where the Xhosa and Sotho section of the anthem is ignored and then the spectators sing the Afrikaans and English bits. But today the stadium knew all the words and sang every word with joy and passion.

The Chiefs supporters blew their Vuvuzelas (plastic trumpets) when the Man United team ran onto the field. We were all excited to see these international superstars “live”, instead of on a television screen. The Man United supporters (many, many thousands of them live in Cape Town) cheered themselves hoarse when the Chiefs played good football because we were all proud together of our local players.

For just a moment I was able to forget the divisions of my country’s history and feel like I belonged to a South African crowd. It was great. The score? A win for both football and South Africa.

PS: Chiefs held Man United to a one-all draw.

Friday, July 18, 2008