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