Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Praying Together

Today I am praying.......accompanied by my colleagues Kevin, Mark and Andre.


They come in all shapes and sizes. They range from motor mechanics to business executives. Their common love is the motorcycle. The men camped one side of me were school teachers, their bikes were Harley-Davidson wannabees and they ride every day to work; the other side was a farmer from Ottosdal on a BMW touring bike. He admits to riding his bike three time a year... to three different bike rallys.

So we escape from life for a weekend. And we have permission to dress up and strut our stuff. And swear and drink beer and rev the engines of our bikes and do wheelies and generally remind ourselves of what it felt like to be rebellious and carefree.

Then we go home and resume our daily responsibilities.
Feeling just a little bit lighter.
With a glint in the eye.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


The Morning After

Friday, March 20, 2009


Jenny and I are in a tent surrounded by thousands of motorcycles, people, revving bike engines, beer, badges, motherfuckerteeshirts, burnouts, attitude, chrome, music, raw obscenities, braai, popping exhausts, beautiful custom spraypaint..; all adds to the atmosphere of the 2009 Buffako Motorcycle Rally.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uncle Fred

He was born in 1914.... yes he is 95 years old.

My wife, Jenny, and I went out for dinner with him tonight. He drives his own car, lives in his own apartment, and generally holds his life together better than many who are younger than him.

His day began with a visit to the local nursery to buy some plants for his garden. He played bridge after lunch, wrote some letters, and accompanied us to a local restaurant in the evening. He was fun to be with, displaying a sharp mind, and capacity to engage in conversation on a wide range of topics. He is a perfect gentleman from a bygone age.

Oh yes – he is from another time in history:
His father came to South Africa from Germany before World War One and became a naturalised British citizen. He was a chemist and worked at a factory in Somerset West, where they manufactured explosives for the mines. His mother was born in Germany and moved to (then) German South West Africa. She met Fred’s father while recovering from an operation in Cape Town and they were soon married. Their happy life was disrupted by the advent of World War One, and the arrest of Fred’s father. Although a naturalised British citizen, he was of German birth, and therefore suspect. So he was kept in a camp at Pietermaritzburg for the duration of the war, with Fred and his mother moving to Natal to live nearby. He died soon after his release and Fred and his mother had to fend for themselves.

Fred was apprenticed to a pharmacist. He completed a three year apprenticeship and found work dispensing medicine. This included training an optometrist, because pharmacies also provided eye care. During World War Two, Fred’s job was to supervise 20 mine dispensaries. He later joined a pharmaceutical company, rising to become its CEO.

Uncle Fred retired at 65.... which means that he has been retired for 35 years. I know him to be generous to many of our church projects, kind to lonely people, and determined not to engage in self-pity. His recounts with joy his visit to Germany last year, where his niece took him on the autobahn in her Porsche and generally went faster than we can dream of in South Africa.

I want to grow old like him.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Power is the glue that holds society together.
Everyone has some form of power:
- some people are powerful enough to tell whole nations what to do
- some people have the power to command large companies
- many of us exercise power as parents
- and some of us only have power over the dog.

Whether we command a dog, or command an army: the issue is not how powerful we are – it is what we do with our power that counts.

John’s Gospel Chapter 2 tells a story of how some people used their power to make themselves rich – and in the process make the lives of other people miserable. This is the story of people who came to the temple to pray. They were told that they needed to bring an offering with them. The rich people would bring a lamb and the poor people a dove.
And this is where the problem began: because it could not be just anything. It had to be a perfect gift without any blemish. These gifts were inspected and if there was a defect, then they were rejected…. But wait!
All was not lost, because the temple officials would keep offerings right there in the courtyard. These had already passed the examination…... “For a small fee we can sell them to you”
And so the trading began: And you can imagine a Middle Eastern market… haggling over the price.
 “Trade in your sheep for one of ours”… but the temple sheep were more expensive.
 “Trade in your Roman money for our special temple money”…but the exchange rate has gone up – and it will cost you a bit extra”.

What really happened is that there were some had studied the religious law. These were the people who knew the system, and used it to give themselves power over those who were not as educated. And in the process they became rich.

This is not unfamiliar with us;
This past week we have seen people use the system to give themselves unfair power:
• Bernie Madoff understood the system of the New York stock exchange… and stole $65 billion.
• Schabir Shaik, a very wealthy convicted criminal, used his connections to spend his prison time in hospital until he was set free on medical parole after serving a fraction of his prison time.
• There are officials at the Home Affairs Office in Langa who use their position to grant residence in our country – for a few thousand rands…. cash, no receipts.

This is destructive power.
It is selfish power.
It is power used to benefit some at the expense of others.
Jesus is quite clear – this is not the way God wants us to live.

When the temple officials used their power for enrichment – Jesus overturned the tables of money.
When the inspectors tried to make something on the side with special doves and sheep – Jesus chased the temple animals out of the courtyard.
When the officials tried to stop people from praying without paying – Jesus made a whip and chased them away.
This is another kind of power.
This is power that opposes oppression
This is power that resists exploitation
This is power that confronts corruption
This is power that says no to dishonesty.
This is the Power of God.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sexually Angry

I am dismayed by the vitriol and anger that human sexuality can generate.

• I have read articles from sexually abused people who want to kill their abusers. I understand this – but discover that the abuser is often one who was abused in his/her past. The abuser is as damaged as the abused. So I do not see how killing someone solves the problem. But I can see that this does provide the satisfaction of revenge.
Sadly the abuser is most often known to the abused. Often this is a family friend or neighbour – someone who is trusted. The betrayal of trust is probably the hardest kind of hurt to heal.

• I have read Christian anger at Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual people. Christians do not agree on this one. While I do not believe that being homosexual is sinful, I can understand how some Christians feel threatened when others disagree with their deepest held convictions. What I do not understand is the crusading zeal that seeks to destroy alternative views.

Jesus never enforced his belief system on other people. His was always an invitation that could be accepted or rejected.

Sadly many gay people have been hurt by Christian crusaders. Some, convinced that their homosexual orientation is sinful, spend their lives feeling guilty about the way they experience human sexuality. Others, seeking to true to their sexuality, are forced to leave the church they love – because some “straight” Christian people cannot cope with them.

Healing might include prayer. It is vital for every hurting person to know that they are loved/treasured by God. But it also must include confession from the perpetrators of the hurt; and wise counselling; and a loving community to provide support and care.

Pray that I might not fail those who are sexually scarred.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I have been watching Pornography.
And I am amazed at what people will do in front of a camera. I have seen sexual encounters that range from the ridiculous to the cruel: leather thongs, masks, and buckles; couples, threesomes, groups; public nudity, private moments, and voyeurs; old, young and bizarre; and abusive sex.

In case you are wondering, I am preparing for Sunday. I am participating in a teaching series that is using Richard J. Foster’s book “Money, Sex and Power”. This Sunday I will be speaking about sexual brokenness. This will be followed by prayer for those who carry scars from their sexual histories.

What has both fascinated and frightened me is the response of my own body and mind. I have discovered my physical attraction to visual stimulation: but then this is not new. All my life I have been attracted to beautiful women. And naked women are sexually stimulating – except for the site I discovered with naked grannies! At the same time I discovered my mind being titillated by some of the weird stuff: I am at first shocked by seeing someone tied up, or blindfolded, or set up for abusive for sex. And then I wonder... “so what’s next?” This is similar to driving past a vehicle accident scene, where I want to slow down to “have a look”. My mind asks for another shock. And, like the dubious thrill of a frightening theme park roller-coaster, I want to be horrified.

I also feel guilty: What if my wife or daughters catch me watching this stuff? Will my explanation that “I am preparing for Sunday” sound plausible? And I feel guilty at the physical attraction to some of the pictures. Why does my body respond in this way to someone who is not my wife? But then my body has always responded to beautiful women. It is my moral and spiritual boundaries that have regulated what I do/do not do with this response. Which begins to give me a clue where I might go on Sunday:

The fact is that every human being is sexual. We experience our sexuality each day. And we constantly make choices about our response to the sexual stimuli that come our way. Our present sexual activity grows out of our past sexual encounters. We all have made mistakes in the past. Stupidity is not learning from our past mistakes to make informed choices in the present.

So on Sunday I need to offer people a way of making peace with their past. We do not need to carry the scars from bad sexual encounters into our futures. God can heal us, and allow us to function as sexually healthy people in the present.

I am posting this blog in the hope that those of you who visit will offer me advice.
What would you say to my congregation on Sunday?