Friday, May 29, 2009


Today the Synod elected Rev. Michel Hansrod as our next bishop. Pray for him as he prepares to take up this office.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I am at my Church Synod until Saturday.. This is an annual meeting of the leadership of the Methodist Church in and around Cape Town. I enjoy meeting my colleagues. I use this as a moment to learn from rhem, to share stories of our common life, and to network our skills and gifts. I do not enjoy the politics, the gossip, and the grinding administrative beurocrasy of my church. Pray that we might be open to God at work amongst us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Be New Wine

Someone once said that old wine skins can’t handle new wine. They’ll burst. It is a picture of convention’s inability to endure change.

Once in a while I notice that I’m feeling more tired than usual, sad, bored, unmotivated, and easily distracted. It takes something like a two-by-four over the head for me to realize what’s going on.

Almost always, it’s because I’ve begun serving the system rather than the people. It’s because the machine has asserted its supremacy and priority over my life. And this always numbs my heart, stuns my mind and kills my passion. There is no single person to blame. It is the subtle yet insidious domination of the powers, so beautifully embodied in our thought systems, networks, institutions and traditions. It is the gravitational pull of all powers and authorities toward the death of the human spirit. It is when, because of my inattention, these powers begin to hold sway in my life that I fall into a debilitating hopelessness. My work, as a result, becomes mundane, boring, spiritless, monotonous and lifeless.

At this point I realize: I must change! Be transformed! My number one job is for personal transformation. Change is urgent! A new creature! I must become new wine again. Then the dry, old, oppressive and constricting systems can’t contain me. They will burst. I must avoid their traps. And if I unwisely fall into one of their traps, then I must be changed to break those chains that would imprison me. The key is not to wait for the new wine, but to become the new wine! Only then will I live in the freedom I’ve been promised.

Posted in thought by nakedpastor on the May 15th, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Cape Storm

The first storm of winter is rolling in. Tonight promises buckets of rain, gale force winds, and cold.

I am aware that there are people who do not have adequate shelter. and am grateful that I am wealthy enough to have a dry, warm home. My church has just given bags-full of clothes to needy people. I will make sure that we continue to help those who will get cold and wet.And so I light a log fire, prepare thick soup for supper, and listen to the pounding of the rain on the roof.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


He has been a Methodist preacher for 60 years.

In 1949 my father was challenged to do something meaningful with his life, followed closely thereafter by the conviction that God was calling him to become a Christian Minister. Thus began a journey that my extended family celebrated with my Dad last Sunday – 60 years later.

He left the South African Air Force after World War Two and found a job at ISCOR in Pretoria. In his own words: “I had a choice of places to find friends – either in the pub or in the church. And I had had enough of the pubs while in the airforce.” And so in search of friends he joined a group of young adults in the Pretoria Central Methodist Church. And here found not only lifelong friends, but also a spiritual foundation that would shape the rest of his life. His theological thinking is rooted in Leslie Weatherhead and William Barclay, and his church practice takes place in the shadow of mentors like Dr David Bandy and the Rev Jack Cook.

I am proud of my father.
• He is a good teacher, who has given his life to explaining the Christian faith. Throughout the past 60 years he has written Bible Study notes, led weekly groups where he has encouraged people to live faithfully, and preached sermon series long before this became a familiar teaching tool.
• He is an innovative worship leader. He found ways to sing hymns and songs to contemporary music long before Hillsongs and Kingsway Music became the norm; he introduced “youth services” with drums and guitars into the Methodist Church of the 60’s and 70’s – again long before this was deemed acceptable; he has always produced thoughtful orders of worship that include personally written liturgy and creative congregational responses.
• He is an evangelical preacher. He does not preach for entertainment. Instead he preaches for a response. And he often includes an altar call which asks people to commit their lives to making a difference in society.

And Sunday was no different. He is 83 years old and has become frail. He cannot stand for the duration of the service, and so preached while sitting behind a table with his notes and a microphone in front of him. But his frailty does not dim his passion. He spoke of the call of God to take off the old garments and be clothed in the new garments of Christ. He noted that these are the garments of righteousness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self control) given us when the Spirit of Jesus lives within us. And he challenged us to a response: and some responded by walking to the communion rail and kneeling for prayer.

And I thanked God for Stanley James Grassow. He has remained faithful to the call of God.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Vicarious Suffering

Vicarious Suffering is a term used to describe one person seeking to ease the suffering of another person by taking on their suffering. I understood this yesterday when I took my daughter Amy to hospital. She had developed an enormous abscess at the base of her spine – which was surgically excised under general anaesthetic. I wished that I could have eased her suffering. I wished that she could give me some of her pain so that she could be more comfortable. And when the nurse caused pain during the changing of the dressing this morning I wanted to take it away.

The best I could do was to be alongside her / hold her hand / cry with her.

And in this moment I understand how God chooses to share our human sin/suffering as a way of leading us out of our mess. God suffers with us: bearing our sin, sorrow and sickness. In Jesus, God bears our injustice, abuse, pride, helplessness, doubt, hypocrisy, and hopelessness so that nothing would separate us from him and from Life. God thus becomes human and enters into our messy lives in solidarity with us. So Jesus died for us, with us, even as us...but not instead of us. Following Jesus is not the avoidance of suffering. In fact his death calls us to come and die with him. As we help those who suffer we discover that this exactly where God is to be found.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Baviaanskloof....Part Two.

The roar of motorcycles behind us heralded 5 KTM 900 motorcycles. We were having lunch after crossing the river, when we heard the approaching bikes. After some consultation, they were soon crossing the river. One intrepid adventurer took a tumble in the reeds. We helped to fish him out and made sandwiches for all. This is a journey to be taken lots of photographic stops in appreciation of an ancient unspoiled beauty. In addition to the protea, the trees and the birds, there are buck, and lots of 'Baviaan' - the name given by the early Dutch colonists to the baboon who populate this mountain range. This beauriful part of my country is much needed fresh air for an asphixiated office dweller.


We drove 100km in six hours. Tony, driving a Toyota Explorer Cub campervan, Eric in his Honda CRV and my family in our trusty 1994 Toyota Raider, took the road eastwards through a long cleft between the Kouga and the Grootwinterhoek mountains. Signing ourselves into the Baviaans Nature Reserve we wound our way onto an ever more bumpy gravel road. It had been rain washed down to bedrock, and we ground our way slowly uphill. The vistas of folded mountains, sheer cliff drops, sunlighted peaks and deeply shadowed rivergorges were balm to our city-trapped souls. The narrow road caused moments of cautious manouvering to pass by the occasional oncoming vehicle. One memorable stretch of water and reeds had my daughter Jessie wading ahead of us to check for obstacles. My wife Jenny ploughed our Hilux through the water, followed successfully by Tony and Eric.. This is a journey to be taken slowly, with lots of photographic stops in appreciation of an ancient unspoiled beauty.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Tia Ghee

They promise luxury and leisure. And after our four nights in a game park and a full day's driving, this tented camp was exactly what we needed. It lies in a kloof just outside Patensie. In answer to the inevitable 'where?', this is a mission originated village near Port Elizabeth that sees the beginning/end of the beautiful Baviaanskloof (which is our next adventure). Kobus and Estelle Kok welcomed us with coffee/tea before taking us to our 'bedrooms'. These were tents erected on wooden platforms. Inside we found a double bed, duvets, bedside lights, carpets, and a warm snug night's sleep. Their motto is 'listen to the silence' and the stillness of the night was fabulous. The darkness was softened by candlelighted paths, and a communal log fire. Estelle's excellent catering ensured that we went to sleep with full tummys and left the next morning fortified with a marvelous breakfast. A visit well worth repeating.