Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Western Province Supporter

For those who do not live in South Africa – Cape Town is situated in the Western Province. It is the superior province in our country. Of course there are some who might disagree with me, suggesting that places like Durban and Pretoria can lay claim to this. From this flows the sporting rivalry that fuels the competitive juices of this nation. Irrespective of whether it is Cricket, Rugby, Football, Tiddlywinks or Jukskei (South Africa are world champions), this is a rivalry that is deeply engraved in the DNA of families, and is passed down from one generation to another.

Yesterday Western Province rugby team defeated the Free State Cheetahs to go through to the finals of the Rugby Curry Cup Competition. This is a provincial rugby competition that saw its inaugural tournament in 1892, where Western Province was the first winner. At the end of this month Western Province will play the Sharks, a KwaZulu-Natal team based around Durban.

And I will be praying for a Western Province win . . . and as many Sharks supporters will be praying for a KwaZulu-Natal win.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy 70th Birthday Harry

He is a philanthropic multi-millionaire who began his working life as a filing clerk for a company called Atlas Lamps. Harry Roger Webb was born on 14October 1940, in Lucknow, India, to Rodger and Dorothy Webb. They subsequently moved to England, where Harry finished his schooling at Riversmead School (now Bishopslea).

He became a singer, and was persuaded to change his name to something more substantial: a businessman called Harry Greatorex (tell me that isn’t an invented name!) came up with the name “Cliff” – which was meant to suggest solidity like a rock. Ian Samwell, who wrote Cliffs first song “Move It,” suggested that he use the surname “Richard” in tribute to the rocker Little Richard. And so in 1958 Cliff Richard was launched on a career that has covered seven decades and sold more than 260 million records.

For me the defining tribute is the following comment I found: Cliff Richard believes that he is the "the most radical rock star there has ever been" because of his choice not to adopt the rock-star image of “sex, drugs, and alcohol.” He is evidence of my conviction that rich and deeply satisfying life can be achieved without dependence on chemical assistance.

Happy Birthday Cliff.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Luk 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Make our faith greater."

This past week has really been a rough week:I have sat with a number of people who are facing deep challenges in their lives:

• My friend Allen Rodgers – lies unconscious in hospital because he was knocked off his bicycle by a hit and run driver.
• My friends Dion and Megan had to sit at the bed of their twelve year old daughter while the doctors explained to her that she had a growth next to her brain.
• Andre is my friend and colleague in Pinelands. In 2005 his wife had an operation for a growth at the base of her skull - and this week they heard that it has grown back and the doctors are recommending another operation – one that will probably sever all the nerves to her face.

You tell me – what should I say to them?

The easy answer is to say to them “to have faith in God” – and yet this is the most difficult answer! Because having faith in God is not a guarantee that prevent bad things from happening!

This is the question that has haunted us thoughout our history:
How can bad things happen to good people? Surely if we follow God’s way then we should be safe / blessed / protected. But the fact is that “Bad things do happen to good people!”

Some people have answered this by suggesting “If only you had more faith – then this would not have happened” And sometimes there is even a suggestion that it is our lack of faith that caused the disaster: and so some people are tempted to ask “What did we do wrong to deserve this?”

But we all know genuinely good people who face disaster: in fact all we need to do is to point to the writer of Hebrews 11:36-37 who speaks of the great suffering endured by people of faith. So there must be more to this than the simple equation “small faith – great disaster”

Some people suggest that this is God’s way of testing our faith: we just need to learn to trust God and everything will be alright! If you only had stronger faith you will survive this disaster. This was the conversation between the disciples and Jesus in the New Testament passage we read earlier:
Luk 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Make our faith greater."
And Jesus turns around and says to them – you do not need more faith! You already have enough to cope with life. What the disciples needed was not more faith – but rather a better understanding of faith. The prayer “Lord make our faith stronger/bigger/more successful/more glamorous” is the stuff of a consumer society that commoditisers everything and then wants ‘bigger/ better / and more successful’ possessions.

The answer of Jesus is that we do not need more – we need to learn to use that which we already have. This is a faith that embraces the challenges and the difficulties and chooses to trust that God will give us strength to cope. This is trusting that whatever life brings my way – I will find God alongside me, giving me strength and teaching me new things about living.

It is not the size of our faith that counts – it is the size of the God we serve.

So let me try to draw some conclusions:
Life is fragile –
 Life is filled with joy and filled with sadness
 Life contains good and bad experiences.
 Life has moments of great comfort and moments of great difficulty.
There are no guarantees in life….. so if we follow God because we think it will keep us safe from disaster, we are mistaken.

It is the child who gets angry and throws a tantrum because things do not work out as I want.
It is the adult who learns to find the faith to accept the things that life brings.

It is the child who demands that Life must work out my way
It is the spiritually mature who learn to accept both the light and the dark in life – and find God in it all.

I have been brought back to this over and over again:
It is my experience that just when I think my faith is strong – I am confronted by problems and difficulties that show me that my faith is weak: and in this moment I learn to trust God.
I cannot trust my faith – I can only trust God.

On a personal note: I have learned this very painfully over the past three months:
I thought that I was settled in the work that I do within Plumstead Methodist Church. I had begun to think of the next 5 years, only to discover that God had other plans: I have been asked to teach at the new Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg. This forced me out of the place where I am comfortable, and has asked me to trust God.

In the process of this I have discovered that God is stretching the faith of the members of this church as well: I have heard some people say “What will we do without you?” and I realised that the members have begun to trust my leadership, rather than to trust God!

So I am reminded that this is God’s church: and we can hear the echo of Jesus words as he says to us : “you have enough faith for the next step.”

Whatever lies ahead of us – we do not need more faith – we need to learn to use the faith we already have.

And so I ask for your prayers. I have felt the pressure to finish my doctoral studies, while at the same time helping finish the year off in this church. But have I have run out of capacity to do everything. I am due my long leave (every 6 years Methodist Ministers get furlough) so I am taking two months off to finish my thesis. Please pray that I might have strength to finish the task – and pray for my congregation that the people might finish the year strong in faith