Thursday, December 26, 2013

Being right or being good?

John JP Patterson writes

 Hmmm... A lot of us Christians, rather than being followers of Jesus, we’re defenders of religious certainty. And having certainty about what is and isn’t true, good, and holy is actually not faith, it’s just certainty. And certainty regarding matters of faith isn’t Christian.

So we end up acting like jackasses, kicking and galloping and trolling around like we own the place. All the while bellowing scripture and unfounded statistics…

We can’t love people when we’re intoxicated with certainty. We can’t serve people with a pure heart if we’re burdened by certainty. We can’t be anything remotely close to “Christ-like” when we’re certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that we know what’s up regarding God.

Why? Because we’re too busy defending our rightness to be kind, thoughtful, and good.

reposted from

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Acts 1:1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over forty- day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he declared, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, "Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He told them,"You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth." 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and cloud hid him from their sight. 10 As they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said,"Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven." 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mountain called the Mount of Olives (which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away).

The enduring cry throughout our Christian history is "Jesus will come back again". This is the hope that draws Christian communities together and the motivation for Christian living. Christmas is the time when we re-visit this hope. Let us pray once again for Jesus to be with us.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Last Great Liberator of the Twentieth Century

I am sitting in front of the television watching the public celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela. And it is overwhelming:

·         I am moved to tears by the way people have queued from 4am to catch transport to the stadium; I am moved by their willingness to sing and dance in the rain; I am moved to see the ”rainbow nation” represented here – people of all corners, cultures and creeds of our country have come, This gives me hope.

·         I am moved by the many, many world leaders who have come to join us for this service; these are powerful people who lead enormous economies – coming to a small country to pay tribute to one of us. These are leaders who also would not ordinarily be in the same room together. I am moved by the sight of Barak Obama shaking hands with President Castro of Cuba! And of the Prime Minister of England sharing the same platform as Robert Mugabe. This gives me hope.

·         I am moved by the speech of Barak Obama. He was welcomed as a “son of Africa” and responds by asking the leaders of our world to live up to the legacy left by Madiba: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”
This gives me hope.

·         I am moved when I see the leaders of my Methodist Church officiating at this event. I grew up in an era that gave the Dutch Reformed Church prominence at every national occasion – so it feels good to see my colleagues leading this service. But at the same time I am acutely aware of how a church that enjoys the favour of the ruling party can easily become a tool that is used to suggest God’s preferential favour for this party. I must therefore note my disquiet at the way we invited Jacob Zuma to speak at the farewell of Ivan Abrahams; and the way we allow a senior Methodist Minister to be a chaplain to the ruling political party. I not as hopeful.   

·         I am moved when I switch between channels and discover that in addition to the South African TV channels, CNN, BBC, Sky News, Al Jazeera, CCTV, CNBCA, EuroNews, RaiItalia, and ITV are all screening this event. I am startled to see how much of an international figure he is. I am moved to tears when I discover that people from all over the world are watching this event – including my daughter who lives in Japan. That said, I am dismayed that CNN should label the speech of Barak Obama as the ‘highlight’ of the event – before speeches by other world leaders or before the sermon. The commentators then ignored the speakers who followed, choosing instead to comment on Obama’s speech.This American-centred view of the world is the reason that I struggle with the United States of America. It is an imperialistic view that diminishes the contribution that America could make to our world. I am not as hopeful.

I was aggrieved at the ill-discipline of the crowd, but this has been taught to them at recent political rallies and trades union meetings. I thoroughly enjoyed Desmond Tutu’s ability to hold a crowd – and impose order. It might have been better for him to have been the preacher because he has the charisma and feel for the crowd - but it would have been very difficult for anyone to preach, with the sermon coming in as speaker number 16! That said, I was disappointed that the sermon had no Christian content. It was a generic eulogy of Madiba, using the image of Elijah’s passing of the mantel. But no hope in Jesus was offered.

The memorial is over and people are streaming homeward.
And I am thankful for the leadership of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

“We promise God that we are going to follow the example of Nelson Mandela”           

Friday, December 06, 2013