DAY 494: HUMILIATION

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A close friend of mine said that you can watch world sport all day.  I felt the heartache of the British Lions losing to the Auckland Blues last week as they recorded their first loss on their tour to New Zealand.  I also shared in the victory of the winning team. You could see the excitement in their eyes.

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Life’s like that. There will always be winners and losers. Sometimes we have to back our team through the lean years. I still think that world sport is the new religion on the planet. It’s a sophisticated, leisure time distraction that sucks you in to follow contests from beginning to end. We are hooked, glued to the TV as our heroes strut onto the field.

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People of faith face similar struggles. The love of God and the love of self is always a battle. No heart is truly free to love God when consumed with a desire for pleasure, possessions, power and praise. It’s a question of where our hearts are fixed. An impulse of pure love towards God fueled by a desire to know Him better is an act of sweet surrender. The desire to love God will be strengthened when we make it our constant prayer “that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy Holy name”.

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Nobody likes to lose. There are few things in life that are more powerful than being HUMILIATED.  In those moments we explore the depths, sit down and examine the facts of life. HUMILIATION will come to us (it’s happening at the Oval and Roland Garros as I type). We must expect it to happen and be ready to face it. When HUMILIATION has been humbly accepted, it has lost its power.

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Time after time we can watch Jesus through the pages of the gospels as He humbles himself.  We can see and feel the HUMILIATION of the mocking and the scourging. The denial and betrayal shame us. Soon we make our discovery. When HUMILIATION has been humbly accepted it has lost its power to do us harm.

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Rugby players accepting defeat  (in post match interviews) say “we must go back to the drawing board”. The going is heavy. How do you pick up from where you’ve left off?  We become depressed. Our path of life leads us through deserts. Times are tough. In such periods of wilderness we may not understand that God is working in us.

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Spare a thought for Theresa May.  Many thought that Labour was heading for a terrible defeat – that people had made up their mind about Jeremy Corbyn.  Now her critics want to see her flinch in self inflicted pain and see her arrogance turn into ashes. One observer said “Please stay while we savour your HUMILIATION“.  We are seeing the same response in South Africa over Helen Zille’s tweet. Tomorrow the Press will have a field day about the performance of the Proteas against India.

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The great temptation when HUMILIATION strikes is to give up. Yet the secret is to “always press on”.  I find it helpful to look firmly and faithfully at the “great abiding realities” when we are made to look stupid and feel ashamed.  Whenever we lose the respect of others, we do well to remind ourselves that He is there, even if we cannot feel the warmth of his love or behold the splendour of his glory.

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Jesus made it clear that his way will be straight and narrow. By taking up our cross daily, we recognise that much of our journey will be uphill. Yet every word that reaches us from the scriptures has the power to transform. God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7: 14 still stands:  “If my people humble themselves …. turn from their wicked ways … I will forgive and heal”.  I can live with that.

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DAY 493: HIDDEN SPRINGS

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I write on the eve of a massive storm moving into Cape Town. It will break the drought and bring relief to a thirsty land.  For months people have looked to the heavens and prayed for rain. I have advised that “in his time” the good Lord will provide. We are a winter rainfall area and cannot play God. Every citizen in Cape Town has learned to appreciate the value of water as a precious resource. Our dams are empty and necessity has turned into the mother of invention.

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A report posted on Face Book suggested that there are around 35 springs in the mountains that dominate our sky line. Over the years, many have been closed up by city council. The run off of fresh water into the ocean from these HIDDEN SPRINGS runs into millions of litres of wasted water.  I don’t want to play wise guy in this observation. We all know that necessity is the mother of invention. Many people have voiced their opinion as the drought has worsened.

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HIDDEN SPRINGS! A spring is a source of perpetual refreshment. Jesus in conversation with the Samaritan woman said that the water he gives is “a well of water springing up into eternal life”.

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To find the HIDDEN SPRING of life means breaking through the hard crust of selfishness. We dig out our fears and uncertainties in our search for source. This is easier said than done. Look at our hectic life worlds today. We are surrounded by incessant demands on our time. Increased pressure fueled by the pace of life brings stresses and stains. We struggle to find time for everything that must be done. Soon our “busy”ness begins to choke the life giving HIDDEN SPRINGS of life.

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Even in the Methodist Church, our obsession with organisation, meetings and (top down) Episcopalian governance has killed the life. We’ve become slaves to the business of keeping the machine running smoothly. We like to be seen to be busy.  This was where Martha made her mistake in the home in Bethany. Mary had a true understanding of the chief end in human life: “It is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.  Jesus commended her for chosing the better part.

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Many people are losing the art of being quiet. There are too many distractions and we live in a noisy world. How do we deal with solitude? The moment the noise about us stops, we become ill at ease. Even ‘going to church’ has turned into a vigorous effort to be sociable and communicative.

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HIDDEN SPRINGS invites us to work on our interior life. Our most urgent need today is not for anything new. It is for the age-old need for God, the living God.  Make sense of His splendour. Find joy in His presence. Discover devotion in His service and reality in His worship. These are the values that money can’t buy. The real life is nourished when we drink from the HIDDEN SPRINGS.

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What does this mean?  The Celtics invite us to PAUSE – take time to be with God and enter into His presence. The PICTURE  is clear. We learn of Him and receive His promises. When we commune with Him, we ponder and find our balance. The process makes us fruitful and turns into the PROMISE to enjoy Him forever.

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I have really enjoyed the brief moments when rain has come during our build up to winter. Hose Feliciano taught me to sing “Listen to the falling rain, listen to it fall”.  The experience of pouring rain evokes a real sense of gratitude and joy.  It’s like meeting up with a close friend who you haven’t seen for sometime. There are moments when the conversation falls on silence. Spirit with spirit has met and mingled. We’ve tapped into the life giving water of HIDDEN SPRINGS.

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DAY 492: WHAT ARE YOU CARRYING?

Whenever I leave home, I make sure that I have got my wallet, my camera and my phone. My wallet carries my drivers license and that card gives me permission to use my motor car. When I travel overseas I make sure that I have my passport. If not, I will be in trouble. My camera captures life giving moments. My phone keeps me connected wherever I am in the world. These three items make me dig deeper as I look at my ministry in the Methodist Church.

Over the years, I have CARRIED the FAITH and a call to the ministry of WORD and SACRAMENT. I revisited this thought as we celebrated  Aldersgate (Wesley), Ascension and Africa days during the past week. This Sunday at  Pentecost we will replace our batteries.  Maybe we should see them as a Triple A (AAA) battery and build on the events.  Our faith is shaped by Aldersgate, encouraged by the Ascension and given a context in Africa.

WE CARRY FAITH. Jesus appealed for faith. His life was keyed to reality. His words and works carry conviction. Wesley exclaimed on Aldersgate Day “I felt that I did trust Christ”. When the twelve disciples came to grasp the full significance of who and what Jesus was they found themselves equipped with the passport of faith. The Ascension season helps us step up to the next level. Think about it.

The fundamental reason why this world looks so distorted and hopeless is that we no longer believe that a more important world exists. The glimpse of seeing with the eye of faith is “seeing the invisible”. Instead of entrapment, we step up to the next level. Like the sculptor who sees a statue in a block of marble.  Abraham’s life changed when he caught a glimpse of “a city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God”. That is why he is known as the father of faith.

One thing that strikes me about living on the African continent is that there is work to be done. Faith laughs at the impossible and insists “It shall be done!”. If we see a thing to be true, right or lovely, it is bound to influence our action. In Africa there are countless stories which come out of faith. Salty Print, for example, began as an impulse to make a venture (develop a project) and ended in a confirming experience. People of faith act creatively and constructively.

Faith is the passport that gives access to the Way that leads into life in all it fullness. THIS IS WHAT WE CARRY.

Yet faith must be nourished and maintained. The provision is two fold: the word and the sacrament. The Bible becomes a camera that points us to the heart of God. This word becomes a source for spiritual sustenance. Wesley taught us to search the scriptures and discover for ourselves how the word turns into bread of life for the soul. Wesley challenged his followers to follow through and “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land”. This is what we carry with us on the Way. It’s daily bread. We need to cultivate the practice of private meditation and getting our minds to work.

So the Passport (Faith), the Camera (Word) and the Cell Phone (Sacrament) equip us as pilgrims on the way.  God’s means of grace (the Sacrament) transcends speech and the thanksgiving that we do “in remembrance of him” facilitates “love in action”.  It is a ritual replete with meanings and memories, showing us again His love in a language no words can express. And YES! We want to talk about it and tell the world.

FAITH is our passport, and the Ministry of the WORD (Camera) and SACRAMENT (Cell Phone) equips us for the journey.

 

DAY 491: RULES OF THE ROAD

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The RULE OF THE ROAD is the law of Love.  These words seem hopelessly idealistic and possibly futile as we look at all that is happening in the world round about us. Yet this law of love is the basis of new life in Christ. It is God’s way of putting what is wrong in a world where hatred abounds.

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Hatred is a poison. It blinds us to reason, provokes jealousy, inhibits relationships and makes effective co-operation impossible. Hatred is deadly. If it dwells in the heart there is no peace. Globalisation has woken us up to the fact that we cannot live in isolation. We are all one body. We are connected. A common life-stream circulates through the system and the only cure to poisoning us is the purification of the blood stream.

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Christians claim that the Cross of Christ was God’s blood transfusion. Jesus stood up to poisonous hatred and refused to capitulate. His disciples adopted his law of love as the RULE OF THE ROAD. This resolve brings a new determination to meet basic human need and secure the freedom that comes from active involvement in restorative justice. Transformation becomes our business. We persevere with humble acts of kindness and self-giving. Over time we become (like the butterfly) new creatures, sensing the reality of God at work created by deeds of love.

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This is not merely a warm glow. Love is costly. It is always the neighbour who has the first claim. Yet Jesus pushes the boundaries. We soon realise that some will like and others will dislike us. Having goodwill towards all poses a serious challenge. How to obey the RULE OF LOVE turns into a clear challenge when wrong has been done. Bitterness resides in the heart towards the wrong doer.

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A heart unwilling to forgive is a heart out of tune with God. This was the language of the Wesleys. It’s the cry that comes from the Cross. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.  The essence of forgiveness is a restoration of relationship. Take Job as a prime example. Job’s friends had not been kind to him and he felt bitterly towards them. “The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends”.

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Wesley began to “pray for those who had despitefully used and persecuted him” after his conversion on Wednesday 24 May 1738 in Aldersgate Street, London. This principle of forgiveness, hard as it is to put into practice, lies at the very heart of the Christian way of life. We also read that Jesus chose disciples “that they might be with him“. For three years they had shared life together. The disciples got Jesus”. They caught his attitude to life’s problems. they began to share his insights, look on the world through his eyes and felt as he felt.

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They caught something of His infectious enthusiasm for God. His loving spirit ignited their own spirit, turning them in deed and truth into one Body indwelt by one Spirit. Christ lived in them. Jesus found a way to weld them into a team. they learned to sink their personal differences, swallow personal resentments and adjust their various outlooks for His sake and the Kingdom. Jesus gave them a vision of the RULE OF GOD at work in the life of the world. He said “the Kingdom of God is among you”.

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The hymnwriters describe him as the “one who breaks down the barriers and casts up the way”. Jesus not only taught the way.  He actually took it Himself obeying the law of love every step of the way. He left a living legacy in a body of people (disciples) who not only understood his way of life but were living it. All things are possible when we follow the RULES OF THE ROAD.

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DAY 490: EASTER PEOPLE

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I love EASTER!  It’s the time of the year when we look to the sunrise and celebrate the dawn of each new day. Here in Cape Town the temperatures are starting to drop and the nights are getting longer. MAY DAY has come and gone. Our friends overseas prepare for the warmth of sunshine and their annual summer break after a long, cold winter.

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On the Church Calendar we revisit the EASTER stories.  Somehow I always return to the excitement of the confession in Emmaus: “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as, as He talked with us along THE WAY?”.

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Those travellers on the road to Emmaus were amazed at THE WAY in which Jesus “opened up the Scriptures” to them. He who called himself THE WAY helped them find a new center of life within themselves.  This center shifted from law to love.  He taught them to treat people as potential friends to be served in love: “Get the roots right and the fruits will take care of themselves!”.  With Jesus, law is fulfilled by love.

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That distinctive “something more” characterises those who have found THE WAYEASTER PEOPLE proclaim “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again”. In other words, Jesus did not come to impoverish or destroy life, but to enrich and fulfill. Whenever this new life was present, there was something undying. Death could not touch it.  The quality of eternity is reflected by his rule. His mandate was catalytic: “one loving spirit setting another on fire”.  The life on offer involves discipline. Those who follow must be ready to lose even life itself for his sake. This is the secret of EASTER.

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Jesus takes an interest in all that happens in life. He meets people in the house, the field, the market-place; He goes to their weddings and their feasts; He heals their sick, listens to their confessions and brings God’s forgiveness for their sins.  He brings his whole life as an offering to the faithful.  EASTER spurs us on. Followers of Jesus set out to break barriers and conquer hate.  They overcome evil with good, turning suspicion and hostility into friendliness.  Doing ‘something more’ like turning the other cheek and going the extra mile revealed that there was something different.

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He always insisted that this was not His own achievement but the working of Him in the Father.  People could see the Father in the works of the Son. They called it GRACE – undeserved – yet manifesting itself in a quality of life and love. This approach convinced his followers to exercise heart and intellect and imagination and energy to the full in the business of loving as God does.  This made them ready to try new ways and new methods.  They soon found that liberty (freedom)” was found “where the Spirit of the Lord is”.

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In moving from the old to the new, they lived as SOJOURNERS, claiming that although they lived on earth, their CITIZENSHIP was in heaven.  Jesus declared that his disciples were to be light and salt in the world. And so in every age, the living CHURCH has been marked by the care for the poor and sick, a new reverence for children and women, a passion for justice, truth and reconciliation and a commitment to give God all the GLORY.

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“Life in Christ” as St. Paul says “is living and real”. That’s what makes us EASTER PEOPLE. To be alive in every part of our being; to employ our talents and powers in faithful service and to be in tune with the infinite and the eternal is to surely be given a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven.  Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. HAPPY EASTER!

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DAY 489: VOICES

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On 3 February 1960, Harold MacMillan, the British Prime Minister, made his famous  “Winds of Change” speech here in Cape Town. He said:  “The wind of change is blowing through this continent … whether we like it or not national consciousness is a political fact”.   “Africa” he argued, “had become the target of European looting and the Nationalist government had turned South Africa into a paradise for whites”.

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Years later Nelson Mandela talked about The Long Road to Freedom. We have witnessed the complexities of the journey which is far from over. The freedom to destroy and plunder the world empowered by divide and rule tactics and fueled by leadership crises continues to produce political instability.

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This is the backdrop of the new wave that is sweeping across our land. Many are trying to ride the wave. But the sheer size of the monster is intimidating. It carries all the effects of past injustices:  forcing citizens to distinguish between charity and restitution as a moral obligation.

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Doing so offers an opportunity to reflect and rediscover the true spirit of ubuntu – what it means to be human and how we should treat each other.  WORKING TOWARDS RESTORATIVE JUSTICE AND DIGNITY WILL HELP US RIDE THE WAVE.  My years at Salty Print tried to meet  these basic human needs. By addressing poverty, we created employment and encouraged skills transfer. In so doing, we developed new income streams and flourished by building community, totally committed to face the concerns of the day.

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Wesley had taught me to ride the wave. He brought a connectivity with our creator and creation that has never left me.  God’s word became a living word. This collective understanding of what it means to be human was summed up in the mandate “to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land”.  WHEN WE GET IT RIGHT THERE IS A FREEDOM.  An exhilaration brought about by material and psychological flourishing.

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We insisted that transformation was our business. Our connected and collective efforts were expressed in our Mission Statement:  Transforming Paper, People and Places.   Now at Mossop Hall we say: Transforming Pixels, People and Places.  Deep down in our hearts, THE VOICE reminds me that “TRANSFORMATION IS OUR BUSINESS”.

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It’s the same cry that comes from the crowds as Jesus enters into the city of Jerusalem. “HOSANNA!” (Save us Now Lord!)  We cry “Hosanna, Lord!”:  Save us from these dark, evil forces that oppress us.  Yet the paradox of the cross made from a palm leaf turns our thought to the executioners at Golgotha!  “CRUCIFY” is THE VOICE that haunts us as we face the realities of Good Friday.

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We protest. We lament. We pray. Christ’s crucifixion takes us to the heart of unresolved conflict, displacement, poverty and vulnerability. The wave of disintegration, a non functioning economy and powerlessness has crashed on us. A once sophisticated country has been systematically ripped to shreds. Every citizen in this country has had to endure the terrifying circus.

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WE KNOW THAT EQUITY IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD. It’s time to resist the bigots and bullies and press on to a commitment to generate the political will to transform.

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As we listen to these conflicting VOICES we have a vision and mission to press on, inspire, challenge and lead. The wave of darkness can be conquered. Our journey through this season of LENT is rooted in the commitment to make a brand new start. Acts of restitution include: the importance of  remembering; restoring dignity; offering opportunity and fostering belonging.

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Nothing can prepare us for the reality of evil. We do not what to hear Christ’s cry of dereliction from the cross. Yet giving up is not an option. The path formed to, through and from Calvary urges us as Christians to take the irreversible step to SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Christ has died. Christ is Risen. Christ will come again.

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                                                                  HAPPY EASTER!

DAY 488: SMART CARD QUEUES

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I received an SMS from HOME AFFAIRS telling me that my SMART CARD (South Africa’s new identity document) was ready for collection. It had been there for 3 months. During that window, I had on repeated occasions tried to collect my card, only to be driven away by the length of the slow moving QUEUE. If you are over 70, you can jump the QUEUE. There certainly is no preferential treatment for Marriage Officers who make regular  register submissions.

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It’s easy to do your sums looking at all the TIME WASTED. Hundreds of people from all walks of life make a special effort to get to HOME AFFAIRS. Instinctively, all the problems we face as a country in transition surface at these trouble spots and its hard not to chirp. Staying calm requires effort. One of the managers at HOME AFFAIRS suggested that I come early in the morning. Imagine my delight when I found nobody outside the front door of at HOME AFFAIRS at 6.15 a.m. on Friday.

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I found a bench, pulled out my book and started to read in the dimly lit passage way. Soon my thoughts were interrupted by a security guard who asked if I had a ticket. He said I needed to go to KFC and fetch one. HELLO!  When I got there, the  QUEUE was already heading down the Main Road. Actually, two QUEUES were formed: one for submissions (passports, ID’s), the other for collections. I got number 22 and once the doors opened we all marched off to where my journey started, sat down on the benches and waited for the doors to open.

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Some people were very angry and let the world know how they felt. The doors opened at 8.00 a.m. and I finally walked out with my SMART CARD at 9.45 a.m. I had a meeting in Green Point at 10.00 a.m. and arrived 20 minutes late.

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People of faith argue that God has placed us in an unfinished world, to face the huge and complicated difficulties of living together. The dream of seeing completion never leaves us and the word “problem” confronts us everytime we listen to the radio, watch TV, trawl the internet or read our newspapers.  Closer to home, if we are honest to God, most churches in the 21st Century are in serious trouble. We’ve surrendered our role to unintelligent leadership; witnessed the departure of many who might have been expected to stand alongside us; and experienced first hand the disillusionment of “life without faith”.

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Immanuel Kant, the great philosopher on moral law makes this telling statement: “Act so that you can will the principle of your act to be law universal”. In an ideal world, if everybody acted on the same principle all would (in theory) be well. Our endless excuses dispensing ourselves from obligation pile up. We side-step responsibility and establish defense mechanisms to counter the feeling of being overwhelmed by the size of the problems.

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In our search for common values, the great standards of right and wrong evaporate like the rainbow. We need to ask ourselves whether we are part of the problem or the solution.  Listen to the words of the Prodigal who said: “I will arise and go to my Father”. That kind of living reveals an answer. There’s a commitment … a resolve that says: “it can be done and I am starting to work on it!”.

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Christians look at life and confess that Christ is the answer. That in him “we are more than conquerors”. Where his spirit comes, a new era dawns. I call it transformation … being part of a new creation. Waiting in SMART CARD QUEUES gives us time to think. There must be another way! Are there any suggestions out there?

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DAY 487: BUSY BOY!

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My days over the past few weeks have been crowded. A Baptism, two funerals, two concerts and a destination wedding have certainly kept me out of mischief. We arranged a Baptismal service for the proud parents of an active adventurer who crawled all over the church and delighted in making a splash with the water in the Baptismal font.

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It’s great to get families together under one roof to celebrate new beginnings. After the service I was able to make good use of the Mossop Library and track the obituary of Rev. Hodges – one time President of Conference – and distant relative of the baby I baptised. This was a life-giving moment.

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Our city felt the disappointment of the shutdown of the Cycle Tour and has rallied as one to the plight of the victims of the fire which swept through Hout Bay. I had seen the black pall of smoke darken the skyline on the Saturday morning on my way to a regular breakie on the coast. The gale force South Easter was unstoppable. Now on HUMAN RIGHTS DAY all is calm and I am preparing for something new in the “burbs”.

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This afternoon John Frans and BUSY BOY are heading over the green curtain to the Bergvliet Methodist Church. We’ve been invited to parachute our Music@Mossop experience into the Southern Suburbs. Our themed focus is on HUMAN RIGHTS. It’s a celebration of story and song as we unlock some of the hidden treasures of our hymnody. We seek to bring the real world into the church. What better way to SING THE FAITH on a day that changed the direction of this country?

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Even though Sunday was part of a manufactured long weekend, Mossop was packed with worshipers who came to examine the significance of their steps through LENT 2017. We highlighted Conflict and Suffering as real challenges on the Way of the Cross. During the service a member of the congregation presented stunning pictures of a recent trip to the Kruger National Park and John Frans played background music.

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He is such a talent! I loved the way he created a “rumble” on the keyboard whenever the Lion appeared.

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In the afternoon Arlene and I (together with our close friends) visited the Proposal Project for the development of the Foreshore and hurried off to the LABIA

 

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to see the movie “Lion” – a true story out of India, of a child lost, adopted and re-united with his mother. I could see it again!

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I had no less than 6 requests to officiate at marriages celebrated on Saturday. Those who approached me first, got the nod. Happily Arlene joined me and turned into my perfect SATNAV! I got horribly lost in the heart of Robertson (a two hour drive from Cape Town) and felt stressed as the clock clicked toward the 4.30 p.m. start time. The destination wedding took place at the Pat Busch Mountain Reserve in the middle of vineyards, surrounded by majestic mountains and under a sprawling old oak tree.

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Acorns even landed on my head! I picked one up, examined it carefully and mused at the way in which “love grows and deepens with the years”. Sometimes we can crowd out our days with “BUSY ness”. When we stop, pause, reflect and make the connections – something happens. We find balance and get ready for New Life (Springtime). It’s the EQUINOX: Equal Day and Equal Night.

For some, the night time of LOSS is tangible. Two funerals in one day on Friday drove home the reality for BUSY BOY.

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Here in Cape Town we wait for winter and look forward to much needed rain. In the Northern hemisphere SPRING arrives. BUSY BOY or not, life is all about find the BALANCE.

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DAY 486: CAREER PATH APPRECIATION

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LENT is a time of self examination and personal assessment. Twenty years ago I subscribed to a CAREER PATH APPRECIATION program to examine my output as a Methodist minister. The assessment asked whether my capabilities exceeded my responsibilities and whether I had begun to feel wasted in the work I was doing. Was I starting to look elsewhere to focus my energies?

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The test was also geared to assess STRESS. It asked whether I was competent to deal with the complexities of ministry or if I felt misused by the organisation and unable to cope with the demands of my position as resident minister.

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When knowledge and experience are insufficient, how does the decision making take place?  What, for example, is my current level of complexity of functioning comfortably? What longer term development of complexity would be needed? This was the big league. Like LENT, my ability to deal with cognitive complexity was being examined. The challenge is always there in the decisions that we make.

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The report summed up my CAREER PATH with ease. Noting my family history with generations of service to the church, my ability to “see the bigger picture” and my frustration with the leadership of the church rather than with the church as an institution was recognised. APPRECIATING an academically adventurous CAREER PATH, my examiner  recognised that from my ordination (in 1980), I was “looking for a future PATH”.

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The development of Salty Print and the Inner City Mission addressed that need. This journey helped expand personal horizons and find new and better ways of serving the community. He (the examiner) identified my restlessness and suggested that my PATH  of ACCUMULATING which morphed into CONNECTING was well suited to the level of SERVICE.

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The next level – one of STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT – was where I was heading. Unease can progress into considerable frustration. So too, can a lack of confidence or continuity unsettle amidst the sea of change and transition. I know I started pushing the boundaries. I sought to extend my ministry to meet unused capability. The Internet opened the door. I went on online in 1998 on St. Cecilia Day. The decision (thanks to the promptings of Lin Crowe in Philadelphia USA) created a constantly moving picture. I had entered the world stage.  Moving back and forth, I delighted in the connectivity. My parish became the world.

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My travels overseas (ignited by a deep desire to find the Best Practice for the Church today) opened doors. I documented my discoveries in words and pictures. Meeting with specialists and securing resources for the work, whilst still trying to balance the new technologies to local conditions stretched me in my ministry.

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Happily I weathered the subsequent difficulties created by these alternative pathways and patterns. Our business was job creation, leadership and transformation. I often return to the Salty Print mantras of commitment and determination: “Always Press On”; “Where there is no vision the people perish” and “Transforming Paper, People and Places”. Sometimes I reminded the staff that “the project is not over until the money is in the bank and the customer has come back with another order!”.

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Perhaps my work at MOSSOP is evidence of continuing growth. The essence of STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT is to provide a link between the present and the future. Uncertainty can be a vital ingredient for sustainability. We have gathered “noise” about what is happening, what is not happening but what could and should be happening and what might happen in the life of struggling churches.

 

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Judgement is made on the links between the old and the new and the uncertainty one faces as a church in transition. I like the way we can terminate projects/events that are no longer appropriate to STRATEGIC intent. It’s all about a blend of BEING with what is GOING ON to create knowledge-in-action. Then we take a step back to create knowledge-in-reflection.

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When we bring out the best in people, I think we are very close to the Kingdom of God.

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DAY 485: ASH WEDNESDAY 2017

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Many years ago Cliff Richard sang a song called Forty Days. On ASH WEDNESDAY we begin our descent into the depths of self examination, penitence and personal assessment. FORTY DAYS symbolises the time given for us to make the journey through the SEASON OF LENT. LENT, of course, means Spring Time and for our friends in the Northern Hemisphere the anticipation is exciting. They can’t wait for sunshine and new life!

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Here in Cape Town the picture is completely different. We count the days and desperately wait for winter – scanning the horison for rain-bringing cold fronts to ease the grip of severe drought which tightens every day. The lack of water has forced everyone to re-examine their use of this precious resource.

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If we examine the scriptures carefully, there are signposts to help us along the way. The Church, for example, gives us days of rest and recovery to encourage those committed to the journey. Growing up in a Methodist home, ASH WEDNESDAY and the 40 Days of LENT were not part of my church upbringing experience. EASTER became the Message! Or was it the chocolates?

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My stirrings initially came through the ministry of Rev.Paul Bester (Goldfields Circuit) who introduced me to the importance of HOLY WEEK and the 3 hour service on GOOD FRIDAY. The pattern was developed in Salt River and has never left me. Now it is hard to take the traditional festival days out of my head. The First Four Sundays (temptation, conflict,suffering and transfiguration) are followed by PASSION and then PALM Sunday leading into Holy Week with the MAUNDY THURSDAY  (Tenebrae) Service always leaving an indelible imprint.

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I think there is place for ritual and discipline in our lives. ASH WEDNESDAY gives us direction. We read from Matthew 6: 1 – 18 and pick up on the importance of ALMS GIVING (acts of charity), PRAYER and FASTING as key ingredients. Jesus refused to dazzle people into faith. He also tells the story of two people. The one man shouts “There’s nothing wrong with me” and mutters “Thank God I’m not like those over there!”. The other exclaims “There’s everything wrong with me!”.

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Ashamed of his sin, he beats his breast and cries “God have mercy on me a sinner”. The man could not even look up to heaven. He was so ashamed of his sin. The ASHES (a product of the previous year’s burned Palm Sunday leaves) are BLACK – a sign of remorse and repentance. When a person dies some people wear a black armband to show respect and acknowledge the loss. The ASH is dirty and symbolically exposes the dirt in ourselves. We want to wash it away and be made clean again.

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Cliff Richard’s song does help us in LENT. We want to “Get Back” or better still “Get Into” a right relationship with God. Bearing the weight of the Cross, learning to follow, we quietly learn that mistakes mould us and regrets teach us. This is the secret of the journey. God wants us to be marked as one of His. His word is quite clear: “return to me with all your heart … with fasting, with weeping, with mourning”. Turn ASHES into ALMS.

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If we take the mark of the Cross to heart, our end point is to get HOME: to keep these days carefully, to take to heart the call to repentance, to receive the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel and so to grow in the faith and devotion to our Lord. Better still “turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ”.!  How can we forget the chorus presented on ASH WEDNESDAY throughout the world?  “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”.

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