Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Public money

When writing about money it is like sharing about ones sex life? You don’t talk about it in public. What we do with our money is our business and nobody else’s and maybe if this attitude changed we would find spiritual release. If fellowship groups would allow members to express how they spend their money, how they struggle with what to purchase, and how purchasing may have become an end in itself, it may help us realize the struggle we all face. To spend money can quickly become an addictive means of satisfying us, but only for a temporary measure. A crime situation helped free me from what I owned. They wiped me out of all the usual things in the Pretoria manse and we had to claim from insurance to get all the appliances etc. back. Every item I replaced in that house I felt I would never be able to own. There was no saying when the next burglary would be, and when I would have to replace it all again. There are some positive things that come from a crime epidemic? To serve God or to serve money was the choice Jesus asked his disciples to make. To be disciples of Jesus one has to make this choice. 1 Tim. 6.9 speaks about those who want to be rich. This is a choice that is not exclusive to those who have lots of money. The don’t haves can just as easily place all their hope on material things and fall prey to the same temptation as the haves. The “kingdom of God” that Jesus warns is difficult to enter if we are money obsessed. This kingdom is not something that is realized only one day in ‘heaven’. It is a reality being realized everyday through our faith that can be experienced by the wealthy and not wealthy. That is if our focus is not on material possessions but on the God in whom we love and the people whom we are called to serve.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Two tongues

Sitting in a closed room this week with people who spoke a different language to me was an eye opener for one who always has his language in English and somehow unconsciously demands it. I was watching the “Jesus” film as it is commonly referred to, but translated into Zulu of which the only words I understood were “Sawubona Jesu!” There was not only a language problem. The video was stretched and the voices muffled by a perpetual noise in the background. It was going to be two hours of endurance by the looks of things. The experience was quite other than I assumed it would be. It got me thinking about the Pentecost story and how it translated into this micro situation in Mpophomeni. Here I was flummoxed by the Zulu whilst everybody else was glued to the TV despite the apparent difficulty to hear it. One lady in the corner of the room was in tears by the end. The Gospel message was being translated for her via a TV set and a film in her own language. The whole experience reminded me of the importance of translation. Firstly of the great importance of translating the message we have into the languages of all people so they may understand the scriptures in their own mother tongue. Then there is the need for Christians to cherish this gift of different languages and inspiration to learn the languages of the context so they may truly understand the hearts and needs of the people they are with. There is nothing more edifying than a person who is prepared to call somebody by their real name and not another language name. Mistrust and misunderstanding is so quickly built up when we cannot talk one another’s language. The great thing about the Pentecost gift was that they actually spoke the languages of the world. It was not some ‘heavenly’ language that was later practiced by the Corinthian Church that nobody could understand. Pentecost is all about translation issues. The Church’s role in many ways is a translation bureau that helps our world communicate effectively. Without it, we will always stare at each other from opposite sides of the fence, smiling but never understanding, nodding but never grasping, and with the slightest excuse we can turn away, because we never really understood.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A burnt tongue

There is ‘wordplay’ (R.N.Donovan) on the word ‘tongues’ in the first part of the Pentecost story. I have not really taken notice of it before. They saw what seemed like ‘tongues’ of fire that rested on each of them. Then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to ‘speak in other tongues’ as the Spirit enabled them. I like the expression ‘tongues of fire.’ It somehow powers up the image of what the early disciples began to do as they shared the ‘hot’ message of the Gospel. Peter’s tongue started waging straight away in the first Christian sermon that brought in thousands of people. This gift rested on all of them by the way. The Spirit filled each of them. It was not reserved for particular people. They all began to use this ‘tongue of fire’ and they spoke in different languages as the Spirit enabled them. The theme of tongues, languages, and translation are very dominant in Acts chapter 2. There are of course others dimensions and roles of the Spirit, but the focus here is on how movable this message of resurrection was outside of Jerusalem. Note, it was not the message of the Spirit’s filling that is the message of Peter’s sermon; the message is salvation through Christ. The Spirit’s filling comes with this ‘and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ The closest analogy I can find that describes the goings on here is the Unite Nations translation unit. I don’t know all the ins and outs of it, but the nations gather and as one person speaks his/her language the translators in the background convert the message into the languages of all seated there. Pentecost and the concept of a “United Nations” are very closely linked. The greater vision of Revelation speaks of the river flowing through the city of God, where on its banks grows the tree of life, and on which the leaves grow for the ‘healing of nations.” The Mission vision is reborn in that ‘hot’ room in Jerusalem. A vision of old, but a vision of the future, that would translate itself into all the nations of the world, and into all the languages of the world

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Pentecost tree

Jesus left his “peace” with his disciples. There was little else he could give; it was all taken from him. There was no wrapped up parcel with flashy paper and psychedelic ribbons. If we picture Jesus on the execution hill with his clothes stripped from him, the soldier's playing dice for them, he had very little to offer anybody. What kind of inheritance was this? All Jesus could offer them was the Spirit who would remind them of what he had taught and done whilst being with them. He left them with his teachings on how to pray, how to live, how to love and how to remember him always by sharing in that last supper tradition he gave. There was very little than his ‘way of life’ that he could give them. The Shalom gift is the gift of his Peace, Joy, Love, Faith, and Hope. These are the Pentecost gifts as opposed to the gifts beneath the Christmas tree - Gifts of nature, of being, of presence, of destiny, of affirmation, of self worth and integrity. Receive your gift, embrace the Spirit, our inheritance.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another day in paradise

The beauty of Kwa-Zulu Natal where I live is a haunting combination of the sublime and the sacrificial. So many are watching it with eyes that reflect their status. The view is magnificent. Although starting to dry off for winter, the Mooi river winds its way along curvy banks with overhanging Willows. The sky is alive with birds of all nature. Crested eagles, Bokmakerie's, Bald Ibis, to name a few. The poverty still remains, the trails of which are corrugated homes scarcely 10 x 10. A rabbit runs across the road. The workers are getting home late as usual along dark roads with no lights. They wave as you dip your lights. The dust of the road leaves their eyes blind. The nano ipod needs charging. It is another day in paradise. Who's I don't know?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The end is nigh

My Apple Mac had a breakdown last week. It is now in the computer garage in JHB having a Geek check out its pistons. One is always grateful to have done backups on a regular basis. Warning to all who don't! As soon as it returns (hopefully), I will not have to share a computer with the wife. Pray for peace in the home.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A resurrection proof

Thoughts from - John 13:31-35
The readings on loving one another in the lectionary for this week are at first glance a pattern of words and meanings that seem to be a cliché that even a cliché is not able make cliché. This religious thought is not new as Jesus suggests either. Well, that is in the way we understand new. There are other commands to love, found in the first testament of the bible q.v. Leviticus. I don’t think Jesus (a Rabbi) would have slipped up here. The new would no doubt be the newness that is freshly expressed in the new testament of our bibles viz. the law of love now written on our hearts in flesh. The example given before this text is Jesus washing the disciples feet. A love that is not written down to achieve, but a love that moves from the deep interior of our hearts. A love that is so powerfully entrenched that it sacrificial in its dealings, and is glorified in its death. The latter is because it is a love-death that will never die. The glorification that is evident in the betrayal/death of Jesus is not the death itself. That is the first part of the equation that ends with resurrection proportions. The best evidence of the resurrection of Jesus is the love that is shown in and amongst the disciples. It is a sacrament. It is a command by Jesus that we often neglect because it is firstly not easily done, secondly it is not something we want to do under law, and thirdly we unaware of its connection with the Resurrection. John speaks of a love amongst one another, not a love for the world, or for ones enemies. He is speaking of a love at its source. A love before it streams out to the world and gets bogged down with other meanings and dammed up with selfish intentions. The love that is witness to the Resurrection of Jesus in the world.