Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Our goal is?

The reading in Col. 1:1-11 this week reminds me that righteousness is not for one specific group of people. It belongs to all of us no matter what profession or enterprise we are involved in. Being with Christ demands certain responsibilities and one being the pursuit of holiness. We are being renewed in knowledge into the image of our Creator. The goal for our lives is to leave behind us the love for the world and acquire a love for the principles of God. The irony is you will do better in life once you let go the former ideals as the only things to strive for. The worry, anxiety, and tension that comes through striving for things in this world are crippling and a bondage. The freedom that comes when we let them go and walk bravely, the risk of allowing another to take control is uplifting and rewarding. At school we are perpetually reminded that we ought prepare ourselves for the future. The best way one can prepare is to prepare the heart first. One can gain many skills and technical know how, but that doesn’t make you captain of the team. That is what religion is all about, it prepares our hearts so that when we do whatever it is, it is done with the correct motives and does not just have our own glorification as the goal. Being a Methodist, this is a passage that is just up our street. “Scriptural holiness” is one of our doctrines. The disciplined struggle, together, towards a more righteous world is the means through which we seek to glorify God in all things and make Christ known.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Position filled

The thought today following on the previous two submissions is the extent of our understanding when it comes to comprehending the ills of life from the eyes of the Christian. Who are we to question or surmise what God is doing in all situations. We quickly take the seat of our Creator and act as if our minds are in tune with all God does. Only when we take on the position of ‘Creator’ do we find ourselves in the position to criticize what is. It is one position we cannot possibly occupy. One job application we will never be able to fill. There is no point in putting together a C.V. The position of Creator is taken.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gone soft or what?

Again I am confronted with the thought that all that happens is the will of God. I realize that much of the pain that does happen is a learning curve for the Christian. However, I cannot imagine a God allowing certain atrocities to happen. God may not want it to happen, but allows it. No loving being who has the power to do something for his child would sit and watch that child burn to death, be raped by another, be tortured for a truth, or become senile. But, have we become soft? Have we got it into our minds that our lives should be easy and without conflict? Maybe that is what happens once the Christian achieves what they strive for in God. A community that is loving, caring, patient, kind, could become oblivious to the realities of life outside this domain. It settles into the dream forgetting the pains it took to achieve it. Liberty has been fought for not only by careful prayer and well considered word, but it has come by the sword. The dark forces of society have been resisted with armies and in battle fields to defend what it calls civilization, for some Christendom. But, again have we become soft? Jesus was not warrior of gun metal nor shell. Jesus took on the act of being betrayed to highlight the higher ideal, the greater reward that seeks no pleasures in this life but a hope that is beyond. Breaking the pattern of sword against sword he died to build a Kingdom not won by barbed wire or mortar but won by the few who hold the hope of a world just beyond.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sacrament of the moment

The ‘sacrament of the moment’ a concept coined by de Caussade an eighteenth century writer has important meaning for our perception of the Christian journey. It focuses on the now of our lives and not the has been or should be thought avenues. Everything that is happening at the moment in our lives has either been allowed by God to happen or has been purposively instituted by God. This seems all fine when the things going on in our lives are great but not so when they are traumatic and bloody. We possibly have to get out of our comfortable cocoon created by our longing for the comfortable and realize that we are to respond to God even in the dirty parts of our lives. Those moments that look plain may have meaning, the time when you are in grief, you are lonely, you are feeling rejection, those moments can be converted into a sacrament if we allow them to. If we recognize that God is in every moment and has not vacated the premises.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Making space

Sacred space takes on new meaning in the light of the reading by Hawkings in the Guide to Prayer for all God's people (Upper Room books) pg 239. When we spend all our energies on ourselves there is no space for God. When we spend our energy in others we leave space for God to move in and work in our hearts. The closer we are to people, the closer we are to God, the further away from God we are the further we are away from people. This sacred space is often sought for in the quite places of our ‘quite times’ but maybe the sacred space is found as we are spent for others.

Friday, July 20, 2007

We are praying

I grew up in a tradition that placed the ‘quite time’ as a paramount part of ones spiritual routine. If you weren’t having your ‘quite time’ you weren’t in touch with God or self. The ‘quite time’ was an ubiquitous term that necessarily implied the reading of scriptures and prayer. The power of the ‘quite time’ was the ability to prioritize the other activities of life in order of importance. The time alone with God was regarded as the crucial element that should precede all other. It was that moment that would streamline and guide ones focus and direction for the day. The ‘quite time’ was very much a ‘me and God’ thing. It was about my ‘personal relationship’ with the Maker. One left the time alone with God with a sense of awkwardness at times, realizing that whatever happened there would now have to be applied in real life. It was the moment where you could dream you dreams, have your say and sense in your hear that it was all possible. The place of refuge is always a necessary place to find in the hurly burly existence of contemporary humanity. Others have grown up in a world of corporate prayer - The Morning Prayer and Evening prayer regimen. Up to chapel twice a day for prayers as a community is still practiced in numerous quarters of the Church. The bells will toll at many a monastery today, bringing the faithful to their knees in quite and communal prayer. Collective song, prayer, quietness and recitation will affirm their ‘community relationship’ with God. To be just to all, the incorporation of both means of worship is important for our spiritual make-up. The sense of being unique as an individual is bound up within the uniqueness of the Godly community. God is me and us focused.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Family Growth

Family - a model for Church growth. Amongst all the other ways we acknowledge we can do Church, the fundamental building blocks in a Church are the relationships that comprise the whole. It is better to strengthen relationships than it is to strengthen programmes. The family growth model could be the answer in creating a paradigm that continually puts the focus back onto the Church as family whose role is to equip each other to fulfill their part in the greater picture of things. When Melluish speaks about building the family unit he speaks about being a team, having family time, setting family jobs, create family traditions, being together. The translation into Church growth dynamics is obvious. When Church members work as a team, spend family time together, differentiate their Godly chores, establish traditions that bring family identity the roots of that Church would be strong and long lasting. The young would grow from that Church with a sense that it is family. They would be sad to leave its precincts and they would return each holiday to share their good and bad news. Family is family for life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Grandmother logic

The patterns set by parents for their children in the younger years are the habitual center for life. That subconscious guide that prompts us along the road of life is often the voice of our parents, although not their voice now but ours. We often find ourselves returning back to the paths of our younger days or spending as much time as we can away from them, all depending on our experience. The more time we spend nurturing our young children in the church the better chance we have of them returning to its doors later in life. ‘Family time’ could be a key pillar in ensuring the future success of the Church. I wonder if we saw each other as a Grandmother, Father, Brother, Mother, Sister of each other in the church what a difference that would make. The biblical injunction that the Church is our family is an important one. Many of us know that our family life back home is dysfunctional in some way. Work constraints prevent us from spending the amount of time we ought with children and spouse or we are a single parent struggling to be a role model for our kids. If we see ourselves in the Church as family we can often fill the gap for others. It could be that our greatest ministry is finding how and with whom we can be a family member with. Who needs to be mothered, go and mother them? Who needs the wisdom of a grandfather, go and be a grandfather?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Family Time

Mark Melluish an Anglican priest from the UK came and spoke to the Christian community in Hilton about a month ago. In short he has a dynamic and innovative ministry in England and has put together the “Family time” course. I am reading the book this week (thought I would give Bonhoeffer a weeks break) and I must say it is a fresh and simple guide for Christian family’s today to make the most of that precious time you have as family. In reading it I have somehow got into the thought of how relevant the precepts of this book are for the “Family” called Church. Maybe it is because I have no children and the subject is not directly relevant for me. The same precepts and principles that pertain to building a strong family are just as relevant for the congregation who desperately need to call themselves ‘family’ in the prolific change and shifts of our day and age. “Family Time” needs to be inculcated into the very fabric of our members. Congregant's need to make quality and quantity time with the other members of the family. Young people of the Church need to see the relationships between adults as their model for life. As much as parents are the role models of their kids life so too are we the Church the role model for those young children. Building family traditions, having fun together, performing our necessary chores, spending time together, accepting the difference in each other, encouraging each other, helping each other through failure, are these not all very much Church family priorities?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Holiday sojourn at an end

I have returned from a great two week holiday. We went to the Grahamstown festival and getting there we almost got stuck in snow at Underberg. For those reading this from anywhere else outside of South Africa will learn that it is not always a red hot poker sun that bakes our African heads. We also experienced what it is like to camp with our rooftop tent on the Wild Coast. It is just that, 'Wild' The scenery from the hill tops over the sea is spectacular, the cliffs disappear into raging white waters below. Then back for a typical South African experience, we went to a house in Ramsgate to be robbed of most of our valuables. Strange thing is it was five years ago in our new church in Pretoria that we were also cleaned out. Eureka, we love South Africa, you are never bored! Sorry no photo's, they are being viewed by somebody who has not the slightest clue who we are and what on earth a South African Land Rover is doing in 1 meter thick snow? Will start posting soon. Got to get sermons done.