Saturday, February 27, 2010

A commitment worth considering – “Visions of a World Hungry”

These points of declaration written by Thomas G. Pettepiece in a book "Visions of a World Hungry" are worth reflecting upon.  I have not read the book itself but have this declaration as quoted from another book.  From what I fathom it was written in the late 1970's and this in itself is something to consider, as only now has the ecological crisis become everyday knowledge.  The insight of humankind's danger to the environment was understood many years ago.  I think this is a very well rounded commitment of faith that includes personal commitment, commitment to the poor and commitment to the environment.  Here it is:
1. I declare myself to be a world citizen.
2. I commit myself to lead an ecologically sound life.
3. I commit myself to lead a life of creative simplicity and to share my personal wealth with the world's poor.
4. I commit myself to join with others in reshaping institutions in order to bring about a more just global society in which each person has full access to the needed resources for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
5. I commit myself to occupational accountability, and in so doing I will seek to avoid the creation of products which cause harm to others.
6. I affirm the gift of my body, and commit myself to its proper nourishment and physical well-being.
7. I commit myself to examine continually my relations with others, and to attempt to relate honestly, morally, and lovingly to those around me.
8. I commit myself to personal renewal through prayer, meditation and study.
9. I commit myself to responsible participation in a community of faith.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Burning houses - a reflection on grief & loss – Mark Twain

Mark Twain wrote this when his daughter of 24 years died whilst he was away on a lecture circuit:
“A man’s house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts about for it he finds that it was in the house. Always it is an essential – there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered by its absence. It will be years before the tale of the lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of the disaster.”
Quoted in the book by Frederick Buechner, ‘Speak what we fell – not what we ought to say.’

I think it describes the process of grief very well, the length of the process, the sense of daily loss, and the unique ways in which we miss them at different times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What do Christianity and a mother in labour have in common?

“… unless we suffer like a woman in travail, we shall not succeed in bringing to birth the spirit of salvation in the ground of our heart.” Theophan the Recluse

We sat, six of us men in meeting last evening. We were missing our fellow leader of the fairer sex who might have given us new light on the subject of Christian suffering. The question before us was: “Does God call us to suffering in our ministry?” The answer was – no, not for suffering sake but in order to fulfill the will of God in Christ we will come to suffering somewhere, somehow. On reflection this morning I am wondering if God has not called us to suffering and we ought not skirt the issue. Theophan the Recluse (A bishop in the Russian orthodox church in the 19th Cent.) makes his point that there is no spiritual salvation without suffering akin to a woman giving birth. The longer I am a Christian the more I realize the importance to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. This will often cost me dearly in my pride, my pocket, my reputation, my time, my patience, my breaking point, and my all. This is no doubt what Jesus meant when he said: “You must be born again.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Steve de Gruchy - Our prayers for the family

Since I heard the news of Steve's disappearance yesterday I have been very troubled.
Prof. de Gruchy for those who don't was the the head of the UKZN religion and theology department.
From news I heard last night he was still missing and they were continuing the search in the Mooi river today.
A relaxed weekend away with the family has turned into a nightmare as he was supposedly knocked off his tube whilst 'tubing' the river.
I did not know Steve very well, but I know his wife Marian from a book club Anne and I attend.
It is a terrible loss in all ways.

All our love to the family,

Friday, February 19, 2010

Live within the limits - you are programmed to die!

The Greek God Prometheus felt pity on humans so he did three things to make a different. He took away their knowledge of when they were going to die. No longer did they have any sense of limits. They could now attempt anything. Secondly he placed in them blind hope. They could do anything their hearts desired. Just believe in yourself and the world is your oyster. And thirdly, he took fire from the gods and gave it to humans. With this humans began to become industrious and could achieve many technological things. Humans could now change the conditions in which they lived. (Taken from E. Peterson- Working the Angles)

This is the world we live in. A psyche that has no limits nor boundaries and has a sense of limitless resource. The sense that we can achieve anything we can set our minds to. It is this very attitude that invades other lands and plunders resource. It is this very attitude that is tearing our atmosphere in two. The attitude that is dripping the icecaps into the sea. We will learn regrettably too late that we were not made for such limitless power. God has made us genetically frail so that we may die. God has reminded us in Christ that we cannot save ourselves. So why do we keep living as if we can?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

At least accept you don't own all the truth?

"It is the mark of an uneducated mind, to be more dogmatic than the subject allows." von Hugel

This quote caught my attention as I dialogued via comments on a blog this week. The subject was on Law and Grace of which I err more on the side of grace than law. My critic got so worked up that they happened to call me 'anti -Christian'. In their eyes I had sold out to the 'other' side by watering down the Gospel. My concern was not that they held different views on how Christianity ought to be fleshed out. The concern was their vehement opposition to my stand. The old cliche comes to mind, "there are none so deaf as those who will not hear." Lets be strong enough in Christ to appreciate none of us have all the answers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grind those ashes to heart

"Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be." Thomas a Kempis

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a journey of change and renewal. Sometimes we have to mark the weeks, set the days, and cross off the hours to ensure we are living as God intended. Lent marks such an occasion for us. Our gut emotions often betray our inner needs and unwarranted anger is often the sign of that distress. Let us sort ourselves out this Lent. Let us make repentance something practical, tangible and all together joyful for those in the wake of our transformation in Christ.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Read that which hammers on your skull

The quote below from Kafka emphasizes the need to allow literature challenge our preconceived notions and rattle our temptation to make all things sweet and palatable. The Christian ought to take this quote seriously when reading their bible. The text of the bible can become sentimental if we don't read it with listening hearts and open ears.

"If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us." Kafka

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A naughty one year old!

Is your church a cult?

Church Team Ministeries International is luring young unsuspecting youth into a faith that falls in line with the basic tenets of a so called cult. Usually one associates cults with some wacky American religious group and not one that operates around the corner and are targeting church's in Pietermaritzburg and top schools in the area.

What I find more disturbing is that the basic tenets of a cult show up markedly in many church's I have attended in my life. I will not mention names as this would not be fair. But it is fair to say that many church's around the corner express these criteria:

1. Claim exclusivity that they are the only true church. Whether stated directly or indirectly the the subtle innuendo is that other church's don't have what it takes.
2. The authority of the elders and leaders is sacrosanct. One doesn't challenge them as they are the purveyors of truth. How many services have you attended where the uncritical congregation nod their heads after every utterance from the pulpit.
3. Limit the education of their congregation in order to keep things in house. They never attach themselves to a credible seminary or University for study.
4. Start interfering in how youngsters date and go about courtship. The church takes on a controlling influence in the emotions of youngsters.
5. Start creating barriers between the members and their family members who do not belong to their church. Creating social discourse that alienates and estranges folk from each other.

I don't know about you but I see it everywhere I look?

The Witness - article
Mnet - Carte Blanche research

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"God made us in order to use us for his purpose, not ours" Evelyn Underhill

We are coming up for our Covenant service this weekend. The time when we recognize the spiritual depths of whose we are. We remind ourselves that we are not on some spiritual self improvement course to better our lives. We are neither polishing up our self appointed gifts and talents either. We are humbly choosing to do whatever God has for us to do.
"All self-willed choices and obstinacy drained out of what we thought to be our work; so that it becomes more and more God's work in us." E.Underhill

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bruised by the Church? - A prayer for you

“ How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely. And where should I go?” Carlo Carretto, The God who Comes.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tradition – the only true democracy

“Tradition is the only true democracy because it means giving a vote to your ancestors” G.K Chesterton

This quote was used in Eugene Peterson’s book, “Working the Angles”. It is an interesting quote in the light of contemporary notions of tradition and forebears. It is not fashionable today to listen to those who went before us. We are far better at challenging the verity of our ancestors in the light of enlightened, technologically advanced and scientific viewpoints. But when it comes to matters of the soul, matters of ministry to broken hearts do we short change ourselves if we are reliant solely upon psychological analysis and better understanding of social behaviour? As Peterson points out we ought to be careful to uproot what Christian’s throughout the ages have regarded as fundamentals and the bedrock of our faith. Why? Simply, we are responding to God’s Creation from our analysis and viewpoint and not responding to the way and manner the Creator has shared life with us from the beginning.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

“A walloping great congregation is fine, and fun but what most communities really need is a couple of saints” Martin Thornton

We might have bought into the mediocre when it comes to our Christian walk. It looks even better when there are a whole lot of us doing the mediocre thing. It kind of justifies it. Saints are harder to find, they are not doing things to be seen or noticed. They are not concerned if the minister is away that Sunday or if it be ‘Hymn’ or ‘Gospel Gold.’ They are usually found at the funerals of the unnoticed, giving lifts to the house bound and many other ‘unnecessary’ things.