Saturday, January 29, 2011

And to Friday

The last day of our orientation week at seminary was spent on a bus travelling around Pietermaritzburg. We visited the railway station where Ghandi was forced off the train, the Voortrekker museum and Albert Luthuli Drive. I'm sure you can spot the thinking behind these three points!
We also went to see the ruins of the Fedsem building in Edendale - a good case of history standing as a warning to the future.
Next week we have an introduction to Covenant Groups, academic registration of various sorts and some other stuff. We end the week with a commitment service on Friday. Hopefully after next week the general feeling of uncertainty will be over and we can get going with the year.

Friday, January 28, 2011

JM and Lawlessness

Following on my posts on lawlessness last week, the thoughts of the leader of the ANC Youth League are interesting. (I am not going to name him on principle!)
He believes that he should be allowed to sing the Shoot the Boer song because it is part of his heritage. In other words, he sees his heritage as that which defines right and wrong. There is no external standard, only his. We would expect him to see that incitement to kill is morally wrong and even if it is only a false incitement it is nonetheless hurtful and stirs up hate. But this is all secondary to his heritage.
One can see that this is essentially lawlessness because if it was law that one's heritage defines right and wrong then there are people who can say that their heritage includes white supremacy and apartheid and claim equal justification for practising them. Presumably this would not be acceptable to JM. This is lawlessness.
* Anyone wondering why this pops up in their feed reader again, I just corrected some spelling mistakes. I was writing between activities at seminary and had to rush!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And there was a third day and a fourth

I spent the third of seminary at UKZN, for the most part. I am now registered for a PhD - I think I am mostly excited because it has seemed such a frustrating process to get there. I have been accepted by the Biblical Studies Programme - the professor signed my form. I am very happy about that and must now wait to hear about a supervisor. They are all too busy - they have many students to oversee. While I work independently, I can't promise to be no trouble because I intend to keep them supplied with stuff to read. However, I have another week of orientation at seminary which is keeping me busy so I am in not in a rush to start yet.
Today, being the fourth day, was led by a team-building company from Johannesburg. They were really good and they kept us busy and having fun all day. If we can start to get this right at seminary, we will go places! There were still some grumpy comments about us 'just playing' but I think that we all started to get the idea that community means being together.
I must admit that I feel reasonably positive at the moment. God is good!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seminary - Day Two

I sort of accidentally missed most of today! The schedule started with a Bible Study, continued to several hours of admin and then something about practical ministry in the afternoon.
I found myself in a quandry with the projects that I was involved with last year requiring just a 'finger on the pulse' of attention and so I begged permission to be away from seminary for a couple of hours after the Bible Study.
Brentwood Pre-school - the teachers are so excited. The children are streaming in and they have had to start turning them away. They are seriously thinking about taking on another teacher. I am so pleased with what they are doing. The BIG downside is that the Brentwood Church is not keeping pace with them and I am somewhat at my wit's at end as to the way forward.
Phakamisa - it looks as if we will have full classes of trainee teachers in both sections (0-3 yrs and 4-6 yrs). Both Prestbury and Metro Methodist church members have been supporting the call for waste material for projects enthusiastically. And I heard today that someone at Prestbury has donated R4000 to the project. Is God good or is God good?
I headed back to seminary just before lunch, feeling a bit guilty for not being there, to discover that they had compacted the programme (good move!) and the seminarians were heading home. I will find out tomorrow what I missed. Tomorrow is also registration at UKZN. I hope all goes well!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back to seminary

Today was the first day of two weeks of preparation or orientation at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary. There are 94 seminarians, of whom about 15 are private students - not sponsored by the Methodist Church. There should be about 50 of us returning from last year, so I guess there are about 30 new Methodist candidates. There seem to be a lot of new young people, which is great. There are also newcomers in the over 50 bracket. It is so much nicer being at the new seminary campus - it was very cramped in the previous location. There seems to be a good spirit among the seminarians so far. There are two new full time academic staff members - Peter Grassow and Lilian Siwila and it seems there are plenty of part time teachers. The opportunity for the Methodist Church to do great things is there. God is good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Beast

This post may be a bit of an anti-climax. I glanced through Revelation to refresh my memory of 'the beast' and realised that I have forgotten most of what I knew (or thought I knew). Which is sad, but also fun because it gives me a chance to read and discover it again. And maybe I'll see it differently.
The trick with Revelation is untangling the seemingly related images and getting a hang of when everything is happening. When is the beast/dragon/ other monster Satan? When is it a human 'thing', whether individual, organisation or social construct? Is the beast in this chapter the same as the beast of that chapter? What does the 'triumvirate beast' mean?
Seminary starts on Sunday and I suspect that the next two weeks will be quite full, but I will try to spend some time struggling with beasts.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Does it matter?

I've been reading Inspector Morse detective stories (by Colin Dexter) off and on recently. Mostly off because I find that they depress me! But then I pick them up again because I borrowed some and they are to hand.
In the last book I read it tells of Morse's death and his last thoughts - he remembers his father reciting the Lord's prayer as he died and Morse wonders if he should do the same as a sort of insurance (Morse having lived an intentionally irreligious life). He decides that it would be unnecessary and is convinced that if there is an 'Almighty' he will understand.
I must admit that I kind of agree with Morse. God understands every difficulty that we go through, every intellectual and emotional struggle. He knows how difficult it is for some of us to believe and to change our behaviour. I hope that when I die he will look at my imperfections and failings and that he will understand. It is not beyond the reaches of my faith to believe that God could embrace a character like Morse when he dies.
So then - does it matter how we live? If we can believe that God will understand how hard it was? Is this a legitimate conception to use as a cornerstone of our theology?
To me the answer to that last question is no. Because I see this leading to a validation of lawlessness - it doesn't matter because God will understand. Of course it matters. Not only because we might be in fear of judgement (as the Bible clearly teaches) but also because if we are Christians we are called to love each other as well as to love God. We are called to be people who transform, not people who conform.
I'm opening up more questions here, but enough for now!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sin is Lawlessness

Following on from yesterday's post we turn to 1 John 3:4 - and the surrounding verses - but verse 4 in particular. "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." (NIV translation) The passage in general is not so much an encouragement not to sin but rather an explanation that Christians (children of God) do not sin. In verse 10 John goes on to say "Anyone who does not do right is not a child of God". Gulp.
But of particular interest is John's moving away from the idea of sin as 'transgression' or breaking the law, to one of 'lawlessness'. Sin is saying that there is no law, there is no right and wrong, it doesn't matter what you do. Along with the man of lawlessness from Thessalonians, sin is saying 'it doesn't matter'.
But in John's words it is as if God is saying, "I'm not too hung up on the details - but believe me, there is a right way and a wrong way and I'd like you to be looking for it and to be obedient to it."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Man of Lawlessness

I threatened to write something about the antichrist - so here is the first something. Paul's writing on the end times in both Thessalonian letters has always (ok, for a long time) fascinated me - he seems to be party to much inside information.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 is the part that is relevant to today's post. The 'end' will not come until the 'man of lawlessness' is revealed.
I think most of us are ok with the idea that the antichrist need not be an individual but that scripture that speaks about him uses personification. Although it may be that this is/will be an actual person.
The key thing learned from this passage is that this man of lawlessness will oppose everything that is called God or is worshipped - so Paul does not see the antichrist having 'being worshipped' as its aim. Also it will not propose a set of doctrines or a rule of life, but claims that there is no law - no right or wrong. I used to preach saying that the motto of the man of lawlessness will be, 'it doesn't matter'.
I guess, if I'm honest, I am afraid that I hear a lot of preachers saying 'it doesn't matter'. A lot of theologians claiming that humanity has the right to determine truth and not God. And that is almost true. It doesn't matter what we have done, where we have been or who we are - God calls us into a saving relationship with his son. But he also says that as his children we have the obligation to live as children of God. The past doesn't matter, but the future most definitely does.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I want to write

I want to write great and profound thoughts, but my brain is refusing to think them! I hope this is a phase. I hope it is just 'end of holiday' mode.
I am feeling a bit like the writer of Ecclesiastes - is anything worth saying, hasn't it all been said?
I know that I just need to get back into gear. I need to find out what seminary is going to look like this year. Where is my energy going to go?
One week until seminary starts and ten days until PhD registration. Roll on!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Amping Up

I went to see what was happening at the Texel flats (where my residence is) and to collect my post from seminary this morning. It is as if the blood is starting to pump once more through the veins of SMMS. Where there was dead quiet a few days ago there is now the sound of voices, workers tidying and cleaning, doors wide open, things happening. Somehow it sends a feeling of potential, of anticipation. I'll be glad to get back - mostly because I want to know what the schedules will look like, so I can plan.
The new year has already started from a ministry point of view - and I have been unable to commit to certain things because I don't know what my seminary demands will be. The Phakamisa pre-school teachers training looks like it is going to fly - I think things are going very well so far! I am not sure what will happen with Brentwood. I will get involved in starting the new year with the pre-school, beyond that I'm not sure.
I think this year will focus on academics for me. I think that will be the sanest direction and the one most likely to be supported by the seminary. I will register for a PhD and probably do Greek 2. I am considering also doing Hebrew, but I suspect that I won't go that direction.
I will hopefully also be involved in ministry at my local church, but that is also dependant on the seminary. We begin with 'Re-orientation' on the 23rd of January.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seminary Observations

The difficulty in making observations about my seminary experience is that these observations, however carefully phrased, are in danger of being taken as criticism by some readers. I don't want to be critical about SMMS for a number of reasons, some of which are:

1. SMMS is a fascinating and challenging cultural mix of people. I should think that it is a fairly good representative sample of the South African population in terms of race groups, if not quite language groups. There is no cut and dried way of dealing with this diversity. I believe that if SMMS can figure it out this could be transferred to the Methodist Church and ultimately to the country. This figuring out is not a painless process.

2. The senior staff at the seminary are ordained ministers and are there because they have been stationed there by the church, not because they chose to be there (as far as I know). They don't have experience in running a seminary and are having to work really hard at learning how to do it while doing it. There are naturally teething problems.

3. It seems to me that seminary management or government has four main parts. These are administrative, property, academic and pastoral. Each of these could be a department headed up by a senior person, but at the moment SMMS does not have that number of senior staff. Hopefully there will be a lightening of burdens there already in 2011.

I guess I see an enormous amount of potential in SMMS. I also see the challenges. For the moment, I am but a humble seminarian (well, trying to be humble!), watching the whole thing develop around me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blogging Difficulty

I'm struggling a little with 'what to blog', which is a periodic difficulty! It is a little difficult to write about 'ministry' because I don't like to expose people in the local church to the whole world without their knowing. It is hard to blog about seminary because, although there is much to say, it can be hard to say it sensitively - I wonder what even that statement suggests! It has suggested a challenge to me - perhaps future posts on 'what makes seminary so complex?'
Also some theological thoughts coming up . . . on the nature of the anti-christ.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I've looked at the blogs of a couple of South African homeschoolers in the last two or three months. My children were all homeschooled for primary school - my eldest until Grade 10. But my youngest started school for the first time last year in Grade 7. They have all made the transition well and we have no regrets about homeschooling. My youngest suggested that he might prefer to be homeschooled again this year. The thought is very appealing to me - he is a slightly 'different' child, exacerbated by being the youngest of four. He doesn't seem to have a natural grasp of maths, but covers it over and still does well - but this will bite him later when the basics need to be there. He really should be drilled again in the foundations. On the other hand, his imagination flies in all directions and I would love to let him explore freely, let him be challenged by himself and his own interests rather than classroom competition. Homeschooling would make this possible.
However - being the last of four, homeschooling could be a bit lonely. I am not master of my own time, although between my husband and I we could probably manage that. Next year we will be in a new town and my son may need a school report to get into a local school - which means we would be tied to some sort of formal curriculum. So, to school he goes.
My husband has persuaded me that high school will be better and that he will enjoy it more. I need to be sure that I am not just trying on to hold on to my 'baby'. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

I can still run!

We just did 5km, more or less cross-country through the plantation. Down the valley to the river, up the other side of the valley, around the top of the valley and back down to where we started. Actually, we probably only ran about half the time, walked the rest. Took us 50 minutes!
But I don't think I have run so well since I was in Grahamstown. Now if I can just somehow fit this into my routine when seminary starts.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Paul and Cicero

I've mentioned before that I have become somewhat interested in Cicero. Ben Witherington posted a review of a biography here. I am hoping that my PhD thesis will centre on Paul's homiletic - particularly his homiletical use of Scripture. (The way that he uses the Old Testament in his preaching and writing.) I am sure that the understanding of rhetoric and oratory in general that we get from works about Cicero will be useful. I am really looking forward to some of the reading. There will also be an African dimension - but I don't want to say too much until my topic is accepted!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A blogging why

Why do some bloggers set their blog feeds so that they only show the first few lines in a feedreader? There are three blogs that I would like to read, but usually don't because I have to go to the actual page and wait for it to load.
Just wondering (and hoping that maybe they would rethink, although I doubt any of them come by here!)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Another one through

Today's excitement is the release of the IEB matric results. My second daughter is now officially finished school and we are very pleased with her results! She had to move school at the end of Grade 11 in order for me to be at the seminary in Pietermaritzburg and for the family to be together. She has done so well. God is awesomely good.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Witches and Teachers

Two things in the news are the burning of suspected witches and also the imminent release of matric results.
If I was a person of influence in the Methodist Church I would say to the people:

As a Methodist Christian you may not participate in denouncing people as witches or in victimising them or their family.
As a Methodist Christian teacher you need to prioritise the development of the next generation. You may not participate in any activities that jeopardise the education of those under your charge. If necessary we will create a Methodist Teachers Association which will deal with collective grievances in a constructive way that does not hurt the children.

That's what I would say.