Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
God has given me an awesome family. I will miss them next year, but I'm so glad to have seen them so constructively happy during these holidays. Not that they haven't played and messed around plenty as well - that was also good to see.
Happy Christmas to all who come by here! May Jesus be real to you in a special way.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Isn't this the ideal that many people strive for? Close-knit Christian communities that are present in their own communities as a place that Jesus is known. Able to reach out to their neighbours, because they live and worship in the same place. And they have the continuity of leadership that cannot be supplied by the church - because paid ministers cost money.
So much 'emergent church' stuff and 'new thinking' has been done by the Methodist Church in South Africa for years and years. Of course, I don't know how effective the structures are in Grahamstown - according to what I value! That remains to be seen.
Stephen Murray blogged about the requirements for missional community leaders. What will my role be? How can I best equip and encourage these leaders? Many of whom have years more experience in their situation than I will ever have.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Perhaps harder because I know that I won't go back to my old routine. But easier because I am looking forward to the new. Harder because of the people that I will miss. Easier because I believe that I am on God's right path.
Going 'cold turkey' is no fun. But it is good to come out the other side. Now to stay there!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Why doesn't popular opinion define the value of art? Why do 'experts' define it?
Why will I, quite probably, not really enjoy some 'popular fiction'?
But then I don't enjoy some books that experts call good. Although I guess I would find merit in reading them, even if I had to struggle through.
As I write this, some answers do start coming to mind. Maybe I'll write another post when I've thought about it some more.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I think I am going to leave my cynicism in Joburg! Everything sounds so good for next year!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
My own church, North Rand Methodist, blessed me by allowing me to preach at all three services one Sunday and by praying for me and my family at each service. It was a very special day.
Moving on is good. But it is also good to remember what has been. I'm not good at remembering! Another thing to learn - while I live in the present and the future.
Thank you everyone who has been there for me over the last three years at North Rand and surrounds.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I hope I'm not going to struggle with being 'back at school'. I am not good at exams.
Hey, but it's happening!
Saturday, December 06, 2008
I struggle within myself to spend money on cars. But I know that this car is likely to be more useful in the long run than the cheaper Spark, and will probably last longer too.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
I am somewhat discouraged by the realisation that I will probably need three years to get my Masters done - at a level that satisfies me - and I may not have that three years, due to the Methodist Church taking ownership of - my education, my calling, my life? I do sometimes wonder what I am getting myself into.
On the other hand, I am enjoying the reading and writing for itself and no one can take what I learn away from me!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
It is odd, now that I come to think of it, that he didn't talk to the Romans at all. He made no attempt to address the structural oppression that existed. He did not try to create a Christian state. He simply worked with people and their attitudes.
And that is so different from one of the key tenets of Liberation Theology - that one needs to remove oppressive structures before one can have freedom. Jesus was concerned for the poor and the marginalised - so far he agrees without doubt with Liberation Theology. But he seemed to have an amazing lack of concern for the Romans and structural injustice.
I need to think about this some more - can't believe I haven't asked the question before!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
How much I must criticize you, my church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face - and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms! No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even if not completely you. Then too - where would I go? To build another church? But I could not build one without the same defects, for they are my defects. And again, if I were to build another church, it would be my church, not Christ's church. No, I am old enough, I know better.
My thoughts are so mixed with this. Is any relationship idyllic and fairytale-like? If it was, wouldn't we worry? In this last week I've been through the extremes of feeling about my church. Loving it and hating it. When I was sore it was awful. But the fact is that a meaningful relationship has times of pain and times of joy. The deeper the relationship, the more the struggles. I'd love my relationships to be free of pain - but it is not realistic in any setting. Even our relationship with God involves both pain and joy. People (including myself!) have very unfair expectations of the church sometimes.
Still thinking, still wondering . . .
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Now I find that my college library has a reasonable collection of journals, indexed online so I can search at home, and that these journals range from pentecostal to evangelical to missions to youth to whatever. Both problems brought close to resolution!
Only problem is that journals stay in the library and can't be taken out. I have another four weeks before the library closes and thereafter I'm being shipped off to Grahamstown, so every spare moment is being spent in the library. Hopefully this morning is going to see much progress made.
Does anyone know if there is such a thing as a Southern African Methodist theological journal?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
But thinking about this and, having just been to a Circuit Quarterly Meeting, I was encouraged by what the Methodist Church does actually get right. For those who do not know, our societies are grouped into circuits, by geographical area. So our Church in northern Randburg forms part of the Fourways Circuit. We don't do much strategic stuff together - churches tend to be too independent. But we pool finances to support people who work for the good of the circuit. The ministers and pastors meet together regularly. The more wealthy societies help support the poorer societies - often paying for probationer (student) ministers to pastor work in them. The circuit is also a point of accountability for ministers and societies and will carry out any disciplinary measures required.
So often we are irritated by politics and long boring meetings and we see circuit stuff as a waste of time. Yet I'm not sure if any other denomination has such an effective structure in place.
It will be interesting to see how the circuit in Grahamstown operates.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Lord - please bless her and bless the fledgling community. Thank you for providing someone to carry on your work there. May she be a real blessing to the people!
Monday, November 03, 2008
I'd better be careful!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But I got sidetracked onto thinking - what would have happened at the next passover? Would the disciples have expected Jesus to wash their feet again? Would they scramble to do it? Because the reality is, in our lives today, that if you humble yourself to an act of service one day that is not the end. That will probably be expected of you from then on. Unless you have awesome authority like Jesus did. So we lay ourselves open to be trampled on - or if you resist, you are viewed as ungracious and unwilling to help. Perhaps this is from my perspective as a woman.
But there is a difference between a once-off act of humility and a life of humility. And there is a difference between a humble life and a trampled life. I need to struggle with this a bit!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
I wish that I could count on time next year, then I could work at a fairly relaxed pace, but I suspect that I will have too much on my plate with phase one probation. Which is also cool.
My thesis, in colloquial terms, is about how to make Christian community 'sticky'. It has a strong Biblical component because technically it is a Masters of Theology in the field of Biblical Studies, in the area of Practical Theology. I'm not sure, really, how that all fits together. Chapter 3 deals with worldviews encountered in South Africa and how these affect the expectations that people have of any form of community.
The word 'sticky' might make one think 'attractional' rather than 'missional', but that is not a foregone conclusion in the thesis!
I am not a natural academic, although I enjoy it very much. So I am pottering around in the dark, and I hope I actually get somewhere in the end!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Anyway, it was a good game. We won. I scored a goal. Not a spectacular one, but it counts towards the score! I wish I played hockey better - and this time I can't say, 'I'll do better next time'.
So, some sadness, but still looking forward to the challenges - and the opportunities to serve next year.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
S. was buried from a 600 seat church in Sandton. The church and foyer were packed with people. All sorts of people. Old, young, black, white, smart, casual. There was a sense of dignity. Of loss, but also of peaceful passing.
J was buried from his shack in an informal settlement. A tent was erected adjoining the one room building. It was packed. People streamed in from the community and from the church. All sorts of people. Such different surroundings, yet also that immense sense of dignity. Of loss, but of peaceful passing.
The illustration in this is that - we can be God's people in whatever situation. For S humility would have been much harder, perhaps, than for J. Yet he was a humble man. J might have found it harder to smile sometimes, yet he was always cheerful.
I was impressed that there was so much the same in such different funerals. God is awesome.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I look so serious in a black shirt with a dog collar that I almost take myself seriously!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
In the early days of this little church, I arrived more than once to find no one there for the service - except John. He would walk all the way from his shack with his walking stick in his hand - slow, but sure. He was very quiet. He said he came from Malawi and he did not speak much English. But he believed in church and in what church means. I like to pray for anyone who needs prayer as the closing part of the Sunday service. John always came forward - increasingly for pains in his chest. I knew he was going to go. I have very mixed feelings - I'm glad he didn't suffer and fade away slowly. I know people can't live forever here. But he was a real character and a 'good guy'.
I was privileged in those times when church was just him, me and the Lord. When we shared with each other briefly and I prayed for him.
I will meet him again one day.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I love the thought of Grahamstown. A new place, a new way of being, new people to observe and learn from. But I think my husband is going to have a bit of a rough time being a single parent. I wish we could be together. The possibility is still there that we all move to Grahamstown, but I don't think it is very likely!
Monday, September 29, 2008
So this week we had no sound to the Cry Room and we had to choose between video to the overflow or video to the cry room because only one power supply was working. Suppliers on the internet advertise this or that wonderful device - but when you actually want to get one they don't seem to exist.
However, people are using the overflow area and that does make it worthwhile. But what a painful process. I guess missionaries in days gone by braved wild animals and disease. Today we must brave technology and frustration!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We landed in the Kruger Park this afternoon and have already seen some cool animals. Rhino and elephant in the road. A herd of buffalo near the road. Dwarf mongooses playing and even allowing themselves to be photographed. An owl in a tree. Warthog and giraffe close enough to count the hairs on their heads. Bushbuck, grey duikers, kudu, a gnu - all in a few hours.
Our problem is that it took us about an hour and a half to do the first 7km and then we needed to move smartly to get into camp before the gates shut. Tomorrow we can be as slow as we like! That's what holidays are for. And for realising how fast the children are growing up. And for just enjoying the company of family.
My daughter saw me on the computer and asked me if I was reading 'work emails'. I can't think of church stuff as work, it has always just been a way of life. I need to make that adjustment in my thinking though - because increasingly my kids see church as my 'work'. That is a real pity and I would have liked to avoid that. I hope that they can come to see church as primarily the community of Jesus' people and only secondarily the place where their mother works.
Now I am going to write one 'work' email, but then it's back to holiday mode!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I think I might quite enjoy the break too!
Someone lent me 'Questions God Asks Us', by Trevor Hudson, so I will be taking that with me. And I bought myself 'Jingo' by Terry Pratchett.
It's going to be good!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Then I realise that I am stressing - if only quietly to myself. Methodist Church Conference this weekend. Stationing for next year should be finalised. They have a great website http://www.mcsa-conference.org.za/. I keep hoping that the list of stations will suddenly appear there. Nothing I can do about anything. No point in worrying. I'm not worrying. But I can't focus.
Eldest daughter is at her Matric Dance. She was pretty stressed. I guess I'm worrying about her too. For no reason. She can look after herself. She's gone with a great young guy from church. But, one does worry.
Sometimes I do forget to have faith. Maybe more often than sometimes. Yet I do believe with some conviction that God is with me, with my daughter, with Conference.
He is so very good to me and my family. How can I forget to trust him?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Could Google rule the world?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
With all the hype about the hadron collider I thought I would link to Dion's post about it. He has a link to a really cool rap on the collider. Apparently the career of the rap artist involved has taken off as a result of this rather odd production.
Thanks to Google for the image!
Monday, September 08, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The RSV packs a whole lot more punch - to me anyway.
On service - serving as : the first sounds more intentional than the second.
entangled - involved in: involved is good, entangled not good and stronger word.
aim - wants: the first word is goal driven, the second just slightly more than passive
satisfy - please: the first word gives the idea of achieving something, the second of just raising the stakes
one who enlisted him - commanding officer: the first implies a personal relationship, however slight. The second gives no idea of relationship.
I really like the RSV translation - because I like things to happen - I guess I'm not that passive. Which one is correct?
The Greek for On service - someone (male or female) active in war. (RSV better)
Entangled - no Strong's word. Lexicon offers entangle or involve!
Aim/wants - better to say 'in order that' (NIV better)
satisfy/please - to be agreeable (NIV probably better)
enlisted/ commanding - no Strong's word. Lexicon - one who got the army together. (RSV better).
So two points to NIV and two points to RSV!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I read this book by Lazarus Miti over the weekend. It is an African cultural book and deals with the issues related to polygamy - through a story. It really gave me such insight into African culture. The book is written with understanding, warmth, honesty and without moralising. It is not a high-action book. It is a book that made me think - and keep thinking. Lazarus Miti is a professor of linguistics and happens to be a member of our congregation - I guess we are pretty privileged!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Phase 1 - which I do next year - is a sort of church ministry boot camp. It is meant to be hard. And although I know that it is going to be tough at times, I am sort of looking forward to the challenge. But to see that I am likely to spend the next three years being essentially unproductive is very hard for me.
Maybe I should be looking for a job as a lay pastor. The time to pull out is now. I won't, I know. But I will think very hard about it. Trust God.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Now I am hoping that the powers that be don't change their minds - I like the thought of the church that I have been told about!
We are thinking about how to cope as a family. Everyone is optimistic and we see plenty of goood things ahead - but there will almost certainly be separation and that is going to be hard. Of course, everyone I speak to has their ideas as to what we should do. And then I shut down - because I get obstinate when told 'do it THIS way'!
I am looking forward to confirmation from Conference, because until then we can't really plan.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I got the phone call from my wonderful 'unofficial source'. Do you want to know where you are stationed? And then I knew what I was hoping and what I didn't want! This was a very good news answer to the question.
But pray for the family. Being separated is not God's ideal for any family.
And things could still change. But I do like this option.
Monday, August 11, 2008
It was good to meet Candice and Joy again after being with them on mission to Mozambique, and also to meet Jonathan (Candice's husband) who found my blog while we were in Mozambique. The internet does make the world smaller.
Impressions: Trinity is a warm friendly church, I felt very welcome. And I have developed a tendency to talk too fast. Always stuff to learn.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
So I like the idea of generosity as a positive, practical way of encouraging us to get rid of a 'me-first' mentality.
There is a little about our sermon series on the church blog.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
We've been studying the prophets at Bible Study and the message that comes through is 1. You are doing wrong. 2. God will send punishment. 3. Ultimately there will be restoration, and mercy will triumph over judgement.
My group keeps asking the question - why doesn't God do something today?
Yesterday I thought of a pretty unacceptable answer, but it is making me think. Maybe God is judging the nations. Maybe Robert Mugabe is part of God's judgement on Africa. Maybe the wars in DRC and Darfur and wherever are part of God's judgement on Africa.
But how can God use Robert Mugabe? He is not a good guy (so far as we can see). Well, God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians and they were certainly not Godly nations. How can God allow such suffering under Robert Mugabe? Well, you are asking for JUDGEMENT aren't you?
I'm scared when I think thoughts like this, but there is quite a lot of consistency and it almost makes sense . . . What has Africa done? Well, left God. Shut down mission schools and hospitals. Secularised previously Christian institutions. Labelled missionaries colonial, anti-African activists. But surely God would never be so petty . . . Well, why are you asking for judgement if everything is ok?
Imagine if instead of mourning Africa we said - Guys, we in South Africa need to catch a wake-up. God is warning us. He has allowed North Israel of the Old Testament to fall, but Judah still stands. Can we turn to him and ward off judgement?
But we won't, except maybe in pockets of rather odd Christians. Because God is not cruel and cannot be using Robert Mugabe.
Rev 9:20 'The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent . . .'
Like I said, it is making me think.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
On Wednesday of our week in Mozambique, one of the village 'monitors' objected to our presence at Lucia's home. He said that we should move out of his area. We had, in our visiting, met with the Community Leader, his son and also the 'Secretary' - who had all given our work their blessing. So, our interpreter went off to tell them that we were having hassles. The people in the picture are from left, the Leader's son, the secretary and a teacher from the school. They arrived in response to our hassles. We were very much under scrutiny. After listening to us teaching for a few minutes the Secretary went off to the monitor's house and clearly told him to leave us alone. The Leader's son came to all our training after that and was chosen as one of the leaders of the new church. He is a very, very quiet man - but obviously intelligent and more highly educated than most people there.
We are grateful to the Monitor for trying to stir up trouble, because he caused some very influential people to be directly touched by the gospel.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Report on Mission to Belasse Village near Messica in Mozambique July 2008.
This church plant was at the request of Pastor Quenha from Messica/Manica Methodist Church.
Mission team: Derek Weston (Randpark Ridge United Church), Jenny Hillebrand (North Rand Methodist Church), Charles Mondlane - interpreter.
We were told that we would find that a group of people had been meeting at a certain house in Belasse. On arrival on Monday morning there was no one there. That afternoon we found a young widow (Lucia) who had agreed to allow us to work using her home as a base. There did not seem to be any existing worshipping community.
We spent the whole of Monday and the afternoons of Tuesday to Friday visiting homes in the community and offering to share the gospel. It is difficult to know with how many people we shared the gospel. We were generally very well-received. As a result of these visits we had just over 100 names of those who had prayed the sinners' prayer and made a commitment to Jesus - teenagers and adults. These names were given to Pastor Quenha by Charles.
We spent the mornings of Tuesday to Friday training those who came to our base at Lucia's home - nearly all new Christians. By Friday, these numbered about 20 adults and a number of children. By Wednesday the gospel-sharing was being done by members of the community, under the oversight of the mission team.
Amongst those who came to the training was the son of the community leader. The community leader had previously encouraged us to work in the village. We were also visited by the community secretary who received a Bible, but did not join the church.
We delivered 30 Bibles to those who believed and who could either read Portuguese or had a family member who could read it to them. It would seem that no one in the community had previously owned a Bible. The Bibles were treasured by those who received them and there were some who had to go without as there were not enough Bibles. We also gave 10 Bibles to Charles who belongs to the Messica Assemblies of God and whose pastor had requested them.
On Saturday night we showed the Jesus film. There were between 500 and 700 people in attendance. After the film Pastor Quenha spoke a few words and appealed for people to believe in Jesus. About 150 people came forward and prayed the sinners' prayer as a group.
On Sunday we held the first worship service at Lucia's home. This was conducted by Pastor Quenha and was attended by about 70 people of whom over 30 were adults. Pastor Quenha selected leaders from among them. Also about 10 people accepted Jesus and prayed the sinners' prayer after the service.
Friday, July 11, 2008
So - although I was deprived of my new computer (I even dreamt about it one night) - I had somebody else's wonderful techy toy to play with.
GPS in Joburg is often a bit unnecessary, but it was very reassuring to have in Mozambique! We did on two occasions find ourselves on tiny dust roads that it could not identify, but even then it would give us the direction to travel to reach a specified point. And when on the roads, with signposting in short supply, it was encouraging that the GPS would tell us that we were on the EN1 or the EN6 or whatever.
I smsed the GPS co-ords to my husband occasionally, and he tracked us on google earth. I had a look when I got back and it is amazing! The picture here is from Google Earth, with Grant's labelling (and spelling!). You can zoom in much further, on the real thing.
For anyone interested, Belasse is found at 18 56.011 S, 033 12.703 E. The farm where we stayed is near Chimoio at 19 13.614 S, 033 20.522 E. According to Google Earth we travelled about 60km from the farm to Belasse.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Mozambique was awesome! We didn't make it to Nampula, which was a pity. It took us so long and we had so many vehicle hassles that we gave up near Chimoio. Jonathan Hart, the mission leader from Harvesters International, found us accomodation and replanned the mission pretty much on the spot.
Even with things being difficult because there had been no preparation in that area, we had a brilliant time. My little mini-team consisting of Derek Weston (been preaching for 40 years), Charles Mondlane (interpreter who lives in the area) and myself were so well-received. On paper, we had between 200 and 250 first-time commitments to Jesus, in the Belasse village. I'm sure that not all those will stick. Probably not all were sincere. But I'm sure that in some of the people the faith will take root. We left a little church community of about 30 adults with many children. The trained pastor lives many kilometres away, so we pray that God will strengthen them to keep going as a church and that he will raise up leaders and pastors. Harvesters' International will also follow up and provide training for the leaders.
For me, there were many amazing stories. A guy we prayed for who seemed almost mentally retarded and who pitched up at meetings two days later a completely different person, in full possession of himself and actively participating in training sessions.
There was also much personal growth. I coped away from my family, although I missed them very much. I coped with my need to be by myself for some time every day - I just went away from people when I needed to and didn't feel bad about it. And I'm challenged with church planting and evangelism.
I'll share more of all this later!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Nampula is apparently the 'commercial capital' of Mozambique and has about 380 000 residents. I assume that our missioning will be done somewhere on the outskirts - as I do believe we will be working in rural areas.
I actually didn't realise that I was so ignorant about Mozambique - I mean, I hadn't heard of Nampula before - yet it has an airport and seems to be a happening place. We leave tomorrow at lunchtime to get over the border before it closes. We should arrive at Nampula some time on Saturday morning. We lose some travelling time because of having to cross the Zambezi by ferry. And we are not going through Zimbabwe, which would be a shorter distance!
I'll ask my other half to update the blog if I manage to get contact with him going, otherwise things will be quiet until 9 or 10 July!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I am looking forward to it - for very selfish reasons. This is going to be a great personal challenge (away from family, doubtful cellphone contact, introvert with a group of relative strangers). It is also going to be a break from routine that I desperately need. A time for reflection. I hope a re-energising time. I am going to learn a lot about rural mission work, which I am sure I will be able to apply in many situations.
But I do also hope that I can be involved in blessing the people in Nampula and that I can help to show them Jesus.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Maybe it is a turning point.
Leaving behind life as a lay person.
Leaving behind the local church I've been at for the last four years and that has taught me so much.
Leaving behind ideas I had about the life, the universe and everything that maybe weren't actually in line with reality.
Leaving behind a dependence on my family - the church can do anything with me.
Leaving behind . . .
But I know it'll be ok. It'll be good. I know that I have never been in a situation where after a few days I didn't get deeply interested and want to be passionately involved. Wherever I am next year, whatever the situation, I know I will still be me and Jesus will still be Jesus. Just got to get through the next few months of leaving behinds . . .
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I struggled to get our church Easy Worship package to run, but an email to support got me an unlock code and all sorted pretty quickly. I can't get my pc to talk to the Lexmark printer on our church network - but I think this is Lexmark's problem rather than Vista's. This is an irritation, but I now have an old HP printer by my desk doing a great job.
I'm going away in 10 days and I'm going to miss my laptop!
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
On the other hand, I felt that the people were tuning out too often and I needed more 'story' and less 'argument'. I suppose that is the balance to look for - enough illustrations but not too many.
I'm not really sure how many people are actually interested in 'cause and effect' type argument. I don't know how much impact it really has on them. They would rather be drawn into a story and challenged by it - perhaps by their reactions to the circumstances described, perhaps by the reactions and actions of the characters, whatever. Very few people, I think, especially younger than, say 50, are really willing to apply their minds to a sermon.
So I'm struggling with this.
But part of it is the local preacher thing - I preach only very occasionally to this congregation. Perhaps with this sort of preaching consistently a congregation can be trained to listen more carefully and perhaps critically.
The challenge for me is to preach genuinely from the Bible but also so that people can understand without too much effort.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
My reactions to synod in general - well it is living up to expectations of not being very entertaining. Actually, it is perhaps less bad than I anticipated.
I have come to realise, though, in the last two days how cynical and pessimistic I have become. It's partly stress of trial this and that. Partly stress from the uncertainty about next year. Also some stress from my day to day work. I definitely need a break.
But I still very sure of what I am doing and I'm looking forward to next year. God is good.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I see this and I begin to understand Zimbabwe. The community rules. If you separate or say something different, the question is not 'does this make sense?' The question is 'is this from the community leaders?' And so the community says 'vote Zanu-PF' and they don't question they follow. Because to separate from the communty is unthinkable.
From a western - I suppose this is existentialist - point of view, it is unthinkable to follow the crowd like a sheep. We are all responsible for ourselves and our communities. If I follow a course of action that I believe will damage the community, I am guilty of that damage if it happens.
I can reconcile many things in my mind, accept many different points of view, compromise in many ways, but I really struggle with this disparity. I cannot just follow where I believe danger lies. I cannot follow a leader that I do not trust and believe credible - although I will suspend my own judgement when I am convinced of the fitness of my own leaders.
This is not easy and runs very deep in most of us.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I also preached a commitment sermon and did an altar call - a bit difficult without a communion rail! Most of the congregation came forward (about ten people) - probably recommitments - and I am hoping that taking a public step like this will motivate them to take their Christian faith even more seriously.
I am taking the service again next week and hope to build on this! God is good!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Fighting feelings of inadequacy. Does God really want me to do this? Why doesn't he make me a better preacher?
But I felt his presence so strongly. Somehow it has got to work out.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
This came in the IOL news update in my email. Why do we feel that this Australian man was wrong? Why does he feel it right?
Does the Bible offer any help? The New Testament?
What provides the standards for sexual morality?
The Old Testament rules out incest. The New Testament says nothing about it specifically. Is it reasonable to expect that the Bible should have a specific word about every possible course of human action? Of course not. Can we take the OT's stand on incest and yet reject its stance on the stoning of adulterers?
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seems to set higher standards for our own behaviour than the Old Testament - if you even look at a woman lustfully you are committing adultery. But he also sets a standard of forgiveness rather than vengeance - no more 'eye for an eye'. Can we take it that the Old Testament laws have value, but that these must be understood along with the new message that Jesus brought of repentance and forgiveness?
Or is incest ok? Especially if contraception is used so that there are no children.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
The older, more traditional members were not there, but I decided to try to use the abbreviated liturgy anyway. Those there made a valiant effort, but they did not really know how to sing it. I am constantly torn between those who say that they cannot enjoy church without the liturgy and those young people who would surely come if the church was less formal.
Sometimes I think it would be better if the Methodist Church did not try to plant churches in informal settlements - leave it to churches who are able to genuinely connect with people. But I guess that is not a particularly loyal sentiment!
Can or should the Methodist Church change?
Friday, April 04, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
This is the cake that my children made for my birthday last week. They couldn't fit enough candles on in the usual way, so they made a plan using binary counting. Left is low and right is high in the picture. Does anyone know how old I am?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
On Sunday evening, one of our members who works for a human rights organisation told of his experience on Good Friday. He was in the DRC at the invitation of one of the universities. He was travelling with a Congolese colleague who was fairly provocative in his challenging of human rights abuses. As a result this guy was picked up by eight heavies from 'the DRC Intelligence' while in our church member's presence. About six hours later they came back for him. What happened is really like something out of a novel. I'll leave it to your imagination. But our member just says that God was with him because he was not physically assaulted. And they both got home safely.
We do need to pray for Africa!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
My understanding was that Good Friday is the first Friday after the first full moon after the equinox. I suppose this sounds pretty pagan, but I think it is much more interesting than always being the 21st day of the third month which is just as 'unreligious'. For Good Friday to be on the equinox we'd need the equinox to happen on the same day as the full moon and that day should be a Friday.
What I have discovered however is:
That it is actually the date of Easter Sunday that is set. It is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. Here.
Also the equinox this year actually falls on the 20th of March (at about 5am GMT). Last year it was the 21st, but it is apparently quite often the 20th! See here.
The full moon will be on 21st March at 6.40pm GMT.
The last time Easter Sunday was on the 23 March was in 1913 and will be again in 2160. The earliest Easter Sunday can be is 22 March (1818 and 2285).
Interesting! And cool to have equinox, full moon and Easter Sunday almost a day after each other.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
On the other hand, when we start making inroads on Satan's kingdom we can expect a backlash. Is that a comfort?
Monday, March 10, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
This weekend has become one where, every year, I stay behind and enjoy the space. I do miss them, but it is good to be by myself.
I've been looking forward to this weekend. Time to read and eat junk food. BUT - I've come down with a cold or flu or something and am feeling rotten! However, it does make me appreciate how seldom I am sick.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
But I'm getting the hang of it and enjoying him. (As do many people I'm sure, he's currently top of Amatomu Religion.) In this post he introduced me to neopaganism and paleopaganism and thus indirectly to mesopaganism. Words I had never heard before. Brian McLaren in 'A Generous Orthodoxy' is free in his use of 'post' as in post-evangelical. And all these are either premodern, modern or postmodern. Our philosophies are forming in a multidimensional matrix that becomes somewhat mind-boggling.
It's cool! If we can handle it we can almost merge the systematic nature of modernism (giving all these philosophies names and definitions) and the mystery of postmodernism (no matter how much you sytematicise you'll never reach ultimate definition). It's like an infinitely-sided regular polygon is actually a circle.
That's a nice bit of postmodern thinking. If you don't understand it doesn't matter, it was just fun to write. For more on forms of paganism go here.
Someone was telling me today about a man whose daughter committed suicide on Monday night. He was estranged from his wife and her family when he became a Christian. They rejected him because they were Wiccan. The daughter was raised Wiccan. I don't like this stuff.
Monday, March 03, 2008
I am very frustrated with my preaching however. I struggle to make contact with the people. It is partly language - they say that they understand English well enough, but I don't think that they do. They also avoid eye contact - I haven't really noticed that before in an African congregation. Is it a cultural thing? I have preached in several other African contexts and have rarely felt such a lack of connection. Last time I was at Hlalanathi I brought 'props'. I was talking about the vine and the branches and pruning and I took along some bits of rose bush - dead and alive. The people showed sparks of life as I explained using the objects. But that doesn't seem like preaching. It seems to belittle the people.
I am preaching there again next Sunday. I must do better. Pray harder perhaps? Because it is God who does the work in the end. But if I'm not the right person, then we must rather find the right person.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
It is better to read the verses around these ones as well, but I don't want to use up space!
There are (at least) two ways to read this. David Pawson from 'Unlocking the Bible' says:
1. A Christian woman may not give away any material thing without permission from her husband.
2. This still stands today.
But, I would rather say:
1. Nowhere in these verses does it say that the woman needs to get her husband's permission before making a pledge or vow. (Although he may nullify it if he finds out and disapproves.)
2. The verses limit the husband's power over the woman in saying that he may only object if he does so immediately. Thus he may not abuse his power by changing his mind or inventing objections to suit himself later.
3. As with all Levitical law this is modified (at least) for use today.
Not so easy, really to understand. But you can see that the verses can be interpreted as being on the one hand oppressive to women or on the other as being liberating!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The following Monday looking for books for my preliminary reading for my Masters and there's Karl Barth jumping off the shelf with relevance to my topic (to do with Christian community). So what do I do? Give in, this must be a God-incidence.
And I have enjoyed his writing, to my great surprise. Far from impractical. He deals with real issues as regards church and state. And I can understand why people quoted him so much towards the end of the apartheid era. I feel like a traitor to myself, but I'd like to read more by Barth!
Now I just need to get the smell of putty off my fingers. What a privilege to work with Jesus in this way.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Last night I was reading Stephen Grenz on Postmodernism and he highlights the message of Nietzsche and his relevance to Postmodernism. Nietszche said that God is dead and that it is the time for the arrival of the superhuman or 'ubermensch'. I can see the logic of this progression. Pre-modern - God is in control, he does everything. Modern - it's all about science, we can see how it works, we can solve problems. Postmodern - actually science can't solve everything, but we're not sure that God makes sense anymore, it must be up to us to make things happen.
So we try to be superhuman. Fully human? And we need to look after the world, because if we don't nobody else is going to. We certainly don't expect God to do so. And after a couple of world wars and general world unrest, our expectation that God will pull things through is very low.
So our culture is telling us that we need to be doing stuff. And we find that actually the Bible agrees. But we also need to be careful of deriding people from previous generations or different cultures who find God's message and call to have different emphases.
For an interesting post on Nietzschke see Jeff Murray's Blog!
Monday, February 18, 2008
I waited to get through screening to start reading 'A Generous Orthodoxy' which I bought at the beginning of the year. I didn't know who would be on the committee and I didn't want my mind filled with too much non-Methodist stuff! (Now that I'm reading it, I realise that I would have been ok . . .) I also this weekend read through three of John Wesley's sermons as preliminary reading for my Masters. It felt so odd comparing the two writers. I wonder if Brian McLaren had read John Wesley? Methodists don't feature in his book (so far!).
The similarities are, I suppose, obvious. Both men challenge/d the Christian status quo. Both had a passion for the world outside of the established church. It has certainly been said by some people that John Wesley epitomised the emergent church movement. Both claim an allegiance to orthodox theology.
But they write from very different cultures. And I wrestle with the fact that I find John Wesley more inspiring than Brian McLaren. You see, in Wesley's writing I see God and a striving for something higher than ourselves. In McLaren's writing I see McLaren. But I know that in our culture today we are looking for personal stuff.
'Tell me what works for you. Show me your vulnerable side'. McLaren does what is requested.
'Don't lecture me. Don't quote Scripture at me'. Wesley lectures and quotes.
Brian McLaren shows a resentment of his origins, Wesley shows his belief in the future of the church.
I believe that God has used and will use both of them. But I want to figure out why and how it is that Wesley inspires me, although McLaren is more contextually relevant.