Monday, May 30, 2011

One Error, One Righteous Deed

Following on my translation of Romans 5:18, about two posts back, I am intrigued by the possibilities suggested by the implied verbs and thus the lack of tense. It is, as far as I can tell in my limited experience, quite common for verbs to be left out in Greek and for the movement to be implied by prepositions (in this case εἰς). But it is almost impossible to translate these into English without having to make some assumptions.
The idea of one sin (Adam's) leading to death and also one righteous act (Jesus's) leading to life, existing perpetually (rather than one preceding the other or the other superceding the one) really sets things up for the conflict of Romans 7. It could be understood that we have both the sin of Adam in us (original sin) and the righteousness of Jesus (prevenient grace) in our souls or psyches - and thus we have also both judgement and life within us. Something must tip the balance one way or another . . . but what is it?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Greytown Observations

We had a nice 'ordinary' service at Greytown today. No complication over preachers, no confusion, no special events, just a plain Sunday service - and it was good. We are starting to get into a rhythm. My style is shaping the services -I had no idea beforehand what this would look like, but a particular shape and order of service is starting to emerge. The unexpected thing is that I have introduced a hymn into the order of service - my tendency is usually to go for contemporary. They already sing 'choruses' which are upbeat and cheerful and sometimes are contemporary, but I felt that a hymn would help the congregation to worship. It adds depth. Good contemporary songs also have that depth, but they are much harder to sing!
We started 'passing the peace' or greeting each other in the service a few weeks ago. It was obviously a bit strange to them at first, but they have now got the idea and we have a few minutes of friendly disorder. This has always been important to me and it changes the atmosphere in the service in an amazing way.
The first or second time that I was there I, at the spur of the moment, left time during the intercessory prayers for people to call out the names of those who were on their hearts. We have done that every week since and people participate in an amazing way. It doesn't take too much time, people say no more than the name, and yet the congregation is able to share in praying for each other in an awesome way.
As things have settled down I have started playing my guitar with our amazing piano lady and the 'choir' has started to sing from behind the piano making an acceptable worship group - all without any urging on my part. They are now suggesting a 'praise and worship' service - although I think we might all have different ideas about what that means.
My (and my colleague's) brief from the superintendent was primarily to provide continuity and stability to the congregation. I think that is starting to happen. They can come knowing who they will see and pretty much what they will get from the service. The service structure is sound and fairly consistent. The sermon comes with some variety - it could be Akhona or me preaching, and I tend to be quite different from week to week, so it is hopefully not boring in its stability.
God has been very good to us - I feel very blessed by him at Greytown.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


In honour of my Greek exam today, here is another verse translation. You will find an expert opinion of this verse here - Quadrilateral Thoughts

Ἁρα οὐν ὡς δι' ἑνος παραπτωματος εἰς παντας ἀνθρωπους εἰς κατακριμα, οὑτω και δι' ἑνος δικαιωματος εἰς παντας ἀνθρωπους εἰς δικαιωσιν ζωης.
Romans 5:18

ἀρα οὐν ὡς - so therefore as
δι' - short for δια, the final α is dropped because a vowel starts the next word. Means through.
ἑνος - one (genitive case to match the noun coming up - the case refines the meaning of δια)
παραπτωματος - error or sinful act
εἰς - this is wiggly preposition and can mean different things. into or for.
παντας - all
ἀνθρωπους - people (not gender specific!) (from a meaning point of view - grammatically it has gender)
εἰς - this word again. into or for
κατακριμα -condemnation
so far we have - so therefore as through one error for all people into judgement
Now look at the symmetry of the rest of the verse after the two joining words.
οὑτως - in this way
και - and, but here it means also.

δι' - as above (through)
ἑνος - as above (one)
δικαιωματος - right deed
εἰς παντας ἀνυρωπους εἰς - for all people into
δικαιωσιν - acquittal or justification
ζωης - of life. What 'acquittal of life' means is open to interpretation I think. The acquittal that leads to life?

So my translation would be - so therefore as through one error for all people into condemnation, in this way also, through one right deed for all people into acquittal of life.

This obviously needs a bit of work to sound like proper English. I would choose to preserve the symmetry or repetition in the verse in the English. Perhaps:
So, therefore, as one error brought all people into condemnation, in the same way one right deed brought all people into acquittal and life.

* As I read it again, the big flaw that I have brought in is an assumption of past tense. It would be just as correct, or even better to say  'So, therefore, as one error brings all people into condemnation, in the same way one right deed brings all people into acquittal and life.'

Thursday, May 26, 2011

African Water

I read this just now:
IS THIS the face of future water conflicts? China, India and Saudi Arabia have lately leased vast tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa at knockdown prices. Their primary aim is to grow food abroad using the water that African countries don't have the infrastructure to exploit. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. New Scientist
Do we really want this to happen in Africa? Mineral resources, rain forests, water . . . What can we do?

Social Network Office Hours

Here's a good idea for those with social network ministries. Just as a minister might have 'vestry hours' when he or she is available for people to just pop by and chat, we can do the same with facebook, twitter . . . whatever. Just say that we are available to chat at these hours and then stick by the computer or the cell phone. I can see this working!
Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks. (Yes, the blog is really called that!)

By the way - you can find me on Twitter @JennyHillebrand

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out of Sync

My adventures into improved time management are progressing reasonably well. This week is complicated by the fact that UKZN lectures are finished (good, more time I thought), but much of the time has been filled up with postgrad seminars (very useful, but now that extra time has gone) and the seminary programme still continues and I am out of rhythm. I am trying to make the Greytown/Dalton project a proper cooperation between my colleague and myself, but trying to pin him down to meetings and schedules and events is tricky. But things are improving and I think we will get there.
As a random example of a busyish day, today's programme looks like this:
7am Chapel - good preacher this morning, Thusho Manamela - watch this man!
8am Meeting with Akhona re Greytown and Dalton - except that he was supposed to be driving one of the transport vehicles for the seminarians and had double-booked himself. Good meeting as far as we got - then he was dragged away (and so now I am writing my blog)
9-12 - a workshop at UKZN on preparing a paper for publication. It is a new requirement at UKZN that students must get a paper published in a peer-review journal before they can graduate with a PhD. I am looking forward to this.
12 or 1pm Fetch daughter who is studying chemistry with friends and take her home.
2.30-3.30 SMMS Zulu class. This requires a lot of 'changing gears' in my mind, but we'll survive.
5.30 Community Forum at SMMS
7.30 Family is supposed to be going to the Pietermaritzburg Schools Dance Funk Festival at Hilton - I think I will be dead (tired), by then (even if CF finished in time), but we'll see.

It's all good - just very structured. Tomorrow . . . time is my own after chapel, but rather too much to do! We'll get there and God is always good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Clowning for the King

This photo shows what our kids were doing a few Sundays back:

They have done clown skits for church services for a while - the younger ones joining in as they got old enough. But it's not something that can be done very often at church and as a family we have been in different parts of the world recently. It has been nice while we have all been in Pietermaritzburg to do something, for church, together again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Postgrad Seminar

I spent today at UKZN at a Bib Studs postgrad seminar. I like the idea - all Masters and PhD students get together and share their work in progress. Trouble is I started out feeling a bit under the weather and ended feeling decidedly not good!
Apart from that - I must admit that I feel pretty slow and dull-witted! I just can't seem to grasp the idea of what I need to do to move forward. It feels like trying to guess the code on a keypad by continually trying random combinations. I am sure that my supervisors and other staff think it is obvious, so they don't explain - this is certainly testing my persistence. But I hate feeling so stupid!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Christs and Prophets

The words of Matthew 24:24 have been troubling me a little since I did a translation of them a few days back for this blog. That's the verse about false christs and false prophets turning up. My first struggle is with the cop out of simply translating 'pseudochristoi' false christs. What do we mean by christ?
To understand my second struggle I have to go back a couple of weeks. I've been reading Exodus on one day of each week and recently I read about the ornamental clothes that God told Moses to make for Aaron as the priest.One of the reasons that God gives for the ornamental clothes is in chapter 28:2 'Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honour'. We were also learning in seminary about the liturgical or seasonal colours of the church. These aren't a traditional Methodist thing as far as I understand, but they are used increasingly. We give different reasons for these vestments, but I guess at the root of it all is 'dignity and honour'. As I've journeyed with Moses and Aaron I have begun to struggle with the fact that while as a 'wannabe minister' I should maybe want to emulate Aaron, I actually find myself more like Moses.
Moses was tuned in to God, often struggling with him. He passed on God's word to the people, he interceded for them. He didn't seem to wear fancy clothes, or even have a title as such. Aaron's role was the ceremonial stuff; clothes and incense and rituals. I am definitely more at home with Moses - even to the reluctance to take the limelight. Would Aaron have been Moses's prophet?
Because then pseudo christs and pseudo prophets could refer to Moses and Aaron type partnerships if we take christ as meaning a Lord's anointed.
This opens the passage to a more manageable interpretation than when we think of false 'capital C' Christs.
But then I need to question the meaning of 'prophet'. If Aaron was a prophet was his function in any way similar to Isaiah's? Could they both be prophets, but different?
We know that the church is a royal priesthood of believers, but are there people that can be identified as anointed by the Lord and as prophets? Thus giving meaning to pseudochrists and pseudoprophets.
I'm not sure if I've said anything new . . . thinking . . .

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sabbath Rest

Today is Saturday. I am not planning to preach anywhere tomorrow. I am trying to force myself to take a proper day off. This is something I keep promising that I will do and I keep breaking that promise. Not that I keep myself mind-blowingly busy - it is just easy to drift into a low-grade busyness that is characterised by a vague sense of guilt. So I have been planning today off all week and am encouraged by reading in Exodus last night that the punishment for the Israelites who did not keep the sabbath was death. And am somewhat under pressure having been told late on Friday afternoon that I need to present my research proposal at a post-grad seminar at UKZN on Monday. But today is a day off - so Monday's problem will just have to wait!
The other promise to myself that I have been breaking is to keep up the exercising - hopefully I will run Pig Hill again this evening!

Friday, May 20, 2011

And synods say . . .

The synods of the Methodist Church have elected Zipho Siwa to be the new presiding bishop - from 2012 as far as I understand. I suppose that it is obvious that the winner of an election is a 'popular choice', but I think he is a well-liked man and I am optimistic!
So let's pray for the PB elect and also for the last day of the Methodist Synods on Saturday. Lord lift the spirits of those tired and bored and wishing that they could go home! May the last day of synod be an inspiration from you. Amen!

Rev Siwa is currently bishop of the Highveld & Swaziland district of the MCSA. The following bio from a MCSA press release:

Born in the Eastern Cape, Siwa is married to Yoliswa and they have four sons. He holds a BTh from Rhodes and a BA Hon from the University of Port Elizabeth and has served as a district bishop since 2001.
The founder of the Healdtown Community College Trust, Siwa is also currently a member of the World Methodist Council Executive Committee, a member of the World Methodist Council Standing Committee on Education and a member of the Theological Education by Extension College.

Deceiving the elect in Greek

This is another of my attempts to translate a Bible verse. I had my last Greek lecture today - exam next Saturday. Our lecturer has given us the break down of marks for the exam and 49% is for translation of passages from the New Testament. It is just so awesome that we are able to do that after only two semesters of Greek! Here is Matthew 24:24:
ἐγερθησονται γαρ ψευδοχριστοι και ψευδοπροφηται και δωσουσι σημεια μεγαλα και τερατα, ὡστε πλανησαι, εἰ δυνατον, και τους εκλεκτους.

ἐγερθησονται - passive future of they raise ie they will be raised (up)
γαρ - because or for, 'timid' word that cannot begin a sentence
ψευδοχριστοι - pseudochrists, virtually a letter for letter translation!
και - and
ψευδοπροφηται - pseudoprophets, again  the same word in Greek as in English

So far: For fake christs and fake prophets will be raised up

και - and
δωσουσι - future tense of they give
σημεια - signs
μεγαλα - great or big
και - and
τερατα - this word seems to be a bit uncertain. wonderful things or awesomeness, perhaps.

this part - and they will give great signs and wonderful things.

ὡστε - with the result that
πλανησαι - infinitive to deceive or lead astray (infinitive always follows ὡστε)
εἰ - if
δυνατον - able, capable (here best translated possible) it is actually in noun form.
και - usually 'and', but here it means 'even' or 'also'
τους - the
ἐκλεκτους - elect, again virtually the same as the Greek.

this part - with the result that, if possible, (they) will deceive even the elect.

The whole verse in my translation:

For fake christs and fake prophets will be raised up and they will give great signs and wonderful things with the result that, if possible, (they) will deceive even the elect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

And so synods begin

The MCSA sysnods begin today all around the country. Probationers at seminary do not attend synod, so I am happily blogging from the outside! However a prayer that synods will be constructive, positive experiences. That people will find each other, understand each others' positions and ultimately be open to the call of God and his leading and guidance. That Jesus will be affirmed as Lord in the Methodist Church - in faith and practice. Amen!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Today my challenge is to try to rediscover some sort of internal motivation to get stuff done. I sat with a colleague yesterday and asked her to help me figure out why I was feeling so useless and ineffective - and she helped me get a bit of perspective. Which wasn't exactly that it is because I am useless and ineffective (I'm putting my own spin on it here, you will see) but I should be able to achieve more than I am.
So this morning - I've read some blogs, but will not go and read the John Ortberg articles that look interesting. I've chased the monkeys using a newly developed method. Now I will hide my Greek notes (which also need working through), I'll hide the mysterious printout from Greytown which is the closest thing to a membership list that they have and needs my attention. I will not reply to the email regarding Phakamisa even though I should have done it yesterday. I have now written a blog post for today, albeit a little self-indulgent. I have booked a turn with my son's remote control helicopter for later and a computer game with my husband.
And now I will go and work on the revisions for my PhD proposal and look neither to the left nor the right until . . . something happens!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A New Club

I think we should start a new club. It would be for all people to whom this ςςς. is familiar. It's what you get when you start to type a web address and have forgotten that your keyboard is still set to Greek text! Any other Greek geeks out there?

Monday, May 16, 2011

For synod

The MCSA will be holding elections for presiding bishop at its synods this coming weekend. All representatives vote at their own synod, the results are consolidated and subsequent rounds of voting are then held in the same way.
Lord - please let your people be open to your guidance in choosing the presiding bishop. Raise up the right person for this time and this place. Amen!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Greytown Ups and Downs

Today was the seventh Sunday that I went to Greytown - time seems to go so quickly!
There are some really cool people in the congregation and I enjoy the church and the people. I think that it is fair to say that things are going well. I am not managing very well with counting the congregation, so I don't know how we are doing numerically, but I get a sense of a positive dynamic in the Sunday services.
Of course, there is lots more to church than just worship services and some of the 'issues' are starting to surface. Underlying friction amongst the leaders. Communication difficulties. I think communication is a big thing and it is complicated by the relationship between the seminary in Pietermaritzburg, the superintendent minister, also in Pietermaritzburg, and the local churches in Dalton and Greytown. I sometimes think that I over-complicate things by trying to look at everyone's point of view, but there is little value in charging in like a bull in a china shop!
So we communicate - email is my comfort zone, but in a semi-rural place like Greytown people don't have it. Evening meetings are not practical as most people travel some distance to get to church - and besides, no one likes meetings. Sundays before services are becoming hectic as I am bombarded with the latest . . . So this week I need to work on regular phone calls to people - not my area of strength!
And my colleague is now hopefully on board as he was only able to start after Easter - so to meet with him and to thrash out some of the cultural differences in our approach to ministry.
God is always good . . . but I am really praying for his guidance and wisdom for the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Non-Whites and Biko

I really want to blog about the two pages that I have read from Steve Biko's writings . . . but I need to work. So just a comment about how odd the phrase 'non-white' sounds to my ear now. We have moved on since Apartheid. Of course, the fact that my mind keeps saying 'don't you think it should be non-black' is discouraging, because it shows that we are starting to think in terms of non-black. And, I have a suspicion that part of my fascination with Steve Biko is that his writings could form a text-book for racial minorities in South Africa in the future. I don't think Biko would have minded - but I'm not sure about his current followers!

Synod Prayers

Praying for MCSA synods: Lord please help all at synod to suspend feelings of cynicism or suspicion and to be open to your call. Amen!



Wednesday, May 11, 2011


There is a new post on Singukukhanya - the first for two months! Masiziqinise.

New Books

Always good to lift my spirits - shopping for books! I've just bought I write what I like by Steve Biko and Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. I'm scared to read both of them - because my thinking will be challenged! Can't wait though . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More for synod

Praying for the Methodist synods next weekend. We pray for the bishops of each district - that they may have wisdom, integrity and openness to the guidance of God. Amen!


Some of us were talking about the emotional stress of ministry - it's something that isn't usually understood by people on the 'outside'. There is the pressure of decision-making (just like in business) but also of pastoral care (as in some other professions). There is the pressure of not really being in control of one's own time, of having to enforce a day off during the week, of seeking the approval of both God and people (and sometimes higher church structures).
It struck me that seminary is not bad preparation for this. Although the emotional stresses are different, they are very much there. Going from boredom to high intensity working. From a highly controlled environment (do exactly what staff tell you) to finding one's own way with little guidance. Taking one's colleagues as they come - they cannot be chosen. Being nothing, being everything. Being intellectually stimulated, sitting through what you've heard 100 times.
I find myself resenting this quite often - but I think I should see it as good preparation for what I will have to deal with later in ministry. Actually, I'm not sure that I do know how to deal with it - so there's something to think about!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Praying for Synods

I have been challenged to pray and to get people to pray for the church. So, because the Methodist Church synods all happen over the weekend starting 19 May (Thurs to Sun) I am going to pray for that. I reckon that if everyone who reads my blog just reads the one line prayer that will be a whole bunch more praying than I could do and God can act big time.

Lord Jesus – please bless the Methodist people and give them hearts that are open, willing and obedient to your message for them. Amen!


Blogger Interface

Blogger really seems to be having fun with its interface. It has been dodgy for a little while and now I can’t post at all. If this one works, it is because I posted by email!



Thursday, May 05, 2011

John 3:16

Here is the correct text for John 3:16 which I showed in a mugulated form in a previous post.
οὑτως γαρ ἠγαπησεν ὁ θεος τον κοσμον, ὡστε τον υἱον αὐτο τον μονογενη ἐδωκεν, ἱνα πας ὁ πιστευων εἰς αὐτον μη ἀποληται , ἀλλ' ἐχῃ ζωην αἰωνιον.

οὐτως - in this way
γαρ - for (conceptually this comes first, but in Greek γαρ is not allowed at the start of a sentence - it is 'timid'!)
ἠγαπησεν - he loved Aorist tense
ὀ θεος - the God (in Greek proper names often have the definite article)
τον κοσμον - the world

The text so far - For, in this way, God loved the world

ὡστε - with the result that
τον υἱον - the son
αὐτο - his
τον μονογενη - the only-born (this seems a bit obscure, not too sure of a definite meaning!)
ἐδωκεν - he sent Aorist tense

This part reads - with the result that he sent his son, the only-born

ἱνα - in order that
πας - all
ὁ πιστευων - the one who believes (I don't understand why this is singular - I don't think I fully understand the Greek πας which means all or every). Interesting that πιστευων is a participle and thus has the verb characteristic of aspect. This is in the present tense which implies continuous aspect - so it is the one who believes and continues to believe and does not refer to a once-off belief.
εἰς αὐτον - in him
μη - negative (not)
ἀποληται - passive subjunctive of destroy or lose. So let me translate it 'might not be lost/destroyed'
ἀλλα - but
ἐχῃ - might have (subjunctive)
ζωην - life
αἰωνιον - everlasting.
This last segment is then - in order that every one who has belief in him might not be lost but might have everlasting life.
And the whole text:
For, in this way, God loved the world, with the result that he sent his son, the only-born  in order that every one who has belief in him might not be lost but might have everlasting life.

I'm not sure that my Greek teacher would be 100% happy with this, but I think it is a reasonable translation!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

More Words of Calling

I'm treading carefully when I talk about my 'call journey' for fear of embarrassing people who were unwitting co-travellers!
Earlier this year some seminarians and I had a meal with - if I call him a church patriarch is that flattering or unkind? Depends who you're talking to - so let me assure that I don't mean to be unkind! A little interaction that we had stuck in my mind. For some reason in the course of discussion he told us that John Wesley recorded his 'heart-warming' experience in his journal and then never mentioned it again and that the church had made much more of the experience than Wesley ever did. Now, I actually agree with him, but I had been thinking about 'calling' and also felt the need to stir a bit. So I suggested that it was necessary to keep going back to our call, especially when things were rough and . . . and he picked up what I was saying and quite easily decided that maybe John Wesley had made more of his experience than just the one journal entry and he did quite likely keep going back to it. He also shared how the certainty of his own call had helped him stand firm time and again.
This doesn't seem like a very dramatic conversation, but it has stuck in my mind. I think because it is like an anchor. The conversation anchored me to the idea of 'call'. The call itself is an anchor in ministry. And my contribution to this conversation was an anchor which swung the ideas around. Jesus allows me to be an anchor - it's sometimes hard to see that in seminary life - but I need to believe it!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Greytown Again

This is one of the many beautiful banners that hang at Greytown Methodist Church. Many if not all of them have been made, as far as I can tell, by the current pianist. She is a really talented lady!

We explored the buildings a little more on Sunday, because my son came with me as he is thinking about helping to start - or restart - a little Sunday School. The church is just so beautifully equipped. There are rooms designed especially for Sunday School classes. They have TV and video machine - all good stuff. Greytown Methodist Church has by no means given up. It doesn't seem to have fallen into the habits and patterns of a small church. It is like a rock pool that is shallow at the moment, but just waiting for the tide to flow back and fill it again.
God is good - it will be interesting to see where things go!