Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moon Rising

The moon rising over the Helderberg mountains. I was on my way to an evening meeting at Wesley Mission Lentegeur.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Propitiation and ἱλασμος

I was preaching on 1 John 1:8- 2:6 this Sunday and found this word ἱλασμος in 2:1 "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins". The best translation I can find is 'the means of forgiveness' while the NIV translates it with 'atoning sacrifice' in this context. I think the idea of sacrifice is picked up from the Old Testament use of sacrifices as the means of atonement. Apparently the use of this word in the Septuagint relates to the mercy seat of God.
In the previous days this was translated 'propitiation' and had to do with turning away the wrath of God. I suppose that 'means of forgiveness' does imply a turning away of wrath, but I'm not sure that the ideas are conceptually the same. 'Means of forgiveness' leaves a sense of mystery as to the workings of God and how Jesus' life and death worked our salvation.
This word is only also found in 1 John 4:10 in the New Testament. In the Septuagint it is found in Ezekiel 44:27, Psalm 130:4, Lev 25:9, Numbers 5:8 and Amos 8:14 where it is used in diverse contexts.
This could be an interesting study to pursue . . .

(much information fromιλασμος)

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Last year I preached twice on a Sunday every second week during summer, otherwise I generally preached once on a Sunday. With the change in societies I am now able to be at both societies much more often and so am starting to preach twice most weeks. It is good and I think that I can already see the impact, but I'd forgotten how tiring it is!
I think that I will get back into the habit of it, though as I used to regularly preach two to three times a week, but - I was younger then . . .
I can't lose the sense of privilege I have when I watch the congregations that God has trusted me with at worship.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Strictures in Education

Steve Hayes has an interesting post Zemblanity and Education where he describes some of the ways that education in South Africa has really become restricted. This is an old post, but just popped up in my feedreader now - not sure if Steve just imported it to his new blog. So we are now past OBE (that he speaks about) and are into another curriculum.
I will leave you to go and read what Zemblanity is (it's interesting) and rather quote Steve with this:

And back in the “old” South Africa a friend of mine, John Aitchison, organised a night school for the staff of the then University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg — cooks, cleaners, gardeners and so on, who had had little chance of education as children. Another volunteer effort, run on a shoestring, the teachers all being students and a few lecturers. By such means some people were able to bypass Bantu Education and have education for liberation. But it would be difficult to run such things under present regulations.

The reality is that education has become so controlled that it is very difficult for people to take the initiative to improve themselves.

We have been homeschooling my Grade 10 son this year and we do it with the knowledge that he cannot get a matric unless he does it through a registered institution all the way from Grade 10 to Grade 12. In other words, we are not free to prepare a child for university entrance without the accompanying ideological input. We used to call it brainwashing and indoctrination in the apartheid education system. Perhaps it is not so bad now. Or perhaps we just don't know.

When I was at school the history syllabus centred on the glory of the Great Trek. Now it centres on how white people messed up Africa. I wanted to forbid my son from taking history as a matric subject when I saw what he and my older son were having to internalise. He resisted this saying that he wanted to learn all the other stuff. And convinced me by going through the text book and describing the inaccuracies and biases, so that I felt he understood what he was letting himself in for.

I guess that education is always biased - we have to believe that some things are right and others wrong. But is it necessary to control education to such an extent that initiatives such as the one Steve mentioned cannot be run?  Do we know where we are heading with this control mentality?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Telling it straight

Here is something that I never anticipated about myself in ministry. I have become very short of patience with those who I believe are evading God's call. I find myself lecturing people on the necessity of getting their act together and taking the plunge into whatever it seems they are evading. Perhaps I wish someone had done it with me, but I think it is more that we really need people to be obedient and to make the sacrifices that are required to do God's work. I hope I don't push too hard so that I break something.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Second Year

An interesting challenge for me this year is seeing projects through that I started last year. So often in the last little while I have been in one year only situations. I am glad for the opportunity to take things further - but also see in myself the tendency to want to move on to something else new and interesting. It is going to be a good challenge to keep at what I have started and to keep investing the energy in it. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


Yesterday my order from Loot arrived - amongst others three books for my homeschooling son to read (and for me to read or reread!)

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman
The Information by James Gleick
Sometimes There's a Void by Zakes Mda

We are both enjoying the homeschooling thing and my son is wonderfully independent of me in his studying!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Induction Services

I am struggling with a request from one of my congregations to hold an induction service for leaders. I said I would only do it if it was for all leaders and all who serve. That was ok, but now I received a really nice order for induction, and it can't realistically be done for all who serve.
I know that we have elected leaders and thus 'offices' in the Methodist Church, but I so believe in 'every member ministry' that it goes badly against the grain to separate out some who are worthy to serve from those who presumably are not.
I guess it would be a good opportunity to talk about serving and leadership. But I am trying to start a Lent series on the same Sunday.
So grateful for people who think and take the initiative.
So struggling to head in one direction at a time.
So glad for people who take the commitment of their leaders seriously.
There is nothing as far as I know in the Methodist discipline (laws) about inductions. Methodist practice varies so much from place to place that it is not a guide - and besides certain growing practices I think should be resisted.
Sigh . . .

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to make decisions

I have been away for three days on a district ministers summit. Time well spent.

I have been enjoying Ken Schenck's overview of the book "Bishop" by Will Willimon. He particularly likes Willimon's take on decision making and so do I.

What I enjoyed most in the chapter was the four modes of decision making:
  • authoritative - the "my way or the highway" leader.  Worked good in the early Middle Ages.  Not so much now
  • voting - suffice it to say, those with exceptional insight are, by definition, not the majority
  • consensus - ideal, but almost impossible to achieve on hard decisions
  • contributive - it comes last so it must be what he likes (Willimon didn't actually come up with this list).  This is when a leader or appropriate leaders listen to all the voices and then make an informed decision.
 Read this part of the overview here.
I tend to use the contributive approach. I never call for a vote because if an issue needs a vote I don't believe the proposal will be well-supported when implemented. I think the contributive approach can look like a consensus approach when the decision is made in a meeting and members are happy to give the leader a little extra say in the matter.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

What is man?

A similarity that I noticed because of the coincidental juxtaposition of my daily Bible readings:

Psalm 8: 4-5 What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.

Job 7:17-19 What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone for even an instant?

And to add into this that the writer to the Hebrews quotes the Psalm 8 passage as referring to Jesus in Hebrews 2:4-8.

I really feel for Job. God gave him a hard time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A Life of Pi Discarded

I very occasionally find myself reading books that I just can't bring myself to finish. I was very surprised to find that this happened with The Life of Pi by Yann Martell which seemed to get good reviews and has been made into a movie and all. But last night I found myself reading and wondering why I was reading and realised I was waiting to find some reason for reading this book! Just like when one is walking and you head for a bend to see what is beyond and then you head for the next bend to see what is beyond and eventually you realise that you have to turn back. Except that walking is fun and this reading was . . . not fun.
Am I getting old and cranky?
I can imagine that this book could be turned into a feel-good movie, but the book itself just seems to be trying to outgross itself on every page.
Am I missing something subtle? Should I keep reading on the promise/premise that all will become clear?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Gentle Jamming

A picture taken while waiting for the youth event to start on Friday evening.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Bible and Culture

I am trying to avoid just reading my lengthy daily Bible passages and not thinking about what I read. For this reason I have begun to make sure that I pull out at least one identifiable observation. Here is today's from Matthew 5-7.
Matthew 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face (NIV)
We all take that as being only relevant to the culture of the time. I don't know of any group which fasts and then oils their head. We easily extract the intention of the verse (or we think we do . . . under what circumstances did people of that time oil their heads?)
But what about Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Is that a cultural expectation or a Christian one? In South Africa we have cultural groups who thrive on planning for tomorrow and subsequent days. We also have cultural groups who live for today and to worry about tomorrow is a very difficult, unusual thing to do.
The effect is that the group that plans consumes the group that does not plan, because it becomes more powerful. What does that verse say to us? Should we resist planning and be consumed? Or do we worry about tomorrow and reckon that the Biblical verse speaks to a need of the time it was written?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Blessed - or making excuses?

That heading doesn't really work, but it's ok.
I have just come from our youth group's opening Friday where they have put in a lot of effort and planning. But I'm feeling bad because I left early. They would have been so happy if I could have stayed to the end. But the fact is that I am exhausted. I have had meetings every evening this week and today is actually my day off, but there was just stuff to do and it had to be done. So I am making excuses.
But also realising how blessed I am to have this work to do. Three evenings this week were very productive and were well spent. Last night was the circuit quarterly meeting and that, as is the nature of circuit quarterlies, was tiring more than productive (in spite of being well run and not too stressful) but the interactions around the edges were important - more so than I anticipated. I am proud of our young people for tonight.
I am tired - but I am glad for what is making me tired!