Sunday, May 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Prof. Moltmann!

On 6 April, Jurgen Moltmann turned 80!

He has made a tremendous contribution to Systematic Theology and his deep spirituality has made this contribution so much more than just another philosophical approach to our understanding of God and of one another.

Moltmann served as a German soldier in WWII and was deeply affected by witnessing a friend die in the midst of battle. His struggle with God and righteousness led him to an understanding of a God who simply, out of love, cannot be seperated from those who experience suffering.

He has been tremendously vocal on the Nuclear Race, the place of Superpowers, the difference between Nationalism and Patriotism and ways in which we experience God in an increasingly post-modern world.

To one of the greats: Happy Birthday Proffessor!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ascension Day

Last night we had a wonderful Ascension Day service at our church. When we started having Ascension Day services about 5 years ago, we used to get 5-10 people. Last night about 80 people arrived. Still a small number for a relatively large Methodist congregation.

As we celebrated together, we reminded one another of what it means for us to say that Jesus is truly Lord. He is not just another good human that walked the face of the earth. We do not worship Him because we think of him as a good idea. He is fully God and fully human.

Furthermore we focussed on an aspect - which I think is often negelcted in the Ascension Day celebrations -Jesus' teaching on Community.

I have become more and more aware, and have shared it with my congregation (who is responding to this in an amazing way!) that Jesus' message is less concerned with our ability as individuals to answer the questions "Are you saved?" or "Do you know where you will go when you die?". Don't get me wrong - of course personal salvation is vital! The message rather seems to be concerned with community. Community in Communion with God and with one another. Klaus Nurnberger reminded me the other day of how our acts of Christian worship seem to focus more on individual salvation and neglects community all together. At the start of the service we pray to God to forgive "my sins" - what about "our sins"? We listen to the sermon and are often challenged on how we as individuals respond to the gospel. What about how we respond to the gospel? After the offertory and benediction we witness how people rush for the doors without really even looking at anybody else, sometimes clearly indicating that they would like to get out of the church's parking lot before the rush.

This gives me new insight into Moltmann's sense of an eschatological community as described in "The Coming of God: Christian eschatology (Das Kommen Gottes)" or Barth's "Christian Cummunity" replacing the noun "Church".

Now we as a community have committed ourselves to wait together, to celebrate Pentecost. Hopefully this journey will enable us to get to know others better, meet needs and have our needs met. The work of the Spirit.

Blessings to all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Don't misunderstand...

First, to Rock-in-the-Grass: The young man on my left is a rising theologian with some very interesting ideas. You should chat to him sometime. To Gus: Sorry, but you lost me in your comment. Please explain.

The actual reason for this entry: Please do not misunderstand me when commenting on Prof. Heron's theology not moving from the 16th century. His awareness on contemporary issues is quite evident in his works. I was merely referring to the lectures at TUKS. What struck me in our conversation was the degree to which the South African students and lecturers present (From different English and Afrikaans denominations) focussed on contextualisation. It was simply not enough just to hear about the interesting dialogue between the Lutherans, Zwinglians and rising Calvin during the sixteenth century. The recurring question was: "What can we learn from this discussion as we are faced with a church which looks a bit different to that of the sixteenth century?"

The one thing I am extremely grateful for is the way in which our ministerial- and theological formation has helped us to understand that salvation is not only about a person "being right" with God, but that Christian faith celebrates God-with-us (in every way).

So in addition to my thanks to Prof. Heron for his interesting input, I would like to thank the Tim Attwells, Pete Grassows, Dion Forsters and Conrad Wethmars for their contribution in making God more than a good idea.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Prof. Alisdair Heron

Last week we had the gifted opportunity to listen to Prof. A.I.C. Heron from Erlangen University.

Those who studied a B.Th. at UNISA would know him for his book on Pneumatology called "The Holy Spirit". His most significant work was "A century of Protestant Theology".

Prof. Heron gave two lectures, one on Calvin's struggle with Luther's controversy concerning the Lord's Supper. The second was on Calvin's attitude towards Zwingli. It might not sound like earth-moving topics, but it is always a pleasure to listen to a person who knows what they are talking about and to learn some "behind the scenes" insights.

Granted, his theology did not seem to have left the sixteenth century, but still very insightful.

By the way, we had a great Synod! I always enjoy the debates, but most of all, the fellowship.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Try this idea.

This is my second post for today - please don't miss the more important one posted prior to this one.

Last night we watched a very thought-provoking documentary-movie called "What the bleep do we know?!". It is available from most dvd-rentals, so if you're in the mood to think a bit, try this one. I think it is in line with what Dion is doing his doctorate on, and Tim, it follows on from our discussions about Descartes at the DEWCOM meeting.

In the light of this movie, I have been thinking for a while about the notion of fragmentation that exists, not only in the church, but seems to be a natural phenomenon all around us. Working from a revised view about the big-bang and chaos-theory by Stephen Hawking et. al. I am wondering whether fragmentation to the point of infinite exhausted radiation is so much a cosmological phenomenon that natural- or institutional examples of this is something that should not catch us by surprise, but should be telling us that we are on the right track. So, I am working on something entitled "Is God killing the church?" - a phrase borrowed from Stanley Hauerwas.

I would like to hear some comment.

This is us.

So, here is a family-photo.

A couple of weeks ago we walked around in one of the malls and decided to take a family photo.

Natalie, my beautiful wife, is a Kindermusik-educator and loves working with children. She also has one of the greatest theologically-enquiring minds that I have ever encountered. She keeps me on my toes and does not shy away from making comments or asking questions about sermons, bible-study material etc.

Matthew is our little miracle and we cannot thank God enough for him. He reminds us daily that, as his name suggests, God is with us. Not in a manner that suggests that God is more with us than anyone else, but in a way that reminds us that we are not always in charge or in control.

Of course there is another little one on the way. We know that he/she will enrich our lives just as much as Matthew has.

To my family: I love you.

Friday, May 12, 2006

You say you're Christian...

The New Mail and Guardian printed parts of the letter sent by the Iranian president to G.W. Bush.

Here's the link:

I wonder how many prophetic voices spoke from the Christian perspective to old GW.

On the other hand, how does Iran justify its entry into the nuclear family if it forms part of the "return to religion" lobby?

Just thinking.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hiding behind bushes

Yesterday a dear friend told me that my blogspot is too impersonal, in fact, he told me in the most diplomatic way that my blogspot was crap. So, this is the time for a new approach. No more sermons, only if I think it is a gem that I would like to share with the world.

His message made me think the whole day long about who I am and what I would like to share. My initial response was summed up in the following sentense which I wrote to him "My life seems to be protected by academia, so I keep my mind busy so as to keep the heart quiet.". As I wrote it, I realized that I am in trouble. It wasn't as if I was feeling depressed, as a matter of fact, I haven't felt this good in a long time, but this sentence just appeared as my fingers were punching away at the keyboard.

This response bugged me even more than my friend's challenge.

In my devotional time this morning, I read the last few verses of Psalm 23 and while chatting to my fellow-staffmembers, came to the following conclusions:

The valley of the shadow of death is a valley we all know. You have to walk through it at some point or another. As a minister, I am forced to travel this road along with people as they are faced with daily anxieties, stresses and worries. This is ok, I can handle that. But the question is, how do I walk through the valley? Do I allow other people to accompany me as I journey, or is the superman-image which is expected by congregation, society and peers so part of my identity that I do not allow myself to be vulnerable.

Perhaps, it is easier, while walking through the valley, to hide behind a couple of bushes - perhaps academia, perhaps busy-ness, perhaps through the professional distance which we are ancouraged to create (to protect ourselves?).

Hiding behind bushes does not take me out of the valley. It is denial - perhaps negotiated distraction.

It is time to get moving - Hiding is not progress.

Watch this space.

"The Lord is my Shepherd...

"...for You are with me..."

Thank you, friend.