Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Lent is always a special time in my Christian walk. On Ash Wednesday we worshipped together as a congregation, being reminded of our own brokenness and need for healing. The Lenten journey also goes hand-in-hand with the practice of Christian discipline, one of which is fasting. Fasting does not necessarily only relate to giving up a meal or food, but can be the surrender of anything. A little more about that later.

I find this year's fast extremely difficult. It has become blatantly obvious how I rationalize my commitment to God and how I negotiate His Lordship. I do not believe that I am alone in doing this, but this is why I am thankful for a season such as Lent - it is there to remind me of my dependence on God and what it means to be a Follower of Christ. Although fasting is difficult, I am reminded of the reasons for fasting:

1. It reminds us that all that we have belongs to God. We own nothing and we cannot lay claim to any privileges or amenities by virtue of our accomplishments, qualifications or identity. By surrendering something and longing for that same thing, my attention moves away from my own power to the providence of God. By fasting in this way, one becomes acutely aware of how God is at work in one's life.

2. Fasting highlights the way in which people, items or events start replacing God as Lord of our lives. How dependent am I on that which I surrendered? Can I truly not live without it?

3. Fasting reminds me that this state of voluntary need is a daily reality for many people around me. It makes me aware of needs that exist and makes me sensitive to the plight of those who find themselves in these situations.

Lent is there to refocus my relationship with God, my neighbour and myself. It is a Godly journey, and although difficult, is a journey that leads us to the empty tomb. This promise of new life has claimed victory over all that binds us and seeks to separate us from the love of God.

Pray for me as I will for you on this Lenten path.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Recommended reading

Miroslav Volf, H.B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School wrote an excellent little book entitled "Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture stripped of Grace".

In this book he explores our picture of God and challenges modern society to reflect deeply and discover the gift of giving and forgiving that exists within each one of us. It is his view that "We are at our human best when we give and forgive. But we live in a world in which it makes little sense to do either one."

As we embark on the Lenten journey, it will serve us well to become aware of the abundant giving and forgiving that God invests in our lives, while calling us to do the same.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I trained for a year, reaching a level of fitness that I have probably never reached before.

This past weekend we drove down to Midmar dam in KwaZulu-Natal (about 600km's) to partake in this international open-water event. My first attempt at swimming the Midmar mile failed last year, but after swimming other races, I was determined to overcome this monster. Sunday morning was cold, about 15 degrees C. There was a light drizzle and a howling wind, which made it feel even colder. Our race was the last race of the day, the grand finale where 13-30 year olds compete.

Somehow the organizers did not manage to get around to organizing the shuttles, taking people to the start of the race, so only armed with our speedo's, about 2000 testosterone and adrenaline filled guys walked barefoot around the dam to the starting post. When we got there, we were quickly sorted into the different caps: red caps for the pro's, then blue caps, yellow caps, green caps (my group - which means we can swim a little) and then the white caps. We stood in the ice cold wind, once again, only in our costumes for about half an hour, watching the ladies (13-30 year olds) completing the event.

By now our hearts were racing, anticipating the launch of the different caps. There is something very special about hearing "Red caps - Go", then the launch of each group with only 2 minutes separating each. But this time was different.

As the last ladies left the water, a violent wind came up (wasn't me I promise!), creating waves in the dam of about half a meter high! Even the lifesavers in the paddleski's were floating way off course. Instead of letting these guys loose to attack the water, the announcement came: "Due to dangerous swimming conditions, this even has been canceled."

"What!? You've got to be kidding!"

No-one said a word. There was a group of schoolboys who came all the way from England for this event! Poor Pommies. After what felt like an eternity, one-by-one we started making our 2 km trek back to the finish-line. Some were angry, others swore and cursed the officials. Others, like me couldn't say a word and felt physically ill for the rest of the day. When we reached the end, the wind subsided and the dam was as smooth as glass - perfect conditions, but too late.

I can't remember much about my walk back to the finish line. I couldn't even feel the cold. This was the most disappointing experience of my life. Please laugh, that is the only way I can cope with it now. What makes it worse, is that this year is the last time that I could have competed in this age-group. At least, next year I don't have to prove a point to the laaities (young chaps in Afrikaans), but I can instead foster the onset of mid-life crisis.

At least I can swim the Makhulu km in Midrand on Sunday. Blessings to all while I go on Minister's retreat.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The church's lies

I preached a sermon based on Isaiah 6:1-13, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 and Luke 5:1-11 at a retirement centre on Sunday with the above as a theme. I thought it well to publish some of the thoughts here and not on the sermon-blog. The crux of the sermon is based on the church's evangelical approach being incongruent with what we celebrate during Epiphany. So, here goes:

1. The church is lying when it sells Jesus like a neatly packaged deal.
Our faith is a faith of revelation. All that we can do is to respond in faith to God's gracious act of revelation. The kind of evangelism that knows what God looks like and what people should look like is prone to fall to its own assumptions. Christian evangelism is therefore not concerned with selling a certain brand of Jesus or Christianity, but its sole purpose is to testify to the revealed God. We believe that Jesus is the full revelation of God and therefore the mystery of Christ plays as important part of the church's proclamation as our inherited understanding of Him.

2. The church is lying when it creates a minimum requirement for membership.
Much of Christian proclamation concerns making people aware of their unworthiness. It is easy to proclaim a message of judgment, hoping that the recipient would turn in their faith. As if God needs an ego-boost!!! What about, if the church stops telling people how bad they are, and focus more on how much God loves them. People feel bad already. People need a Saviour, not a God who rubs it in. Perhaps it is easier for the church to proclaim a salvation based on condemnation, for somehow, we can't stand the thought that God would love someone else as much as what God loves me. Look at Isaiah. He stood gob smacked in God's presence. He admitted his guilt, but instead of God saying "Yes, I know and you will stay like this", he is healed and sent.

3. The church is lying when it claims that Christianity is something extra to our daily existence.
Guess what. Jesus climbed in the boat, made a difference where it mattered and spoke in images that people could understand. True Christian evangelism makes a difference where it matters, it doesn't force people to stop being them and become like "us". Were the disciples even really listening to what Jesus was saying on the shore? What turned their minds? Jesus was relevant right there!

Something for the church to think about in our witnessing. God reveals (Deus dixit for the Barthians), we respond, God loves (Incarnational), God works.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A response to Sharky

Dear Sharky
Thank you for your comment concerning the Methodist Church's usage of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
I assume that you refer to the "exclusive" act of presiding over the sacrament by an ordained minister, because as you may know, laity celebrate the sacramant wherever it is offered.
I do not think that the Methodist church is exclusive to the degree that you hint at. We have, for instance, groups of lay folk who take the elements conscecrated at a communion service to those who cannot attend a Sunday Service. The "Love feast" is also practiced in the context of bible studies and the like.
The church, at least the Methodist Church, does not deny anyone the privilege of celebrating the sacrament. In fact, we have one of the most inclusive views on Holy Communion. Children are allowed to celebrate, and women ministers preside over the sacrament every week - something that is unheard of in many Christian circles.
Is the Methodist church perfect? Not by a long shot! But my sadness is that people are denied the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament, purely on the basis of venue and denominational affiliation. I also appreciate the recognition of ordination for Word and Sacrament, but this does not mean the denial of others celebrating a special event in the Church's life.
Just my simple response to a valid and real question. THANKS for raising this point. I will certainly look more closely at the way I serve and how I allow others their ministry.