Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ray of Hope

Many have levied criticisms against Bishop Paul Verryn and the Central Methodist Mission community's approach to the harboring of refugees. On the church's website Paul had the following to say. I am deeply moved by these words. (Cross-post from Steven's blog - thanks Steven)

There is abundant precedent in the history of two millennia of the Christian Church's existence of the Church being used as a shelter for the destitute and vulnerable in society. For instance, during the second world war, about 450 000 people stayed for a night or five years at Central Hall in downtown London . Throughout Africa the Church has stood as a symbol of hope to those devastated by war, disease, poverty and any number of natural disasters. Ultimately the Church expresses a preferential option for the poor and marginalized of society.

For the past twenty years, Central Methodist Mission has quite specifically been engaged in a ministry to the homeless on the streets. This ministry has included a feeding scheme, primary health attention, a support group, counseling, advocacy and searching for appropriate job opportunities. The prevailing value is that we show compassion, but do not create dependency; we engage the fundamental humanity in all people and refuse to stigmatise people because they are poor. These are not heroic principles, they are fundamental to an understanding of our faith. In fact, it would be ludicrous to imagine that you call yourself Christian and sustain an immovable prejudice against another human being for whatever reason, whether it be that they come from another country or are of a different age or gender. This was the foundation of the Church's critique of apartheid. This does not mean that as Christians we have succeeded in winning the struggle against these evils. They can domicile themselves subtly in all of us.

When the tragedy of displacement for people from all Africa became more evident in South Africa it was a natural and obvious imperative for the members of Central Methodist Mission to engage the challenge as part of its ongoing ministry to the inner city. To say ‘no' to those asking for shelter when there is no alternative available would be to deny our reason for being. It would present a Christian community with a contradiction which would belie the essence of the gospel. This does not mean that all who call themselves members of Central Methodist Mission applaud the approach and enjoy the “invasion” of their posh church premises. Despite the fact that they may never have lifted a finger to dust a pew, their unhappiness has been vitriolic and intolerant.

A recent anonymous letter to our Presiding Bishop captures well the fact that xenophobia and racism belong to the same stable.

The letter was a shameful exposure of violence, prejudice and deceit and all in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. Let us not pretend that some of the instruments for massacre and unrelenting hatred are not evident in our rainbow South Africa .

What should the Christian response be to the marginalized?

I would be the first to recognize that the building is overcrowded. I am also concerned about the cleanliness and hygiene of the building. I am deeply worried about whether a building that was never designed for this present condition will survive. Health, nutrition, warmth and safety are constantly on the agenda of committees that have been meeting every week to ten days. The murder that took place earlier this year has deeply traumatized us all. We have always tried to ensure careful conflict resolution strategies, insisting that to talk will lead to better resolution of differences. Every person that stays in the building is registered on a database which captures next of kin, educational qualifications and skills. Each person is told the following is not permitted in the building:

* No drinking of alcohol
* No smoking of anything
* No fighting
* No stealing
* No illegitimate sex ( married persons are accommodated in a separate area).

All persons staying in the building, are required to keep the place clean and worship every day.

If a resident chooses not to observe these valued principles they are evicted. These rules have emerged from our experience of what creates problems in community. In some respects they are not unlike the commandments. We have more than 25 people who constantly monitor the sustaining of these disciplines. They themselves are subject to the rules even though they may not always succeed in keeping them. Furthermore, it would be an absurdity to imagine there is no conflict. It would be even more bizarre to think that more than 500 people can co-exist without stealing taking place. But considering the strain of the circumstances the results are remarkable.

Not to put too finer a point on the fact, it is important to note that as soon as one crosses the threshold of a church, nationality ceases to matter. Any reader of the New Testament will quickly discover that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free. Therefore, what politically is called an asylum seeker, in the church is a member of the family. We are reminded that the first refugees in Central were in fact South Africans. They may not be running from an exploitative dictator, but they are refugees from poverty and hopelessness in the country of their birth.

Is there a building out there?

This is a unique moment in the Church's history in the inner city, this is a unique moment for South Africa in its relation to its mother, Africa . We cannot underestimate the honour of needing to care for those seeking refuge at our hands. Amongst the people that we host are school principals and teachers, accountants, mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, financiers, people with careers in marketing, journalists, politicians, people from the medical professions to name a few. This is a chance for us to provide hope for families who have been completely dispossessed in their homelands. If recent figures released are accurate then one in four of the Zimbabwean population is now in South Africa and the impact of our caring responsibly could produce no less than a small miracle for our context. It is not a matter of skilled labour stealing the jobs of South Africans. It is an opportunity for South Africans to be skilled by people who have an experience of building a nation free of colonialism and oppression. In fact, the skills that have been driven into this country miraculously match exactly what is needed in our present economy.

Some of the most amazing giftedness has emerged in the building. We have a ballroom and Latin American dancing class. We have supported a group of journalists in establishing a website and office in Braamfontein. We have a fly fishing project in the building. We would like to establish a firm of accountants; sewing and cooking projects are underway and several of the group are engaged in a farming project near Randfontein for the District Women's Manyano Organisation. We have established a registered clinic in the building and hope to launch a computer ABET centre.

Many dreams are in the pipeline. Obviously the intention is for individuals to gain independence and economic sustainability as soon as possible so that measurable contributions can be realized in an inner city that is exploding with potential and vitality.

Although people who enter our building think that they are simply seeking a shelter or needing a blanket or wanting a plate of food or requesting start up finance, in fact they are engaged in a profound confrontation of the status quo which says that the poor are irrelevant and the dispossessed have nothing of value to offer. In fact the Mission stands in sharp contrast to capitalist mindset and seeks to overthrow a precarious economic paradigm.

Ultimately a nation can be judged on what realistic hope it offers to its poorest people.

How can we be more effective?

What is the Christian response to the marginalized?
Is there a building out there?
How can we be more effective?

BBC Video/Audio: SA church raid Zimbabwe refugees

Bishop Paul Verryn from the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg has given his account of the raid.

Click here

Stop the madness!

On saving electricity, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica suggests: "Go to sleep earlier so that you can grow and be cleverer."

On legalizing prostitution, MP George Lekgetho: “It is one of the things that would make it [the tournament] a success because we hear of many rapes, because people don’t have access to them [women],”

On Zimbabwe: Silent diplomacy for years, then raiding Central Methodist Mission without a warrant, arresting all destitute people seeking shelter.

On the electricity crisis: Government chooses to spend R60 billion on weapons at the same time that it is warned about the looming energy crisis.

And then there is the Zuma quote which I blogged on Sunday.

The news is so freaky, I wouldn't be surprised if I wake up tomorrow morning to hear that Bafana Bafana managed to win a game.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here's my desk

Ok Gus and Dion, here's my desk.

It is not always this messy. This is what it looks like while I'm writing, hence all the books on the desk, otherwise it is tidy - promise!

On my desk is my iMac G4, Lexmark laser printer and PowerBook G4.

Have a good day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bushisms - it's contagious!

Zuma said: "People like Bishop Tutu, a few others, might have their views. I respect him," he said in the interview. "My understanding is that clergy people are there to pray [and not] take political stances."

This coming from a recently "ordained" minister.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

A wonderful prayer

Here is a litany for Sunday. I found this very helpful website:

We can't do everything, but we can love.
We can't speak the final word, but we can love.
We don't quite feel like we belong, but we can love.
When better days are a faint memory, still we can love.
When we don't have the answers, still we can love.
When we can't agree about gay and straight, still we can love.
When we feel awkward and restless, still we can love.
We're frustrated with the constraints of youth and aging, but we can love now.
We let petty irritations trip us up, but we can love.
We choke on our faith songs, but we can love.
We limp in our worship and service, but we can love.
We are embarrassed at how messy our lives are, but we can love.

God has a sense of humour

Ok, this week I'm a bit slow in preparing my sermon, but I almost fell off my chair reading the Old Testament LECTIONARY reading.

Isaiah 9:1-4

"The people living in darkness have seen a great light..."

I can't wait. This should be entertaining.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I hate being a Christian!

Sorry for the cross-post, Dion

I hate being a Christian if it means believing like this. I read this notice and became physically sick.

I am thankful that I am not God.

Lord, have pity on me.

Lord, have mercy on all who assume they can speak for you.

Tribute to a friend

This afternoon we were introduced to the new students at John Wesley College. Dion went to great lengths to introduce us and did a sterling job. When it came to my turn, Dion gave a very inflated picture of Wessel Bentley, far beyond what I believe to be true. Included was a part which described our early friendship, the one between a phase 2 minister in Carletonville and a youth leader. I had to give a response. At first I thought to say “You know, friends like Dion are like nappies. They should be changed frequently. Perhaps for the same reason.” But this is not true, because I do not want to change my friendship with Dion for anything.

Instead I told another untruth. I cited John the baptist’s description of Jesus where he says something to the effect of “The one who comes after me has…” you know the rest. It was in jest. I repent. I repent not only because I cannot put myself and Dion in John and Jesus’ shoes, but because it simply cannot be.

I have a deep respect and love for my friend. I cannot surpass my friend Dion and have no intention of doing so.

This is why.

Dion has always been a kind of “older brother” figure in my life. He has always looked out for me and I can honestly say that whenever I’ve phoned or visited, I’ve always been greeted with a welcoming smile. Needless to say, Dion has opened many doors for me. Being a quiet person, opportunities are not always taken, but Dion has the knack of pushing me through an open door long before I even thought about entering. For this I am grateful.

His honesty and sincerity is something which I treasure. He is able to stand for justice and truth in ways which are different to mine, perhaps ways which require a lot more courage and conviction… and faith.

Having Dion as a friend is a lifechanging experience. I have fallen in love with a Mac, I got a Vespa, but most of all, if it weren’t for Dion, I think God would have had a difficult time finding another person who could lead me to the Lord.

Why this tribute? Why here? Simply because he is worth it. Dion, thanks. No, really, thanks. You have a very special place in God’s heart. I’m sure. I read Church Dogmatics.

By the way, seeing that all the proceeds of our book will be going to the MSF, you are more than welcome to take 60% of whatever is left. In fact, make it 80.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Prof. Rieger

Today we listened to Prof. Joerg Rieger from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (Dallas).

You will notice his book in my reading list (to the right) and it is also readily available from good bookshops.

His lecture was on this book, Christ and Empire. He is truly a remarkable person with deep insights into the finer forces at work within society. I invite you to get a copy of this book and to be challenged.

By the way... today is also the fourth anniversary of our little Matthew's operation. All praise be to God!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Matt's bedtime prayer.

"Dear Lord Jesus
Thank you for all the bread and drink at church tonight.


Anybody got a Kleenex?

Why divorce?

And in other news...
Man runs into his wife at brothel
Warsaw, Poland

A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees. Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumbfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported. - Reuters

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wisdom of children

Well, only a minister's child will come up with the following.

Wednesday was "back-to-school-day" for Matthew. At breakfast I gave him the usual pep-talk regarding appropriate behaviour, a talk well needed seeing that he was going to a new teacher's class and would relish this opportunity to chance his arm.

So, I told him to be good, to look out for new friends, to show them where all the toys are, etc. etc. I ended the conversation with "You are going to have a new teacher. When I go and fetch you, I'm going to ask her how the day went. So, Matt, what is your teacher going to tell me?".

He responded: "Well fella, I've got good news and I've got bad news...". He then got up, and left the table and a dad who couldn't eat any further.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blue screen of death

Oh, how I love owning an Apple...

For more pics that will make all the Apple owners gloat, click here.

Creepy Ads

How creepy is this?

For more creepy ads, click here

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bush- Drunk

Watch it and laugh!


I have just arrived back from visiting with Bill and his family. Bill is dying. He does not have long to live anymore. It is never easy to do such visits.

In an hour I will stand in front of two people who will pledge their loyalty and love to each other. " sickness and in health...".

Life is strange. One tries to make the best of each opportunity, live life to the fullest, yet we live with the illusion that we somehow own that which has been given to us.

I pray that Bill will experience peace. I pray that the couple will treasure each moment that they have with each other. I pray that I will get through today.