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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in Courage (9)

Tuesday
Jan122016

Christians and pessimism - A reminder to live for hope from Oscar Romero and Henri Nouwen

Last year was a tough year for many people around the world. I know it was difficult for many of my friends and family. Over the last couple of days I have had a number of conversations with friends who are feeling hopeless and concerned about issues ranging from politics, to economics and the environment.

In my reading I have come across a few quotes that challenge me to remember that as a person of faith I should live by a different standard. Christians live with a hope that is real, yet our hope cannot be collapsed into history, past, present or future, in its entirety. Yes, we must pay meticulous attention to what is happening around is. We must act with courage, grace and love in all situations. However, our hope is larger than history, it is based on a reality that is more real than our perception of what we believe to be real. Our hope comes from being claimed by the God of history. Our hope is eschatological - the fullness of life through the fullest Person (Jesus Christ) in the fullness of time.

Living with this kind of hope takes courage. It takes courage to live for someone, and something, more important than our immediate reaction to people and events. It takes grace to act, and react, in a manner that is different from other persons and the rest of the world. It takes commitment to live for the common good rather than just one's own comfort and security. It takes hard work and patience to stay on the path of rightness and justice for the long haul.

I pray that I will have the wisdom to live in this way, and that others will choose the live a life that is much better than mine.

Here are some quotes that inspired and challenged me on this journey:

“Christians cannot be pessimists. Christians must always nourish in their hearts the fullness of joy. Try it, brothers and sisters; I have tried it many times and in the darkest moments, when slander and persecution were at their worst: to unite myself intimately with Christ, my friend, and to feel a comfort that all the joys of the earth do not give – the joy of feeling yourself close to God, even when humans do not understand you. It is the deepest joy the heart can have.”

- Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love

"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work."

- Henri Nouwen, Bread for the journey (p.8)

And this quote about the importance of daily spiritual discipline in this life:

“The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world — free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless… I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”

- Henri Nouwen

Wednesday
Aug202014

A tribute to Bishop David Russell - Grahamstown

A good friend of mine, Fr Larry Kaufmann introduced me to Bishop David Russell in Grahamstown many years ago. I had the joy of visiting his residence, and praying in his chapel, in Grahamstown. It was at his home that I first saw the film Babette's feast - a profound moment that changed my understanding of hospitality, grace and the sacraments.

Bishop Russell was a great inspiration to many young clergy in South Africa, and across the world. He was deeply committed to the Gospel of Christ and God's Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace. His life and ministry showed many of us what it meant to be welcoming, and to be welcomed, into loving fellowship with God in Christ and one another.

Bishop Russell passed away this week. I thank God for his life and ministry. He was a Public Theologian par excellance!

Here is a tribute to David Russell written by my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:


"With David Russell's death, an era passes for the Church and its
prophetic and courageous ministry, especially to the poorest of the poor.

"From the earliest days of his ministry as a priest, he was radical in
his identification with the poor and oppressed. Steve Biko, with whom he
worked closely, called him 'a friend, an equal... a comrade.'

"In the Eastern Cape in the 1970s, he played an important role in drawing
attention to the plight of people who were forcibly removed from their
homes under apartheid and dumped to starve in areas, such as Dimbaza,
where they had no hope of making a living.

"Later, as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he campaigned
against the cruel removals, in the middle of winter, of families who
defied the pass laws and came to Crossroads to live with their husbands
and fathers.

"When the apartheid government sent in bulldozers to destroy their
shacks, he was willing to put his life on the line - one admirer recalled
on Facebook this week: 'Will never forget the image of DR lying,
spreadeagled, in front of a bulldozer in Crossroads.'

"When the government imposed a banning order on him, he defied it,
breaking it in multiple ways to attend a meeting of the Church's
Provincial Synod and to motivate a resolution expressing the Church's
understanding of those who had resorted to armed struggle.

"After becoming Bishop of Grahamstown, he ordained the first woman priest
in Southern Africa and repeatedly challenged the Church on theological
grounds to reverse its opposition to blessing same-sex unions. He also
challenged the democratically-elected provincial government of the
Eastern Cape for its failures in areas such as health and education.

"As one who served as Bishop David's suffragan bishop in Grahamstown and
was mentored by him, I feel his loss keenly.

"Not only the Church but the nation - which honoured him for his service
with the Order of the Baobab in Silver - mourns this son of the soil.

"On behalf of my family, the Diocese of Cape Town, the Synod of Bishops
and the broader church, we send our condolences and prayers to his wife,
Dorothea and to his sons, Sipho and Thabo.

"May this pastor, prophet, theologian and fierce fighter against
injustice rest in peace until we meet again."


Friday
Aug162013

Giving thanks for the life of Brother Roger - Taizé Community

Today I give thanks for the life and ministry of Brother Roger today. The establishment of the Taizé community is a continuing gift of renewal and missional blessing to the Church across the world.

It reminds me that simple courage and constant obedience can often be used by God to bring about transformation, healing and renewal.

 

In 1940, despite the spread of war in Europe, Roger Schütz crossed the border from Switzerland into France to pursue a community life characterized by simplicity and the fellowship described in the gospels. From early on in his life, Brother Roger knew that such a life together could be a sign of reconciliation for Christians from different denominations.
After settling in a French village called Taizé, Brother Roger was caught for hiding Jewish refugees and had to leave France after two years. When he returned after World War II had ended, he was accompanied by a few men who became the first brothers of the Taize community, which grew into an ecumenical community with brothers on all continents, bearing witness to what brother Roger came to talk about as a “parable of community.”
On August 16 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of reconciliation at Taizé, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.
- Common prayer (16 August 2013) -  http://commonprayer.net

 

Monday
Jun242013

A misquote that means a lot - contemplating courage and change

Two of yesterday's readings from the revised common lectionary (23 June 2013) offered me cause for reflection. Not that I don't reflect on every week's readings, but I am facing some changes in my life and so my thoughts are currently a little deeper than normal. The readings in question were Luke 8:26-39, 1 Kings 19:1-15.

Our minister, Yvette Moses, is a very good preacher. She took a very creative, and challenging, line in harmonizing the message of these two texts. With reference to Luke 8.33-35 she asked why it was the the town's people were not afraid of a demon possessed man. Yet, they were filled with fear when they saw the possessed man sitting calmly at the feet of Jesus - in his full mind. It made me wonder, how often have I preferred the madness of the world to the calm of Christ? How often have I feared the wrong things and wrong people, and in so doing missed the miracle of transformation that is taking place within me, and all around me, all the time.

In dealing with the second text (1 Kings 19.1-15), Yvette reminded us that just a week or two earlier in the lectionary reading we heard how the Prophet Elijah witnessed God performing a magnificent and powerful series of miracles (the burning of the water soaked altars and the destruction of the Baal priests on Mount Carmel). Yet, in this passage the the prophet is overcome with fear and dread because of the threat of Jezebel! The threat of the queen overshadows the miracle of God the King. So much so that Elijah wishes he were dead. Again, I wondered how often have I forgotten the faithfulness and power of God, and instead focussed on the few small challenges of my current circumstances, allowing my life to be overshadowed by what is only a momentary threat, a matter of such minor insignificance in the face of a mighty and everlasting God.

All of this reminds me of the following quote (which is wrongly attributed to F Scott Fitzgerald. Thanks invisibleforeigner for pointing this out):

For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.

- NOT F Scott Fitzgerald.

Still, it is a challenging quote! It is never too late to become that person that God longs for you to be - just as a parent lovingly longs for their child to grow to their full potential in life so as to find blessing and be a blessing to others. God longs that for you, and I know God longs that for me. If you are not moving confidently and clearly towards that peaceful goal then I pray that you will have the courage to and the opportunity to change course. I am making a few small changes in the next months. I pray that they will honour God and bring blessing to those that I have the privilege to serve.

Friday
Apr272012

When God speaks what do you do?

This week I have been at a very significant conference of influential global business leaders. It was a wonderfully inspiring time to listen to now many of these persons prevailed against significant odds to achieve what it they believed they had heard God calling them to do. Some took risks to start new enterprises and ventures, some gave up power, prestige and wealth to take up a life of service, others took a stand against an issue of corruption or abuse.

There was a fairly common narrative - God has a will for the world. God graciously invites us into His wonderful will and work in the world. However, it takes faith, courage, and obedience (and perseverance!) to faithfully achieve what God wants to do.

I am is servant - that is my calling. I am called to serve God. In doing so I have discovered that it most often means that I am called to serve God's people. This is blessed and rewarding work.

During this week I heard God speaking to me. It was very clear! Some may ask how I know that God was speaking to me - all I can say is that God spoke, I perceived it clearly and convincingly. I can only assume that this is similar to how someone like Wilberforce was encountered by God in order to give his life to fighting slavery. It takes courage to go against reason and seek to be obedient - I am trying to do that in my life.

So, I shall be spending time praying, thinking, reading, listening, engaging in community, watching the world, reading the scriptures and figuring out what it means to be obedient to God's gracious call to enter into God's loving, gracious, and just will for me and world.

I'd love to hear from you whether you have ever heard God speaking to you? If so, what did you do in response to that encounter?

Sunday
May152011

You don't need permission to do great things!

One of my favorite podcasts is 'Back to work' with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.  Merlin has one of the most creative (and distracted) minds I have ever encountered!  I am inspired and challenged by how he things about creativity, productivity and the courage to do things!

I have been asked a few times over the years how I've managed to publish books, or speak at certain events, or have an input into certain processes.  The simple answer is that at times I have just chosen to act!  You've heard me say it before "the difference between people who write and those who don't is that people who write, well, they just write".  The same goes for studies, action, and just about every other thing I've done.  I choose to act.  I act in spite of fears of failure, I act in spite of fearing that I may be missunderstood.  I act in spite of feeling tired, or overworked, or not adequite.  I just act...  It makes a difference.

Here is a video podcast I did reflecting on this process... I am of the mind that far too many great things don't happen because good people are waiting for 'permission' form someone else to do them!

Let me just say that I often fail.  I make more mistakes than getting things right!  But, every now and then, on that rare occassion when things just fall into place, I am so glad that I've chosen to act rather than waiting for the permission of others.

I'd love to hear your thoughts

Thursday
Aug122010

Courage where it counts!

We are getting such wonderful feedback from readers of 'Transform your work life'. A few days ago a reader sent me an email to let me know that they have just started a prayer group at their offices. He indicated that the hardest part was just doing it...

It takes courage to honor God in the workplace. But that is where it counts! His email blessed me and encouraged me to be more bold about my faith!

I was reminded of Karl Barth's little quite "Courage is fear that has said its prayers".

What step of courage must you take to establish Christ as Lord of your work life and your work place? Let us know! We'd love to pray for you!

Monday
Oct082007

Were you caught in 'the perfect storm (hype)'?

If you live in Gauteng (Pretoria, Johannesburg etc.) in South Africa then you will know exactly what I am talking about if I mention 'the prefect storm'. It turned out to be nothing other than 'the perfect hoax'. Today emails circulated the web, warnings went out on radio, people were even getting text messages warning them of 'the perfect storm' in Gauteng. Supposedly a storm so fierce was brewing in Gauteng that it was going to turn into a tornado by 6 pm! Well, my wife's company let their staff go home early, the roads were packed with early traffic...

Sure, there was a bit of rain, some lightning and thunder - heck, it was nothing more than a regular 'high veld' thunderstorm!

Now Saturday the 6th was an awesome storm in the Pretoria area! High winds, hail, and driving rain.

If you got caught by the hype of 'the perfect storm' then read this great post from thoselegends.blogspot.com. It makes for a very interesting read. If you got caught in the hype drop me a line and let me know (I know I was worried for a while!) Isn't human nature just strange?

I have often wondered about the mass mentality that overtakes groups... We get ourselves worked up, we feed of each others' neuroses, and eventually we come to believe just about anything. Does anybody remember the bad old days in South Africa when white South Africans feared 'die rooi gevaar' (the communist threat), 'die katolieke gevaar' (the liberal Catholic threat)...

I wonder what dangers we've created?

I seem to remember it being written somewhere that "there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). Lord, give me the courage to be the a calm head in the storm, help me to follow your lead, your love, and not to be taken in by the hype of 'the perfect storms' of life.

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Monday
Oct012007

Visionary leadership - it takes courage!

This is a picture of me with Dr Ernest Baartman, the visionary leader who founded the Black Methodist Consultation in 1975 (you can read my Oxford paper for more on this).

This was visionary because he had the courage to see what the Church needed (black leaders) in an era when others could not, and would not, see it. He was visionary because even though he knew this would be a dangerous, and threatening, endeavor, he was sustained by what few others, even many of his black colleagues, could not see - the vision of a predominantly black denomination, in a white dominated country, lead by black leaders. This could have cost him his ministry, but because he could see what God wanted he swam against the stream, and did the extraordinary thing that helped to transform our Church for the generations that followed.

It takes great sensitivity to see what others cannot see. It takes courage to make that vision become a reality, even in the face of great adversity and opposition.

I witnessed such leadership briefly at our Conference last week when Dianne Moodie courageously reminded the Conference of the pain and struggle that clergy and laity experience because of the Church's rejection of people - the majority could not feel her pain. I heard it in the voice of Alan Storey as he urged the Church to create a small ray of light in the midsts of darkness, by allowing 1 minister and 1 church in every District to openly minister to gay people with the Church's blessing - the majority could not see the need, I wonder what will happen to all the gay people who are Methodists in our nation? Will they simply give up and leave the Church? I saw it in the bravery of Mbuyiselo Stimela, the only Black minister who has openly supported the cause to make the Church more hospitable and welcoming to gay persons of all races and colours - our colleagues could not see his courage, instead they have threatened and belittled him. I saw this in my friend Barry Marshall who argued with passion that the Church cannot be in 'conversation' over the matter of persons with a same gender orientation while the voices of these people are silenced, rejected, and ignored - the majority did not hear the silence, but at least he spoke. I am seeing vision in the correspondence of my friend Kevin Light who can no longer compromise the community that he serves by ministering 'through pastoral loopholes' - sadly I fear that he may move on from our Church, or be forced out, perhaps he will lead many to follow him. He is right when he says that the only persons who are made vulnerable by 'loophole' ministry, are those being ministered to. Ministers can claim ignorance at transgressing an unspoken law, but once a pastoral act is deemed unlawful, it is those who are ministered to that bear the brunt of such rulings.

I don't know if I have the courage, sensitivity, or insight, to see what others cannot see, and make that vision a reality.

Of course I have read about such vision many, many, times in Scripture, in the slave Moses who leads slaves to a promised land. In a sheep herd, David, who slays a giant, because God says he can. In a teenage virgin who gives birth to a saviour, even when everyone else believes that she is crazy adulteress. In the life of a King who is born in a stable, who does not destroy his enemies but dies for them... Yes, these are all visionary leaders - people who see what God sees, and then find the courage to make God's vision a reality. In fact, one of them is God... Thank goodness God can see what others cannot. If it were not for that admirable quality I would never have found His grace!

We need more people like Dr Baartman, like Dianne, Alan, Mbuyiselo, Barry, and Kevin...

What follows is a reflection of how this principle relates to a particular passage from Scripture... By now you may have given up reading... I won't hold it against you!

Trevor Hudson and Jenny Hillebrand left a comment each, a few posts back, thanking me for my frequent blog posts - a friend of mine calls blogs 'personality spam'! I think he is right, most often my posts are simply a means of processing my feelings, thoughts, fears, desires, and hopes... If any of it is wortwhile to anyone else that's a huge bonus! Thanks for reading.

Today I sat with one of our students, Nkosinathi Nombula, preparing him for his New Testament 2 examination. One of the questions in the exam asks the student give advice to a woman who has read Ephesians 5:21-33. She is being abused by her husband and has come to believe that she must continue to endure the abuse because this section of the Bible says she must submit to him and respect to him. Thankfully the examiner understands that in order to get a more responsible insight into what the Pauline text is saying to its readers one must read it in the context of the issues that the whole of the letter to the Ephesians is addressing, and particularly within the context of Ephesians 5 and 6. If you have the time please read Ephesians 5:21-33 and ask yourself what advice you would give the abused woman. Well, Nombula and I spent some time working through the question and established a few things. First, I reminded him that the letter to the Ephesians must not be directly related to the 'popular' understanding that Paul was a paternalistic chauvinist - not that Paul was liberated in the modern sense. However, it is important not to read the text too simply from within the framework of our contemporary prejudice of Paul's views of women. It is likely that this letter was not written by Paul himself, but by a later, more sophisticated Pauline author or redactor - simply because of the complexity of the grammar, sophistication of the ecclesiology, and because of the similarities in content and structure to the letter to the Colossians, upon which many scholars believe the letter to the Ephesians is styled. Secondly, we were reminded that the central issue in the letter to the Ephesians was that of God's purpose for the Church which can only be achieved by the costly sacrifice that will be necessary in order to be truly united (many scholars agree that the 'hermeneutic keys' (i.e., those keys that unlock the interpretation of the rest of the letter) are Eph 1:10 and Eph 4:13). So, the author crafts his argument about the cost of unity between Jewish and gentile believers in the first few chapters of the book (a mixture of admonition, prayer, and encouragement). Then between Eph 4:1-6:20 the author gives practical suggestions about the cost of this unity. Now, this is where the radical bit comes in! Many have emphasised Eph 5:22 (that wives must submit to their husbands), yet the emphasis of this passage is to be found in the dynamics of the four examples of costly unity that are presented. The dynamic is fundamentally about power and powerlessness! The power of husbands, versus the powerlessness of wives in that era - the emphasis is NOT just upon the wife submitting to her husband, rather here the author takes a bold and radical step of confronting the powerful with the truth that as long as they oppress the powerless, they abuse and harm themselves. This must have taken courage in an age when the authority of men went unquestioned. But of course, the powerless are empowered when the powerful curb their power, so he also has some advice for wives. Next he speaks about the relationships between the authority of parents over their children. Can you imagine how the respectable members of the Ephesian Church would have reacted to being told they must not exasperate their children, as if their children have rights!? He then goes on to further press the point by challenging slave owners to adopt a vulnerable and open relationship with their slaves. That must have taken courage in a time when the authority of slave owners over their slaves went unquestioned. Last he addresses the relationship between 'the spirits' that so often lead us powerfully into darkness and slavery, and the 'the Spirit' that brings us life and freedom. Of course we often teach Ephesians 5 in isolation from the Ephesians 6 (as if the way we treat our wives, husbands, children, and those who work for us has no spiritual impact), conversely we make the mistake of thinking that the armor of spiritual warfare has nothing to do with the words and actions that characterize our unity and love for one another...

You see, visionary, courageous, leaders can see what others cannot. What does God want you to see that others cannot?