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
Entries in prayer (78)
I have been reading some of the work of Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston in the last few weeks. I don't know too much biographical information about him, other than that he is an Episcopal priest and a Native American. I also know that he writes (and thinks) beautifully. Here is a beautiful excerpt from one of his prayers. I call it a prayer for peace:
God drive back the dark days of war, place your angels between innocent lives and the tread of advancing tanks, cool the political fires that burn for power and greed, let wisdom prevail and compassion increase….
- Bishop Steven Charleston
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.
The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism. We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.
This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church! This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem. Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world. Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here. I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship. Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.
I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.
Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'. This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions. Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?
People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.
Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)
Last night a friend from the UK asked me if I could write a short prayer for Nelson Mandela that could be used by some Christians in the UK. After some prayer and thought I wrote the following:
Loving God, the world is yours. You have lovingly created each person, and by your grace you sustain and transform creation day by day. We praise you for every aspect of nature that displays your Glory.
Today we want to thank you for your son Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. In his life you have shown us the courage of standing for justice, the patience of suffering for peace, and the hope that forges forgiveness. We thank you for giving him the gift of wisdom to lead, the gift of mercy to forgive, and the gift of love to break down the walls that divide.
Today we pray that you will complete your perfect will in him. Offer him peace in his time of struggle. Surround him with love as he faces the unknown; and when the end of this life comes embrace him in your love and restore him to fullness of joy.
We pray that the courage of his conviction will continue beyond his earthly life. May the principles justice, reconciliation and peace that he suffered for be rooted more deeply within us. May his life inspire us to live more sacrificially for you and for the sake of all whom you love.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus, the great liberator, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
There are the thoughts that informed this prayer.
In this prayer I tried to capture a few elements:
- A prayer of petition ask for God to bless and care for his son Nelson.
- A prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for the many good things that we have been blessed to witness as a result of his courage and conviction for justice, and reconciliation.
- A prayer for strength, for him, his family, and for all of us, that we may continue in the work that God worked through him.
Please continue to pray for our precious nation, and for the freedom that Mr Mandela lived for. We are facing some challenging times at present.
With grace and peace in Christ,
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.
In my devotional reading this morning I came across this remarkable quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about solitude and the Christian community. Of course Bonhoeffer's context was that of Finkenwalde (the roque seminary he set up for pastors who were not willing to serve the Nazi controlled Church).
Our Master of Theology students at Stellenbosch University have been studying what it means to have a spirituality that is missional - i.e., to have a spirituality that is alive in God's presence and discerns and acts upon the will of God in the world. This is a world engaging spirituality, rather than a world-negating spirituality.
This is part of my current journey.
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called..."The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death himself, alone... I will not be with you then, nor you with me" (Luther)Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called—the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you."If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me" (Luther)
My great friend @EtiennePiek69 gave a great gift about a year and half ago 'Common prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals'. I have used it almost daily as my devotional guide. The liturgies and reflections for each day are a remarkable blessing to me.
In my quiet time this morning I came across this quote which spoke to me directly. Perhaps it may speak to you?
We have real difficulty here because everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong.
- Richard Foster (American Quaker and writer).
Have a truly blessed day today! May the Lord grant me courage and discipline to be changed, even as I desire to change the world!
On Sunday I will be flying from Cape Town the London (via Dubai) to speak at the Alpha Leadership Week and have a number of meetings. In particular I shall be focussing on spending time with the Alpha Africa team, our EXPOSED team in London and signatories and friends of Unashamedly Ethical while I am there.
Of course I will also get to spend some time with friends and family and quite a number of friends from Cape Town and Somerset West and Cape Town who will also be at the Leadership Week at the Royal Albert Hall.
I am so excited! It is a magnificent opportunity and I am praying for some deep and significant friendships and partnerships to form for the transformation of our precious continent!
The talk I was asked to give was on leadership. When I considered the topic I realised that a lot of Leadership talks focus on leadership as if it is something that one does from the 'top' or the 'front' of an organisation. The reality is, however, that most us don't have the responsibility of privilege of leading from that position. Most of us are called to lead from the 'middle' of groups or organisations. That can be quite a challenging task that requires a special measure of courage and grace.
So, I will be talking around the topic of 'From a lone nut to a leader' (based in part on an idea from Derek Sivers' great talk at TED a few years ago). Here is the little video they recorded as a promo at the Alpha offices in Kensington when I was there in December last year.
If you're in the area, or plan to be at the Leadership week please do hook up with me. The easiest is probably to send me a tweet on @digitaldion
Please can I ask for your prayers for Megan, Courtney and Liam while I am away? Liam is a little sick just at the moment. However, we trust the Lord that he will be restored to full health very quickly! I arrive back in South Africa on the 18th of May (the day before my darling wife Megan's birthday, and of course the Saturday before Pentecost and the Global Day of Prayer).
This weekend I had the joy of spending some time with the men in my Christian forum group. This is a group that offers both care for the journey, as well as support and accountability along the way. You can find out more about The Network of Christian Forums here.
To structure our retreat together I introduced my friends to St Ignatius' First Principle and Foundation. It is a powerful reminder to keep one's spiritual life centered on what matters most, and out of that to bless God and the world. Perhaps it could encourage you?
The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts from God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening his life in me.
God gave me a wonderful gift this week. It has been an exceptionally busy couple of months with my work at 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption', Unashamedly Ethical and the University. Between travel, meetings, conference calls, speaking engagements, writing and supervision I hardly felt like I was touching sides.
The busyness of life has a way of drawing me away from what matters most. I begin to adopt a functional, rather than a reflective, orientation towards life. My days are spent on tasks rather than prayer and people. This can quickly lead to disconnection from God and God's wonderful world, and the people in it.
Last week was no different. We had a great contact week with our Master of Theology students who are doing the course in missional spirituality. Rev Trevor Hudson and Prof Robert Vosloo came and did the input sessions with our students. I sat in on most of the lectures, and also spent time with the individual students and the group helping them to work towards their research tasks and assignments. At the end of the week the examinations began for the group of students from last year's MTh course. In all 12 students had an opportunity to give a defence of their Masters research projects. This is an exciting time where the students present their ideas and the faculty (lecturers) get to engage with them. Whilst it is an exam, it is also a great time of learning and sharing.
On Monday afternoon one of my Masters students did his defence and did a great job. He has passed and will get his degree. It felt good to celebrate this significant milestone with him! However, as I left the University to rush home in order to go onto a conference call with colleagues in the UK for EXPOSED my mind was already focussed on tasks.
I drove out of Stellenbosch and as I passed Stellenbosch square I saw two people on the side of the road, a young boy and his mother. The mother was clearly very drunk. In fact, she was so drunk that she could not stand or walk without stumbling. She was dangerously close to the moving cars and her little son was applying all of his weight to try and pull her out of the road. My heart was touched. Seeing a little 6 year old boy struggling to help his mother in this situation left me very bruised. So, I turned my car around to the other side of the road and stopped to pick them up.
God had given me the gift of Franco and Sophie. Franco is six years old and has just started school. Sophie is his mother. Her husband died of HIV/AIDS a while ago and she has a drinking problem. Franco was trying to help his mother home.
After I had put Sophie in the front seat of the car, and get Franco securely fastened in the back (in Liam's 'booster seat') I took them home. I discovered that Franco has a brother - he is 9 years old. How sad it is that these two boys bear the responsibility of caring for themselves and their mother. Of course this event touched a very tender part of my own life and brought back memories from my early childhood.
I couldn't do too much for them. After getting Sophie and Franco safely home we talked for a while. I first spoke with Sophie about her life and her struggles. I encouraged her to seek help and prayed with her. It was a hopelessly inadequate response to this very serious situation. I then spent some time with Franco. I told him how beautiful and brave he is. I reminded him that God had made him a very special boy and that God has a wonderful plan for his life! I reminded him that he is loved and that God had sent me to collect him and his mom that afternoon. All that I had in the car to give him was an apple, a banana and one of Liam's story books. He was over the moon with the book.
Franco and Sophie have been living in my heart and mind all of this week. As I go to meetings, as I meet people, as I speak at events, as I plan, as I write, as I pray... God has given me a gift. It is a sad gift, but it is important.
The Bible says "Learn to do what is right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1.17)
Please can I ask you to pray for Franco, Sophie and Franco's little brother? Please ask God to care for them. Please pray that Sophie will find the help that she needs, and the Franco and his brother will be spared from neglect or abuse. Please pray that they may reach the beauty of potential that God has placed in them. Please don't make the mistake that I make and get so busy that you neglect the opportunity to be wounded by suffering.
The last few weeks have been a time intense discernment. I have a desire only to do that which is most honoring God and most profitable for God's Kingdom. However, my perspective of what I and my family need, my own struggle with the desire to be of some significance, and the buzz of attention around me makes hearing the voice of God rather difficult. But, I try.
This quote inspires me:
There was no answer, except life’s usual answer to the most complex and insoluble questions. The answer is this: live from day to day; in other words, forget.
Leo Tolstoy; Anna Karenina
What a wonderful blessing it is to be loved by my darling wife and precious children, to be cared for and encouraged by family and friends, to belong to the body of Christ, and to know that all of my life is shielded in God's grace.