A change of Season
As we move from Spring to Summer we move liturgically into the season of Advent. This is a spiritual season of hope as we prepare ourselves for our Christmas celebrations. I defined "hope" in a recent sermon as trust and expectation, a feeling that flows far deeper than the frivolities that our increasingly secular and consumerist society often serve us with at this time of year. As we enter into this time and reflect on the gifts we intend to give one another as we again celebrate the coming of God into the midst of humanity, perhaps it may be helpful to ask, "How will this gift build trust?", "How will this gift renew expectation?" in a world where we increasingly trust less, and our expectations are often thwarted. How will your gift be God's gift?
In Parish life this change in season is marked by our Morning Market and our celebration of St Andrew's Day.
Our Morning Market has again been a huge success, and more important than the money we raise is how the Market draws us together as a community, giving us an opportunity to serve each other and to serve the world: we come together, give of our substance and the bric-a-brac of our lives; we create space and invite the wider community in; we raise money - lots of it - and give it all away!
St Andrew's Day, as part of this festive weekend at the end of November, importantly reminds us of the key characteristics of the Andrean community, so well laid out in the St Andrew's Day collect (An Anglican Prayer Book 1989, page 315):
Lord God, by your grace the apostle Saint Andrew obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: grant that we may offer ourselves to you in joyful obedience; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
Andreans are those who obey God's call, follow without delay, and are joyfully obedient. How do you experience these three "gifts" in your own life, and in our Church community? Are there people whose lifestyle delineates these characteristics for you? Have there been seminal moments in life and faith that have helped define these characteristics for you? How do you live these three characteristics out in your own relationships?
Outward change demands internal transition. Along with the changes in season and liturgy, what other changes are you experiencing, and what internal transitions of attitude or perspective are these demanding of you? Where are you experiencing God both in the outward changes and in the inward spaces of transition? And how are you responding?
A New Year
2016 is just around the corner, and with Easter falling in March, Lent is but a hop-and-a-skip from Christmas.
I encourage you to think about joining us for our Lent Course, People of the Way, a discipleship course developed in the Diocese of Johannesburg based on the liturgical imperatives of the Lent and Easter calendar. The Marriage Course will hopefully again be offered in April and May, and a course on being Christian and Anglican, Becoming Anglican: a Journey into God, from mid-July through to mid-September. In October a Stewardship Course will again be offered, with a slightly different focus to 2015. These courses will form the backbone of our Confirmation Course for anyone who would like to be Confirmed next year (adult and teenager).
If you're interested in learning more about prayer, then our series of five Quiet Mornings in 2016 titled "Why pray?" will be helpful to you as Bishop Geoff Quinlan and Prof Denise Ackermann offer teaching and reflection on various aspects of prayer.
We're planning another Parish Weekend at Volmoed from 8-10 April, and would love to see you there. The Parish Council has once again agreed to cover the cost of the weekend, so you'll just need to get yourself to Volmoed.
A further innovation for 2016 is a regular Saturday morning Parish Breakfast that David and Debbie Hoffmann will be facilitating. This may alternate with men's and women's specific events, but the first one will be an inclusive Breakfast on Saturday 30 January to which we are all invited!
And of course the regulars: our Annual Vestry in early March, our monthly "Love Packs", our winter Curry Supper on Friday 22 July, and our Morning Market on Saturday 26 November.
A big focus for the first half of 2016 will be to finalise the funding for our new building so that we can beat any cost escalation and complete the project by the end of 2017. A reminder that you can "purchase" one or more "bricks" for R5,000 each, or together with others contribute towards one. We are still looking for someone with the necessary time and passion available to do the "leg work" for the funding initiative. Our Churchwarden and Fundraising Facilitator, William Tough, awaits your call!
I am reminded in today's lectionary readings that God works abundantly, despite our perception that resources are scarce. It is a verse that I shared two years ago in this column, and which reminds me that as we look directly onto Table Mountain from St Andrew's it is a symbol of God's provision in our lives, and is a source of hope for us as God's people and for us as South Africans in these challenging times both locally and globally:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people's a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
(Isaiah 25:6 NRSV)
If you're traveling over Christmas, please drive carefully and be vigilant for other people's stupidity on our roads! If you're in Cape Town our Christmas programme of Carol Services and Christmas Worship will give you a number of opportunities to centre this season on God. Please remember that visiting family and friends are always welcome at our Services!
With love and Christmas blessings