21 December 2013

20 December 2013

Immanuel: God-with-us!

Dear Friends

Christmas is suddenly and excitingly upon us! The year is drawing to a close, holidays are happening, families are gathering, and life pauses - briefly - for Christmas. A change in pace, perhaps a space for reflection, an opportunity to draw together the strands of the past year and of our scattered lives. An opportunity for birth and rebirth, and a rekindling of our hopes as a New Year bursts upon us.An opportunity, too, to be aware of those alone - maybe lonely - around us, and to reach out in gentleness. An awareness of those dealing with grief and loss and hopelessness, and an opportunity to be gently present.

This Sunday (22 December 2013) at 9am we will be Baptising a number of young children, a reminder of the light of God's Spirit that draws us into eternal life, that dwells within us all, that exudes God's presence through us into our world. A powerful reminder that God lives both in us and through us.There are various opportunities for worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and if you have family or friends visiting over this time, please invite them and encourage them to join us as we reflect on the birth of the Christ child, on the joyful and powerful mystery of God who is Immanuel: God-with-us!

I have found this following reflection from the Jesuite Institute helpful in drawing our thoughts together around Christmas and also the momentous events of the last few weeks as we have mourned the passing of a great human being in Nelson Mandela, and celebrate his legacy, and ask the hard questions of how we embrace this legacy in the paucity and brokeness of leadership in our country. I share it in the hope that you, too, will find comfort and hope:

The Jesuit Institute is passionate about building bridges between faith and broader society. Each week we offer a reflection on something topical. Feel free to reproduce or distribute but please credit the Jesuit Institute and the writer. ‘Second Angel from the Left’ by Raymond Perrier

My earliest Christmas memory is of my nursery school Nativity play, aged 4. The memory is not of the beauty of the candles, nor the harmonious singing, nor the rapturous applause of my parents. Instead it is of being elbowed all the way through the play by the first angel from the left who was next to me and was worried about toppling off the stage!Nativity plays are an enduring memory not only of children but of their loving and long-suffering parents and grand-parents. One mother I know shared her son’s indignation when he was not cast as Joseph in his school play. You see Ted, although at a Catholic school, was by virtue of his mother also Jewish. How ridiculous, he felt at the age of 8, that the lead Jewish male character was not being played by the only Jew in the school!

The reality is that, in the nativity play of life, most of us are called to be angels or shepherds or donkey drivers and are not cast as Joseph or Mary. St Ignatius invites us to contemplate the stable at Bethlehem and imagine ourselves within the scene. We can certainly adore the Mother and child, or even ask Joseph how he is feeling. But we should also spend time imagining the chat we might have with the walk-on characters.‘Was there really no room, Mr Innkeeper?’ ‘Did you all just leave your sheep on the hillside or did they follow you down?’ ‘How long did you and the other angels spend practicing that wonderful Gloria?’ ‘What did it feel like when you walked into that stable?’ ‘When did you realise that you were at the turning point of history?’

Turning points in history have been mentioned a lot recently in our national recalling of the life of Nelson Mandela. In his story too there are not just lead actors – Winnie, de Klerk, the Tambos, the Arch – but also walk-on characters. They too have a story to tell and it is much closer to our own stories: the teacher who first educated this intriguing young mind, the men who sparred with him in the boxing ring, the guards who watched the transform-ation of 27 years, the tannie who brought him his tea at the Union Buildings, the nurses who cared for him in the final days. One character that stood out for me is Cecil Williams, the actor with whom Madiba, disguised as his chauffeur, travelled the country in 1962. What were the conversations between this gay, white man and the black lawyer turned freedom fighter? How did that friendship influence Madiba? Williams was arrested at the same time – he too was an activist – but his story is just a foot note in history.

The temptation of Mandela’s story and of Jesus’ – ‘the greatest story ever told’ – is that they are too grand for us to imagine ourselves as having a role. But Jesus birth was not about Him: it was and is about us. We each have our own role to play in that great Nativity Play that began in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and which continues in history until the end of time. As the carol puts it: “Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today” (from ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Rev Phillips Brooks).

Christmas Services at St Andrew's, Newlands

Sun 22 18:30 Carols on the Lawn

Tues 24 17:00 Crib Service (focus for young children)
Tues 24 11:00 Midnight Mass (APB'89)

Wed 25 07:00 Holy Communion (SAPB - note early start)
Wed 25 09:00 Family Eucharist (APB'89)


16 December 2013

Praying for the Nation

O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others; open my ears that I may hear their cries; open my heart so that they may not be without succour; let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor be afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places. And so open my eyes and ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for Thee. Amen

- Alan Paton

13 December 2013

A different sort of "Boo!"

A letter to Mr Zuma from Professor Pityane http://bit.ly/1cGatqW

Legacy and Hope

Dear Friends

As I prepared, unexpectedly, at the end of last week to travel to Mpumalanga to lead a Memorial Service for a young man of twenty-eight killed the weekend of our Morning Market in a motorcycle accident, news of Nelson Mandela's death broke into our National consciousness. Young Robert, whom I had taught along with his wife of two months as Chaplain to Uplands College, had lived a short but full life, and we mourned the loss of his bright future and potential for greatness; Madiba's death has brought us to a stark awareness of the potential loss of our bright future as a Nation as we reflect on his life-commitment to freedom, non-racialism, reconciliation and human dignity, a vision lost to our present leaders and the party he so loved.

Parliament has put out a pamphlet paying tribute to Mandela titled Mourning a leader, celebrating a legacy. We have much to do as a Nation if we want this legacy to have traction, to inform and transform our future. I am in no doubt of our potential, but I struggle to identify leaders on our National stage with the integrity to give us the necessary momentum to embrace even a part of Mandela's iconic example and vision. Hopefully his death will disengage his legacy from party politics, and set him truly free to be an icon of hope to our Nation as he already is to the world; and set us free as individuals and communities to live his vision and truly transform our society.

Madiba's death serves to highlight the need for prayer for our country, and I do encourage you to participate in some form in our Day of Prayer at St Andrew's Church on the Day of Reconciliation, Monday 16 December 2013 from 7am through to 7pm.Meanwhile our Advent journey continues and we have the opportunity to embrace our Christian hope of new life, renewed Faith and vision for a transformed and meaning-filled future. The first two weeks of Advent have focused us on repentance and a call to awaken again to the purposes of God for our lives and community and world. The third week (known as Gaudate Sunday) refocuses us with a call to rejoice in thankful expectation. We mark this liturgically with a move from the more sombre purple vestments to a more celebratory rose (or deep pink), and the Gospel will focus us on John the Baptist who heralds the longed-for presence of God, the Kingdom of Heaven that is near, even and already in our midst: God-with-us!


08 December 2013

Farewell, Mr Mandela!

An icon of hope and an example of true humanity. Thank you, Madiba - rest in peace, rise in glory!

Our Advent Journey

Dear Friends

This Sunday, 1 December 2013, marks the beginning of our new Church Year as we celebrate the beginning of Advent, and begin our preparation for the birth of the Christ Child.

Our tradition at St Andrew's Church is to light an Advent candle each week, and also (at the 09:00 Eucharist) to focus on the Jesse Tree, both of which are wonderful ways to include our children in our worship and provide us with touchstones for our Advent journey.

Our children will begin the 09:00 Eucharist in Church with us during Advent, going out to Children's Church after our worship time this week, and similarly each week after the Lighting of each Advent candle and the Jesse Tree focus.

We will also mark St Andrew's Day (30 Nov) and World HIV/AIDS Day at each service on Sunday.

We are also in the middle of the annual international campaign "16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence" (25 Nov - 10 Dec), with the theme this year "from peace in the home to peace in the world". We are all well aware of the critical levels of rape and abuse that take place in our communities. Perhaps it would be good to begin with considering our own attitudes and actions, thinking about our own homes, and allowing God to lead us into action from these reflections.