Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Palpable fear...

Louise and I did another introductory presentation for the Disciple-Making program last night, this time in a suburb called Gugulethu.

The name is a contraction of igugu lethu, which is Xhosa for our pride. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gugulethu) It was established in the 1960's to deal with overcrowding in Langa, the only other area black people were allowed to live at the time.

Today, Gugulethu and the surrounding area is ruled by local gangs and crime is rampant. (See: https://www.crimestatssa.com/precinct.php?id=1067) Murder, rape, beatings, theft, even cannibalism in one case. People live in fear. I can't remember when last I was in an area where fear was almost tangible...palpable. You could see it, smell it, feel it...

One of our priests who serves in the neighbouring suburb of Mannenberg told us that he was returning home two weeks earlier with a few colleagues in his car when he saw a group of young men in the road ahead. He decided to turn left to avoid them and as he did, one young man pulled out a gun and started firing...only nothing happened. Either the gun was not loaded, or the shots were fired over the vehicle - either way, they managed to get away without being shot. Nevertheless, they are all struggling to overcome the traumatic experience.

Sirens were blaring during the presentation...apparently, this is normal. When we left, a young man went out with us and made sure we got away safely. Driving past the local police station, we saw crowds of people standing outside waiting to get in. What kind of life is this?

Please join us in praying for the gang members in particular. Pray that the Holy Spirit would convict them of their wickedness and turn them to Jesus. Pray that our Lord will raise up new leaders...new authority figures in the lives of the young people there. Pray for our brothers and sisters who seek to reach out to those who promote fear and those paralysed by fear.


Please wear red tomorrow...

Christians are now the most persecuted people on earth....so please wear red on Red Wednesday 22nd November 2017 to show solidarity with the Church of the Martyrs, for we are united by the ecumenism of blood.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Disciple-making: taking the pressure off our clergy

This is one of the reasons Louise and I teach disciple-making. If all our parishioners are empowered and enabled to make disciples of their neighbours, friends, and acquaintances the pressure will be off the clergy who will then be free to do what they have been called to do: equip the saints to do the work of the ministry!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Substitutionary Confession

In our staff devotions this morning, we read from Nehemiah 9:26-38. While I was reading, two verses stood out to me. "Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that You gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruits and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom You have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please and we are in great distress." (vs. 36-37) 

A lot has been said about the rampant corruption and violent crime epidemic in South Africa for a while now as well as about the crippling effects of the worst drought in decades. If we take some of the warnings in Scripture seriously, we may conclude that these seemingly separate subjects are actually linked by the collective sins of our people...we are told that peace and prosperity is a byproduct of God's blessing upon an obedient people...strife and struggle and suffering is a byproduct of the withholding of God's blessing. And, according to this reading, the rulers we have are those whom God places over us because of our sins...

The chapter as a whole is about confession, contrition, and covenant commitment...in it the Levites recited the nation's history from creation to their present day to point out a pattern of disobedience that eventually culminated in the nation being defeated and exiled. Now, they had returned to their land after 70 years in Babylon, but still they were not entirely free...indeed, they were never really free again, save for a short period under the Hasmonean Kings. 

But what struck me in the reading of this passage was the willingness of the people to confess the sins of the nation as if they were their own. We see this in Daniel chapter 9 as well, where a man described as faithful to the Lord and His Law even to the point of dangerous civil disobedience, confesses the sins of the nation as if they were his own with "prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes". "We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets..." We...not they.

It is so easy for us to point fingers at others and to blame them for the current state of affairs in South Africa. We can look back in time and blame our ancestors...we can look across the political spectrum and blame each other...but the blame game does not solve anything. It just serves to deepen the gulf that divides us from each other and to perpetuate the resentment and bitterness that robs us of the dream of unity as the rainbow nation. 

But to confess the collective sins of the nation as a whole...to confess the sins of our ancestors and our contemporaries as if they were our own, may help to bring us together at the foot of the cross where the need for forgiveness, grace, and mercy places us all on level ground. And who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from His fierce anger, (Jonah 3:9), and may well hear from heaven and will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14b).