Monday, 25 February 2008
And tonight, I sat down with the best intention of putting my Essay on Methodism to bed, ready to be handed in on or before its due date this Thursday. But as my wife walked past me on her way to bed, giving me a loving squeeze as she passed, my resolve evaporated...
So I guess that I'll need a six-pack of Red Bull tomorrow night after I have met with the Local Preachers, because Rev Faith Whitby, although married herself, is unlikely to accept 1 Corinthians 7: 3 as valid grounds for an extension of time to submit my essay!
Having been both a Cub and a Scout myself for 11 glorious years of my boyhood, preparing my message brought back some poignant memories. It was my promise to "... do my duty to God ..." way back in 1978 that probably sowed the seed for me to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour some nine years later.
So I'd like to share the text of yesterday's message, which is based on James 2: 17 - 18, with you:
When I first joined this wonderful movement as a Cub some 30 years ago, I wanted to learn how to tie knots, build towers, and go camping.
Over the years I fulfilled these and other dreams. I tied knots so complicated that if my Akela was still alive, she’d still be trying to untie them. I discovered a way to make frapping turns so tight by wetting the ropes under strain that we needed to take a panga to them to get the poles loose.
My backside still bears the scars of the roof nail on CGR’s scout hall that broke my fall when I stepped back to admire the tower we had built – while standing on the top of the tower.
When camping, if there was a single thorn in the entire campsite, I’d stand on it. If there was a cow pat, I’d end up being dragged through it. My mother became an expert in washing every kind of dirt known to humankind out of my uniform, because it had to look pristine for the following week’s meeting.
Our cooking competitions taught us the value of adding spice to our food – green pepper, red pepper, yellow pepper, and when our parents had completed the judging, they were often in need of toilet pepper as well.
Eleven years – nearly 50 badges, so many camps that I’ve lost count, bumps, bruises, scrapes, Leaping Wolf, Springbok Scout, and Chief Scout’s Award. It was the most wonderful way in which to grow up.
But as I look back on those eleven wonderful years, I think of what the Scout Movement gave me. When I go caravanning, the finer points of tent-pitching still come in handy. A clove hitch is still one of the most useful knots around, especially when putting up a volleyball net made out of nylon rope. Knowledge of how to discern the prevailing winds is vital when it comes to positioning your camp in relation to the latrines.
And I still live up to my nickname of “Lightning” when putting in tent pegs. This has nothing to do with speed, mind you, but more to do with the fact that I can never hit the peg twice in the same place.
But Scouting gave me something far more valuable than that. It gave me a sense of honour. Of integrity. Of knowing that your “yes” is your “yes”, and your “no” is your “no”.
As you grow older and get married, forge a career, and make your way in life, you find that the most important thing is not how good you look, how much money you have, and how many degrees you earn. When it comes down to brass tacks, your honour, integrity, and relationship with God are the only things of real value.
And the foundation of this was the promise that I made in front of my fellow Scouts, before I put on a uniform and long before I learnt that “left over right, and right over left” formed a reef knot.
On my honour I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my Country
To help other people at all times
To obey the Scout Law.
Since the publication of Scouting for Boys in 1908, all Scouts around the world have taken a Scout promise or oath to live up to ideals of the movement, and subscribed to a Scout Law. Typically, Scouts will make the three-fingered Scout Salute when reciting the promise.
The original 1908 text of the Scout Promise as written by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, in his book “Scouting for Boys”, read as follows:
“Before he becomes a scout, a boy must take the scout's oath, thus:
On my honour I promise that –
· I will do my duty to God and the Queen.
· I will do my best to help others, whatever it costs me.
· I know the scout law, and will obey it.
Saying the Promise is one thing. Living it is another.
In James 2: 17-18, we read how faith without action is useless, or dead. The writer of this passage of Scripture goes on to say that you can’t have one without the other. For the Scout Promise to be real, it’s not enough to be able to recite the promise – we need to live it as well.
And that means obeying the Scout Law. Now many people may think that the Scout Law, just like the Ten Commandments that we read earlier, are ancient relics of a bygone age. Who honours their parents nowadays?
What about stealing? If the opportunity presents itself, why not take what you believe is rightfully yours?
And adultery? Let’s not even go there…
What about the Scout Law? “A Scout is a friend to animals”. A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties”. Oh, please! You are modern Scouts! This is 2008. Do these laws still have relevance?
As we celebrate 100 years of Scouting in South Africa, I believe that these laws are as relevant today as they were way back in 1908 when they first appeared in “Scouting for Boys”.
So let’s look at the original 10 Scout Laws, which except for some minor changes in wording, are still our Scout Law today. Let’s focus on what each of these laws mean.
1. A SCOUT'S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED. If a scout says "On my honour it is so," that means it is so, just as if he had taken a most solemn oath. Similarly, if a scout officer says to a scout, "I trust you on your honour to do this," the scout is bound to carry out the order to the very best of his ability, and to let nothing interfere with his doing so. If a scout were to break his honour by telling a lie, or by not carrying out an order exactly when trusted on his honour to do so, he would cease to be a scout, and must hand over his scout badge and never be allowed to wear it again.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL to the King, and to his officers, and to his country, and to his employers. He must stick to them through thick and thin against anyone who is their enemy, or who even talks badly of them.
3. A SCOUT'S DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL AND TO HELP OTHERS. And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, "Which is my duty?" that is, "Which is best for other people?" – and do that one. He must Be Prepared at any time to save life, or to help injured persons. And he must do a good turn to somebody every day.
4. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL, AND A BROTHER TO EVERY OTHER SCOUT, NO MATTER TO WHAT SOCIAL CLASS THE OTHER BELONGS. If a scout meets another scout, even though a stranger to him, he must speak to him, and help him in any way that he can, either to carry out the duty he is then doing, or by giving him food, or, as far as possible, anything that he may be in want of. A scout must never be a SNOB. A snob is one who looks down upon another because he is poorer, or who is poor and resents another because he is rich. A scout accepts the other man as he finds him, and makes the best of him - "Kim," the boy scout, was called by the Indians "Little friend of all the world," and that is the name which every scout should earn for himself.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS: That is, he is polite to all – but especially to women and children and old people and invalids, cripples, etc. And he must not take any reward for being helpful or courteous.
6. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS. He should save them as far as possible from pain, and should not kill any animal unnecessarily, even if it is only a fly – for it is one of God's creatures.
7. A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS of his patrol-leader, or scout master without question. Even if he gets an order he does not like, he must do as soldiers and sailors do, he must carry it out all the same because it is his duty; and after he has done it he can come and state any reasons against it: but he must carry out the order at once. That is discipline.
8. A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES under all circumstances. When he gets an order he should obey it cheerily and readily, not in a slow, hang-dog sort of way. Scouts never grouse at hardships, nor whine at each other, nor swear when put out. When you just miss a train, or some one treads on your favourite corn – not that a scout ought to have such things as corns – or under any annoying circumstances, you should force yourself to smile at once, and then whistle a tune, and you will be all right. A scout goes about with a smile on and whistling. It cheers him and cheers other people, especially in time of danger, for he keeps it up then all the same. The punishment for swearing or bad language is for each offence a mug of cold water to be poured down the offender's sleeve by the other scouts.
9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY, that is, he saves every penny he can, and puts it in the bank, so that he may have money to keep himself when out of work, and thus not make himself a burden to others; or that he may have money to give away to others when they need it.
These were written for the Scouts in the whole world, yet of course firstly focused on Scouting in the United Kingdom. As other groups started up Scouting organizations (often in other countries), each modified the laws, for instance 'loyal to the King' would be replaced by the equivalent text appropriate for each country.
I’m glad that apart from this minor change, South Africa has largely stuck to the original Scout laws that have stood the test of time.
During the years, Baden-Powell himself edited the text numerous times, notably in 1911 adding:
10. A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED. Decent Scouts look down upon silly youths who talk dirt, and they do not let themselves give way to temptation, either to talk it or to do anything dirty. A Scout is pure, and clean-minded, and manly.
In our modern Movement which is open to both boys and girls, we get uncomfortable with this idea of “Scouts builds men”. You must however remember that when Scouts started back in 1908, it was a movement for boys.
But it’s important to know what “being a man” or “being a woman” means. It’s not a matter of age or stature – it’s about your character.
I’d like to summarise what Scouting can do for you by reading that famous poem, “If”, by Rudyard Kipling. It unfortunately also ends with the reference to “being a man”, but if one dwells on the character of the person, it can be applied equally to the ladies as well.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!
In his final letter to the Scouts, Baden-Powell wrote:
“...I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life.
Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man.
Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.
'Be Prepared' in this way, to live happy and to die happy - stick to your Scout Promise always - even after you have ceased to be a boy - and God help you to do it”
This past Saturday I was very close to meeting the same fate that Dion has as I was riding home from a Pastoral Commission meeting on my trusty little Vuka. Suddenly, shortly after I turned into Barry Hertzog road in Linden, my very small mirrors were suddenly filled with a very large Pajero flashing its very bright lights at me.
Since I was barrelling along at 80 (the fastest speed I can wring out of the poor thing) in an attempt to get away from this beast, the road is in a 60 zone, and there was another car next to me in the inside lane, I don't know where this cretin was expecting me to go.
Once he had passed me (in the face of oncoming traffic), his mate in the passenger seat then started waving his sjambok out the window, so I decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and hung back as far as possible.
She and her husband were planning a week's camping holiday on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, so she wrote to a particular caravan park asking for a reservation. She wanted to make sure the caravan park was fully equipped, but didn't quite know how to ask about the toilet facilities. She just couldn't bring herself to write the word "toilet" in her letter.
After much deliberation, she finally came up with the old-fashioned term BATHROOM COMMODE. But when she wrote that down, she still thought she was being too forward. So she started all over again, rewrote the entire letter referring to the bathroom commode merely as the BC: "Does the caravan park have it's own private BC?" is what she actually wrote.
Well, the caravan park owner wasn't old-fashioned at all and when he got the letter, he just couldn't figure out what the woman was talking about. That BC business really stumped him. After worrying about it for awhile, he showed the letter to several campers, but they couldn't imagine what the lady meant either.
So the caravan park owner, finally coming to the conclusion that the lady must be asking about the local Baptist Church, sat down and wrote the following reply:
I regret very much the delay in answering your letter, but I now take pleasure in informing you that a BC is located nine kilometers north of the caravan park and is capable of seating 250 people at one time. I admit it is quite a distance away, if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be pleased to know that a great number of people take their lunches along and make a day of it.
They usually arrive early and stay late.
It is such a beautiful facility and the acoustics are marvelous...even the normal delivery sounds can be heard.
The last time my wife and I went was six years ago, and it was so crowded we had to stand up the whole time we were there. It may interest you to know that right now a supper is planned to raise money to buy more seats. They are going to hold it in the basement of the BC.
I would like to say it pains me very much not to be able to go more regularly, but it surely is no lack of desire on my part. As we grow old, it seems to be more of an effort, particularly in cold weather.
If you do decide to come down to our caravan park, perhaps I could go with you the first time you go, sit with you, and introduce you to all the other folks. Remember, this is a friendly community.
Sincerely, (Caravan Park Owner)
Saturday, 23 February 2008
Monday, 18 February 2008
FRAUDSTERS ATTEMPT TO SWINDLE CHURCHES
An unscrupulous individual has apparently been attempting to defraud churches by posing as an employee of the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
A few congregations have called the SACC to inquire about the payment of donations promised during the Christmas holidays by someone claiming to be a Council staffer.
The fraudster, who uses the names James Khoza and James Adamson, called the churches to request their banking details. He said that he was from the SACC and that the Council was planning to make sizeable donations to the congregations. Shortly thereafter, a somewhat smaller amount appeared to have been deposited in the churches’ accounts.
When church officials telephoned the cell number given by the fake Council “employee” to query the discrepancies, they were told that an error had been made on the cheque and that a new cheque would be issued. However, as the cheque ostensibly needed to be issued for the full amount, the churches were asked to return immediately the funds already deposited.
The scam only became apparent a few days later when the original “deposit” did not clear, and the church was unable to recover the funds that they had dutifully “returned” to the imposter.
Council staff only learned of the swindle after the holidays when an anxious church leader contacted the SACC’s office to find out where the funds were. The Council has since drawn the scheme to the attention of the bank concerned and has reported the matter to SAPS.
The General Secretary of the SACC, Mr. Eddie Makue, expressed outrage and regret over the exploitation of local congregations, most of which operate on a shoestring. “It is especially shocking that someone would use the Christmas season, a time associated with goodwill and giving, as an excuse to take advantage of unsuspecting churches.”
Makue noted that the SACC is an association of Christian denominations. It works primarily with and at the direction of the national offices of denominations and does not make grants to local churches. He urged congregations and the public at large to be wary of any offer or scheme that seemed unreasonably advantageous.
Although the fraudster's name changes, he has consistently supplied the telephone numbers (011) 725 1669 and (073) 450 9848.
Any congregation that receives such an offer from someone claiming to be a Council employee is advised to call the South African Council of Churches on (011) 241-7800 to confirm its legitimacy.
Today I received one such chain letter, which has a number in its heading line. The idea is that you increment the number by one, and then forward it to your entire mailbox, thereby perpetuating the scourge of spam around the world and all in the name of God. Not entirely the best marketing that Christians can engage in!
But then again, one doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and this particular prayer (minus the “guilt” bits for not sending it on, which I have deleted) contains some deep, meaningful elements that we would do well to incorporate into our prayer life.
So I am not going to send it on, but have posted it here in the hope that the sentiments contained there in (without the aforementioned “send it on to everyone you know” parts) can guide us as we pray. We would do well to apply these to our daily lives as we grow ever stronger in our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord, I thank You for this day. I thank You for my being able to see and to hear this morning. I'm blessed because You are a forgiving God and an understanding God. You have done so much for me and You keep on blessing me.
Forgive me this day for everything I have done, said or thought that was not pleasing to You. I ask now for Your forgiveness. Please keep me safe from all danger and harm. Help me to start this day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude. Let me make the best of each and every day to clear my mind so that I can hear from You. Please broaden my mind that I can accept all things. Let me not whine and whimper over things I have no control over.
Prayer is the best response when I'm pushed beyond my limits. I know that when I can't pray, You listen to my heart. Continue to use me to do Your will. Continue to bless me that I may be a blessing to others. Keep me strong that I may help the weak. Keep me uplifted that I may have words of encouragement for others
I pray for those who are lost and can't find their way. I pray for those who are misjudged and misunderstood. I pray for those who don't know You intimately. I pray for those who don't believe. But I thank you that I believe. I believe that You change people and You changes things.
I pray for all my sisters and brothers. For each and every family member in their households. I pray for peace, love and joy in their homes that they are out of debt and all their needs are met. I pray that every eye that reads this knows there is no problem, circumstance, or situation greater than You. Every battle is in Your hands for You to fight. I pray that these words be received into the hearts of every eye that sees them.
God, I love You and I need You. Please come into my heart.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Dion is in hospital, and according to the latest entry on his blog, he is recovering in hospital from a broken leg and a few other scrapes and bruises. He'll be fine, but sadly "Myrtle" (as his scooter is affectionately known) is no more.
Now I only know Dion through his blog, having finally had the pleasure of meeting him at our candidate screening last Monday, but the one thing that I have managed to learn about him is that he LOVES gadgets.
So since you can't keep a good man down, and Dion will no doubt be looking for another Vespa at some stage (after an appropriate period of mourning, of course), I thought that this particular model would be quite a fitting replacement, especially since his Apple Mac does not seem to bounce too well either!
Modded Vespa rocks touchscreen, XP, and WiFi
Sure, he's also got a Louis Vuitton seat, but that isn't nearly as exciting as the prospect of being able to watch Quadrophenia and update your MySpace profile from any spot you happen to motor towards. Just make sure to watch out for the Rockers.
Get well soon, Dion - our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Friday, 15 February 2008
(Copyright ©1995-2008 by the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins. Reprinted with permission.)
Clothing conveys a message. A business suit says, “Money!” A police uniform says, “Law!” A tuxedo says, “Wedding!” Casual clothing says, “Me!” Clericals say, “Church!” Any of those messages might be valid in different contexts, so you have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes for the occasion. If you wear a business suit in a department store, people will mistake you for the manager. If you wear a tuxedo to a ball game, they won’t ask you to play. If you wear a jogging outfit to a fancy restaurant, your clothing says, “I wandered in here by mistake,” and the staff will treat you accordingly.
The word clericals refers to the special clothing that clergy wear outside of worship services, usually consisting of a white collar on a black shirt (for male clergy) or on a black blouse (for female clergy), combined with other clothing that is either black or grey.
- If the minister is a shyster who is fleecing his flock for their money, he is most often wearing a sports coat and tie.
- If the minister is the manipulative type who is gradually transforming his congregation into a mind-control cult, he is most often wearing a well-tailored business suit.
- If the minister is an activist who is crusading against the establishment, he is most often wearing casual clothing, with a tab-collar shirt under his sweater or leather jacket.
- If the minister is competent and respectable, and if he is performing a valuable spiritual service (such as a wedding, funeral, or exorcism) in a dignified setting, he is most often wearing clericals on the street and vestments in church.
Now of course there is the objection that Jesus allegedly wore the clothing of the working man, not special clothes of the clergy. The assertion doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny in Scripture. In many places, people walked up to Jesus out of the blue, addressed Him as “teacher,” which the New Testament informs us is the translation of the word “rabbi.”
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
So it was quite refreshing to read this letter written by Alan Knott-Craig Jr, MD of wireless Internet service provider iBurst, to his employees earlier this year. As you read it, remember this passage from God's Word: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23: 7)
MD's message - What a start to 2008...
2008 has certainly started with a bang! The future was rosy on 31 December 2007, but suddenly everyone is buying candles and researching property in Perth! A combination of recession in the USA, global equity market negativity, high interest rates, the National Credit Act and power outages have combined to create the perfect storm.
But don’t panic!
This is not the first time there’s been doom and gloom. Every few years the same thing happens. We experience massive economic growth, everyone is optimistic and buying Nescafe Gold, and holiday homes, and Merc’s. The positivity gets ahead of itself and the economy overheats, and then panic sets in because the economy seems to be collapsing when in actual fact it’s simply making an adjustment back to a reasonable level.
It happened in 1989, when SA defaulted on its international loans and the stock market and Rand crashed, it happened in 1994 when the ANC took power and everyone thought war would break out, it happened in 1998 when interest rates hit 25% and you couldn’t give away your house, and it happened in 2001 when a fairly unstable guy by the name of Osama arranged for 2 Boeings to fly into the tallest buildings in New York!
On each of those occasions everyone thought it was the end of the world and that there was no light in sight. And on each occasion, believe it or not, the world did not actually end, it recovered and in fact things continued to get better.
I think 2008 will be a tough year, but I also see it as a great opportunity to seize the day whilst everyone else is whinging and get a front-seat on the inevitable boom that we’ll experience in 2009, 2010 and beyond.
Make sure you make a mental note of everything that is happening now, because it will happen again and again, and if you don’t recognize the symptoms you’ll be suckered into the same negativity, and forget to look for the opportunities. It’s easy to be negative. Subconsciously, you WANT to be negative! Whenever you open the papers they tell you about the goriest hi-jacking and the most corrupt politicians. Why don’t they dedicate more pages to the fact that Joburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest, or to the corruption-free achievements of the vast majority of public officials? Because bad news sells. Good news is boring.
SA still has the best weather in world! We’re lucky enough to possess a huge chunk of the world’s resources, i.e.: gold, platinum, coal, iron. The growth in India and China will continue to accelerate (India and China sign 10mil new mobile customers every month), and so will their demand for our resources. The government has already embarked on massive infrastructure projects (some of them a tad late, i.e.: electricity), and this will pump money into the economy.
We are all lucky enough to be a part of the birth of a massive and all-encompassing industry. The Internet has and will continue to change the world. The enormity of its impact is up there with the wheel, electricity, TV, telephones, and possibly man’s greatest ever invention, coffee. Not only does it open up an entirely untapped world of commerce, but it is also the ultimate disseminator of information and news. Apartheid would not have lasted 40 years if the Internet had existed! And you’re part of it!
I’m looking forward to another year of ASA complaints, IR issues, Plug & Wireless parties, BTS roll-outs, billing runs, irate customers, happy customers, orange bubbles, faulty elevators, etc, etc. The nice stuff makes me feel good, and the challenges remind me why we can beat the competition. Most importantly I’m looking forward to having fun and making memories. So ignore the doomsayers, install a timer on your geyser, and buy Ricoffy for a couple of months.
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Free Saturday? What is that? Is it one of those obscure Greek customs that we are going to be quizzed about at candidates' screening on Monday?
Now looking at my diary, I see that 1 March 2008 has no entries in it, so if anyone wants to have a meeting on that day, be my guest. If they want me at it, the answer is NO! I can always blame Nick...
Thursday, 7 February 2008
The righteous will then answer him, 'When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!'
Matthew 25: 34 - 40, Good News Bible
Much has been written about the events of the past week concerning the police raid on Central Methodist Mission and the arrest of many of the refugees to whom this particular church provides shelter. The resulting media frenzy meant that if one did not know who Bishop Paul Verryn was before, they surely do now!
But I don't want to focus on the refugee issue in this particular post, but would rather share some of my own thoughts on the man himself.
I must confess that I cannot claim to know our Bishop all that well. We are not what one would refer to as "house friends". My relatively recent involvement in District affairs (2 years), lowly status at the bottom of the ministerial food chain, and the Bishop's punishing schedule probably has much to do with that. So our relationship can be regarded as "professional".
But that's not to say that I don't like Paul, although that was not the case at first. My first exposure to him was a few years ago, and was my first taste of his "legendary timekeeping" for which he is known throughout our District.
Our Circuit was hosting Synod, and as Circuit Treasurer I was controlling the purse strings. Naturally, as District Bishop and having overall responsibility for Synod, Paul wanted to meet with the organising committee to ensure that everything was on track. We had all worked hard, were tired, tempers were becoming a little frayed, and we just wanted to get the meeting over and done with.
Except that Paul was late. And I don't mean 10 or 15 minutes, either. After about 45 minutes, I was ready to blow. "Who does he think he is? Does he think that we have nothing better to do? Just because he's the Bishop, doesn't mean he can disrespect our time like this!"
Oh Lord - how I had to repent for that outburst when I realised just what responsibilities this precious servant of our Lord Jesus Christ actually carries as the Bishop of our District.
This came home to me quite forcibly about 18 months ago, shortly after God had called me to full-time ministry, as I became embroiled in one of the worst crises that I could remember ever taking place in our Circuit. I got dragged in because one of the first symptoms of a major problem in a Society is when Circuit assessments don't get paid.
The amount of time that Paul spent with the Society concerned was astounding - especially considering that the Central District is spread across an area extending from Central Methodist Mission in a southerly direction as far as Ennerdale (40km south of Johannesburg, and in a westerly direction as far as Vryburg, nearly 350km away. 14 000 square kilometres - that's a lot of Methodists!
I subsequently discovered that Paul gets similarly involved with each one of the approximately 21 Circuits in the District. And that's when I decided to try to understand a little bit more about what he has on his plate.
The "District Diary" - the annual schedule of meetings that is published at the beginning of each year - runs to about four pages. Then there are all the mediation meetings, consultations, and responsibilities in his own Circuit and Society. That's a lot of meetings!
So is Paul just an administrator, rushing from meeting to meeting? Not at all - he is, first and foremost, a pastor. I have been involved on occasions where he has had to deal with major breaches of discipline, threats of a congregation being rendered in two, and serious financial mismanagement. While he is harsh with those who display arrogance - his recent comments concerning the actions of the police during the Central raid bear testimony to that - his compassion and tenderness to the repentant is an example of how grace can bring about restoration in situations where law would result in a complete breakdown of relationships.
Then there is the Paul Verryn who opens his heart and his doors to the poor. I've read the stories about how he provided sanctuary to people during apartheid's darkest days, and cannot even begin to imagine the trauma that he must have gone through when four youths (including political activist Stompie Seipei) were abducted from his Orlando East manse, and then to subsequently be accused of indecent acts towards these youths by none other than Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was implicated in Seipei's murder.
Anyone in a similar situation would be forgiven for saying, "That's it. No more. I'm just going to mind my own business in future."
Not Paul. His bravest and most courageous manifestation of his "open door policy" was yet to come - opening the doors of the Central Methodist Mission to provide sanctuary to about 1 000 refugees, mainly from Zimbabwe, who would otherwise have had to sleep on the cold and dangerous pavements of central Johannesburg.
I have also had the privilege of hearing Paul preach on occasion - mainly when inducting new ministers into our Circuit. All I can say is that when he gets into a pulpit, he sets it on fire. His demeanour when preaching clearly shows that even having been ordained for 30 years, his response to the call of God on his life is stronger than ever, and I will not forget his charge to the new ministers during the 2007 induction service as long as I live.
But the biggest impact that Paul had on me was when our minister had invited my family to supper one Saturday evening, and had invited Paul as well. We were requested to be there by 5 pm, started eating at 7, and were still chatting around the dining-room table when Paul arrived at around 10. Despite being absolutely shattered from a typical day in the life of our Bishop putting out various fires around the District, and ready to eat a horse, he put aside all of that to engage us in conversation.
Before I even realised what was happening, I was sharing with Paul how God had called me to full-time ministry during the 2006 Synod, and my family was also chipping in with their feelings about my call, how they responded, and their excitement for what was to come.
Even in his tired state, Paul showed sufficient concern to ensure that I was registered for the correct subjects at TEE College to enable me to candidate this year. If it wasn't for him I would have had to wait an extra year as I had not, at that time, been registered for sufficient credits.
But what struck me was how Paul responded to each one of us. When you talk to him, he is totally focused on you and what you are saying. It's as though no-one else exists. Then it struck me - this incredibly busy man, who had not eaten anything that whole day, and whose bed must have been calling him so loudly that he could hear it all the way from Jabavu to Turffontein - this man, who was having his ear bent by this pipsqueak telling him all about a calling to ministry, was for those brief moments regarding me as the most important person in the entire world.
I would imagine that this is how Jesus must have treated all people with whom He came into contact with - regardless of who they were, what they may had done, and how insignificant they may have been in the eyes of society, He saw each and everyone as valuable, precious, and worthy of His attention.
So Paul, if you should ever happen to read this, I want to tell you that I love you with the love of Christ. You have influenced my life in ways that I would never have considered possible. Your bravery and strength in the face of many trials and tribulations are an inspiration. I can only hope and pray that once I have been in the ministry for 30 years, I will have the energy, zeal and passion for God's work that you do.
My prayers and those of my family are with you as you continue to fulfil the call that God has so clearly placed on your life. May you continue in His strength.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
- Don't let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.
- Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
- Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.
- It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
- The good Lord didn't create any thing without purpose, but mosquitoes come close!
- When you get to your wit's end, you'll find God lives there.
- People are funny; they want the front of the bus, middle of the road, and back of the church.
- Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on the front door forever.
- Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn't belong.
- If a church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
- God Himself doesn't propose to judge a man until he is dead. So why should you?
- Some minds are like concrete, thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
- Peace starts with a smile.
- I don't know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?
- A lot of church members singing 'Standing on the Promises' are just sitting on the premises.
- We're called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
- Be ye fishers of men. You catch 'em - He'll clean 'em!
- Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
- Don't put a question mark where God put a full stop.
- Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.
- Forbidden fruits create many jams.
- God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
- God loves everyone, but probably prefers ‘fruits of the spirit’ over ‘religious nuts’.
- God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
- He who angers you, controls you.
- If God is your Co-pilot, swap seats.
- Don't give God instructions - just report for duty.
- The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.
- The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.
- We don't change the message, the message changes us.
- You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them.
- The best mathematical equation I have ever seen: 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.
Monday, 4 February 2008
To be honest, the results are quite a relief, and I can now answer the question "Do you believe and teach our doctrine" with confidence! Of course, whether the Candidates' Screening Committee will accept this in place of interviewing me on Methodist theology, is another matter altogether. Somehow, I have my doubts...
Using a lectionary for your sermons (including a download of the 2008 MCSA lectionary in 2-page format)
For us ordinary folks, "exegesis" is a technique of interpreting Scripture by getting "behind the text" (understanding the historical background and context in which the passage is written), "in the text" (examining the literary form of the passage itself), and "in front of the text" (applying the passage to our context today).
Dion also makes a strong case for using a lectionary, and since I started doing so, I found out the following three things:
- I was no longer faced with the problem of "what can I preach on this week?"
- I had to wrestle with the texts to find out what God was saying to me through these selected texts.
- I no longer needed to find particular texts suited to being bludgeoned into my chosen theme. Rather, it became more important to identify the theme from the texts.
Naturally, Dion outlines his case for using a lectionary far more eloquently in his exegesis notes than I do -
Allow me to make a case for the lectionary as the first port of call in the search for texts from which to preach Sunday by Sunday. There is no substitute for systematic, ordered preaching which has a long term purpose and structure to it, ensuring that the congregation becomes well informed, is exposed to the main themes of Christian belief and Christian life and, over a period of time, is guided through all the main sections of the Scriptures.
Moreover, preaching the lectionary will ensure that you are willing to wrestle with the Biblical text, rather than just choosing a few well-known passages to support your own theme. Remember that the task of the preacher or teacher is to discover and communicate God’s will and desire to God’s people, not simply to present his or her own ideas or ‘hobby horse’.
A well-coordinated preaching and teaching team can only accomplish this high calling through the use of a well-constructed Lectionary! Working to a lectionary relieves the preacher of the anxiety of deciding what to preach on. It also ensures that what is preached is indeed an exposition of the Scriptures rather than an exposition of the preacher’s favourite opinions, vaguely supported by some craftily selected Biblical texts!
Be careful of trying to find ‘proof texts’ to make a point. Rather, study the scriptures to learn everything you can about God’s character and will, and our relationship as God’s creation to this wonderful God.
The full text of Dion's exegesis notes can be downloaded here. They are well worth reading, and outline the basic principles more succinctly than most textbooks do.
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa publishes each year's lectionary on its website, as well as in the Yearbook. However, their version runs to nine pages, and since I have developed an aversion to killing trees as a result of the message delivered during my trial service, I decided to put my rudimentary Microsoft Word skills to the test and see if I could reduce it to fewer pages.
I managed to get it down to two pages, which is about the limit to which one can take it down without having to resort to using a magnifying glass. If you have one of those fancy photocopiers that does everything short of making you coffee in the morning, you may be able to even print it double-sided on a single page - handy for the jacket pocket or to slot into the back of your Bible.
You can download the 2-page version of the 2008 lectionary here.