A South African Pentecost Sermon for 2015

A South African Pentecost 2015 sermon

When the disciples gathered together with many others on that first Pentecost Sunday, they experienced what we in South Africa would call a sense of “samehorigheid”, a sense of togetherness. This is the opposite of the “apartness” to which we are so used and which we often unconsciously promote.

“Apartness” is also often our comfort-zone, while authentic “togetherness” can sometimes feel like hard work.

“Samehorigheid” is an interesting Afrikaans word, because it contains within it the idea of “ons hoor saam” (we hear together) and “ons hoort saam” (we belong together”). This is really the best word to describe community, a state where we listen together and belong together, a state of “indaba” and “Ubuntu”.

Diversity is our God-given gift. Unity within this diversity and despite this diversity is what we must work towards.

Our young people have over the last few years and months made it clear to us that they are sick and tired of a fake “samehorigheid”. Young people have this special gift: they can smell inauthenticity a mile off, and they avoid it like the plague. They are particularly searching for the element of justice in our togetherness, and if they do not find it, they are likely to break down this fake samehorigheid, sometimes quite literally. In our knee-jerk reactions, we often condemn them, but should we not first of all repent of our fake samehorigheid and actually hear what our young people are saying to us?’

The church in South Africa have much to repent for, especially if we re-read the Rustenberg Declaration of 1990. There we used words, but they were empty words, dry bones, and we should not be surprised if our words remain empty today and leads to death and not to life. We, who are supposedly the bearers of hope, are as much co-responsible for the sense of hopelessness that so many South Africans feel at the moment.

We need to listen to our young people and ask: Do they have a point? What are they saying? Where have we gone wrong? The prophet Joel has after all said that “our young men and women will see visions and our old men and women will dream dreams”. If we listen carefully to the visions of our young people, we will see that there is much truth to what they are saying and that we need to find the right vocabulary to go together on the next part of our journey.

On Friday some of us met with Bishop Paul Verryn about the idea of creating new “spaces of hope”. At some point in the conversation he used the word “dialogue”, and I said to him and the group gathered there that I think we need to start using new words. Some old words are beginning to feel like dry bones and seems to lead to death rather than to life. I suggested that perhaps a word such as “encounter” is a better word than dialogue.

After listening to our one colleague, Rev Alan Storey, who spoke about his own uncomfortableness and grappling with white privilege and power, we thought that we should also use the word “confront”. One of our other colleagues, Xola Skosana, often reminds us that we need to understand and analyse the systemic power structure in our society. These things (encountering and confronting) might all happen in one space or in different spaces, but the point is that some words (such as dialogue) often gets over-used and sometimes it sometimes gets used to preserve the current comfort-zone.

Pentecost is therefore about creating a new language for a new community. Pentecost is a moment of surprise and a moment of truth.

Another word that is currently being used at Volmoed community in Hermanus, is the word AHA! During Lent, John de Gruchy encouraged people to say AHA! at the end of the liturgy. AHA is an acronym for Authentic Hopeful actions, what we call a new moment and a new movement that needs to be built from the bottom-up. The community that gathers at the Eucharist at Volmoed was encouraged to engage in small actions that would build community with those with whom they are never really in community with. One such action was to tip the petrol attendant at least R5 when they fill up their tank, but also to get to know the petrol attendants name and something about his or her family. This also allows them to think about AHA! every time they stop at a filling station.

Besides these small actions, we will experience this AHA moment when we allow our ego’s to die and when we become alive to convergence, collaboration, connecting, communicating….this is the only way to build an AHA movement and to build spaces of hope.

The word “AHA!” is of course normally used to express surprise, and taps into the Spirit given to us by the God of surprises. Just as we were thinking about the word “confront”, there is a prayer by Archbishop Tutu says “Disturb us, O Lord”. But guess what, a young South African woman, Siki Dlanga, has now written a prayer called “Surprise us Oh Lord”. It goes like this:

Surprise us, O Lord

when we have forgotten that You are the God of Hope,

when we have forgotten that we are the light of the world or the salt of the earth,

because we failed to put our trust in You alone.

 

Surprise us, O Lord

by lifting the veil of poverty and bad education from our poor,

by blessing the rich with an unquenchable mission for your justice for the poor,

by blessing our nation with good leadership.

 

Surprise us, O Lord

with hearts that groan with gratitude,

with expectation of good to come out of our disappointments.

Allow our vision of your kingdom to be the glow that never dims from our eyes.

 

Stir us, O Lord

to dare more boldly into the depths of the darkness we most fear,

where we have been broken by hatred and division,

we will be forgiven and mended by your love.

Let reconciliation be true so that our human dignity is restored.

 

Awake us, O Lord

Breathe new brightness into the fading colours of our rainbow.

 

Surprise us, O Lord

so that Your joy will crown men and women in their fruitful work,

so that women are sought out for their great wisdom,

so that men are known for their love,

so that the children will be safe and sing your praises in the streets,

so that the widow will rejoice and call your justice glorious,

so that you will be called our Beautiful Hope.

 

Surprise us, O Lord

So that those who look upon us will say AHA!

Their hope is not in vain!

AHA!

Their hope is not in vain!

Camagu! Amen!

As we celebrate this Pentecost Sunday today in 2015, may we continue to discern what new words and new actions we need for a new community.

And maybe, just maybe, we might begin to listen better, especially to our young people, and create new spaces of hope – and welcome – in South Africa and in and for the rest of Africa.

By Rev Edwin Arrison

A Pentecost Meditation, by John de Gruchy

A PENTECOST MEDITATION BY JOHN DE GRUCHY: EMPOWERING PEOPLE
I Corinthians 12:4-11
Acts 2:1-4

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Last Friday I attended an indaba at the University of the Western Cape arranged by AHA, the movement that was recently founded to respond to the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. AHA stands for Authentic, Hopeful Action, and you will recall that during Lent instead of saying “Alleluia” we said “AHA!” at the end of our weekly Eucharist.
This reminded us of our responsibility as Christians to serve the needs of others. To get on and do something practical! At the AHA Indaba a whole range of projects were reported on and discussed by the sixty people who attended. These ranged from Sparklekids here in Hermanus, to others that promote social cohesion in society, or help people to access their social grants without being taken for a ride. I ended up in a cluster group that talked about projects related to education which enable school learners and university students to achieve their potential. We came to the conclusion that what we were engaged in was empowering people — enabling them stand on their own feet, discover and use their gifts to fulfil their dreams and serve the wider community.
This coming Sunday is Pentecost. We recall how the first Christians experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and received power to witness to Christ in the world. Pentecost is the festival of God empowering people to minister to others. In receiving the Holy Spirit the first Christians discovered they had both the gifts and the power to do this. “You will receive power,” Jesus had told them, “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” St. Paul later reflected on these gifts of empowerment. Some, he said, are ecstatic gifts for prayer and worship, others very practical, in fact, there are varieties of gifts because there are varieties of activities but, says Paul, they are all “manifestations of the same Spirit of the common good.”
In the context of Paul’s letter, the “common good” refers to the good of the church or, as he says elsewhere, the gifts which the Spirit gives are for the “building up of the body of Christ.” Paul’s focus was primarily on the church as it struggled to establish itself and maintain its unity in a very hostile environment. But the common good does not refer only to the church, because the church exists for the sake of the world. The common good also means the good of the society in which the church exists. The Holy Spirit does not come to give the church a spiritual massage, or to make us “happy and clappy” in our own enclave; the Spirit empowers the church to serve the world. Pentecost is about God’s empowerment of us to participate in his mission of healing and justice in a broken world.
Just as the Holy Spirit was active in the creation of the world, breathing the gift of life into every creature, so at Pentecost the Spirit is “poured out on all flesh” in order to bring life anew to the world. The primary gift of the Spirit is the giving of new life which produces the fruit of the Spirit, of faith, hope and love are paramount. Wherever there is love, joy, peace and hope the Spirit is at work; wherever people struggle for justice and God’s kingdom of righteousness, the Spirit is at work; wherever people reach out to embrace others in their suffering with acts of compassion, the Spirit is at work. The fruit of the Spirit cannot be evident if the Spirit is not at work making it possible. In this way the Spirit, as Jesus said, bears witness to him.
If we think of Pentecost as the festival of God empowering God’s people and gifting us to serve the world, then we will also discern that the Holy Spirit is at work in a variety of ways, and in all who serve the common good: those who look care for Volmoed, those who visit the sick elderly, those who create works of art that delight us, those who manage our town, teach in our schools, nurse in our hospitals. The list is endless. But “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
The AHA Indaba last Friday was opened in prayer by a young black woman, Siki Dlanga, who is also a poet and student. She entitled it “Surprise us, O Lord.” I think it is quite beautiful, and also reminds us that God the Holy Spirit is continually at work in the world surprising us at every turn, empowering us to do what would otherwise be beyond us, and calling us to participate in empowering others to fulfill the dreams and hopes that God gives them:

Surprise us, O Lord
when we have forgotten that You are the God of Hope,
when we have forgotten that we are the light of the world or the salt of the earth,
because we failed to put our trust in You alone.
Surprise us, O Lord
by lifting the veil of poverty and bad education from our poor,
by blessing the rich with an unquenchable mission for your justice for the poor,
by blessing our nation with good leadership.
Surprise us, O Lord
with hearts that groan with gratitude,
with expectation of good to come out of our disappointments.
Allow our vision of your kingdom to be the glow that never dims from our eyes.
Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly into the depths of the darkness we most fear,
where we have been broken by hatred and division,
we will be forgiven and mended by your love.
Let reconciliation be true so that our human dignity is restored.

Awake us, O Lord
Breathe new brightness into the fading colours of our rainbow.

Surprise us, O Lord
so that Your joy will crown men and women in their fruitful work,
so that women are sought out for their great wisdom,
so that men are known for their love,
so that the children will be safe and sing your praises in the streets,
so that the widow will rejoice and call your justice glorious,
so that you will be called our Beautiful Hope.
Surprise us, O Lord
So that those who look upon us will say AHA!
Their hope is not in vain!
AHA!
Their hope is not in vain!
Camagu! Amen!

John de Gruchy
Volmoed 21 May 2015

Surprise us, O Lord

kairossouthernafrica:

This prayer was used for the opening of the Western Cape AHA indaba on 15 May 2015

Originally posted on Siki Dlanga Poetry - where words are joy:

(A prayer for this generation fashioned after Desmond Tutu’sDisturb us, O Lord)

SURPRISE US, O LORD

by Siki Dlanga

Surprise us, O Lord

when we have forgotten that You are the God of Hope,

when we have forgotten that we are the light of the world or the salt of the earth,

because we failed to put our trust in You alone.

Surprise us, O Lord

by lifting the veil of poverty and bad education from our poor,

by blessing the rich with an unquenchable mission for your justice for the poor,

by blessing our nation with good leadership.

Surprise us, O Lord

with hearts that groan with gratitude,

with expectation of good to come out of our disappointments.

Allow our vision of your kingdom to be the glow that never dims from our eyes.

Stir us, O Lord

to dare more boldly into the depths of the…

View original 145 more words

The 4 biggest reasons why inequality is bad for society

kairossouthernafrica:

How to start tackling poverty and inequality

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

QWA-category-Inequality

It’s safe to say that economic inequality bothers us. But why? Harvard philosopher T. M. Scanlon offers four reasons we should tackle — and fix — the problem.

The great inequality of income and wealth in the world, and within the United States, is deeply troubling. It seems, even to many of us who benefit from this inequality, that something should be done to reduce or eliminate it. But why should we think this? What are the strongest reasons for trying to bring about greater equality of income and wealth?

One obvious reason for redistributing resources from the rich to the poor is simply that this is a way of making the poor better off. In his TED Talk on “effective altruism,” Peter Singer advances powerful reasons of this kind for voluntary redistribution: Many people in the world are poor, and the improvement in their lives that richer people can bring…

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Three invitations: 20 April, 15 May and 17 August 2015

1. 4th Steve de Gruchy lecture in Cape Town

Date: 20 April 2015 at 18h30 for 19h00

Venue: Rondebosch United Church, Belmont Rd, Rondebosch

Speaker: Dr Roderick Hewitt, from Jamaica

Theme: The influence of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on the theology of Steve de Gruchy

RSVP: info@christianspirit.co.za

2. Western Cape AHA Indaba

AHA invite

3. KAIROS 30th Anniversary conference

Kairos invitation

“Love triumphs!” Text of pope’s Easter message

Originally posted on CNS Blog:

Pope Francis delivers Easter message from central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. (screen grab) Pope Francis delivers Easter message from central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. (screen grab)

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican’s English translation of Pope Francis’ Easter message. He delivered it from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica today before giving his solemn blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is risen!

Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!

Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which…

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With clenched fists, pope addresses social ills in Naples

Originally posted on CNS Blog:

Pope Francis in Scampia. (Screen shot) Pope Francis in Scampia. (Screen shot)

Pope Francis this morning issued stark warnings to people who rob others of hope; with a strong voice and a clenched fist, he condemned mafia dons, drug traffickers and those who exploit workers.

And he shook his head in wonder that anyone could treat an immigrant as if he or she was a worthless annoyance.

In Naples’ Scampia neighborhood, one of those “peripheries” of poverty and degradation the pope speaks about so often, an immigrant woman from the Philippines asked the pope to please remind people that immigrants are children of God.

“Have we reached the point where that’s necessary?” the pope asked the crowd. “Are migrants second-class humans?”

“They are like us, children of God,” he said. What is more, they are reminders that this world is not the permanent home of anyone and that “we are all migrants (moving) toward another homeland.”

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