Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Spirituality podcast 12 - 31 August 2006 - scast12.mp3 (19MB)

Today's podcast is in the form of a lecture entitled "The redemption of cultural intimacy" which was delivered by Dr Willie J Jennings from Duke Divinity school.

Here is some information about Dr Jennings:

Dr. Jennings teaches in the areas of systematic theology and black church and cultural studies. The author of numerous articles, his research interests include these areas as well as liberation theologies, cultural identities, and anthropology. Dr. Jennings is a native of Grand Rapids, Mich. An ordained Baptist minister, Professor Jennings has served as interim pastor of several North Carolina churches and continues to be an active teaching and preaching minister in the local church.

You can read Dr Jennings' official biography here: http://www.divinity.duke.edu/portal_memberdata/wjennings

The lecture took place at the John Wesley College chapel in South Africa.

The welcome was done by Rev Dr Neville Richardson (the Director of the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit in the MCSA). The word of thanks at the end (which is superb!) was done by one of the John Wesley College students, Rev Izeman Puleni.

I'm afraid that sound is not so good during the question and answer time (last 6 minutes or so).

Please do send comments, thoughts, ideas and feedback.


You can download the file here: Spirituality Podcast 12 scast12.mp3

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's all in the details

Take a look at the detail on this baby. It is a hand made model of a 1950's Vespa scooter; it is perched on my desk by the way (another shot taken with my camera phone). I believe that it was made by crafters from old Coke cans! It is a beautiful model. I love looking at it during the day - it makes me smile!

I smile because someone sat and studied a Vespa to get all the little bits just right. Then he, or she, took something worthless and shaped it to make something of true value! Well, we all know where this could go if it were a sermon.

It's a thing of great beauty, to celebrate an occasion of great joy!

I received it as a gift from my darling wife Megan.

My doctorate was finally awarded last week Wednesday (signed and sealed!) Other people may have received a book, or a voucher - but my wife knows exactly what I love! And... I love her for it!

My heart is glad!

(PS I realise there are a lot of exclamation marks in this post - I'm happy! That's why!)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ordination 2006! It sort of dates me....

Below are the Ordination group of 2006. As I was participating in the Ordination service, hearing the names of each one (particularly my colleague Paul Smit), I was remembering that I screened almost all of them for entry into the ministry. I have trained just about all of them (either in Phase 1, or at College), and there I was watching them get Ordained.

It felt good in many ways - I am reminded again just what a great privilege it is to form people for ministry!

Here is the article that I wrote for 'The New Dimension' the Newspaper of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Credit to them for the Ordination Photo! Thanks Anne!

"Wathint' abafazi, Wathint' imbokodo!" (translated, "When you strike a woman, you strike a rock!"). This was the slogan of the brave women who marched on parliament 50 years ago in protest of the unjust pass laws of the Apartheid government. How fitting then that this year would also mark the milestone of the 30th anniversary of the Ordination of women to the Ministry of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa! The celebration of women in ministry was the central theme of this year?s Ordination service, held in the extended Northfield Methodist Church on the 20th of August 2006.

The preacher on the day, invited by the Presiding Bishop, was the Reverend Joanne Browne-Jennings. She has been visiting South Africa, and teaching with her husband the Reverend Doctor Willie James Jennings, at John Wesley College for the past three weeks. Joanne and Willie hail from Durham North Carolina where they both teach at the Duke University Divinity school. Joanne's message was a wonderful reminder to the Church of the role and value of women in ministry. She also delivered a powerful charge to the Ordinands, reminding them to 'birth' the ministry God had been developing in them during their training, and to faithfully craft their ministry according to God's perfect plan. Pictured above is the Reverend Jennings, together with her interpreter from John Wesley College, the Reverend Izeman Puleni, as she preached with passion and enthusiasm.

The first woman ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa was the Reverend Constance Oosthuizen (pictured below with the Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, Bishop Gavin Taylor of the Limpopo District, and the Connexional Secretary, the Reverend Vuyani Nyobole, as they were praying for the Reverend Alan Booth who was being Ordained).

The laying-on of hands by Bishops and Presbyters, mingled with prayer, praise, and promise, marked the culmination of at least five faithful years training by the Ordinands. A highlight of the Ordination service is always when the congregation shouts "They are worthy", a statement that acknowledges their gifting and calling to the Ordained ministry. Adding further to the joy and celebration of the day was the presence of two Deacons (Deacon Claire Engelbrecht and Deacon Baden Clack) who were also Ordained by the imposition of hands. It is wonderful to see more and more persons offering for the ministry of Word and Service within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. In total 32 persons were prepared for Ordination under the caring guidance of the Reverend Themba Mntambo and his team this year.

At the Ordination banquet, held the night before the ordination, the Reverend Olivia le Roux expressed thanks on behalf of the Ordinands to Dr Richardson, and the Reverends Madika Sibeko, Ruth Jonas and Dion Forster (the staff of the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit) for the hard work that had been put into shaping them for the work of ministry over the last 5 years.

The Education for Ministry and Mission Unit trains just short of 300 persons on an annual basis. An interesting fact to note is that currently ministers in training make up just a bit less than half of the active ministers serving in the MCSA - this is a huge task that requires the very best care. Please could we ask you to regularly pray for the Unit, its staff, and of course for all student ministers and deacons? Moreover, we would wholeheartedly encourage Districts, Societies, Organisations, and individual Methodists to consider supporting the work of the Unit as it prepares women and men for serving our Church throughout Southern Africa. Ministers in training, and their families, often make great sacrifices to fulfill their calling to ministry. Please consider sponsoring a student, or student family, at our Seminary (John Wesley College). Alternatively, you could consider sponsoring some books for the library, or donations of clothes, working computer equipment, and toiletries to aid the ministers in their training.

We look forward to seeing the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ for "healing and transformation" grow in the years to come. This year, however, we especially celebrate the wonderful gift of women in our ministry - both those women who are ordained, and those who faithfully serve Christ in their local Churches.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Falling in love again... What am I to do?

Every now and then it just happens... You're living your life and out of nowhere it just hits you... You see her and you just can't help it. It's love at first sight!

What am I talking about? Well, here's a picture of my latest love! Yesterday I took delivery of a 1968 Vespa VLB 150cc Sprint. They are extremely rare! This is the one with the square headlight (whereas all the other Vespa's have a round headlight).

This baby is in need of a little 'tender loving care'. As you can see her bodywork is a little worse for ware. But hey what can you expect after 38 years of hard labour!? The great news is that after 37000km's she starts on the first kick, idles like a dream, no gearing problems, and even makes it up to about 60 miles an hour! (yup, the speedometer is in Miles, not Kilometres. Also, you'll notice that it does not have any mirrors or indicators - that's how they were in 68! Also, it doesn't have a key! You simply kick it and it goes... So, I have cary a bicycle chain with me to chain it up every time I park it at the mall or on campus! Ha ha! It is hilarious! But boy, do I get some stares of amazement when I drive it. Evertime I park some 'old timer' comes up to check out the bike and tell me about his experiences on a Vespa in the Jurasic age).

Pictured above are my 1980 Vespa P200E (Orange - original colour, but restored), and my NEW Vespa VLB 150 Sprint (grey, rust and a few bumps - original paint - still to be restored). If you click on the image it will enlarge.

So, if you see my nipping around Pretoria between the seminary and the University of South Africa, or the University of Pretoria on this beauty, simply smile, wave, and don't covet! It's a sin!

So there you go Pete and Pete (good friends! How about you guys ride your bikes to PTA, and then drive down to Grahamstown for our retreat with me? It will be an ascetic experience! What do you think!?)

PS. You can check out a few more pictures of my Vespas (and some old one's I no longer own) in my Flickr Vespa set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/35258595@N00/sets/1730648/

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chad Vader... Still posting silly stuff!

Hey, what do you get when you combine Darth Vader from Starwars with an overeager 7-11 store manager?

Watch this video to find out!

Yeah, I know this is silly. I am trying my best to keep all serious thoughts out of my mind.... I am writing a paper for the SASREF conference where I am presenting in a few weeks. So, there is plenty of boring theology going on in my brain. This is much better!

There is a little bit of profanity... Please close your ears for a few parts! Sorry...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I don't want to make light of a serious situation, but......

Yesterday we bid farewell to the last of our three guests from Cambridge. They were in the uncomfortable position of having to travel home with no carry on hand luggage! Can you imagine!? At least their flight was not cancelled (unlike our American visitors from Duke who were caught in the SAA strike this time last year and had a two week delay).

It seems BA's got problems! Here's why -

I thought it was funny...

Monday, August 14, 2006

The game is called 'Name that monument'....

Yup, today I went to this mysterious monument... I affectionately call it the world's largest jelly mold.

So Murray and Gina, Richard and Michelle (UK), Ross and Shayne (US), and all the other folks from foreign lands. Can you name the monument?

I took our Cambridge visitors to show them what just the right amount of religion and the wrong amount of social ideology can get people to do. It is fascinating really. I wonder how many kids have 'hocked a loogie' from the top of this one? Kinda makes you think!?

PS. please excuse the quality of the photo... It was taken on my cell phone.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

MAC vs PC (Viruses)

Ha ha! This Video is GREAT! As many of you would know, Professor Bentley (for whom we have endowed a chair - sure it is only a plastic garden chair, but we feel he is worth it!) and I are Mac evangelists... I can say that we are 'Evangelists', because, of course God does uses a Mac. Just like God supports the Stormers! Anyway, I digress.

I do pray for PC users.... The theodicy of it will become much clearer once you have watched this clip!

Come one, let's start a flame war!!! (Google it if you're not sure what a flame war is)!

Many Mac blessings to you and yours,


Friday, August 11, 2006

Did God create THE world? Or, does God create YOUR world?

I call this debate 'majoring in minors'... Again today I was confronted by someone who is so committed to creation theory that he is missing God at work in the rest of his life.

He believes fundamentally that Genesis chapter 1 gives the account of God's creation (past tense) of the world. Hence, the purpose of this passage of scripture for him had to do with an act of God in history... It is a record of a fact that took place somewhere in the past.

Wouldn't it be so sad if that was all that this text could have to say, a dry dead fact about an unchanging historical event that took place very long ago?

Of course he knew nothing about the context of Genesis 1 (never mind the fact that the same Bible - if read in the way he insisted on reading it - contained a contradictory account of creation just one chapter later in Genesis 2). He had not bothered to actually READ the text, rather he wanted to tell it what to say! It HAD to fit his modern view of scientific creation theory, it didn't matter that it was written for a group of people in exile, in a strange land, living in slavery and chaos. No, he wanted it to be about history and science! What good would this text be to suffering people who are doubting their faith?

For those who have not yet heard about the real context of Genesis 1, please go and read about the context in which it was written by reading Psalm 137 (this was written at the same time, in the same exilic context as the creation Narative of Genesis 1). Here you have a group of people, confused, lives in chaos, struggling to find and see God, or God's hand, struggling to hear God's voice! And so they say "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"

It is in answer to this question, over and against their context of exile and slavery, being polluted by the Babylonian creation myths of Marduch (yup google Marduch), the author of Genesis 1 preaches this GREAT sermon about God's power, God's order in chaos, God's powerful voice to speak life out of nothingness! Isn't that a great message? Doesn't that sound so much more like God? God is much more interested in creating truth, meaning and real living IN YOUR LIFE, rather than giving a book of history about the events of the creation of THE world.

Sure, God is interested in THE world... However, I can assure you God is SO much more interested in YOUR world!

Oh, how I wish we would stop majoring in minors! It is time that we stop just reading the bible (telling it what we want to hear), perhaps we should allow the text to read us!

Let's hear some comment, is Genesis 1 about history, God's creation of THE world? Or, is it about God reaching into your life, a place where you may feel like a stranger, exiled in a strange and unfamiliar land; maybe you are enslaved, empty, no longer able to sing the Lord's song in a "strange land"? Perhaps, it is more about God's creation of YOUR world, rather than just THE world....

It kind of makes me think. How about you?

Oh, and yes Gus, this was typed in Dr Jennings' last lecture. Wasn't it GREAT?!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Praise and worship! Who needs it!?

G.K. Chesterton once said,

"Trying to glorify God is like lighting a candle to glorify the sun. The candle's nice, but the sun doesn't need it."

Have you ever thought why we praise God? Some Christians treat praise as if God needs a 'weekly ego boost', something akin to saying "Who's da man? You da man!" How condescending!

God loves praise! But, I think the reason why God loves praise is not because God needs an ego boost. Rather, it is because true praise is an encounter with truth!

I have come to discover that praise is much less about God, and much more about me - it is God's gift to me. When we praise God we are simply declaring a truth about who God is - powerful, creative, actively engaged, and of course loving! This proclamation of truth is intended to change you (and me of course)!

When we truly believe the praises we declare, it reminds us who God is, and of course what that truth means for the one who is 'truly' praising.

I am often confused by the kind intellectualal snobbery that becries the shallowness of contemporary worship - as if the eloquencece of liturgy, or the rich imaginative engagement of contemplation, are the only creative ways of being encountered by God. Somehow I think such snobbery misses the point of praise. We don't need to flatter God, we need to find creative ways of actively engaging people with the truth, more expressly with the one true God. This will mean different things for different people.

I love contemporary worship - sometimes the theology is not so hot... But, then I seldom approach worship in the same way that I approach marking a Doctoral Thesis. They are different things, they have different purposes.

Worship, particularly extatic, emotive, engaging worship (in whatever form it takes) is intended to move the truth of who God is from the mind to the heart. Sometimes it won't be entirely sensible, but the emotive experience and discovery of the truth of who God is reminds me just how wonderful God is. I approach God to declare God's goodness, and in return God helps me - not just to know it, but to feel it.

Isn't praise a wonderful gift!? The next time you feel the need to diminish someone else's experience of worship, take a few moments to think what truth they may be encountering, and ask God to give you a glimpse of that. Who knows you may just receive a fresh measure of grace... you may just be challenged to realise that praise may just has something to do with your further discovery of truth!?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Optometrics revisited

Doctor, I have a problem, my left eye sees 5 Megapixels, while my right eye only sees VGA!?

From time to time one realises that the points of reference that we have held to be certain for some time are in need of an update (much like how we use and interpret scripture - e.g., very few Christians would accept that the ownership of slaves is acceptable, even though the notion is supported in certain texts in the New and Old Testaments).

The cartoon above illustrated just how this shift needs to take place from time to time - it is an update to optometric science!

The power of religion... Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Today I was back at the Apartheid Museum in South Africa with some visitors that are teaching at John Wesley College (from Left to Right are Dr Willie Jennings (Academic Dean of Duke Divinity School, Professor of Theology), the Revd Joanne Brown-Jennings (to whom Willie is married), myself (in my Duke sweat-shirt), and Dr Jane Leach (Director of Pastoral Theology at Wesley House, Cambridge University).

Each time that I go I am struck by something different. This time I was struck by the image below. It shows so clearly the power of religion. At times faith can be a source of great hope and comfort (as it is for millions of people in South Africa). At other times it is the source of enslavement and oppression. The caption on this image (a display in the Apartheid Museum) is:

Piet falls asleep with Bible on his face. Africans say: "When the Europeans came, they had the Bible and we had the land. Now we have the Bible and they have our land".

Makes one think. We have so much to repent of. As I think about it the faith is so often abused to enslave and abuse people (to judge, to exclude, to dissempower, to impoverish). In some ways Christianity has been quite vulnerable to the forces of power and abuse. However, there is something in that vulnerability that makes it so powerful to change. It is a faith that can identify with the powerless and the needy, a faith that can understand what it is to be misunderstood and misrepresented. It is a powerful faith that is born out of weakness.

This is why I love Christ. I am loved not because I am in any way worthy, or because I have status, or because I have power over others. No, I am loved because I am weak, I am fragile, I am open to being abused; and even more so because I am open to the sin of abusing others. I am human, and Christ is humane.

As Gregory of Nazianzus, the Eastern Parent of our faith once wrote against the Apollinarians:

That which is not assumed is not redeemed.

The word 'assumed' is similar to the Greek word used in Ephesians 1:10, the word that Irenaeus used in the formulation of the Doctrine of recapitulation (anakephalaiosis[GR]). It means to take in, to consume, to share in, to incarnate, to enter into...

Athanasius wrote in a similar vein that,

God became human so that we might become God.

(for those who have not YET done Systematic Theology 1, this process is known as 'divinisation' or 'theosis' - and NO, it is not a heresy! God longs for us to become more like God). As we become more deeply committed to God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to resemble God more fully. But it also means that as God enters into our world (to draw us onto God's self), Christ takes on all of our sin and brokenness. This is a huge risk!

God loves us as much as we need Christ. Isn't that amazing? A vulnerable God, caring for us through a vulnerable faith. I love loving Christ! Even more than that, I love being loved by a loving Christ!