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Happy 2020 - A reflection to begin the new year...

Dear Table View Methodist Family,

I look forward to sharing communion with you on the first Sunday of next year, 5 January at 845am.  As we begin the year we will recommit ourselves to God by saying the Methodist Covenant Prayer:


I have been enjoying my garden this year.  We installed a well-point so we could water it and with soil, seeds, sunshine and water we grew some beautiful sunflowers.  To see the beauty in the details of God's creation is so helpful to our faith, the creator is an artist who didn't just form the world for us to exist in, but for us to enjoy.


I hope that December has presented a chance for you to rest and to be re-created in your recreation.  To take a moment to remember that you were created by a God who loves you and you were created for God's love.  The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is:
Q. What is the chief end of man?A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
The sunflower glorifies God because that is what it was created to do.  It can not choose to be anything but a sunflower its blossoming and following of the sun is written in its DNA.  We on the other hand have a choice.  We can surrender to God's purpose - or go our own ways.  Too often we go our own ways and we become less than we were meant to be.

When the people of Israel entered the promised land Joshua spoke to them in Joshua 24:
14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled... ” 
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jos 24:14–17). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Table View Methodist Bible Story Window representing the crossing in to the promised land.



In verse 14 and 15 Joshua announces his intention to serve God and God alone.  The people make their own commitment.  A commitment to commit themselves completely to God.  Joshua promises that if they do this they will produce the beauty and the fruit that God has prepared them for.

As you enter in to 2020 have a look at these verses:
14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 
What do you want to / need to / leave behind in 2019?
15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. 
Is serving the Lord 'desirable to you'?
What does that mean for your priorities in 2020?
- Time?- Money?- Church?- Work?- Family and Friends (Household)?
15 "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 
How will you set the example to your family of the way in which you serve the Lord?  Will you read scripture and pray?  Will you pray together as a family?  Will you set an example to your children of what it looks like to 'serve the Lord' in the way you treat yourself, others, your husband / wife and children?  In the way that you speak of others and of the Lord?
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled... 
As you look back on 2019 I'm sure there were some difficult challenges; but how can you be thankful to God for the ways in which you have been spared?  Will you remember what God has done?

I have to admit that Joshua 24 does not end well.  The people make all these bold commitments to serving God but pretty soon they're serving other gods and forgetting their priorities.  We are the same.  That is why we head back to church every Sunday and ask God for a new beginning.  And God - knowing that we are dust; remembering that we are his children - lifts us up again and sets us back on the path toward truth and love.

He doesn't just set us on the path - it turns out that he plants in us a force; like the force that got the sunflower to grow out of the ground; the force that caused Jesus to rise from the dead - the force of the Holy Spirit - to help us on the way.

I'm trying to grow at least one watermelon.  I have only one so far on all my vines and it is about 1cm long:



To get it to grow I will keep watering it, I'll weed the ground around the stem and do my best to check for pests every day and keep them away.  The Watermelon wants to grow to be large and sweet; it has everything it needs.  The same with our lives in God - we have all the ingredients - all we need to do is surrender to his love and partner with him through the Holy Spirit as we grow to become the people we were created to be.

I wish you every blessing in 2020!

Windows in time for Christmas


Some time last year I lay awake designing these windows on my phone using a slideshow app.  I wanted to tell the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 12 panes.  The idea is that these 12 panes form a sort of 'thought bubble' around the preacher in the pulpit.  A timeline to help us remember where we are in God's story.  When we announced the project donations quickly came in as people were eager to sponsor windows but I wanted to find the right artist for the project.

As it turned out a brilliant stained glass artist, Anika Van Der Merwe lives right around the corner from Table View Methodist.  You can find out more about her and her work here: https://www.silverstain.co.za/.  After meeting Anika and having a look at her work I felt that she would know exactly what to do - and she really did a fantastic job, complete with installation by her partner in life Angelo Carelse.  Anika took my sketches and made them come alive!  One priority was to make the windows dark enough to be colourful; but light enough to shine from the South face of the church.

Various members of the congregation contributed to the realisation of the project and I will be putting a little book together to record the meaning of the windows and the generosity of those who made them possible which will be a thank you gift to those who donated and for sale to raise funds for a few more windows and window repairs.

The arrangement of the church is symbolic of our being seated as a community around Jesus' table where we receive communion.  The pulpit stands behind the communion table and is draped with the words: "God is love."  A reminder for us to hear the message of failing human preachers like me through the filter of this good news about God's nature and being.  As we listen to preachers, as we pray, read the scripture, share communion and baptize the windows will remind us that we are a part God's great story for creation.

Stained glass changes the light in a room - the congregation facing the windows will be lightly basked in their light - it reminds me of a line from Graham Kendrick's song "Shine Jesus Shine":

As we gaze on your kingly brightness
So our faces display your likeness
Every changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story
Shine on me, shine on me...

I pray that these windows will remind us of the way in which God's story shines light into our stories as we gather together in worship.  I give glory to God for the inspiration and the connections that make these things possible.  We are truly blessed.

I look forward to worshipping with you at 845am on Sunday 22 December,

And at 8am and 930am on Christmas Day.

 

Advent and Christmas

Christmas Day 8 & 930am


This Sunday

I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday at 8h45 and 11am.  Rev Trevor Ruthenberg is preaching at our 8h45 service.

Advent

It feels unreal to be caught up in the season of advent already with two Sundays left until Christmas.  Over the Sundays in advent I will be preaching about Blessing, Belonging and Progressing or Faith, Love and Hope.

Faith gives us a way to see the world through trust in God's goodness and love.  When we see through God's goodness and love we recognize our own and the world's blessedness.  (FAITH)

Because of this faith we are able to love as Jesus loved; and welcome all people so we know and they know that they belong.  (LOVE)

God's love is also practical, it transforms us and changes us into the people we were created to be.  And so we progress.  (HOPE)

11am Service Closing this Sunday, Opening 19 January

This Sunday 8 December will be the last 11am service until 19 January when we start the new year with our Covenant Service and Communion.

845 Service Only 15 Dec to 12 January

Sunday Services will continue at 845am only on 15, 22 and 29 December and 5 & 12 January.

Our Christmas Day Services will be short and family friendly at 8 & 930am.

Church Office Closed from 13 December to 13 January

The church office will be closed from Friday 13 December to Monday 13 January.  You will still be able to reach me on the office number 021 557 1143 or leave a message and we will get back to you.  

In emergencies you have the numbers of the pastoral carers and stewards and my number in the notices.  

Monday

Read Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

"Whoever goes to the LORD for safety..." - Psalm 91:1
In John's gospel Jesus says: "I am the way... no one comes to the father but through me..."  This doesn't mean that Christians have some sort of access control - it is a reminder that Jesus himself is the gate keeper.  Not people.  Not institutions... the Psalmist reminds us that God doesn't turn anyone away.

Pray

Lord, I turn to you for safety.  Thank you for welcoming me into your loving arms.

Tuesday

Read Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Jeremiah is imprisoned for prophesying against the king.  His prophesy will come true.  Within the reality of a very negative situation...  The Kingdom about to fall - Jeremiah still buys property.  Anticipating God's rescue of his people.

Pray

Lord help me to have Jeremiah's insight.  To see the reality of present difficulties.  And to know your plans for the future.

Wednesday

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19

...religion makes a person very rich, if they are satisfied with what they have.' - 1 Timothy 6:6
Are you satisfied with what you have?
Paul reminds us to be greedy for 'righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness...'. Do you work on these things as much as you work to get rich?

Pray

Lord help me to make righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness my first priority.

Thursday

Read Luke 16:19-31

Jesus doesn't talk much about heaven and hell.  But when he does it has to do with justice.  A rich man who never shares with the poor man at his door ends up in 'hell' and the poor man ends up in 'heaven'.

Pray

Help me to have a right relationship with material things so that I can have a right relationship with human beings.  So that I can have a right relationship with you.

Friday

Read Luke 17:5-10

I feel bad for the servant who after ploughing outside all day has to get his master's meal ready.  Jesus invites us to have the attitude of humble servants - we should serve God because we are God's servants; not because we want some sort of a reward.

Pray


I just want to serve you Lord.  Help me not to have mixed motives.

Nativity Play and Carol Service - Friday 6pm


Please join us this Friday evening from 6pm for our nativity and carol service.

Kids to please come at 5pm, dressed as sheep, shepherds or angels (or whatever they insist on dressing as).

Bring a picnic and blankets.

The service will take place in the church hall to avoid the wind.

Cake Sale Sunday, Boerie Rolls Friday 5-8pm & Thank you for your patience...



Hi Table View Methodist,

BOERIE ROLLS TONIGHT AT CHURCH FROM 5-8PM
R25 For Boerie Roll, R15 for Cooldrink
CAKE SALE SUNDAY 
Between 845 & 11am Service

Yesterday (Thursday) I finally handed in my thesis; 150 pages on the topic: Is that your (real) child? Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging.  For those who are interested in these things here is the abstract (a short summary of the thesis), for those who aren't just skip past this bit:

Abstract: Is that your (real) child?  Adopted: The Sacrament of BelongingIs it possible to call the relationship between adoptive parents and adopted children real in the sense that a sacrament is real? This study is a reflection on Kelley Nikondeha’s book Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (2017). Through qualitative analysis and reflection on available media and literature this study will explore: a) Some of the circumstances that lead to relinquishment through abortion, and abandonment, or to belonging through foster care and adoption in South Africa. b) Perceptions and ethical controversies related to the history and practice of transcultural and international adoptions. Through theological analysis and reflection on literature suited to the South African context it will explore the narrative aspects of Desmond Mpilo Tutu’s Ubuntu theology and practice and Methodist Theological Ethics as described by Stanley Hauerwas and D Stephen Long (2011). Exploration of these theological frameworks will yield three connecting themes namely blessing, belonging and progressing outlining a theology characterised by a positive ontology, an inclusive ethic and imminent eschatology. This framework of blessing, belonging and progressing will be used as a lens through which to reflect on Kelley Nikondeha’s narrative in order to understand the possibility of calling ‘the relationship between adopted parents and adopted children real in the sense that a sacrament is real.’
These last few weeks have been pretty exhausting, I've been writing from 6am to 11pm most days but I've learned a lot and hopefully done some helpful research for my field of study.  Now that the thesis is finally handed in I look forward to an exam on the thesis and then graduation in March at Stellenbosch University.  I can't 'publish' the thesis until it has been marked but if you'd like to read it (it's a bit technical, I will write a 'reader's version' in the future) please speak to me.
I couldn't have done it without your patience, I'm looking forward to having more time for the important stuff like visiting, chatting and being creative :)
This Sunday
I'm looking forward to sharing communion with you at 845 and 11am.  There will be cakes on sale after the 845am service and we will be having a bring and share meal after the 11am service which will be a special service of thanksgiving.  11am service is invited to come in traditional dress.
Boerie Rolls
On Friday night from 5pm to 8pm Boerie Rolls will be on sale at the church for R25 each.  Buy yourself some and why not phone a friend and tell them you'll be delivering boerie rolls to their house.  Cooldrinks will also be on sale for R15.  Please support our men from the 11am service in this fund raising effort!
Advent Sermons
On 1, 15 and 22 December I will preach on the themes:  Blessing, Belonging and Progressing / Faith, Love and Hope as we prepare for Christmas Day on 25 December.
Our Christmas Day Services will be at 745 and 9am.
Christmas Carols 6 December
There will be a Christmas Carols service with Sunday School pantomime on Friday 6 December.  I will confirm times on Sunday and inform you by email during the week.

God bless,
Rev Angus Kelly

Notices for Sunday 3 November


Communion This Sunday
I look forward to sharing communion with you this Sunday as we continue to reflect on the Apostle’s Creed.  This Sunday we will look at these lines:
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
An interesting difference between the creed used by Catholic churches and that by Protestant churches is the line: “He descended to the dead…”  In the Catholic creed it reads:  “He descended into hell.”  These differences might cause some confusion and are based on Ephesians 4:9-10:
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (NIV)
And 1 Peter 4:6:
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (NIV)
Stewards and Leaders
As we come to the end of the year we need to think about our plans for 2020 and our leadership for 2020.
Now that we have two Sunday Services we can try to ensure that we have 5 Stewards for each service.  The election and appointment of stewards is by nomination from the members of the congregation.
Society Stewards facilitate the running of the church; but they do not do this alone.  We also need to make sure we have leaders for our various mission groups and aspects of the life of our church.
Please pray for our Society Stewards and Leaders; we need all the help we can get and we need to be all the help we can be.
Also - pray with an open heart - how is God calling you to help the church next year:
Leadership                         Finances
Bible Study                        Sunday School
Youth Ministry                 Hospitality
Property                        Music
Pastoral Care                         Administration…
(And the list goes on.

Monday

Read Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

"Whoever goes to the LORD for safety..." - Psalm 91:1
In John's gospel Jesus says: "I am the way... no one comes to the father but through me..."  This doesn't mean that Christians have some sort of access control - it is a reminder that Jesus himself is the gate keeper.  Not people.  Not institutions... the Psalmist reminds us that God doesn't turn anyone away.

Pray

Lord, I turn to you for safety.  Thank you for welcoming me into your loving arms.

Tuesday

Read Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Jeremiah is imprisoned for prophesying against the king.  His prophesy will come true.  Within the reality of a very negative situation...  The Kingdom about to fall - Jeremiah still buys property.  Anticipating God's rescue of his people.

Pray

Lord help me to have Jeremiah's insight.  To see the reality of present difficulties.  And to know your plans for the future.

Wednesday

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19

...religion makes a person very rich, if they are satisfied with what they have.' - 1 Timothy 6:6
Are you satisfied with what you have?
Paul reminds us to be greedy for 'righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness...'. Do you work on these things as much as you work to get rich?

Pray

Lord help me to make righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness my first priority.

Thursday

Read Luke 16:19-31

Jesus doesn't talk much about heaven and hell.  But when he does it has to do with justice.  A rich man who never shares with the poor man at his door ends up in 'hell' and the poor man ends up in 'heaven'.

Pray

Help me to have a right relationship with material things so that I can have a right relationship with human beings.  So that I can have a right relationship with you.

Friday

Read Luke 17:5-10

I feel bad for the servant who after ploughing outside all day has to get his master's meal ready.  Jesus invites us to have the attitude of humble servants - we should serve God because we are God's servants; not because we want some sort of a reward.

Pray

I just want to serve you Lord.  Help me not to have mixed motives.

Reflection on Blasphemy

I think blasphemy is often misunderstood.

Most people understand blasphemy in terms of:
Not taking the Lord's name in vain.

In English - Blasphemy: the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.

The English definition speaks more about how people are offended than about how God might be offended.  The great concern is about how people use the name of God and thus Jews will write G-d instead of God or speak of HaShem - the name; without daring to pronounce the name denoted by YHWH.

In the Old Testament there are a few occasions where people insult God and the community stones them; in the case of Jezebel and Naboth; Jezebel employs scoundrels to accuse Naboth of cursing God's name and he is killed as a result.  In this case we see an abuse and misunderstanding of the law - Jezebel blasphemes the Lord all the time but gets away with it most of the time because she is royalty.

In the New Testament Blasphemy is more close to the idea of slander.

In Acts 6-7 Stephen is stoned after being accused of blasphemy:

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 

Stephen stood falsely accused because what he had to say to the religious leaders was true.  It challenged their assumption about what God was like.

Further along in Acts 13:45 when Paul preaches in Pisidian Antioch people contradict what Paul said:

Acts 13:45 - 
45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.

In Romans 2:17-24 Paul writes to the Jews / Jewish Christians in Rome:

 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 

In these cases God's nature or message is misrepresented by those purported to be his messengers.  Paul who misrepresented the message of God by misunderstanding Jesus makes this beautiful statement in 1 Timothy 1:13-15 -

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 

James 2:6-7 also speaks of blasphemy as our mistreating fellow Christians:

Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 

The dictionary definition does not do justice to the Biblical example of the concept of blasphemy, so the question - are those pictures blasphemous?

I agree that those pictures are offensive. 
But I wouldn't say that they are blasphemous.

I'd say they're not blasphemous because:
The artist is not saying something about Jesus; he is saying something about himself, and his faith - expressing his beliefs.  He is not saying: "This is the truth about Jesus..."  He is saying "This is what I think..."

I think a key part of the offensiveness of these pictures is in the way that they seem to mock / make light of the crucifixion.  This is deeply offensive.  But as I thought about it I realised that for Christians there is nothing more offensive or beautiful than the crucifixion.  As Paul said:

1 Corinthians 1:18 - 
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

There is no way to make the idea of God in all of God's love crucified on the cross more offensive than what it is.  As the song says: "It was my sin that held him there..."  And as it goes on to say: "His death has paid my ransom."

Some people ask the question:
What if the prophet of Islam was depicted in this way?

And I think this opens up a very important point of difference between Islam and Christianity, and it points again to the "foolishness" of the message of the cross.

The cross is a stumbling block to faith for many - again and further on in 1 Corinthians:

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 

The notion that God could be incarnated in the fragility of a baby born to a woman.  The scandal of a God who would love sinners like me.  A God who would receive the insults of the cross without calling down thunder and lightning...  Is too much for other faiths to bear.  And that is something we celebrate as Christians.  The cross is where we see all the glory of God especially in that God would stoop so low to reach us.

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my Soul, my Life, my All.