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Pastoral Note - 2020-02-16 (Lion's Head Saturday Morning)

Hi Table View Methodist Family, First of all: 💘 Happy Valentine's Day 💖 Know that you are loved above all by God who knows you in...

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Pastoral Note - 2020-02-16 (Lion's Head Saturday Morning)

Hi Table View Methodist Family,

First of all:
💘 Happy Valentine's Day 💖

Know that you are loved above all by God who knows you inside and out and loves you completely.

Sunday School

We always need help with teaching Sunday School.  Please speak to Isaac our youth pastor or to one of the Sunday School teachers to see how you can help.  We have excellent Curriculum Resources from Scripture Union - your lessons are already planned you just need to work out how to present them in ways that will work with the children.

You'll notice that the kids are beginning with the Easter Story already - you might have also noticed the Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs at the shops 🙄.  Easter Sunday is 12 April this year and we plan on having a sunrise service again at 630am.  The sun will rise at 7 minutes past 7 on 12 April.  I know that's planning ahead - but by the time we've had our Easter services our Sunday School children will have completed the Easter Curriculum for this year - and I'm sure they'll be able to teach us something!

Lion's Head Saturday Morning 15 February 830am

Tomorrow morning the Wesley Guild will be hiking Lion's Head.  I will go up ahead of them to offer them a short communion service at about 830am.  I plan to leave Table View at about 6am so if you're up to the climb you are most welcome to let me know I'd love to take you with (It takes about 90 minutes to get to the top).

Minister's Retreat 18-20 February

Please remember the clergy of the Western Cape as we travel to Goedgedacht farm for our annual Spiritual Retreat.  This retreat will be a reflection on the importance of Sabbath keeping.  Our retreat leader will be following Marva Dawn's 1989 book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting.  Sabbath reminds us to stop and remember and rejoice in what we have received.

So I look forward to worshipping with you on this Sunday as we stop to celebrate God's goodness to us.

Renovation of the Heart

This Sunday will be my last reflection on the renovation of the heart and I felt I needed to tie it all together in one piece - without taking up all your time in church.  So you can read a summary of the series here (on the church blog).  I've also emailed it.  If you'd like a print out I've prepared 20 copies but we can print more if there is need.

Roof

The South Easter has loosened a few rivets on the church roof and threatened to lift some sheets.  I sang Nearer my God to Thee as I climbed up to do some repairs.  But we need someone with the right equipment (and love of heights) to go over the roof and re-rivet those pieces that are coming loose.

God bless,
Gus


Renovation of the Heart - January to February Sermons


Renovating our Hearts
(Reflecting on Dallas Willard’s
Renovation of the Heart 2002)[1]
When I was praying about this sermon series I felt that we often speak of high ideals without building a staircase.  In this sermon series I hoped to draw on some of the principles of Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart to outline a step by step progression for spiritual formation.  In my sermon last week I tried to pack a lot of information into a short time.  I left feeling that I hadn’t given the sort of step by step / practical advice that I had hoped to give.  
I thought I should try and write a short summary for those who are interested in catching up.  
This sermon series has taken shape around two themes.  Theory (or Theology) and Practice (Spirituality).
In terms of Theology we’ve spoken about what makes up a ‘soul’, what has gone wrong with that soul and how it can be renewed.  In terms of theory we talk about how to bring God to the centre of your being so that everything else in our life is able to radiate out from a God centered heart.
So step by step so far:

Theology

a - We are Souls (All of our being)

In the Judeo/Christian religion life is not separated from spirit.  Even our resurrection bodies are physical bodies.  They are not disembodied spirits.  Our soul is composed of our body, mind, spirit, social and active (decision making) spheres.  All of our ‘being’ is encompassed by the word ‘soul’.
When Jesus commands us to love - he incorporates all of our being:
Luke 10:27 - He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

b - We have Sinned (and we have sin)

It’s not very fashionable to talk about sin.  Instead of saying we have sin we simply say: everybody has the right to their own opinion.  And we do need to give people their space and we need to be non-judgmental.  We also need to take responsibility for our sin.  In taking responsibility we recognize the source of our attitudes and behaviours that harm others.  In naming the problem we are also able to look for a solution.  A God who is in the business of dealing with our sin.
Jesus gets into an argument about religious rituals and traditions verses kingdom building behaviour - he points out that is what comes out of a person that points to their sin - not their adherence to religious rituals and behaviours.
Matthew 15:18-20 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person…

c - Goodness can be Restored

We intentionally use the language of restoration.  Humans are beautifully and intricately created in the image of God restoration remembers the way things should be and carefully works to return them to their original beauty.  This restoration comes through faith and action.  In faith we turn to Jesus confessing our sin and asking for his healing.  We look at the cross and remember that ‘by his wounds we are healed’:
1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
As Jesus healed he invited people to follow - and as we follow we are invited to die to ourselves in order to live for him.  To lose what we can never keep in order to gain what we can never lose.  When we let go of our lives God doesn’t necessarily take everything away.  Instead God takes all that we have and he gives it back to us to hold in an appropriate attitude of stewardship and faith.  In this attitude you are able to recognise that your trials, your blessings, your relationships, your possessions are God’s gifts and opportunities presented to you and God will work with you in holding them appropriately.

Practice

So the major part of the work is in those three movements.  First - realising that all of my life is a Spiritual life and it is all important to my soul.  Second - I am a sinner and my life is tainted and disrupted by my sinful attitude and actions.  Third - I can be restored.  First by trusting in God’s ability to forgive me.  Second by trusting in God’s ability to lead me in the right direction and this involves letting go in order to receive my life and all its blessings and challenges as God’s gift and opportunity for me to share with him.  
We know that we can be transformed - but how? How do we work with the Holy Spirit to allow ourselves to transform?  This leads us to some helpful exercises to examine our lives in all their aspects before God in terms of our mind (thoughts & feelings), decisions (will and character), body and social spheres.
The goal - bringing God back to the center of our heart and being.
In this part we try to break down each aspect of our ‘soul’ into some bite size pieces that we can evaluate in our own time.

Transforming the Mind

The mind (brain) operates at multiple levels.  It is helpful to look at two of these levels:  Thought and feeling.  In terms of thought we might say that we think something is good.  In terms of feeling, we feel a certain way about something and that ‘feeling’ is not necessarily logical.  Naming various aspects of our mental life help us to bring them systematically and prayerfully before God.  The pattern to which we want to conform is one that could be described as the pattern of the Kingdom of God.  The place where God’s will is done in our soul as it is in heaven and so on Earth below.

Ideology / Ideas

We often assume that our ideas are the only and right ones.  But all of our value systems are ideologies in some way or another.  Socialism, Capitalism, Communism - all of these are ideologies.  Nobody can tell you which ideology is the correct one by which you ought to live.  You have to decide for yourself which ‘ideology’ truly conforms to faith in Jesus Christ and is compatible with the Kingdom of God.
Ideologies are more dynamically expressed in images and imagination.

Imagination / images

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”  The overarching image for Christianity is Christ on the cross.  This image is the image through which we should measure all other images.  Within the world images that fill our minds might range from pornography to the imagination of driving the most expensive and fancy sports car or 4 x 4.  We have to work out which ‘images’ we have conform to the image of Christ.  We learn that some of our images / imaginations are destructive to our soul and our relationships.  They rob us of the fullness of life that Christ has offered us.  We receive abundance of life in the image of Christ crucified.
We need to reflect on the way in which our imaginations inform, form and deform our ideologies.

Information

The difference between correct information and incorrect information is the difference between truth and lies. Jesus reminds us: “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). On the other hand Jesus tells us that the devil is the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  For Christians knowing and telling the truth has to be of prime importance. Some Eastern Religions and some branches of Christianity argue that people and material existence are so evil that nothing true can be known outside of direct revelation from God.  Scripture itself contradicts this way of thinking.  The Psalmist invites us to examine creation closely to learn about God: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. (Psalm 19:1-2)
In 1 John 1:1-2 we are reminded: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.”
Christians should not be afraid of scientifically established and tested information and need to realise that exaggerating about God is just as blasphemous as diminishing God. In the Old Testament false prophets could be stoned to death for telling lies and making false promises.  We need to test our information through some critical suspicion, careful scientific evaluation in order to ensure that we build our faith on truth and not lies.
The ease with which false information is forwarded around the world via Whatsapp, Facebook etc. is very concerning. Before you forward something check the facts.  I also invite you to check me when I preach or speak - I would like to know if I’m not telling the truth.  Sometimes we fool ourselves too.

Reason / Thought

Dallas Willard emphasizes the importance of ‘Good Thinking’:
Now this is tremendously important for us today as it has been in the past. Perhaps we are in a time when it is more important than ever. The prospering of God’s cause on earth depends upon his people thinking well.
Today we are apt to downplay or disregard the importance of good thinking to strong faith; and some, disastrously, even regard thinking as opposed to faith. They do not realize that in so doing they are not honoring God, but simply yielding to the deeply anti-intellectualist currents of Western egalitarianism, rooted, in turn, in the romantic idealization of impulse and blind feeling found in David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and their nineteenth- and twentieth-century followers.
(Willard 2002: 129)
Even though the cross and Jesus death on the cross seems foolish by this world’s standards upon further reflection we know that it is not.  Paul reminds Timothy: “for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  For ‘self discipline’ the Greek word is ĪƒĪ‰Ī†ĪÎŋÎŊΚĪƒÎŧĪŒĪ‚ (sophronismos), this word means: “to behave in a sensible manner, with the implication of thoughtful awareness of what is best—‘moderation, sensibility.’”[2] 

Feeling

Sometimes when we talk about feelings we’re talking about thoughts that we can’t quite articulate.  So someone might be telling us a long story and somehow, but we’re not quite sure how we become convinced that the story is not true.  We might be picking up on this untruth subconsciously.  Maybe we’ve met this person before and the story has changed so much that although we can’t remember the first time we heard the story we know that it is too contradictory to be true.  So we get a ‘feeling’ that we shouldn’t trust this person and we need to trust these ‘feelings’ sometimes.
There are other feelings that we get that are not so reasonable.  When we haven’t eaten we get hangry; an unreasonable anger that is coming from our stomach.  Or maybe we’re tired and that comes out as anger. We say terrible things when we are angry. We might even do terrible things. Beyond anger we also sometimes make decisions based on insecurity, lust or sentimentality leading only to heartbreak and pain further down the line.
Feeling is important to our humanity but we do not need to be driven by feeling.  We can learn to control anger and work on it.  We can learn to be critical of our feelings asking ourselves questions like: “Do I need a nap or a snack?”  Or working out what is is that is making me angry.
I often find that my anger is misdirected.  I’ll be angry at the children for not doing their homework but I should really be angry at myself for overcommitting my time and not being able to help my children the way I should.
We shouldn’t just accept our feelings and let them dominate our decision making.
On the other hand we should cultivate feelings that are fruit of the Holy Spirit:
Romans 15:13 - “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
Hope, Joy, Peace and Love are feelings that we can cultivate in our lives.  These motivating feelings should replace anger, lust, greed, jealousy etc. as we learn to live from hope, joy, peace and love we will find that the Kingdom of God comes quite naturally to us.
We often say that we need to learn to trust our intuition.  At the same time we also need to trust our capacity to think well and to thoroughly test our thinking in constructive talking and listening.
One simple way to do this is to follow some of the advice of scripture:
Give thanks and pray constantly:
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Be aware of what you pay attention to:
Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Transforming the Will/Spirit (Decisions)

Single-minded and joyous devotion to God and his will, to what God wants for us—and to service to him and to others because of him—is what the will transformed into Christlikeness looks like.
(Willard 2002: 178)
One way in which human beings are an image of God the creator is that they have the power to come up with original ideas and execute these ideas.  I am constantly amazed at the ingenuity of the weaver bird that builds his nest in a tree outside my house - but the weaver bird, unlike a human, seems to have no choice he just does what his instincts tell him to do.
With human will we are able to will systems and structures into being that are either destructive or constructive, good or evil.  Often our constructive projects are laced with our selfishness and as such are not wholly good.  It is only if our will is one with God’s that we can do good that is truly good.
The hymn writer Edwin Hatch writes:
Breathe on me, breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours
to do and to endure.

(https://youtu.be/a9s8BFHThfc)
Our faith lets us know that character can be changed.  We can be restored to the way we should have been in the first place.  Character causes us to naturally make good moral decisions even when we are under pressure.  So we could have a bad habit, or regularly speak to people in a way that lacks respect.  We might decide that we’re never going to do that again.  But decision alone is not enough to do what needs doing.  We need to change our character.  Willard writes:
Just resolving “not to do it again” will be of little use. Will alone cannot carry us to change. But will implemented through changing my thoughts and feelings can result in my becoming the kind of person who just doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore.
(Willard 2002: 178)
We can change the ‘kind of person’ we are by focusing on changing the way we think (as above) and becoming conscious of our feelings - choosing to change them.  But mostly we allow our hearts / character to be changed through the power of God the Holy Spirit.
When we pray “Your will be done…” we are not just praying for the world ‘out there’ but more for the world ‘in here.’  We are not just surrendering - we are seeking to be active participants.

Transforming the Body

Beware of Alienation from the Body

Puritan Christianity did a lot of damage to the relationship between people and their bodies.  I think the source of a lot of our mistrust of our bodies comes from a bad reading of Romans 8 with verses like:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin,c he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
- Romans 8:3-4
Verse 9 goes on to tell us:
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.
- Romans 8:9
What Paul is trying to cure us of is a life dominated by our desire to ‘serve the body’ or ‘serve the flesh.’  As I have tried to emphasise from the beginning Christian faith and Christian spirituality is not ‘disembodied’ we do not believe in a ‘disembodied’ / spiritual heaven.  We believe in a physical heaven.  Physical in a different sense to the physicality we currently experience.  Jesus’ physically resurrected body behaves very differently to our expectations. He eats, cooks a meal, breaks bread, passes through walls and still bears the wounds that killed him, his disciples sometimes don’t recognize him; and sometimes they do.

Your Physical Body is Spiritual

If you’re more than 10 years old the chances are you have replaced every molecule that you were born with and you now live with a new body.  But you are still the same person.  Even your brain cells are replaced quite regularly and this is done without loss of memory (as far as I can recall).  Yet you are still you.  Your you(ness) is not dependent on your material make up.[3]
Central to our faith is the realisation that Jesus life with us as incarnated was a bodily life.  He was born, grew up, ate, touched, was tempted in every way as we are.  The crucifixion - a defining moment in Christian Theology means very little if we do not acknowledge that what was done to his very real and physical body was something very real and spiritual.  Body is not separate from spirituality.
Some of the sources of our struggle with our bodies:
We have been harmed in our bodies. (Violence, abuse, injury.)
Our bodies have led us in to harm. (Addiction / temptation.)
Our bodies are wired to let us down. (Disease, decay and death.)
We must not ignore these realities.  Instead we need to work on being reconciled to them.  The harm we have received and inflicted needs healing.  One of the most meaningful points of healing for our bodies is regular participation in communion. Jesus took bread and broke it reminding his disciples of how his body would be consumed by the violence of crucifixion - when we eat the bread we eat Jesus wounds into our body and we remember that ‘by his wounds we are healed.’  As we eat the bread that Jesus shares with us we are accepted into his body and his body into ours - his acceptance of our frailty and sin, and his determination to bring wholeness and healing.  In drinking the wine we experience his woundedness as a part of our life.
We bring our body in all of its frailty and brokenness into bodily relationship with the one who knows more than we do what it means to be harmed and even die.
Jesus’ risen and healed body still bears the marks of crucifixion.  If we are wounded we learn that our wounds are now carried in his we can accept ourselves and enter into good and healthy relationship with our bodies.

Practical Steps

Willard suggests four steps we need to take:
1 - Release our bodies to God (Romans 12:1)
2 - Stop idolizing your body (You are more than just a body!)
3 - Do not misuse your body
        a - For sensual gratification
        b - As a means of domination (including overwork!)
4 - Remember the holiness of your body and treat it and the bodies of others with appropriate respect and dignity.
     (temple of the Holy Spirit)

Transforming our Social Relationships

Human beings were created for community.  The story of Genesis reminds us how God saw that it wasn’t good for ‘man to be alone’ so God gives Adam and Eve to each other as companions. In community we reflect the community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But sin caused a break down in community.  Instead of friendship Adam and Eve withdraw from each other and from God.  Not only do they withdraw but as the story carries on we witness assault.

Two Forms of Evil in Relationships: Withdrawal and Assault

Assault involves using our power and influence (strength, seduction, wealth, shame etc.) to get our own way over others.  We do this consciously and unconsciously - from childhood we learn that certain ways of speaking and acting get us what we want.  On the other hand we harm our social relationships through withdrawal - withdrawal that displays our lack of care - even hatred.  Both of these tactics may be described as ‘lovelessness.’

Spiritual renewal is Social Renewal

Spiritual renewal and reformation in Jesus Christ is never personal. Real Spiritual renewal is always social in that the sign of renewal is nothing less than ‘love’ and this ‘love’ is not a normal kind of love it is a Jesus kind of servant love:  “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.” (John 13:34)
Central to relationships that might be described as Christian is that the source of ‘love’ in relationships is not in being loved by others - it is in being loved by God and sharing that love with others.  Christian love is not about self interest, it is about service.  This service is possible because Christ is the source of our love.
To mend our relations we need to “...deeply identify and understand what is wrong in our relations with others (whether that wrong is coming from us or toward us) and how it can be changed.” (Willard 2002: 233)

Modern life is not Normal

“What are you looking for in a husband or a wife?” Seems like a normal question to ask someone who is looking for someone to marry.  But the correct question should be “What are you looking to give…”  We don’t sufficiently weigh up the responsibility we have in getting married and having children.  We don’t think enough about how we are to serve and bless each other appropriately.  
Serving our children does not mean we give in to all of their desires.  It means that we love them enough to be disciplined in the way we raise them.  Part of this discipline in the way we raise them is by maintaining a healthy environment in which they are raised.  As parents at baptism we pray that we would set before our children a Christian example that they might learn the way of Christ. We struggle to show the way.
In the busyness of urban life and the crowdedness of our communities we fail to take the time to greet each other.  When I walk to the shops everyone I greet seems caught off guard by my “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”
Modern churches have forgotten how to be a community.  In Romans 12 Paul tells the church how to behave toward one another by exhibiting the following qualities as Dallas Willard describes them:
1. Letting love be completely real
2. Abhorring what is evil
3. Clinging to what is good
4. Being devoted to one another in family-like love ( philostorgoi )
5. Outdoing one another in giving honor
6. Serving the Lord with ardent spirit and all diligence
7. Rejoicing in hope
8. Being patient in troubles
9. Being devoted constantly to prayer
10. Contributing to the needs of the saints
11. Pursuing (running after) hospitality
12. Blessing persecutors and not cursing them
13. Being joyful with those who are rejoicing and being sorrowful with those in sorrow
14. Living in harmony with each other
15. Not being haughty, but fitting right in with the “lowly” in human terms
16. Not seeing yourself as wise
17. Never repaying evil for evil
18. Having due regard for what everyone takes to be right
19. Being at peace with everyone, so far as it depends on you
20. Never taking revenge, but leaving that to whatever God may decide
21. Providing for needy enemies
22. Not being overwhelmed by evil, but overwhelming evil with good

Caring for the Soul

This picture is obviously an inadequate description of what we are trying to do.  The links between body, soul, mind, spirit and God are multiple, intricate and diverse.  Our work is to bring the Mind and Spirit into our understanding of what it means to be a soul.  And to learn to live in proper relationship to God and our body.
We realise that our soul incorporates all of our being and at the center of our being is an intimate link of God’s heart and our Heart / Spirit / Will.  From this source of living water flows the rest of our being.  In conformity with God.  With our lives in proper order we become the blessing we were created to be.

Romans 12:1-3

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,a by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritualb worship. Do not be conformed to this world,c but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.d
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
a Gk brothers
b Or reasonable
c Gk age
d Or what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 12:1–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2]  Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 752). New York: United Bible Societies.
[3] Bill Bryson writes in The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019: 12) about the material cost of building a human: “...the full cost of building a new human being, using the obliging Benedict Cumberbatch as a template, would be a very precise $151,578.46. Labor and sales tax would, of course, boost costs further.”

Pastoral Note - 9 February 2020

Hi Table View Methodist Family,
Matthew 13:44 ”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
In our sermons this year we’ve been focusing on what Dallas Willard calls a Renovation of the Heart.  He has some interesting chapter titles like “Radical Evil in the Ruined Soul” and “Radical Goodness Restored to the Soul”.  As much as word’s like ruined and renovation imply that something needs fixing.  They also imply that something was meant to be better than it is.
Willard explains spiritual formation and renewal using an image of the human being’s spheres of life and priority.  Explaining that often God is on the outer ring of our priorities and we need to rework our lives to ensure that God is at the center.
Getting into the rhythm of going to church, of praying of being mindful of putting God first is a good beginning.
Sometimes we need to be reminded that this is worth doing.  Too often we think only of the cost of what we are doing and we forget about the benefit.  We get caught up in a sort of “Wo is me” and “Everybody has their cross to bear” Christianity when we should be celebrating what we are gaining.
So I invite you to think of the great treasure (Matthew 13:44) and not so much on how the farmer had to sell everything to get it.  By realising the value of what we are to gain in seeking the Kingdom of God we might realise that the effort is worth the reward.
I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday at 845am, Mr Singeni will lead the 11am service.
God bless,
Rev Angus Kelly