The Covid-19 disruption has had a huge impact on schools, and they are not going to be able to go “back to normal” anytime in 2020, or possibly even 2021. Parents are struggling to “home school”. Parents might be able to go back to work before children go back to school.
Here is a suggestion for churches, religious organisations, sports clubs and other community societies to help parents and children who are struggling right now.
Please listen and share this idea in your community. We all need to help each other deal with this Covid disruption.
It was my turn to preach at our church this morning. My sermon is about Ressurection, Sabbath and Exodus, and can be watched at https://www.facebook.com/MelroseChurchJhbZA/posts/153826419456676
I talked about how the Resurrection of Jesus is deliberately linked back to two big themes in the Old Testament:
1. the Creation Sabbath, which reminds us that the world is meant to be a place where we all have work and rest in a natural rhythm, and
2. the Exodus Passover, which reminds us that we are not meant to be in slavery to our work.
Jesus did not come to merely save us from this world and give us a hope of life after death, he came to save us from incorrect and oppressive systems in this world. Maybe Covid-19 is the reset the world needed to move us towards this picture of what the world is meant to be.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine, author and pastor Brian McLaren wrote a magnificent, thought-provoking piece about the type of Christianity the world needs now. It’s more relevant than ever.
For my friends who are Christian leaders, please read and re-read the last two lines a few times. That’s really the whole thing there.
The deepest difference in Christianity is not what you think:
A Community of Radical Inclusion is a sermon preached by Graeme Codrington at the Melrose Campus of Gracepoint Methodist church in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016. It lays out both a Biblical and historical case for including LGBTQI in our churches, and affirming them as made in God’s image.
Genesis 1 and 2 tell two different creation stories, both culminating with the creation and marriage of two people. This was a Middle Eastern, black haired, brown eyed, cisgender man and woman. But does that mean all people have to Middle Eastern, black haired, brown eyed and cisgender? And does it mean all marriages must be between only a man and a woman? If not, how should we be reading Genesis 1?
This is another one hour long episode, and you should ensure you’ve listened to Episode 9 before you listen to this.
Once you’ve listened to it, please let me know your thoughts and questions.
The ALLin podcast provides resources and insights for Christians who affirm the LGBTQI community. In this episode we look at the two Old Testament Laws that talk about male gay sexual activity. We look at the context, the Holiness Code and ancient Israel’s sexual ethics.
Summary: The commands against gay sex in Leviticus 18 and 20 were given to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, and they were about the people who already lived there. Look at the first few verses of Lev 18 and 20 and you’ll see clearly that these Laws were about what the pagan nations did in their temples. These temple rituals included tattooing your body, shaving your head and having gay sex with teenage boys. They also included child sacrifice. And God said to the Israelites: don’t do any of these things in MY temple. These chapters in Leviticus are not meant to be a code of sexual ethics for all time, but a specific set of restrictions related to temple Worship in the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. They do NOT apply to gay people today. And they have nothing to say about gay marriage.
- Gay Marriage and the Bible – Death Penalty
- Matthew Vines, “God and the Gay Christian”
I was recently recommended the 2011 book by Philip Gulley, “If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus” (Available at Amazon). I am busy reading it, but love the general idea.
It is a wonderful bringing together of many of the concepts embodied in what has become known as “the emerging church” – a movement of progressive Christians and churches around the world trying to build a “new kind of Christian” (to quote one of the men who kicked it all off, Brian McLaren).
In his book, Gulley suggests ten ways that we can rebuild spirituality, Christianity and the church today. I am paraphrasing, borrowing from his chapter titles and main themes:
- Jesus needs to be a model for living – someone who’s life we follow – more than an object of worship.
- Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
- The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments and division.
- Gracious behaviour is more important than right beliefs.
- Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
- Encouraging personal exploration and experimentation with faith is more important than group uniformity.
- Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
- Peacemaking is more important than power or position.
- We should care more about love and less about sex.
- Life in this world is more important than the afterlife.
It’s tough to argue that these ten things are not very Christ-like.
Continue reading If the Church Were Christian – a manifesto for the emerging church
Richard Rohr writes a daily devotion, which I highly recommend you sign up for.
On 27 October 2019, he wrote this stunning reflection:
Church: Old and New
I have come to set fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing. —Luke 12:49
People are rightly concerned by the loss of property through fire. However, forestry workers understand that from the destruction caused by fire emerges new growth, new life. Time and again, this also has been shown to be true in the church as we seek to follow the way of Christ in light of expanding human knowledge and understandings that continually affirm the movement of the Spirit.
In 2017, Protestants and Catholics honored the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. When Martin Luther (1483–1546) posted his “95 Theses” or complaints on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, European Christianity had become too focused on meritocracy and hierarchy, losing sight of the Gospel. The Roman Catholic Church itself now admits it is always in need of reformation. The perpetual process of conversion, or reformation, is needed by all individuals and institutions. We appear to be in the midst of another period of significant turmoil and rebirth, thus my focus on Old and New: An Evolving Faith in this year’s Daily Meditations.
In North America and much of Europe, we are witnessing a dramatic increase in “nones,” people who don’t identify with a particular faith tradition. While I ache for those who have been wounded by religion and no longer feel at home in church, the dissatisfaction within Christianity has sparked some necessary and healthy changes. Episcopal Bishop Mark Dyer (1930–2014) aptly called these recurring periods of upheaval giant “rummage sales” in which the church rids itself of what is no longer needed and rediscovers treasures it had forgotten.
As Phyllis Tickle (1934–2015) reflected, in the process of building necessary structure in institutions, we eventually “elaborate, encrust, and finally embalm them with the accretion of both our fervor and our silliness. At that point there is no hope for either religion or society, save only to knock the whole carapace off ourselves and start over again.”  This is a difficult and frightening task, which is why we only seem to do it every 500 years or so! If we look at church history, we can see the pattern. 
With each reformation, we don’t need to start from scratch but return to the foundations of our Tradition. We don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater but reclaim the essential truths. And remember that truth anywhere is truth everywhere. With each rebirth, Christianity becomes more inclusive and universal, as it was always meant to be.
It takes a contemplative mind to witness these changes without resistance or defensiveness. When living within a sacred tradition, everything can seem essential and untouchable. But all Christians are already worshipping in “reformed” churches—often many times over—whatever our denomination. Let’s take heart and have faith that the Holy Spirit is with us through it all.
 Phyllis Tickle, “The Great Emergence,” Radical Grace, vol. 21, no. 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), 4-5.
 If the Great Reformation “occurred” in 1517, the Great Schism took place in 1054 with the heads of both the Eastern and Western churches mutually excommunicating each other. Look back another 500 years or so to the 6th century and we find the birth of the Oriental Orthodox Church (which still has 60-70 million adherents today) as well as the rise of the flourishing monastic movement. Even further back, in the 1st century, earliest Christianity began as a radical offshoot from Judaism, Jesus’ own faith. For a fascinating and accessible description of this history, see Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Baker Books: 2008).
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “500th Anniversary of the Beginnings of the Reformation,” (October 31, 2017), cac.org/reformation-500th-anniversary/.
Last Saturday, I joined a group of Christians who attended the Johannesburg Pride Parade. We didn’t protest against it – in fact, we did the opposite. We held signs showing our support of the LGBTQI community, and apologising for the way the church has treated them in the past.
The responses we received were overwhelming and amazing. Many people were in tears as they saw us, and understood that we were bringing a message of love and grace. For those are into signs and wonders, there was a beautiful double rainbow over the whole event.
Here’s another article I wrote about why I went to Pride: News24 Landisa
And here are some photos of our group.