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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Study Notes for Confirmation Sermon


Confirmation Sunday – 23 September 2012
Duties of Church Membership
Aim of the lesson:

To look at what is involved in being full and responsible members of the
Church.

Study passages: 2 Corinthians 9:6-12, Colossians 3:5-17, Hebrews 10:19-25, 13:1-7, 1 Peter 4:7-11, Mark 1:14-20,  Romans 8:12-17, Jeremiah 31:31-34

Notes:

Conditions of membership. Any club or organisation has conditions of membership and duties which it lays down for its members. The Methodist Church is no different.   It lays down three simple requirements for membership:

A sincere desire to be saved from sin
Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour
Involvement in the fellowship of the Church

These three conditions are stated in our "Laws and Discipline" as follows:

"Membership is based upon a personal experience of the Lord Jesus Christ, brought about by his Spirit.
"All persons are welcomed into membership who sincerely desire to be saved from their sins through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and show the same in life and conduct, and who seek to have fellowship with Christ himself and his people by taking up the duties and privileges of the Methodist Church.

"As membership in the Church also involves fellowship it is the duty of all members in the Church to seek to cultivate this in every possible way."

Duties of Church   membership - The following eight things should probably be regarded as minimum goals for members of the Church:

1. To follow the example of Christ in home and daily life.

2. To bear personal witness to Jesus Christ.

3. To be regular in private prayer each day.

4. To read the Bible each day and seek to be obedient to God's Word.

5. To attend worship every Sunday.

6. To receive Holy Communion regularly.

7. To give meaningful financial support to the work of the Church, locally and for the wider mission field.

8. To be involved in serving others in the Church and community.

As we grow in our faith and walk with the Lord we will understand these duties at a deeper and clearer level. We may add others to the list, but these will always remain a basic minimum for us.




Questions for discussion:

1. Read through all the study passages carefully. What do they teach us about the conditions of membership in the early Church? Make a list

2. What do you think of the three basic conditions for membership in the Methodist Church? Are they reasonable? Should there be others?
3. Go through the eight suggested duties one by one. What does each one mean? Are they too strict, not strict enough, or about right?

4. What should the Church do about people who want to be members, but don't want to accept any of the responsibilities of membership?

5. As a group make a list of some ways in which you could become more involved in the activities of your local church.

Something to do:
Spend some time thinking about how you have worked out the implications of your Confirmation. Have you kept the vows you once made? How can you make your membership of the Church count for something?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Confirmation Sermon 2012


Confirmation Sunday – 23 September 2012

Our text is Mark 1:14-20

Confirmation Sunday is for those who are to be, and for those who have been, confirmed.

Confirmation is a public declaration of faith in Christ by a person who has been baptized.

Some of the folk we are confirming were baptized a few hours ago; some were baptized many years ago. I want to commend the parents who have been an integral part of bringing these young folk to this point in their lives.

Presiding Bishop's Conference 2012 Address


Presiding Bishop's Conference 2012 Address


                                                                               (sourced from MCSA webpage)
                 By : Rev Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa



Readings:     Jeremiah 8: 8-22

                        Colossians 3: 12-17.

Greetings and Welcome!

The Former Presiding Bishops, General Secretary, Bishops, Lay President, Lay Leaders, Conference delegates, visitors, guests and all my fellow pilgrims, I greet you warmly this evening in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is my pleasure and great joy, to extend a warm word of welcome to this 123rd Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Whilst the Conference purpose and procedures are the same since we last met, the context has defined itself for us.  I pray therefore that we be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we confer. Some of the leaders who were directly involved particularly with the affairs of this conference have since moved to join the church triumphant. Among them is our beloved Mrs Bakhombisile Mkhwanazi who led the invitation that we come to Swaziland and was the Convenor of Conference Planning Committee until her death. Following soon after was the departure of that selfless servant, the former Secretary of this Conference who became the first President of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary, Rev Dr Ross Olivier. We pay tribute to two Former Presidents of this Conference, Fathers Fremont Louw and Dr Khoza Mgojo who were called to higher service during the course of this year. May these dear servants together with many others not mentioned, find rest as they join the many pioneers of our faith.

We meet in the Kingdom of Swaziland where you will be spoilt by her breath-taking beauty and the hospitality. We salute Ingwenyama, King Mswati 111; we salute INdlovukazi and all the beautiful people of Swaziland. Our prayer is that our visit may add value towards a journey of peace, economic stability and meaningful life for all the people of Swaziland. As we gather here, the philosophy of King Sobhuza 11 comes to mind, “asikwami kwebantfu.” (It’s not mine, but belongs to the people).  May these words of African wisdom find place in our hearts especially those who have the privilege and cross of leadership in church, government and all spheres of society. May they continue to be the seed that germinates continuously, so that we all may know that leadership is not for personal gain. The true spirit of leadership is others first.

  So it is said that Christianity was brought to Swaziland by the Missionaries in 1844 on invitation by King Sobhuza 1 and Shiselweni Region was one of the first areas to embrace Christianity. This year marks the Centenary anniversary of the Mahamba Methodist Church building, that beautiful church built in 1912, and where the Mission Station was established in 1845. You will hear that story told during the course of this conference. It is also fitting that on the occasion of the first MCSA Conference to be held in this land, the SiSwati Hymnal will be launched.

The context:

Conference meets during spring, a season when all creation around us seems to be clapping its hands, welcoming new life and new beginnings. We also meet at a time when there is so much woundedness in people and creation. Hurricane Isaac has rendered countless homes/families and many lives in Louisiana tragically changed forever. We weep with the people of Syria as we witness a nation caught up in violent upheaval. The pain of Somalia and Sudan continues to disturb the whole world. Protests and responses thereto are becoming deadly exercises. We mourn the deaths of many workers in the North West Province of South Africa. Shocking images! That must never be repeated! There are wounds and more wounds- no healing. More hurtful were some of the responses and inciting statements. We are wounded. The refrain has been; ‘’let us not point fingers.” Whilst I understand that this refrain is meant to calm the dangerously high emotions and to stop the opportunism and point scoring by some, the time will have to come when we name the evil and together seek healing. We cannot afford to just put band-aids on the wounds and not open them for genuine healing to take place. The perpetrators of evil thrive behind carefulness and sensitivity – especially when we find ourselves trapped in a mode of proclaiming ‘peace, peace ’when there is no peace Wounds do not heal by being concealed. It is encouraging to learn that dialogue has been given a chance and that workers will return to work on Thursday 20th - it was not necessary for people to die in the first place.

 The economic crisis which has hit the world has had a more severe negative impact on the people of Swaziland. It calls for serious consideration to do things differently. The collapse of public education especially is South Africa, where in Provinces like Limpopo, learners are without books and some of the books are found dumped. Communities around Kuruman in the Northern Cape have closed down schools since June in protest for service delivery. Something has gone wrong. The Southern African region which is our mission field is wounded: poverty is rife, effective health care and quality education is inaccessible to the high numbers of disadvantaged people.  There is need for life giving dialogue as we search for solutions.

The Theme “TOGETHER a healing community”:

The theme is informed by the verbalised and sometimes non-verbalised question in the minds of many: “Can life in Southern Africa be different? Shall we ever escape the cycle of violence, brutality of murderous actions against each other of grinding poverty, under-development, alienation from God and one another? Whilst evidence may point otherwise, as people of faith, we have to say “Yes together, we are a healing community!  It is a theme that is a continuation of the conversations of previous conferences and seeks to encourage us on the journey of our Vision and Mission which is “A Christ Healed Africa for Healing of Nations.” This follows the call of the last two conferences, of ‘an invitation to a round table’. Introducing the theme at last year’s conference, Rev Ivan Abrahams said: “Our healing challenge remains to work for the elimination of structures still based on racial, cultural and economic exclusions as we seek to work to emulate Jesus’ principles aimed at including everyone within the family of God.” The emphasis is on the aspect of our togetherness as a healing community. It speaks to who we are and who we are striving to be. The Biblical origins of a healing community are not difficult to find. Acts 2:42-47 is an often quoted example. That community is characterised by teaching, fellowship, sharing of bread and prayers. The theme of togetherness is very clear and is followed by an observation of signs and wonders and God adding to the number as a stamp of approval. The signs and wonders that come from the approving heart of God, mitigate the pain of challenges.

"Woundedness:"

I do not need to dwell too much in explaining the wounded state in which we are in at this time, as this is evident and gives itself expression at different times and contexts of our existence. The signs of our 'woundedness,' jump out in social networks and media, road range, conversations, lifestyles, violent ways of relating to each other, shattered hopes everywhere, excluding behaviours, the list is endless.  As someone suggested; our wounds run deep and result from our wounded consciousness. The wounded psyche poisons every thought, poisons our ears, our tongues and our hands. In many instances, what we think, what we hear what we say and what we do inflict wounds all around us. Alan Boesak made the observation that “the weeds of alienation and fragmentation will return and choke the hope of reconciliation.” I want to add that, those weeds are with us now and those weeds are not only choking the seeds of reconciliation but the very hope of well-being. The ‘woundedness’ holds us back from doing what God is calling us to do together. It is the ‘woundedness’ that prompted Alfred Henry Vine to pen down the hymn:

“Phefumlela Thixo wethu xa sithandazayo kuWe, sidalele ubomi obutsha, masikhanyiselwe nguWe. Zusinyamezele Thixo, sakuxakwa yintliziyo ethi noko indlela iyazi, ibe ithanda ukunxaxha. (O Breath of God, breathe on us now, and move within us while we pray; the spring of our new life art Thou, the very light of our new day.  But ah this faithless heart of mine! The way I know; I know my guide; forgive me O Friend divine, that I so often turn aside.”

Local Churches as centres of healing:

It is of course easier to describe what is needed than to create it. A call was made during the Millennium Mission campaign and strongly emphasised by the Mission Congress which met at Mthatha in 2004, that every local church should be a centre of healing. This is very urgent now! As we prepare to return to Mthatha in 2013, what does the score card show? What signs of healing do our local churches and communities show? A number of conferences have made a call for the building and strengthening of healing communities – communities that heal both the person and the societies in which we live- our wounds are keeping us apart. There are some good examples of healing communities in our connexion, but there are also some bad ones. Together, we can build and nurture these, not because it is a nice thing to do, but because this is who God is calling us to become – Together a healing community. Our God is spoken of in Psalm 133 as a God who rejoices at togetherness:

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

As people of hope, called by God into community, we are called to look back and enter or re-enter the covenant with God and make the commitment that we cannot be part of instruments of destruction, but are partners towards the well-being of creation. Our calling requires that we imagine the future together. Karin Chubb asserts 'that which has not come about, has not come about due to our collective failure.' I want to add the emerging future will be shaped to a great extent by our collective resolve to be part of healing communities all over the Connexion.

From commodity to communion:

Walter Brueggemann in his recent book titled; ‘Subversive Obedience,’ writes:

“What should interest us, I imagine, is how to get from commodity to communion, for it is a travail that we and our children and our grandchildren face.” Brueggemann 2011:91.

Nations and communities are becoming markets in which “everything and everyone is reduced to a tradable commodity.” Brueggemann further argues that the church is tempted to transpose its practice of good news in order to compete for a share in the market. The turning point is hearing afresh the cry of God as coming from the Prophet Jeremiah; “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).God knows that there is a way for healing, but God’s people are held back by destructive loyalties to people and things in ways that reduce the powerless to commodities. Yes, it is correct to protect economic growth, investments, and to ensure that nations are governable and orderly, but that has to be done with a human heart and in a way that seeks to protect the vulnerable. The bruises of alienation and fragmentation are choking the transforming power of the Gospel. Is there no balm? Rorisang Tshabalala posed a similar question in the Sunday Independent of 9 September 2012; “How do we break the hypnotic spell of division…?” By:

·        Dividing profit making from health and the well-being of all

·        Genuine coming together of Gods people versus the protection of self interest

·        Faith and real life situations

·        To bridge the divide between the rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless

·        Division between sister and sister, brother and brother

The surrender to Gods will compels us to live out the words of the song: “Christ enough to break all barriers…”  The balm of our togetherness have to be evident in the communities from which we come, otherwise the slogan ‘mission is local’ rings hollow. The balm is to be found in real situations that people find themselves in. I like the context of prophet Ezekiel who in Ezekiel 3:14-15, had set among the exiles:

                                    “The spirit then lifted me up and took me away and I went in bitterness and in anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me. I came to the exiles that lived at Tel Aviv near Kebar River. I sat among them …. overwhelmed.

It is a call that takes us and makes us sit among those driven to exile by circumstances of life- emotional, social family, economic, political and religious exile.

Brueggemann continues to remind us that liberation is not an event, but a journey and it is not into a vacuum but into a different way of life. The event recorded in Exodus was not simply a moment of liberating, but an on-going life together. When God led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, God led them not into “unbridled, unqualified, unfocussed freedom that had no projection into the future. It was an exchange of bondage for bonding.”  The new bonding relationship with one another is characterised by life-giving conversations, healing, changing attitudes, views, and lifestyles and expanding life-giving relationships. This is our calling! We are called to model a life of togetherness in our local communities. Dr Simon Gqubule writing about the then FEDSEM, says it was an attempt towards a non-racial, ecumenical movement that says to the world; ‘we can be different.’

The healing balm:

Much has been said and much has been done, but the wounds remain. Do we hear the ‘sobs ’of God through the Prophet Jeremiah?: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22.) The healing balm the life of Gods people is to be seen in the healing of the wounds:

·        of division and strife in all local communities. It is possible when we allow:

·        seen in local churches being centres of healing where every member especially every leader and member becomes the agent of healing

·        Allowing personal wounds to be healed in each and every person. I recommend the work of Dr Leon Klein who has provided some models that are worth looking at. (www.centresofhealing.com)

·        In robust and respectful dialogue when dealing with challenges that we face. This has to be characterised by compassionate listening to each other in a way that allows forgiveness to heal us and draw us to each other. It has to be characterised by an all-embracing love that makes us better people.

·        Confession, forgiveness, compassion, love, commitment need to be at the centre of our life together.

·        The Wesleyan spirit of mission- venturing into new areas of need, seeing dying churches opening doors to those around them.

·        Fresh ways of doing church in emerging new contexts

·        Robust but respectful dialogue that help to shape that common vision which is able to pull us together as the desired healing community of God, characterised by emphatic listening to each other, forgiveness and embracing love that makes us better persons.

·         Our energy and resources must be channelled in that direction. We cannot, and should not be running away from those who need us most. Things cannot remain the same whilst we claim to have a vision of healing and transformation. This we have to do together.

·        Processes that rigorously focus on wellness of the pastoral teams/persons and their families to emerge. Healthy leaders and workers produce healthy outcomes.

·        Relationships to be challenged and healed.

·        Reclaim our role in Education: There are some key proposals being worked on by our Education Task Team on what our contribution can and should be. Every church is invited to lend a hand- be it a reading room or walking alongside learners, parents and teachers.

·        Those in search of access to quality education to find a shoulder to lean on in our local societies. Upward Bound movement has suggested some simple actions that communicate that there is hope for Education even in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. (www.upwardbound.co.za). Every child must have access to quality education.

Hope for us all to be a true healing community together

This all possible! God wills it! God has us to do it together! Brother Timothy of the Holy Cross Monastery in Grahamstown said; “When waters are stirred, there is hope for healing.” As the circumstances of life stir the waters in the various areas of our lives together, there is hope for healing .As it is often said, ‘darkness is the absence of light.’ It is when the people of light dim, or choose to be absent, that space is given for the darkness to operate and the world becomes covered by all sorts of darkness, be it the moral darkness, religious, economic or political darkness. Let us therefore allow ourselves to be agents and reflectors of light in every area of our existence.  Let us not settle for anything less.

Let us endeavour always to lower the barriers to collaboration, seek common ground, engage honest dialogue, and be prepared to acknowledge discomfort – sit with it, learn from it and allow true community to grow from it. “If we hope for meaningful relationships, we must practise being relational. Hope that is true hope is lived hope, and is the opposite to living with a culture of denial, because it does not shrink from reality” (Denise Ackermann 1993:6 in Ragbags Theologies p 19). It is that call for true relationships with the full hope that the world can be different and will be different, that I am making here. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” (G.K. Chesterton in Ragbag Theologies page 4). This is the time to seriously make every endeavour to live out the Christian ideal of being a healing community TOGETHER!

  

Conclusion:

In the words of that prayer with which one of the former Presidents of this Conference, Alex Boraine, concludes his biography titled ‘Life in Transition’ – a prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake in 1577, I end:

“Disturb us Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore… We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.”

Borrowing again from Mary Gast, (from ‘No Longer Strangers’), I say to you all:

            “Let us now depart and hold fast to the Covenant,

             Knowing that in Christ we are no longer strangers and sojourners,

             But, are dearly loved children of the living God.”

Together a healing community!

Amen.



References:

1.     M. Pillay, S. Nadar, C. Le Bruyns (Eds) 2009), Ragbag Theologies. Essays in honour of Denise Ackermann. EFSA, Sun Press Stellenbosch.

2.     Karin Granberg-Michaelson, 1991, Healing Community. WCC Publication.

3.     Walter Brueggemann, 2011. Subversive Obedience, SMC. London. Geneva.

4.     Alex Boraine, 2008. Life in Transition. Zebra Press, Cape Town.

5.     Bibles: New International Version and Revised Standard Version.

6.     Uxolo. An unpublished newsletter of UMariya umama weThemba Monastery.

7.      The Yearbooks of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sunday Chillaxing

A bit strange for mid September, but nothing quite like a Sunday in front of the fire, especially after a wonderful worship service.

Prayer for MCSA Conference


I appeal to Methodists in my connexion (MCSA, which comprises Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa) to pray for our conference which begins this Wednesday, 19th September in Swaziland. This prayer is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Christian Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

DANDALA to LEAD METHODIST SEMINARY


This press release from the MCSA is very good news for Methodism in Southern Africa
The Rev Dr Mvume Dandala  has been appointed the next President of Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS). The Governing Council of SMMS met on Thursday, 13 September, and after receiving the report of the Search Committee it had appointed in May, voted overwhelmingly to entrust Dr Dandala with the leadership of the MCSA’s flagship theological training and formation centre in Pietermaritzburg.

The appointment follows the tragic and untimely death in May of the seminary’s first President, Rev Dr Ross Olivier, who was able to complete only three of the eight years he expected to serve. Since May, former Chair of the Governing Council, Rev Prof Peter Storey has served as Interim President and will do so until December

The 61 year-old Dandala is well known and highly regarded in Southern African and world Methodism. He has had a distinguished ministry in the local church and in positions of Connexional responsibility. He studied at Federal Theological Seminary and Wesley House, Cambridge. For a number of years he was the Connexional Mission Secretary and is a past Presiding Bishop of MCSA as well as past President of the SA Council of Churches. He was elected Prior of the Knights of St John and has been an honorary Professor at Pretoria University. Dr Dandala also served beyond the borders of Southern Africa as General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches. There was a brief period when he resigned, honouring the requirements of our Laws and Discipline, in order to represent the Congress of the People Party in Parliament. After he returned to active ministry he was appointed to his present position at Manning Road Methodist Church and as provided for in its rules, the Governing Council has petitioned the Presiding Bishop and the Methodist Conference to facilitate his release and stationing at SMMS.
Chairperson of the Governing Council, Professor Gordon Zide, expressed his pleasure at the  decision and on behalf of the Council, extended his best wishes to Dr Dandala and his family for accepting the challenge and ‘the work the Lord has put on their shoulders.’ ‘SMMS is blessed to have a person of Dr Dandala’s stature,’ he said; ‘He will bring vast experience into the realm of the seminary. Mvume’s humility and his selfless devotion and dedication to the Methodist Church will sharpen the future of SMMS.’ Prof Zide said that Dandala would be joining colleagues who had ‘given their commitment to the seminary without fail,’ and that the Governing Council would need to support them in their journey.
After the decision, in a message to the seminarian community at SMMS, Prof Storey said, ‘I am sure that when Dr Dandala comes among us, all of the varied experiences which have made up his life and ministry will contribute to a rich relationship with your new President.’ Storey told New Dimension that the Chapel of Christ the Servant, where the seminarians had gathered, was the scene of joy and celebration when the name was announced. ‘The long months of not knowing have been stressful for SMMS,’ he said, ‘There is no doubt about the warm welcome Mvume Dandala will receive from the Seminary community.’

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stewardship 3: Stewardship of our Gifts, Talents and Abilities


Stewardship of our Gifts, Talents and Abilities

Previously in this series:
1 Peter 4:10 has reminded us that we are called to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 
Are you, am I, a good steward? 
It’s the good steward who gets the ‘well done’ from God. 
God ‘owns’ everything, and we are stewards, caretakers, managers, servants, of His grace…
This mindset is very important and if you struggle with it, pray about it, asking God for clarity, tell Him that you want to believe it, but you battle to.

Last week we saw that we are called to be good stewards of creation. The creation is the first thing in the Bible that God entrusts to us (through Adam and Eve). The Christian cannot believe that he/she doesn’t have to care about pollution, global warming, cruelty to the animals we eat, whether there will be water/oil for our grandchildren, etc. 
The Christian doesn’t have the freedom to say, ‘that’s not my problem, and besides what difference can I possibly make?’

This week we look at Stewardship of our Gifts, Talents and Abilities ....... stewardship of the potential that God has created within each one of us.

Our reading is Matthew 25:14-30

A reminder of our Mission Statement: 
Building a Community of Disciples to grow the Kingdom of God

This series is intended to grow us as a community of disciples.

Let's work through our Gospel reading:

“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is the great equalizer – we are all (rich, poor, black, white, old, young, healthy, sick, clever or dim)– stewards of God and He puts each of us in charge of His property - our brains, our eyesight, our ability to do maths, our love of cooking.......all these belong to God..... The earth and the fullness thereof, is… God’s.

“He gave to each on according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his trip.”

Just as if we had to empty this church – some would be given a chair, some 2 or 3 chairs, some 10, some would be asked to carry these speakers and we would judge that according to your strength and your ability.
So God gives things to people according to what He knows our God given ability is.
This causes huge disproportions in the world and within the Church. We’re all different, unique. You might be sitting next to someone who God knows can handle 10 million rand appropriately, but God knows you can’t.
This sounds unfair, but it is the fairest thing in the world – to expect from you the same as the person next to you, that would be unfair. To expect a rugby prop to run as fast as a rugby wing is unreasonable. Different God given abilities and talents for different people. Is it unfair that Oscar Pistorius can't swim like Natalie du Toit? Of course not.

Instead of coveting what others have received: good looks, brains, a voice, abilities and talents… discover what YOU have been given by God and find peace and contentment as you use and invest it in God’s creation within the service of His Kingdom.

A few months ago, many of you discovered what your Spiritual Gift might be. What have you done since then? Uncovered it a bit more, tried to find out more, used it, or buried it in the ground until Cedric/Church tells me what to do with it.

 “The servant who had received five thousand coins went and invested his money and earned another five thousand. In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand. But the servant who had received on thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

Are you hiding the talent , the talents, that God has lent you, invested in you, asked you to steward on His behalf?

“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The servant who had received five thousand coins came in and handed over the other five thousand. ‘You gave me five thousand coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another five thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’ Then the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, ‘You gave me two thousand coins, sir. Look! Here are another two thousand that I have earned.’ ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’

‘Then the servant who had received one thousand coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did no plant, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed.’ .....................................Huh?

"I know you are a hard man."  Hmmm?

This man doesn’t know his master at all, just as anyone else who knows God and calls Him a ‘hard man’ doesn’t know Him at all.

‘You require more of us than you have given us power to perform’.......... that’s what he means when he says you want to reap where you have not sown.

Friends, that is not true of the Master in this parable, or of our Lord and so it is that we so often want to lay the blame for our sins on God. God made me this way. God put me in a situation where I had to cheat or lie or steal.

‘I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you. ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not plant, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? Well then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned.’

Now the master is getting angry, as He will on Judgment Day. In essence He says: "Don’t add lies to your laziness. If you did believe I was the difficult tasks master you’ve just said I am, you actually would have done more. But you’re talking nonsense.
You’ve actually relied on my generosity and kindness to you and my patience and mercy and decided “I’ll just give back to Him what He gave me and the old softie will say Oooooo, I love you so much…everything's OK, even your bad stewardship’

Verses 30 painfully reminds us of what the master actually says:  ‘Well, I’ve got news for you – go to hell’

Now, there is a sense in which this servant does no harm. At least he doesn’t lose it, gamble it away or frivolously spend it like that prodigal son in another parable. At least the master gets back his investment. But we all know what it’s like to invest R1000 in 1960 and in 2012 to go to the bank and ask for it and for the bank to just give R1000 back to us. 

God has invested… in us. He expects you, I, as good stewards….to generate a return on His investment.

Friends, there is no such thing as negative goodness in the Kingdom of God. You are not good just because you are not doing bad things......that doesn’t make us good.
Many people build hope of salvation on the fact that they are harmless, they don’t do bad things like everyone else, well, this attitude leads not to salvation but to damnation (John Wesley).

Using our abilities, our talents, our strengths, our gifts,...we are called not only to do no harm, but to do good. What have we done for God and His Kingdom here on earth this week? 

Conclude:

We are responsible to use well what God has given us and what He continues to entrust us with in the different seasons of life.
The issue is not how much we have, but how well we use what we have, to the glory of God.

Each believer, living as a good steward of the manifold grace of Godshould faithfully carry out the duties entrusted to him or her by God and multiply his or her God given gifts for the sake of the Kingdom. In this way we become good stewards.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Study Notes for Stewardship 3


Week 3
Stewardship of Our Talents, Abilities and Spiritual Gifts
16 September 2012

The Parable of the Talents
Aim of the lesson
• To appreciate the gifts God has given us and look at how we are using them.
Study passage: Matthew 25:14-30.
Notes
• Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when the parables in Chapters 24 and 25 were told (Mt 24:3). Across the Kidron Valley they would have been able to see the walled city of Jerusalem and the magnificent temple. It must have been a wonderful sight. Yet Jesus looked at it and said it was all going to be desecrated and destroyed (Mt 24:1-2, 15). Why? Was it because Israel had failed to use her 'talent', her covenant relationship with God? This may have been one of the thoughts in Jesus' mind as He told the story. But of course it has a much broader and deeper meaning for the religious life as a whole.
• A talent was actually a measure of weight (about 30 kg). A talent of silver would today be worth several thousand rands. In the parable the talents are meant to represent all the gifts and blessings which God gives us; nature, material wealth, abilities, opportunity, health, character, intellect, grace, privilege, love etc. Some people receive in abundance, others get just a few. The main point is that these gifts (talents) really belong to God, not to us. They are loaned to us and we are accountable to God for the way we use them or misuse them. Obviously too, they must not be used selfishly but for Him, in His service, and in the service of others.
• Verse 14: 'a man going on a journey....' The reference here is to the time in which we are presently living, the period between Christ's ascension and His coming again. All three of the parables in Matthew 25 focus on the return of Christ and the final judgment.
• Verses 21-23: These two men had different gifts. But they had both worked equally hard and therefore they received equal rewards. We are not rewarded for our abilities or the quantity of the talents we have been entrusted with. We are rewarded for our diligence and for trying. The person who has very little may in fact have worked harder with it than the person who has plenty. It is interesting that the reward’ for work well done is not rest, but more work. Is there an implication here that there will still be work for us to do in heaven? It would seem so.
• Verses 18 and 25-27: This man failed to use his talent, either for his own benefit or for anyone else's. Even if he had ventured and lost God might still have said, 'well done'. We cannot excuse ourselves because we have received little. We cannot say, my gift is so insignificant that it doesn't matter if I don't do anything with it. God will accept our work with all its shortcomings provided we have tried, and done it with a good heart. • Verse 29: The law of gifts is very simple. If you don't use it you lose it. If you do use it, you get more.

Questions for discussion:
Mt 25:14-30
1.  Why does God give some people many gifts and some just a few?
2.  Why does God hold people accountable for the way they use the gifts they have been given? What right has He to do so?
3.  Why did the man with only one talent fail to use it?
4.  In the silence think for a moment what gifts has God given you? Make a list on paper. What have you done with your gifts? What more do you think you should be doing with them? Share what you have written with the group.
5.  How can we discover our gifts?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stewardship Series: 2 Stewardship of Creation


Stewardship of Creation 
and

Today we continue our series on Stewardship.

Last time we saw that the truth is that God owns everything and human beings are His stewards, caretakers, and we saw that God entrusts different things to different people. As Christians we are called to be Good Stewards of the things God entrusts to us. Today we are looking at our Stewardship of Creation, which God has entrusted to us. 

The following is a quote from Patricia Fagg, a Christian environmentalist:

“If I fail to acknowledge that God has made the natural world and so treat His work with contempt, if I treat creation as if it were my own to do with as I please, if I deface creation and mar its ability to delight God and to bring Him glory, if I impair creation and it’s creatures so that they cease to flourish in healthful balance, if I degrade my surroundings by greedily taking from creation and thoughtlessly tossing out the waste, then I put myself in the place of God and usurp His place as King. I am in rebellion against God. I have broken the two great commandments. I am not loving God. I am not loving my neighbour.”

If you’ve read/watched the news, you’ve heard of things like global warming, hole in ozone layer, forests being destroyed, air and water pollution, of fresh water running out, of fossil fuels running out, etc, etc. 
The question is, do I care? 

Should a Christian care about these things? 

Do you care about these things?

The future of our world and the well being of it’s children are at risk. Some of the most urgent issues include the degradation of agricultural and pastoral lands, deforestation, diminishing water supplies, rising levels of pollution and the provision of safe power. The tragedy of such trends is that the environment becomes less able to balance itself – floods and droughts are more frequent, crops and herds are unable to survive beyond their range of tolerance, humans face worsening flood and water security and increased levels of poverty.

Do you and I care? 

Should a steward of God's creation care about these things?

If human beings weren’t here, the world, its rivers, its animals, its forests, its atmosphere.... would all be in a far better way.

Ultimately we must recognize that God’s creation is groaning because of human sin. As Romans 8:22 reminds us: For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth. 

Now, sin is our business. Healing sin and its consequences is a mission of the Church. Do we believe that a God-centered response to stewardship of the environment will result in some healing for creation, some improvement in the lives of people (especially for the most needy), or do we not care,.... or worse, have we given up. If we do believe that a God-centered response to stewardship of the environment will result in some healing for creation, some improvement in the lives of people (especially for the most needy), then...
IT IS OUT TASK TO CARE FOR CREATION, and to the believe that it’s not too late.

There seem to be at least 4 principles of earth care in the Bible:

1.   God intends creation to flourish, not suffer. 
Ps 24:1 ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…’ ....fullness implies bursting at the seams with his creatures and their praise for Him. 
Be fruitful and increase in number’ ....is not only said to human beings but also to the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. God intends creation to flourish, and when it doesn’t, it should bother us.

2.   God intends us to be active users of creation
… fill the earth and bring it under your control” (Gen 1:28). We are intended to make use of creation – eg. cultivating crops, domesticating animals, cropping trees and minerals – this is God’s provision for us.

3.   God intends us to use creation wisely
 “Rule over…” (Gen 1:28) Rule over this creation in a way that it thrives.

4.   Go intends us to nurture creation. 
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to take care of it...” (Gen 2:15) The emphasis changes from ‘use’ to ‘tend and care’. There’s a sense in which God expects us to bless creation.

Our parable reading from Mt 21:33-40 reminds us that a day of judgment is coming ....“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes," ....when you and I will be judged: How did we care for the vineyard (creation) that was entrusted to us? 

And Jesus won’t say ‘Cedric, you didn’t stop global warming.’ But He will say, ‘Cedric, what did you, as you lived in Alberton, do to try and prevent my planet from overheating............. to save water or electricity etc.
What did you do when you discovered how chickens are treated in battery farms?
Did you think it wasn't your business to care for my creation?

Conclusion:

We are looking at Stewardship.
The good news is that the mighty, Creator God, has invited you and me into a relationship with Him in which He asks us to be His stewards. Isn't that awesomely good news?
Do you think God wants you to care for His creation in your ‘little’ way? What are you and I going to do in response to being reminded that we are Stewards of Creation?