Angie shares further encouragement for the Life Centre and recounts the faithfulness of God in this long journey we’ve been on in building the Life Centre!
Everyone I speak to at the moment is feeling the weight of what is happening around us: Covid. Economic uncertainty. The continual battle against corruption, injustice, racism and gender based violence. Our legacy of years and years of oppression, greed, wide-spread dehumanizing and pain.
And now our country is literally burning. It feels like so much of our country, our infrastructure, our economy and people’s lives are in ruins.
We have to open our eyes to reality. This is not actually something new.
The situation our country now faces is something that has always been there. Many citizens of this beautiful nation of ours face these issues on a daily basis. They are hungry, homeless, jobless, living under the stress of institutionalized poverty and having to protect themselves from gang violence crossfire and lawlessness. However, society at large so often ignores this, rationalizes it through debate and hides away in our relative comfort and security.
This time we can’t.
Which is awful and painful. It is terrifying and shocking how things have escalated and how palpable the fear and worry is.
However, I also believe this is good because we cannot continue to ignore what is happening and continues to happen in our country on a daily basis.
Something has to be done. Something has to change. We, individually, and as a people have to change.
The big question is HOW?!
There is so much fear, anger, hurt and division…
How on earth could we ever move to a better place? To a space where people from all tribes and tongues will be welcomed at the banquet table and have a fair share?
I don’t know the practical answers. The problems are too systemic and too big for my little brain to comprehend, but I do know one thing. We need Jesus.
There are two scriptures that keep coming to mind as I press into the pain of all that’s happening. My own pain. My friends and family’s pain. Of my country’s pain.
2 Chronicles 7:13 – 14
13 ‘When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
These scriptures lead me to believe that we need to repent. We need to lament and we desperately need to pray. We need to humbly come before Jesus and seek him. We need to ask him to renew us. To change our hearts.
We can all point fingers. Blame them. Whoever “them” or “they” are supposed to be. However, let’s be real for a moment. The problem actually lies within each one of us.
Me. You. Everyone.
We ALL need Jesus to clean us and give us new hearts. Hearts of flesh. Hearts that love like Jesus does. We all need the Holy Spirit to be our true guide and transform us from the inside out so that we can keep God’s law: To love the Lord your God with everything we have and are, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
This song, Ruins, was written as I reflected on the series we went through at CHS called Christ and Culture which looked at some of the systemic issues we face in South Africa such as racism and gender based violence. (Click the link to see the series: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXy4DkZW8WSRE32GBC62kiQ0QOGJmuSo_)
I wrote the song as I wrestled with my own difficulties reconciling the victim in me with the perpetrator that also lies within me.
I have been sexually assaulted, judged, robbed and abused. Yet I know that although what I do is often more subtle, I have that same capacity in me. I can use my power and privilege to exploit others, I can ignore someone else’s pain for my own convenience and I can be silent as I watch brothers and sisters continuously struggle under the burdens of economic oppression and continued injustice.This truth is made most obvious in how I treat my children. I love them dearly and yet even with them I can use my power, my words, my actions in a way that definitely does not come from a place of love but a place of selfishness, just like every other human parent in the world.
This song is my way of coming before God and laying it all down – the pain, confusion, hurt, frustration and sorrow – and acknowledging my own role in the mess that we live in.
I do feel that God gave this song to me for this time as a call for us to collectively come to him.
I choose to put my hope in God’s promises.
I hope it helps. I hope it inspires you to be real before Jesus and really come laying it all down in desperate acknowledgement that we need Him. I hope that it inspires you to trust him and allow him to work in your heart. To change our hearts of stone to ones that are made of flesh. To trust that he is at work even in these times.
He can take our burning, broken country and in his grace, mercy and love somehow work a miracle and bring about his life and restoration and the change can start with me.
What is he calling me and you to do? How are we going to respond to his call to walk humbly, act justly and love with mercy?
33 ‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: on the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”
In this series we unpack some of the topics that are often avoided in our church services, as we realise how we are discipled by both Christ and the culture we find ourselves in.
We love catching up and wondering through the bible with our young people!
Why are Christians so afraid of doubt?
“Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus said to Thomas. In James 1:6 we are warned “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”. So doubt is bad. If you doubt, there is something wrong with you. Your faith must be weak. You just need to trust and believe.
The story within many Christian communities is that life following Jesus progresses in a victorious straight line. And when the reality of our lives and world does not match up we need to at least pretend that this is case. No wonder Christians are so often accused of been hypocrites. We really struggle with honesty sometimes.
Christian author Philip Yancey observes that “The church has sometimes chastised people who admit their weakness and failure, and our society has an aversion to suffering… So Christians naturally tend to hide behind a thin veneer of cheerfulness and health, while they secretly hurt and doubt.”
So what can we do about this? Well Yancey goes on to say, “When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God… that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk and Lamentations. … God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually.”
If we take wider look at scripture we actually see a number of situations where some of our ‘heros of the faith’ express some rather strong doubts about God, but don’t end up falling off the wagon.
Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’ Exodus 5:22-23
Joshua said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Joshua 7:7
You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? Jeremiah 12:1
Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10
I love the refreshing raw honesty of these verses. It shows a God who does not fear or is threatened by our doubt. But is able to use it to draw us to him. The Christian faith is not a precarious, carefully balanced stack of rocks on the beach. If you tap it or prod it the whole thing might fall down. No. It is a firm foundation and like the wise man who builds his house on the rock, it has survived thousands of years wars, debate, arguments and attacks. And still stands. Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail.
Doubt sometimes gets confused for unbelief which can be problematic. Colin Smith highlights the difference between doubt and unbelief saying. “Doubt is questioning what you believe. Unbelief is a determined refusal to believe. Doubt is a struggle faced by the believer. Unbelief is a condition of the unbeliever.”
But some streams of the Christian faith find doubt more problematic than others, seeing doubt and unbelief as the same thing and sometimes adding cultural ideologies, values and norms to the ‘essentials’ of the faith. Michael Hakmin Lee observes that: “Evangelicalism, especially its more conservative or fundamentalist incarnations, commonly fosters a rigidly constructed faith, with multiple layers of what we consider essential beliefs and values. On the one hand, certitude can be comforting and reassuring in a world filled with chaos and uncertainty. However, the danger of holding something to be essential to one’s faith is that when that essential belief is called into question, the whole edifice, not just that belief, begins to destabilize. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with confidence or certainty in one’s beliefs and convictions, there is potential harm when evangelical communities and leaders place an unwarranted level of confidence in their theological constructs and impose their certitude on others.”
Evangelicals faith in certainties can make us very uncomfortable with mystery. And unfortunately many of us would rather deal with a simple wrong answer than a complex or unclear one. The reality is that doubt is a part of our day-to-day life. It is not necessarily good nor bad. It is our response to that uncertainty that determines whether it was good for us or not.
Os Guinness describes the value of doubt as follows: “The value of doubt is that it can be used to detect error…. But a sword like this will cut both ways. If doubt can be turned destructively against truth so that it is dismissed as error, doubt can also be used constructively to prosecute error disguised as truth…. Doubt, then, is a problem for both faith and knowledge. As long as the presence of doubt is detected anywhere, neither faith nor knowledge can ever be complacent. But though doubt may be normal, it should be temporary and it should always be resolved. Wisely understood, resolutely faced, it need hold no fear for the Christian. To a healthy faith doubt is a healthy challenge.”
Microsite Reflections – a church community perspective
It is amazing how the microsite came to be through relationship and word of mouth (and God’s nudging). Somebody spoke to somebody who spoke to somebody…… and the CHS Pastorate found ourselves unanimously agreeing to open up the church for a group of homeless women. I love how God works in our hearts without us even noticing. It was so exciting to be a part of this wonderful effort. After meeting Phinius and Katlyn Sebatsane we spent a few days moving all of the chairs and stage boxes out of the church. We had a wonderful time dividing the hall into sections to fit mattresses and side tables for the ladies and making the hall feel like home. We converted the Upstairs Room into a lounge with a tv and blankets against the cold. The cottage used for the creche was turned into a washing area, with a borrowed washing machine installed and washing lines strung up behind the church.
I was so touched by the many many offers of help from the CHS community. So many people supplied food, bedding, clothing and their time (the most valuable). It felt like a real community effort.
And yes, there were times when things were difficult, but God, as always, was so gracious and loving and patient with everyone.
A real highlight for me was getting to know Phinius and Katlyn Sebatsane who were the site managers and generously gave themselves to these ladies, sleeping in a makeshift bedroom we had created in the cry room. They are an inspiring couple who are Jesus to people on the streets of Muizenberg. And I think that this is one of the things that really struck me – that by welcoming these women into our building, and loving them, we were being Jesus to them. What an incredible honour that proved to be. To be a part of restoring dignity and giving people hope – not much can top that.
The second thing that struck me was how many groups and people (outside of CHS) have been a part of this effort. I had no idea that so many communities had invested their time, energy and resources into the lives of these women. It is a wonderful thing that CHS has been connected, through these ladies, to so many who have so much to offer. Again, what an incredible privilege.
Although my role in the Microsite has been mainly as grocery shopper and administrator (with the odd bit of window fixing), I cannot express what a huge blessing it has been to be a part of this effort. Our CHS community has shown what it is like to be Jesus to others and I hope that we can continue to do this on an even greater scale in the future. It feels like the action of opening our church as a home has birthed something that is as yet, without form, but I can feel the potential for us to do more.
Thank you CHS for being you and for being Jesus to others
Microsite Reflections – Opening a door to what God desires
The following was a 2020 reflection (approx. 3rd quarter), in the midst of COVID lockdown and Gods work.
Keep on praying for us.
God bless you
Here I Am.Send Me
Worship, Friendship & Learning Together
Following on from Charlie Alexander’s report on the Parish Worship nights at the end of last year, Gil Marsden gives her perspective.
I got involved in the parish monthly worship sessions last year, when the group started meeting to record IRL. For those who aren’t with the lingo, that means In Real Life. It was such a blessed relief to worship together, playing actual instruments, with actual humans, after weeks of pre-recorded worship in our separate homes for our separate church online services during lockdown. I have to admit to being a bit nervous when I arrived at the first rehearsal, as I barely knew a soul on the joint parish team. But they welcomed me with open arms (metaphorically speaking and under strict Covid protocols, of course) and only teased me a little bit.
As it happens, over the past year I’ve been on a very slow and belated journey exploring racism, my own privilege and bias as a white person and the chasm that often seems to exist between Biblical justice and the historical evangelical primary emphasis on salvation. As a 4th generation descendant of Irish missionaries to Central Africa, and having grown up and studied in Zambia, Zimbabwe and the UK, before finally settling in Cape Town as a married adult in 1999, it’s not surprising that I find my heritage and identity confusing and sometimes shameful.
So where does parish worship come into it? Well, firstly, it’s been a joy and a challenge to learn a whole new worship repertoire in different languages and styles. We’ve been fortunate, at CHS, to have written and sung many homegrown worship songs as part of our DNA from the early days of our church plant. However, it’s all too easy to default to the well-known and easy formulas of some of the overseas mega-churches’ worship songs. No offence to them, many anointed songs have come out of them. But the focus of the parish worship sessions has been to use songs written on our continent, in our country, in South African languages and by some of the parish team themselves – and that’s been powerful.
The challenge aspect has been that due to time constraints we often don’t have a lot of preparation or rehearsal time and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone to be playing and singing songs that I don’t feel adequately prepared for, especially in a language I don’t speak. “Welcome to our world!” say all the people for whom English is a second, third or fourth language and who have to tackle the majority of hymns and worship songs in English most of the time. So that’s a worthwhile learning curve for me!
Secondly, apart from broadening my song repertoire, the monthly gathering has allowed me to begin to make friends with people from (I’m not gonna lie) a different generation to me but also with a different skin colour and cultural heritage to me. When we’re practicing and recording, it’s hard to actually get to know one another – especially behind a mask or a microphone. But in the breaks or when sharing a meal together, we’re beginning to share stories and life circumstances and always, the banter!
So it’s a slow process, but this is the work to be done of examining one’s long-held beliefs, biases and blind spots and allowing friends of colour, in Christ, to call me out, challenge me, contradict me and correct me where necessary – and for it to be happening in the context of joint worship across our parish churches, is definitely a God thing. I am grateful to God and to all the people in the parish worship team for being part of this journey with me.
Written by Gil Marsden
Member of CHS Worship Team