Calvary Methodist Church

Celebrating and Sharing God's Embracing Love in the World

Created for fellowship

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes that “friendship is like a sheltering tree” in the way that it offers shelter, support, nourishment and beauty to our lives. Like David and Jonathan, Paul and Barnabas, and Jesus and the family at Bethany (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), our Christian walk is strengthened through companions who remind us of the presence and love of God in our lives. They play an essential part in encouraging and enabling our wholeness, our growth, and our calling.

Colin Cloete, facilitator of “The Beloved” Fellowship Group (meeting Tuesdays at 7p.m. at the church) remarks that meeting with fellow children of God – beside just attending church – is vital to our journey of faith and spiritual growth. As they share scripture, songs and prayers with one another in their faith journey God uses each one of them in a special way to bring different perspectives to God’s Word and grow into a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father.

Answered prayers strengthen our faith and many a member can testify of God’s answer to prayer. We have seen the unemployed finding jobs, the bereaved find comfort, break throughs in family relationships and answers to other prayers. There are still other prayers we are waiting and trusting on God’s answers for such as healing for the sick, finding God’s purpose, alternative employment, etc. Being able to pray with and for one another makes a big difference in our daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. God chooses to move and act in the prayers His Beloved children.

Even though with the ebb and flow of life, there are sometimes only 2 or 3 members meeting – believing in God’s promised presence – sadness is shared and laughter is multiplied. The love of God holds them together and enable them to keep their strength in Christ at all times. As one member shared, “Even if I’m not always able to attend I know that I have a close family in Christ.”

The 7evens group, facilitated by Nick Moriri, further motivate the need for belonging and friendship in the diagram below:7evens presentation R.jpg

As we celebrate the gift of community this month, we pray that you will carefully and prayerfully consider deepening your connection to our Calvary family by getting involved with a small group. For more information, please contact the Church Office on
011 805 3375.

 

 

 

 

 


Beautiful in Blue

The Wesley Guild is a movement of young people that was formed to:

  • To promote open and honest discussion of the meaning of the Christian faith in today’s world
  • To broaden the cultural horizons of its members for the enrichment of life
  • To be a caring fellowship for its members
  • To be a point of contact with Christianity for people to develop their own patterns of devotion to Christ
  • To encourage an interest in the local community
  • To initiate or support community projects locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Bridge the gap between Sunday School and Organisations/Manyanos.
  • To keep young people in Church
  • To be a college of spiritual, social, mental growth
  • To produce leaders
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Our beautiful Guilders at the Circuit robing at Lombardy East Methodist last weekend ….

As the Calvary Wesley Guild we strive to foster and promote discipline in Christ amongst young people in and outside the Church in general and those within the Midrand community in particular through implementation of the 4C’s for Christ (Consecration, Comradeship, Creativity and Community Development).

We aim to encourage young people to devote themselves and to take active participation in the affairs of the Church, growth and development of the Church [Priesthood of all Believers].

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Newly robed guilders along with our current chairperson ….

The Wesley Guild can be joined by any person who is young at heart and subscribes to the aims and objectives of this movement. We always encourage young people to be part of this movement in order for them to deepen their spirituality, to promote loyalty to the work of God and present God to the world through the church.

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Truly a transforming way of life …

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Greatness: we’re created for this! Rhona 2016

This Sunday, the 4th of September, we launch Rhona 2016.

THEOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING

Rhona is not about giving as much as it is about thanksgiving; that is the wholehearted celebration and affirmation of God’s goodness and grace made manifest through the many blessings in our lives of family, friendship, employment, music, purpose, healing, community etc.

This is a season of wide-eyed wonder; an exclamation of “Look! See what God has done!”

And, of course, once we have seen, we have the opportunity to give thanks in heartfelt worship and in the offering of our time, talents and resources to continue blessing others as God has blessed us. Yet even in the offering of ourselves we discover with awe and amazement how much more God has in store for God’s beloved children.

Truly, as Scripture says (Proverbs 18:16):

A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Through the precious gift of God’s only son we are able to enter the eternal presence of our Great and Holy One. Likewise, through our own self-giving in this season, we are ushered into the power and promise to be great in mission and worship, in generosity and responsibility, in purpose and passion, in servanthood and belonging.

UNDERSTANDING GREATNESS

To this end, every Sunday up until and including the 27th of November, will help us to understand and tap into God’s greatness so that we – as the Calvary Methodist Church community – might be better image-bearers of God’s embracing love.

Preaching plan

EXPRESSING GRATITUDE

Through Rhona we have the opportunity to unleash our greatness and to allow others the opportunity to experience the Greatness of God.

Testimonies 

This is accomplished by creating space within our services for different ministries, fellowships and spiritual formation movements to offer testimony and lead us into God’s presence in prayer. There will also be opportunities for individuals and families to share how they have encountered God’s greatness (see the sign up sheet on the notice board).

Food drive

Furthermore, this year we are excited to introduce our “Fill up the trailer drive” and invite you to bring non-perishable foodstuff and basic toiletries into the sanctuary each week.

These donations will be used in our mission and outreach to the Miriam Makeba Centre for Girls, Usizo Community Care Project (a feeding scheme started and run by one of our congregants which aims to feed approximately 50 orphaned and abandoned children each day), and for Christmas parcels for the vulnerable and the homeless. Let’s see how many trailers we can fill over the next 13 weeks – especially on our Anniversary service on the 27th of November where we would love to cover the altar with practical gifts that will usher others into the presence of the Great.

Generosity giving

Finally, our Rhona target for the year is R500 000. Last year we raised R482 863.

In order to reach this goal we encourage you to consider giving over and above your usual offertory a special thanksgiving gift as follows:

Individuals Min. R500 – R1 000

Families Min. R2 500

Mission Groups (including Kairos team, Healing team, Counselling team, Hospitality teams, Education ministry team, Worship teams etc.) Min. R1 500

Organisations (including Wesley Guild , Women of Grace, Women’s Manyano, Young Men’s Guild and Young Women’s Manyano) Min. R5 000

Fellowship groups (including Children’s Youth Church) Min. R2 500

Leaders (including Executive and Servant Leadership Team, Finance Committee, HR Committee, and Trust Properties Team) Min. R5 000

Please note that these are soft targets only and we urge you to give as you are able. Treasurers of organisations and group facilitators are welcome to change and communicate new targets after full consultation with their members if you think that they are either too high or too low as we recognise that our ministries and groups differ vastly in size and capacity.

In addition, organisations and groups are discouraged to set minimum payments for their respective member as this demotivates giving and places those within more than one structure under serious financial pressure.

If you belong to numerous groups or ministries, the most meaningful way of handling your gift to God may be to determine the amount that you long to give and then divide it up equally among the different spaces of service and belonging.

These gifts can be presented to God at any time during the Rhona season – either by EFT or through cash payments. Please utilise the special thanksgiving envelopes in your bulletin which offer space for your to record, as you are comfortable, your name and the reason for your offering.

NON-MEMBERS

If you are not a member of our church community but would like to partner with us in this season of greatness, please use the bank account details below for your gift and share your reason for thanksgiving on Twitter @CalvaryMeth with #greatness.

Bank Account Details

Account Name:                 Calvary Methodist Church

Bank:                                Standard Bank

Branch                              Midrand (00 11 55) 

Account Number:              202 539 962

 

 


Tree of Life Course: Personal Testimony

By Karabo Malakalaka

 

Post the two previous courses, I must admit, I wasn’t very keen on going for a third course in a row but little did I know what the Almighty had in store for me. I know usually peer pressure is associated with negative things but this time round it worked for me. Thank you Tiisetso for nudging me to do this, it was the Holy Spirit speaking through you.

The first session was very interesting and spoke to the environmentalist in me. It got me thinking and crying… most importantly acknowledging the number of times I have deliberately chosen the tree of death instead of life as I worked through the week’s assignment. So my confession for that week was REALLY difficult. In the same week, I got reminded that there are people strategically placed in our lives to offer nourishment- SOUL friends. And one friend of mine stood out the most. I have made a deliberate point of praying for her, so that GOD can continue to give her strength and empower her, as she tends to my soul.

The GOD in every day, I got to be reminded that GOD doesn’t care about the how we come to him, HE simply cares about the fact that we made an effort to have time with Him by seeing HIS awe and majesty in the everyday things we take for granted, and being thankful for those. The air we breathe, the birds that sing to us each day- trying to put a smile on our faces in our ever hurried activities, the list goes on.

A time for everything. This was a wakeup call for me! I had been lamenting over something, to the extent I became like Job- questioned whether HE really loved me and why couldn’t this one simple thing be answered. Just like a smack on the face, I was snapped back into reality. YES, I’m greatly loved, that’s why I’m still here on earth- I had elevated my challenge beyond GOD and it was obscuring who MY FATHER really is. I chose to focus on the wrong master… hence the concept of Happy darkness didn’t make sense to me. My situation hasn’t changed, BUT my focus has. Despite everything, I choose GOD to be my focus, intentionally seeking HIS kingdom first and everything will be added unto me in due time. Talk about change of perspective.

The dark within and 3 days in the belly.

A gentle reminder of how each day I battle my own demons. I’m still working on the possibility to trust, release and abide. This is difficult when dealing with the darkness others have inflicted upon me. I pray for grace and mercy each day, so I can release it to GOD. One vernacular song stood out for me as I was doing that week’s reflection- “ Sebe se le thata se ka nkatametsa ho Morena- as difficult as sin is, it pushes me to GOD” excerpt from Haufi le Morena (sotho song).

The Selfish Giant- Oscar Wilde…. Let’s just say, there’s more commonality between me and the giant! That’s also work in progress…

Finally, the one exercise we did stood out profoundly over others. When Yvonne presented the story of the Pearl of Great price. As I looked at and reflected, I saw that despite the clutter we put in our lives- our material possessions and everything- the love of GOD shines through regardless. It matters not how we try and fill the space.  You have to see the schematics to understand, can’t put it down on paper.

I learnt many lessons through the course, mostly about me and my relationship with MY Father in Heaven, but I would like just to share two.

  1. In the fellowship provided by the course, two things happen- we lose focus of our problems as we realise what others are going through- a reminder to elevate GOD and not the problem, secondly we testify GOD’s greatness to each other- something to tap on in the dry winter season.
  2. Each one of us carries with them their sin on one hand and the grace of GOD on the other. Each day is an opportunity to choose the grace of GOD even in the little things.

Finally, I don’t know what the next course has to offer, but I’m sure I will be there. See you there!!

 

***

A note from Yvonne:

Our next runs on Wednesdays in August. Details below.


Affirmation: Synod Witness Service

*testimony shared at my Witness service as a candidate for Ordination*

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa has always been home to me – family.

From my youngest years when I was content to eat the chocolate cake crumbs that escaped my mother’s plate as she fellowshipped with other young mothers, to my formative years when the stories of Jesus sat proudly beside “The Adventures of Hercules” and Enid Blyton’s “Enchanted Wood” on my bookshelf, church was a place to play, to be, to belong.

At the age of 13, as I watched the Easter story being dramatised at our youth church one Sunday, it suddenly struck home: the reality of God’s great love for me and the suffering that Jesus was prepared to endure for my salvation. And so I became a participant rather than an observer – in God’s story and in God’s community – attending Bible studies and youth events and then leading them.

At 18, I was passionate about God and God’s people, but I also had very distinct plans for my future.

Then, one evening during worship, I heard the voice of God within and around me telling me that God had other plans. I returned home feeling a little confused, a lot anxious; wondering whether I had imagined the whole thing; praying for confirmation of God’s will in God’s Word.

The Spirit led me to Paul’s first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12-16) and the message was clear:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity….

Devote yourself to preaching and to teaching….

Watch your life and doctrine closely and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

I was surprised to discover that very few rejoiced with me that I had discovered my life’s true calling. Some ridiculed my experience. Many friends abandoned me as I abandoned the life plans that had bound us together. Even those in the church who I trusted for guidance and support seemed to throw obstacles in my way: doubts and questions I was ill-equipped to answer.

It took many years for me to candidate for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament: years in which I tried my best to live up to my calling at church, at work, at home; years in which I felt that I was giving my all but it was not good enough; years in which I grew more and more frustrated with a God who would stir up such things in my heart yet not make a way for me to use the gifts that I had been given for this particular purpose.

Yet when the way finally opened up through the non-itinerant, non-stipendiary category, there was no pat on the back; no “well done my good and faithful servant;” simply hard truths about my own limitations, about the imperfection and discomfort of what it is to be community; and, ultimately, about the true cost of discipleship.

Over the past seven years, I have had to wrestle with God and with myself.

I have listened to how my family would be butchered in front of me if I did not learn my place as a white, female minister in training. I have been afraid to close my eyes and pray after a colleague was knifed during a service I was leading by one that we had been called to serve and to love. I have grieved at the non-itinerant category being closed and felt with some of the soul friends with whom I have journeyed for so long that the church suddenly does not want the unique gifts that we have offered. I have worried about how my family are connecting with God in the diverse and different communities in which we have worshipped and served.

But today I thank God.

I thank God that as we have wrestled, God has never let go of me. I thank God for the people who have accompanied and supported and tested and taught me. I thank God for the countless moments of love and laughter and and intimacy and self-offering that have presented themselves as I have served and been served within this Methodist family. I thank God for the hundreds of babies I have held in my arms at their baptism and see now walking into Sunday School class for the first time. I thank God for the table at which we are all equal in our need of God’s grace.

But above all, I thank God for those things that have touched me in a way that has caused pain for a while but opened up new ways of being and seeing and loving.

It has been in those moments that God has shown me that obedience to God’s call is actually an invitation into intimacy with the One who made me by hand, and not the expectation of a distant and demanding God.

It has been in those moments that I have learned to be a servant and not to try and be a Saviour. God’s got that covered already!

It has been in those moments that I have experienced the liberating power of forgiveness and the full extent of people’s desperation that inspires me to love, love, LOVE; even when that love leaves me vulnerable.

It has been in those moments that I have discovered that our greatest differences from one other can indeed be our greatest gifts to each other.

It has been in those moments that I have learned to dance …
… and to let God lead.

And so, today as I whole-heartedly proclaim that I am grateful for the community of the church (as imperfect as she can be) and confident of God’s continued calling and constant presence in my life, I can only echo the words of Charles Wesley with all my heart:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own!


Monday Meditations: from ruin to restoration

The prodigal son in Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 is a well-known story; one that marks a complete journey from ruin to restoration as a young man has to hit rock bottom before he can realise the profound treasure of the family and the household into which he had been born.

Self will 

Our story starts with this young man feeling – like many young people do – the restrictions of his father’s household; the weight of expectation and responsibility; the chafing of the rules that govern how he is to behave as the son of an obviously wealthy and powerful property owner.

He wants, like we often do, to be his own person; to make his own mark on the world; to experience the fullness of life as an independent and free person who is capable of making his own decisions. But not without his father’s resources! So he tells good old dad that he wants to set off on his own and asks for his portion of the inheritance to fund his adventures – and his father obliges.

Selfishness and separation

With no one looking over his shoulder, and no responsibilities to carry, the young man’s life is truly his own and he spends his inheritance on everything his heart had ever desired. He travelled to a far off place, found himself some exotic friends, kitted himself out in the very best threads, and partied, partied, partied. All the money in the world – and he never made an investment, never purchased land of his own, never planned for the future; he lived for the present moment, for absolute pleasure – until the money ran out ….

Self-destruction 

And he began to be in need. Isn’t it interesting that none of his good-time, party time friends offered to assist him? That the inn which had probably accommodated him didn’t offer to put him up for free for a while?

He had absolutely nothing and no-one. His own choices had destroyed him but he only realised the fact when it was too late.

Shame

The only option that he had was to sell himself as a casual labourer – and the only work that he could find was in the fields tending pigs. Unclean, dirty pigs – a forbidden food in the Israelite culture – yet, in his desperation he has no other option but to look after them in the mud and the muck.

Not only does he know the shame and degradation of having to take such an inferior position – this educated son of a wealthy and powerful landowner – but it is a sign of how completely he has lost his way, turned his back on his culture, and on his God.

Starvation

Yet despite him enduring such humiliation, it is still not enough to meet his basic needs for he is paid so little that as he watches the pigs being fed, his stomach pangs with hunger and he enviously desires even that which the pigs are eating. Yet either no one notices – or no one cares – for he is not given anything.

***

Friends, this is the slippery slope of sin that leads us ever further away from our loving Father, from the household of heaven; to places of complete ruin and humiliation and despair.

We never embark on the journey with the intention to end up in the mud and the muck – but when we take that very first step of saying, “God, I just want to do things my own way for a little while” we really have no idea where we will end up.

And I need to say that all too often as Christians we say, “If God didn’t want me to pursue this path he wouldn’t have opened the door” when actually it is the path we long to pursue even knowing that it might lead us away from God and – as the story so clearly tells us – the Father is generous to the son who wants to set off on his own, allowing him the freedom and the free will to go his own way.

Are short-lived pleasures and fair-weather friends worth the separation from God; the shameful things we have to do to hide our situation or try to get out of it; the gut-wrenching, soul-destroying sense of emptiness and loneliness?

Some of us might self-righteously be thinking that we would never allow the little sins, the once-in-a-while selfishness to take us that far. Like the pharisees and the chief priests who were muttering about Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, we think we are so much better, so much smarter, so much more cautious than our neighbour which is exactly why Jesus told this story: because we are all sinners and if we have taken even one step away from the Father’s love and presence, we are on the road to ruin.

***

Fortunately, the story does not end there. It is a story about God, as much as it is a story about us, and so “ruin” can never be the final word.

Realisation

As this young man sits in the squalor and starvation of his circumstances, the realisation suddenly hits him that in this strange land in which no one cares for him or sees him, he is not being paid enough for this humiliating labour to even fill his stomach. Yet in his father’s household, the hired men are treated with such justice and respect that they even have food to spare.

He begins to see for the first time that the household full of laws and responsibilities and expectations from which he longed to escape, was a household of far more dignity and reward and kindness than what he has found in the exotic country that he longed to explore.

Resolution and repentance

And so he makes up his mind; he comes up with a plan: he will go back to his father and admit the mistakes that he has made. He will apologise for his selfishness and stupidity. He will own up to the disrespect that he has shown and throw himself on his father’s mercy, asking not to be considered a son again for he knows that he does not deserve that, but at least to be an employee, a hired man within the household. That will bring vastly more into his life than he currently has.

Return and reconciliation

He starts the long journey back home – I doubt with eager feet – probably rehearsing over and over again what he will say, imagining how his father might respond, dreading what would happen to him if he is turned away, hearing already the ridicule of the servants and of his brother.

Yet as he comes into view at the bottom of the road up to his father’s home, his father sees him and we read that his heart is moved with compassion; he runs to the son who was lost – not even needing to hear the words that had been practised – throws his arms around him and greets him with a kiss which is a sign of intimacy and trust and deep affection.

In that moment, the past is erased; the mistakes are forgiven. And as much as the young man manages to blurt out his confession, his father ignores him in the excitement of what is to happen next.

Reclothing and rejoicing

The father orders his dirty son reclothed in finery and the fattened calf slaughtered in order that all might celebrate and feast his return. He who was dead is alive again; he who was lost has been found. What a magnificent moment of reunion! It far outweighed what the young son had been expecting – this complete and utter restoration into his father’s household, this full and unhesitating embrace, this royal treatment declaring, “This is my son.”

***

When we look at the path back to the Father, it becomes clear that on the road to reconciliation God does most of the work.

Yet just as the young man had to realise the mistake he had made in demanding to be set free, let go, set off on his own – and his unworthiness to be considered a son of the Father again – so too do we need to acknowledge the extent of our wrongdoing.

I’m not talking about some simple, half-hearted prayer of confession that secures our forgiveness even when we plot and plan to repeat the behaviour again tomorrow, but of that long and painful journey back home to the Father’s heart during which we have to bear the weight of our sin and measure what it has cost ourselves and others.

The good news is that we don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to change our direction; at any step towards ruin, we can realise where we are headed towards, repent and return to God.

And the embrace of God will be unhesitant and generous. The affirmation will come, that “This is my son, my daughter, who was dead but is now alive; who was lost but now is found.”

Ruin or reconciliation, I wonder this morning what path you are on. For those of us struggling with our sin, uncertain of how to change direction, I invite you to close hear these words from God:

“Beloved daughter, beloved son,
flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart,
how I have yearned to be the arms you run to;
to wrap them tightly around you
and whisper tear-choked into your ear:

‘There is nothing that can keep you from my love –
no sin,
no worry,
no unspoken thing too big, too small
to dampen my longing
to laugh and dance and feast and sing
and work and love and rest and eat
and be …
… just be with you.

I’m sorry you’ve felt the need to stay away so long;
that you’ve thought yourself unworthy, unwelcome, unforgiven.

In my eyes
I hope you see only compassion
for the things that have hurt you,
for the times you have chosen wrong,
for the desperate, aching need to know you are loved.

In my embrace
I hope you feel how much you have been longed for,
how much you are my delight, my joy,
as my heart beats against your own.

In my welcome
I hope you believe you are at home;
that though you felt dead and distant,
you are alive and well;
that though you felt lost and alone,
you are wanted and found.

Beloved son, beloved daughter,
flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart,
I will never let you go.’”

Yours in Christ
Yvonne Ghavalas
(www.liturgies4life.com; @beloved_yvonne)


Stick to the pattern!

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Home Economics. <shudder> My most hated subject at school. Three years of heartache and pain and, to me, an imperfect report card. Why?

Because when it comes to knitting, sewing, cooking, I just can’t seem to stick to the pattern!

While my academic agony was easily solved by dropping the subject as soon as I could, my problem with pattern-following perseveres because the Christian life is all about following the directions and instructions of God.

In his letter to the Philippians (3:17-4:1), the apostle Paul speaks about two possible patterns for living: as enemies of the cross or imitators of Christ.

Naturally, none of us would comfortably consider that we might be enemies of the cross. We love the cross. We are grateful for what Jesus endured upon it to secure our life and freedom. But does that necessarily make us Imitators of Christ?

Paul tells us that it is neither words nor intention that demonstrates what pattern we are following, but how we conduct out lives.

As we look carefully at the passage, we discover that enemies of the cross share the following in conduct:

  1. They follow their appetite – for food, for sex, for luxurious things, for power and control, for reputation. Self-gratification and self-indulgence are their primary concerns in life. They worship what they want and don’t really consider the cost or the consequences of their relentless pursuit to satisfy their desires; to feel “full.” Their use of their resources shows exactly where their heart is: check out where they spend their time or what makes up the majority of their monthly expenses and you’ll know exactly what their priorities are.
  2. They brag about shameful things – putting a positive spin on what is not good or right. They can get 100 likes on Facebook for “kicking that cow to the curb” or two thumbs-up for teaching the guy who tried to cut them off in the traffic a good lesson. They make fun of those who pay their help above minimum wage or who are waiting to be deeply in love with another before sharing in the intimacy of sex. Their racist comments are re-shared because they’re just SO funny but all the time they are putting into the world that which breaks down and devastates without a second thought.
  3. They are preoccupied with the present – with this life, the here and now. They want to live life to its fullest which means that they don’t have to be particularly mindful of the needs of others, or to discipline and self-control. Many of them will still take out “heavenly life insurance” so that they can carry on with their before Christ life while securing their place in heaven should something go severely wrong as they party and play.

An imitator of Christ follows a completely different pattern:

  1. They live as citizens of heaven – recognising that from the moment they accept Christ as Lord and Saviour, life MUST be different. They are no longer part of this world but strangers, foreigners, exiles; uncomfortable with the status quo and with how things used to be done. Self-gratification and self-indulgence are replaced with kingdom-building, sacrifice and self-offering. This can be seen in the way that they give generously of their time and money to helping out others and making the world a little better.
  2. They hope for Christ’s coming – recognising that they will never be perfect but that it is Christ himself who takes their weakness and their sinfulness and transforms them from glory into glory. They spend more time confessing their need for God’s grace and mercy than praying for the things they want. They genuinely desire to be true and holy and strive to be more like Christ day after day.
  3. They become a pattern to follow – imitating Christ so that others may also find a precious, significant, life-giving pattern to follow. They have a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of others so they watch their conduct carefully – knowing that what they put out there can turn people to or away from the One that they love. They seek to be Jesus’s hands, feet and mouth visible and tangible in the world until he comes again.

An enemy of the cross or an imitator of Christ? What does your actual, real, visible conduct suggest you are patterning your life after?

Maybe it’s not so neatly one or the other. Perhaps there is an area in both that may be a strength or a particular struggle. Maybe you find it easy to be an imitator of Christ on a Sunday but slip into an enemy of the cross on a Monday?

It is not easy to follow Christ’s pattern.

But as Paul urges the church at Philippi to stay true to the Lord, I encourage you to stick to the pattern so that as others follow in our footsteps, they may find themselves in fact following in the footsteps of Christ.

Yours in Christ

Yvonne


Signed up for Soul Clean?

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After the Israelites had gained access to the Promised Land, they needed a more permanent place to keep the Ark of the Covenant which was, in essence, a sign of God’s continuing presence with them. So God revealed to King David and his son, Solomon, very specific instructions for the construction of a temple in Jerusalem to which all of God’s people could travel regularly in order to worship God, offer thanks, and make atonement for their sins.

After the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his disciples and apostles began to teach that God’s presence was no longer confined to the Temple (remember how at the moment of Jesus’s death the veil that kept people from looking upon the Ark of the Covenant was torn in two) but with and within us through the gift of God’s Spirit.

Paul, in particular, began to speak of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit; the living residence of a living and holy God.

Often, at the start of Lent, when we examine the condition of our temples, we recognise with despair just how dirty and disorganised our lives have become – not at all conducive to an intimate relationship with God. In fact, if our houses looked like our hearts, we would probably be too embarrassed to invite our friends over!

Soul Clean is a five-week Lenten journey that helps us, in partnership with God, to begin clearing out some of the cobwebs and the clutter – in our priorities, in our past, in our boundaries, in our self-talk and everyday language, and in our worldview – that we might begin to enjoy the peace and order and possibility and significance of a life built on Christ as cornerstone.

Accompanying the inner, spiritual journey this Lent may be a physical journey through the practice of fasting. There will be specific support for those who seek to develop this discipline. Please use this space to identify what it truly is that you need to give up or cut down on in order to deepen the spiritual journey on which you find yourself. You may discover that God longs less for you to cut out meat or carbohydrates from your diet than a particularly toxic relationship or time-consuming practice from your life!

Should you wish to join us as we order our spiritual temples, please contact the office to sign up so that we can prepare a set of material for you. The cost is R100 payable in cash or by EFT (reference Soul Clean + Surname).

Written and facilitated by Rev. Y. Ghavalas


Monday Meditations: Building God’s holy temple

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As exciting and wonderful as it can be to worship in a large, fully-kitted out sanctuary, in Ephesians 2:17-22, God invites us to look beyond the bricks and tiles and blueprints of our church to the kind of spiritual dwelling that is made up of each person who gathers each week in work and worship to the glory of God.

Now much as there are many requirements to starting a physical building project such as surveying the site and drawing up plans, estimating costs and securing financing, selecting builders and researching suppliers and so on, today I would like to offer a spiritual checklist which we can use as we create a temple in which God is quite at home.

The first requirement of a home fit for God is that everyone must belong. EVERYONE MUST BELONG.

In the early Church there were huge arguments between those who converted to Christianity from the Jewish faith and those who were considered unclean pagans before they encountered Christ. Those who came from a Jewish background felt that they were somehow closer to God, part of God’s special people and ongoing plan, and they distrusted and judged very harshly those who had once kept slaves, indulged in orgies, and worshipped other gods before being touched by the good news of God’s self-sacrificing love for them.

Paul told them clearly, as he tells us today, that in God’s house there are no insiders or outsiders. No one person is better than a second. No minister more important than a member. No gender or age or ethnic group superior to another. No sinner more deserving of God’s grace than the sinner seated next to them.

Through the cross, every one of us has been reconciled to God – and made equals with one another. We share the same Spirit: the Spirit in me is the Spirit in you; the Spirit in you is the Spirit in me. And we all have equal access to God the Father.

Do you feel like you belong? Have you made people who come into this place know that this is a temple in which God is quite at home by making them feel at home, like they’re your equal, your brother, your sister?

Now, it’s very easy to feel at times that we have been left out, excluded. And it’s very easy to point the finger at how another has treated us to justify those emotions.

But in a house fit for God, not only does everyone belong but everyone takes their place. EVERYONE MUST TAKE THEIR PLACE.

You see friends, through the cross everyone is made equal in their sin, equal in Christ’s forgiveness, equal in God’s Spirit – irrespective of how or when we got here. You are all welcome. You are all wanted.

But each of us has to choose what we will do with that message of acceptance and belonging: will we settle down and be part of the family (or for some of us it’s been so long that we feel indeed more like part of the furniture), or will we carry on roaming, wandering around like exiles looking for the perfect spiritual home that has already been built?

It is true for many of us today that we find it hard to settle in, to put down roots, to be planted so deeply into the kingdom of faith and a Christian community that we are prepared to stick it out when the minister changes or the worship team hasn’t been on form for a while or the finances aren’t looking good or someone has thoughtlessly said something that hurt or offended us.

And so we move – we move to a place with a better Easter program or a fully kitted-out sound system or more welcoming members until, in some way, they also disappoint us and we have to find yet again a better place in which to belong.

But the final requirement of a temple in which God is quite at home is that everyone who belongs and everyone who has chosen to take their place is always building to make things better. WE MUST BUILD TO MAKE THINGS BETTER.

There is no such thing as the perfect church, and in chasing the dream of a place that will will always make us happy, always feel like home, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to share in the creative, transformative power of God.

It is God who holds all things together; Christ the cornerstone on whom God’s church is built – not miraculously as in instantaneously, but day after day, stone after stone, brick after brick and – most importantly – person after person as each and every one of us realises that we have a part to play in God’s temple coming together.

How can you be part of building a spiritual home in which God is happy to dwell?

  1.  If you don’t feel like you belong, chat to one of our ministers or leaders because God loves you and we want to know how to express that love better if we’re not showing it very well.
  2. If you feel like Calvary is home but each week you simply come and go like a visitor, commit to belonging here by giving your details to the church office and looking for a small group to connect with.
  3. If you have been affirmed as a servant leader in our community, stay true to Christ, remember your vows (which can be found here: Affirmation Vows), honour your commitments, and seek ways in which to grow.
  4. If you haven’t yet begun to participate in our building project, start reading the bulletin with new eyes and listening to appeals from the pulpit for the place in which God would have your hands, your gifts, your time employed to the glory of God and the growth of our community.

And may God, the Architect of the Whole Universe, oversee all of our work and plans.

Yours in Christ
Yvonne

 

 

 

 


Monday Meditations: God, our Reason for being

Based on Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 4:21-30 and Sunday’s sermon by Rev. Sva Waqu

Without God, our lives are full of emptiness and unless we take time to ask God to fill us, we will always be empty for our lives originate in God.

God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about how he had been formed and made. Likewise, we are not made from nothingness but by the voice of God. Our origins are not in our mother’s womb but in God’s loving and caring heart. God is our cause; our lives the effect, the consequence of God’s power and love. We need to come to a space of acknowledging this Cause if we are able to commit ourselves faithfully to following Christ and to discover that our lives are bigger than we had ever imagined.

Poor Jeremiah. God appointed him to be a prophet but he was terrified of his inability to speak before others. Yet God reminded him of his sacred origins. And unless we acknowledge our sacred origins, our fears and anxieties will continue to hold us in their grip and keep us from the life that God has imagined for us.

The greatest danger for us as Christians is that the Cause and Source of our lives and significance becomes for us insignificant – that in our attempt to domesticate God to the confines of Sunday worship, God loses significance not just for us but for the whole world. For God’s covenant is not for us as individuals but an expression of love for all. When we fail to play our part, it seems to those around us that God is actually the one who fails, who falls into irrelevance in our consumer-driven lives.

It is in these consumer-driven lives that we discover what we try to fill the voids in our life with – the things that capture our attention and draw us away from the Cause. It is when we realize that God is the true Cause and Reason for our being that we are able to find healing and wholeness and transformation. When there are faults or brokenness in our lives, we do not need to become despondent but motivated to strive for perfection.

In our covenant moment, God asks, “Why have you abandoned me? Why have you failed to be stimulated by my love? Why have you allowed your anxieties to consume you? Why have you taken me for granted?”

May we again put God first in our lives – not in order to secure the lovely life we have hoped for, but that we might be open to the effect of God in and through us.

 

 


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