Sunday, 13 January 2019

Sunday service : Transitions in our life

This morning Liz, our Anglican reverend, lead our Sunday service and we looked at transitions in our life. How do we deal with change?

   

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Selah

This post has originally appeared in one of our villager's blogs, definitely worth following: www.mountaingrace.blogspot.com. Thank you Maria for giving us permission to re-post it here!

It is a new year... Cicadas' buzzing song infuses the heat and the cat is stretched long and limp at my feet. On cool forest walks, we spot the first wild mushrooms, with the Rameron Pigeons cooing in the forest canopy. Bramble berries ripen in the sun. It is a season of abundance, fruit trees bend low under the weight of mellowing fruit, fields of wild flowers dazzle, lush green foliage whisper in the breeze. The call of the seldom seen but often heard Piet my Vrou/Red Chested Cuckoo (called the Christmas-bird by the Xhosa people for obvious reasons) has become more drawn out and less urgent. The glossy starlings amuse us with their friendly chatter. A pair of inquisitive yellow billed hornbills come to perch on our deck-railings, clearly finding us as interesting as we find them. When the sun beats down, we slip into a nearby dam, mud curling between our toes. These long Summer days seemed endless, and "playtime" came to an end all too soon. We shed our childlike skins and square our shoulders to face reality. The pace picks up and time just skips ahead - an impatient child, rather hard to keep up with.

As with previous years, I hoped to have a bible verse to make my own at the beginning of this year. A verse which would be like a reminder or promise or a "theme" for 2019. Instead, I got a word: Selah...

It is not even a word that is read out loud most of the time. A mysterious little word, with no clear interpretation or translation. In many translations of the bible, it is just spelt out phonetically from the Hebrew. The NIV have removed it altogether. It appears 74 times in the bible, 71 times in Psalms, 3 times in the book of Habakkuk. That makes it more frequent than two other "famous" Hebrew words from the bible, "Amen" and "Hallelujah". So it is an important word. Up to very recently, I just had no idea what it meant, or how I could apply it to my every day.

Some biblical scholars speculate that it’s a kind of musical notation, maybe indicating something like a key change, or a repeat. Others think maybe it marks a pause, or a shift in subject or tone. But it is still just speculation. The word Selah is, and will remain, a mystery.

For me, that’s kind of fitting. Some people may think that the Bible is simple, straightforward, and that they have it all figured out. Psalms, and especially "Selah" reminds me that there are many unanswered questions, many mysteries, "For now we see through a glass, dimly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Cor 13:12

Charles Spurgeon (the Prince of Preachers) wrote a beautiful interpretation of the word Selah - Lift up the heart. Rest in contemplation and praise. Still keep the soul in tune... let it be our aim to maintain the uprising devotion of our grateful hearts...

With that in mind, I thought to look at one Psalm and how "Selah" lifts my heart, moves me to rest in contemplation and praise, keeping my soul in tune, maintaining the uprising devotion of my grateful heart.

I chose Psalm 46. Two years ago our boys memorised this Psalm verse by verse. Reading it, I still see their faces, frowning with concentration and dramatising the "dramatic" parts with flourish.

Psalm 46 is not advice, like Proverbs or Psalm 1. It’s not about me, or you or anyone else. Psalm 46 is about God. It is reassurance about who our God is, where God is, and what God has promised us.

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.


Firstly, our God is a God of Might. Selah. God is our strength. The one who breaks the bow and shatters the spear, who will, on the wonderful day appointed by Him, make wars cease to the end of the earth. Or, as Martin Luther famously paraphrased this Psalm: A Mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing! (bulwark: a defensive wall, rampart, fortification, protector, guard, defender; or a ship's sides above the level of the deck.)

Our God is a God of Might.

Secondly, our God is a God of Mystery. Selah. Psalm 46 reminds me that no matter how desperately I want to understand why things happen in this world, why God does or does not do the things I may think God should do… there will always be some things beyond my ability to comprehend.

I value this mystery because it enables me to feel and trust in God’s love… love that was fully revealed in Christ Jesus. It reminds me that we are the players of life in God's universe, not the playwright.

God is always greater than our understanding of Him and there will always be mystery about Him that causes us to fall down in awe and worship. This mystery, which we may try to categorise, keeps causing struggles in our life. Every time we get God tidied up like a ball of rubber bands, another end bursts out and the struggle begins all over again... until we learn to live in faith with untidy ends. If everything was clear, then faith would be irrelevant! We are not called to solve the mystery... but enter it.


Our God is a God of Might, and a God of Mystery.

But finally, and perhaps most importantly, our God is in our Midst. Selah

Immanuel.

God with us, among us, ever present;

Before we were born, throughout our lives, and after our days are done;

God who stands with us and strengthens us today and for the road ahead;

God who watches over us, guides us, protects us, comforts us. Selah.

Might, Mystery in our Midst...

So, as the year and the unknown stretches out before you and I, lets enter into the mystery, with trusting hearts lifted up to our Mighty God. Resting in contemplation, with souls in tune, keeping the uplifted devotion of our grateful hearts.

Post by Maria Gladwin from her blog In the Shadow of His wings
https://mountaingrace.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Sunday Sermon: Emmanuel

Sermon by David Williams
Readings:
Is 7:1-17, Matt 1:18-24

What is your preparation for Christmas? When did you start?  God started centuries before, as soon as the first sin occurred (Gen 3).  Do you raise the hype?  God gave many foretastes, prophecies of a coming Messiah. Many are in Isaiah (eg Is 9, 53 etc), a turbulent time when the message gave hope – is our situation too easy?

How is your knowledge of Old Testament history?  The kingdom was divided Israel/Judah after Solomon.  In the eighth century, Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria threatened Judah, wanting help against Assyria, the dominant power.  Judah needed help!  Are things ganging up on you? You need help!  They thought of appealing to Assyria; Isaiah said to trust in God.

The king, Ahaz, did not want to trust in God without reassurance, and demanded a sign.  God gave a message that God was with them, the sign of Emmanuel (God is with us).  When a young woman is with child, her deliverance is inevitable, and will be soon – so it will be with them, because God was with them.  Here there is no miracle – they were told to trust in God’s word.  It was a small sign, but with a big promise!

It was not enough for Ahaz, who appealed to Assyria, who indeed came and dealt with Pekah and Rezin.  But! A human solution became a problem, and Assyria then soon threatened Judah – was God indeed with them?  But God was indeed with them, and not so long afterwards, in 722BC, came a decisive defeat of Assyria by the angel (Is 37:33f).  But did they learn? Not long after that, the next king entertained emissaries from Babylon, the ascendant world power, which a century later conquered Judah and took it into exile.

Then came Matthew 1, another situation where salvation resulted, not politically, but from individual sin, and Matthew cites the same sign of Emmanuel.  Even after centuries, the Bible was still relevant – and still is.  But now the sign is upgraded!  This time it is really a virgin, who has conceived.  So there is a stress on GRACE!  (it must be noted here that the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7 definitely means “young woman” and not “virgin”, but the translators into Greek two centuries before Christ rendered it as “virgin”, a translation cited by Matthew.

But now the sign of Emmanuel carries a deeper meaning as it is applied to the incarnation. Jesus gives a deeper relation; God works within a person, not just outside in society.  He gives a fuller salvation, eternal life, not just temporary solution.

Interestingly Matthew then adds chapter 2, the response of worship.  It deals with three kings from the east, now coming in peace, not as the Assyrians.  They brought tribute, not taking it! They are often called “wise men”; here their wisdom led to Jesus.

So what is Christmas for you?  Matthew stresses that Jesus is fully God, now with us.  The book of Hebrews elaborates: The Son is superior to earthly power. The Son is superior to wisdom.  And the Son is superior to angels, even those who defeated the Assyrians!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Mike Griffith passed away peacefully on Friday, 9 November 2018, aged 85, after a rich life.  He was surrounded by love and care.

At the end Mike was surrounded with care and love: his wife, Carole; his nurse, Miriam; Carole’s generous friend, Tonya who left her home and business to help; and his daughter, Laurel who had come from New Zealand. A touching item was when father and daughter sang Mike’s favourite song Oh Holy Night! to Michele in Grahamstown During the last few months, many Hogsbackians visited to help and encourage Mike and Carole as Mike became more frail. 

Mike was a gentle man. Like so many who eventually lived at Hogsback, he would bring his family for picnics and then in 1980 he bought the property as a family holiday home.  It was meant to be a refuge and he was happy never to leave. Appropriately, he named his home Tanquility.  Mike has three children: Michele who lives in Grahamstown; Laurel in Wellington, New Zealand; and Gary, an Anglican priest, in New Zealand. Mike has six grandchildren, one in China teaching English, and the others are all in New Zealand.
Mike and Carole at their home. They had met in East London when their children were young and later, in 2013, they married in St Patrick’s. The remarkable groom was 80 at the time and had a smile on his face every day!
Although he was born in Johannesburg, Mike spent most of his career in East London. From his school days he was a leader. He had that air of confidence that creates respect from others. His leadership was crowned by being elected by his fellows as the Custodian of the Key and then selected by the staff as Head Prefect of Selborne College.  His peers recognised this leadership role throughout his life. He had a beautiful tenor voice and would sing in church as a chorister. He was an outstanding sportsman representing the school in three team sports and was captain of two of them. He was Sportsman of the Year at Selborne College in 1952 and was selected as the opening bat in the South African schools XI.
The Border Cricket side of 1960/61. Mike played for Border as a batsman for ten years


He worked for the Weir Group and became MD of the Agriculture Group. To show his enterprise, he volunteered to go to Dordrecht even though it is an Afrikaans region and his Afrikaans was not strong. Not only did he learn to speak Afrikaans, but he stayed for three years and during that time he scored the highest turn-over ever.
The Directors of the Weir Group of Companies. Mike was MD of the Agriculture Division and was the top dealer for three years and was awarded a trip to London to meet the President of Massey-Ferguson worldwide 

Mike was a faithful Christian. He was a lay minister and conducted services in neighbouring towns. He was in demand to conduct weddings. He was a loyal member of the St Patrick’s Chapel and was elected to the Council, a position he held for over a decade. Another major contribution of his, together with his friend, Neil Cooper, was to conduct the Christmas and Easter Arboretum services in the forest. 
Mike, at a recent Council meeting 
Mike was kind. Mike’s life has been one of service to his community. He has lived in Hogsback for many years during which time he has made a huge impact. As a businessman he ran the shop for a while but unfortunately had a huge setback when the business did not succeed. It says a lot for his tenacity that he bounced back. Of recent years he has been an estate agent where many Hogsback residents will attest to his kindness in ensuring that they were looked after. Many of the house sales in Hogsback, have his imprint on them. He was Chairman of the Hobbiton-on-Hogsback Association and spent many years on the Community Police Forum to ensure security for the Hogsback community. 

One of the most special aspects of his life is how he has gone out of his way to help the needy with some amazing accomplishments. On one occasion he heard a young primary school child, Sipho, sing in the kitchen of the Lighthouse Steak Ranch (previously called The Enchanted Tree House restaurant) where Mike was eating. He asked to speak to the boy and suggested they sing ‘Silent Night’ together, as it was Christmas time. Together the two sang ‘Silent Night’ to the delight of the other patrons. Mike managed to get Sipho to sing in the chapel during the Carol Service where he wowed the congregation and a visitor offered to sponsor him to go to the Drakensberg Choir that year! Mike managed to get him accepted and Sipho was able to experience the highest level of voice training and education for a year. Earlier, he was able to help another disadvantaged child from Hogsback, Luke, to be adopted, and after 13 years is now at Bishop’s in Cape Town. Mike has enriched many particularly showing compassion when conducting weddings; helping the needy and even selling houses.

You have enriched our lives and the community. 

We shall miss you, Mike.

By Trevor Webster

Mike loved his Hogsback home, Tranquility, and would greet visitors on the ramp Fritz built to enable him to use his walking frame; guests were greeted with this cheerful sign above the door showing how much they were appreciated

Monday, 22 October 2018

What does God want? (Sunday service by David Williams)

Readings:
Ez 33:1-9, 
1 Tim 2:1-8




It is always so sad to stand in front of the church and see empty pews.  Why do people not come? (but thanks to those who do!) This demands the question...
Why are we here? What do people want? 

They want fellowship, music, to feel God, all good reasons, but really secondary.  The essence of Christianity is to relate to God, and to yield to Him.  The Bible’s favourite title for God is “LORD”, in both Testaments.  In salvation, we are transferred to His Kingdom. So there is a question …
What does God want us to be if he is Lord? 1 Timothy 2:2 gives an answer: Quiet and peaceable, Godly and respectful.  In short, in HARMONY with others and with God In this we reflect the nature of God as Trinity, three Persons in full harmony – we are in His image – incidentally 3 Persons are ONE God (1 Tim 2:6).

What does God want us to have (1 Tim 2:4)?  He desires the salvation of all, and that all have the knowledge of the truth, in short, LIFE! – both for now and forever.  Again as in his image, this reflects the nature of God, who is life.

This is what God wants; what has He done (1 Tim 2:6-7)?  Thank Him for that!  God sent His son, to teach and die so we know how to live now and forever.  AND God sent His servants, which also means us.

So what should WE do?  Obviously seek to live right and proclaim, but Paul puts something else FIRST of all (1 Tim 2:1), our priority …
  • Pray!  It is God’s work that we need

For all, even those we do not like, irritate us, harm us etc. For rulers, even those who misrule, are corrupt, even persecute.  Remember the emperor at the time was Nero

This means that we have a responsibility; we are called to stand in breach to ask God not to bring judgement on those who deserve it (Ps 106:23, Ex 32:7-14)
                        We are watchmen Ez 22:30, 33:1-20
                        We are intercessors 1 Sam 12:23
                         But if we do not …, then we answer to God

Are we serious? If he is our LORD, we MUST pray!  Indeed, we must supplicate (1 Tim 2:1), so urge, beseech, implore!