Meditations

Below you will find various meditations. Our Facebook page also provides additional meditations and daily Bible readings.

Lectio Divina is an ancient way of “praying the Scriptures”. Find instructions directly below:

Instructions for Lectio Divina

1. Arrange the group into a circle

2. Explain what you are going to do

3. Take a moment to quieten your mind/heart and prepare to listen

4. Have someone read the Scripture passage (slowly)

5. Pause for silence

6. Tell the group that you are going to read the passage again and that as they are listening they should choose a single word or very short phrase from the passage that particularly impacts them.

7. Read the passage again (slowly)

8. Pause for silence

9. Go around the circle and have each person say their word (and nothing else)

10. Tell the group that you are going to read the passage again and that then you will go round and ask them to briefly explain why they chose their word.

11. Read the passage again (slowly)

12. Go around again and have everyone briefly explain why they chose the word they chose.

Variations

• Instead of a single word, ask participants to offer a single emotion that the passage makes them feel then explain. • Instead of a single word, ask participants what title they would give the passage and explain.

Nothing is Really Lost

The moving and consoling message of Easter is that the God who raised Jesus from the dead promised that He will always find us. Like Ken Wilber who promised his dying wife Trya that he will find her again, no matter what happens, we may also, during this time of Easter, know that the God of Christ will never leave or forget us; that this God will always look for us and find us, no matter where we are, no matter how lost, desperate and disheartened we feel.

How this happens we clearly see in those gospel stories where it is reported how Jesus searched out different people after his resurrection. This was what Jesus did in the forty days between Easter and Pentecost – to seek those who were lost or got stuck in fear, sorrow and despondency, and to share with them the new life that he had acquired through his death and resurrection.

A well known theologian pointed out that these forty days in which Jesus appeared to various people were working days in which He deliberately went after his lost sheep, his disillusioned and heartbroken followers. In finding them He also shared with them the gift of new life, the fruit of his resurrection. Like God’s people in Isaiah 61:10-11 we may now rejoice in the Lord, knowing that God has clothed us with the garments of salvation and covered us with the robe of righteousness.

What a wonderful and consoling message, because it means that nothing is really lost or hopeless; that there are always new possibilities, unforseen avenues of hope. Because Jesus is alive and is again looking today through his Spirit to find us.

Do you know this? Have you ever considered what this means? More importantly:have you ever allowed God to find you?

Carel Anthonissen

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The Longing for One Thing Only

I often drive past the airport on my way to Cape Town and remember a childhood fascination, a dream to become a pilot. In the Karoo where I grew up, one only rarely sees an aeroplane overhead, thus my awe at seeing these awkward birds probably lasted longer than for many others.  Now, for different reasons, the longing to be a pilot sometimes returns.

We seem presently to have busy schedules and severely fragmented lives; we live, as someone called it, in a “besotted humdrum age of spiritual blindness”. So, nowadays, when I see a Boeing or an Airbus lifting off, I often think: “Wouldn’t it be nice to be that pilot in the cockpit, whose assignment is to do only the one thing, and that is to fly the aeroplane – to get it off the ground, take it to the skies and steer it to its destination”.

Of course I know that a pilot’s ‘one task’ entails a whole range of skills and responsibilities. But, all in all, it does involve a singular focus, dedication to one clear thing only: to keep the plane on course for a long time, patiently, persistently and perhaps, given the technological efficiency of these flying machines, even with a sense of boredom. (I recently heard a tongue-in-cheek remark that pilots are nothing more than glorified bus drivers!)

Well, that is precisely what I am after some days – not having to hurry from pillar to post, trying to manage ten things at a time, but to be committed to one thing only, even if others were to view it as uncreative and boring.

Another word to express this one thing that I long for is, of course, simplicity.

I am sure that similar thoughts must have occurred to you as well. Do we not share a deep longing to be able to focus on one thing only?

According to the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of those who are pure in heart (Matt 5:8). To those who have discovered the gift of simplicity, who first seek God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness as the one thing that matters above all (Matt 6:33), Jesus promises that they will be able to see God.

Which seems to make perfect sense.

Carel Anthonissen

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It is about Our Way of Life

Karen Armstrong started her adult life dedicated to her faith as a sister in a religious order.  At a later stage she left the order and became well-known as an author, writing about faith in a modern age.

In a recently televised talk she made the point that true religion is not about correct dogmas or doctrines but about a specific kind of behaviour, a way of life. In her words: “True religion is about behaving differently. Only then do you begin to understand the doctrines – how they become a summons to action”. In her most recent book she describes this approach to life as one of compassion towards all people.

Armstrong makes an important point, reminding of something we, strangely enough, tend easily to forget. Often we are anxious and desperately eager to defend our own faith, to prove that our tradition or doctrine represents the only and final truth. And then we forget that the essence of the Christian faith is discipleship; it is about following Jesus and imitating his way.
If there is one thing which can convince people that it is worthwhile to believe in this Jewish prophet, then it will be this: living life according to the example he set.

The 19th century Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, wrote extensive reflections on the Sermon on the Mount in which he stressed exactly this important lesson on lifestyle.  In 1884 he wrote the following to a good friend: “There is one way to live joyously and that is to be an apostle. Not just in the sense of going around and talking, but in the sense that your arms, and your legs, and your stomach, and your sides as well as your tongue, all serve the truth…”
In these words we hear an echo of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21 where he expressly states: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”.

It is indeed about what we do, how our faith is lived, about a way of life.

Carel Anthonissen

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A Parable for Our Daily Christian Lives and for Lent

On a recent visit to the Free State, I was charmed as ever, by the beauty of the wide horizon, the high sky crowned with summer clouds, the soft white plumes of grass.  There has not been enough rain everywhere, but in the main the mealies were high and green, the red cattle gleaming.

But whatever the season, the present prosperity or lack of it, there was hospitality in abundance.  Wherever our small company went, we were fêted and fed and provided for in very possible way.  We were invited to explore the activities on the various farms we visited and I was impressed by the farmers and humbled by the organizational abilities of their wives.
And to my delight, in the evenings, at the dinner table, we listened to the stories of the area.

One small tale remains with me.  It was told by a salesman who was spending the night; just a simple telling of a scene he had observed while driving on the back roads of the farms.  But listening, I heard it as a parable – for our daily Christian lives, and even for Lent.

Driving along, recounted the traveller, he saw what he thought was a sad and ironic sight:  there were two fields, separated only by a stretch of fairly high barbed wire.  On the one side of the fence the grass stood tall and lush; the farmer was obviously saving this piece of veldt for when the season would change and become more sparse.  The other side of the fence was badly over-grazed, there was little more than sand and pebbles left.

And up and down against the fence, up and down in this barren field, went an old donkey and an old horse.  They walked together, two old friends, and every now and then they would stop and, lifting their heads over the fence (the donkey needed a bit of a stretch), they would gaze at the riches beyond their grasp.

There was a gate, ended the traveller, I could see it glittering in the distance.  But alas, and his eyes were now both laughing and sad, there was no one to open it….
Yes, I thought, it is a true parable for our time, and for our fragmented society.  But who is to open the gate, if not those who claim to be the followers of Christ?

Carel Anthonissen

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The Church of the Streets

‘Christ died for the ungodly’. These radical words caught my eye on a poster a friend had on her wall. Such extreme sayings often make us feel uncomfortable. We tend to claim God and Christ for ourselves, thinking of him in our own terms only. And surely, we don’t consider ourselves to be ungodly! No, we think that Christ belongs mostly (if not exclusively) to those of us inside the church, those of us who know him. The church has a way of domesticating and sanitizing our image of Christ so that it suits who we are. But in the process we remove the sharp edges of the gospel in a manner that may miss the central message.

Christ didn’t come to make us feel comfortable. I want to repeat that: Christ didn’t come to make us feel comfortable. Christ didn’t come in the first place for those who are saved, because they’re not in need of salvation. He came for those who desperately need him because they’re the outcasts, the wretched of society; because they’re shoved to the margins and excluded. The kingdom of God is meant for such people.  That is where Christ positions himself.  As followers of Christ, we cannot want to be anywhere else. As the body of Christ, we, members of the church, need simply to be where he is. That may bring us into some rather uncomfortable places! In the words of Charles Villa-Vicencio:
“It is in the church on the margins and on the edges of the institutional churches and outside of these structures – in the church of the streets – that the hope of Christian renewal is found”.

Christ’s positioning of himself indeed challenges our positioning of ourselves. We may find ourselves being challenged to accept and embody an identity of ‘church of the streets’ and church of and for all those who are excluded.
This is perhaps best articulated through an experience I recently had. One evening, it could already have been early morning, as I was stepping out of a club, a place that is frequented by large numbers of young people; I had a glimpse of what I think the revelation of God in Jesus is all about.

Coming out of the flashing of the neon lights inside, my eyes had to adjust to the darkness outside. The pulsating music and the heat radiating from the moving bodies inside made me feel as if I was being thrust out onto the pavement.  Pausing for a moment to take a breath and looking up, I looked straight into the light-flooded statue of Jesus on the Catholic Church premises across the street. Jesus stood there, facing me, his open arms raised above his head, clearly in a gesture of blessing. He looked radiant. His embodiment reached out to mine. His light became my light; Christ for me, yes, but also Christ for all those out on the streets. Christ was there, moving us to become the church of the streets, the church of and for the excluded ones.

Laurie Gaum

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Please also Look at Her

From time to time incidents occur which can leave us feeling extremely embarrassed, almost sheepish, but from which we can hopefully learn some important lessons.

Like that evening at a party when a friend suddenly leaned over to me, touched my arm and whispered: “Don’t you please also want to look at my partner while you are talking”.

Without knowing or consciously intending it I was so carried along by one of my own stories that I had ignored his friend and shut her out of our conversation.

But this can happen and it always leaves a bad taste.  Because by forgetting to include the other by looking their way, you actually communicate that they are not important; that the rest of the company  is far more interesting. To experience this subtle form of exclusion while you are supposed to feel part and parcel of a group, can be quite painful.

Fortunately the opposite is also true – that when we look at people while addressing them, we  affirm and strengthen their sense of selfworth and dignity.  In fact, there are few things more exciting and rewarding when meeting other people, especially also strangers, than catching their eyes and noticing support and approval, that familiar spark of trust and affection.

Our Lord Jesus knew the value of looking at people. In John 1:42 we read: “Jesus looked at him and said: ‘So you are Peter the son of John?.You shall be called Cephas’ ”.  And a little while later when Nathanael asked Him: “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”.

We all need people to see and acknowledge us.

Carel Anthonissen

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The Magic Circle of Silence

I have a friend who believes that, periodically, moments of silence are vital for a meaningful life. Not only does he faithfully practice such a discipline himself, but he also likes to share his experience with others.

A while ago he exposed his two sons and a friend, all three of them still in primary school, to this in a special way.

They were on holiday near a big lagoon where he challenged them to a new game – one which, in his words, would demand a special kind of courage. One of the boys asked him whether they would have to swim across the lagoon, to which he laughingly answered: “No, not that. What I will ask of you will perhaps require even more courage”. And then he explained.

“Each one of you must find himself a special spot along the edge of the water. I will then draw a magic circle around you. For the next half an hour you have to stay inside this circle and you must try to remain completely quiet. You are not allowed to bring anything into or take anything out of the circle; so, for example, no throwing stones into the water. All you are to do while keeping the silence, is to be alert and watchful – to open you eyes and ears and to become aware of what is happening in and around you”.

Surprisingly, and contrary to his expectations, there was hardly any protest to his proposal. Even more amazing was that when they reunited after half an hour, the boys were eager to tell what they had experienced, what they had seen and heard. One told about tiny insects and interesting stones he had observed in his magic circle, the other about some fish rising to the surface of the lagoon. The crowning moment for all of them had been the sudden call of a fish eagle.

My friend was surprised and deeply touched by what he heard. In his words: “We did not talk about God or Christ. It was not necessary. The silence helped us to become more deeply aware of God’s wonderful creation, and to enjoy it. And that was enough.”
Which emphasised again that we should never forget or underestimate the hidden riches of silence.

Carel Anthonissen

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A Trace of Warmth

Recently I spent a few days on a guest farm in the Karoo with some Danish friends. They found the rooms, the garden and the surrounding landscape impressive. Most impressive of all, particularly for the children who found the summer heat overwhelming, was the swimming pool. They enjoyed the water quite exuberantly.

What made a deeper impression eventually, was the way our hostess received and treated us. She is what one would call a traditional homemaker. Her natural inclination to care and to be hospitable has grown into a way of living which is almost contagious. Without being intrusive she was always close by with a friendly smile and a gentle question, always intent on assuring that all her guests were satisfied and comfortable. I noticed that she had a special and endearing gesture: from time to time she would reach out and lightly touch a guest, as if to remind them that she was there, that she noticed them, and cared.

Not all people feel comfortable with such human touch, especially from a stranger. For them, such a gesture comes across as intrusive, as an overstepping of boundaries.  Referring to the ways people sometimes embrace in saying hello, a friend was once very outspoken: “I actually hate it when people touch me all the time”.  Even so, when human touch and embrace are sincere and respectful, it mostly leaves a trace of warmth and humanness.

How desperately we need this in a society where mistrust and wariness, caution and distance have become the watchwords.  At times our divided communities exhibit a spirit that can be almost as chilly as the biting cold of the Karoo in winter. It is not surprising that our hostess’s unexpected but warm welcome and kind touch remained one of the most lasting impressions of the Danish visitors.

Carel Anthonissen

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It’s never too late

The other day at a wedding I met a woman who plays the violin. She has brought together a small ensemble that is often invited to entertain the guests with their music at some stage during the ceremony. We talked about her love of music – of how she already started playing the violin at the age of four, and how to this day she still enjoys it, also sharing her love and knowledge as a music teacher.

My conversation with her touched on an important, but sensitive matter for me because it reminded me of some lost opportunities. As do many others, I have a special love and appreciation of music. As a youngster I would have liked to make more of it, to have taken music lessons of some kind, singing or learning to play an instrument – even getting acquainted with music theory. However in our little country school such possibilities were limited, and my friends made no secret of it that they would find spending time in a music class an embarrassment. Sport, and in particular rugby, was what real guys did. Now, so many years later, I talked about how it was probably too late to pursue any dreams of making music myself.

Talking to the violinist, I shared this little frustration.  To which she responded in a quite surprising way, answering: “You shouldn’t say it’s too late. My father only started playing the cello after he had turned 45. He doesn’t play perfectly, but he enjoys every moment. Which goes to show that it is never too late”.
It is never too late! Her offhand remark sounded like music in my ears. And they have significance for more than only me and my missed musical chances. These five words have something to say to all of us, because there are few whose lives do not have stories of wasted chances, neglected opportunities, moments about which we feel they are lost because we did not properly embrace them.

Our brief encounter was a reminder that when one thinks that a chance has been lost, it may not be the final word. The violinist is right – there is always another chance to start with new things, even to start all over again. It is never too late. In fact we serve a God who believes this.

Carel Anthonissen

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On the Prospects of the Year

Many of us enter the new year with good prospects. Perhaps you have secured a new job with a healthy salary; or you have plans (and the means) to go abroad this year for a long overdue vacation; or you have just heard that your first child or grandchild will be born later in the year.

Future prospects like this make our life worthwhile. They are like windows of hope. They excite and inspire us, making us look forward to the coming day – and we should be deeply thankful for having them.  They are privileges and gifts that should not be taken for granted in the coming year.

Not all people are that fortunate. For many the year has started with bleak and less exciting prospects. Like a good friend of ours who has just been diagnosed with cancer. It was somewhat ironic because, different from many others who are afraid to go for regulars medical tests, she always took the necessary precautions. And then suddenly this unexpected news.  ”Having received the news I was shattered. For several days I stumbled around in a daze. I could not believe that this was happening to me”. With these words she expressed her total shock and disbelief.

There are many more for whom this year is going to be a likewise struggle – those who are unemployed and poor without any proper financial assistance or housing; those who are fragile and weak because of old age and illness; those who must deal with a damaged relationship or marriage, or whose children are wasting their lives while they can only helplessly look on. The hardships which some of us will have to face and carry in the new year may seem endless and unbearable.

For those we should pray. They must know that we have nor forgotten them, that we shall be there when they need us* This also is our God given responsibility in the new year.

Carel Anthonissen

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The Coming of a New Reality

During Advent we are reminded that Christ’s birth not only changed history, but also introduced a new reality into our world – one which is movingly described in Isaiah 11:1-9.

There we read of a leader upon whom the Spirit of God will rest (2), one who will judge the poor with righteousness and not hesitate to judge and condemn the wicked (4-5). We read of the wolf dwelling with the lamb (6), of the cow and the bear whose youngsters shall lie down together (7) and last but not least, of a suckling child who shall play over the hole of the asp with no danger or fear (8).The scene gives a prophetic vision of what the earth will look like when it is filled with the knowledge of God (9).

What a powerful vision, what a wonderful world! But are we really able to believe in it? What about all the injustices, the corruption, dishonesty, crime and poverty that surround us like a cruel and angry sea every day? Is this not more real than Isaiah’s dreamlike vision?  Listening to Isaiah’s words, Woody Allen remarked tongue in cheek: “The lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.” Perhaps his words are voicingour own scepticism, our own sense of what is real.

Still, the Christian tradition across the ages insisted that Isaiah’s vision is no pipe dream. With the coming of Christ – and this is the consistent testimony of the New Testament – this vision became a reality. Jesus was indeed the One inspired and led by the Spirit of God, the wonderful Counsellor, our everlasting Father, the Prince of peace – the One whose words and deeds truly embodied God’s dream of peace and justice for all humankind.  In fact, for the writers of the New Testament, since Christ’s coming, this dream is an accomplished fact, a reality which is with and in us; one on which we may draw in our lives every day, and particularly during this time of year, at Christmas.

For the theologian William Cavanaugh there remains one big question, namely whether we are ready and willing to acknowledge and live from this reality. Engaging with Woody Allen’s apparently sober and realistic view of life, he writes:
“In the Christian reading of Isaiah, however, God has already acted to redeem history. The shoot from the stump of Jesse has already sprouted. The longing of Advent is fulfilled in Christmas. People sometimes misunderstand the “not yet” of the kingdom of God to mean that God is holding back on us. But God has held nothing back; God has given us the Son, the Way. The “not yet” is because we are holding back. We carry on as if nothing has happened, waiting for God to realize the vision of Isaiah. But the good news is that God has acted. God has given us the Christ, in whom Isaiah’s vision of a transformed reality is fulfilled”.
Is this not a timely reminder for us during this time of Advent?

Carel Anthonissen

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The Thin Hour – 12 December, 2011

Once, while sharing about his own prayer life, a well known preacher mentioned a practice which over time became quite helpful for my own prayer life.
He told his audience how every morning, shortly after he had woken up, in that time when he  is still slumbering for the last few minutes before actually getting up, he usually just quietly rests in the Biblical promise of God’s constant love and everlasting presence.

The preacher had a name for this early moment with his Creator – he called it his thin hour.

The thin hour is that moment when the boundary between the earthly and the so called heavenly, the visible and the invisible, that of which we are immediately conscious and that which is mysteriously obscure, but also present,  falls away – when the reality of God becomes more transparent and tangible and we are able, in faith,  to quietly rest in God’s  presence; to embrace God promise that He is indeed “Abba”,  our Father and Mother,  who is always with us – with us when we go to sleep, but also when we wake up in the morning.

In his beautiful book on prayer Richard Foster acknowledges this kind of prayer. He calls it the prayer of the heart, or the so called Abba-prayer.  According to him this is a very intimate kind of prayer.  We usually pray this prayer when we as children of God have become tired of our own efforts to please God, or when sin and sorrow again cast their shadows of doubt and misery over us.

The prayer of the heart happens when we, in the words of Psalm 131, have calmed and quieted our soul and like a child peacefully rests at its mother’s breast.  In this thin, intimate hour we commit ourselves anew to God’s loving care  – we allow God to gently hold us so that when we finally get up to tackle a new day, even when the day lies dark and threatening before us, we may know that we are being cared for and being carried.

So why not try this thin hour when you wake up again tomorrow morning?

Carel Anthonissen

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The Cycles of Life – 5 December, 2011

The United Nations’ conference on climate change which is presently convening in Durban, coincides with our church year starting off again with the season of Advent. During Advent we are waiting in expectancy on the birth of Jesus. This birthing process makes us tap into the cycles which are part of life.

Women experience this more intimately within their bodies with their monthly cycles as a constant reminder that they are part of nature and come from it. Men can perhaps more easily get estranged from this truth. But as we start a new year cycle within the liturgical calendar, we are all reminded that there’s an inherent cycle to life. It comes and it goes. It’s like the ebb and flow of the tide which comes in and flows out again. This is like a stream flowing through our veins, through our bodies and into our lives. It ties us into the greater patterns of life and of creation.

With all of us being expectant during the birthing process of Advent, we have chance again to renew our bond with the earth. Beginning-January will take us into Epiphany which allows us to stand still at the appearances of God throughout history and up till today. As we follow the year cycle it offers us with opportunities for re-birth.

With the freshness which spring brought still fresh in our memory, we are willing to put our feet on the road that another year will take us on (Perhaps it’s more adventurous to take off your shoes and feel the grass underneath!) And we can be assured that the cycles of life will be trustworthy in accompanying us throughout the journey. May we tread lightly on the earth as we enter deeper into the heart of God. In the words of St Francis of Assissi:

‘All praise be yours, my Lord, through sister Earth, our mother, who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs’.

Laurie Gaum

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The Message of the Butterfly – 28 November, 2011

And God looked at everything which He had made, and it was very good (Gen 1:31).
Last week the Centre facilitated a meeting between the ever-colourful Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a number of South African business leaders. It took the form of a late brunch at the very scenic Tokara Deli near Stellenbosch.
The Bishop, as we have come to expect, is at his best.  He recalls one humorous anecdote after the other, even enacting some of his stories. The audience really enjoys what it hears. But the address also takes a more serious turn. Tutu starts sharing truths and perspectives that are vital for our context. His talk becomes a personal testimony.
He reminds his listeners of the goodness of life, life which has its source in the bounteous generosity of a loving God. In this regard he also testifies to his own experience of and dedication to what he calls the unashamed preference of the biblical God – a God who always identifies with and favours those who are poor, forgotten, oppressed and lost.  He points to the meaning this has for ourselves and for our relationships with others – if only we can believe this, and can follow the example of Jesus in this regard.  Our example is of one who left ninety nine of his flock to seek the one that was lost.
The Bishop appeals to his audience not to forget or neglect the inspiring, often allegoric, stories of the Bible with which they grew up.  “You should read your Bible, people”, he calls out.
Towards the end of his talk, just before his final words, a white butterfly appears in the space right above his head, almost like in a fairy tale – delicate, luminous wings moving softly against the contours of a solid wall.

I look up in wonder at this unexpected visitor. It may be purely coincidental, but then what a coincidence!

It is almost as if the fortuitous and unforeseen appearance of the butterfly crowns the day. It reminds us of our own vulnerability in a bountiful, but fragile and troubled land. It also reminds of new life and new possibilities, regardless of who and where we are.

The butterfly becomes a living symbol of what Bishop Tutu wanted to convey.

Carel Anthonissen

 

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When the Spirit Moves – 21 November, 2011

Three young women of my acquaintance started a music group using wind instruments – flute, clarinet and oboe – and gave their group a charming Sotho name :  Umoya.   It has a lovely sound, the word, and a many-faceted meaning.

Umoya is the breath that draws sound from a wind instrument, be it recorder, penny whistle or trombone.  Umoya is also the wind that makes music in the reeds of the riverbed, or whispers in the dry leaves of autumn.

I am reminded of my young friends when the winter flees at last and summer comes to the Cape in the person of umoya, the wind.  For the rainy season to set in in the north, the Southeaster must blow in the Cape.  And blow it does, driving the dust and the pollen of the fynbos before it in great clouds. Until the whole of allergy valley, as my area is known, starts sneezing, and everyone’s hay fever and sinusitis start acting up.

We do not resent the wind.  We know it brings rain in the hinterland, and we take allergy tablets as we learn to love the sound of its growling along the rooftops, whistling under the eaves, singing in the telephone wires.

For Umoya is also the name of the Holy Spirit, Who moves where  She wills, making music in the souls of humans.

Cecile Cilliers

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The Sin on Injustice – 14 November, 2011

One of the surest signs that we are leading an empty and unfruitful life is when we lose our sense of justice – or put differently: when we start leading a life where violence and injustice prevails.  Just listen to Isaiah’s complaint about God’s vineyard which bears no fruit: “He (God) looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!” (Isaiah 5:7).

The sin of injustice is however much more subtle and obscure than we normally think.  It does for instance not only occur or happen where you deliberately harm or injure the other; or where you subvert or undermine their cause; or where you consciously deprive them of or deny them some essential life-giving privileges. Few people will admit to being guilty of such blatant injustices.

No, injustices also and especially happen where people or a society become indifferent and apathetic; where they turn a blind eye, or look away when someone is wrongfully treated. It happens where they refuse to become involved or stand up for what is right. Like those people in China who just walked away when a child was ran over right before their eyes.

The dire consequences of such passivity and indifference were sharply articulated by the well known German pastor Martin Niemoller, who during Hitler’s reign of terror movingly wrote:

They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object –
for I wasn’t a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn’t object –
for I wasn’t a Socialist;
They came for the labour leaders, and I didn’t object –
for I wasn’t a labour leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object –
for I wasn’t a Jew;
Then they came for me –
and there was no one left to object.

We should be watchful – this can also happen to us.

Carel Anthonissen