Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Friday, Human Rights Day or Sharpeville Day ?

In a recent column in the Beeld, Nico Botha, deals with this anomaly where the Good Friday falls on the same date as the Human Rights Day, or, even better, the commemoration of Sharpeville Day. For many the debate was whether we will loose a public holiday as workers. Botha however wonders,
‘Vanjaar val Goeie vrydag en Menseregtedag saam. Is daar enige besondere betekenis aan te heg ?
Miskien wel, as mens daaraan dink dat Menseregtedag eintlik Sharpeville dag is.
Die naam Sharpeville is dalk laat val in ‘n poging om progressief na versoening te soek deur die eerder die nadruk te plaas op ‘n mooi positiewe ding soos menseregte. Dit beteken egter nie dat ‘n mens daarom maar van Sharpeville kan vergeet nie die waarheid te sê, bring die gelyktydigheid vandie storie oor die kruisdood van Jesus en Menseregtedag ons op ‘n onvermydelike manier te staan voor die konneksie tussen Golgota en Sharpeville.’
And so he goes on. He argues that we cannot equate the death of Jesus to that of 69 people who died on that fateful day, on 21 March 1960, but we cannot, as Christians, who remember the death of Jesus Christ, on the cross, who share amongst each other the communion, the bread, which speaks of the body and the wine, which speaks of the blood, forget. We are a people who remember, or as Eddie Makue recently explained, who re-member. Hence, we are reminded of him who found his place amongst crossbearers, amongst those who are still crucified.
This morning I am however interested in another angle in this interesting link. It relates to the clip out of Mel Gibson’s rather violent portrayal of Jesus Christ. (insert clip)
There is seemingly a political wrangle here between the religious and community leaders of the Jews, the king and, lets call him the Premier. The centre of the controversy seems to be: what to do with Jesus.
• On the one hand this Jesus of Galilea, is offensive to the sensibilities of the religious elite. He transgresses the boundaries. The accusations: he violates their laws, their traditions, their religious codes. He dares to present himself as the Messiah, as the Christ.
• For Pilate, Jesus is a political problem. He can stir emotions, a critical mass, he can cause a riot- disturb the peace.
• For the King Herod- he has heard of the miracles of Jesus, he has heard of the wonders and he also wants one. His own little miracle. His disappointment and disavowal comes when Jesus, the miracle maker does not perform his tricks- he is a farce

Hence, no one of these characters quite seem to get a hold of him. None of these powerful figures are quite happy with him. He just doesn’t fit their box, he irate them in his otherness. He is at odds with power, with powerplay and powerseats, without being just another pawn in their play. Even though he is to be crucified, even though, his erstwhile friends and the beneficiaries of his ministry have distanced themselves from him, even though ultimately, it might seem that his is going down, he is not to be part of their game. Where do we find a key to understand this enigma?
Where to find the key to understand the Easter?
Where are we to find the key to link Good Friday to the significance of today, Human Rights day, Sharpeville day ?
I believe the little dialogue between Jesus and Pilate helps us to start to understand this link.
1) They, in a sense were right. He was a Jew, maybe a Jew that did not simply toe the line. He was a political figure, a leader. He did the miracles and was, in a sense a sensation amongst the populace. Indeed, he is a king, of sorts. He does reign. Indeed, whether you see it or not, you are standing in the presence the anointed/Messiah, in the presence of the leader, the one who has the authority over and who controls the forces of life.
2) They were wrong. Their conceptions of kingship and lordship, of leadership were of this world. His was not of this world. His was a leadership/kingship that came to serve, to heal the sick, to stand with the poor to identify. This was what the Jewish leaders missed. The laws and decrees, their tradition and religious fervour and commitments was to serve the poor and need, the downtrodden, was to serve humanity and the creation. It wasn’t there as a life unto itself, in self-interest seeking its own selfish desires, to entrench its own positions. Pilate could not understand this either. This king’s power did not reside in military coercion or in bigger arms and more wars on Terror-it lies deeper; it’s not from this world. Even Herod, was to realise: Jesus can never be another clown or entertainer in your little masquerade. Through tricks and magic, we can indeed draw the crowds and pull the cash, but it remains empty, hollow void of substance, not serving the real, difficult, hardcore needs of his people. He was living a lie, in fact he was making a statement about himself-he is the farce. Which brings us to the question, but who is this Jesus ?
3) He is the witness of truth- the embodiment of truth. He is the truth- the truth about the reality, he is the truth about ourselves; our religious emptiness, our military and political emptiness.
The story is told in the book, ‘How can man die better: The life of Robert Sobukwe’ on that fate full day (page 129)We are called as Christians to portray the kingship, not of this world, not of the religious decadence of this world, nor violent or the political culture of this world.... but the other-ness, the crossbearing truth. So, let us take the bread and the wine, symbols of this otherworldly kingdom. Let’s march to freedom..................

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Arch still hopeful for reconciliation in SA

The Arch, remains hopeful for SA. Despite Jody Kollapen's dark clouds over the rainbow nation and reconciliation, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu remains confident that we can do it. Some would say that he he geting old, others would point to the wisdom that comes with age and grey hair (more than grey matter perhaps). It however remains, significant when the Arch speaks, and the article in the Star, at least on a symbolic level reminds us where we come from and the key leaders Tutu and Madiba, whose confidence sustained the struggle and transition. Maybe the reason for this confidence lies in the celebration of the life of those (the Sisulus) who have gone before us, their inspirational leadership and service.

"We can become a caring and compassionate society where everyone counts, where human rights are valued, where we can actually overcome crime and HIV/Aids, poverty and corruption, where we have leaders who emulate the Sisulus," he said.

Dr. James Dobson vs. Petition No. 2493

Just recieved an email from a respected colleague, urging us to sign a petition by Dr James Dobson, who would raise up a storm to prevent a petition to stop the gospel from spreading in the airways in the US. This, of course, is am urban legend. (check About dot com) Usually when I delete these type, there's still a guilt feeling haunting me: maybe you're a stumbling block in the 'work of the Lord'. Nevertheless, spreading these hoaxes and urbanlegends, continue to undermine our credibility and need to be exposed.

Uniting NG congregations, the answer to racism ?

Uniting congregations, like the ones in Wynberg between the NG kerk and UR church, seem to be the coalface setting for adressing the legacy of racism today. Of course churches like the AFM, Presbyterian and Methodist united ages ago, yet, if the experience of people in the pews is anything to go by, then these remain seperated local churches, unofficially. Other public and personal processes also need to be encouraged.

There is however another, more compelling reason for the significance of these processes: the NG Kerk, as the theological mother of apartheid, still need to come to terms with this legacy. The most compelling evidence that they have transcend this marred history, would not come from the hallowed halls of academia, neither a bigger dose of piety, but the difficult journey with her own, back towards unity. This journey will never be easy or clinical and might leave many sacrifices in the wake, being messy and certainly fraught with danger. The NG Kerk however remains the one church, which can, though uniting congregations, uniting ministries, i.e. by being a uniting non-racial, communion embodying an inclusive unity, make a key contribution to our current malaise. This will however have to be done as a family or communion, not on the basis of powerplay and political jockeying, embracing the wealth of traditions and cultural goods that can only enrich everyone.

It remains to be seen what the future holds with regards to the process of unitifcation between the Riverlea UR church and the Vergesig NG church, in Johannesburg. Hopefully these humble gestures can spark new life and open up energy amongst more uniting congregations. Maybe this would be part of the lasting legacy of the late James Buys

Xenophobia and racism, too black to be South African

Many of us responded with righteous outrage on the racist snuffmovie, from Freestate University. Indeed, the challenge of reconciliation and dealing with racism is still with us. To be honest, we would innocently, point to those Afrikaner boys on the 'Reitz island', but can we simply find absolution from racism, by pointing the finger to the Reitz-four? This evil also manifest itself in the silence also amongst churches on the uneasy presence of illegal aliens, in particular those from other parts of our continent. Recently there was a spate of clean-outs of foreigners in various townships and we often hear of police brutality on these desperate families. The most recent, a story of the slap on the wrist of racist police, where they pounced on a 14 year old boy, who was 'too black to be a South African'. if only they could demonstrate the same fervour in dealing with crime. Anyway, he was then arrested, locked up in jail and trucked to Mozambique. Where is the outrage on this atrocity, by our government officials. Most of us would simply ignore 'the aliens' as far as possible, some would maybe tolerate their presence, suggesting that bishops like Paul Verynne, in the Central Methodist church should look after these poor souls. As far as the rest of us is concerned, its business as usual.

In a blog posts by Tony Campolo, A proposal for 'Illegal Aliens', he reminds us from history how central it is to the identity of the church to respond to this challenge. He writes, 'St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers that Jesus is mystically present in the alien. They were told that when they look into the eyes of the stranger in their midst, they might see their Christ staring back at them.Christians need to be reminded that in the only description that Jesus gave of judgment day, he specifically declares that God will inquire how we treated the alien. God will want to know, according to Matthew 25:35, whether or not we made room for "the stranger" to live among us.'

Of course, his frame of reference is the North American situation, yet it remains relevant also for the South African context and church, where it seems that this simmering pot is perilously ignored.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reflections on the suicide of Rev James Buys

Many have speculated on the reasons for the suicide of James Buys, respected and well-known church leader in the Reformed community, but also the South African Council of Churches. Speculations abound and sometimes its impact is more destructive then constructive. Rehashing the vexing ethical conundrum of suicide amongst Christians, in particular church leaders could be one route of dealing with this trauma. I'm not convinced that this is helpful. It would neither be helpful to speculate about the possible reasons why. The question should maybe be: what are we to do now ?

At the memorial service on Wednesday evening, but also the funeral on Saturday there was however, in the midst of our convoluted attempts to make sense, some hopeful and I may add, helpful gestures. One of it was the open invitation to mourners and family by the officiating co-pastor of James, Dr Danie Nel to counseling and therapeutic services to deal with the trauma but also with Depression. The Premier of the Western Cape, Ebraim Rasool, also allocated an amount of R 25 000 to make these services possible for the community.

The presence of Depression in our midst is certainly a rude awakening, especially amongst pastors. In the mind and seemingly theology of church members, pastors are not supposed to be vulnerable, not supposed to be seen to be weak and, most certainly, pastors are not suppose to commit suicide. This is understandable, in terms of the theologies that are in vogue. God called pastors as special Christians to embody the ministry of the rest of the church. They are being paid to substitutionally, pray for the ordinary members, live the christian life for them and, if need be, die in the office. This might be a skewd image of the conceptions of church members, but it remains a powerful reminder of how we think of pastors and their identity. The best jokes around, foregrounds the sins of their children and the bestselling newsstories, centres around their private calamities. Depression is however an illness that indeed, need to be highlighted and looked into. Where media would want to speculate and exploit this for financial gain and the amount of traffic it could generate, we as the church need to grapple with how we support and make more professional services available for pastors and their families.

A previous conversation, on this blog on the challenges that Pastor Ray, in particular, but also others are facing dealing with their relationships and marriage, were met with a barrage of critique, suggesting that the notion of some bloggers that Christians, and also pastors are human and need to be view as such, is cheap grace. It was argued that Christians leaders should be godlike, and if they 'fail', then, , according to Scripture, they may not serve in leadership. We however hold that this is a warped view of the gospel of grace. Our vulnerability, our cross or, like St Paul, our thorns in the flesh, are many times our witness, our giving of ourselves as living witnesses. Henry Nowen, speaks of the wounded prophet, wounded healer, as the place where the church can witness from. He writes ( my courtesy to Dan Kimball)
It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer."
May this be a place where we may find healing to be authentically witnesses of the cross.

Friday, March 07, 2008

a life of priestly service-Jameson Donn Buys

James chose the text for tonight, prof Nico Botha shared last night. He recalls, that this was the text (Hebrews 7) James used 30 years ago for his trialsermon and continued: When it emerge that James would do it from this complicated passage, we were amazed. We however knew if there is one person to do it worthy of Jesus Christ, it would be Jameson Donn Buys.We know little about this figure, Melchizedek. His ancestry is unknown; in a sense he emerges out of the blue-no beginning, no end. However, he emerges as some-one with a remarkable identity-Son of man. He emerge as a man with a remarkable name-king of Justice, of peace, a royal priest. As historical figure, we meet him in his encounter with Abraham (Gen 14:18). Here he serves the bread and wine, a communion of sorts.

Jameson Donn Buys' life in a sense can be read in this mirror, if you like.
1) His life was service
2) James worked for justice, relentlessly
3) He lived for peace, unity, reconciliation.

But this was not about James, Melchizedek or anyone else, but its about Jesus Christ, the liberatory consoling image of God, who hangs on a 'skandpaal', in public.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Funeral arrangements for Saturday, 08 March 2008

Vir diegene op wie van toepassing, kollegas en lidmate van die VGK en NGK, stuur ek net, na konsultasie met ds Averell Rust, skriba van die VGKSA-Kaapland, die jongste inligting oor die reëlings in verband met ds James Buys se begrafnis.

WOENSDAGAAND om 19:30 is daar ‘n biduur-geleentheid in die VG-Kerkgebou van Wynberg gehou. Dr Danie Nel (NGK leraar van Wynberg) het die diens waargeneem – as ‘n pastorale/gebeds geleentheid vir die gemeentes van Wynberg en ander moontlik belanghebbendes, oor die hantering van die dood van ds James Buys.

SATERDAGOGGEND is daar geleentheid vir besigtiging by die kerkgebou/saal van die NG Kerk van Wynberg van 08:00-10:00. Die begrafnisdiens self sal om 10:00 in die NG Kerkgebou van Wynberg plaasvind. Die prediker sal ds Fezi Mbenengi van die Oos-Kaap wees. Daar sal geen ander sprekers, kore, of optredes wees nie, slegs die diens, met ‘n private verassingdiens.

Ek hoop dat hierdie inligting nuttig kan wees vir diegene van naby en vêr wat beplan om te kom.

Vriendelike groete
Ben du Toit

Directions to Alpha Centre, Riverlea for memorial service

From the N1 (South):
Take the Nasrec turn-off (after Maraisburg) and turn left at the traffic lights;
pass the Soccer stadium on you left up to the T junction (traffic light and a garage on you right)
Turn left at the T-juncture (The Soccer stadium will be on you left)
Go underneath 2 bridges after the second railway bridge turn left into Colorado Drive, Riverlea.
Take the third street left into Medway Street and proceed to Kentucky Street - at block of flats and find the sign Alpha Crèche, a division of Riverlea URC

From Johannesburg CBD or East

Take Main Reef road in the direction of Roodepoort
Turn left at Nasrec rd (M5) traffic light.
Turn right into Colorado Drive, at the first traffic light into Riverlea
Take the third street left into Medway Street and proceed to Kentucky Street - at block of flats and find the sign Alpha Crèche, a division of Riverlea URC

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Statement by Prof Thias Kgatla, Moderator of URCSA

It is with great sadness that we had to learnt of the death of our brother, friend, colleague and co-worker in the vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ Rev James Buys. Brother James Buys was a loyal servant of the Uniting Reformed Church who led it during turbulent times of its history. He was a principled person who strove for justice despite the fierce option that was there. We are reminded of his tireless fight against injustices committed against the powerless of our society in South Africa and also abroad. James has shown his mantle at the last WARC meeting at Accra when he chaired the drafting committee of Accra Confession on economic justice in the world. He stood his ground and produced a document that is still informing the debate on globalisation and economic imbalances in the world. We have lost a great son of Africa, disciplined leader who never compromised his principles. To his family we convey our deepest condolences and pray that the Almighty will carry them during this time of sorrow and comfort them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Memorial service Johannesburg

A memorial service for the late James Buys will be held in Riverlea, Johannesburg, on Thursday. Prof Nico Botha, who studied with him, but also kept close ties through the years will minister the word for friends and family in mourning in his hometown.

The service will start at 7h30pm on Thursday, 06 March and the venue will be the Alpha Centre, cnr of Medway & Kentuckystr, Riverlea.

Funeral arrangements for Rev James Buys

Here follows the arrangements for the funeral of the late Rev Jameson Buys:

There will be a memorial service at the Wynberg, URCSA on Wednesday, 5 March 2008, at 19h30. On Saturday, the funeral will start at 10h00 at the same Wynberg, URCSA.

Afsterwe van Ds James Buys, Verklaring van NG Kerk

Die Moderatuur van die NG Kerk het met groot hartseer kennis geneem van die tragiese dood gisteraand van ds James Buys, vorige Moderator van die Algemene Sinode van die VGKSA en prominente kerkleier in dié kerk.

Namens die NG Kerk bid ons ds Buys se gesin die wonderlike troos toe wat alleen uit die hand van ons Here kom. Mag hulle werklik ervaar dat die Here, ook deur mense, naby aan hulle is en hulle styf vashou.

Ons bid ook vir die gemeente Wynberg en die VGKSA wat ’n hoogsbegaafde leier verloor het. Ds Buys het met sy leierseienskappe en vlymskerk teologiese denke ’n onuitwisbare stempel op die VGKSA afgedruk. En nie net op die VGKSA nie: op almal van ons wat hom geken het, met hom saamgewerk het en hom leer liefkry het. In die ekumeniese wêreld is daar nou ’n leemte: ook hier het James Buys reuse werk verrig, nasionaal en internasionaal.

In die kerkherenigingsgesprekke tussen die kerke van die NG Kerkfamilie was James Buys ’n belangrike en ook opbouend-kritiese stem. Sy insigte is nou stil.

Ons is weer intens bewus hoe broos mense is en hoe nodig mense mekaar het: in besonder in die Familie van Kerke waarvan ons deel is en waarin James Buys die Here uitmuntend gedien het.

Monday, March 03, 2008

James Buys in memoriam

It's with shock and pain that we've recieved the sad news of the passing on of the much admired, Rev James Buys, former moderator of our General Synod. As an astude and strong young churchleader, he led the way in the historic reunification of the two racially seperated churches, the Ned Geref Kerk in Africa and the NG Sendingkerk to form the URCSA, but also the ACSV and the VCS to form UCSA.

As our leader, you have showed us the way, paid the price, gave your life. May your soul rest in peace and our memory of you, light the way. To Mrs Angela Buys, children and family, we pray with you for strength and commit to stand with you in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

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