Dear Strand Baptist and friends
I do hope that you are all enjoying some down-time with your family during this season. What a grace it is that many of us do not have to go into work but can rather leisurely enjoy ourselves at home. No matter what many say about 'Christmas', it is still a season of blessing to so many. Long may it last!
As many of you may be expecting, this is my last Pastor's Weekly. This is because this coming Sunday will be my last Sunday as pastor of Strand Baptist Church - and you are all invited to attend as I take my leave as pastor of SBC (9:30am -). Starting from January, I will be taking up a lecturing position at the Cape Town Baptist Seminary. So for us this is a very significant season of transition. Regarding our whereabouts, Heather and I will be staying in our home in the Strand at present and I will be commuting into Cape Town. From living right next door to my work to now working 35 km away from home is rather different, but the travelling is still worth while for us, since we love our home, church and location. Yet we are not our own and we look to our Lord to lead and guide us forward.
As mentioned, the Pastor's Weeklies will not be continuing. However I will probably still be writing some similar weekly reflections of some sort. If you are interested in still receiving something from me ('Paul's Pondering' ?, not sure yet what I will call it), please would you let me know via email. Just say something like: please include me in your future reflections. If you do not do this I will not be putting you on the new mailing list. I also need to let you know that I now have my own website, which is very much in embryo at present. It is aimed at hosting some of my thoughts & reflections in general. It will also be a resource for my students at the Seminary. See www.logia.co.za.
Well, what can I say about my Pastor's Weekly? I think it fitting to mention to you what I said in my first Pastor's Weekly (the message is pasted below in its entirety). The date is lost on me, but it was written somewhere at the end of 2010 (ps, thanks to Ann in the SBC office who has faithfully printed and documented all 80 of these pastoral emails). That first email was about crafting a personal life-motto that could encapsulate the motive of one's life. This is important for as Christians we are called to live for something greater than our own survival. My crafted motto was "One for all, and all for One", as per 2 Cor 5:14-15. In that text the wise apostle reasons that since Christ died for all, we are called to live for Him. Since He has redeemed us from eternal death we are eternally obligated to Him and should respond by letting the short little current of our ebbing life flow out and spend itself on the Person of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. So after 3 years of my emails would you not join me is saying "Yes" to Christ, and through all our failures, weaknesses and times of stubbornness and through all that you have experienced in the passage of time, by His sheer mercy, let us continue to direct our life's flow into the Alpha and Omega of all things. There is no other besides Him!
May Jesus ever be the joy and hope of your soul.
In that Name,
Hello SBC and friends
On Friday morning, all South Africans awoke to the not-so-unexpected-news of the death of the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. In this one man the political hopes and ideals of millions of South Africans have converged and found an articulate expression. Not only nationally, but also globally, Madiba has been the icon for the ideals of much of the Western World: political freedom and personal equality for every citizen, regardless of gender, race and religion. Thus the flood of a public and deeply felt sympathy that we witnessed today is truly fitting for all that he stood for in this painful yet beloved country of ours. Only the most hardened can not offer up a heartfelt prayer to God for giving the country such a leader at her most important hour. I hope you have done that already.
As Christians we know that the real problem remains and that Mandela has not been able to accomplish the ideals for which he stood for. New laws can be in place (as needed as they are) and a new South African anthem and flag can carry high in the sky our deepest longings for this country yet without the root problem being eradicated. Let me remind you again that what we will always need is not a new South Africa but new South Africans. Neither Mandela nor any man can do. We are all aware that the great gains ushered in in the 1990's have also been accompanied by newer problems. Sexual and violent crime now characterizes our society, and though racial segregation is outlawed infant-murder (abortion) is legislated in the new South Africa . So in one very real sense the sins of the country are as ever present with us though their appearance has changed.
This reality that we daily face reminds us that Mandela is not Messiah. We are led to ask then: who then will truly bring lasting and effectual moral change to South Africans? Well, there one: "See My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One, in whom my soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon him; and he will bring forth justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1). And who is this one the prophet Isaiah spoke of? On a mountain in Palestine over 2000 years ago, a divine voice from heaven spoke and said of Jesus of Nazareth: "This is My Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Matthew 17:5).
So as we pause today and reflect upon the life of Mandela, let us give thanks to God for giving us such a leader to inaugurate the new era in the history of South Africa. But let us also remember the limited and small place that he plays in the things that ultimately matter. Let us remember that Mandela was not able to give us what we need most. Only in the Christ of God will all our deepest and dearest longings find rest and fulfillment. We 'honour the king' as the apostle Peter told us to do in his first letter, but we also declare with him to the Crucified One who was rejected of men: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God".