Saturday, August 09, 2008


I'm bringing the Bounce to a close and am tentatively establishing a new blog. You can subscribe to this new one too but you will NOT automatically be subscribed to it if you currently subscribe to the Bounce. Visit the blog here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quiet Time

Some have asked why Dassie has been so quiet of late. It occured to me that I could have posted an explanation, but I'd rather not.

Dassie will be away for a while...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Confused allegiance

If you have broadband and a strong stomach check out this video. Thanks to Nick Carl for sending it to me.

I know well how the Bible can be used to justify almost any cause but it still stuns me when I see something like this. That anyone could think that Jesus would condone the atomic annihilation of a people boggles my mind. There is a strong Zionist Christian movement in South Africa too, though it often is subtler than what is portrayed in the video.

Many Jewish people including most of the Hasidic community and an international group called Not In My Name refute the equation of the Israeli state with the Jewish people. That God would need the re-establishment of Israel as a nation state as a pre-requisite for creating heaven on earth beggars the imagination – what kind of superficial, anthropomorphic idea of God is that??!!

Of course, nationalism creeps insidiously into the minds of faithful people everywhere, stealing people's loyalty for the state. Our education department here in SA is proposing a pledge that children should say at school. Most people don’t seem to have a problem with that but the chances are that if something like this is adopted that it will become more than a nice idea but rather an obligatory test of belonging to the right crowd. It is inevitable that something created to inspire nationalist fervor will be used to establish the boundaries of belonging. Will parents, teachers or students be allowed to abstain from the pledge – probably – but at what cost to themselves?

Jesus required no pledge: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

Monday, February 11, 2008


[The illustration of Phoebe’s microchip comes from a sermon by Leonard Sweet.
The rest of this sermon was inspired by an article “Thy kingdom come: living the Lord's Prayer” Christian Century, March 12, 1997 by N.T. Wright as well as “Testing That Never Ceases” Christian Century, February 28, 1990, p. 211 by Fred Craddock]

Some of you have met Phoebe, the smallest member of our family. She is a fox terrier with a fierce personality that is sometimes hard to rein in, despite our best intentions. We decided to invest a small amount in her safety in the event that she gets lost. For a once off fee the vet injected a tiny microchip under her skin, which contains Phoebe’s history including our contact details. Most animal rescue facilities including the SPCA have scanners, which will pick up the information contained on the chip and help the staff track us down and return her to us.

Now that Katie (3 years old and human) is a part of our family and I am starting to wonder what happens when in her teenage years she asks to go with her mates to Galaxy… gosh! – wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those chips on her! Or even better, one of those teeny weeny cameras that unobtrusively monitor people or the GPS unit that tracks a car’s movements and even how its being driven…

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to track our children? It borders on the ridiculous the extent to which we are now able to do that, but it is ridiculous. For one thing, what happens to inculcating trust? And for another, each of us knows how ingenious we are at avoiding detection, lying even to ourselves. We know that no surveillance is actually going to prevent someone doing bad things.

“There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.” Mark Twain

Truth is, if you are tempted, good! Not that giving in to temptation is good. But all too often I hear people complaining about being tempted. Temptation in itself is not a bad thing. It implies that the person has risked living life according to a discipline. That takes courage.

And what’s more, temptation is indicative of our power. The story of Jesus’ temptation is not told to demonstrate Jesus’ weakness, but rather his strength; so too with all of us. We are only ever tempted to do that which is in our power to do. So, the extent to which we are tempted is an indication of just how much power we have. How ironic that we often complain of being weak in the face of temptation!

If you are tempted: good!

Anyone who is being tempted is taking the difficult course of self-control which teaches one the intrinsic power each of us has been blessed with. Temptation is a learning experience. It is for this reason Jesus was led into the desert, not by the devil, but by the Spirit.

An engineer built a bridge and then had an engine drag a huge load and park it on the bridge for a day. An apprentice asked the engineer: “Are you trying to break the bridge?” “No,” replied the engineer, “I’m trying to show how strong it is.”

Why do Christians engage in the discipline of Lent? Why is self-control important?

The prayer Jesus taught us, makes the call for God’s Kingdom and Will to be made real on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus made the radical claim that this world can change and become heaven.

Each one of us has very little control over our environment. We cannot change other people’s minds, or prevent them doing whatever they choose. We cannot control the weather or when we will die. But we can control ourselves. We can discipline our own desires and manage our own attitudes and prejudices.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Christian spirituality is not meant primarily for individual transformation. That is only the beginning. We believe Jesus was the first infection of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth – an infection that is slowly taking over the world.

Our personal discipline and transformation has the power to change the world.

Maybe this Lent, you might want to consider giving up electricity. Every news bulletin I see these days decries the failure of Eskom and the crisis our blackouts have plunged South Africa into. The usual blame game goes nowhere and solutions seem far away.

Eskom delivers unsustainable energy to a country that increasingly uses electricity without thought for the consequences. This is like any consumptive addiction. It is destructive and blaming one’s pusher doesn’t deal with the problem. We are addicted to thoughtless consumption.

Christians in South Africa could easily give up having the geyser on all day and the lights on in the part of house they aren’t actually using. Seems a small price to pay. The inconvenience of having to be disciplined might teach one to appreciate how important this resource is and why it is so important that we move to renewable forms of energy.

South Africa is the region’s biggest supplier or electricity and our present crisis may well result in these countries no longer having power. For SA the blackouts are an inconvenience – if an expensive one – but for our neighbours they could spell catastrophic disaster. Surely Christians in SA can do more than complain about why Eskom has failed us???

We want all people to have equal access to the power to make life beautiful: clean water, electricity, education and so on. In order to make that happen, we all have to share sustainable resources in ways that ensure our children can also benefit from such life-affirming systems. That ideal begins to be realised in our personal self-discipline.

“Dear God, this little bit of earth which is my body I make available for a little bit of heaven. Teach me to tame my addictions and prejudices that all may come to enjoy what I do.”

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Here here!

Please read this blog from John Minto: "Open Letter to the President of South Africa" Thanks Gavin for the link...

It is hard not to become cynical about the last decade of so called transformation. I have just finished reading Ismael Beah's "Long Way Gone", a memoir of his stolen childhood as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. While the accuracy of some of the chronology is disputed, I think it is still worth a read and reminded me of the resilience of ordinary people’s vulnerability – something wealth and power ignore.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dark Vader

Thanks to Marc The Chizzel for sending this. (Author unknown)

Our father who art in Eskom
powerless be thy name.
Thy kingdom badly run
thy power undone,
in Jo'burg as it is in KZN.
Give us this day our half-baked bread
and forgive the trespassers
who shoot us dead.
Lead us not into a dark nation
but deliver us from load shedding.
For thine have no kingdom
no power nor electricity,
for now and foreseeable future.

Fishing for People

Read Matthew 4:12-23

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a room with a loud clock ticking? When you have something interesting and engaging to do, you forget that the clock is ticking and after a while don’t notice it at all. If, on the other hand, you are bored, the ticking clock can be very irritating. This illustrates the difference between two kinds of time for which the ancient Greeks had two different words: Chronos and Kairos.

Chronos gives us “Chronology” in English. It is boring time. Each second is identical and meaningless. Time drags on endlessly. Time can feel like a prison. When one is awake at night worrying about the next day, the bedside clock seems to stay motionless.

Kairos time is interesting time. In 1985 during some of the worst years of South Africa’s Apartheid past a group of church leaders wrote the “Kairos Document” which criticized the Apartheid State and attacked the theological underpinnings of the Apartheid heresy. It was a decisive moment in history. Within a year thousands of signatories had made this document one of the most important church documents ever published in South Africa. It was called Kairos because it recognized the moment in history that was pregnant with possibility and hope but that needed decisive action.

That’s what Kairos is all about: powerful meaning and critical decision. When last did you have a Kairos moment in your life?

Another kind of Kairos time is our devotional time, refreshing time; for me that’s walking on the mountain or riding my motorbike.

How many of you reading this enjoying fishing? For those of you who do, fishing can be Kairos time because it is time to pause and refresh oneself, to reflect on life and even make decisions that are not always possible in the humdrum of life. Chronos time is not good for making decisions about life the universe and everything.

For me fishing has always been more like Chronos time: sitting on my bum, waiting for something to happen (usually not catching a fish).

For the fishermen in our story today, fishing was Chronos time, but not for the same reason as it is for me. Fishing in those days was hard work. Not only that, Peter and his colleagues lived at the bottom of the feeding chain that was the Galilean fishing industry. This is not so different from industries today where those who do most of the work receive the least benefits from the industry. Read Sarah’s description of what these fishermen faced everyday.

When Jesus called Peter and the others it was a Kairos moment: an opportunity to leave the Chronos time of drudgery and worry behind them.

It is interesting the metaphor that Jesus chooses to use in calling them. They will now become fishers of people. If someone was offering you a new life, why use the old life as a metaphor for the new? Rather a poor selling strategy. But it worked. Clearly these fishermen had had enough and were looking forward to change. Jesus offered the hope of the change and the freedom to realize it. But perhaps hidden in his metaphor is the reality that the Freedom Jesus offers is not like the freedom offered so often in various worldly frameworks…

There is something really important about this freedom that Jesus offers that is not always fully appreciated by Christians. It seems to me to be hidden in the metaphorical use of fishing when Jesus calls the first disciples.

Firstly, all fishing is hard work. Fishing for people would be no less difficult and confounding as fishing for fish. The only difference would be the result. The one kind of fishing supported the grinding machine of the fishing industry and hence an oppressive society that crushed the spirits of ordinary people. The other kind of fishing promised real systemic change, dignity and freedom.

Secondly, Christian freedom is not individualistic freedom. Most of the political philosophies of human history have sought human freedom as an ideal, though sometimes human freedom has been restricted by the freedom of others, particular those who end up with more freedom than the hoi polloi. For most westerners human freedom is chronically individualistic and sadly reduced to the freedom to consume.

Christian Freedom is by no means individualistic and can sometimes appear to be anything but freedom. Christian Freedom is intimately connected to relationship. One cannot be truly free without others. And so while Christians have often been at the forefront of freedom movements, they are also the first to sacrifice their own freedoms. Take for example those who take vows of obedience and chastity yet work tirelessly for human rights. (The same example is found in many faith traditions incidentally – think of the Buddhist monks who were recently killed in Burma).

So too we find a strange contradiction in Paul’s writings to the churches of the ancient Mediterranean. Take for instance the place of women. On one hand “there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, man or woman” (Galatians 3.28) but women should not speak in church and must wear head coverings. What we are reading is the result of a long process that is not recorded in writing in the Bible but attested to by other sources as well as the logic of the end result. Paul feels the need to curtail the agitation of the women in his congregations because they are aggressively claiming the freedom he has proclaimed in the Gospel!

Some have argued that Paul was unaware of the consequences of the freedom he proclaimed. On the other hand, if Christian freedom is intimately connected to relationship it seems more likely that Paul is concerned with social transformation and sees revolution as counterproductive to that aim. Revolution makes enemies of former masters. Transformation makes equal friends of former enemies. There is an inherent danger in the freedom that the Gospel proclaims, in that people once oppressed may take what is legitimately theirs but at the expense of reconciliation.

Christian freedom is more about “freedom for” than about “freedom from”. We are certainly free from all forms of oppression and indignity but we are freed primarily so that we can bring freedom for others – especially those who are our enemies.

Jesus, our supreme example, had a legitimate claim to the Kingship of Israel – one he could have taken had he allowed the fermenting revolution to explode on the night of his arrest. But he chose not to take what was rightly his own. He did this because revolution simply replaces one evil with the next. Transformation calls on oppressed and oppressor to make the difficult journey of reconciliation together. For this he was prepared to die and did.

Fishing for people is indeed profoundly difficult work; much harder than any other life pursuit. Like the disciples though, it seems to me so much more rewarding than remaining part of the system. Give me Kairos over Chronos any day!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Burning Bush

History will record the Bush era as a watershed moment in human history. I just hope we have more history to record...

By Jared Diamond [Author of Guns, Germs and Steel]

"The population especially of the developing world is growing, and some people remain fixated on this. They note that populations of countries like Kenya are growing rapidly, and they say that's a big problem. Yes, it is a problem for Kenya's more than 30 million people, but it's not a burden on the whole world, because Kenyans consume so little. (Their relative per capita rate is 1.) A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. With 10 times the population, the United States consumes 320 times more resources than Kenya does.

"People in the third world are aware of this difference in per capita consumption, although most of them couldn't specify that it's by a factor of 32. When they believe their chances of catching up to be hopeless, they sometimes get frustrated and angry, and some become terrorists, or tolerate or support terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become clear that the oceans that once protected the United States no longer do so. There will be more terrorist attacks against us and Europe, and perhaps against Japan and Australia, as long as that factorial difference of 32 in consumption rates persists."

Read more in this article here.

Tuning In

A friend sent this to me and I couldn't resist posting it here...

You are on a bus, when you suddenly fart. Luckily the music is very loud. Everytime time you fart, you time it with the music. When you go down the bus towards the doors, everybody is throwing dagger looks at you, and you suddenly realize... that you have your MP3 player on you ears!