Easter T I D I N G S
April 1999
St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter


Contents

Foreword

Our Rector Writes

The Angel's Point of View

The Origins Of The Easter Offering

Fill-a-Bag, Feed-a-Family Scheme

'Too pretty' to be a Priest

A Poem at Easter

Budget Response

Heaven's Grocery Store

Kids' Thoughts on Science


Foreword

A quarter of the year has already passed and Easter is upon us. How amazing to be able to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus, once more, and for the last time this millenium. Putting aside the debate about exactly when a century or millenium ends, the early Christians must have celebrated Easter at the end of the first century AD, with heightened expectations of Christ's promised return. Similarly after 1000 years, the Church and much of the world were looking for catastrophic events as signs of the end of the age. With the hype created by the modern media, never before have so many people been so apprehensive as one millenium passes and another begins. Easter reminds us that God acts in history to achieve his will and that we should be always looking for his return in possibly unexpected ways. Christ chose to identify with us in both the joys of life and in the pain of death. But in confronting death he also transformed it, by rising again, thus taking away our fear of death. We have cause to praise God and to feel secure that history, and his role in it, is in his hands.

Mark

Editor: Mark Napier. Tel. 012-9987992 (home), Email: mnapier@csir.co.za

Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy Macnamara

St Francis of Assisi Anglican Church, 373 Milner Street, Waterkloof, 0181

Tel. 012-346 1106/7, Fax: 346 4226. Rector: Ven. Martin Breytenbach


Our Rector Writes…

Dear friends in Christ,

Victory in Defeat!

I have read a number of biographies, autobiographies and testimonies of great Christian leaders over the years - always asking, "What is it that enabled God to use this person so wonderfully?" I was hoping, I suppose, to find a formula or key to success. But, apart from their commitment to God through faith in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, there was only one common factor: failure!

Every great Christian leader I have read about has, at some stage in their life, experienced brokenness and defeat. Some have become disillusioned and disappointed with God at some point because something went wrong. Or they fell into sins (serious ones!) like adultery (remember David) or misusing Church funds. Others experienced serious illness... But in every case this was not the end! God used the bad circumstances to lead them to renewed humility and faith, or to genuine repentance and forgiveness, or to a ministry or healing and life...

The Message of Easter

This is the message of Easter! It is not about the triumph of the human spirit, or "believe in yourself" (as the popular philosophy of today goes), or even "everything will be OK". It is that when, in the midst of despair, defeat, loss and sin we humble ourselves and turn to God, he is able to release unimaginable power in our lives.

"This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world."

(Ephesians 1:19b-20)

The horror of Good Friday is that Jesus took upon himself everything that is depraved about you and me: not only our sin, but also our disappointments, hurts, illnesses, frustrations, and failures. Imagine how it felt! (I feel dreadful enough after a "bad day" when relatively few things have gone wrong). Jesus willingly drew all of that into himself, so that we can be free of it today and for eternity.

"He endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne."

(Isaiah 53:4)

When Jesus, although he felt utterly alone and defeated, surrendered to his Father on the cross it released God’s awesome love and power to turn his death into resurrection, and every defeat we experience into victory.

"In all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)

It is not that God helps us to avoid the pain and suffering of life in this fallen world. Rather, in the midst of the tragedies of life, God is able to release the resurrection power of Jesus to transform us and the world.

Implications of this message

This revolutionary message has all sorts of life-changing implications for us and for the world, if only they will accept it through our witness. As one writer put it: "nothing will ever be the same again."

Firstly, no matter what we go through, we never need to be alone. Jesus experienced desolation so that we could always count on God’s loving presence with us.

"I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love..." (Romans 8:38-39)

Secondly, failure is always an opportunity for God’s love and power to break through into our lives - resurrection power needs a dead-end situation to be at its most effective. It is when we are aware of, face up to, and admit our weaknesses that God’s strength is at its greatest.

"I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me." (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

Thirdly, only God through the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit can save. Sometimes we are tempted to try to save people from the mess they get into, or sometimes we expect other people to get us out of our problems. That is trying to play God ourselves, or to make them play God for us: futile and impossible!

Finally, although only God can save, we can get alongside those who are struggling with failure, sin or suffering of any kind. We can do so, not because we are any better, but because we have experienced God’s grace in our own failure, sin and suffering.

He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God."

(2 Corinthians 1:4)

Receiving the Message

How do we receive this resurrection love and power? It is not automatic! That is why we cannot simply say, "God is in control." Sure, in the end God will take control of everything, and there will be eternal justice and peace. But now God only takes control in our lives to the extent that we give control to him! Only if we hand over our lives, families, businesses, country to him will he take charge of them in partnership with us.

There are two essential steps to take: both very easy to write and very hard to do.

First, hand over your life, your ambitions, your hopes and plans to him. And that may be something of a struggle - just it was for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

"My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want." (Matthew 26:39, 42)

Second, when you fail by making a mistake, by sinning deliberately, or by taking back what you had earlier given to God, turn to him in your defeat.

"My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart."

(Psalm 51:17)

May you know and experience the resurrection love and power of God this Easter - and may the grace of God at work in you help others to receive this message as well. God bless you!

Martin


The Angels' Point of View

by J.B. Phillips

Once upon a time a very young angel was being shown round the splendours and glories of the universes by a senior and experienced angel. To tell the truth, the little angel was beginning to be tired and a little bored. He has been shown whirling galaxies and blazing suns, infinite distances in the deathly cold of interstellar space, and to his mind there seemed to be an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown the galaxy of which our planetary system is but a small part. As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and beauty of what he had seen.

"I want you to watch that one particularly," said the senior angel pointing with his finger.

"Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me," said the little angel. "What's special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"Visited?" said the little one. "You don't mean visited by 'him'?"

"Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps over-clean, has been visited by our young Prince of Glory." And at these words he bowed his head reverently.

"But how?" queried the younger one. "Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince, with all these wonders and splendours of his creation, and millions more that I'm sure I haven't seen yet, went down in person to this fifth rate little ball? Why should he do a thing like that?"

"It isn't for us," said his senior a little stiffly, "to question his ways, except that I must point out to you that he is not impressed by size and numbers, as you seem to be. But that he really went I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that. As to why he became one of them -- how else do you suppose he could visit them?"

The little angel's face wrinkled in disgust. "Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that he stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?"

"I do, and I don't think he would like you to call them 'creeping, crawling creatures' in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, he loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like him."

The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.

"Close your eyes for a moment," said the senior angel, "and we will go back in what they call Time."

While the little angel's eyes were closed and the two of them moved closer to the spinning ball, it stopped its spinning, spun backwards quite fast for a while, and then slowly resumed its usual rotation.

"Now look!" And as the little angel did as he was told, there appeared here and there on the dull surface of the globe flashes of light, some merely momentary and some persisting for quite some time.

"Well, what am I seeing now?" queried the little angel.

"You are watching this little world as it was some thousands of years ago," returned his companion. "Every flash and glow of light is something of the Father's knowledge and wisdom breaking into the minds and hearts of people who live upon the earth. Not many people, you see, can hear his Voice and understand what he says, even though he is speaking gently and quietly to them all the time."

"Why are they so blind and deaf and stupid?" asked the junior angel rather crossly.

"It is not for us to judge them. We who live in the splendour have no idea what it is like to live in the dark. We hear the music and the Voice like the sound of many waters every day of our lives, but to them -- well, there is much darkness and much noise and much distraction upon the earth. Only a few who are quiet and humble and wise hear his Voice. But watch, for in a moment you will see something truly wonderful."

The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both angels hid their eyes.

"I think I can guess," said the little angel in a low voice. "That was the Visit, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the Visit. The Light himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out."

"But why? Could he not bear their darkness and stupidity? Did he have to return here?"

"No, it wasn't that," returned the senior angel. His voice was stern and sad. "They failed to recognise him for who he was -- or at least only a handful knew him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to his Light, and in the end they killed him."

"The fools, the crazy fools! They don't deserve…"

"Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked. Nor can we say what they deserve or don’t deserve. But the fact remains they killed our Prince of Glory while he was a Man amongst them."

"And that I suppose was the end? I see the whole earth has gone black and dark. All right, I won't judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?"

Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet. Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again."

In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.

"What now?" asked the little angel shielding his eyes.

"They killed him all right, but he conquered death. The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives he broke and conquered. He rose again, and a few of them saw him and from then on became his utterly devoted slaves."

"Thank God for that," said the little angel.

"Amen. Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to his Home of Light. But watch the Earth now."

As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died; but for the most part the light burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.

"You see what is happening?" asked the senior angel. "The bright glow is the company of men and women that he left behind, and with his help they spread the glow and now light begins to shine all over the Earth."

"Yes, yes," said the little angel impatiently, "but how does it end? Will the little lights join up with each other? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?"

His senior shook his head. "We simply do not know," he replied. "It is in the Father's hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable. The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it; he is working out his Plan upon it."

"Yes, I see, though I don't understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet." v

Ordained in 1930, J.B. Phillips became vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd in London in 1940. During WWII he wrote the majority of his book Letters to Young Churches, as an encouragement to a large youth group of which he was the leader. In 1958 he published The New Testament in Modern English which was acclaimed almost universally as an important step in Biblical understanding.

The Angel's Point of View from Behold That Star. Edited by the Society of Brothers. (Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1966).

 

From Martzi Eidelberg


The Origins of the Easter Offering

June de Klerk sent us this article taken from an old English parish magazine of Holy Trinity, Norwich. As you read it, bear in mind that it is dated April 1928. It gives a fascinating account of the origins of the Easter Offering to the Rector. The article was written by the Rev. Canon G.L. Richardson, B.D. Although the language is a little quaint, and the article has been edited for length, the essence of the article is, we thought, rather topical.


A Good Old Custom

If we go back to the year 1662, and look at the Rules in the Prayer Book (at the end of the Communion Service) we find, "Yearly at Easter every parishioner shall pay to the Parson, Vicar or Curate all ecclesiatical duties accustomably due." (In the Book of 1927 the rule appears among the general rubrics prefixed to the Service.) In those days we read the "due" was twopence per person, though the actual offerings were often larger. And a penny then was more like a florin in value to-day.

Easter Offerings are a Token of Friendship

We all value gifts because they cement friendships and promote it. I am now sitting at a desk given me by friends in Peterborough, on a chair given by friends in Leicester, and consulting a watch given by friends in Cardiff. Well do the Proverbs say, "A gift is like a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it; withersoever it turneth, it prospereth" (Prov. xvii. 8). … English people are shy of expressing their affection in words: but there is a true meaning in the cynical phrase that "money talks"; a generous act speaks louder than words: "It blesses him that gives and him that takes".

Financial Burdens of the Clergy

It is well known that the incomes of the clergy compare unfavourably with those of other professional and business men. In large parishes where there used to be several curates there is perhaps one, or a Vicar is working alone. This is largely due to the fact that … parents hesitate to let their boys enter a profession where "a living wage" is an uncertain prospect.

It appears that recent legislation -- though promising good results in the future -- actually makes the position at the moment more difficult. …And in addition, many a Rector is burdened by the maintenance of a huge Rectory. The [Special Clergy] Commission reports: "The inquiries which have been instituted show that in a large majority of cases over-large houses surrounded by large gardens are the most fruitful cause of clerical embarrassment."

Happy in His Work

It is all to the good that the thought of emoluments or "a fat living" should not cross the minds of candidates for Holy Orders or our younger clergy. A Parson if he is "truly called" finds his happiness in his work. But worry is a foe to happiness in work, and many an Incumbent will "thank God and take courage" when he receives a cheque at the Easter Vestry. v

 


Fill-a-Bag, Feed-a-Family Scheme

Important Note to All Contributors from Amy Macnamara

To those of you who are not familiar with the way that the Fill-a-Bag scheme works, the contents of the bags you contribute each month represent what dieticians and nutritionists consider to be the necessary basic food to sustain a family for four to ten days. In calculating what was needed, the nutritional value of each component has been carefully considered.

Skimmed, powdered milk is included because it is so much more healthy than whole milk and has added vitamins. Blends are not acceptable as they are not suitable for feeding to small children. Neither are tea and coffee creamers. They also may not be fed to infants.

When people include inappropriate products, we exchange them (if we can see from the price tags where they were bought) or we replace them at our own expense.

All the bags we send out are carefully checked to ensure that they are identical. This avoids causing bad feelings between recipients.

Your contributions are greatly valued, particularly by the beneficiary families, so please consider these issues as you assemble the contents each month.


'Too pretty' to be a Priest

From Sunday Times (22 February 1999). Sent in by Anne Marie Smith.

A woman minister has been turned down as a parish priest by the Swiss church because of her striking resem-blance to a Barbie doll.

With her long blonde hair, model statistics and trademark red lipstick, Katharina Hoby cuts an imp-ressive figure when she climbs into the pulpit to give her sermons.

Although she is a minister and respected theologian, she has no parish and was confidant of success when she applied for the job at Gross-munster.

But senior church officials in the Swiss capital of Zurich rejected the 36-year-old wife and mother's applic-ation for the pastoral post apparently only because she had "Barbie-doll good looks". Her rejection, against which she has filed an official com-plaint, was followed by a wave of protest not only from people in the diocese of Zurich but from across the country.

Many believe that Hoby's rejection is symptomatic of a tendency by Swiss men to assume that if a woman is attractive she cannot be intellectual. But even within the church hierarchy there is a mixed response.

Franco Gargiolo, a sexton, said: "It is a mystery to me why she was not chosen.

"I really do not know why everything has become so complicated. She loves what she does and she does it well." v


 

A Poem at Easter

You have protected us, Jesus, from endless disaster.

You spread your hands over us like wings.

You poured your blood over the earth,

because you loved us

And restored us to friendship with God.

The heavens may have your Spirit, paradise your soul

But the earth has your blood.

We celebrate the coming of your Spirit always;

The Spirit leads the mystic dance throughout the year.

But Easter comes and goes.

Power came from heaven to raise you from death,

So that we and all creatures could see you.

All living things gather round you at Easter.

There is joy, honour, celebration, delight.

The darkness of death is driven away.

Life is restored everywhere.

The gates of heaven are thrown open.

In you, risen Jesus, God has shown us himself,

So we can rise to him as gods.

The gates of hell are shattered.

In you, risen Jesus, those already dead rise to life,

Affirming the good news of eternal life.

Now your promise has been fulfilled.

Now the earth is singing and dancing.

Easter is our marriage ceremony.

At Easter, dear Jesus, you make us your brides.

Sealing the union with your Spirit.

The great marriage hall is full of guests,

All dressed for the wedding.

No-one is rejected for want of a wedding dress.

We come to you as spiritual virgins,

Our lamps are fresh and bright, with ample oil,

The light within our souls will never go out,

The fire of grace burns in us all.

We pray you, our sovereign Christ,

Stretch out your strong hands over your whole church

And over all your faithful people.

Defend, protect, and preserve them,

Fight and do battle for them, subdue the invisible powers that oppose them.

Raise now the sign of victory over us

And grant that we may sing the song of triumph.

May you rule for ever and ever.

Hippolytus


Response from the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town,

the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane,

to the Budget Presented to the South African Parliament, Wednesday, 17 February 1999


The emphasis placed by the Minister of Finance, Mr Trevor Manuel, on continually reprioritising expenditure to improve the lot of people, was to be welcomed, but did not translate into making a discernible difference for people who were unemployed or poverty-stricken.

Such people still had to bear the brunt of the massive national debt burden carried by the South African government, amounting to R48,2-billion or some 22% of the total expenditure budgeted.

So said the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, in his response this afternoon to the budget.

Archbishop Ndungane said he was deeply distressed that the interest repayment continued to siphon off invaluable resources from the country, thus impeding reconstruction and development.

"There can be no moral defence for such a vast amount – more than a quarter of the gross amount budgeted – to be siphoned off, without the Minister making a commitment to redress the matter. The government may well commit itself to pursuing the RDP, but this will never be completely successful while such a huge chunk of our national fiscus goes into servicing our debts," the Archbishop said.

He called on the government to establish a task force to examine ways and means to lessen the burden of the debt.

"It is also with dismay that I noted the Minister’s comments regarding expenditure on defence, that is to be spread over 15 years. This, in itself, will inevitably result in a further medium-term debt that will have to be repaid by ordinary people in the long run."

Archbishop Ndungane also said that he was discouraged that only R1-billion had been earmarked for poverty relief.

"While this is naturally a lot better than we had from previous governments, it is – in reality – a drop in the ocean. If we are really to seriously combat poverty, then the government should apply its mind to the establishment of a special workers brigade that could assist in the creation and strengthening of South Africa’s infrastructure, while making a living for themselves," he said.

Archbishop Ndungane had special praise for the accomplishments of the Ministry of Water Affairs and Forestry, which had created some 100 000 extra jobs, brought potable water and sanitation to previously disadvantaged areas.

"It is this type of innovation that the government as a whole should be employing in order to create more jobs and to stabilise and grow our economy, and result in a better quality of life for all," he said.

Archbishop Ndungane welcomed the measures of tax relief announced by the Minister. He believed that these would play an important part in rejuvenating the spirit of South African consumers and stimulating the economy in the long run – "providing the taxes are not again increased next year".

He also welcomed the Minister’s decision to prosecute unscrupulous money-lenders, saying that such business people took an unfair advantage of the poor and unemployed.

"The Minister has our strongest support in taking actions against people who behave in a criminal way in their money lending activities. The Church would, in particular, wish him its full support in prosecuting this issue. Usury is one of the oldest sins, and one that we can tolerate as little now as we could in the days of Jesus," Archbishop Ndungane said.

He complimented the Minister on extending the principle established last year, of a budget for the people, in this year’s presentation. He said it was particularly noteworthy that he had highlighted seven important areas of social spending that had to receive priority.


Heaven's Grocery Store

I was walking down life's highway a long time ago.

One day I saw a sign that read "HEAVEN'S GROCERY STORE".

As I got a little closer, the door came open wide,

And when I came to myself I was standing inside.

I saw a host of ANGELS. They were standing everywhere.

One handed me a basket and said, "My Child, shop with care".

Everything a human needed was in that grocery store.

And all you couldn't carry, you could come back the next day for more.

First, I got some PATIENCE: LOVE was in the same row.

Further down was UNDERSTANDING: you need that everywhere you go.

I got a box or two of WISDOM, a bag or two of FAITH.

I just couldn't miss the HOLY GHOST,

For it was all over the place.

I stopped to get some STRENGTH,

And COURAGE to help me run this race.

By then my basket was getting full,

But I remembered I needed some GRACE.

I didn't forget SAVATION, for SALVATION was free,

So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.

Then I started up to the counter to pay my grocery bill,

For I thought I had everything to do the MASTER'S will.

As I went up the aisle I saw PRAYER: And I just had to put that in,

For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run into sin.

PEACE and JOY were plentiful; they were last on the shelf.

SONG and PRAISE were hanging near, so I just helped myself.

Then I said to the angel, "Now, how much do I owe?"

He smiled and said , "Just take them everywhere you go."

Again, I smiled and said, "How much do I really owe?"

He smiled again and said, "MY CHILD, GOD PAID YOUR BILL A LONG, LONG TIME AGO."

From NAPWA (National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS) Newsline, December 1998.


Kids Thoughts on Science. Rated PG

The beguiling ideas about science quoted here were gleaned from essays, exams, and classroom discussions. Most were from 5th and 6th graders.

 

 


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