Tag Archives: Forgiveness

A prayer for Madiba


Almighty God,
We thank you for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,
our beloved Madiba.
We come to celebrate his life:
A hard life, but a life well lived;
A life committed to the freedom of others;
Unselfishly seeking freedom and justice for all.

Thank you for keeping and moulding his spirit
Through those 27 years of imprisonment.
Thank you for keeping his spirit
from the seduction of power.
We know how easily we become grumpy
When we do not get our own way,
Angry in the face of perceived injustice,
Ready to use power for revenge.
Yet you moulded Madiba’s soul in the furnace
of intolerance, violence, injustice and imprisonment
And helped him find true freedom.

Lord God, we celebrate Madiba’s life.
Not a perfect life, but a life well lived.
Thank you that, whatever he may have gotten wrong,
He got the big things right:
He learned how to forgive, and showed us how;
He learned reconciliation,
And ‘he made reconciliation happen in South Africa.’¹

Lord God, we celebrate a life well lived.
A life that allows us to live in freedom and peace,
That demands that we, too, strive for the freedom of others.
‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’²
We pray for this freedom for ourselves, our children and our communities.

We ask it in the name of the one whose birth we celebrate
And whose coming as a baby sets the tone
of vulnerability and peace our world so desperately needs.
Amen

A prayer shared at a brief interfaith memorial service for Madiba held at Shuter & Shooter Publishers (where I am privileged to be a consultant) on Friday 13 December 2013

1  FW de Klerk
2  Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1995

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer, The News

Nelson Mandela: friend of the world


We have lost an icon, a friend of the world, a statesman; Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has died.

We knew this day would come but it is hard to express our feelings. I am relieved that his suffering is over and he can rest in peace. No one would want him to linger on. But he was, as President Jacob Zuma said, ‘Africa’s greatest son.’ And President Barak Obama said, ‘He was one of the most courageous, influential and profoundly good individuals.’ It has been a huge privilege to live under his shadow and under his influence.

Read more of this post on my website, Simply Communicate

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A prayer of confession: our failure to witness


Lord, we have so much so say.
When a helicopter crashed in our suburb
We kept talking about it for weeks.

When we get bad service,
And sometimes when we get excellent service,
We want everyone to know.

When we fall in love
Or a butterfly lands on our nose,
We can’t wait to tell someone.

But, Lord, we’re strangely silent about you.
The Lord of creation has fallen in love with us,
And we keep it to ourselves.

Perhaps we’ve gotten used to having you around;
You don’t make spectacular entrances like the helicopter;
You are just there — everywhere.

We have forgotten, or we take for granted,
The extraordinary extravagance of your grace.
We have forgotten that Jesus died for us.

We have forgotten what it was like to be forgiven,
To be loved when we deserved denial,
To be welcomed when we had nowhere to go.

We have forgotten what it was like to be without you,
To be guilty, alone and without hope.
We have forgotten the glory of the light shining in our darkness,
Love drenched in mercy finding us and bringing us home.

O Lord, there is a world of people around us
Who need to know your love,
Who need light to shine in their darkness,
Love and mercy to bring them home.

We have a word to give them;
A sure and certain hope to share with them.
More spectacular than a crash,
More beautiful than a butterfly.

Lord, forgive our silence in the face of injustice,
Forgive our silence in the face of our neighbours’ suffering,
Forgive us for clinging to hope instead of sharing it,
For our hesitant, selective, conditional love.

Forgive us Lord, not because we deserve it,
But because you promised it.
Not because we have arrived, but because we journey with you.

Shine your light again in the darkness, Lord.
Flood us afresh with your Spirit of joy and delight,
Of mercy and of love.

Write your love on our hearts again,
Let our eyes reflect it, our mouths proclaim it,
And our lives declare it.

In the name of Jesus,
Our Lord, our Friend and our Life.

Amen.

 

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Electrical failure and a failure of faith


We were plunged into darkness the other evening.

To be brutally honest, I received a call from my ever-loving wife to say that we had no electricity, and that there was a blue slip in the post box from the municipality stating that, since we had not paid our account, they had cut us off.

Not only were a hot bath and hot dinner in jeopardy but, far more serious, we were busy watching Doc Martin, Series 5, with the final episode to go.  While we could have watched an episode on the laptop, the DVD was sitting inside the DVD player, which cannot be opened without electricity.  Well, it can be opened with a screwdriver or hammer, of course, but I managed to dissuade my lovely wife from such drastic action.  I had to tread carefully, mind you, since there was the danger that either implement (or both) could have been used on me, it being my responsibility to pay such accounts.

Candles are very romantic but the romance wears very thin when their use is forced on one.  Or, put more correctly, when they are forced on one because of the forgetfulness of another.  A friend of mine who is single asked, “Is that really how far love is supposed to go?” Fortunately the question was put to me, rather than to my wife, and I was able to respond with a confident, “Yes, of course.”

We’ve been reading about Sarah and Abraham in our quiet times over the past couple of weeks.  Today we read about Sarah’s death and burial at the age of 127.  I suspect that her death was more peaceful than her life.  Sarah suffered greatly as a result of Abraham’s uncertainty about God’s faithfulness over the years.  He put Sarah into grave danger all too easily whenever he felt his own life might be threatened. 

“Yes, very beautiful; she’s my sister.”
“Yes, take her by all means.”

Fortunately Sarah wasn’t able to have children during those years, otherwise how many might there have been?  But that led to frustration because they were not able to produce the child God had promised them.  Did Abraham also nag Sarah about it?  We don’t know, but she eventually gave him her servant girl, Hagar, to produce the child of promise. That didn’t exactly lead to a happy family either.

For 25 years God worked with this couple until they finally understood and believed God, and finally trusted him.  They even trusted him enough to sacrifice their child of promise.

Don’t think for a moment that I am pointing fingers at Abraham. His faith and his faithfulness, and his willingness to follow wherever God led, were, at their very weakest, on a different planet from mine.  But I am greatly encouraged by God’s willingness to work with us, growing our faith, and encouraging our trust; his endless patience with his slow-to-learn children.  That is, for me, an essential element of the story of Abraham and Sarah.

Of course, it’s also useful to hint to my beloved how gracious Sarah was, and that she had a lot more to forgive than Abraham forgetting to pay his electricity bill.

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Grace: He knew you’d want to come back


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Image via Wikipedia

My favourite line in the Harry Potter series comes in the last of the seven books, Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsThe three friends are on the run, confused by the seemingly inadequate clues left by the late Professor Dumbledore, and unsure of what to do next.  They fall to squabbling among themselves, and partly in anger and partly in fear for his family, Ron runs out on Harry and Hermione.  The problem was that, given the nature of their nomadic existence, once Ron had left them there was no way he could find them again.  A deluminator, a gift left to him in Dumbledore’s will, provided the way.  It picked up Hermione’s voice like a radio transmitter and allowed him to home in on where they were.  When he told Harry how he had found them (just in time to save Harry’s life) Ron said, “He – well, he must’ve known I’d run out on you.”

“No,” Harry corrected him.  “He must’ve known you’d always want to come back.”

I find myself deeply moved by Harry’s correction.  What a gift to give his friend.  It speaks volumes of grace and forgiveness, of welcome and belonging.  How easy it would have been, how natural, for Harry to have said, “Yeah.”  In the film version, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Ron simply says, “Dumbledore must’ve known I would want to get back.” I think they missed it.

I wonder how often we have the opportunity to offer grace and forgiveness, welcome and a sense of belonging, but end up agreeing with another’s sense of failure and despair.  Sometimes we have grace in our hearts, which we fail to express.  Sometimes words get in the way and there is misunderstanding; sometimes our pride or sense of fairness, perhaps, gets in the way and we fail to bridge the gap or offer hope.  At work managers are just too busy, and we fail to recognise the significance of such moments in employee’s lives.  We confirm an employee’s failure without offering any understanding or any way forward; we focus on mistakes and ignore the positives and successes as unimportant or insignificant.  We leave others hanging with, “he must’ve known I’d run out on you”, when there is so much more we could offer. 

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Do Angels use Nicknames


English: A cup of coffee.As I write this at a local coffee shop the coffee-cup placemats ask a question: “If there was a book about your life, what would the title be?”

I guess the answer would be different depending on who was writing it, but I was reminded of a discussion at work the other day.  Someone said, “I have discovered the nickname my staff have given me.”

“Oh, yes?  Of course we’ve all got a nickname (or two),” someone responded.

“All of us?” I asked hopefully.

“All of us,” everyone chorused.

It got me thinking.  My guess is that most of us would love to know what others call us, but we’re pretty glad we don’t.  And if we discovered one of the less-flattering ones we’d probably shrug it off: They don’t understand me, after all; they are biased, and anyway, who are they to point fingers?  (I could call them a few names, if it comes to that.)  It’s certainly tempting to ignore what others think of us. 

But what about how God sees us?  Do the angels have nicknames for us? What would yours be? Do we want to know? The Bible speaks about a Book of Life.  What would the one about my life be called? 

I have a good idea what my book would be called outside of God’s grace.  “Guilty” would be prominent in the title.  So much pain and suffering caused to others—the consequences of my actions still felt.  God’s grace doesn’t tear out those pages.  To throw them away would be to forget how much I need forgiveness; it would be to ignore the wonder, the extravagance, the power of God’s grace. What God does is to write across them: “Forgiven” and “Loved by God”. 

To remember the past everyday, even to remember how much we have been forgiven, is a painful thing.  The danger is that we might become mired in self-pity or self-loathing, neither of which is God’s way to deal with the past, and neither will bring the healing God desires.  But in remembering lies the opportunity every day to wonder afresh at the unimaginable, underserved love of God; his gracious healing of enormous wounds through the suffering of Jesus.

I think my book would be called, “Lest we forget.”  What do you think?

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