Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

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.

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


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


Filed under Articles, The News

Choices: a sermon (Pentecost 6, Year C)

A sermon preached at Prestbury Methodist Church, Sunday, 30 June 2013.

Readings: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62

The Jordan River

The Jordan River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are confronted by choices every day. What to wear? What to eat? Well, at least I’ve sorted lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches almost every working day for 50 years. That’s one decision I don’t have to worry about. Some choices are, of course, trivial. What does it really matter what we eat? But others are life changing.

Nelson Mandela chose to run off to Johannesburg rather than be forced into an arranged marriage. It was in Johannesburg that he met Walter Sisulu and studied law. Those choices were among many significant decisions Madiba made that have brought us to this point, where his health is not just of passing interest to a few family members, but of deep personal interest to the whole world.

Think for a moment about some of the life changing choices you have made? Whether they were entirely your choice, or forced on you, what were they?

Elijah and Elisha
Our 2 Kings reading, Elijah passing on his charge to Elisha, is a difficult one. I don’t know what to make of the magical elements of the story. Of course, we often just call them miracles and ignore them. But trying to understand what they meant and mean will have to be for another time.

Continue reading


Filed under Sermons

Freedom Day: an inconvenient truth

Freedom Day: commemorating South Africa’s first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, and celebrating freedom everywhere.  Nelson Mandela said, “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.”  A most inconvenient truth as Al Gore would say.  It does rather suggest that those who justify their conspicuous consumption, and their greedy accumulation of wealth, by telling us they didn’t endure the Struggle to be poor, have rather missed the point.

Jen and I too, no doubt, missed the point of Freedom Day by hiving off to enjoy our own private freedom, meandering up the Midlands Meander.  It was a beautiful day, spent in beautiful countryside enjoying good coffee and good food, practising the three Rs: reading, writing and relaxing.  But Mandela’s challenge is that there can be no individual freedom that ignores the freedom of others.

Companies and organisations, in pursuit of their own freedom, often ignore the freedom of others.  Signal distribution company, Sentech, has had to lower the height of the World’s View tower that provides Pietermaritzburg with its SABC TV signals (“Fuzzy TV to last weeks”, The Witness, 27 April 2012).  The process has resulted in poor reception, driving residents to TV repair shops, but their TVs have been declared satisfactory because no one knew what was going on.

The SABC didn’t bother to warn anyone because it wasn’t its problem.  “We only warn people if the problem is from our side and is going to affect the whole country.”  Forget the needs and expectations of individuals who pay for one’s product; forget the freedom of others.  We’re all right, thank you; our freedom to make money is intact.

Sentech was also not interested; they were forced to make the changes by the aviation authorities.  “Unfortunately this is inevitable.  Our guys are working there every day.”  And, almost as an aside, “reception should improve by the end of May.”

The Civil Aviation Authority, however, tells us that Sentech created the problem 40 years ago when they increased the height of the tower by 20 metres without permission.  It sounds like the classic tale from the Garden of Eden: Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake and the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Sentech and the SABC seem not to understand that while the work and the disruption may be unavoidable; failing to inform your customers is not. 

On a grander scale, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Department of Transport failed to appreciate the national mood, and ignored the freedom of others.  They went ahead in the face of legal and industrial protests, with an exceptionally unpopular and excessively expensive method of tolling the national roads in Gauteng province (e-tolling).  Their actions brought business, labour and ordinary citizens together onto the streets and into the courts in an unprecedented display of solidarity and cooperation.  As a result e-tolling has been put on hold.  The battle has been won, although the war is far from over.

On the advertising front, fast-food chain, Nando’s, well known for its cheeky, in-your-face advertising, created a spoof of an advert flighted by short-term insurance giant, Santam.  Creative advertising is one thing but stealing another company’s ideas is quite another.

Santam might have risen up in righteous anger to protect its own freedom.  Instead, South Africans have been privileged to enjoy a rare exchange of banter that inhibited no one’s freedom, and from which a group of children emerged as the ultimate winners.  Santam responded with another advert inviting Nando’s to pay up for their cheek.  However, the “payment” was to be in the form of 74 specified meals donated to the Johannesburg Children’s Home.  Nando’s rose to the occasion, and rushed the 74 meals to the children almost before the advert had finished airing.  They went the extra mile, and committed to a similar delivery every month for the next year.  So Santam and the children won this battle, but this “war” is also far from over.  Nando’s marketing director Quentin Cronje is quoted as saying, “We might even be doing a little response back to them.  We might even be working on it as we speak.”

Large organisations, and many individuals, ignore Mandela’s challenge and deny the freedom of others.  But there are some who tread gently enough to protect those freedoms, and children are fed.  Neither option is inevitable; each results from choices made every day by people such as you and me.

This post was published in The Witness on Tuesday, 1 May 2012.


Filed under Articles, Freedom Day, Through the Year

Nelson Mandela: 67 minutes for 67 years

Nelson Mandela.

Image via Wikipedia

Sixty seven minutes to celebrate 67 years of service.

Nelson Mandela, 93 years old, we salute you.  A life lived to the full in serving a cause, but not so enslaved to it that he could not challenge and adapt and find new ways.  He emerged from the mud and the blood of an armed rebellion, a stifling prison cell, a lifetime in politics, a position of power, and from the grasp of those who would tame him.  He emerged stronger and more humble, a greater man than almost any other public figure you care to name, especially those who have come under the lure of politics and power.

Nelson Mandela has his detractors of course.  There are those on the “right” who dig for dirt because they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge, let alone embrace, greatness in someone who thinks differently, believes differently, or acts differently from them.  How tragic that Christians are found swelling these ranks.

There are those on the “left” who hate the idea of reconciliation; who will not share, who cannot forgive.  They demand retribution; some to satisfy their bloodlust, others because their share of the pie was smaller than expected; others because they demand someone to blame.  They cannot find freedom within themselves so someone else must be enslaved that their own slavery might seem like freedom. How tragic that Christians swell these ranks too.

Nelson Mandela’s greatness lies as much in what he has overcome and managed to achieve as in what he has enabled others to do. 

His legacy can be seen in this great land of ours, South Africa.  A nation birthed and nurtured under his loving care, his determination that the healing of wounds and the nurture of freedom are far more important for the building of a future, than triumph or revenge or power.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy has survived the racism that marked Thabo Mbeki’s reign and the ‘every man for himself, feeding at the communal trough’ legacy of Jacob Zuma.  Will it survive the lust for instant gratification of Julius Malema?  I don’t know.  I think that depends on how many 67 minutes are spent by ordinary citizens serving others, reminding each other of another way, calling one another to greatness rather than power.

Long before Nelson Mandela chose his way, Jesus said the first shall be last and the last first.  He said the one who wants to be first should be the servant of all and the way to save our lives is to lose them.  So the front is to be found at the back, the top can only be reached from the bottom, and real power is exercised through service.  How do we teach these truths to a nation?  Not by force; there are no quick fixes.  The only certain way is to live it out; at the risk of ridicule, rejection, and even death; to choose the way of service that goes beyond 67 minutes and becomes a way of life.

May I humbly offer this challenge as my 67 minutes of service, in gratitude and in admiration of a man at whose strength and grace one can only marvel?  Madiba, we love you.

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