Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5/27/2008 - Tuesday

Just when I thought we could relax… Dawn arrived on Sunday and by Tuesday she had begun to recover from jet lag and two nights on planes. We’ve done a couple of walks on the campus to the east and to the west of the seminary campus. Tomorrow we planned to go to the Natal museum downtown… at six pm my time or noon in Toledo, we received a call that Mom [Charlesetta] is in St. Luke’s Hospital and is in need of surgery for an infected gall bladder. She’s 85 and frightened, but this does not seem to be an elective procedure. This is a necessity. So I await the doctor to call after the surgery has been completed. I’ve contacted her pastor and he said he would go to the hospital to be with her. Prayers are welcome.

Monday, May 26, 2008

5/26/2008 – Monday

Dawn has arrived. That is not to say that life is normal. The news reports are world wide on the issue of South African Xenophobia. If you are interested in the local items on this internal tragedy please do searches in the following publications [The Natal Witness], [The Mail and Guardian]. There are other South African Publications, but these are the ones I read with regularity. Opinions are offered on both the radio and televised broadcasts of SABC. This is all written on the Day after Africa Day where almost all the commentary was subdued due to the last two weeks of violence against other residents of the continent.

5/22/2008 – Thursday

I just receive a notice that a thought piece that I shared with the faculty at LTSP was just shared with them via email. The piece was originally written on Easter Monday. It reflects conversations at LTSP on Worship and life here at LTI on just eating. It is focused on the food for the soul and how one partakes in that food. Please comment if so moved.

From: "Richard Stewart"
Date: March 26, 2008 10:01:14 AM EDT
To: "Robert Robinson"
Subject: Re: Some reflections from afar that may be shared on Friday.

Bob, Sorry the attachment didn't make it. While my reflections may not directly go in the direction of the faculty conversation, I am sending them to you as a thought piece based upon a geographically removed view of the emails and conversation that I have had since my departure. I would suspect that these reflections may also be influenced by my perspective of religious life at LTSP over a longer period of time. Some know that I have been a gentle critic. Now if that helps with the vision, feel free to share this document.
Friends, I'm at a school where the students can worship together in 4-5 languages, but they do not eat together, because of [as they describe it] cultural differences. At LTSP we enjoy the table fellowship of the Refectory, but we have difficulty experiencing ourselves as a unified worshipping community. At the LTI, I really struggled with this for the first month. For regular worship [7:20 am and 7:00 pm] students tend to lead the service from the Suffrages. They add hymns to the mix of morning and evening prayers and they are assigned to preach, at least that is what they make of their time to reflect on the assigned scriptures for the day. Remember that we use the Moravian texts for daily worship that is prescribed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. They produce this worship manual each year in the eleven official languages of South Africa. Each book is also a directory of the pastors in each diocese and in the White – Settler’s Church.
The primary hymnal is the Lutheran Book of Worship, copies donated by congregations who had moved on. There are copied sheets of songs in Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, and Afrikaans. But these do not limit the students or the worship leaders, as there are songs that come out of memory banks that seem to have resonance with all of the students, whether they are from South Africa or they are graduate students from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Zambia, Botswana, or elsewhere. The singing is spirited though not always in direct correlation with the printed music on the page. Somehow everyone gets along and in the process God gets praised.
I must admit, that the ‘sermons’ get a little tedious. You can almost tell which year the student is in by the way they go about interpreting scripture. They don’t want to disappoint their professors, who may or may not be in attendance by what they say or their reflected knowledge of the history and the lineage of the book of the Bible to which they have been assigned. I have heard an enormous amount of direct quotes from Commentaries, but there is a piece of enlightenment when the older students gently comment to their colleagues, that they may be interested in what a professor will teach them in the next year.
The worship is sensitive to the traditions that we all carry, but they may be overly sensitive to the order. As one of the visiting colleagues noted when we went to a township church and a service led by students, that the service was very conservative. Cheryl Anderson, a United Methodist, on the faculty of Garrett Evangelical and a Fulbright Scholar had never been to a Lutheran worship before. She seriously wondered whether Black American worship would be as conservative and high church. My response was that there was greater freedom expressed in many American Lutheran churches of African descent, but that the ordo was to be respected along with the cultural traditions. What I had found in Southern Africa was that the traditions had been set by the missionaries and they continue to be replicated by the indigenous leaders who are now in charge of the worship life of the congregations
without much critical thought to what comes from the cultural context other than hymns. The musical setting of the liturgy is unaffected by the cultural context.
This is in contrast to the eating practices exercised on this same campus. The food service cooks food that is common in many of the tribal contexts of southern Africa. BhapI a corn meal wet bread is served at almost all meals, along with rice. Chicken is a staple, but it can be served fried, roasted or in a gravy where the meat begins to fall off the bone. We also have beef, sometimes as small steaks, or as a stew with gravy and potatoes. Pork is usually a chop that is well cooked. Fish is generally fried. Vegetables can be sweet potatoes, beets, carrots or cabbage, generally in cold slaw. There are a few students who do not eat red meat, but I haven’t yet met a campus vegan.
Now it does not matter what tribe or country you are from. All line up to be served the same meals from the same servers, but they do not carry their meals to the same tables. The Pedi speakers go in one direction, the Zimbabweans go to a table near their living quarters, the Venda speakers go to their room areas, the Afrikaans speakers go to their quarters, and the Zulus eat at table in the cafeteria.
When they are asked about the anomaly, they usually respond that they are eating separately because of their cultural differences. There is something about being able to eat and talk in the same language and to make jokes and to kid one another in the context of eating a meal.
The meal is a time for light hearted banter and when one is challenged to make cultural adjustments in the midst of eating, they are no longer at ease. The meal becomes work. Thus it is easier to eat separately as this is a part of relaxation. It is a part of our re-creation. We nourish our bodies and our souls. In this context we are free.
While at the same time the school I've left behind has a different set of issues. I cherish the time we gather together for meals in the Refectory. We can have light hearted banter, we can eat together as faculty, students, and staff. There is no hierarchical forum or form that takes precedence in the Refectory. We speak the same language, and even when we gather at language tables for Spanish, or German it is done in the context that all are welcome. We gather around tables to discuss the issues that have arisen on campus. What are the values of a green campus, what mission activities can we all be partners in addressing. What skills have some of us acquired that we would like to share and communicate with to others in our community, those are the elements for which we gather around the table to eat and have fellowship.
It is in the environment of the refectory that we do not find that our cultural differences emerge, but those which can easily be addressed in open and candid conversation. In one very critical sense the table in the refectory is where we can break bread, give thanks and share the cup of fellowship in our multicultural environment. It may not have been considered, but the fact that the bulk of our worship services precede the walk to the refectory means that we have only changed location for the final act of worship together. Though it may sound sacrilegious, the table of the ordo may exist at the opposite end of the parking lot. That then raises a critical question about our worship practices. If we can continue to eat together, why is it that we have difficulty worshiping together? As I'm beginning to discern it may have some direct relationship to the differences in the taste for spiritual food in a multicultural environment and society.
On this Easter weekend there were several television shows that tried to address some of the issues that have arisen in South African society in the last couple of weeks, about “how does this Rainbow society work, now fourteen years after liberation.” Though the Settler’s church has made specific reference for me in planning some workshops that they are no longer just a white church, their practice of integration is not unlike the integration we have in United States churches. Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in South Africa and America.
My experience in South Africa is limited. Yet the Presbyterian Church around the corner from the LTI and across the street from the UKZN campus has been the most diversified that I have seen in a long time anywhere. With Blacks, Whites, and Asians [limited]; the pastor acknowledges that his congregation is highly unusual in Presbyterian circles. The service is lively, spirited, contemporary musically, and focused on teaching the scriptures and liturgical form. They celebrate communion every Sunday. The pastor has been in the one congregation for 27 years. So he has seen the congregation through the change in the neighborhood around the university and through the change in the apartheid system of governing. This congregation has devised a way to find a spiritual food that nurtures a multi-cultural congregation.
The seminary campus church is a reflection of the Lutheran Church and its mission life. It serves Lutherans, and those who understand themselves as a liturgical church. There is an expected formality and order that is reflected in every geographical church
represented on the campus. This common ordo is the central gathering point for all of these Lutheran Christians no matter what language by which they started their journey in being a disciple who is justified by faith alone.
The LTSP campus finds its rooted-ness in that same ordo, but we have also said that we are to be open to a wider population of sisters and brothers in the faith who come to us with a wider variety of traditions. That openness carries with it an expectation that there will be a wider variety of the spiritual food which nourishes those who gather at the altar of the Lord. This wider variety of spiritual food can be considered a feast that passes any single person’s understanding. To prepare this larger offering of spiritual food may mean that there will be a need for greater flexibility in the manner in which the ordo is accomplished on a campus like that offered at Philadelphia.
While the center of the ordo is the word, the pinnacle of a worship service with the living word present in the table of the Lord may not be the spiritual main course for those who find fulfillment and nourishment in the feast of the proclaimed word at the end of the service. What place does the commissioning, the blessing, of those who are about to return to a work-a-day world have in the context of worship? What importance is there for those who call for a spiritual passage that will be part of a week long memory of what is important in life? How do we fee those who are asking for spiritual food that will carry them through till they are able to gather in community once again to be nourished?
This is not to say that there is not nourishment in the patterns of our past, but with each class that enters the seminary, are we taking them back to where we, that is Lutherans, were nourished, or are we prepared to find different nourishing points to meet the needs of a broadened student body, and thus a broadened populace who is in need of hearing, feeling, and tasting God’s spiritual word in ways that they can lead a truly diverse assemblage of congregations that look to us for trained theological leaders?
Perhaps it is ironic that communities that are called through the gospel to reflect God's compassion in worship and at table have such a difficult time. Is it an issue that we can sometimes become overly immersed in our own cultural issues and that bars us from seeing the problem as anything other than that of the other. Are we faced with a contemporary way of wondering, why were the Pharisees and Sadducees so upset about the company Jesus kept at table? What is the current consensus among ecumenical scholars concerning the eating and drinking Paul speaks about with the Corinthians? How do we understand the eating and drinking that cause scandal to arise because the body of Christ was not being discerned in the Eucharistic elements of the bread and wine but in the person and presence of the community? But you my colleagues know all this. What makes this so difficult to communicate in a place where the leaders of the Christian community are being educated?
May these words be of assistance in your visioning.

Richard Stewart on Easter Monday 2008.

Monday, May 19, 2008

5/18/2008 – Trinity Sunday

Winter in South Africa
Non-Flying Birds.
Buggy blossoms.

The requests for copies of the Trinity Sunday Sermon are being met, by posting the sermon here.

Trinity Sermon::: 2 Corinth 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

You have heard this lesson in five languages. What does it mean for the children of God? What does it mean for the students who study at LTI? What does it mean for those gathered here for worship on this Trinity Sunday?

Well for the Children of God, we have some work to do. On Monday, Alison challenged those of us on campus to be disciples. But what kind of disciples, we are to be disciples who have read our scriptures and have a clear understanding of who Jesus is not only in our scriptures, but who is Jesus for us, Who is Jesus today. Jesus asked his disciples, who do people say that I am. That question and its answer are just as important today as it was when Jesus first uttered that simple sentence to the Children of God gathered around him. The answer has to come from within. Within us. We are not just reflecting who people say Jesus is, we are affirming who we believe Jesus to be today in the here and now. We are not playing a word game. We are declaring the core of our faith. This Jesus who sent out 12 disciples, somehow got ahold of me and sent me out not once, but to four different places to share his call to me to be his disciple. This last call has lasted nearly 20 years, and in the midst of it I have been sent to two different congregations to be an interim pastor and to one church to be a Sunday School teacher. Most recently I’ve had the opportunity to be in this place teaching, talking, laughing, worshipping, enjoying your sports teams and the ‘a cappella’ singing. In the midst of that I hope that I have been answering that continual question, who do you say that I am.

On Tuesday Hans Peter, reminded us that the Holy Spirit, spoke through the mouth of the Father of Jewish community King David. But he reminded us that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to us today. Not just those of us gathered on this campus, but it speaks to the students who walk the pathways of the campus across the street. The Holy Spirit speaks to all those who are not students at LTI, but are here this morning to be a part of this worshipping community. The Holy Spirit has not left us, but is constantly putting new challenges in front of us. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to raise questions of what is going on in some of the communities of South Africa. What is it about human beings, who attack economic and political refugees who have sought sanctuary within this country? Many of these same people were from villages and communities that offered similar sanctuary for refugees and freedom fighters from this country prior to the end of the apartheid era. What is going on when hospitality is no longer offered, but becomes hostility? Holy Spirit speak to all of us, those that are budding theologians and those of us who are informed laity.

Caleb on Wednesday was clear in letting those of us gathered for early morning worship that the power of the Holy Spirit was a gift. It could not be purchased, no matter how much money was offered. The Holy Spirit comes freely to the Children of God, and the we are the managers, the Stewards of this Gift of God that has power that exceeds all the images created by our fellow human beings. Remember I’ve been teaching the Ministerial students. Four of you are ready for parish placement. [Assuming all the assignments are in…..], and Four of you are ready for supervised placement. Now it is your turn to see if you can use those spiritual gifts that are given to you by the Holy Spirit in sharing the work of spreading God’s Good News to those have heard it and need to hear it again, and sharing God’s Good News in ways that some might hear it for the first time. Our calling is not just to minister to the saved, but our task; that is everyone in this room, laypersons and those preparing to be clergy and those who already are clergy; our task is to share with all the world what God has done for us and what he can continually do for those who place their trust in Him.

On Thursday we had a hiccup. Chaplain Modisane, was unable to be with us. But that did not mean that the Word was not read and shared. IN that word we found that Peter, the one upon whom the church is to be built, has been criticized because he went into the house of the uncircumcised and ate with them. What that physically means that if Peter had been in Pietermaritzburg and had found his way to our chapel and after chapel had found his way into our cafeteria, where we ate with him. He would have been criticized, BECAUSE HE ATE WITH GENTILES. Children of God, I got news for you. We may not be God’s Chosen People, by way of Abraham, but we are Jesus’ chose people by way of Peter and Paul. I’m a GENTILE and proud of it. I am an adopted Child of God, and Jesus told me that I would be an heir in God’s kingdom. Luther helped me understand that by helping me to know that I didn’t make my self a child of God. Jesus did when he died for all of my and our shortcomings on the cross. We are saved by The Grace of God. We are justified by our Faith in God. Jesus did all the work for us and is present with us today when we celebrate his gift to us in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup.

Then came Friday and Dr. Tonsing spoke of the attacks on the Christian community that seemed to disperse it in multiple places around the world. While the aim was to destroy this religious sect, the dispersion had an opposite effect. IT SPREAD GOD’S MESSAGE to multiple places around the world. Did you hear God’s word this morning? It came from Tswana, Zulu, Sepedi, Shona, Afrikaans, German. I’m preaching in English, but when I serve you the Body of Christ, my words will be El Cuerpo de Cristo, The Body of Christ in Spanish.

Earlier in the sermon, I asked the question what does it mean for each of us who gather here for worship. We come for a variety of reasons. Some of us are just looking for a place to hear God’s word and have an opportunity to praise God and hear a message that will inspire our work and our living for the week ahead.

Some of us are students preparing to be ministers. We are trying to take our lessons and find out how they apply to the work that will be ahead of us in congregations. Sometimes our gathering here is sort of like practice. But I’ve got news for you. As a Baptized Christian, THERE IS NO PRACTICE. Once baptized, you are a Child of God. You are an heir of God’s Kingdom. You are a disciple. Some Disciples are called to be the lay leaders of the church and some are called to be the Ordained, the set apart for leadership in the church. So we gather here for our own version of refueling for the week ahead of study and thinking and writing, and visiting and learning how to be a leader among God’s gathered people.

Some of us are ordained. We have been set apart for leadership, and we have been called to new roles of preparation for leadership in the church. There are those who are the graduate students who have been sent by the church to develop additional leadership skills for a church that has to face an increasingly complex society. So will be teachers, some will be church executives, some will lead NGO’s, but while that train and when they lead they will still be Children of God. They will be disciples who have been asked to abandon the familiar fishing boats and become fishers of people in new fields.

Some of us are called to be teachers. We have been asked by our churches to share the knowledge and the experience that we have gathered and to the best of our ability give that knowledge to others so that they can lead the church in new an creative ways. Almost each day as I teach, I am reminded that I am still and will remain a Child of God, a disciple who has been called, and at least for a brief time, called to be here in South Africa.

Finally, brothers and sisters, Remember these words from our brother Paul, the one who had his mission changed on the Road with a blinding light. He says to the Corinthians in his second letter “…farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” That is a directive that still fits today. For we have much work to do in our own midst. Some of our sisters and brothers are still trying to get aid to Myanmar, where the number of dead has now climbed into the hundreds of thousands. Some of our brothers in sister who have been dispersed around the world are supplying aid in China, where for many years they tried to ignore or deny that there were Christians and people of faith. It seems that we need to pray for peace in Palestine and Lebanon, which is the region where God chose to send his son, who did not die a peaceful death. We need peace keepers in Alexandra and Diepsloot. For we have lost sight of what it means to be hospitable to the stranger in our midst. We need to find some modern day Samaritans. We need to continue to support our sisters and brothers on this campus who are preparing for ministry in a revitalized Zimbabwe. Their work is still undefined, but they know that there will be work that needs to be done. We have work to do on this campus, to learn how to trust and live together in ways that will surprise our neighbors and maybe even surprise those who sent us here. For you are the beginnings of a future church in Southern Africa. A church that will continually need to bind the wounds of a history in which many of you never played a part. But you are the beginnings of a group of disciples who will have to learn to live together, so that when you are seen by those outside the faith, they will see that you really are the children of God gathered together in a Rainbow Church in a Rainbow nation.


Monday, May 12, 2008

New Football Kits

They all didn't make the pregame, but here is the LTI Team Photo and the New Football Kits. [I don't think I'll ever get use to the difference in terminology.] "Uniforms"

5/12/2008 – Monday

It doesn’t seem that the math works, but in six weeks I’ll be back in Philadelphia. In late January I packed two bags and my backpack and wondered how I would put together the materials to teach Stewardship and assist with an Introduction to Clinical Pastoral Education. Soon after arriving I received the notice that the CPE program at Abingdon Hospital had ceased operations. I was the chair of a board that no longer existed. But the students here began to write case studies in an effort to build the skills to observe and remember the encounters in hospital visitation to be able to write verbatims.

Kantonen’s book seemed like foreign territory to the students who generally were given a chapter from a book to read or assigned to go to the library to read a chapter or two as an assignment for a course. Giving them the books and expecting it to be read in its entirety took some continuous conversation. Yet they gave the Stewardship survey to their colleagues and we all marveled at the similarities to the students from the US in their attitudes toward giving. They too, wanted the quick and easy answers to how to solve the financial problems of a church, but the task of teaching generous giving began to take shape.

Actually the invitation to the speak to the Settler’s church put some shape to all the thinking I had been doing. It helped to be asked to develop a day long [6 hour] presentation. That helped to work with a Men’s League presentation, a conversation with Young Adult League members, a Theological Café presentation and a yet to be held campus conversation on Generous Giving.

This week Phil Knutson will be in town, so I guess I’ll start the process of debriefing. What did I learn, what helped, what hindered, what worked, what didn’t. In a way I’m interested in seeing the final results as well.

If you are interested, there is a tape of the Theological Café presentation in the Splash Cast section of the blog. I also taped the Pentecost Service. I broke the service into 4 sections: A Trio Anthem; the final staff sermon by Georg Scriba on Pentecost; The communion; and the final hymn. In the Splash Cast player there are four speakers in the bottom left, so you can pick and choose what you want to hear.

Georg Scriba has been a faculty member for 16 years and most recently the LTI Administrator. Pentecost was his last sermon as a LTI staff member as the University requires retirement at 60. He retires from the University and moves on to the local congregation in Hayfields. Enjoy the sermon and the hymns as well. Some of the singing is truly stunning.

Friday, May 9, 2008

5/9/2008 - Friday For my grandkids and anyone else who thinks they are children.

It seems that I got a comment from my grandchildren. Boy is that a grandparent term. At 12 and 13, I have the distinct impression that they no longer think of themselves as children, short adults, with no money, maybe. Most of the stuff I’ve been adding to this blog is aimed at adults. Even my Sunday School Class has tempered their viewing.

So I got some stuff for you. ANIMALS. If you are really interested in animals go to the photo album [Animals and Geography in South Africa and Namibia] OK, so it’s not all animals. I thought I’d include some pictures of the Cape area from my last trip, like Table Rock and the cable car to get there, through the clouds. There are baboons from the Cape of Good Hope and penguins as well. The elephants are from Krueger Park this trip. There are Giraffes and Lions from Etosha Game Preserve in Namibia, from the 2004 trip.

From this years travels I’ll share the pictures of flatlands and mountains in Limpopo, the dam east of Thohoyandou, the gorge in KwaZulu where the hot springs were. Have fun sharing.

Monday, May 5, 2008

5/5/2008 – Monday

The weekend was spent at Lilani HotSprings. The water was warm. The high veld shows obvious signs of a major cataclysmic geologic upheaval. The Zulu village of Lilani is 10km from the last paved road. Several streams cross the road as we slowly drove on the one lane road. Houses appeared to be hung on the hillsides, with no obvious way to get to them, except by foot. The resort is run by the villagers and can be found at www.lilanihotsprings.co.za

The Young Adult Youth League of the Eastern Diocese of ELCSA had their retreat at the resort. With 42+ in attendance, they maxed out the facility. I was asked to speak on US-South Africa bridges for this gap aged group. Starting with age 25, these are folks who no longer see themselves as a part of the Youth League and the issues with which they are dealing are not the same ones that are important to the Women’s League or the Men’s League. There were over 30 items on their laundry list of items that they attempted to prioritize for the coming year.

Frankly it was good to see folks in this age bracket who are interested in being in church and see themselves as leaders, but they are not seeking theological education. These are the young professionals in a new South Africa, and they want to be a part of a Lutheran Church which meets their needs and the needs of their friends in an increasingly complex national society. All praise to God to whom they turn. [Young Adult League Pictures]

5/1/2008 – Thursday

The Theological Café is now done. It’s and interesting concept to invite professors, and visitors to share their current research and writing in an informal setting. Twenty minutes of presenting “Generous Giving and Lessons in Stewardship for a Post-Colonial Lutheran Church” then there was the 30-35 minutes of q & a. Crowd was a little thin, but then there was this potential for a 9 day vacation with only two days of classes this week. Freedom day was Monday and Thursday was Worker’s Day [Labor Day for US folks], so a lot of folks took the remaining two day off.

For nine families Worker’s Day will be the anniversary of the death of the miner in their family. On a Day when one would think that there would be a day off, nine gold miners died today in a mining accident. If this had happened in the US, there would be a loud cry for mine safety and there would be TV coverage of the grieving families and the rescue efforts. Here it is one segment of a news cast to probably not be in the newspaper on Saturday. Two hundred and forty eight miners have died this year in South Africa. Lord have mercy.

4/28/2008 – Monday

Freedom Day was really Sunday, but like all people who desire a day off from work, South Africa and its citizens lengthened the holiday to include today. The students had a soccer match in the middle of the day, where they played the university team that is made up of students in exile from Zimbabwe. It’s not often I see someone in my age bracket watching these games, but today…with a broad floppy hat, stood a tall white man cheering on the Zimbabweans. Peter Roebuck is a freelance writer on cricket and Zimbabwe. It seems he has become the adoptive father for several of the members of the team who are orphans or refugees and getting an education at UKZN. We both await the day’s news of the election results. He has more at stake as he is supporting about 5 of the young men. [to read his articles search http://www.witness.co.za/ for Peter Roebuck.]