From Gavin’s desk 01/11/2020

Readings: Joshua 3: 1 – 4: 18, Psalm 107: 1-9, 33-38


When we arrived in Worcester in December of 2005, we went for a drive to the surrounding areas and on the road to Brandvlei/ Rawsonville, we crossed over a relatively long bridge that runs over the Breede River. We stopped after the bridge and walked back over it to look at the river because we couldn’t see it from the car and a few meters below the bridge was this tiny little stream a few centimetres wide flowing under the incredibly wide bridge and hidden between the reeds. In our estimation, it was not so broad after all.
Six months later, after some good rainfall and snow on the mountains around us, we drove over the same bridge and this time the river was at least 1 ½ km’s wide and was lapping over the bridge as it flowed in strength. In my few years there, I buried a number of people who had drowned in that very same river, just a little down river of that bridge (there is a picnic spot). That little stream could become a massive body of water that was deep enough to completely hide the form of grown ups in full stretch as they succumbed to the slow but relentless flow of the water. We had been fooled by what we thought was the timidity of nature, but we learned a valuable lesson that winter and that was that nature is not timid. Neither is the God of nature timid.
We can block damns, we can harness energy, we can push back seas and we can do amazing things as we attempt mastery over nature, but in the flash of an eye; nature is able to take back what we think we have won. I sometimes think nature gives us space to expand our wings, but we can see that when we become too arrogant and push too far, nature resets its boundaries (you shall not pass). We can do everything we want to stop a river flowing, but when the river is in flood, nothing we can do can stop it.
I was listening to an excellent talk by a good friend (Ralph Travers) this week about some of the work he had been involved in as a civil engineer and one of the sites was a railway bridge on the Umfolozi River in KZN when Cyclone Demoina passed through the area in January of 1984. The water from the 700mm rainfall flowing down the river at the rate of 16 million litres per second (16 000 cubic metres per second) moving at a speed of 2,6 metres per second, churned the soil of the river bed to a depth of 18m and carried in its path the 10 spans of the bridge, each weighing 160 tons; carrying some a number of them downriver and burying the rest. As Ralph had said: “The forces of God’s nature can be colossal and way beyond man’s ability to control”
It is all beyond man’s ability to control, but God is no man. The Jordon river was in heavy flood when the priests stepped into the river and instantly, the river flowing downstream was cut off and damned up as the Israelites crossed over on dry land and they even had time to go back, get stones and have a stone laying church service as a reminder of what God had just done…
God may be gentle, but God is not timid. There are many rivers that seem too wide, too deep and too turbulent for us to cross, and they probably are, which is why we need the God who can stop the waters as we pass through those rivers on dry ground under His protection and guidance. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and follow where He leads you.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 25/10/2020

Readings: Deuteronomy 34: 1-12, Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17

The bushes offered us up a gift the other day. It was an avocado pear that had fallen from the tree in the wind and had managed to hide in the undergrowth long enough for it to dry up into a hardened shell and loose pip.

The tree had soaked up the nourishment it needed from the soil through the roots, pumped it in the blossom which grew into the avocado. After a few months, the avocado had grown large and green and good. It was so green that it managed to hide amidst the leaves of the tree and it managed to evade being found by hiding in the bush once it had fallen from its womb. By the time the bush offered it up to be found, it had once again given up its moisture to the air, which would turn into rain at another time and place and fall to the ground, giving new life to the next season of growth. It had also given up its flesh to be dust which would become the ground upon which the rain would fall and the tree would draw its nourishment from in order to give life to the next blossom as it turns into a fruit.

The skin is hard and the pip is inside, but anything that could nourish the body is long gone. Under the protective layer of hardened skin, the pip still holds within it the potential to become a whole new tree and it is an incredible testimony to the creative nature of God that even in this state; it is never too late to do something different.

The story of this avocado’s season didn’t have to be written in this way though. If we had picked it before it had fallen off of the tree; it could have nourished the body instead of giving itself over to the elements. Within that hardened empty shell lay a story of missed opportunity; a moment to make a difference in the body that it failed to make.

I am sure that most of us will have many stories of missed opportunities, of failed attempts and we give God thanks that we are far more durable and resilient than an avocado. We give God thanks that we hold far more potential and much more opportunities for fulfilled potential than an avocado. Moses had all that he could and he had missed many opportunities to glorify God, but for all of that he was obedient as best he knew how. His flesh did not return to the earth empty and unfulfilled. When it was time, he passed on the mantle to Joshua who would build on what Moses offered and settle the people of God into the Promised Land. Moses’ story would continue to be written and would continue to add value to the body even up until this day. As often as his life brings people closer to God is as often as his story continues to be written.

Your story has yet to end. It is still being written and what may have been a failed attempt or a missed opportunity could still be written over with opportunities taken and differences made. The end is not yet and God will continue to use you for as long as you offer your heart and hands to Him.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 18/10/2020

Readings: Exodus 33: 7-23, Psalm 99, Romans 8: 18-27

The people of legend, the people of myth, and the people of stories told for generations of how we came to be here are all people who faced our obstacles and experienced the same emotions in those obstacles. These stories are remembered, with some embellishment, I’m sure, to show how they overcame their emotions, how they overcame their challenges; how they overcame the things that we believe prevent us from moving forward. I have no doubt that we sometimes give them superhuman abilities or pin qualities to them that they didn’t have. We create them to be the people we would hope they would be; people without frailty or people who only had frailties. Those who forged new ground in places unknown are often thought of as pioneering and loyal and determined. I wonder, though how easy it would be to live with them as they pursued a different world. How easily would we get along with Mother Theresa, how comfortable would we be with Galileo, how warmly would we be able to embrace Luther or Calvin or Wesley? We see their accomplishments and we subtract their humanity from it, we subtract their failings from it, we subtract their imperfections from it.

I wonder how often we do this with Biblical characters? Today’s reading is such a beautiful reading that highlights how even Moses; the one who would represent the Law, the leader of the nation of Israel as they came to fulfil the promise of becoming a nation settled in a land given to them by divine promise, was filled with insecurities. Whatever we think about Moses, we do witness the love Moses has for God, the solid faith he has in God and we get to witness the love that God has for him and the kindness that God shows Him. Moses is by no means perfect or the ideal leader or anything that would raise him above the rest, but in his insecurities God is present and through his insecurities, God can work and all because Moses loves God deeply.

This is also an incredible story of Moses asking for something he cannot deal with because Moses is not as fully aware of everything as he is given credit for. God has to protect Moses from his request; God has to protect Moses from God’s glory. Understanding God is not something we are going to be able to do. We cannot even stare into the sun without being blinded, how much more when you stare into the light and the glory that called the sun into creation; that called the universe into existence. God in His kindness, allows Moses to see as much of God as he is able to handle, God in His mercy, reveals Himself to us in as much as we are able to handle and in as much as we need to know that He is present. Don’t ever be afraid to ask God to reveal Himself to you. Don’t ever be afraid to ask God to reveal His will to you. God will do it because God is good and whatever God does reveal will never be too much for us to handle.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 11/10/2020

Readings: Exodus 20: 22-26, 32:1 – 33:6, Psalm 106: 1-6, 19-23

Some stories require blood, sweat and tears to be born. These are stories where you have to hunt for every word as you try and complete a sentence, as you try and complete a paragraph, as you try and complete a page. Other stories write themselves. These are the stories that begin with a spark of inspiration and as the words give expression to that inspiration, the inspiration grows and blooms and carries you along in its stream and when you awake from the dream; the story is written and the reader is moved.

I think that one of the most inspired stories to write with our lives is a story that is not a story that is told in isolation, but a story that is a part of an ongoing story; a story that was started many generations before us and will continue many generations after us. These stories can free us as they inspire us to greater things and as they offer us purpose. When we have to work out why we are here from scratch and what we are meant to be doing while we are here, it can be quite daunting and difficult, but when we know that we are meant to add value to the world and add to the positive legacy that was left by those who came before us, it is easier to find our own road and still leave clear the path for those coming after us to find it for themselves.

When we write our own story within the greater story, our introduction is connected to someone else’s main body and still someone else’s conclusion. Our main body and conclusion is connected to the introduction, main body and conclusion of the stories that others are writing for themselves, even as they are written within the greater story. The beginning of my story is a part of the story that my mother and my father wrote, the conclusion of the stories that my grandparents wrote and it is a story that runs concurrently to the stories my brother and sister are writing.

When God offers Moses to start a new people from his loins; Moses is humble enough to realise that his story is only a small part of a story of becoming that started many generations before him and it is a story that will continue for many generations after him. He is aware that he is not the central character or the one who will determine the fate of the universe. He is humble enough to know that what God has started, God will bring to completion and its completion will bring glory to the author, to the central character, to the one who will determine the fate of the universe.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 04/10/2020

Readings: Exodus 20:1-21, Psalm 19, Mark 12: 28-34

Jesus completed the law. Jesus finished the law. Jesus fulfilled the law. Never did Jesus discard the law. Never did Jesus delete the Law. Never did Jesus nullify the Law. Jesus filled in those pieces that were necessary for us to understand the Law completely. Jesus finished the sentence that Jews should have understood. He finished it so that the Jews and the Gentiles would understand. Jesus fulfilled the promise made by God to reveal Himself to them. When He revealed Himself in the Law system, they thought it was about them rather than an explanation of who God is. Jesus lived the Law out in a way that the people would be able to say “now I see God – there He is!” We see God in the way in which Jesus fulfilled the Law.

If I complete a puzzle, it does not mean that I throw the puzzle away. Completing a puzzle means I fill in the missing pieces so that the whole picture becomes visible; so that everyone will see exactly what the full picture looks like and can appreciate the work of the artist. Completing the puzzle doesn’t mean that the picture was not there before. It was always there, we simply couldn’t see it fully. If I finish a sentence; it does not mean that I delete the sentence. Finishing a sentence means that I fill in those parts of the sentence that may or may not have been assumed; but are necessary for everyone to understand exactly what was being said. I finish a sentence for the sake of those who do not understand what I was saying, as well as for those who did understand what I was saying. When I fulfil a promise, it does not mean I nullify the promise. Fulfilling a promise means that I do what I said I would do, which also happens to make me righteous because being righteous means that I fulfil my part of our agreement. I fulfil a promise because of who I am, not because of who you are.

We fix things that are broken. We replace things that cannot be fixed. We repair things that are in disarray. We restore that which was lost. We reconcile that which was separated. We correct that which is incorrect. Jesus didn’t fix the Law because the Law was never broken. The Law of God is perfect. Jesus didn’t replace the Law because the Law did not need replacing and there was nothing that could replace it. Jesus didn’t repair the Law because the Law was never in disarray; the Law of God is pure. Jesus didn’t restore the Law because the Law was never lost. As God is present all of the time, so is His Word present all of the time. The darkness cannot put out the light and the Law of God is radiant. Jesus didn’t reconcile the Law because the Law was never separate from God. We were separated from God because we were lawless and so Christ, in fulfilling the law reconciled us to God. Jesus didn’t correct the Law because the Law was never wrong. The Law of God is right and pure and sure.

Jesus lived the Law, Jesus summarised the Law and Jesus enabled us to live the Law. “The most important one is this: Hear O people, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself”

Gavin