Tag Archives: Desmond Tutu

God so loved (Lent 4B, 11 March 2018)

Readings
Ephesians 2.1–10
John 3.14–21

…the Lamb of God will remove the sin of the world by lifting it up with him when he is lifted up on the cross. His lifting up will be his exaltation to heaven; the lifting up of the sin of the world will be its removal from the world. — Richard Bauckham, Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology (Kindle Locations 3116-3117). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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The story is told that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was once asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life. He spoke of the day when he and his mother were walking down the street. Desmond Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them.

This was back in the days of apartheid in South Africa. When a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before the young Tutu and his mother could step off the pavement the white man stepped off and, as they passed, he tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her.

The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was implacably opposed to the apartheid policy. This small act of his changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the footpath because he was a ‘man of God’, Tutu found his calling. ‘When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God,’ said Tutu.

We’ve spoken a bit about the descending way lately. The wisdom of the world is that we should strive to get more, hoard more, have more… Yet Jesus says that if we follow him we must take the the descending way, taking the place of a child, or a servant. We must embrace humility, and seek the good of others.

The story of Trevor Huddleston and Desmond Tutu is an echo of what Jesus did. It shows us that we too can be part of changing minds and hearts by following the example of Jesus in small and very achievable ways.

All it took to win the young Desmond’s heart was a privileged white man to step off the kerb and tip his hat. All it took was for Trevor Huddleston was to see that black people in the apartheid system had the dignity of being children of God. All it took was something that is within the capabilities of any one of us. Continue reading

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 26 September 2010)

Forgiving debt—for Social Justice Sunday


Readings
1 Timothy 6.6-19
Luke 16.19-31

I mentioned the term ubuntu some weeks ago. I’d like to remind you of it again. Remember, it’s an African word meaning ‘the essence of being human’. Ubuntu means that we need other human beings just to be human. The Zulu and Shona people of southern Africa say: ‘a person is a person through other persons’—not apart from them. Ubuntu means that for us to do well, we need others to do well.

Desmond Tutu says (God has a Dream, chapter 2):

A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.

Tutu also says that in southern Africa, when they wish to speak well of someone they say, ‘So-and-so has ubuntu.’ So-and-so is a person who recognises others as persons. I want to suggest that this African approach to life is one that we could learn from.

The rich man in the ‘Pearly Gates-type’ story that Jesus retold did not have ubuntu. He didn’t recognise Lazarus as a person. Lazarus ‘longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table’. But Lazarus went hungry.

Do you notice something about this story? About who is named and who isn’t? In most stories, the rich and powerful are named and the ordinary people are anonymous. It’s the other way here. Jesus names the poor man. The other—the powerful man—is just ‘a rich man’. In fact, the ‘rich man’ is every person who has enough of the world’s goods—shelter, food, health care, education—yet who closes his or her heart to the poor. The rich man’s name could very easily be ‘Paul Walton’. Continue reading

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A moment (just!) of ubuntu

I preached a few weeks ago about how the way of ubuntu is starting to speak to me, particularly through the writings and life of Desmond Tutu. Eureka St has a story today about how a young man with no money for a ticket was ‘voted’ onto a bus.

The story is called Vote 1 bus ‘bludger’. I’d like to think of it as a moment of ubuntu, of a fair go.

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (8 August 2010)

It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom

Readings
Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16
Luke 12.32-40

For the rest of the month of August, we have  a series: we’re looking at Mission and Stewardship. So to begin, I want to share a quotation with you that I hope you will remember always:

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

William Temple, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the early part of the Second World War, said that. ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’

It’s a great thought, isn’t it? The Church exists so that others may benefit. I think it’s a tremendous thought. Problem: I suspect that many church members don’t believe it. Or if they do, they don’t realise the implications.

Because while it is a great and a tremendous thought, it’s not a nice and consoling thought. It’s really quite a disturbing thought.

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

Why is that a disturbing thought? Let me ask another question: Are you a member of the Church? The Church doesn’t exist for your benefit. I’m a member of the Church. The Church doesn’t exist for my benefit. The Church is the Body of Christ—we are the Body of Christ—so we exist for the benefit of those who are outside the Body. The Church does not exist to meet your needs or mine.

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14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 4 July 2010

Bear one another’s burdens: Ubuntu


Readings
Galatians 6.1-16
John 8.2-11

A couple of weeks ago, I reminded you that I’m from Yorkshire. I’m happy that my birthplace was in Yorkshire; it means that I’d achieved something as soon as I was born!

It can be a hard place, Yorkshire. People sometimes wrongly say that Scottish people are mean. Well, it’s been said that the difference between a Yorkshireman and a Scotsman is this: A Yorkshireman is a Scotsman wi’ generosity sooooked out of ’im. And there’s a saying that Yorkshire folk are famous for:

’ear all, see all, say nowt;
tak’ all, keep all, gie nowt;
eat all, sup all, pay nowt;
an’ if th’ivver do owt fer nowt,
do i’ fo’ thisseln

Hear everything, see everything, say nothing;
take everything, keep everything, give nothing;
eat everything, drink everything, pay nothing;
and if you ever do anything for nothing,
do it for yourself.

But you know, anyone who were to live by that motto would be making a mistake.

Perhaps another piece of English wisdom is better: it’s from the poet John Donne, who eventually became the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In 1624 Donne wrote,

No man is an island, entire of itself…
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne got it right; others have got it right, too. I’ve been reading something of Desmond Tutu lately. He speaks of the interdependence of all people using an African word, ubuntu. I want to spend a few minutes on what he says later; some of it may be familiar to those of you from Africa, particularly southern Africa.

So, according to John Donne and Desmond Tutu, we are all interconnected; therefore, next time you do something for nothing, do it for someone else.

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