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Guest speaker reflection:
Spread Hope not Fear
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The lead-up to the 2024 South African elections holds an important invitation for us to prepare our hearts and attitudes, and to ask ourselves questions about how we are responding in these challenging times. Times of uncertainty always hold the possibility of renewal if we open our minds and hearts to move forward with courage, joy and hope. 


I have invited Bobby and Gillian Godsell, both of whom hold a passionate and hope-filled vision for our beloved country, to share their reflections on how we could be preparing ourselves in this time before the elections. In Gillian's words:

"Can we Christians develop a vocabulary for talking about and engaging in these elections – a vocabulary of hope, not despair; of joy instead of rage and scorn; a vocabulary which allows us to dream again about what our beloved country could, should, and can be."  

I invite you to begin this reflection time by listening to the following song, which is an invitation to open our hearts to the Source of our hope:

Hope beyond all hopeAlana Levandoski
00:00 / 02:41


Lovers of the  world unite

Bound to Creator’s vision, bright

That even these, our darkest nights

Become the light, become the light


Fashion all you can create

That delights the One who incarnates

And links himself to the same fate

As we sleepers who must rise to wake


Our Hope beyond all Hope did come

To call us each and everyone

To the surface of our consciousness

God dwells within and always has


Put our feet back on the ground

Contemplation’s heart resound!

We’re still pursued by Heaven’s Hound

O Lover, seek us till we’re found


Our Hope beyond all Hope did come

To call us each and everyone

To the surface of our consciousness

God dwells within and always has


Tomorrow’s children seek our hearts

Will they know who they really are?

The center of a thousand stars

And the breathers of the breath of God


Our Hope beyond all Hope did come

To call us each and everyone

To the surface of our consciousness

God dwells within and always has

Spend some time in quiet reflection on the following readings, which are beautiful invitations for hope and joy:

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
   You make my feet like the feet of a deer,
   You enable me to tread on the heights.

Don't hesitate, by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Listen or sing along to the following song:


Let us build a house
Where love can dwell
And all can safely live
A place where
Saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive

Built of hopes and dreams and visions
Rock of faith and vault of grace
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions

All are welcome, all are welcome
All are welcome in this place

Let us build a house where prophets speak
And words are strong and true
Where all God's children dare to seek
To dream God's reign anew

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God's grace
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus

All are welcome, all are welcome
All are welcome in this place

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat
A banquet hall on holy ground
Where peace and justice meet

Here the love of God, through Jesus
Is revealed in time and space
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us

All are welcome, all are welcome
All are welcome in this place

hope not fear pic.jpg

For further reflection

I encourage you to reflect further on this theme by reading the additional quotes below, and then reflecting on the following questions that Bobby and Gillian have posed: 

Steven Charleston:

"Hope makes room for love in the world. We can all share it, we can all believe in it, even if we are radically different in every other way. We no longer need to fear our differences because we have common ground. We can hope together—therefore, hope liberates us. It frees us from our fear of the other. It opens our eyes to see love all around us. It unites us and breaks our isolation. When we decide to embrace hope—when we choose to make that our goal and our message—we release a flow of energy that cannot be overcome. Hope is a light that darkness can never contain."   (Quoted in Richard Rohr's daily meditations)


Martin Luther King Jr.:

"When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.” from The Idea of the Beloved Community. Read the full article here


Questions for reflection

The 2024 election (probably  to be held in May) will be the country’s most important election since 1994.

In 1994 close to 20 million South Africans stood in patient, joyful queues for several days to choose their new government.  The April election followed several years of both violence and negotiation:  hope and fear.  Those  20 million citizens were voting in an election which by agreement with the contending political parties was going to elect a government of national unity.   According to our interim constitution every party getting 5% of the vote would have a seat in parliament and each party gaining 20% would have a Deputy President.


Beyond these rules people queued together and voted together for a South Africa that would work together to create a better future for all.  This was the promise of the rainbow nation.


What can Christians do to make 2024 our “second chance” election?  To recapture the hope of unity, shared freedom and shared destiny? Of people served by a government whose only purpose was to make a better life for all? To consolidate a national compact of non racialism, constitutional democracy, clean government and a growing and increasingly inclusive economy ?


What if individual Christians and most particularly groups of Christians took it upon themselves to get involved in recognising, embracing and supporting the people and institutions of  our public service? Government at national, provincial and local level  whose job it is to provide order and development.   Politicians and political parties whose job it is to direct government.  Could we, the  citizens take centre stage in the 2024 elections  in a spirit of joy and hope and not with cynicism, contempt, rage and despair?


Could the attitude of citizens in general and Christian citizens in particular centrally determine the success of this election?


Our first duty to Caesar is to register to vote.   Our citizenship cannot be complete until it is reflected on the country’s voter’s roll.   This is very easy to do.  Registering online is as easy as registering for a covid vaccination.   Every election since 1994 has seen a declining proportion of our adult population registering to vote.   Can Christians be different?   This is more than an individual act.   Are our worship, family, workplace and friendship communities also registered?


Our second duty is to do the hard work now of using our vote intentionally and faithfully.   We cannot vote for a party by default: simply because we always have, or our parents have, or because of our skin colour, or our social and financial “place” in our broader society.


Our faith has always connected power to justice.   Both the Old and New Testaments command prophets and priest, disciples and apostles in their exercise of power.  This is part of our religious tradition and covenant. What covenant will we impose on those who receive our vote?


This difficult job of choosing for our faith, and not for what Richard Rohr calls our shadow self, is best exercised collectively.   Can we use this coming Advent, this next Lent, these weeks and months of house churches and bible studies to discuss together who we believe will govern our country in a Godly way? 


It now seems likely that no party will be the outright winner of the 2024 election.   We may be returning to diversity in government.  As we consider our own reasons for supporting a particular party we will need to consider whether that party is ready to work with others.  

If the entire election period has consisted of inflammatory and belittling speech, with each party demonising the other, this will be very difficult indeed, as we have seen in recent municipal elections.   Can Christians help shape the character of this election from today until voting day?


Can we start up conversations, now, across the whole political spectrum? Can we step out of our own comfort zones, envisage previously unthinkable alliances, and demand that politicians  tell us where they agree with one another and not only where they differ; how they plan to work together, and not only how they condemn and even plan to annihilate one another?


For Christians, the challenge is to see political parties, all of them, as our neighbour. To recognise the image of God in all politicians.


We need to create, and encourage a tone of politics  that will make co-operation between politicians and their parties possible, after the election. We need to demand, and create space for, political rhetoric now,  that will not enflame violence or allow politicians to hide behind demonisation of their opponents. 


The core purpose of politics in 2024 is no different to what it was in 1994.   We need  a  non racial country, governed by a constitutional democracy, with a society and an economy that has a place for all.  Those who ask us to lend them our votes need to tell us what programmes will they introduce, based on these values? Do they have concrete plans to address the most burning issues facing South Africans such as economic opportunity, power, water, functioning cities, and clean government? What are the timelines for these plans?


Democracy is hard work.   For people of faith the work always involves as much interest in what is done with power as in who wields it.  This is the history of Israel.  Of the first Christian churches.  And of every community of believers ever since.   


Can South African Christians rise to the challenge of not merely renewing but indeed making the exercise of power in our country much better than it ever was?

Ending prayer:

I invite you to pray with me along the lines of this prayer:

Place upon all beings

Peace, goodness, blessing,

Grace, loving-kindness and compassion.


Bring us to our knees in the face of brokenness.

Let us feel the pain, the suffering of each other.

Let us know it as our own.


Bless us all.


Help us rise again and again

Into the light of possibilities,

Into the light of Sacred Presence.


Open us to the ways of love,

Generosity and justice,

To the ways of life, hope and joy,

Compassion, kindness and peace.


Help us see with humility, and listen with curiosity,

Meeting the surprise of each moment with blessing.


In the face of all that is,

Call us present

To stand together as one.


May our lives be for healing.

May our lives be for peace.


Adapted from Rabbi Yael Levi, from A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness

To conclude this morning's reflections, listen to the following traditional South African song, Thula Sizwe, and feel free to sing (and dance) along:

Thula Sizwe
00:00 / 05:15

Song lyrics:

Thulasizwe ungabokhala 

U Jehova wakho uzokunqobela 

(repeat 3 times)

Inkululeko, inkululeko

u Jehova wakho uzokunqobela

(repeat 3 times)


English translation:

Be still, people, be comforted,

Your Jehovah will protect you


Be free, be free,

Your Jehovah will protect you

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Sharon's book that was previously called "Contemplative Living" has been republished by AnamChara Books under the title "Deeper: Finding the Depth Dimension Beneath the Surface of Life". The Kindle version is available from Amazon, and the hard copy version can be ordered from or Takealot, or from your local bookshop through Ingram Distribution.

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