During the deepest, darkest days of apartheid when the government tried to shut down opposition by canceling a political rally, Archbishop Desmond Tutu declared that he would hold a church service instead.
St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa was filled with worshippers. Outside the cathedral hundreds of police gathered, a show of force intended to intimidate. As Tutu was preaching they entered the Cathedral, armed, and lined the walls. They took out notebooks and recorded Tutu’s words.
But Tutu would not be intimidated. He preached against the evils of apartheid, declaring it could not endure. At one extraordinary point he addressed the police directly.
You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked. So, since you’ve already lost, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side!
With that the congregation erupted in dance and song.
The police didn’t know what to do. Their attempts at intimidation had failed, overcome by the archbishop’s confidence that God and goodness would triumph over evil. It was but a matter of time.
Source: reported in Jim Wallis, God’s Politics
In 1995 the movie “Smoke” was released, starring Harvey Kietel and William Hurt. The centre of the film is the Brooklyn Cigar Co., located at the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue.
The Brooklyn Cigar Co is owned by Auggie Wren, played by Harvey Keitel. Every morning at 8 a.m. Auggie walks across the road from his store locate don the corner of Third and Eighth and takes a photograph of it. The angle of the camera never varies, just the weather, the people on the street, the colour of the sky.
One of Auggie’s customers is Paul Benjamin. Paul’s an author who is suffering from writer’s block, he’s suffered it ever since his wife, Ellen, was shot and killed one morning right outside the Brooklyn Cigar Co. One morning Paul wanders in and sees Auggie’s camera. They get talking, and Auggie reveals that photography is his hobby, his art, his life’s work. Paul tells Auggie he’d love to see his photographs, and so, Auggie closes up the shop and takes Paul back to his house to show him his collection.
Auggie pulls out a set of large, heavy photo albums and places them before Paul Benjamin, the writer. Paul opens the first page. There, mounted on a stark black background, are four photos, and they’re all of Auggie’s shop, the Brooklyn Cigar Co, on the corner of Third and Eighth, all taken from exactly the same place, at exactly the same angle. Paul turns the next page and he sees exactly the same thing. Four photographs of Auggie’s shop, all taken from the same place, at the same angle. He turns the next page and he sees more. He starts turning the pages faster and faster, til he’s rapidly flipping through the book, when Auggie puts a hand down on the back page and says, “You’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.”
“But Auggie”, says Paul, “they’re all the same.”
“They’re all the same,” Auggie replies, “but each one is different from all the others.” Auggie explains that he has 4,000 pictures of the same place, but that each picture is different. “It’s my corner, after all. I mean, it’s just one little part of the world, but things take place there, too, just like everywhere else. It’s a record of my little spot.”
Then Paul sees someone he knows in one of the photos: his wife, who was pregnant when she was shot and killed one morning on the street outside the store. “It’s Ellen,” he says. “Look at her. Look at my sweet darling.” And he begins to cry.
Now all the photos do not look the same anymore…It’s just that you’ll never get it if you don’t slow down.
A newly appointed pastor who went to visit the home of a congregation member. Upon arriving there the minister discovered his host was an avid gardener, and was only too delighted to show his pastor around the garden, a magnificent sea of greens, purples, blues, whites, yellows and pinks. Wanting to set the relationship off on a strong, positive note, the pastor said, “Praise God for the beauty of his handiwork”.
But his host replied in a somewhat offended tone, “Now pastor, don’t go giving all the credit to God. You should have seen this garden when the Almighty had it to himself!”
The gardener in fact had very good theology. God has designed the world in such a way that God works in partnership with us, and we with God, to achieve God’s ends.
Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini is thought by many to have been history’s greatest exponent of his art. As he swept through Europe in the early 1800’s his fame was something like that of Beatlemania! His skills were so great that it was whispered he gained his ability from a pact with the devil.
It is said that one evening Paganini was performing before a packed house. As he embarked on the final piece one of the strings on his violin snapped. Undeterred Paganini kept playing. A few moments later, a second string snapped. Again Paganini kept going, now reduced to playing a classical masterpiece on just two strings. And then the unbelievable – a third string snapped. Yet Paganini kept going, finishing the piece on just one string. So brilliant was his performance that the crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation.
Yet Paginini was not finished. There was the encore to come. Raising his violin above his head Paginini called to the audience “Paganini, and one string!” With that the orchestra struck up and Paginini completed his encore on just one string.
Application: Paginini was playing a magnificent but eventually flawed violin that night. Yet even with three strings broken the master musician was able to extract beautiful music from it. You and I are like flawed instruments in the hand of God, yet no matter how flawed and broken, God is still able to weave beautiful, graceful things through us when we give ourselves to serving him and others.
Source: Information from Paginini website and “Sermon Notes”
A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano bought tickets for a performance by Ignace Paderewski, the famous Polish concert pianist. When the night arrived they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage.
Soon the mother found a friend to talk to and the boy slipped away. When eight o’clock arrived, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the piano stool, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on stage and quickly moved to the piano.
“Don’t quit – keep playing” he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderweski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obligato. Together the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerised.
In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing”. And as we do he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created.
Source: Leadership Magazine, Spring 1983
In December 1985 the United States NBC TV News ran a week long feature on it’s evening news program. The advertising in the lead up showed a child praying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, what about the earthquake in Mexico City, the Japan Airline crash that killed 520 people, the AIDS epidemic, and the starvation in Africa?” The advertisement finished with this tag line: “Is God punishing us?”
Source: Advertisement reported in Daniel Hans, God on the Witness Stand (Baker, 1987),
One day a young woman was walking home from work when she saw a sight a little girl standing on the street corner, begging. The little girl’s clothes were paper thin and dirty, her her matted and unclean, and her cheeks red from the cold.
The young woman dropped a few coins in the begging bowl, gave the girl a smile and walked on. As she walked she started to feel guilty. How could she go home to her warm house with its full pantry and well supplied wardrobe while this little girl shivered on the street.
The young woman also began to feel angry, angry with God. She let her feeling be known in a prayer of protest. “God, how can you let these sort of things happen? Why don’t you do something to help this girl?”
And then, to her surprise God answered. He said, “I did do something. I created you.”