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St Francis and Ubuntu – A person is a person through other people

Dear Friends and followers of my blog,

I offer you this reflection on St Francis and Ubuntu, which means a person is a person through other people. I was invited to preach at Good Shepherd, Protea a few Sundays ago on St Francis Day and the climax to The Season of Creation. Good Shepherd  Church is opposite the entrance to Kirstenbosch Gardens. Good Shepherd is now a parish on its own and is linked to Bishopscourt, the home of the Archbishop of Cape Town.

The church was once linked to St Saviours Claremont, the parish where I served my first curacy. In 1971 the people of Protea village had already been moved to the Cape Flats under the Group Areas Act. One of my tasks was to take the services there for the people who made the journey back each month from the flats. Indeed the church is still there and thriving because of the determination of families never to lose contact with their place of birth and place of worship. A good number of those familes are still present each Sunday and the parish runs an Education Programme for the children of Good Shepherd families.

This reflection is distilled from my sermon on that Sunday.

Audio of the text

St Francis, lived a simple life.

He was truly someone who left everything and followed Jesus.

He is unlike the young man in the Gospel story, who could not do leave his wealth behind and follow Jesus. (Mark 10: 17)

Francis embraced his greatest fear in embracing a beggar.

He spoke about my Lady Poverty, honouring those were poor and embracing the life of poverty himself.

He is the saint of the environment, of the natural world

He lived in community with others and in community with plants and animals,

He lived and taught that one is in a relationship  with everything. The way I talk to my computer makes me think.

Francis considered all nature as the mirror of God and as a way to God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters,” and, there are stories about him preaching to the birds and of how he persuaded a wolf to stop attacking the people of the town and their livestock if the townspeople agreed to feed the wolf

His message is that we are all connected!

The prophet Micah’s has a simply message on what God requires from us ( Micah 6: 6-8):

To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

And in the Acts of the Apostles we are aware of the simple uncomplicated life of the earliest Christian community

No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:31-35).

We are part of the Ubuntu of all things, the whole of the cosmos

My daughter the artist Jane Dean expressed this is some of her early paintings. Here she is looking at roots and patterns in trees it seems. Wherever one looks within the human family, within the family of all living beings, in quantum or the cosmos one is led deeper and deeper into the interconnectedness of the whole of reality.

Below are a few of the quotations of Archbishop Despond Tutu on the theme of Abuntua person is a person because of other people.

We are made for love.
umntu ngumntu ngabantu
We are made for friendliness.
And togetherness.
motho ke motho ka batho
We are beautiful
We are family
umntu ngumntu ngabantu
We belong
We are One
motho ke motho ka batho

From Desmond Tutu

We are black, white, red, yellow,
rich, poor, educated, or not,
male, female,
gay and straight, all, all, all.
We are this human family of God.
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu

A person is a person through other people
What I am feeling others feel
When I am open
Like a flower others open
The stranger is my brother, my sister
Coming through the morning mist
We belong to the greater whole
What diminishes them
Diminishes me
What humiliates them humiliates me
When he is tortured I am tortured
When she is oppressed I am oppressed
Yes a person is a person through other people
Desmond Tutu
My paraphrase of his quotation

You cannot look out on the human family and the human environment and on the way we live within the environment without feeling a deep sense of sadness at how we have abused our place in the natural world. We seem to see the natural world as something that stands outside of ourselves and not of the very essence of our own journey and of who we are.

Thomas Traherne 1634 – 1676 a priest and a poet once wrote:

You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because people are in it who are everyone sole heirs as well as you.

Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

The work of restoring the balance of life must begin in you, in me. The task of doing this is enormous and includes nations and governments as we know. One simple way of doing this is to begin each day with Delight, as Traherne reminds us.

Explore and delight in the vast mystery of God’s world,
How we are all connected
Live your live simply as part of the whole
With the respectful humanity you see in Jesus, you see in Francis
And delight in the beauty and mystery of everyday.

3 comments on “St Francis and Ubuntu – A person is a person through other people

  1. Ubuntu is a wonderful concept. Thanks for this.


  2. Bruce says:

    Thanks Bob, can you forward this to the rest of the world.
    It is heart breaking to see how we have drifted from Ubuntu


  3. Carlene Johnson says:

    Thank you Bob I really enjoyed reading your sermon on St Francis.
    Carlene 🌻🙏


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