Saturday, 23 May 2015

Meditation and Prayers from Pentecost Sunday 2015 at Opoho Church

A Meditation for Pentecost: The Enemy of Apathy
Some of you will know this poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller 
First they came for the communists.
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist
Then they came for the socialists.
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists.
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews.
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics.
And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for me.
And there was no-one left to speak out for me.

Apathy – it has been called the greatest of evils, the behaviour that destroys peoples, permits horrors, shuts out hope and is a blanket of uncaring doom on what could be. 

The Holy Spirit is the enemy of this apathy, come to shake us out of our complacency, to enliven our faith, to spur us into action, to give birth again and again to the church, the people of God living and loving in the world.

The Holy Spirit is the wind:   come to blow away the cobwebs that settle on our traditions, come to freshen our faces and awaken us to the challenges of today.  Come to fill our sails and send us on a voyage of spiritual discovery, to blow strongly through the church and remind us of the breath of God that enlivens us.

The Holy Spirit is the fire: a fire to burn away the rubbish in our lives, a fire for spiritual heat to ‘strangely warm’ our hearts, a fire to light a beacon of hope for people in our communities.  A fire to blaze within the church and send us out to be a gospel people.

The Holy Spirit is speaking out:  speaking in a way that people can understand, speaking to real needs, having something to say on real issues, speaking so that our neighbours and our detractors want to listen.  The words of the Spirit speak to us and through us, the living word made known.

The Holy Spirit is unrestrained joy: drunk  on the new wine of the kingdom of God, celebrating the birth of the church, inspiring and exciting us with new possibilities as we  celebrate in worship.  Empowering the work and witness of the church today, inviting us to dance, unashamedly rejoicing in the gift of love.

The Holy Spirit is the enemy of apathy, the birth of the word, the church for the Spirit is eternal love.

Hymn  Enemy of Apathy by John Bell and Graham Maule

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.

She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
she nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.

She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
she is the key opening the scriptures,
enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession - Andrew Smith
Ah, dear lord, we come to prayer on this Pentecost Sunday.  We come to prayer to the god in the wood smoke.  We come to prayer to the god in the coal fire, the memory of forest trees millions of years old.  We come to prayer to you, Lord, the god in the moment of ignition: three two one – we have lift off!  You are the god in the least spark, promising the combustion of a world on fire and alive.  Your fiery holy spirit is abroad on the earth, beneath us, within us and between us, in that moment of recognition when our eyes make contact and we reach out to welcome you in, you who have always been here, always present, always waiting on us, our first ancestor, setting the universe in motion.

And you are present in the storm front, the cold of the world that follows the pentecostal fire.  Our season gives way to from reds and golden colours to the icy blast that comes upon us.  Keep us warm!  Keep us warm in our fingers as we share peace with each other.  Keep us warm in feet and toes to bear the gospel of peace.  Keep us warm in our breath as the spirit is alive and active among us.

As we proclaim a gospel of peace and righteousness then we pray against the silencing of the voices who speak for voiceless.  We pray for those who will speak out on their behalf.  May we become heralds of the kingdom of heaven.  May we speak out on behalf of an economy of salvation.  May we live to see a kingdom of the open table that welcomes all people in, a voice in the wilderness that says yes to justice, yes to righteousness, yes to salvation, yes to all the families of god's kingdom, yes to an upside-down Pentecost among an upside-down people, yes to the struggling and the marginal, yes to the comfortable and the rewarded.  May we welcome all people around our table, in this journey where we all travel together.  The bird of the spirit that leads us is the great white and black wings of the royal albatross, setting out into the unknown waters, riding over the storms of the southern ocean.  Lead us into adventure, dear lord.

We pray for the leadership of our country, for our government.  Guide our leaders, use them as instruments of peace.  Strengthen our households and our families, strengthen our home-life, create happy and learning children, contribute to our society.  In all levels of society may there be well-being.  Unite our parliament to bring about a society where all can flourish and develop.  Lead us into a good place.  As the Christ-child went down to Egypt so may we also act to welcome the stranger and the refugee.  May we work to make our world last as long as possible.

We pray for our city in the cold midwinter.  Remember us in the dark time of the year.  Send your spirit among us with light and fire and love.  Remember us who are here.  Your spirit makes us one and gives us words to speak and pray.  Remember the prayers of our hearts for those who are troubled and for those who are well, for those who are present and those who are away from us.  Holy spirit, holy god, teach us the words to say.

We pray these prayers in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and the words you taught your disciples, we sing together...
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. 
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. 
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. 
Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen.

WOV 676

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Sermon Karitane Church Sunday 3 May Easter 5

Readings:  1 John 4:11-21, John 15:1-8 

Let us pray:  O God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our  hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Someone once said to me that they thought all this talk about ‘God is love’ is really wishy washy – turning God into some kind of warm fuzzy, good for nothing but contented sighs and hugs.  How wrong they were.  But I guess they were going with a particular understanding of love – one that sees love as a perfect romance, a fair weather kind of emotion with no edges or depth or staying power to it.  The kind of love where a parent allows a child to do as they wish because love mustn’t chastise, the kind that is withdrawn at the first sign of conflict or disappointment or is reserved only for those who deserve or earn it. 

The love of Christ is everything that this wishy washy conditional concept of love is not – and more!
Our reading today from 1 john points to the absolute centrality of love to our lives of faith - all things begin in love, flow from love, are perfected through love and return to love.  Jesus came to this world as the most complete expression of love, he lived and died exhibiting a love that had the power to bring new life to those who believe throughout history.  Love is who we are as Christians – not a polished concept kept on a shelf but an active meaningful way of life.  Without love we are nothing, with love we can transform the world. 

So we are mistaken if we place love anywhere than at the centre of our faith.  GK Chesterton[1] wrote a story called ‘A piece of Chalk’ saying he set out one day to do some sketching with brown paper and a variety of chalks.  But he found he had forgotten the most important colour – the white chalk.  And he knew how vital white was to his drawing.  He says:  It is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. “
Chesterton goes on to say that, just as virtue is not the absence of vices, so love is not the absence of hatred or conflict, but rather love is a burning passionate white-hot act of living.
Is this not a way of understanding Christian love – not just a fair-weather emotion or a desire to take away the bad, the evil things in life but to instil a passion for love in us all, one that sees past the unlovely and the conditional and the selective to a way of living that sweeps all that is divisive and unjust and cruel before it.  It doesn’t mean an absence of pain – all here would know this – but it does suggest that love sees us through when we are at our lowest and transforms us and the world at its most generous.

This is a core message from the readings – that the love of God is made visible in us and through us into the world because we abide in God’s love for us.  For anyone who is looking for the reality of God in this world – look for acts of love and there you will find God.  This is what takes our understanding of love out of the somewhat dispassionate place that is the absence of evil and into the white-hot burning passionate way of living.  And this is not just stimulating rhetoric – but a very straightforward direction for how we are to live – and it is quite simple - we are told that anyone who lives in this way cannot hate a fellow brother or sister.  Simple as that.  The unlovely, the unresponsive, the hurters and the mockers – we are to love them.  Just as love of God is the centrality of who we are as Christians, so is the full and complete expression of that love to those around us.
And here is where it gets difficult.  Somehow I think,  it is easier to love God than to love our neighbour.  We have trust in God’s love for us – nothing can break it – but it is not so easy or so intuitive to love humanity in all its many diverse expressions of being.  Culturally, morally, economically, in gender, opinions, personalities we are as many as grains of sand on the beach – and just as likely as the sand to be constantly in friction with each other as life rolls around us.

Again the text points us to the major reason we find it so difficult to love our neighbours completely and unconditionally  – fear – fear of the unknown, the different, the wounding, the loss of self.  Fear holds us back from being able to see each other through the eyes of God, in love.  Fear divides and holds us back from being who God call us to be.  And here’s the thing:  ‘there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear! (v.18) Fear divides the planet, fear causes wars and fear encourages hatred and prejudice.  Fear, not hatred, is the antithesis of love.  For where there is love, fear is not!

So how is our life as a faith community showing that lack of fear?  How do we express ourselves, live our lives in trusting love in this place?  That is something only you can answer and it is what you are needing to do as you begin the process of Ministry settlement – recognising both who you are in Christ and who Christ calls you to be.  I encourage you to think deeply about this and this includes celebrating who you are at this time.  So often we hear congregations wishing they could be someone else, discontent with who they are.  I guess that’s a kind of fear – that you aren’t good enough, lively enough, diverse enough, big enough or energetic enough.  You are part of the presence of God in Jesus Christ in this community – expressing the love of God in every word, action, experience that cares for each other and for the community.  And we know, don’t we, that, in the strength of the risen Christ, it is love that will transform our world. 

As we gather at the table today, let us remember all those who have gathered in the love throughout time and place, all part of the true vine who is Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

[1] A Piece of Chalk by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)