Yearly Archives: 2018

The Importance of Seniors – 20 May 2018

The Importance of Seniors….
One of the interesting realities that sociologists are reporting is that there is a growing interest in spiritual things in our wider communities. People are looking for something more. People are even looking for God, but that does not translate into an interest in church. As we were talking last week we have a huge issue with the institution, and a feeling that church will suck life out of me rather than helping me find life. I think people have a fear they’ll be required to believe certain things like gays are going to hell. They fear that if you set foot in a church you’ll be hit up for money or put on a committee. They wonder if time is so precious why bother with church. You’ll have to give up enjoying life and conform. We have plenty of work to do to be a community that promotes life as Jesus intended!
However I remain interested in the reality that people who have been hooked into consumerism and materialism are searching for something more because these religions don’t offer life. I think the image of Zacchaeus is an important one for us. Zacchaeus was a rather unpopular fellow who had become an outsider within his community because he had grown rich at others expense. He was a lonely man despite his wealth and he was someone who recognised a hole inside. There was a hunger for something more, a gnawing sense that something wasn’t right, peaceful. People were talking about Jesus and he hid up a tree to catch a glimpse of him as he passed through Jericho. He wanted to engage but actually he didn’t feel comfortable facing Jesus, so he watched from a distance – hidden and unnoticed. But he was noticed by the one who valued all people. Even hidden in the tree Jesus noticed him and said ‘let’s have a talk’. Over a coffee and lunch they engaged in conversation and Zacchaeus decided to become a Jesus follower in his life. I wonder….. are there Zacchaeus’s out there in our wider society? Are there people who have some sense of hole, some sense that maybe they are missing something… some sense that church isn’t all bad and might just be a place where they could find life. How might we engage them in conversation? Who might engage them in conversation?
I want to dig a little. One of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve looked at the future is that there is a very interesting change occurring in our demographics. In line with most western countries Christchurch is seeing the effects of the growth in numbers of older adults. In the past century the number of adults over the age of 65 has increased by about 10 times. People are living longer and we are feeling the effects of the boom in population post the Second World War. That’s the group that is called the boomers. Those born between about 1945-1964. In Christchurch in the year 2000 the median age was 35. Half the people were under 35 and half the population over 35. By 2043 this is projected by Statistics NZ to have climbed to 43. That’s a very significant increase. The 65+ age group used to be the smallest grouping but now it’s climbing fast. In fact the numbers in this age grouping are going to almost double in the next 20 or so years. The next most significant increase is the 40-64years age group.
What does this mean for us?
As we have more people in the older age groups, or another way of saying this is people who are entering the third phase of life, this will present challenges and opportunities for churches. While the knee jerk reaction in many traditional congregations is to say we need to focus energy on developing our youth ministry so we get more young people, a better reaction may be to say we need to have a focus on our ministry to older people. This is where we currently have ‘strength’ and it is where we are most likely to connect with others. It is also a growth market as the projections above indicate. If we do want to focus energy on families and younger people (and hopefully we do) we probably need to do this with a new and different discipleship and worship format.
People who are entering the third phase of life were traditionally called the retirees. The generation before the boomers were a generation who looked forward to hanging up their boots, but boomers want to keep active in some fashion after they retire. They have better health prospects and many will have part time jobs. Actually many boomers want to work at things that they have a personal interest in, and where they feel they can make a difference in society. Having worked for the past 40 years in a defined job they see the so called retired years as a chance to live out their inner dream in the third phase of life. This is not a time to hang up boots but potentially is the time to make a difference. Often they are financially secure and have skills of influence. They may want the flexibility to travel, spend time with family, take time for leisure, but many are wanting to give something back. One of the drivers for boomers is that they are searching for purpose. They want their lives to be productive and meaningful, and rather than seeing life slowing down they see the third phase of life as holding exciting possibilities. Some at least are looking for a spiritual ‘beyond me’ dimension. Some are looking to serving their community in some way.
It’s probably helpful to divide the third phase into two areas. I hesitate to put any age onto these areas as exceptions abound. Malaysia has just elected a 92 year old Prime Minister! But seniors are generally in the 80+ age group. They may no longer be driving but they have wisdom and can offer great encouragement and prayer. They know death is just around the corner because constantly those around are dying. They are often isolated and lonely. As a church we have a responsibility to care and to speak often of the enduring love of God. Around Christchurch I see a number of churches running short midweek services for people sometimes with a simple meal and other activities attached. Maybe a sit and keep fit class, maybe a game of cards. Human interaction is vital. I see such groups develop a strong sense of companionship. Stories are told, pictures shared of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Memories are valued. There is an underlying message that lives are valued. I see real potential to develop our Homeshare Plus or as we now are calling it South Elder Care programme. I wonder what it would look like if we employed someone to run it and develop it, not just for those with dementia or other issues but for all the 80 pluses?
The 60-80 year olds have more energy. They are changing focus. They are discovering life outside of work and outside of having kids at home. There may be a new focus on grandchildren, and elderly parents, but there is often a looking at life as an opportunity to do the things that are really important to me. There is an opportunity to engage with the God dream or soul within. So for example we could encourage groups that engage the physical, mental, relational, and spiritual. We have a waking group, but what about a tramping group, a book/movie group, a travel group, a men’s shed, a mission group, an art group, a singing group. But what is essential is to keep a spiritual focus and to keep asking questions about listening to one’s soul, discovering the God dream, serving with purpose to shape a better world. Some mentioned in our little survey last week of the desire to have a discussion group. What is the Bible about, what does retirement look like for a Christian, how do we invest wisely, and other ethical issues. A mission group could be a regular trip to Vanuatu to undertake an activity that builds bonds with locals but also offers assistance. Along the way there would be a bike trip to have some fun. A mission group could have a creation focus eg caring for a stretch of the Heathcote, providing assistance with low cost housing and teaching skills of gardening. Groups begin with conversations about dreams and passions of God. Remember back to the story of Pentecost and the observation that a little flame came upon every person. There is a God given passion or flame within each of us. A God dream within each of us. Sadly those flames are usually starved of oxygen and never get beyond a gentle smoulder as we wait for someone else to do something. Again a major stumbling block always seems to be leadership and maybe we simply need to employ someone to lead, or maybe we start with more conversations about our passions and God dreams. What is does our unique flame look like?
There aren’t too many big sycamore trees around our area thank goodness where people like Zacchaeus may be hiding, but there are people like Zacchaeus who are hearing God whispering into their lives. Plenty of those people are over 60…. Plenty of those people are hungering for community not only with God but with others. Our church, you and I surely have to speak and invite those people into conversation and connection.
Dugald Wilson 20 May 2018

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Pentecost Sunday 20th May 2018

While our Church Building is Repaired we are meeting each Sunday at The Mineral & Lapidary Club 110 Waltham Rd (next to Waltham School) at 10am.

We would love to have the opportunity to welcome you.

 

Pentecost 20th May 2018

 

Session Report:

Homeshare Plus…because Presbyterian Support is withdrawing from this project we have applied to Manchester Unity for funding. The project will be renamed South Elder Care (SEC).

Website Upgrade…Session thanks Deborah for the work that has gone into this.

Your Sisters Orphanage…Rob & Barb Meier will head away shortly to spend time at this project in Tanzania. The generosity of a member of the congregation means they will be able to fund equipment and materials they will need while there.

Thank You…to the Rev Lyndsey McKay who has led numerous services of worship over the past few years. Lyndsey is taking a break from this ministry.

Use of church building…Session is currently considering a proposal to hire outside help to propose uses for our church complex that fit our mission and would see the buildings fully utilised.

 

Thank you to the Men’s Group for hosting this morning’s Parish Breakfast.

 Wednesday Walkers: 23rd May. (rescheduled from last week) Jean Turvey will lead us on walk around Kaiapoi, with coffee at Rivertown Café. We will carpool from the city – please meet/park at the Wesley Church, cnr Peraki & Fuller Streets. All are welcome. Sonya 027 2533397.

Mission Discernment Group meets this Wednesday 23rd May in the Parish Office at 7.30pm.

Crafty Crafters Thursdays 10am – 12 noon at Beckenham Methodist. $3 per session. Lyndsey 388 1264.

Fireside Women’s Group: Tuesday 29th May (please note change of date) at 7.30pm. All women are very welcome to join us at Joan Mac’s. Jill Grierson’s daughter Erin has kindly agreed to come and speak about her work in mental health.  Enquiries Margaret 366 8936.

South Brighton Voices invite you to their concert on Sunday 27th May 2pm at Opawa Community Church. Door sales $15. Lyndsey 388 1264.

 Ramadan 2018: Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a time for fasting, peace, and reflection on the Divine. Each lunar month is 29 or 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new crescent moon. This year Ramadan began on Thursday 17 May or Friday 18 May if the moon was not sighted. This is a month of compassion and generosity, including towards those needing food, shelter and support, and the Ramadan fast is in solidarity with those who often go without. The end of Ramadan is the culmination of the Muslim calendar – marked by the annual festival of Eid, held over three days. To find out more: http://nawawicenter.org/

 Dementia Canterbury Seminars: Each month Dementia Canterbury runs FREE Community Education Seminars. These seminars are designed for families and wh?nau supporting someone with dementia.  Bookings are essential as places are limited to 30 participants. Contact Dementia Canterbury for more information on these education seminars (03 379 2590, freephone 0800 444 776 or email: admin@dementiacanterbury.org.nz

Thank you to those who pulled nails and put in new screws in the church roof on Saturday. About 1800 new galvanized screws were installed!

 Do you ever wish to catch up with a sermon? Sermons are now available on our website www.stmartins.org.nz They may not be exactly what’s said, but you should get the message! Feel free to respond with your thoughts.

The notices are also posted to the website so you can catch up with them even when you lose your hard copy.

 Invocation to the Spirit by Shirley Murray

From the waiting comes the sign, come, Holy Spirit, come;

from the Presence comes the peace, come, Holy Spirit, come;

from the silence comes the song, come, Holy Spirit, come;

and be to us in truth, the sign, the peace, the song.

 

In the burning is the fire, come, Holy Spirit, come;

in the spending is the gift, come, Holy Spirit, come;

in the breaking is the life, come, Holy Spirit, come;

and be to us in faith, the fire, the gift, the life.

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Our Changed Context John 17:6-19 (13 May 2018)

Things have changed. Back in the 1950’s when the current St Martins church building was built the vision was that there would be a Presbyterian Church within 15-20 minutes walk of everyone in Christchurch. Congregations were neighbourhood churches, serving the needs of the people of the suburb they were in. St Martins Presbyterian church was to serve the people of St Martins suburb. St Peter’s in Ferry Road served Woolston, St David’s served Sydenham, St James served Spreydon. A key function of the parish church was to provide a worship event to which people would come to worship and nurture faith, to teach children about Jesus and the Christian faith, and to provide pastoral care in the parish, the neighbourhood near to the church. People learned the basics of faith and how to be good people and citizens in Sunday School and the faithful then received regular top ups at weekly worship..

This model is now no longer operative. More than two thirds of us here live outside the St Martins suburb. Most of us now drive a vehicle to worship. The area we now draw from includes Woolston, Opawa, Waltham, Spreydon, Somerfield, Sydenham, Beckenham, Hoon Hay, and further afield to Lyttelton, Westmorland etc. The reality is that we are a gathered church that happens to have our focal building and base in the suburb of St Martins. We are clearly no longer the parish church of St Martins although of course our church building is located in St Martins.

But there are other changes too. We no longer have a thriving Sunday School and our means of growing new disciples in faith are broken. Actually they’ve been broken a long time. The wider community now places little value in our pastoral care. If you have a crisis in your life it’s not a minister you’ll think of seeing but a counsellor, and with all due respect to my older ministerial colleagues that’s actually not a bad thing. Many funerals, weddings, and naming of children are now secular affairs and the church is seen to be largely irrelevant in offering meaning and ritual to mark key transitions in life. The Christian worldview is now one of many with the dominant religion now consumerism or materialism. Christian ethics and morals are often considered outdated and the church’s voice on questions and issues facing society outmoded. Christians are a dwindling small minority group. Sociologists tell us we now live in a post Christian world. Things have changed. Our context has changed.

I believe we have something of great value to offer. I believe God’s mission to bring true life into the world is as valid as ever. Last week I defined this in a sentence. Our church community exists to discern, model, and teach what makes for true aliveness.

One of the exercises our Mission Discernment Group engaged in is to prayerfully discern what we notice in the neighbourhoods we represent. What might God be saying to us about this patch of city we live in. It will come as no surprise to you that one thing we noticed was lonely people. Mums walking by the church. Donald an older fellow who is an alcoholic. Older folk walking by a number of times a day heading to the local shopping mall. Fences and empty streets apart from cars. A lack of human chatter. The lack of the sound of play on the streets.
There are lots of cars moving about but where is the genuine human interaction. There are some warm spots in local cafes and other places.

I asked the question last week what is one thing you really want our congregation to be known for. Our responses were thoughtful. A clear response is that we want this congregation to be known for its inclusive caring friendliness and compassion. We didn’t have time to unpack that but I take that to mean we want to be known for the quality of human connection. Genuine community is important to us. We know that genuine community brings life. In study after study genuine community is shown to have positive health effects, and provides a seedbed for individuals to flourish. I hear stories here of how important small groups are here like the walking group, homeshare, the foot clinic team, or fireside. We start to really get to know each other and care for each other when we go walking together each week and we have honest conversations. I came across a quote this week: God’s basic method of communicating God’s self is not the saved individual, but the journey and bonding process that God initiates through community. Connecting in a smaller group does take time but literally it gives life. One of the questions is how to keep growing these sort of groups because invariably each small group reaches a maximum size. We need small groups of all sorts, we need people to step up and initiate small groups that become places of human interaction, caring, learning and serving. In the new context small groups are going to be vital, especially groups as the MDG has discovered that try and nurture a spiritual component along with the outward service to others component.

What has also become critical in our new context is the importance of the teaching ministry that will take the Christian message into the community. Jesus spent most of his time teaching because people need to catch hold on different ideas and different ways of seeing. Traditional teaching was coming to church on Sunday to listen to the minister, but we have to experiment with new ways. In the new context people don’t come to church and people don’t sit passively and listen to learn. Gathered times of teaching and nurturing are really important but they need to be interactive and visual. Learning by experimenting and reflecting together is better learning. Conversations, questions, and sharing experience. I’ve said before and I’ll say again church of the future is circles not straight lines, and while we have begun this journey we have a way to go. But there is something more. Just like the early church we are reliant on members taking Christian messages out into their little sphere of influence, their workplace, their rotary club, their friendship circle. Our traditional church has not equipped its members to do this and instead has relied heavily on the minister as the teacher. Our church culture needs to change. Like the early church we now live in a society that knows very little about the Christian faith and church members need to be equipped and encouraged to have conversations about their faith in the real world in which they live. If Jesus is going to have a voice in our wider community we need to be that voice. Why is it important to treat others with respect? Why is greed not a good basis for community? Why is it important to forgive? Why is poverty such a disaster and a lack of equality in resources so evil? If we want to grow the influence of Jesus it has to happen in conversations out there as well as in here.

There is something else about our new context that we need to understand. I was talking to someone this week about the use of our refurbished church building. We were actually standing inside our church talking about the need for the building to be inconstant use and not sitting idle. How the building serve our aim to bring aliveness into our community. An obvious answer is that it becomes a community connecting point. A place that is a spiritual connecting point but also a place a human connection. The person I was talking to was raised a good Catholic, but no longer practices. He told me as I talked about possible activities we could bring into the building that there was something I needed to understand. I didn’t really understand how difficult it is for non churched people to connect with church. There is a large group of people who are turned off by church. Some remember going to church in days gone by and it was boring and over their head. Others have been hurt by churches.. They’ve seen hypocrisy, they have heard Christians pontificate in judgmental ways that appal them, they have felt judged. I’m sorry Mr Folau but I wish you would keep your twitters to yourself. There is a deep distrust of institutions. You and I may experience church as a safe place of warmth and friendship, but for many church doesn’t feel a good place or a safe place. I pondered. I know there are places I don’t feel comfortable in. Walk into a country pub where everyone knows each other and the place goes quiet as heads turn to look at you. I remember wandering into a TAB shop and feeling completely at sea. What do you do, how do you even place a bet. I had no idea. I do know that when they began a new style of church called BATCH (Breakfast at The Coronation Hall) in the Maori Hill parish they actually chose to hire the community hall over the road from the church because it was neutral ground and not contaminated by images and memories of traditional institutional church. And it worked…Strange eh?…

People have to build a relationship of trust before they’ll set foot inside a church. They have to get to know a human face and feel they will be honoured and listened to and not seen as another recruit for the envelope system before they’ll dare risk coming through a door.

The context has changed.
Circles instead of lines.
Conversations instead of monologues.
A focus on what makes for aliveness.
Church will be different!

Dugald Wilson 13 May 2018

What would be the focus of a small group you would like to be involved with at church?
What hinders you from inviting a friend to participate in an activity of the St Martins Presbyterian Church?

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Sunday 13th May 2018 Mother’s Day

While our Church Building is Repaired we are meeting each Sunday at The Mineral & Lapidary Club 110 Waltham Rd (next to Waltham School) at 10am.

We would love to have the opportunity to welcome you.

 

Mother’s Day 13th May 2018

 

Parish Breakfast Next Sunday (wear something red for Pentecost!)

Yes, it’s breakfast time again at church.  The Men’s Group will be serving a choice of cereals, porridge and cream, and yummy hotcakes with fruit.   Breakfast is served from 8.45am and a gold coin is appreciated to help cover costs.  It’s a great time to get to know someone new and catch up with those you know well.

 Wednesday Walkers: 16th May. Jean Turvey will lead us on walk around Kaiapoi, with coffee at Rivertown Café. We will carpool from the city – please meet/park at the Wesley Church, cnr Peraki & Fuller Streets. All are welcome. Sonya 027 2533397.

Session meets this Wednesday 16th May 7.30pm at Merchiston.

 Help… we are replacing the nails in the church roof that have rusted next Saturday.  This is not a job for the faint hearted as we are working at some height.  Talk to Warren Pettigrew or David Hodder if you might be interested in helping.

‘Messenger’ deadline THIS Friday 18th May. Please email any articles to anneke.howie@gmail.com

“What on earth is God doing about Unity?”
Stories of Justice, Peace & Hope.  A lively panel discussion to kick-start this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
TONIGHT 7.00-8.30pm, Knox Church, 28 Bealey Ave. Free/koha appreciated.(Supper served afterwards)

 Do you ever wish to catch up with a sermon? Sermons are now available on our website www.stmartins.org.nz They may not be exactly what’s said, but you should get the message! Feel free to respond with your thoughts.

The notices are also posted to the website so you can catch up with them even when you lose your hard copy.

 Thank You for your Support: The recent sale of walnuts raised $461 and thank you also to those who have purchased greeting cards – $535.20 raised to date! Joan Macdonald, Treasurer.

Crafty Crafters Thursdays 10am – 12 noon at Beckenham Methodist. $3 per session. Lyndsey McKay 388 1264.

The Fireside Women’s Group meets this month on Tuesday 29th May (please note change of date) at 7.30pm. All women are very welcome. More details next week!

Building Update….The first of the steel cross bracing structures was installed in the church last week.  New lightweight bricks will be placed on the outside and timber framing and gib on the inside.

 

Day of Prayer to end famine…The hungry are of special concern to God for it is on their behalf God will ask us: “Did you feed me when I was hungry?” (Matt 25: 35-40)

The World Council of Churches ask us to participate in a global day of prayer to end famine on 10 June this year.

We are asked to unite as faith communities all over the world as a prayerful and spiritual movement to:

  • Encourage prayer, reflection and action with information and suggestions.
  • Bring awareness regarding famine’s impact on the most vulnerable children and families and to help address its root causes.
  • Connect with church-related and other humanitarian organisations that are currently working to bring immediate relief and positive long-term change so children and families can live out God’s aspiration for a dignified, peaceful and violence-free future.
  • Help communities and congregations to uphold each other in prayer and support, by sharing experiences, challenge and solutions.

Here are some alarming facts about hunger and famine in 2016:

  1. Approximately 842 million people suffer from hunger worldwide. That’s almost 12 percent of the world’s population of 7.1 billion people. 60% of the worlds hungry are women.
  2. Ninety-eight percent of those who suffer from hunger live in developing countries. 553 million live in the Asian and Pacific regions, while 227 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Latin America and the Caribbean account for 47 million.
  3. Approximately nine million people die of hunger each year according to world hunger statistics; more than the death toll for malaria, AIDs and tuberculosis combined in 2012.
  4. Because of the prevalence of hunger in women in developing countries, malnutrition is a leading cause of death for children. Approximately 3.1 million (8500 per day!) children die of hunger each year, and in 2011 poor nutrition accounted for 45 percent of deaths for children under five.

The worst thing about this is that the world produces enough food to feed everyone. Food availability per capita has increased from approximately 2220 kcal per person per day in the 1960s to 2790 kcals per person per day in 2006.

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What Are We Here For? 6 May 2018

Why does St Martins Presbyterian Church Exist?          John 15:1-17

Over the past few months a small group (called the Mission Discernment Group MDG) has been meeting to try and clarify our mission as a community of Christians. Often it seems we assume we all know why our church exists, but actually when asked many are unsure. Maybe it’s just too big a question, or maybe we haven’t really thought about that. Church is just church and it’s always just been there. It is a big question and however good your answer may be it misses something. On the other hand however if we don’t have some sort of picture of why we are here it can mean that we get a little lost and forget what we are really on about.

Anthony de Mello a Jesuit priest and story teller tells this story: On a rocky seacoast , where shipwrecks were frequent there was once a ramshackle little life-saving station. It was no more than a hut and there was only one boat, but the few people who manned the station were an amazing group who kept constant watch over the sea and went fearlessly out in a storm if they had any evidence that there had been a shipwreck somewhere. Many lives were saved and the station became famous.
As the fame of the station grew, so did the desire of people in the neighbourhood to become associated with its excellent work. They generously offered of their time and money so new members were enrolled, new boats bought and new crews trained. The hut too was replaced by a larger building in which saved people could be dried and warmed. And, of course, since shipwrecks do not occur every day, it became a popular gathering place-a sort of local club.
As time passed the members became so engaged in socializing and running their club that they seemed to forget about life-saving. In fact, when some people were actually rescued from the sea, it was always such a nuisance because they were dirty and wet and soiled the carpeting and the furniture.
The social activities of the club became numerous and the life-saving activities few. But there was a showdown at a club meeting with some members insisting that they return to their original purpose and activity. A vote was taken and these troublemakers, who proved to be a small minority, were invited to leave the club and start another.
Which is precisely what they did-a little further down the coast, with such selflessness and daring that, after a while, their heroism made them famous. Whereupon their membership was enlarged, their hut was reconstructed.. and their idealism – smothered….. and you get the idea!
There is a constant need for us to ask the question ‘what are we here for?’

As the workgroup has wrestled with this question one theme that has seemed important to us is that St Martins Presbyterian Church exists to help people find ‘life’. ‘True life’. Our reading this morning uses an image of the vine and the branches. The vine exists to bring life to the branches. Branches aren’t much good unless they are connected to the vine where the life giving sap is transmitted from the roots. Jesus’ stories and his teaching assume that to find life we need to centre our lives in God. We need to orientate our lives in something bigger than us. Often this happens when people recognise they are not as complete as they might think. It’s when something breaks, or we face the reality that not all is well with us that God gets a look in. I think this is why healing was such an important part of Jesus’ ministry.
But it’s not just something for individuals. Some in the MDG also pointed out Jesus taught us guidelines or morals for living together in community. This is also part of finding life. Just as we need road rules to guide us to all drive safely we need ways of seeing and habits that enable us to live together in healthy communities. No killing even with words, forgive forgive forgive, be kind and generous, put away your swords….The teachings of Jesus provides a God inspired framework that enhances the life of community and enables us to live in harmony with the whole earth. They are about finding life. Jesus summed up this framework as “love one another.” Love is at the heart of it all or if you like the sap that flows through the Jesus vine. Sadly it is often the case that blind following of the rules and habits without love can actually destroy life.

Finding health and life is not just about our relationships with each other and the earth we live on, but is also about our relationship with our self and looking at what motivates and drives us. Jesus taught us to be humble. That doesn’t mean demeaning self, but it does mean examining our motives and looking at what we are really seeking. Jesus also recognised that many people are motivated by a need to bolster themselves in front of others. He stresses over and over that we find our true value in God. Our value is not based on achievement and worldly success, the exterior image, but simply is – a gift of God. This relationship with God provides life. God is a life giving God. Again we often picture God as policeman, as judge, as a stern old man, but we do well to picture God as midwife, as potter with clay, a life giving sap, giving rise to life.

There is an interesting term that John uses a number of times in his gospel. ‘eternal life’. Jesus brings eternal life. Sadly many people have thought of this as life after death. Literally the Greek term means life of the ages as opposed to life in this contemporary culture or life in this economy. Eternal life is not a good translation. John simply assumes there is a fuller life, a true life that can be found by drawing close to Jesus. I would be thrilled to hear people saying, “I go to church because I find true life there”, or “I look forward to going to church because the sap of life is set free in my veins.” Actually I do hear people saying these sort of things!

A few other points…. Jesus didn’t force this life on others. We have to find it. He told stories, he modelled actions so that people could see this life in action. This is in turn the work of the Church. To tell stories, to model actions, to teach.

Jesus assumed it was a personal thing but also a corporate and community thing which he named as a new society, a new community he called the ‘kingdom of God’ or the ‘kingdom of heaven’. For some reason Paul never took up those names, and he called this new way of life ‘God’s new creation’. Paul talks of a ‘new fullness’, ‘freedom’, ‘new life’, ‘life in the Spirt’ and ‘life in Christ’. We have to discern what these things mean in our time.

I have to say the MDG didn’t find all this easy to sum up. We struggled to formulate a simple statement of what we are on about. But my take on what we were saying as we struggled was that our mission is to promote this life centred in God that was seen in and taught by Jesus. If I am to reduce this one sentence it is simply this: Our church community exists to discern, model, and teach what makes for true aliveness.

Dugald Wilson 6 May 2018

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