Monthly Archives: October 2018

Jesus and Money

Mark 10:17-31

He is a stranger in Mark’s gospel but he has a question that resonates for many of us. What must I do to inherit eternal life? What do I need to do to really come alive in my life? How do I live a life that makes a difference and leaves an eternal mark? How do I live a life of significance? How doe I find true peace?

It’s a question others had asked but Jesus recognizes that it’s a genuine question from someone who is genuinely searching. This stranger genuinely wanted to explore a question that most of us ask at some point. Jesus responds by quoting from the Ten Commandments. You shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honour you father and mother. These are six commandments are good rules for nurturing life. Interesting that this life is seen as life in community with others and not some individualistic fulfillment. Also interesting that Jesus omits the first four commandments relating to our relationship with God. The man however is quick in response and boldly proclaims that he’s kept all these good community rules since he was a boy. He knows the importance of good morals that safeguard the human family and trust, honesty, and dignity in the community. I appreciated the story in the Press this week of the building inspector in Auckland who left his ipad on site after a pre inspection report prior to a big concrete pour undertaken by a Chinese construction firm. He returned 30 minutes later to retrieve his computer to discover all the steel reinforcing was being removed prior to the pour. The writer was lamenting the influence of foreigners who had no culture of honesty. I wondered if he might have given thought to where the backbone of honesty came from in our own culture and whether in fact declining standards are due to something else other than just the influence of foreign culture. Maybe the rejection of established religion with traditional teaching like the ten commandments has something to do with it?

However Jesus’ questioner has no problem with declining standards of honesty and as Mark tells the story he says simply Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus’ heart warmed towards this man who is genuinely trying to live a good life. What follows is said in love, and is offered to the man as a means of drawing him closer to the fullness of life he is hankering after. Jesus says you need to take another step in your faith journey, “sell everything you own and give it all away.” And the story takes another turn as it is revealed the man went away with a heavy heart because he had great wealth.

I bet you could have heard a pin drop. It was a huge ask. I sometimes wonder if Jesus expected him to pick up the invitation there and then, go home and put his house and contents, and maybe his business on the market, or was he expecting that the man needed to undergo some serious rethinking of his values way of life that would take time. I suspect the latter but we simply don’t know. We are simply told the man became sad for he was very rich. Quite simply it was a bridge too far, and I think most of us feel for the man, and possibly a little uncomfortable ourselves because on the world scale we are all very very rich.

In what follows Jesus unpacks the incident with his disciples who share our discomfort. He draws on the image of a narrow gate in the Jerusalem city wall known as the eye of the needle which was a squeeze just for a man to get through but for a camel especially one loaded with goods and possessions it was simply impossible. The message was simple you could only get through if you let go of all your possessions. If you want to find eternal life, if you want to enter God’s kingdom you have to learn to let go. And if you are going to let go then you actually need to address the issue of where you put your trust. What do you hold on to for security in life?

I wonder if this is why Mark and the other gospel writers put this story alongside the incident with the children. Children are good trusting their parents. They usually have implicit trust that their parents will take good care of them….sadly not always though. Jesus must have known that children can be demanding, annoying, and sometimes downright awful, but in the end they trust – trust in the love of their parents and other family members. I remember one of the games I used to play with one of my nephews when he was young. It’s a game I wouldn’t play with him now because he is now bigger than me, but as a little fellow he loved to climb up on the back of an armchair and launch himself off into my arms. It was a risky game because from the back of a chair it was a long way down but he trusted that I would catch him every time. As an adult we don’t find such trusting easy. I recall an interactive experiment in the old Science Alive display that used to be in the railway station in town. This particular experiment involved letting yourself drop off a 5m wall that was polished and gently curved outwards towards the bottom. The idea was that your downward momentum was transferred by the gentle curve into horizontal momentum and that you could drop the 5m onto the hard wooden surface below. The trick was the bottom of the wall was curved and your downward momentum was transferred by the curve to horizontal momentum and so despite no soft surface to break your fall you ended up with no broken bones. All I can say is that I didn’t find it easy trusting that all would be well as I struggled to let go and drop! I needed some of my nephew’s childlike trust. Such is the trust and faith Jesus is inviting us to put in God. I’ve talked before of learning to swim and trust the buoyancy of the water. Tense up and you sink, relax and you float. This is faith. We trust the love of God and we trust the buoyancy of God. We trust in the Ways of God. If the rich man was to find life says Jesus he would need to let go of the wealth and the security and trust he put in the wealth. He trusted that the commandments would provide life, but in his holding tight to his money he showed he needed to take another step into true faith.

Most of us I suspect are somewhere along this road of learning to trust God and the ways of God. It’s not a simple road. It’s not a simple matter of giving everything away and hoping God will take care of us.. Our scriptures tell us in a number of places we have to ensure that we are not an unnecessary burden on others. We do have bills to pay and we need to live responsibly and take care of our own welfare. We do need money to put food on the table and ensure we have a roof over the heads of those we are responsible for. But it’s really easy to loose the balance. It is very easy for our possessions to become something we hold tightly to and they begin to own us and rob us of life.

I am reminded of the story of Sir Moses Montefiore a good Jew and friend of Queen Victoria. Sir Moses was a man of considerable wealth who retired at age 40 and spent the next 60 years of his life putting his wealth to good use improving the lives of others, and working for the welfare of humanity. A sort of Bill and Melinda Gates sort of figure. Someone asked him one day how much he was worth. He contemplated for a while and then named a figure. The questioner was puzzled and queried the response. “That is a large sum but I don’t think it is enough. By my calculation you should be worth at least ten times the figure you have given me.” In reply Sir Moses gave the following response: “You didn’t ask me how much I own. You asked me how much am I worth. So I calculated the amount I have given to charity in the last year and that is the figure I gave you. You see,” he said, “we are worth what we are willing to give to others.”

Sir Moses understood that he was merely a trustee of the wealth, and that he was called to use his wealth to reshape the world according to the life of God, and in learning that basic truth of faith he had made a significant shift from owning his wealth and claiming it as his to understanding we are mere trustees. Trusting in God is more than some blind faith, but it is releasing our grip on our wealth and the powerful thought that it is mine, and realizing that all we have is gift and all we have is God’s. Once we start seeing wealth as gift we start asking how is it best used. We are part of a culture that says we should amass wealth so we can leave it to the kids. I don’t think Jesus would agree. Andrew Carnegie the wealthy industrialist had a great dream – it was simply to bounce your last cheque. In our world maybe that is to go into permanent overdraft as you breathe your last. By the time you die you have given it all away. I like that dream and my aim is to follow it.

Generosity is at the heart of life. Giving things away, putting your wealth to good use, to God’s use, actually brings life. To live generously and bounce one’s last cheque is to die vertical, not horizontal. To die vertical is to die fully engaged with life and promoting life. To die horizontal is to passively allow others to decide how your wealth is used, to put it in the bank for a rainy day where it’s used to pay fat salaries to unscrupulous managers, or to leave it to the kids will happily spend it on some frivolous endeavor.

Jesus makes it clear we are to be trustees not passive hoarders. We are to take risks with God to declare a new kingdom on earth. I don’t think we are all called to be ascetics and give it all away although I do think simpler less materialistic lives are called for. Life is to be lived and enjoyed. Life is to be enhanced. Riches like leeches can suck your soul dry and leave you bloodless. Over the last 50 years our material standards have sky rocketed … I wish I could say people were happier and more truly full of peace. Amassing wealth does not bring significance, it is generosity and adoption of the idea that we are trustees of everything we own – that brings the life we long for.

Dugald Wilson 14 Oct 2018

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Sunday 14th October 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.

 

Sunday 14th October 2018

 Getting Across the Line…. Target $35,000: Only days left to contribute! We’re nearly there. Remember all gifts are tax deductible. Gifts can be made by cheque to St Martins Presbyterian Church and given to our treasurer Joan Macdonald or with a bank transfer with “Newbuild” in the Particulars and your name in the Reference Box to the St Martins Presbyterian Church:  ANZ    06-0829-0201306-050

This special fundraising project closes this Wednesday 17th October. As at 10th October we have received $31,670 – less than $4000 to go – but happy to receive over subscriptions! Receipts issued in March 2019.

Craft Crawl to Ashburton Thursday 8th November 9.30am. Please could those people going on the trip pay Lyndsey McKay $25 TODAY.

Rosters for Door Duty and Morning Tea 2019 will be drawn up at the beginning of November. If you would like to add your name, or remove it, please contact Allison Blackler 332 0554 or Joan Scott 338 8700.

 Board of Managers meets this Wednesday 17th October 7.30pm at Merchiston.

 Sound operators…. When we move into the church again we will need someone to be responsible for the operation of sound each Sunday as we will be operating a sound desk that was in the St James Church.  Full training will be given.  At this stage we simply need to establish a team of preferably six people who might be willing to be part of this team.  Speak to Dugald or Warren to register your interest.

Wednesday Walkers 17th October Meet 9.30am in Clouston St for a saunter around the neighbourhood, then return for morning tea catered by Allison at no.5. {Donations please – funds still being accepted for the church repairs!}. You are welcome to join us for this even if not walking. Fern 332 4725.

Building Report: New windows have been installed. Gib stopping has begun and exterior painting in progress. We have agreed on a solution to stabilising the brick west wall. The kitchen joinery has been finalised and is being constructed. The suspended ceiling is yet to be installed, and the last major job will be installing floor coverings and installing equipment. Outside, the section in front of the office will be sealed and depending on finance we will replace some badly cracked paths, and drainage.

Funding Applications….We have applied to numerous trusts and foundations for support in fitting out the church complex.  So far we have received $5000 from the Jansen Trust for a dishwasher,  $3500 from Presbyterian Development Society for a new data projector and $1000 from the Mainland Trust to purchase 8 folding café tables.  We are very grateful to these organisations for their support.  Our target for applications is $25,000, but it may take some time to reach this.  We acknowledge with thanks the work of Gill Blackler in applying for funds.  Her experience and energy has been invaluable.

New Parish Phone lists available from the Office.

Working with Risingholme Community Centre… the Session has agreed to a key recommendation in Peter Burley’s report that we invite Risingholme to lead classes in our church and community hub.  We have met with the Director and are setting up a Memorandum of Understanding to enable us to work together.  We anticipate small steps to begin with as we set up a working relationship.  We are also exploring the possibility of setting up a Menz Shed or similar in the old Sunday School Rooms.    We would love to have the facilities well utilized and have the opportunity to connect with people from the wider community.

VSA Quiz Night Wednesday 17th October 7pm at Elmwood Trading Co (Robbies), Normans Rd (railway end). $10 per person. More details from Rob & Barb Meier 379 1474.

Armistice Day A special service of hymns, readings and prayers to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One. Sunday 11th November 2pm at St Anne’s Anglican Church, 7 Wilsons Rd. All are welcome.

CWS Disaster Appeal: Please help Indonesians living in Central Sulawesi following their earthquake and tsunami.  Survivors are in desperate need of support to protect them from hunger and disease. Over 1.5 million people have been affected.  2,010 people have lost their lives and 80,000 are displaced.  More than 65,000 houses have been damaged.

Please help by making a donation to  Indonesia Earthquake Tsunami Appeal via the CWS website or phone 0800 74 73 72 to give your supportThank you.

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Relationships

Gen 2:18-25 Mark 10:2-9    7 October 2018

A Sunday School attendee was asked, ‘what does God say about marriage?’ The boy thought about this for a moment and then responded with Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” I guess that’s true for most of us who have entered this sacred relationship. We may not know what we were doing, but surveys tell us that we do have some idea of what we want. For women it’s affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment. For men the list is different – for us it’s sex, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and finally admiration. I should point out these were American surveys so it’s probably different here! But with such different expectations its little wonder that marriage is fraught with difficulties and challenges.

Marriage is a fundamental relationship in our scriptures. In the creation story from Genesis 2:18-25 we have a statement that ‘it is not good for the Adam or earthchild to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for the earthchild’. The state of loneliness is the one thing in creation that is not good, for it seems humans are created to live in relationship. I should also point out the word for helper sometimes is thought of as someone inferior who serves. This is not so. Later on in our scriptures in Deuteronomy 33:29, God is described using the same word. God is our helper. Essentially the term means providing something that is lacking in the other. Human beings it seems are not complete and whole by themselves but are created to live in relationship with others. In partnership and community there is a blossoming of life. What our scriptures say is that we are communal beings and we are at our best when we commit to communal relationships.

A key building block for communal relationship is marriage. The uniqueness of this relationship is spelt out in two ways. “Therefore a man (or person) leaves his (her) mother and father and clings to his wife (another), and they become one flesh.” (Gen 3:24) Firstly there is a marital leaving. There is a disengaging from the family that brought us up and gave us our beginning to launch a new unit of life. This message of letting go for us has to do with the leaving a childlike state of dependency and taking responsibility as an adult to shape new life. Young people of today need to hear this as they cling to the security of parents, and modern parents need to hear this as they build dependent relationships with their children. Around us birds are building and inhabiting nests but very shortly the nests will be abandoned as parents literally kick the young ones out into the world to sink or swim. The second message is about marital union which is something far more than the intimacy of sexual encounter. It involves everyday skills of friendship, listening, appreciating, encouraging. It is why good friendships often lead to secure and satisfying marriages. At the heart of becoming one flesh is the hard work of love. Many couples seem to work on the assumption that marital intimacy just happens. We talk of falling in love.

One of my favourite authors Dr Scott Peck in his excellent book, “The Road Less Travelled” says a couple of things that stick with me. The first is that people who fall in love eventually fall out of love and that’s when real love begins to take root. When the rosy coloured spectacles come off and we see one another in the real light of day with warts and wrinkles and still commit to seeking the welfare and growth of another – that’s real love. He also says that the opposite of love is not hate but is laziness. Love is essentially hard work as we commit to the growth and well being of another, but it’s very very easy to slip into lazy patterns and routines in our relationships that treat our partners as part of the furniture. The opposite of love is laziness. We no longer see the special-ness and sacredness in another, and we take the other people in our lives, or ourselves, for granted. We forget to affirm, appreciate, and communicate worth and value. It is a wonderful thing to switch off our ego and self centredness, to dull down our ‘what can I get out of this’, and focus wholly on helping another grow and blossom. It is a good thing to take a moment to reflect in our relationships how I might be a better lover, how I might encourage the life in another, what can I do to grow aliveness in another….or again even within yourself. This is the work that is at the center of marriage and at the center of family.

Words work well for some but for others images are important so I want to encourage you with an image. This is a picture of a sculpture sculptured by the French artist Auguste Rodin in 1908 called originally the Ark of the Covenant, but renamed by Rodin rather interestingly the Cathedral. I think the great interior space of a gothic cathedral is encapsulated in the space between the hands. If you look closely you’ll notice the hands are both right hands. There are two people involved here. The hands are about to clasp. It is the space between them that intrigues me, and speaks of the work of love and marriage. It is a sacred and mysterious space. The two hands are nurturing something awesome together. A marriage isn’t just about a practical arrangement of living together, or about fulfilling one another’s needs, but it is participating in a new dream, nurturing a new sacred space through which something mysterious and awesome, God breathed, emerges. A good question to ask for those of us who live in the gift of marriage is, “what are we nurturing in our relationship, and how are we serving the sacred presence of love through which the world will be healed?”

I want to remind you of Jesus’ words… that two become one flesh. They are no longer two distinct individuals but are melded somehow into a new form which I think is a sign of the interconnectedness that was at the heart of Jesus’ vision of a new earth. Deep relationship in its many forms is what Jesus is talking about here. People transcending their ego driven lives to see sacredness and value in another. We are part of a culture that is possibly the most individualistic self seeking culture of all time and in that culture it’s no wonder marriage is a disaster. Community is a disaster, caring for creation is a disaster, but loneliness and anxiety are winners. We have neglected the importance of relationship and instead promoted the ideal of getting for self. What can I get out of the relationship is the question we ask rather than what can I give and how can I serve. What will fulfil my needs as opposed to how can I create sacred space, a cathedral.

We now see the consequences of these ideas in a record high number of failed marriages with huge costs on the partners who have to deal with the failure in so many ways, the cost to the children, and to society as a whole. Before those with marriages intact sit smugly back however, I observe many marriages that are so called “intact” because they have lasted the distance are far from ideal. Lasting the distance isn’t anything to be proud of if the dream of God and the life giving sacrificial love has gone from the relationship. Jesus as we know had much to say about skin deep appearances. Some of you know the painful reality of facing up to a relationship that has failed and taking steps to move on. I salute your courage! Jesus is someone who believes in the second chance. All of us fail in life, and all of us are surrounded by the deep love of God which does not give up on us. Working out balances between ideals and realities is never easy.

I want to end with another image – simple story of encouragement. Robert Salzer is a surgeon who has written of some of his experiences. In this story he visits a young woman after surgery to her face. He writes:
I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed. I had followed with religious fervour the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumour in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening light, isolated from me, private. Who are they I ask myself, he and his wrymouth I have made, who gaze at each other? The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes”, I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it”, he says. “It is kind of cute.” All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

I wonder why such a story evokes awe and a deep sense of this is what life is about. Rodin might have said if he were a witness to this encounter…. Cathedral.  Some might say sacrament – an action in which God is present.
May there be God filled moments in your relationships and in your marriages.

Dugald Wilson 7 October 2018

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Sunday 7th October 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.

 

Sunday 7th October 2018

Worship venue this Sunday: St Mark’s Church Hall, cnr Opawa Rd & Vincent Pl

 

Getting Across the Line…. Target $35,000: Final 10 days to contribute!

1 gift of $5,000 and 1 gift of $1,000 would do it. 4 gifts of $1,000 and 10 gifts of $200 would do it

Gifts can be made by cheque to St Martins Presbyterian Church and given to our treasurer Joan Macdonald or with a bank transfer with “Newbuild” in the Particulars and your name in the Reference Box to the St Martins Presbyterian Church:  ANZ    06-0829-0201306-050

This special fundraising project closes on Wednesday 17th October. Receipts will be issued in March 2019, unless requested otherwise. As at 3rd October we have received $29,670 – less than $6000 to go – but happy to receive over subscriptions!

A very warm welcome to all who worship with us today. Please join us for morning tea after the service.

Next week we meet again back at the Mineral & Lapidary Club on Sunday at 10am.

Craft Crawl to Ashburton Thursday 8th November 9.30am. Please could those people who indicated they would like to join the Crafty Crafters pay Lyndsey McKay $25 next Sunday 14th October.

Rosters for Door Duty and Morning Tea 2019 will be drawn up at the beginning of November. If you would like to add your name, or remove it, please contact Allison  332 0554 or Joan 338 8700.

Sound operators…. When we move into the church again we will need someone to be responsible for the operation of sound each Sunday as we will be operating a sound desk that was in the St James Church.  Full training will be given.  At this stage we simply need to establish a team of preferably six people who might be willing to be part of this team.  Speak to Dugald or Warren to register your interest.

Parish Phone List has been updated. If you would like a copy, please contact the Anna at the Parish Office.

Funding Applications….We have applied to numerous trusts and foundations for support in fitting out the church complex.  So far we have received $5000 from the Jansen Trust for a dishwasher,  $3500 from Presbyterian Development Society for a new data projector and $1000 from the Mainland Trust to purchase 8 folding café tables.  We are very grateful to these organisations for their support.  Our target for applications is $25,000, but it may take some time to reach this.  We acknowledge with thanks the work of Gill Blackler in applying for funds.  Her experience and energy has been invaluable.

Working with Risingholme Community Centre… the Session has agreed to a key recommendation in Peter Burley’s report that we invite Risingholme to lead classes in our church and community hub.  We have met with the Director and are setting up a Memorandum of Understanding to enable us to work together.  We anticipate small steps to begin with as we set up a working relationship.  We are also exploring the possibility of setting up a Menz Shed or similar in the old Sunday School Rooms.    We would love to have the facilities well utilized and have the opportunity to connect with people from the wider community.

Wednesday Walkers 10th October Meet 9.30am at the Beckenham Service Centre and Library for a walk around the area to be led by Benjamin. We should also be able to view the Refugee & Migrant Quilt display at the Library after we have had our coffee at Novel.  All welcome. Judith & Benjamin 332 1577.

Building Report: We are working to resolve issues raised by the structural engineer on the west wall. Of concern to us is that these issues around securing the brickwork have not been raised previously and will require some newly finished construction to be removed. In the meantime painters have begun work and gib stopping begins shortly.

General Assembly meeting in Christchurch….The Rt Rev Fakaofo Kaio has been installed as the Moderator. His message to the church is “Don’t neglect the relationship with God and with each other.”

Other business to come before the Assembly will include re-ordering the national church body, a recommendation to reject the current euthanasia bill, and a recommendation to adopt the Accra Declaration – from the Alliance of Reformed churches rejecting neo-liberal economics.

New Sheds: Thank you to Cyril Morris, David Hodder and others who have shifted the garage from next door, cut it in half and built new end walls. We now have new storage areas that will be utilized once the old Sunday School rooms are emptied and the container removed.

CWS Appeal: Please help Indonesians living in Central Sulawesi following their earthquake and tsunami.  Survivors are in desperate need of support.

More than 1.5 million people have been affected.  1,407 people have lost their lives and 70,821 displaced.  65,733 houses have been damaged.  These figures are expected to rise.

We need to get help to the survivors now and protect them from hunger and disease.

This double disaster has caused so much damage. Please help by making a donation to  Indonesia Earthquake Tsunami Appeal via re CWS website or phone 0800 74 73 72 to give you supportThank you.

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