Yearly Archives: 2018

Steel cross bracing is being installed in the south walls of the church June 2nd 2018

Posted in Photos | Comments Off on

Practicing the Sabbath

[Readings: Exodus 20:8-11, Mark 2:23-28]

In 1874 there was a huge debate in Dunedin. Ten per cent of Otago’s adult population signed a petition about it. There were fourteen leading articles in the Otago Daily Times. The major tension centered on whether the trains and public transport should run on Sunday. The province’s first railway, from Dunedin to Port Chalmers, had been opened with a seven day a week service, and some saw this as evil, along with the opening of recreational facilities, such as the library at the Dunedin Athenaeum on the Sabbath. The issue was ‘what activities could be allowed on Sunday’. On one side were fervent sabbatarians or Sabbath keepers, mostly evangelical Presbyterians while others who were also Christians were more liberal and free thinking argued that running trains and opening public reading rooms for the purpose of education and enlightenment were not evil and were to be permitted on the Sabbath. The debate continued for many years with the more conservative voice of Christianity finding itself to be in a minority unable to dictate to society at large what it should do. But there were some startling exceptions. The sabbatarians in 1885 held enough sway on the Dunedin City Council to prevent the Navy Band playing in the botanic gardens on Sunday afternoons with one councilor declaring that nothing could be more effective in destroying the morals of the children of Dunedin than a band playing at the public gardens on Sundays. I’m glad the Sabbatarian’s didn’t hold sway forever because as a youngster I rather enjoyed band concerts in the gardens in Dunedin, and I don’t think it destroyed my morals.

Many of you will recall similar debates about movie theatres opening on Sundays, or sport being played on Sundays. You may also recall family traditions that revolved around the Sabbath and may reflect on how these have watered down or been lost completely. I can’t help thinking however that the Sabbatarian’s actually had a point. I think of the importance of going to church every Sunday and how we prepared by dressing in our Sunday best, cleaning shoes on Saturday, and then gathering for a family meal after church with possibly a lengthy family walk on the Sabbath afternoon. These were activities that caused me to notice God, to reflect on life, and to bond as family. Of course such activities as family walks would have been frowned upon by the Sabbath keepers of the nineteenth century when the expectation would be that one should spend the time studying scripture and going to the Sunday afternoon or evening service as well as the morning. But I do wonder whether keeping the Sabbath isn’t good for us. Stepping back from the busy-ness, reflecting, reconnecting with soul, nurturing family and faith relationships – I can’t help thinking we need more of that in our world. I can’t help thinking we might be healthier with more of that sort of practice in our lives….
Central to the Sabbath and something on which all Christians were agreed was that the Sabbath was a day to focus activity on God and attend worship. Worship at its heart is about connecting with God, getting in touch with our soul. In the nineteenth century you might go to church twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon or evening. Regular weekly attendance was simply how it was but recently a Baptist minister was telling me recently that he now considers regular attendance as seeing his parishioners once a month. Things have changed.

Sabbath or Shabbat as it is known in Hebrew means to cease. It is a day to cease work, to rest, and to refocus. As Jesus pointed out in our gospel reading there is always a danger that any spiritual discipline can become not a life giving discipline but a legalistic rule. I recall visiting a strict Jewish family in Jerusalem on the Sabbath and being shocked to learn they had turned to oven on before the Sabbath and left it running so they could cook a meal. To turn the oven on constituted starting a fire and that was not allowed on the Sabbath. For very strict Jews even flicking a light switch is considered work….We may smile, but I think it could be said of us often that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We reject the legalism but fail to see the importance of the practice.
In Jesus’ time the Sabbath was kept strictly. There was to be no work on the Sabbath, and work was defined by the authorities under 39 key headings. These included reaping, winnowing, threshing, and preparing a meal. So the disciples in picking the wheat, rubbing it between their hands to free the individual grains, eating the wheat and spitting out the husks had broken at least four key rules about working. The Pharisees expected Jesus to rebuke them, but instead he launches into a scriptural precedent from King David’s time in which human need took precedence over the divine law as they interpreted it. David it seems took his men when they were hungry into the temple and ate the holy bread kept there. It’s a little like someone who was starving coming and eating the bread we will shortly share together in communion. Jesus I believe is saying to us, ‘it’s easy to forget the laws of God actually are for our benefit, and keeping the laws is for our own good, not to earn points and merit with God.’

The meaning of the Sabbath is found in the fourth commandment which says “remember that the seventh day belongs to God. No-one is to work on that day, not even your children, your slaves, your animals, or foreigners who live in your towns.” There was to be a communal focusing on God on the Sabbath, it was a day to cease work and reconnect lives with God. Just how that plays out is something we have to work out, but I suspect our Sabbath keepers of the nineteenth century have a few valid points to make to us. It’s not the rules I’m thinking of but the valuing of practices and rituals that help us reconnect with God. In our secularized society it is so easy to forget God…to forget there is something bigger than us at work in our world, in our community, in our very lives.

For me the Sabbath has three important functions.
Taking time to refocus in God
Working to nurture my church family connections
Enjoying the grace and goodness of God

Ceasing work, drawing aside, and taking time to reflect will always be an important part of the Sabbath, and in our busy world this is so important. The Sabbath is a time to listen to your soul and follow the example of regularly taking time out to listen for the voice of God in your life. It’s a time to know again that we are held in something bigger than us. We often carry big loads – the Sabbath is a day to remember we do not carry alone. But it’s more than this. In the original Hebrew there is also a sense of refocusing. Early Christians in a radical move changed the day of the Sabbath to a Sunday and said this was the first day of the week. This was the day of the resurrection, the day when they celebrated that God was alive in the world through the living presence of the Spirit. The Sabbath then isn’t just about remembering God but has a stronger ‘looking forward’ element. It was a day in which we are recreated in God to go out and be the presence of Jesus in the world. It is a time when we should re-focus our lives in God, and prayer and singing, reflection and learning will be part of this. But we should also be asking how is my relationship with God going to shape the forthcoming week. Sunday is a time to remember that our lives are lived in partnership with God, but we should also plan how we might take the light of God into the week ahead.

I’m interested that an enduring feature of the Sabbath is corporate worship. It’s a day to gather with other faith journeyers. Jesus didn’t leave a set of doctrines, or even a written guidebook. What he did leave was a human bunch of misfits who formed a community of faith committed to changing the world.. But it only works when we get it together as a team, which is why I think one of the important tasks of the Sabbath in our time is team building – developing a strong sense of church family. We commit to coming together, to catching up, to sorting out our differences, maybe sharing a simple meal together. Coffee and tea are a vital part of our worship. Team building remains a very important Sabbath activity.

Sadly the heritage of Sabbath keepers is one of long unhappy judgmental faces as they witness someone else breaking their beloved Sabbath. I think Sabbath keepers should be joyful, and part of our keeping of the Sabbath should be enjoying the gifts and the grace of God. If you enjoy a good glass of wine this is the day to enjoy it and give thanks to God. If you enjoy the gift of God’s creation this is the day to get out and revel in it. What is it that brings joy into your life? This is the day to nurture that. I believe God has been wonderfully gracious to us in so many ways and this is the day to honour the gift of life and the life affirming gracious God who called all life into being.
For me the Sabbath is not about rules but it is about developing practices and rituals in our lives that refocus us in God, that build the team of faith, that put a smile on our faces as we celebrate the gift of life with a deep thankfulness.
It’s not a day of long faces, and judgmental pronouncements.
Sabbath keeping is according to our Christian tradition important. Moses when he was interpreting the fourth commandment went on to say as it is recorded in Exodus 30:15 “if you work on the Sabbath you will no longer be part of my people, and you will be put to death.” These could be interpreted as harsh words indeed, but I would interpret them as words telling us how important this commandment is. If we do not keep the Sabbath something in us dies, but if we do keep it, if we relax and enjoy the company of God, we should indeed find life.

Posted in Sermons | Comments Off on Practicing the Sabbath

Sunday 3rd June 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 3rd June 2018


 Wednesday Walkers: 6th June. Meet 9.30am cnr Broken Run & Longspur Ave. Coffee at Muffin Break Wigram. Barbara & Alan.

Crafty Crafters Thursdays 10am – 12 noon at Beckenham Methodist. $3.

Men’s Group: will meet on Thursday 7th June, 6pm at Merchiston, 75 St Martins Rd, for a shared tea and chat, followed by Guest Speaker Ken Shields. All men welcome. Contact Tony 332 0554 for more details.

Prayer Requests: A book is located in the foyer for anyone to write in prayer requests. If suitable these requests will be actioned in public worship. In making a request please ensure if people are identifiable they have given permission.

Posted in Services | Comments Off on Sunday 3rd June 2018

Sunday 27th 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.


Trinity Sunday 27th May 2018

 Notices: A very warm welcome to all who worship with us this morning. Please join us for morning tea. Many thanks to Rev. Alan Webster for leading today’s service.

 Foot Clinic TOMORROW 1-4pm at Beckenham Methodist Lounge. Contact Lyndsey McKay 388 1264 for more information.

Fireside Women’s Group:  THIS Tuesday 29th May at 7.30pm. All women are very welcome to join us at Joan Mac’s, 15 Locarno St. Jill Grierson’s daughter Erin will be speaking about a Mental Health pilot programme currently operating in Christchurch…The Integrated Safety Response to Family Violence Intervention team are specialists in the field who meet daily 24/7 to monitor and provide support, initiate on going help or treatment or intervene in a crisis. Enquiries: Margaret 366 8936.

Wednesday Walkers: 30th May. Meet 9.30am in Remuera Ave near the Reserve for a walk around Thorrington. Coffee at Protocol. All are welcome. Janette & Cyril 021 161 1178.

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

South Brighton Voices invite you to their concert TODAY 2pm at Opawa Community Church. Door sales $15. Lyndsey McKay 388 1264.

Prayer Requests: A book is located in the foyer for anyone to write in prayer requests. If suitable these requests will be actioned in public worship. In making a request please ensure if people are identifiable they have given permission.

 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:

Do you ever wish to catch up with a sermon? Sermons are now available on our website 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.

 St Albans Community Choir presents: “Wander the World” TODAY 5pm at St Paul’s Parish Centre, 1 Harewood Rd. Admission by donation (proceeds to SPCA). Irene’s student Kotoi is singing in this.

 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.

Building Update: Two panels now have steel cross bracing installed.  We will try and arrange a site visit in two weeks’ time on Sunday 10th June after worship.

On a positive note the Alpine Presbytery has not only approved our application to use our allocation held in the St David’s trust to be used for building purposes, but has very generously decided to allocate the Presbytery allocation to St Martins totalling about $66,000.

The building team also reports that we are proposing to buy 120 stackable Maxim Chairs.  These received positive recommendations at our trial last Sunday.  We will follow the majority support for chrome frames, but will try and get some of the seats covered in a coloured fabric.  We also plan to purchase 30 chairs with arms.

We are also looking at utilizing a St Andrews Cross on the front of the church.  Not only is this part of our heritage, but it also speaks of the building as a place where paths intersect – a place of connection and conversation.  The small windows that will make the cross will be the same as in the existing side walls and will be back lit at night.

We have almost sorted sound and visual requirements in the complex.  Our colour team has chosen Resene “Tall Poppy” as the exterior colour for the doors.

Posted in Services | Comments Off on Sunday 27th May 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

Posted in Sermons | Comments Off on The Importance of Seniors – 20 May 2018