Letter from the Priest-in-charge 27 November 2016

Dear Friends,

Through the Seasons immediately ahead of us, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we focus on many different journeys. There is Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There are people journeying in great numbers into the desert to hear the preaching of John the Baptist. There is the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem—a journey that involves all those ‘descended from the house and family of David’. Shepherds journey to the stable after receiving an angelic message. Star-guided Magi from distant lands journey with special gifts. Then comes a journey of escape, as Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus flee to Egypt. Later, their return journey leads them to settle at Nazareth. The birth narratives in the Gospels also include the journey of the Holy Family to the Temple in Jerusalem, to make a thank-offering.

A journey is never simply a movement from one place to another. It can invariably be measured in other ways as well, and that is true of those on this list. They all involve both an outer and an inner journey. That is to say, the physical journey, when we see new places and things, is also matched by a journey of the heart, mind and spirit, when our eyes are opened to new understandings and realisations.

On Advent Sunday we are launched into a new year of the Church’s Calendar, and it is a good time to reflect on how our Christian journey—which began at our Baptism—is proceeding. The scallop shell on the font today—used for pouring water over those being baptised—is a visual reminder of this journeying. These particular shells are a centuries-old sign, indicating that a pilgrim journey has been undertaken. Baptism is marked by both outward and inward signs. The Church’s Catechism tells us that the outward and visible sign is water, while the inward and spiritual grace of Baptism is ‘the gift of union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit’.

Baptism marks the beginning of a lifelong journey of adventure as we discover day by day what it means for God’s Spirit to interweave with the spirit that is uniquely our own, guiding, inspiring, energising, enriching and strengthening us. Like Mary and the shepherds and the Magi, we too will have experiences of new songs in our hearts, and of being overwhelmed with wonder and joy. But the choice to invite the Spirit of God to work within us always remains ours. God does not impose on us or coerce us. So, to what extent are we keeping ourselves open to the Spirit’s influence? A vital hallmark of our Christian journey is to look at our relationships with our fellow travellers, and to ask whether we have been good companions. We cannot honestly claim to be on a Spirit-filled journey if our way of travelling has a negative impact on those around us.

Yours in Christ,

Canon Craufurd Murray

 

Parish Notices

 

  • Diocesan Earthquake Appeal: we are invited to support those affected both in our prayers and by contributing non-perishable goods (drop off at Cathedral) and/or donating to the Diocesan account 06-0821-0009491-00, or https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/anglicanshelpearthquakeaffected2016/donate.
  • Lunch at Regatta on Avon across the road at 12:15 pm today. Details Ann & Dudley Jinman.
  • Meditation Group: Tuesday 5:15 pm in lounge. Details Margaret Maclagan (359 9215).
  • Working Bee at Vicarage 236a Westminster St, Thursday at 11:00 am. Please bring basic tools. Details Michael Graveston.
  • Carols in the Quad: Thursday 6:00 pm at Christ’s College. Donations to CWS.
  • The Women’s Fellowship is collecting unwrapped Christmas presents for children (particularly for teenage boys) for distribution at the City Mission’s Christmas lunch. Please place your contributions in the basket in the parish lounge. Your gifts will help to make Christmas a little more special for someone.
  • Christmas Sales Table organised by the Women’s Fellowship, next Sunday in the hall. Christmas gifts, baking (including small Christmas cakes), craft, decorations etc. Please bring plenty of cash! Details Pat Evans (358 0127).
  • School Carol Service: 4 December 5:00 pm. Prizegiving: 8 December 6:00 pm.
  • Farewell morning tea for Louise is now confirmed for 7 December at 11:00 am.
  • Christmas with the Jubilate Singers: 10 December 7:30 pm. Details on poster.
  • Sales Table: Sundays after Mass. Tickets for the Christmas raffle now available $2 each or 3 for $5. Details Anne Ladd (981 5012).
  • Marmalade available on the sales table. Empty jars to the box in the lounge please.
  • Book Swap: Sundays after Mass and weekdays in the lounge.
  • Vege Co-op: orders and deliveries on Wednesdays. Details Jill Woodside.
  • Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts of groceries and other household items.

 

Letter from the Priest-in-charge 20 November 2016

Dear Friends,

This week has been a shaky one with the huge earthquake and multiple aftershocks, and I hope you and your families have managed to cope with any outward as well as inward turmoil. Although these are ranked as history-making, we could all do without such disruptive events. Please pray for those most affected, always be sure to check on any elderly neighbours or others who have no immediate family, and keep the right emergency supplies close at hand.

For many of my younger years, I had a curious and absorbing hobby, wheeling and dealing in—as well as collecting—antique weapons. Accumulated muzzle-loading muskets and pistols, bits of armour, swords, spears, and daggers were always around the house. Some of the most exciting moments came when discoveries of intriguing items were made in unexpected places. My fascination had little to do with their intended purpose. (My only aggressive sword-wielding at that time was fencing épée for my University College!) I was captivated by the skill and quite extraordinary craftsmanship that went into forging and creating them. Despite their practical function, many were works of art and consequently were displayed around the walls. My particular interest was in two-edged swords. In recalling this, my thoughts have turned to Revelation 2: 12, about Christ being the one who has the two-edged sword. The implication is that the power of Christ is greater than any worldly power. However, this may not seem obvious when we consider that worldly powers brought Jesus to the Cross, or when we note that down the centuries worldly powers have been prepared—if it suited their purposes—to ignore Christianity and even cause harm to those who follow Christ. So where do we locate the power of Christ, as it is clearly different from the various manifestations of what can be described as worldly power? S. Paul (see 1 Corinthians 1: 18–29) declares that the Cross is where we encounter the power of God. This is where we meet fully and unmistakably the power of redemptive love. ‘The only omnipotence known to God is the Almighty Power of suffering love’ (C.E. Rolt). Jesus’ ‘unconditional acceptance of all and sundry is the ultimate power. His patient suffering, non-assertive love will have the last word… If God was in Christ we have to come to terms with a God to whom it is natural to be humble, frustrated and at risk. The coming of Jesus was a prodigious revelation that turned the previous ideas of God and of authority on their head.’ (John V.Taylor).

Today, we have reached the final Sunday of the Church’s Year, and our sights are naturally focusing on Christmas; however the Gospel directs our gaze towards the Passion and Cross. We hear that those who expected Jesus to use his power to save himself, and mocked him, had not the slightest understanding of where his true power lay. The Incarnation and the Atonement speak of a love that will never let go of us. They are demonstrations of the vulnerability of divine love but, above all, they both reveal the vital truth about where the power of redeeming love is to be found. At Christmas we will sing the familiar carol Once in Royal David’s City, and as we do so, may our hearts rejoice with a greater realisation when we come to the words, ‘And our eyes at last shall see him through his own redeeming love’. This is the firm and unshakeable ground on which our faith stands.

Yours in Christ,

Canon Craufurd Murray

 

Advent Carol Service: this is a special S. Michael’s service of readings

and music next Sunday at 7:00 pm, to mark the beginning of Advent,

and is an occasion not to be missed.

Refreshments will also be served and you can still be home in daylight!

 

Parish Notices

  • Bible Study Group meets tomorrow, 7:15 pm in the school staffroom. Details Peter Oakley (960 0974).
  • Vestry meets on Tuesday, beginning with Mass at 7:00 pm.
  • Needlework Group: DVDs and supper, Tuesday. Details Ros Calvert (322 6078).
  • Next Sunday we will pray for Elliot and Lily Luo as they go south for a few months. Elliot will be interim minister for the Presbyterian Parish of Mossburn.
  • Lunch at Regatta on Avon: final for the year next Sunday at 12:15 pm. Details Ann & Dudley Jinman (347 8290).
  • The Women’s Fellowship is collecting unwrapped Christmas presents for children (particularly for teenage boys) for distribution at the City Mission’s Christmas lunch. Please place your contributions in the basket in the parish lounge. Your gifts will help to make Christmas a little more special for someone.
  • Christmas Sales Table organised by the Women’s Fellowship, 4 December in the hall. Christmas gifts, baking (including small Christmas cakes), craft, decorations etc. Proceeds towards new choir robes. Details Pat Evans (358 0127).
  • School Carol Service: 4 December 5:00 pm. Prizegiving: 8 December 6:00 pm.
  • Sales Table: Sundays after Mass. Details Anne Ladd (981 5012).
  • Marmalade available on the sales table. Empty jars to the box in the lounge please.
  • Book Swap: Sundays after Mass and weekdays in the lounge.
  • Vege Co-op: orders and deliveries on Wednesdays. Details Jill Woodside.
  • Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts of groceries and other household items.

 

 

 

Letter from the Priest-in-charge 13 November 2016

Dear Friends,

Remembrance Sunday musings. My father and two of his brothers served in the British Army during the First World War. Amazingly, they all returned—although two were rather the worse for wear. Along with many other officers, my father had taken a camera with him. However, as a boy I remember being disappointed that his photographs did not show the things I wanted to see. There were snapshots of places he had visited, historic sites, landscapes, his horse, but little evidence of the war he was fighting. I understand his perspective far better now. Any stories he shared were almost invariably humorous anecdotes with only an occasional comment on some incident related to battle. Typically those who fought were almost universally reticent to speak of the brutality and brutalising effects of war. One of his brothers had a hand grenade (emptied!) turned into the base of a table lamp. When this came into my hands it was taken apart, so our boyhood games could be more realistic. I would much prefer to have the lamp today.

Going to war is an extraordinary human obsession born of a twisted logic that violence provides a necessary solution for resolving areas of disagreement, or a way forward for a faction or nation to protect or expand its interests. The Just War theory from the time of S. Augustine (further developed several centuries later by S. Thomas Aquinas), which the Church by-and-large has adopted, is no longer regarded as tenable. There is, though, no simplistic answer for resolving every area of human disagreement. It is, for example, argued by many that a military solution is the only immediate means of restoring order and stemming the spread of terrorism in the Middle East. One sad outcome of any military intervention is that it so often involves sacrificing many of the ideals that it is trying to uphold!

Powerful nations continue to make huge profits from selling arms. This year a new record has been set for sales of armaments world-wide. And it would seem that military hardware containing all the latest sophisticated technology has an effect of engendering a nation’s pride. Alongside this has to be placed the tragic—almost unspeakable—stories of shattered families and countless lives destroyed or maimed, as well as the creation as at the present moment of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The springs of good and evil are within ourselves. The kind of world we live in is made by the kind of people who live in it. There is no such thing as fear or hate. There are only individuals who fear and hate. If people were changed, these forces would be gone. (James Reid).

Lamentably, hate and suspicion and bitterness often seem to surface in human relationships much more readily than love and trust and reconciliation. We can choose to create peace or strife. We can make all the difference to someone else for good or ill. Jesus’ words, “In everything treat others as you would have them treat you”, are a vital principle for living Christianly. Earlier this month, in our Church Calendar we remembered Te Whiti o Rongomai. May he continue to be an inspiration to all the people of this country in living out the Gospel of Peace. Pope John Paul II once said, “Communities who stand together in their acceptance of Jesus’ supreme message of love, expressed in peace and reconciliation, and in their rejection of all violence, constitute an irresistible force for achieving what many have come to regard as impossible and destined to remain so.”

Yours in Christ,

Canon Craufurd Murray

Parish Notices

  • Morning tea will be in the parish lounge today and next Sunday morning.
  • Wedding: Helen Matthews & Mark Saunders. Parishioners are invited to this celebration, with special music, on Saturday at 2:30 pm.
  • Stocktake and updating terrier/church inventory: Vestry and other volunteers needed tomorrow 11:00 am in the lounge. Many hands make light work. Details Michael Graveston.
  • Meditation Group: Tuesday 5:15 pm in lounge. Details Margaret Maclagan (359 9215).
  • Women’s Fellowship: final meeting for the year Tuesday in the lounge after the 10:00 am Mass (at 10:45 am). Jill Woodside will share ideas for Christmas decorations. Details Pat Evans phone (358 0127).
  • Bible Study Group meets next on 21 November, 7:15 pm in the school staffroom. Details Peter Oakley (960 0974).
  • Needlework Group: final meeting for the year, Christmas DVD viewing and supper, 22 November. Details to follow from Ros Calvert (322 6078).
  • Advent Carol Service: plan now to attend this special S. Michael’s service of readings and music to mark the beginning of Advent, 27 November at 7:00 pm.
  • Sales Table: Sundays after Mass. Offers of help with baking or for setting up would be appreciated. Please speak to Anne Ladd (981 5012).
  • Advance Notice—Christmas Sales Table organised by the Women’s Fellowship, 4 December in the hall. Christmas gifts for friends and family—baking (including small Christmas cakes), craft, decorations etc. Proceeds towards new choir robes. Further details to follow.
  • Marmalade available on the sales table. Empty jars to the box in the lounge please.
  • Book Swap: Sundays after Mass and weekdays in the lounge.
  • Vege Co-op: orders and deliveries on Wednesdays. Details Jill Woodside.
  • Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts of groceries and other household items.

Letter from the Priest-in-charge 6 November 2016

Dear Friends,

Memories were stirred recently by the sight of an E-type Jaguar. By sheer chance, on my first ever visit to a major road racing circuit (Oulton Park, Cheshire, in April 1961), I witnessed the first public outing of the E-type. Two newly assembled cars were driven on the open road straight from the factory to the race track, to compete in a Trophy Race. They finished first and third. At that time in my life I acted as the map-reader/navigator for a family friend—in his Jaguar saloon—in competitions organised by the local Motor Club. He had raced extensively in the 1930s, and recalled the occasion when he drew up on the starting grid alongside a powerful Bentley with the name Dorcas emblazoned on the side of the bonnet. Being the son of an Archdeacon and well-versed in Scripture, he immediately recognised his competitor’s vehicle was ‘full of good works’—as that was the description of Dorcas in Acts 9.

During All Saintstide I have been drawn to some words in the Letter to the Hebrews (10: 24,25), about the need to consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, and to encourage one another. Provoking implies inciting and inspiring—firing within the heart a loving outlook along with a willingness to care in practical ways. To act encouragingly literally means putting courage into someone’s heart—it means giving strength to their spirit—and this we can do in a multitude of ways. But it seems to me we should not only have this kind of expectation of one another, we should also have it of the saints. Assistance can come from the great Company of Saints if we select one of them as our patron saint. S. Francis de Sales recommended that we should choose a particular saint in order to enter more deeply into their spirit and imitate them. That is to say, we can single out a particular saint to accompany us on our journey through life—someone whose example we can rely on to provoke us and encourage us to be ‘full of good works’.

 Organ Trumpet Pipes: The generosity of parishioners is quite extraordinary!

Very soon after Mass last Sunday, an anonymous donor offered to cover the whole cost. On behalf of the Parish I express gratitude for this most kind gift, which now enables the work to proceed as soon as possible. Paul Ellis, our Director of Music, will give us an update and demo during the notices today. There have been other approaches during the week offering support, and I thank all those who have wished to give practical help with this project. Perhaps assistance towards new choir robes might be considered?

Yours in Christ,

Canon Craufurd Murray

 

Parish Notices

 

  • Trumpet deadline next week: Wednesday noon, because of Show Day holiday.
  • Surplus computer and large radiator to give away, speak to Louise.
  • Bible Study Group meets tomorrow, 7:15 pm in the school staffroom. Details Peter Oakley (960 0974).
  • The Parish Trust meets on Wednesday at 5:15 pm.
  • Saturday Breakfast: 12 November, 9:45 am in the parish lounge. Details Anne Ladd (981 5012).
  • Advance Notice—Needlework Group: final meeting for the year, Christmas DVD viewing and supper, 22 November. Details to follow from Ros Calvert (322 6078).
  • Sales Table: Sundays in the hall. Offers of help with baking or for setting up in the hall would be appreciated. Please speak to Anne Ladd (981 5012).
  • Marmalade available on the sales table. Empty jars to the box in the lounge please.
  • Book Swap: Sundays in the hall and weekdays in the lounge.
  • Vege Co-op: orders and deliveries on Wednesdays. Details Jill Woodside.
  • Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts of groceries and other household items.

Sermon from the Priest-in-charge 2 November 2016

Sermon at the Solemn Requiem Mass at S Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, on All Souls’ Day, 2016.

Among the great thinkers and teachers of the 20th Century was the Swiss philosopher and theologian Karl Barth. During an interview in his old age, a journalist asked him what was the most important truth he had learned in all his years of study and lecturing and writing. He answered that he couldn’t express it better than in the words of an old hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  – That was the one over-riding conviction after decades of learning and studying and wide experience of life.   (Illustration used by William J Bausch).

Recurring in the Mass this evening are St Paul’s words declaring this same truth, as he says there is nothing in death or life, in the world as it is, or the world as it shall be, nothing in all creation, that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yet however strongly we may hold this conviction, it doesn’t spare us from the hard things of life. And among the most bitter experiences is that of bereavement – often coming as the culmination of watching a long illness.

I am sure we have all known what it is to lose someone close to us through death. Many in the congregation today have been through that difficult journey in recent times.

We also know what it means to sit down to write a letter to a friend who has just been bereaved, and to find ourselves searching for the right words to say.

Obviously we are sad that they are grieving – we feel their sorrow. We want them to know they are not facing this alone. And yet we struggle to understand how we can help to share such a personally-felt pain with all its ramifications for their life. We want, above all, to avoid glib platitudes and we wonder if we are saying the things we would like to hear in such circumstances.

We are conscious of the need to be supportive, to speak of hope, and to give comfort and reassurance, yet without sounding preachy – but time and again, I for one, have a sense of inadequacy as I seal the envelope or press the ‘send’ button. It is not easy to commit to writing what would be far better conveyed by an embrace or lingering handshake or simply through the silent meeting of eyes.

When we lose someone close to us, life is changed. We cannot pretend otherwise. And we need to grieve.

We all deal with our grief differently. Sometimes we seem to deal with it well and sometimes badly. Each time we lose a family member or good friend, we discover that we are always beginners in grief, because we have never faced the death of that particular person before with its unique implications for our life.    And often our emotions are jumbled up – there can be a mixture of tears and laughter, of sorrow and thankfulness, of anger and relief, of acceptance and resentment, as well as a sense of disappointment and loneliness and emptiness.

Questions about our own mortality and the meaning of life may also begin to surface in our minds. And into this melee it is not unusual to find regrets emerging.  At times, in such an emotionally confusing climate, these regrets can quickly grow out of proportion and some may find themselves overwhelmed by a totally unjustified guilt.

In these circumstances it is often good to imagine what we would say to those left behind, if we were the one to have died. I suspect that none of us would wish anyone we love to go through their life carrying a burden of guilt which had been caused, in some way, through their relationship with us. Yes, we would hope they would always treasure our memory. Above all, though, we would want them to get on with their own very special experience of life, and live it to the full without having to cope with some lingering impediment from our dying.

When we are faced with bereavement, we need to recognise that everything has not been taken from us.

Bereavement is about adjusting to a new reality – the reality that the way we relate to someone we love has been significantly changed.

Death does not sever the relationship – it requires that we allow our relationship with the one who has died to take on new dimensions. We now meet them differently. The familiar contact we have had – the only way we have related to them – is no longer possible. But their place in our lives is not diminished or terminated because they have died. This has been beautifully expressed in a book entitled, ‘Peace of Mind’ (by Joshua Liebman quoted in ‘Good Grief’ by Granger E. Westberg), where the author says: “The melody that the loved one played upon the piano of your life will never be played quite that way again, but we must not close the keyboard and allow the instrument to gather dust.”  – If our anguish at their dying makes us shut them out, we do ourselves a great disservice. Bereavement should lead us to the discovery, as we resume the normal activities of our lives, that the spirit of the person who has died is still inextricably interwoven with our own.

But none of this, of course, means that we don’t continue to struggle when we are bereaved. We find it difficult to understand why the process of death is part of God’s creative plan. It remains a great mystery even as we accept that “there is nothing in death or life … that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”

Yet, as Karl Barth discerned so clearly, our true hope lies in Jesus – He is the one who has overcome death and removed its power to threaten and debilitate our lives…He is the one whose presence is with us through this life and in all that awaits us beyond…He is the one in whom the living and the dead are united.  That is why, even as we grieve, we can say, “Alleluia” – “God be praised” – and this will soon resound in the Church when the Choir sings the Contakion of the Departed.