Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
We are enjoying the last weeks of our term of office. This week Vice President Nicola responded to an invitation that was made last year to visit the Dunedin Methodist Parish. Dunedin of course holds a special place in Nicola's heart having been part of the Dunedin Methodist Parish up until 2005. While in Dunedin, Nicola shared in worship at a Parish service, spoke at an education evening and spent time catching up with people. It was good to meet with a parish that is in good heart and to hear some of their stories.
During this year, Vice President Nicola has been offering part time lay supply in the Methodist Parish at Devonport. Devonport Parish has been offering a Methodist witness for 165 years. It is thought that the first preacher at Devonport was a young Maori - Anatipa. Anatipa was probably a student at the Methodist College at Three Kings. Services then were held outdoors, probably on the beach near Torpedo Bay. Later on worship was held in a school room built by the Anglican Church and class meetings were established and held in the home of the signalman for the Flagstaff signal station.
Now, the parish is looking at how that witness continues in a new era – an era when technology and covid have a strong influence on how we move forward. As Devonport thinks about their future, two questions become important. These two questions are those that our young people are also reflecting on:
- How can we remain in connexion when we are unable to connect in person?
- If the lifeblood of our faith community is the regularity of being able to gather kanohi te kanohi (face to face), what fills the void when that is no longer possible?
As we both share in the celebration this weekend with Devonport, we are conscious that it is possible that more people will be joining via zoom than physically present. The Parish is excited that the President will be preaching at this service of celebration. This will be an interesting experience for us all. If you would like to join our celebration at Devonport this weekend, then you are welcome to register via this link.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the celebration.
We are mindful that there will be many different experiences of worship this weekend – we know of parishes who will be conducting their AGM's, where some are still worshipping on-line, and for others where services will be led by lay preachers, or their presbyter or deacon. We wish everyone well as you continue to reflect and proclaim the transforming love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and declared in the Scriptures. President Setaita reflects on the gospel reading for this week.
'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.
Setaita and Nicola
Love God and Neighbour
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets." Matthew 22: 37-40
Billy Graham once answered a letter in his daily newspaper column from someone who was upset that churches and charities don't pay a cent in taxes. The writer was upset that he had to "pay until it hurts". In his reply, Billy Graham said that if all the food banks, homeless shelters, hospitals, community centres, addiction rehabilitation centres and other organizations were forced to close, millions of lives would be hurt. If they did close, governmental agencies would be forced to fill the gap-at enormous cost to taxpayers. He closed his reply with the following words:
No system is perfect, but I urge you not to turn a blind eye to the good done by the vast number of churches and other organisations who are sincerely seeking to serve others. Christians take seriously Jesus' command: "Love your neighbour as yourself".
When Jesus was asked which Commandment was the most important, it was a loaded question. The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus, but Jesus turned the trap on them. All of the commandments were equal because they were created by God. Jesus used the opportunity to point out that all of the laws that the Pharisees came up with to make certain that the Jews kept the Commandments, were summarised by the two Great Commandments that Jesus gave us: "Love God, and love people". Both commandments are related and are of equal importance. They are the basics of Christianity.
2 Sundays ago, I worshipped at the Wesley Retirement Village in Christchurch, in a well filled Chapel with many elderly residents, some of whom were lovingly wheeled in on their beds or wheelchairs. While I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and Service taken by Chaplain Rev Jill vandeGeer, it was a blessing to once again witness that the employees of nursing homes are a good example of the fact that loving others comes from the knowledge that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. They treat the residents with the dignity and respect that the residents deserve. They show their love by doing their
jobs to the best of their ability, and by doing so; they show the love they have for the residents. They try to help their neighbours, and by doing so, they are doing what God wants them to do. This love involves denying themselves for the good of others. People don't care how much we know, until they know how much we care.
But what if loving our neighbour means that we need to listen to the world and be engaged with it? There are times when people help each other out by having building bees where neighbours come together to build houses. Other times they come together to help each other with the harvest or to care for sick neighbours or elderly parents. Those are examples of loving people as God loved us.
The way God knows that we love God is by how we treat people. Whenever we demonstrate kindness, patience or gentleness, we see the Lord's love at work through us, especially when the other person has been unkind and doesn't deserve such pleasant treatment. Our relationships with others demand priority over things that won't last or won't matter in a few years. If we love God and love people, we will naturally obey the rest of the Commandments. That's only natural. After all, the two Great Commandments are an example of the Golden Rule.
It is our faith that God loves us that makes us able to love ourselves and therefore be grateful for the gift of ourselves. This awareness of life as a gift is what we mean by loving God. When we love ourselves, we are grateful to God, and this gratitude sets us free to love other people. When we truly love people, we value them as gifts of God.
Jesus' teaching isn't just about how we feel about God and neighbour, but what we will do. We are to love God with all our lives, including our work. It is the basis of our obedience to God. It shows that our love for God is number one in our lives. Love for God and love for all of those who are made in God's image form the backbone of everything God says to us as written in the Bible. In the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:10, "Love is the fulfilment of the law".
May we all be Woven Together To Proclaim Life as we Love God and our neighbours in all that we do and say.
'Oku ou 'ofa atu fau mo e lotu hufia
Setaita Taumoepeau K Veikune
Prayer for this week
Stir us, O God, with your vibrant desire.
Move us, O God, to work for your justice.
Inspire us, O God, to active service,
Keep us, O God, from complacent indifference.
Challenge us, O God, with your compassion and mercy.
Take and shape us, O God,
To live and love as your Son, Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Stir us, O God. Written by Ian Black
Published in Prayers for all Occasions.