Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
"..that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17:21 (NRSV)
We warmly greet you all with love on this is our 93rd presidential blog and our last. Our first blog marked the first week of our Presidential term. During these two years and two months we have explored what it means to weave us together to proclaim life. We have prayerfully woven together all the various parts of Te Haahi Weteriana as best we can with God's help.
It is important that we acknowledge all those who have contributed – young and not so young, presbyters, deacons, lay people, Maori, Pakeha, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, South African, Zimbabwean and Korean. We have appreciated hearing your voices, your challenges and your hopes. It is our hope and prayer that as we listen and hear each other, our unfinished mat continues to be woven further and further as God the ultimate weaver continues to lead the church through what lies ahead.
We also acknowledge those people who have prayed for us over these last two years. We have been aware of your prayers, love and support throughout this journey of many ups and downs. Throughout all we have experienced God's love and empowerment. We also appreciate the challenges that have been put to us, through which we have learned and grown in our understanding of being part of a diverse church and family. We thank you all for your understanding, patience and encouragement of us over these two years.
We will continue to serve God and the Church that we both love. Setaita will resume her role as Director of Mission Resourcing working more closely with parishes and synods. Nicola will continue her ministry with the people of the Devonport Methodist Parish during 2021 as well as training for ordained ministry. Our experiences of these last two years have added to our kite of knowledge that will assist us on our journey forward in ministry and life. We thank God for all our blessings.
We cannot express our thanks enough to our chaplains Rev Jill van de Geer and Te Aroha Rountree. They have kept us calm, they have offered support and pastoral care whenever we needed it, they have been present with us throughout. We pray God will continue to bless you both and your ministries. We acknowledge with gratitude the guidance and support we have received from General Secretary Rev David Bush. David, we wish you well and God's blessing as you conclude your appointment as General Secretary and begin a new phase of your life. Our final note of thanks is to our families – Maika and Peter and our whanau. Without their continued love and support we would not have been able to do it all on our own. We acknowledge their contribution to the life of Te Haahi Weteriana, which has been behind the scenes. Our love to you all and we thank God for you all.
Lastly but not least, to President elect Rev Andrew Doubleday and Vice President elect Edwin Talakai. We wish you both well. We will continue to pray for you and support you both during the next two years. We pray that your journey will be as rewarding, and hope filled as we have found ours to have been. May God guide you and give you wisdom as you lead Te Haahi Weteriana over the next two years.
For the last time, President Setaita reflects on our theme Weaving us together to proclaim life.
'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.
Setaita and Nicola
Weaving Us Together To Proclaim Life
"That they may all be one."
John 17:20-23 NRSV
20"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jesus is praying to his Father. It is the night of the last supper. Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples, washed their feet, given them a new commandment to love as he loves, and told them of his leaving. Now he prays. In these verses we overhear a portion of his prayer. He prays for us. Three times he asks God that we would all become one as he and God are one.
If Jesus is praying for our oneness then he is also recognising and rejecting the boundaries and differences that divide us. There are divisions within ourselves, our families and whanau, our churches, our clans, tribes, iwi, our government, our nation. We live in a world full of divisions – male or female; young or old; rich or poor; white or black or brown; Christian or Muslim; conservative or liberal; heaven or earth; divine or human. We could go on and on listing the boundaries that we encounter and all too often establish or promote. They are not just divisions they have become oppositions. These divisions exist not only in the church and out there in the world but primarily and first in the human heart. We project on to the world our fragmented lives.
For every boundary we establish there is a human being. Ultimately, boundaries and differences are not about issues. They are about real people, with names, lives, joys, sorrows, concerns, and needs just like all of us.
Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei hea te Komako e ko?
Uia mai koe ki ahau; He aha te mea nui o te ao?
Maku e ki atu
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
If the centre of the flax is cut out
Where will the Bellbird sing?
If you ask me; What is the most important thing in the world?
I would reply
It is people! It is people! It is people!
Whether or not we admit it the boundaries we establish and enforce are usually done in such a way as to favour us; to make us feel ok, to reassure us that we are right and in control, chosen and desired, seen and recognised, approved of and accepted. Often, it is in order for me to win someone must lose, in order for me to be included someone must be excluded otherwise winning and being included mean nothing. The divisions of our lives in some way become self-perpetuating.
Jesus does not pray for our tolerance, our getting along, or just being nice to each other. He does not even pray that our differences would be eliminated. Instead he prays for our oneness. He prays that we would be one as he and the Father are one so that our oneness would be the revelation of God's
presence to the world. Oneness in the midst of difference becomes a sacramental presence of God's life in the world.
That does not mean, however, that we lose our identity or individuality. Jesus does not stop being Jesus and the Father stop being the Father because they are one. Oneness is less about numbers and quantity and more qualitative. Jesus and the Father are one because they love and give themselves to each other. Oneness is a quality of life – God's life. Jesus' prayer for oneness is ultimately that we would all be and live like God.
This is ultimately the vision, aspiration and faithful prayer contained in our theme "Weaving Us Together To Proclaim Life" for Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa.
Oneness is not about eliminating differences. It is about love. Love is the only thing that can ever overcome division. Over and over Jesus tells us that.
*Love God. Love your neighbour. Love yourself. Love your enemy.
Our love for God, neighbour, self, and enemy reveals our oneness, and the measure of our oneness, our God-likeness, is love. In love there may be differences but there is no division.
It is Love alone, and only in and through love, can we be Woven Together in the midst of our differences and hence Proclaim Life. When we, ourselves are one as the Father and Son are one and they in us as one, the World will know that God sent Jesus, the life which we Proclaim.
God's love knows no boundaries. All are loved fully, completely, and uniquely as each needs.
God does not even draw boundaries between Jesus and us. God loves you the same as he loves Jesus.
God loves your neighbour the same as he loves Jesus. God loves your enemy the same as he loves Jesus.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." John 3:16 NRSV
For far too long we have dealt with each other through our boundaries, differences, and divisions. When we deal with others through our divisions we label, do violence, and argue in our defence. And we struggle to see no oneness in that.
Though Jesus is praying to the Father, you and I will in large part be the ones to answer Jesus's prayer. God's answer to Jesus' prayer is through us. We answer his prayer every time we choose how to love, who to love, where to love. It is time we answer Jesus' prayer and deal with one another in love.
It is with humble gratefulness to God, at the completion of our term of Presidency, that we place the church leadership in the loving hands of the incoming Presidential Team trusting that God's perfect Love would continue to Weave Us Together to Proclaim Life.
Nicola Teague Grundy
Prayer for this week
Community of love,
Creator, Christ, Spirit,
connecting, caressing, cajoling
us into the image of wholeness
tattooed on the heart and the soul
of every living thing.
We are not alone,
never isolated except in the imagination
of our wounded hearts.
Christ abide in us,
and we in Him,
and the joy of this is why we sing,
and why we pray,
and why we take our place
in this happy communion.
Thank you for this banquet of love,
this feast of joy,
this miracle of common purpose
Adapted from This Happy Communion by Bruce Sanguin