From Wellington Cathedral of St Paul
Re-View: 1 March 09: am: The Revd Canon Paul Dyer
- Psalm 25: 1 - 10
- Genesis 9: 8 - 17
- 1 Peter 3: 18 - 22
- Mark 1: 9 - 15
Good to be here….and a delight to be invited to look with you at what you are accomplishing here. At the meeting on Thursday evening with the steering group we spent some time talking around the word ‘review’.
Perhaps a better word is view, and an image I use is the experience of walking around a garden when it is at it’s peak of floral display. Valerie and I have been most fortunate to retire to a property which we bought on the Otago Peninsula with no idea it has a most amazing garden, that is another story, It has taken a lot of work to get it to this stage and people who view it with us celebrate the results. It would be tragic to focus on the weeds that are still coming through. Such a walk round the garden with friends usually includes imagining new possibilities as well as some talk about dealing with such problems as aphids.
A review will find what it focuses on. As we worked and as you continue to work I pray that you will hold at the centre all that you have accomplished and all you aspire to accomplish. That does not mean disregarding other issues. It means making sure they are in their rightful place.
There was an elderly man confined to a wheel chair, one day he want to a wedding and enjoyed talking to many people including the bride and groom- as he talked with them he recalled his own wedding many years before. As he spoke he began to hmm one of the tunes and his foot began to tap. Before he realised it he was out of his chair showing people the steps, the people marvelled to see him dance. He was far more preoccupied with realizing he had remembered a tune he thought he had forgotten.
I hope this review will help you all to remember the tune and dance the dance. I hope the review has helped you to keep your eyes focussed on the gifts of God that are present, rather than grieve what is absent. I hope you find from such remembering the power to move forward confidently.
So what does today’s Gospel have to say to us on this day in the midst of this parish viewing. In the three short scenes in today’s Gospel reading we hear God’s affirmation of Jesus; we hear of Jesus being waited on by angels and we hear of Jesus proclamation of Good News.
A few years ago Mark Harris wrote a book called ‘Challenge for Change’. in which he identified three key characteristics of the Anglican Communion.
The first of these was ‘Incarnational” he is speaking about our underlying belief that God is already present within the fabric of creation. We express that within Anglican ethos through our belief in revelation coming through Tradition, Scripture and Reason. God speaks through our thinking, our traditions as well as scripture.
Our confidence in this ‘Incarnational’ belief is based on the Good News of Jesus we heard mentioned in the last section of the Gospel reading. God dramatically demonstrates presence amongst us as the one who love us most. . With whom we can mess up but never blow it completely.
So; how do your educational activities use; the traditions, reason and scripture to help you to grow in confidence and understanding of what it means to live and act within God’s world as a people loved by God?
The second characteristic that Mark Harris named is the nature of Anglican structure. It is distinguished by being focussed on the sacraments by our mutual agreement to gather around the family table at which Christ is the host and we family.
The invitation and response each Sunday provides our anchor and enables our flexibility in responding to changing circumstances.
In the Gospel reading we heard that a voice from heaven said to Jesus ‘You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased’. – in the sacraments we each place our selves in a position to receive the affirmation of God.
The way we gather for worship reflects our mutual structure. Over recent decades our church design and liturgy have changed to demonstrate more and more clearly that we are a community bound together by our gathering around the communion table.
As you vision your future may you continue to grow as a people bearing witness to what Christian mutuality means along side the adversarial processes that are so common in our national life.
The third characteristic Mark Harris identified is the way we engage with the world. As a Cathedral church in this location you will be well aware of the ways that various individuals as well as yourselves as a congregation have been linked with events here and overseas. An awareness that puts you in a strategic location to respond through your ministry of hospitality..
In the Gospel reading Jesus emerges from the temptations and the angels waited on him. You are called to be angels that wait on those who have struggled with the wide range of temptations that are present in this city This is how we are to engage with the world.
God’s hospitality provides us with; the gift of life and creation, and when we mess up - break creations best china-so to speak, God’s hospitality provides us with the courage and resources to move on. The greatest challenge comes from working out what the fullness of being a hospitable people means on a day to day basis.
Being hospitable requires confidence about our own place in the world. It calls on us to resist the notion of ‘personal benefit’ and regard all that comes within the compass of our influence and management as gifts for us to draw on as we offer hospitality to others.
Worship, hospitality and education are three words that I keep hearing around here. I heard them as I was preparing to join you (and certainly yesterday). Perhaps, some might think they are a particular agenda of the Dean’s or vestry’s. They may well be, they also – in the broadest sense link with what our church is about and what today’s Gospel reinforces.
As you work with the report coming from this review you have some well established reference points that are deeply anchored in the nature of being Anglican as well as your past history and present practice. However a problem with reviews is we can beat ourselves up with ‘ought tos’ we ought to do this and we ought to do that.
They said of one person-he died of hardening of the oughteries’. I encourage you to resist death by hardening of the oughteries.
Yes we do need to work at planning and reviews but in the end it is a journey of the spirit by a bunch of people enjoying each other and God as the road is travelled. So our serious work needs always to be touched by remembering (like the man in the wheel chair) our music and how to dance with a spirit of delight and laughter.
Mike Riddell, a good citizen of Dunedin, in his book Sacred Journey ends with these words which seem to me good words in the midst of a review: There is a light that shines on our feet as we walk; and it is the light of God. With grace and a fair wind we will reach the destination to which we are called. Life is so much more than is apparent from the surface of it, and we have hardly begun to plumb its depths. It is a sacred journey…Godspeed as you go. Amen