Our Place

Salt and Light

13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5

 

Where is the place of Christianity today? For that matter where should it be in societies of this 21st century? This is an important question both because the answer will form certain basic expectations for the Church and because it will need to address certain assumptions which a free society will make concerning religion in general.

It is taken for granted these days that the ‘great days’ of Christendom are behind us. These were, for want of another definition, days when the Church held not only significant power within the state but was also a significant political power in virtually every community within that state. Church mattered and its opinion mattered and this position conferred status to its credentialed servants. In counted to be a priest or minister. It still does in certain parts of the world but the days when this was common everywhere in the West are gone.

The rights and wrongs of this have been debated ad infinitum elsewhere and I don’t want to repeat that save to say that many Christians believe this to be a good thing because power did not suit the Gospel. The question I want to raise is this – what should we expect from the state in terms of our place in society now – what is a biblical expectation?

My contention is this; any kind of hope or ambition for a return to the political power the Church once had, while possible, is both highly unlikely and unbiblical. Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t attempt to raise our point of view and to have it heard as a good citizen of the state. We have a duty, I believe, to both live and preach morally in whatever society we live for to do so is the first duty of every Christian. And who knows, this may win the day politically and so be reflected in the laws and ethics of the society within which we live.

So far, perhaps, much of what I’ve said will not be particularly surprising to many. However, there is an aspect of this which I suspect we’ve gotten wrong over many years, certainly in my life time, and which we need to improve on. This concerns the nature of the ‘morality’ I am speaking about.

The word ‘moral’ is a deeply Christian word and was first used as a noun to translate the Latin Moralia, the title of St. Gregory the Great’s moral exposition of the Book of Job. It was subsequently applied to the works of various classical writers. As such, it meant, in this context, ‘scriptural behaviour’ or behaviour based on the scripture (of Job) and then, more generally, “proper behaviour of a person in society,” literally “pertaining to manners,” and then to translate the Greek ethikos – ἠθικός (see ethics) from Latin mos (genitive moris). So, to act and to preach ‘morally,’ as I understand it, is to act in accordance with scripture and, in this case scripture has some important things to say to us about the ‘place’ of the Church.

My point is a simple one. The operative nouns in the passage above from Matthew 5 are salt and light (specifically a light under a bushel). In and of themselves they have one thing in common – they constitute only a tiny percentage of the whole – they are small compared to the thing they are influencing. Salt constitutes the very smallest part of a meal. The light that may be placed under a bushel will be, perhaps, one small flame – the tiniest part of the world which it is illuminating. In short, it is likely that the Church’s proper place or, at least, the place which it will normally hold, is small, miniscule compared to the peoples, states and regions which it can and will influence.

It’s not that it is wrong to command a greater place. I don’t think this can be adduced from scripture. It’s just that it’s uncommon and unlikely given the state of humankind. Furthermore, even when it did command such a place, such as during the Middle Ages in Europe, that power led to greater corruption of the Church and the Gospel it preached than perhaps at any other time. It also resulted in significant dissatisfaction with the Church and to the rise of Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and later Wesley and Whitfield who effectively lead great splits away from the powerful parts of the Church.

But need this be the case. Could we not do with more influence from the Gospel on the state? Is it not a good thing to have the ultimate moral book at the centre of political life? Some might point to the early theocracy of Israel in the Bible and say that this was and is, in fact, God’s plan but an honest evaluation of that period and even of David’s reign would surely suggest that this was little better than the reign of a beneficent but pagan King and, certainly, at times much worse. Micah 3 portrays perhaps the end point of this rule in a manner that can hardly be any worse than the worst pagan states…

9Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,

you rulers of Israel,

who despise justice

and distort all that is right;

10who build Zion with bloodshed,

and Jerusalem with wickedness.

11Her leaders judge for a bribe,

her priests teach for a price,

and her prophets tell fortunes for money.

Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,

“Is not the Lord among us?

No disaster will come upon us.” (Micah 3)

And this, indeed, was not unlike the Church prior to the Reformation. The sad thing is that power corrupts even the most godly of people and institutions and we should not think that the Church is any different. It is still a very human institution.

But there is an even more important reason why the Church is at its best when it is not counted amongst the powerful and it is this. The Church’s true influence is always as a witness to the One who holds all power in His hands and yet remains uncorrupted. The act of being a witness to power is not the same as having power and, in fact, is more effective when done by the powerless. We are, in many ways, a people of power but this power is not our own – it is another’s. The whole of Christian mission is predicated on this strategy – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” says Christ.

Of course, power is promised here but it is power to witness, power to proclaim, power to heal, power to love. Again, at times, we may receive power and we may be asked to use it responsibly but this is not the primary act of the Church. The primary act is to witness to Christ in and through our weakness.

What’s In A Name?

There has been much debate in the last week or so about the prayer said before each sitting of parliament, which last week didn’t include reference to Jesus or the Queen, as it has done in the past.

Speaker, the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard has indicated he is open to feedback on changing the prayer and I wanted to add my thoughts into the mix.

I can understand the concern around the archaic language of the parliamentary prayer and the desire to pray in Te Reo, which I heartily commend. I would, however, encourage our parliamentarians to consider again the desire to drop the name of Jesus in their traditional prayer.

The question of being fair seems to be the driving concern of Mr Mallard’s desire to leave Jesus’ name out, but will it really be so? What I find in talking to people of many different faiths who come and settle in NZ, and who enjoy this country’s freedom to worship whomever they might, is that almost without exception it is this freedom and the lack of persecution – especially religious persecution – that they enjoy the most. And where does that come from?

It comes from the ethic derived from the person and work of Jesus Christ – the one whose life has also inspired the creation of the central institutions of most of the Western democratic world – modern medicine, science, education and even, dare I say it, modern democracy.

Ah no! I hear you say. That was invented by the Greeks. So it was, but it only flourished once planted within a Christian world view. It is the commitment to selfless service and to the betterment of all which Jesus promoted in his life, death and resurrection which inspired the egalitarian basis of modern western democracy. It is Christ who has made religious tolerance possible, so why would one want, in the name of such tolerance, to delete his name from the prayer of those who represent us in parliament?

When we speak Jesus’ name, we speak of both the understanding and humility which makes room for other beliefs even though we may not share those beliefs. The effect of removing his name from the prayer is to buy into a universalism which so far from promoting unity encourages the exclusive individualism of a fundamentalist belief. That’s the danger.

In a funny sort of way, much the same could be said of the notion of no longer praying for the Queen. Our tangata whenua have taught me much about our attitude towards the past. Maori spirituality takes the past into the present as a living element of existence.

The acknowledgement of our ancestors whose communal efforts have bequeathed to us the world we now inhabit is vital in a world besotted with the illusion of progress. While we may, with hindsight, be critical of our forebears, we cannot deny our link with them and this is extremely important for us as a modern society. We cannot deny our past, both its dark places and its triumphs. This is what made us.

To pray for the crown by praying for the Queen acknowledges the history of our present constitutional status, honours those who gave it to us, and lifts up all who now participate in it. The queen is a vital link to that past and to incorporate her in our prayer is to invite God, in a very real way, to redeem the present.

Finally, to the issue of representation. It is true that not all Kiwis are Christian, so is it not fairer to pray a more general prayer to which all other faiths can subscribe?

It is this last part which I believe contains a flaw in the argument. The ‘neutralising’ of the prayer by removing the name Jesus from it enthrones the assumption that one can esteem all religions by naming none of them – that to pray in general will show respect to all and therefore be more acceptable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The assumption that we can somehow deal with religious difference by proclaiming a ‘neutral space’ where no god is named and no heaven defined, where every colour is grey and music has become one note is a mistake. This approach subsumes your religion into mine and suggests that I know and understand your faith enough to say that it is no different from mine.

General prayer to a general god does not acknowledge that it is the life of Christ which is one of the very best examples of inclusivity in our culture. Let’s continue then to acknowledge our past and to name the one who has helped us make this society one in which all people of all faiths can live alongside each other in peace.

 

Carey Nieuwhof here in 2018

Carey Nieuwhof, a Canadian minister who has a proven track record of Church growth in both a traditional context and an independent context is coming to New Zealand next year and will be hosted by a variety of churches including a Presbyterian one during his time here.

The image below displays the full itinerary. The Orange Seminar is, I think, a day long edition of the Orange Conferences in the USA which focused on working with teams. The Parenting Seminar should be self-explanatory and the Pastor’s Days focus on the four topics of

The High Impact Leader

Breaking Growth Barriers ( esp. the 200 barrier)

10 Predictions about Future Church

Renewing the Leaders Heart

Early bird tickets are only $75pp and if 5 are bought a sixth will be offered free of charge. I can’t encourage you more to bring your most influential leaders to this. They will be enormously encouraged.

 

carey nieuwhof nz tour 2018 (1)

Please Be Political

Richard is the current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Aotearoa New Zealand

Politics is the ultimate expression of the fact that we have to exist with people who don’t think like us. Derived from the Greek polos – meaning ‘people’ – politics is the art and, perhaps, science of being a people – being together. Every expression of politics is basically a reaction to this fact. Fascist and communist expressions of politics are simply more extreme reactions. Democracy is simply an attempt to find the fairest and broadest expression of this reality. As such we who are Christian should avoid two extremes in our involvement with politics.

The first is to reject the whole notion of politics as worldly sinful expression of human attempts at self-government. This is how many Christians view politics and as a result they refuse to become involved or even to register their right to vote and have their say. The rationale for this is usually that politics is part of a worldly attempt to govern that will ultimately fail and won’t address the real need of humankind which is salvation and the spiritual governance of God through the Holy Spirit. The problem with this is that it is not biblical in the least.

Jesus Himself said ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s’ establishing forever that Caesar did indeed have some rights, rights established in heaven itself. Paul is perhaps even clearer when he states in Romans 13:1 ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’ And he goes on in the next 6 verses to establish very clearly that political authorities are both necessary and God ordained.

Now I realise that this seems to be at odds with all the some of the less palatable realities of politics and especially the fact that many political leaders down through the ages have used their authority to do terrible things to the people under their power. However, that does not in and of itself mean that we’d be better living in state where all people do what they think is best. This is simply another form of tyranny where the power resides not with an individual but with every individual. Under such a regime there is little chance for ‘righteousness’ to thrive since no one could challenge the individual’s right to govern themselves.

The Bible is convinced that political power is both necessary and right even if it’s administration is often corrupted by corrupt human beings.

The second extreme is to replace our hope in God with hope in politics, political parties and political figures. Here we become far too optimistic about what political power can achieve for us and we are therefore attracted to those who promise the most or with whom we identify the most. This is certainly a feature of our age and of Kiwis and it is a very human thing to want to see our hope. But let’s be clear, there was never a closer thing to outright idolatry than this view. Our idol becomes the party or person who seems to think like us the most and to promise to act like we think they should. This idol is clearly made in our image and they remain our hope and the promise that the future will be what we want it to be. In this regard we act like idolaters.

We identify with the ‘visible’ features of the idol; how they look, how they express themselves, what they say; all these things have to line up with our imagination and our hope just as a little wooden idol would.

We enjoy control of our idol. We rejoice when things go well and we hide it away when things don’t – making excuses for it and for the loss of some of our hope.

We protect our idol. We defend our party or person. We feel offended when they are attacked. We are prepared to rigorously defend our idol even when a defense is not available in which case we will recall the mistakes of those who are attacking our idol.

Finally, we imagine that our idol has so much control that they will be able to change our personal circumstances and make things different for us according to… our desires and dreams. In short, our world is in their hands but, and what is more to the point, their hands are really all about fulfilling our world!

Friends, this should not be!! We should recognize both how limited our political masters are and, much more importantly, who our true lord is! Yes, politics is both important and necessary but it should not be our idol or where we place our true hope.

Perhaps the worst feature of this is the party spirit this sort of thinking brings out in Christians especially around election time. I am horrified at the cynicism and barely disguised hatred expressed so freely by card-carrying Christians around election time. There’s simply no need for it. Yes, by all means support your person/party but don’t do it at the expense of the dignity and grace which is the mark of your faith.

When we behave in the manner I have outlined above we proclaim a different message from the one we’ve been given as Christians by our Lord and it this – ‘I am your true hope; I am the One in whom your dreams and desires should be invested – not the political powers of this world.’

By all means be political but do so in a way that reflects who you are – a child of Christ whose true hope is Christ.

The Church as an Icon of Trust

 

51jli3J10SL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Steven Covey Jnr has written a remarkable book on the importance of trust in the corporate environment and, indeed, in everyday life. This book should be required reading for every Minister and Elder in the Presbyterian Church because it deals with something which should be at the heart of our life as a Church and as Christians.

Do we trust one another or, more to the point, do we trust our organization from the minister through to the elders and on to the Presbytery and from there to the Assembly Office? It may seem like a shocking question to ask but my feeling is that trust is at an all-time low for a variety of reasons.

To some extent the causes are external. The constant claim by atheistic secularism that the Christian narrative is both historically inaccurate and philosophically empty has continued to erode both confidence and trust in the Gospel. Add to this a form of Theology which became popular in the 20 century which bought into this claim and you may add further erosion from within to the trust quotient within the Church.

A further and important problem has arisen within every main denomination which must also be taken into account. This is the inability of our ecclesiology to adapt to the changing culture in the West and, thereby, to convict and convert new generations to Christ. In particular,  the Reform Church by its very nature understood the requirement placed on its ecclesiology for it to change in response to the missiological imperative to be ‘all things to all people.’ It’s fundamental self-definition that ‘Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda’ – the Reformed Church must continually be reformed, was seen as being vital to both the Church’s life and its mission because its life depends on its mission and its mission depends on its ability to incarnate the Gospel in every culture. To do that it must be open to being reformed.

We find ourselves in an age when our unwillingness to be reformed has created a major crisis in Church vitality in the West and this is nowhere better seen than in the low level of trust the Church engenders from the community within which it resides and more so within itself.

Covey’s main thesis is that Trust is the key driver of corporate success as well as providing the most important measure of health in any organisation and it is so because it constitutes the crucial driver of cooperation in society. With trust people will give of themselves freely and fully to the task allocated to them. Without it, despite good rewards, clear goals and very nice environments, people will not give fully and freely of themselves. And this is not just a productivity issue. Where lack of trust really bites is in relationships. Trust is the lifeblood of healthy relationships and where it is lacking dysfunction results.

We all know the terrible cost of relationship breakdown to society in regard to marriage, but I believe we may trace many other significant social losses to this basic deficit.

Violence, poor physical and mental health to say nothing of spiritual health, political disillusionment and disconnection, general distrust of authority and poor educational outcomes are all deep and persistent problems for Western society in general which derive in large part from relationship breakdown. Furthermore they constitute a major source of economic underperformance to say nothing of the effect they have on the West’s ability to help developing countries.

My concern and message to the Church has been about the importance of Hope but it is clear to me that without trust Hope becomes impossible. Therefore, we must address those things which both undermine trust and which promote it. Covey’s book provides a major resource for the Church in this task.

Covey’s approach is both anecdotal and yet intensively analytic. He begins by dividing Trust into two main categories – character and competence. Character is a constant and is required for trust under any circumstances although this does not mean we can’t change and improve in this area. Competence is situational meaning that the requirements for trust will change dependent on circumstances.

From here he works through 5 waves of trust which build on each other acting as a metaphor for how trust works in our lives and communities. These waves move from the personal through to the organisational. At the end with the fifth wave, they take on board a global perspective by looking at developing societal trust. What becomes clear from the beginning is that trust cannot operate unless we are prepared to begin with ourselves – a Gospel parallel which shouldn’t be missed.

The first wave begins with the individual and their ability to develop ‘self-trust.’ Personal behavioural goals which lead to ‘self-trust’ are divided into the following: Integrity, Intent, Capabilities and Results. These are called the four cores of credibility and provide the basis of trust both in ourselves and of ourselves. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says,

Self-trust is the first secret of success . . . the essence of heroism[1].’

These four cores allow us both to see what self-trust means and how we might improve it.

The second wave makes explicit what is implicit in the four cores – behaviours that amount to trustworthiness. In his own words…

The Second Wave— Relationship Trust— is all about behavior . . . consistent behavior. It’s about learning how to interact with others in ways that increase trust and avoid interacting in ways that destroy it.[2]

These 13 behaviours are; Talk Straight, Demonstrate Respect, Create Transparency, Right Wrongs, Show Loyalty, Deliver Results, Get Better, Confront Reality, Clarify Expectations, Practice Accountability, Listen First, Keep Commitments, Extend Trust.

These behaviours grow out of the four cores, they are actionable and they are universal. They provide a real handle on how to understand and to grow trust.

The third, fourth and fifth waves are really an exposition of how to apply these cores and behaviours to 3 different situations – organisations, the market and society. Clearly the Church should be interested in all three but the first is perhaps most crucial for if we cannot inspire trust within our structures and if we remain a low trust organisation in the community the future looks bleak.

Trust is a key Christian value. It lies at the heart of the New Testament as a cognate of belief. Trust and belief are almost inseparable. The question I want to ask is this… if we’re asking people to believe us and to believe the Gospel do we act in a manner that is trustworthy and do we organise ourselves so that trust is built into our way of being as a church? If not it is hardly credible that we should ask people to trust us with a message of trust is it?

Trust should be a primary goal as a Church I believe. It should be developed as a fundamental concern of discipleship and from there extend into the way we structure our life together. It should drip from every pore of our body life and it should be an unspoken witness to the incredible way God has entrusted us with His love for the world. More simply, we should be the message we bring.

Read the book. Listen to what the Spirit is saying.

God Bless,

Richard D.

[1] Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R.. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (p. 46). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Covey, Stephen M.R.; Merrill, Rebecca R.. The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything (p. 125). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Mental Health and Church

mentalhealth

June 2017

Mental Health Disease is the modern leprosy. We prefer it to be hidden away. It is a label, despite the wonderful work of Sir John Kirwan, of shame. There is also a kind of mystery around it for it can hit anyone in society no matter how healthy they look on the outside. Chronically underfunded and suffering from what might be called a significant class war between the medically trained psychiatric service and the somewhat less recognised counselling based service of psychologically trained professionals people get lost in the cracks of this landscape all the time. Professionals such as Ministers of Religion have little place in this menagerie until they can show that they can abide by the unspoken rules of the system – which may well be fair enough since this really only amounts to professional courtesy but try challenging the assumptions of those in charge and all bets are off.

However, I don’t want this to become another mental health services bashing exercise. I’m sure all those who serve there are doing their best. We in the Church need to put our house in order first and that’s why I simply want to put the question to us all – what are we doing about mental health in our churches? Have we ever preached on it? Have we ever tried to help the people in our church who are struggling with mental health feel as if their illness doesn’t define their humanity? Have we ever tried to understand a little more about mental illness?

The first thing that must happen if we are to break the curse of mental health is to talk about it openly and honestly. I myself have had a brief brush with depression. It was when I was 14 and after a very bad year at school. So dark was that year that I had nightmares about it for years afterwards and the memory of how I felt brought dread to my soul well into adulthood. But my journey was nothing compared to the people I’ve met along the way in my ministry. People whose lives have been brutally broken by long periods of depression; whose marriages have fallen victim to these episodes and whose families have struggled to understand and relate to their illness. And others whose illness has become such a poison to the family that the only thing they could do was separate themselves from the family member with the illness further isolating the victim and delivering them to a life on the streets.

It’s a highly destructive disease which we must work to both understand and deliver the best of our healing science to. I don’t think we’re there yet – do you?

RD

Pentecost

pentecost1June 2017

Where is home for you? Perhaps I should ask what is home for you for home may not be a place. It may be a people, a period of your life, a position or even a poem. Words have great power to evoke our deepest needs and desires as is the case with the Psalms. The notion of ‘home’ is one of those words which evoke so much longing in us. For me, when I think of home I immediately go to memories not of my place of growing up but of my grandparent’s orchard in the North Island which we visited for several weeks every summer at Christmas time. So many good things flowed from that visit not least the wonderful welcome we received from my grandparents and the special world which was their home. It became a place of peace, of joy, of adventure and of deep deep belonging; in short, it became home for me. At Pentecost the Spirit created such a place for the Christian Church – it created ‘home’ for the Church.

Home is, so they say, ‘where the heart is,’ and if this is the case then just about anywhere can be home. I wonder if you’ve ever visited a place and found yourself so taken with it, with the beauty, with the peace, with the atmosphere, that it felt, quite literally, like you’d come home? I believe this is something of what Paul comes to in that amazing passage in 2 Corinthians 5…

So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Paul here uses the idea of ‘home’ to redefine heaven as our true place of belonging because it is where the God who loves us is. So, while he recognizes our natural connection with this life and, indeed, with our bodily existence he also recognizes that despite the strong connection we all have with these things there is another home that is more desirable and, indeed, more complete – the place where God is.

When the Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost of the Christian Church not only was the Church properly founded but God created a true home for the followers of Christ. Not a home built of anything material but a home of deep relationship with God and with each other. Furthermore, it was a home which called and calls us into mission because the whole aim and goal of the Spirit’s presence and power was to proclaim Christ in a manner which could not be denied. How we need this today!

The Church’s true home is to be in mission – to be reaching people who are far from God with the amazing power of the Gospel; a power which has healed and held and helped people into the Kingdom of Heaven from the beginning.

As we celebrate this event this year let us be mindful again of the relationship between the Spirit and Space for it is the spirit that transforms every space into a place we may call home; a place we can sense God’s welcome and God’s belonging and a place where the welcome of God is extended in power to all who feel and who are disconnected from their true home which is God’s love.

RD

Edgecumbe

FloodedDear friends,

On behalf of our friends in the Whakatane parish and their minister Rev Chris Barnard I draw your attention to the needs of the communities who have been badly affected by the floods of last week.

As you will have seen and heard in the news, the town of Edgecumbe was worst effected by the floods and a majority of the town was submerged. Many have still not been allowed back into their houses. The damage will be significant.

EdgecumbeFlooding1AfterI am sure you are wondering how you can help and I am also sure that some of you have already responded with prayer, time and money.

While there are a number of appeals for those affected by the floods, the Whakatane parish are also working hand-in-hand with other churches to help in any way they can. Together they seek to raise funds to assist.

Donations can be made through their trust, ‘Have a Heart,’ and these funds would be available on application.

Can I encourage you to give direct to the Have a Heart Charitable Trust – account number 06 0489 0242960 00 (you can read about the trust on the Charities Services websitehttps://www.register.charities.govt.nz/CharitiesRegister/ViewCharity?accountId=6b853376-0b8b-e411-aef0-00155d0d1916&searchId=c4c7cee7-b2ba-4ce9-b496-434cab1e36dc)

full_file3-1All money donated will be used to give people who really need it a hand up. Small donations of even a  few dollars are most welcome.

Please join me in prayer for those affected by the floods.

In Christ

Richard Dawson

Moderator: Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

Easter

MODERATOR’S EASTER MESSAGE 2017

Engage With the World: Easter Hope

Cross1I read a good quote the other day. It goes: ”Everything good is uphill”. It’s true in my experience. No matter what we do, the good stuff costs. It costs time, it costs energy, it costs all the other things that we could be doing which may be more enjoyable for us. Easter is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the truth of the saying. The very best thing in the universe cost the life of the very best person – Jesus Christ, the son of God.

There’s a kind of “cargo-cult” around the Church these days that insists that it’s God’s job to just give us stuff and that somehow we are all owed the best of everything. Now, I believe God is our provider and I believe that God wants the Church to be a place of abundance, but I don’t believe that God ever just lands us with that abundance because we want it.

As a parent I know that doing something like this for my own children would never have been good for them. Learning the cost of something was always necessary for them to understand the value of anything.

At Easter we’re given the greatest gift of all – time: the gift of a new relationship with God, free, gratis and for nothing. God is ready and willing to engage with anyone who will take God’s word for it. Believe and receive, but this means we must engage. The Gospel is the greatest message of hope in the world. But how can we let the world know in this day and age of incredible apathy and cynicism around Christianity?

The answer begins with the same dynamic that characterises the whole Easter event in the Gospels – we must engage. The Church has arisen from God’s deliberate plan to engage a rebellious and lost world. We need to follow this example and engage the world with the Easter story. Up and down the country churches are preparing to invite their communities to experience Easter by holding walk-through or even drive-through audio-visual experiences of the Easter story. Others are holding special invitational services, and some are trying other

new things that are creative and engaging.

I would love to highlight what you’ve done this Easter, so please record the event and send me some pictures and a description of what you did and how it was received by the wider community. Let us know so we can post something about it on the Church Facebook page. Share with our wider family the hope you are bringing to your community.

He is truly the hope of the world. Let’s help the world to realise this!

God Bless you and yours this Easter.

Richard D.

Mucking In

Just spent the last few days on our Marae Te Maungarongo at Ohope. This is a special place for anyone who identifies with the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and it is so because it was founded in association with the man who best embodies the missionary heart of Presbyterians in this country J G Laughton.
Laughton started his ministry in Piopio and soon developed a love for the local Maori picking up the language and particularly the tikanga (fundamental value system and customs associated with those values). Laughton then developed a ministry with the great Maori prophet Rua Kenana which though marked by some theological tension led to the establishment of a wonderful Christian community at Maungapohatu. Later, ‘Totally committed to a renaissance of the Maori language, Laughton founded a press, Te Waka Karaitiana. This published journals of the same name, Maori translations of portions of Scripture, and general news of the Christian churches.’
This mission and goal still lies at the heart of Presbyterian tikanga in this country and I would suggest we work towards reviving it within our parishes in whatever way we can.
Check out http://www.teara.govt.nz/…/biograp…/4l4/laughton-john-george