Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A rant about Christian Ethics

I was visiting another church last weekend, and this was in their church newsletter.

“Christian Ethics
In recent months the attention of the wider church leadership has been around the issue of sexuality. It is not however the only ethical issue that we need to address as Christians.
In the Netherlands a 20 year old woman was voluntarily euthanised because she could not live with the abuse she had received. Abortion is a lifestyle choice in a society where casual sex is encouraged by shows like The Batchelor. Biotechnology companies are manipulating the building blocks of life in attempt to control disease but also to make a great deal of money while most of the world is living in poverty. Maybe this issue of sexuality will bring the rest bubbling to the surface and force us to address them. It would be easy to worry, but we can have faith that our God is working through all things.”

I was interested in this reflection for what it raised as the issues of Christian Ethics and what it ignored. While it is fair to say that in recent months ONE of the issues taking the attention of the wider church leadership has been the issue of sexuality, it certainly has not been the only one. It has been for the more conservative Anglican churches here in Aotearoa. The prospect of us blessing same sex marriages has been really vexing for some. It saddens me that this has become the only thing for some people. From my position there are some other really pressing ethical issues. And these issues hardly get a mention in this list.
Over the last week or two there has been a lot of publicity around the issue of homelessness – that is people not being able to afford the rent and living in garages, cars, or on the street. Homelessness is not new. We have people who live on the street because of mental health and addiction problems. We don’t seem to be able to find good ways of offering them better solutions.
But what is making the headlines is that this group of homeless people now includes working families. This means we have children living in cars or garages, or in overcrowded housing. The Government has pretended this is an Auckland issue, but here in Tauranga one of the school principals has received a lot of press for her statements around its prevalence in this area, and the effect this has on children. This feels like a pretty big ethical issue to me.
From a biblical point of view, given what the Law of Moses has to say about the use of land and money, and how that was reinforced by the Prophets and then by the teaching and actions of Jesus, I would have thought that this was the really big ethical issue for Christians. But no, not a word. Just a side comment about the so much poverty.
That is the problem with so much of Christianity. We are blind to the ethical issues that include us. Poverty is about us; as employers the level of pay we are willing to offer workers; as property owners the level of rent we want for our properties. And I acknowledge that we are part of that in this parish. We are working on improving our wages, and slowly getting to at least the living wage. But we charge market rental on our vicarage, which helps us pay our bills. We are under market with our other property. It is so much easier to wave our judgemental finger at those people over there – the 20 year old who was euthanised (I note no ethical comment was made about the abuse that led to that incredibly sad situation in the first place), abortion, biotech companies. Those bad people over there that help us feel very self-righteous in our little straight company. Jesus had stuff to say about that too – something about logs and planks.
So my reaction is, yes those are issues we could look at, but how about focussing on the issues that scripture and Jesus invite us to look at – poverty in this land and the effect it is having on our children. And in doing so let us do that in a way that helps us own our involvement in these issues, and how we might be part of the solution. Wouldn’t it be great if this reflection quoted above had addressed this big issue and suggested that all church members who employed people sought to pay the living wage (at least) and took the hit and charged less than market rents? Now that would be something that really addressed Christian ethics.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Our Budget - some random, poorly thought out and not well researched reactions.

Yesterday was our budget day. Here are some random, poorly thought out and not well researched reactions.

1. Increase in tobacco prices – some smokers were outraged and said they would keep smoking. Fine. That is there choice. This simply means that I as a tax payer will have to pay for less of their health care. Smokers cost us a fortune in increased health care. And now they are paying for it. One of the few times I like user pays. But they choose to smoke with all the health risks. So I think it is fair that they pay ahead for their health care and other services they are more likely to need as a result of this choice.

2. Housing – Councils will be forced to release more land. This will magically make housing affordable. But I have some questions about this. Housing needs to be planned for. These houses do not stand alone with no services. There are big issues for councils and for rate payers in all this. Issues like water, sewage, roading, waste water management, flooding. Our council tried letting developers build and not worry about those issues. And then we as rate payers paid the price. Who will pay the price this time? How can councils manage these issues when central government, which pays nothing for these things, pays no regard to them?

And to whom is this land released. People interested in affordable housing? Will these houses be for first home buyers only? Of course not. They will be made available for developers who are in this to make loads and loads of money, and sections and houses will be exorbitant. And people investing in housing will be able to outbid first home buyers, as they can and do now, and the situation will be no better. This is a blunt, poorly thought out approach that does not really address the issues. It just seems to while allowing wealthy people to continue to make themselves wealthier at the expense of ordinary mum and dad New Zealanders. So thanks John, Nick and Bill… for nothing.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Some Thoughts on Crete - honouring those who have gone before

Mount RSA – 75th Anniversary of Battle of Crete

Reading:          Isaiah 2:4       
What I want to say:
What does it mean to commemorate this battel? Isit enough to just remember it? Or is it something more? Suggests it is to work for a world where no more young men and women need go off to fight in foreign lands, where swords are into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

Ki te matekai tou hoariri, whangainga
ki te matewai, whakainumia
Tihei Mauri ora
I am John Hebenton
Vicar of St. Georges Anglican Church
Gate Pa
on the hill of Pukehinahina by Mega mitre 10 on Cameron Road
Scene of one last battle of New Zealand land wars
Battle helped create our city
like battle remember today
filled tragic stories
and stories courage and grace

     2.     The Battle of Crete

Today we gather remember the Battle of Crete
Dramatic, 12 day Battle
Involving New Zealanders, British, Australian and Greek troops, assisted by Cretan civilians.
Many of those evacuated from Greece to Crete.
Battle that saw out of 7700 New Zealand troops
2000 taken prisoner; 671 died.
today we honour courage and tenacity of all those who fought in that battle.
remember those who died
those taken prisoner
We remember cost born by Navy in evacuation of Crete
Cost paid by local Cretan communities
Also remember many Germans who died in this battle.
This battle involved more than these
we also remember and give thanks for the work of the Red Cross amongst those taken prisoner
We remember those who were physically wounded and physically and mentally disabled by this battle and battles that followed.
We give thanks for the nurses, doctors, all those worked to ease pain and save lives.
Finally we remember the parents, wives, brothers and sisters, children and sweethearts left behind – families changed forever, even when their men came home.
In light of all this
Is it enough to just remember and give thanks
Is there something more we need to do?

     3.     WWI

Very aware that we are in middle of WWI centennial commemorations
these WWII commemorations are lost in the midst of these
many ways is appropriate
while we honour those involved in this battle
and in all battles of WWII
as they fought against the evil tyranny of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan
shadow of WWI
            helps us remember that the seeds for the rise of Hitler sown in the decisions made by politicians during and after WWI,
            The Great War
            War that was supposed to be the war to end all wars
sadly became the vehicle through Treaty Versailles
            created conditions that led to war we remember today.

     4.     How then to honour them

How then do we honour all those who we remember today?
couple of weeks ago we celebrated mother’s day
            -  follows date of American Mother’s Day
Origins of American Mother’s Day often described as been in work Anna Jarvis
Following her mother’s 1905 death,
conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children
Origins of Mothers day go back even further to her mother and others
Mother of Anna Jarvis - Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia
In the years before the Civil War (1861-65), helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War.
In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
mothers day was not about honouring mothers, but mothers working to repair damage created by war
others went further.
            another precursor - Julia Ward Howe - abolitionist and suffragette.
Wrote Battle hymn for the Republic
decided the best way to honour those who had died was to help create a world where no more sons and husbands had to die in war
In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace.
from 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.
Here in this country – wives and mothers of WWI soldiers created the white poppy campaign in the early 1920’s
It was not enough to simply remember their sons and husbands who had died or come back irrevocably changed
            for them the war to end all wars needed to be just that
            for their loss to have any meaning
                        work needed to be done to make war part of our history, not our present

     5.     Pukehinahina

At St. Georges we honour story of battle that happened on our site
not just to remember it
but so that we might learn from it
work to build a better future for all in Tauranga Moana.
Mindful words of Isaiah 2
2 In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
3   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.
Perhaps the way to continue to honour those involved in Battle of Crete
            to honour their memory
is work create world of justice and peace for all
starting here in this land
in hope held in Isaiah
no more will need to fight as those who fought in Crete had to.
where war is part of our history,
but no longer part of our present.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Some thoughts on the Trinity from our Archbishop from some years ago.

In May 2007, Bishop Philip, now Archbishop Philip wrote this for the Waikato – Taranaki Ad Clerum. I offer you this as we again engage with the concept of the Trinity.
As I write this we stand between the feast of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, between our celebration of the birth and empowering of the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit and our acknowledgement that while experienced as three, God is indivisible in purpose and action. Putting words around this experience and understanding of God as Three in One is challenging.
There is a story told of Augustine of Hippo who was taking his summer holiday along the North African seashore.
Walking along the water's edge on a delightful day, he was pondering the mystery of the Trinity. All this genius was getting for his efforts was a severe headache. Finally, he thought he was coming close to breaking the code of the mystery.
Suddenly at his feet was a boy of five.  The Bishop asked him what he was doing.  The youngster replied, "I am pouring the whole ocean into this small hole." Augustine said, "That's nonsense.  No one can do that." Un-intimidated by the towering giant above him, the child replied, "Well, neither can you, Bishop Augustine, unravel the mystery of the Trinity." Then the boy disappeared.

Whether this account is apocryphal or not, I leave to your good judgment.  However, I think we all get the point.  The Trinity, like love, will remain a mystery.  In the end Augustine came to describe the Trinity in these terms “The lover, the beloved and the love between them”.
Just as Poets often are best at describing love so too poetry may be best at describing the Trinity, have a look at James K Baxter’s Song to the Lord God, in the Prayer Book on Page 160.
The fourteenth century mystic, Meister Eckhart, has perhaps the last word in amusing language to describe the Trinity.  "God laughed and the Son was born.  Together they laughed and the Holy Spirit was born. From the laughter of all three the universe was born."
However difficult it might be, to speak of God as Trinity is to speak a wonderful truth, for the Trinity speaks to us of a God who is no distant, remote, isolate monad, but rather proclaims an experience of God who in essence is relational.  God as Trinity is God in communion, three in one. Inter-dependence, mutuality, loving in communion are all expressions which flow from our knowledge of God as three in one.
To speak of God as Trinity also takes us to the heart of our understanding of the Church. For we cannot begin to describe what the Church is, or what it is for, aside from our understanding of God and the purposes of God.
The central proclamation of the Church is of God's self emptying, suffering love - Kenosis.  God's love, born out of the Community of the Trinity cannot be contained, the love of this community bubbles over the edges and flows out.  It can do no other.  We bear witness to the God who continually reaches out to us, entering into the very stuff of human existence, even to that point of abandonment and sacrifice which is the cross ~ a love willing to suffer that all might have life and wholeness.”