Prayers for Lent 3, 28 February 2016

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Good morning, big god, we come to prayer, spare us a moment and bend your ear to listen to us while we talk words. Come among us, holy spirit, we can wait, for we are waiting on you. We welcome you in, on the hot sweaty air, the cloudless blue skies, the long evenings. We love this summer season you have sent us, but don’t get us wrong, we could still do with a bit of rain, in your good time, please.

As it’s this time of year again, we’re back at work, school’s in, and the next thing we know, there’s university students back, filling up our streets with young people, and our ears with their noise. Now the weather’s settled, everyone is back. Our city revives from its long summer amnesia and the days of the year begin. Welcome us all in, and bring about your kingdom. We are a motley bunch: working and retired, young and old, families and children and single people. So welcome us all in, the familiar and the new faces, people who are coming and going, all of us part of your work for our salvation.

We pray for your church – keep us doing good works: to be a strength for those who need our support; to be a home to the wanderers, whether pilgrims, tourists or those seeking sanctuary; to be alongside those who need us to sit with them; and to live within our doubts. Remember our church leaders, our moderator, Andrew Norton, Assembly Office in Wellington, and others around our islands. We pray for the peace of our national church.

We pray for those you have given authority on earth, the Governor-General and the ministers of our government. We pray for our leaders in parliament and in council, may our representatives lay aside their differences and their own interests, to govern the country and our city, to maintain justice, and preserve our welfare and peace.

God defend New Zealand, keep our islands within your protection. We are here on the edge of the world. Your oceans, they surround our islands, preserving us from the conflicts of the world flooding across our borders. Yet they still come to us. We pray for those in Fiji and Vanuatu, our island neighbours, repairing their homes after storms. We give thanks for our defense forces lending a hand in the work of peace and security rebuilding in the islands. Strengthen the work of our hands, Lord, strengthen the work of our hands. Keep us working as good neighbours to support other nations, to hold back the storms and restore the bounty of our ocean. May the land, sea, and sky join together as our symbol of peace.

Remember those who have come to these islands as refugees, both welcome and unwelcome, scattered in different camps, different homes, different countries. We especially remember those who are coming to our city, may they be at home here, a part of lives. Let them find what is good in Dunedin – homes to live in, work to live, peace of mind and cure for the soul, an escape from vulnerable places with teeth like a shark, across hostile land and sea. Make our place a safe place both for new chums escaping violence in the homeland as well as for us who live here.

We remember our own people, present today, and in empty pews where memory is their ghost. When we are troubled, give us your heart’s ease. Heal us in body, mind and spirit. Make us to know your joy again, and let us join with those who celebrate. Jesus, teach us to party, and to celebrate as you did in the homes of the holy land. Bring us into the time of your great feast where we will party until the stars go out, and may there be cake.

Now, teach us to pray, the same words you taught your disciples to pray. We say together…

unfruitful_tree_servants_duty.jpg

The Unfruitful Fig Tree and the Servant’s Duty by Kazakhstan artist Nelly Bube, Luke 13:1-9

Epiphany 1

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A friend, who I had not seen in a while, asked me how I had been.  I gave an answer that I had been involved in work, gym and church, and that kept me busy.  It would be good to do a summary of my progress.

Work has not been entirely satisfactory.  A conflict of personalities was resolved by the end of the year.  The leadership of the last year and more has been lost.  I feel disappointed over this waste of spirit.  New leadership will be appointed in early 2016.  I hope that this will prove to be a more stable relationship and a better workplace.

Gym and physical exercise is something that I do when I get time, usually any evening that I am free of appointments I fit it in.  Last year I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, 80/150 I think, and resolved to do something about it.  Diet made the biggest benefit, getting my weight down to 70 kilo.  I’m thinner, if not slimmer, through changing to low fat milk and edam cheese, as well as religiously reading the fat and suger content on everything I buy.  If it’s above 5 grammes per serving I look if there’s another option.  Exercising regularly helps.  I do a cardio programme of treadmill, stepping, and running at least a couple of times a week if I can.

I live across town to my preferred church, usually a forty minute walk.  Often I can get a ride.  I don’t depend on it.  I don’t get to many social events as available as when I live closer.  I’m an office-bearer and I’m over there for meetings regularly.  It acts as a social encounter for me.

There are projects on my computer that I continue with.  The imaginary language Brithenig continues to grow in lexicon.  I visit the university library to create new words from Welsh and Romance languages.  I continue other projects, an imaginary city which I add details to when I hear description, and a folder of imaginary characters I created years ago for writing fantasy.  The writing was never finished, the characters still remain.

My life continues, quietly, in one place.  There is always new books to read, new ideas to discover.

God in the Art Gallery: artist’s images of Jesus and the anti-ascension of the Christ

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Much to Jason’s horror I took some notes of his talk on images of Jesus from the Roman Empire to the first decade of the twenty-first century.  Apparently he paints as well as does poetry.  A man of many talents is our Jason.

The anti-ascension of the Christ sounds like Jesus trips and falls flat on his face which would be the point of The Virgin Spanking the Christ-Child Before Three Witnesses.

The Virgin Spanking The Christ Child Before Three Witnesses by Max Ernst

The witnesses seem unconcerned to this child abuse going on before them.

We make the Christ into our own image in each generation.  When we encounter the stranger god he becomes a reflection of our own imagination.  When we portray the Christ, we must slay it!  In Roman times the Christ was the emperor, or a sage, in a toga, a citizen of Empire in a costume that had already become old-fashioned.  Another generation and he had become the Christian Soldier in a centurion’s leathers, bearing the cross like a sword and the Bible as the shield of faith.

It is a small step from these images to the icons of Greek and Russian Churches.  The Trinity is dancing in each other’s way.  The Cross is the Axis of the World from god and the angels in heaven breaking through Adam’s skull into hell.  Christ is on the Cross but does not suffer.  He seems impatient or bored.  The pain of Christ on the Cross is most strongly expressed through images of liberation theology because Christ the image of the poor is crucified daily.

The Chocolate Christ

This is my body, indeed!

The Lonely Christ c. 1520

He looks sad.  I understand that visitors respond emotionally to this sculpture.  I think he is sitting on the toilet.  A lot of people go there when they are sad and want to be left alone!

And speaking about toilet stops…

Piss Christ

Christ enters post-Christianity.  He is caught in the golden light of degraded matter.  The crucified one enters into our own suffering and persecution yet again.  Perhaps as Christ continues to fall on his face in this descending into art he will continue to inspire new and beautiful imagery.

Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman

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This week I was at a regional church meeting that used this chorus for beginning worship before the meeting.  It began with the introduction that the authors were going through a rough patch in their lives when they wrote this song.  It made it tolerable to sing.  Still it is not a favourite of mine.  The music it is sung to means that it is sung full voice and hands raised in worship.  It requires commitment to sing.  “My dog died!  Praise the Lord!”  There are times when our lives become crap and we are walking in the dark.  This is a time when our smiles become plastic and fragile, and songs like this are sung through gritted teeth.

The psalmists allowed space for the songs of lamentation.  What would this one sound like if it was sung as blues?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWKehsOXu8

Hobbit-spotting

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The pastoral committee met this week.  I can see that we are going to press ahead under our new ministry at Opoho.  That’s going to be fun.  We have already made a date for our next meeting.  Now to get on with writing up my notes.

I went to a church event at Leith Valley Church on Thursday.  I had hoped it would prove to be a connexional event for the Dunedin cluster of Presbyterian Churches.  Afraid not.  Instead it was an address by an event by visiting American minister Bob Ekblad on Proclaiming Good News to the Poor.  The thrust of his address was that to have an effective ministry among North American and Central American poor he had accepted charismatic annointing.  The meeting ended in a prayer session.  While I accepted the logic of what he was doing to be effective among the people he felt called to, I did not feel the Call or the urge of God in my heart to go forward for prayer.  I left soon after.  It was a fifty minute walk home in the dark and I made sandwiches for my next day’s lunch when I got home.

I’ll wait and see if any of his books turn up at the Hewitson Library.

After that it is the beginning of a long weekend and I wait to see what will turn up.