Prayers for 24 April 2016

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A harvest thanksgiving service, a day before ANZAC Day, and thinking about the arrival of the first Syrian refugees to Dunedin, I wrote these prayers:

Hello god, here is our prayers. Listen to us I pray. Bend down from heaven and bend your ear.

Hear us when we pray to you. Are you ready for us? We are coming to you.

You see before us the harvest offering, tokens of your generosity towards us.

After ten thousand years of civilised history and architecture we are still dependent on the layers of soil beneath our feet, and the promise of rain from the vaults of heaven.

Provide us for our daily needs, for what we produce and what grow, and what we need, from earth and sky and encircling ocean.

For all our pride in being educated first world citizens we still live from day to day.

Our nations, our cities, our communities, even our families – all may be lost and swept aside if the meals stop coming, and we are left as broken stones and foundations in the waste land.

Lord, you know our needs. You know them before they come to mind.

When we call on you we know you will meet us halfway because you know and you are coming to get us.

We do not walk home alone for you are with us and you guide us – share our playlunch with us, we will sit and eat sandwiches together.

In making this gesture of our gifts returned to you we are reminded that renew our citizenship in your kingdom.

We are the wandering people, from the first garden to the promise of the new Jerusalem.

We are highly mobile. We settle for a generation and then we move on.

We have the vision of the city, a city which has the God which gives righteousness and peace at its heart.

We would wish our city to be the welcoming place, to settlers, refugees, visitors and tourists.

Lord, save our land from the violence, from the bombs and missiles that have fallen on others.

Instead let the rain, the wind, the snow, and brief intervals of sun fall on us.

If ours is a safe city, then let us share it with others, let us be hospitible, let us be diverse.

Lord, within these hills, you have set us on a broad place, may it be home to all your people.

We live in our islands on the edge of the world, and the world seems full of danger, keep that danger far from our shores, Lord God, protect our islands, and nurture all who live here.

We remember those who have died to keep our islands at peace in past wars.

If we go from these islands again, then let our men and women go as peace keepers, and not as soldiers and warriors, when they go on that great adventure.

We remember those in our families who have gone, now and in previous generations.

We honour their sacrifice.

Lord, you are the Lord of the Harvest, even if it is the harvest of lost souls.

We do not get out of life alive, and our hope is our children, our grand-children, and our new-born will be our inheritors in a civilisation of peace.

May we be witnesses to your kingdom at this time, and in our life-time, and share our vision for our community with others who walk with us.

Give us good leadership – in our elected leaders in local government and in parliament.

We pray for our moderator, the Right Rev. Andrew Norton, that he would be a man who speaks for your Church.

Make us a generous people, abundant in our celebration, catering for friend and critic alike.

May we see Christ in the eye of the person opposite to us, teach us to see the stranger.

 

…we say together

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…

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

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession for Pentecost Sunday 24

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Ah, dear lord, we come to pray, for ourselves and for others.

We have come to talk to you, and to listen.

Ah, dear lord, we are listening, bend down and listen with us.

You are the living god, who cannot be pinned down, you are without boundary.

We cannot accept you into our lives; you accept us into your boundless life.

You are the god of  Abraham, the god of Isaac, the god of Jacob, the god of all who have come alive.

Tell us the words to say. We want to pray with you.

We are in this world, and it attempts to distract us.

One day it tells us that the quest is won, the cup is ours;

The next day we discover that our world is not changed;

There are no unicorns and dragons and rainbows; and we must continue to listen;

And to seek you out.

Each day has its own problems, and tomorrow will have enough troubles of its own.

We have shaped the world in our image; we have contributed to the distress of the world;

Make us new, and let us be your agents.

Lord, we have filled our world with dross; teach us to simplify our lives; to work for peace;

And to renew the world; teach us your peace; awaken us to encounter you;

Awaken us to encounter our neighbour;

And recognise the humanity of those who live outside our walls.

Lord, we pray for your mercy for those who venture out on the oceans, have mercy, Lord,

Especially for the refugee, who are running from a home that has become the mouth of the shark;

And the open sea is safer for them than the land they leave behind; bring them safely to shore;

Let us open our doors to welcome them home;

In our land, watered and refreshed under the wide starry sky; gather in all your people.

We pray for the leaders of our nation, of our city, and of our Church.

Guide them in their decision-making to be people who see visions, and dream dreams;

A community of people who say YES!

Yes to all forms of life, and yes to all good ways of living together.

Lord, we are coming to the end of the year; you have shut the doors of hallowe’en;

The cold and dark are bound behind fireworks and crackerjacks and long spring evenings.

As we enter the busy time of the year, of giving, and receiving, and celebration;

Do not let us forget you, the living god, be the annunciation,

The promise of the new life we live in you. Let us be reborn in the spring-time of the world.

And we pray together the prayer your taught your disciples, we sing together

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, aw we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen. Amen, amen.

The Widow's Mite, Ravenna

The Widow’s Mite, Ravenna

Hobbit Spotting

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We began retreat last weekend with a crowd breaker exercise.  Everyone wrote down one thing the rest of the group didn’t know about them.  I wondered what I wanted to share about myself.  I wrote ‘father was a linesman’.  They were read out and we guessed which one around the circle.  Mine was one of the last.  I was asked if he fell from grace.  Yes, he did.  He had a stroke, or something similar, while up a ladder and fell to his death.  This was back in the 1980s when I was still at school.  I did not regret sharing it.  As I have said elsewhere I do not mourn my dead as much as I take joy in remembering them.  I was happy to talk about dad and would have said more.  An honoured memory.

On the book front, I have finished Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.  It was an entertaining read, a diversion about the police department that deals with the magic side of the city of London.  I will look out for Moon over Soho, the next in the series.  Currently I’m reading London Falling, a darker book by Paul Cornell, again about London police, and a much darker occult.  For the first 80 pages the characters seemed to blur and slide in my reading, they didn’t have distinct voices in my head.  Now the story has kicked in and the magic begins to get more interesting.

I’m currently working on translating some sentences from Maori Language Week into Brithenig.  While it is topical I want to have a go at the poem Home, by Warsan Shire.

Being A Public Voice

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A transcript of my notes from an address to Wednesday Worship at Opoho Church this week on the 22th July 2015, being some thoughts on my research and description of the Public Questions Committee in the Presbyterian Archives.

I want to talk about the Public Questions Committee in the Presbyterian Church.  For a long time the Presbyterian Church had a voice that contributed to public issues.  Originally the Presbyterians talked about religious issues relevant to the national church — temperance and Bible in Schools.  Social and political questions came to General Assembly and a special committee was set up to report to the next assembly.  By 1912 it was suggested the process could be streamlined and debate in the assembly avoided by setting up a Committee on Church life and work.  General Assembly set up the Public Questions Committee in November 1917 in order that resolutions relating to public questions outside of purely Church business yet in the moral and religious aspect that the Church was intensely interested should be the fruit of calm consideration of some of the wisest among ministers and laymen.  In 1924 Public Questions became a standing committee of General Assembly.

The subjects that that Public Questions covered were wide ranging: ANZAC Day, Abortion, Alcohol, Biculturalism, Education and Religion, the Media. The three that stand out to me in describing this collection is the file on wrestling from 1936 — in the verge of a world war the Presbyterians were agitated by wrestling in Wellington as a family entertainment; the conscientious objectors files that start in the 1930s and report on the treatment of the Presbyterian individuals who resisted the militarisation of the age and stood up for pacifism when it was unfashionable (surprisingly, in a later age when peace and conflict studies is fashionable they are unknown); and the long commitment of the Public Questions Committee and International Relations to keep attention on South Africa in the apartheid era — a yearly commitment at the shareholders meeting of South British Insurance to divest from South Africa, and when this was impossible, to withdraw the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.  I’m riding several favorite research topics here as hobby horses.

The commitment to apartheid and South Africa may have been Public Questions proudest moment. It may have also been the line in the sand for conservative Presbyterians who saw radical Presbyterian leaders taking positions in politics, in opposition to our sporting contacts with South Africa, including Maori in the All Blacks, and taking a stand which conservative Presbyterians considered contrary to the gospel.  By 1981 Public Questions became a joint committee with the Methodists. In 2000 The Society of Friends and the Associated Churches of Christ joined what was now known as the Churches’ Agency on Social Issues.  The conservative bloc in the General Assembly was critical of a committee that they felt did not communicate with the church and did not represent the church.  Had the committee always been radical and to be feared, or did it become so?  It is hard to say.  In 2007 the Council of Assembly ended Presbyterian funding to CASI and it dissolved.  Between 2007 and 2015 the church’s voice on social issues has been silent.  Having Vision New Zealand, and the Inter-Church Bio-Ethics Council, and the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, which is supported by the Synod of Otago and Southland,means we don’t need to have a voice.  Somebody will do it for us.  In contrast the Salvation Army, a church less than half the size of the Presbyterian Church on current members has become the go-to people for media on social issues. When the Salvation Army makes its annual state of the nation address people take notice.

In the moderator’s paper, his encyclical, It’s A Matter of Faith, Andrew Norton talks about the loss of Voice as a deafening silence.

Sadly, when people do eventually speak it is usually on one topic alone; we come across as a Church that is obsessed with sexual orientation.  Our voice is perceived as a voice against.  Wouldn’t it be great if we discovered the voice of God today that is a voice for. Who will speak if we do not.

He raises some suggestions to regain a prophetic voice.  In the Presbyterian Church I see that an open, generous orthodoxy conflicts with an orthodoxy by subscription.

Time to Vote

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Fiji voted  earlier this week, and it looks like that they are keeping their government.

Scotland voted in their referendum and it looks like the Unionists won.

Saturday New Zealand goes to the polls.

The electoral office has been open for early voting for a couple of weeks now.  I wanted to vote before participating in our candidates night at Opoho Church.  There were three people in the booths ahead of me, a middle-aged couple had arrived in with wheelchair-bound mum, and all three made their vote.

Our candidates’ meeting was a success.  The community came out en masse.  One count from the front was 160 people in the audience.  The back of the church was packed with people.  This is an occasion that I live for, seeing that people care and are willing to come out to be informed.  I was timekeeper with my pocket watch and a deer-horn.  At least one candidate has skin like boiled leather with an ability to rebuff critical questions.

Tomorrow looks like it’s going to be a wet day.  I’ll do my errands to the supermarket.  I really need to get a haircut, and I want to take a book back to the university library.  I can look up words while I’m there for Brithenig.  A lot of other people are going to take their chance to vote as well.  There is a lot of interest in this election.  Don’t let the weather put you off.  If you are going to vote, make a difference.

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Easter 4

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I was rostered to do the Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession today, Mothers Day.  I started to write on Saturday night.  The last paragraphs were written out before I left for church on Sunday morning.

Christ the Good Shepherd, stained glass window, First Presbyterian Church, Invercargill

Ah, dear lord, what shall we pray for today? Shall we pray for the world? We know you are everywhere; and to stretch yourself even further, you gave us mothers, and fathers, and sons and daughters, you made us into tribes, and nations, and families, and households. You made us to connect with each other, and you are in those moments.

In an uncertain world and at an uncertain time we give thanks for the success of the church fair yesterday. We thank you for the weather, for the company, for the enthusiasm to work, and to sell, and to benefit others. We celebrate the sharing of time, and talents, and gifts, with each other.

We pray for the world: We pray for peace in Eastern Europe and the reconciliation between rival nations. We pray for the children to whom our blankets go. May they know peace and prosperity in their countries. We pray each stitch will be for their warmth and their comfort.

You know the names of each one of the girls abducted in Nigeria, you are reminded in prayer for each of them by name, each one of them is an individual. Bring them home so they may be restored to their families. Let them have the freedom to become educated and informed citizens who can contribute in turn to their country. Break down the powers and principalities of fear and ignorance that would forbid a girl to read and learn.

We pray for Christchurch, the wounded and suffering city. We pray for those who are demoralised and scattered by the continuing loss and frustration of delay, obfustication and damage to property. We pray for the rebuilding of that city. With the word of hope in one hand and the tools for the job in the we pray for the restoration of Christchurch.

We pray for our city, Dunedin, for the university of Otago, the continuing progress of teaching and educating young people in our city. We hear the sound of the pipes as they lead students to graduation and the celebration of achieving their degrees. We pray that they may come to knowledge of you, and may they like us discover that learning is for life. Do not let them fall away from seeking and discovering the good in each other.

We pray for our Church, here as our community, as the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand, and as the body of Christ. Remember our leaders and our teachers, those who work in the offices of the church as administrators, accountants, theologians and care-givers. May they hear your voice and respond to your call.

God who keeps his sheep safe. We hear your voice, you call us to your fold, you stand as god-with-us between the safety of your embrace and the dangers that would steal us away. Your voice calls us and we pray the words that your disciples heard and learnt from you…

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