Tag Archives: Methodist

Sermon: Good things come in threes. 11 June 2017 Trinity Sunday

The following sermon was given by lay preacher Philip Garside
at Wesley Methodist Church, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington, NZ
on 11 June 2017 — Trinity Sunday

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You can download an audio re-recording of this sermon by the preacher here:
https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/worshipresourcessermons/Sermon_Wesley_11_June_2017_Trinity_Sunday_Philip_Garside.mp3

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Bible reading:

Matthew 28:16-20 — The Commissioning of the Disciples

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

 Sermon: Good things come in threes…

Let’s pray; May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our creator, redeemer and enabler. Amen.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is an opportunity to focus on our understandings of God as being one and yet also being three.

They say that bad luck come in threes… But good things can come in threes too. And that is what I have titled this sermon, “Good things come in Threes…”

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Our gospel reading this morning comes right at the end of the book of Matthew. Jesus is crucified, and rises after three days. He appears to the women and tells the women to instruct the men, to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus again. The eleven remaining disciples go north to Galilee, climb a hill and Jesus appears to them as promised.

Note that Jesus reappears to the women – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – first. They are the first people to visit the tomb when the Sabbath is over. It is the women who tell the men to go back to Galilee. The women are the messengers. The writer of Matthew’s gospel also gives women prominence in the genealogy at the start of the gospel, that traces the line from Jesus back to David and then back to Abraham. Both women and men have a full part in these stories and in spreading the Good News of God’s love for us.

There are eleven male disciples remaining after Judas has left. For Matthew it isn’t important to make the number back up to twelve, so his gospel has no story about appointing another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Eleven men, a small group, are enough to set the vision of the kingdom in motion.

Did you note in the reading that the disciples worshipped Jesus when he re-appeared to them, but some doubted. Not just doubting Thomas who we hear about in John’s gospel, but maybe 3 or 4 others too! Don’t be too quick to judge the disciples who weren’t sure that they were seeing Jesus and whether or not they could do the things that he was asking of them. If we were there, that might have been our reaction too. And anyway, I think it is better, healthier, wiser even, to ask questions and be sure in your own mind that you are doing the right thing, before setting out on a new mission.

These men had left their businesses, work, maybe wives and families, and land, to follow Jesus up to now. And that hadn’t worked out very well for them. Jesus hadn’t defeated the Romans, hadn’t overturned the Jewish political and economic authorities and powers that be, and hadn’t made their lives any easier. The disciples and the rest of the un-named people in the group that had followed Jesus, were now at a turning point. They had to make a decision: go back and pick up their old lives as best they could, or persist in working towards Jesus’ vision of a better world for all.

Go back or take a step forward in faith, to a hopeful, but uncertain future.

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The Jewish community in Jesus’ time had many laws and rules and regulations written down in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Also known as the law of Moses. These laws are summarised in the Ten Commandments, which still provide us with useful guidelines for living today. But for every rule there is always someone who wants to find a loophole, and so the regulators, mainly the priests, had to keep refining and clarifying the laws, down to the last detail. They ended up with many different rules about what sacrifices were required at the Temple and about what activities did and didn’t constitute work on the Sabbath, and so on. I’m not entirely sure whether all Jewish people actually bothered to try to follow all these rules in their day-to-day lives. We know that the Sadducees and Pharisees groups did try to live by the rules. Probably the rest of the Jewish community would follow them as best they could.

But the trouble with such detailed and nit-picking laws is that they become a burden and people lose sight of the intent of the original rules — how to live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities. Jesus was a back to basics sort of guy. He put people before rules. If someone is hungry on the Sabbath, then pluck that corn and feed them now. If he can heal someone with a withered arm now, even though it is the Sabbath, then how dare you make that person wait another day to be healed. How obscene to let his suffering continue another minute, just for the sake of a precious rule.

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What do we think about the Bible now? What is our attitude to it?

Some Christians believe that every word in the Bible is literally true, factual and historically accurate. And furthermore, that if any part of the Bible is not true, then the whole foundation of their faith will be shaken. The Bible then becomes a rigid text, that can be interpreted in only one way. It becomes a weapon to beat those with different ideas into submission.

It will not surprise you to learn that is not my attitude to the Bible, and I don’t recommend that you treat the Bible that way either.

The Bible is full of foundational stories and wisdom, about people relating to God and to each other. We can reach into the depths of this book and pull out treasure for our lives today. The issue is not whether a particular story in the Bible really happened the way it is written down, whether it is true in any absolute sense, but rather what value and encouragement can we take from it today? The Bible is a beautiful and powerful thing, which needs to be treated with respect.

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Let’s get back to those disciples on the mountain in Galilee. What does Jesus say to encourage and persuade them, to help them move through and beyond their doubts?

First: I make the rules now and I give you permission to act. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Don’t look to your law books and scriptures, don’t look to your Kings and priests, ignore the Romans – I, Jesus, have all the power you need. And I’m offering it to you. All you have to do is say, “Yes.”

Second: What do I want you to do? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Let’s break that down. “Go.” Don’t stay here in a pious huddle, take that first step, start your journey.

“Make disciples of all nations.” That means tell everyone you meet on your travels about the good news that God loves us and that there is a better way to live. But what if they already have a good, nurturing religion of their own? (I’ll come back to that!)

“…baptizing them” Baptism was a serious and often dangerous commitment for a follower of Jesus to undertake in the first century. It required training over several months and was often performed at Easter. The Romans persecuted and attacked Christians, so worship was often held in secret, in private houses.

“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew’s gospel was probably written down in the 80s of the first century – about 50 years after Jesus died. My theological reading suggests that the concept of the Trinity – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – probably wasn’t known to Jesus, but was developed later by the early church. Jesus came to be known as Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus the Christ, but I think these are terms that were applied to him by his followers long after his death, as they struggled to come to terms with his crucifixion and started to build a new theology that would serve the developing Christian church. The Council of Nicea in the year 325 was still arguing over the fine points of how Jesus could be both human and also divine. Jesus key vision was always of a just society, where everyone had enough – of the kingdom of heaven, here on earth.

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” What did Jesus command his disciples to do? Actually, his instructions were quite simple: Love God, Love your neighbour, Love yourself. That is the sum total of Jesus’ law. There are no loopholes to sneak out through. Either our lives meet these simple standards or they don’t.

Third: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is harder to interpret. In what way was Jesus with the disciples after he died and rose? How is Jesus with us here today, how do we know? When does the age finish? Does it ever finish?

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I find the usual descriptions of the Trinity, of God being Three in One, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a bit distant. The modern usage of Creator, Redeemer and Enabler is more appealing, but I have come up with my own description.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

To me this has an implied movement, freedom of action and purpose. It is not a static theory.

We here this morning are worshipping God. (Remember, I’m just up here leading and guiding you, I am not the focus.) If we worship God, we are saved from worshipping possessions or worldly power. And God is found through the week in our everyday lives, in beautiful unexpected sights or interactions with other people. When we keep still and listen, God is with us.

I find it helpful to make a distinction between Jesus the man who was born and lived on this earth and died just like us, and Jesus the Messiah or Christ of faith. We can then focus on what the Bible tells us Jesus the man said and did, and try to do the same. We will fail as often as we succeed, but we need to keep doing and saying the things that Jesus’ example showed us.

I see Spirit as Energy. The Spirit is that flash of inspiration and second wind that we get when we have run dry. Spirit is freedom. Spirit is power. Spirit is light and music. Spirit is the good in you and the good in me.

If we are filled with the Spirit, we also recognise the Spirit at work in other people. Pala explained to me recently that the greeting and action of Namaste [demonstrate] is more than just a polite greeting. It has a deeper spiritual significance and conveys the meaning: The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you. Isn’t that beautiful! Namaste.

Some closing thoughts:

Step out in faith, encouraged by Jesus’ message and example, and recognise the good in others.

Live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities

Good things come in threes.

Amen.

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You can email Philip at books@pgpl.co.nz

 

Redemption Songs — Reviewed in Touchstone April 2017

Review

Redemption Songs: Prayers for People Like Us
by Mark Laurent

Reviewed by John Thornley in Touchstone April 2017

 “This book contains 71 prayers as poems by Auckland-based singer/songwriter Mark Laurent.

Mark is a Christian musician, poet, writer and communicator, and over more than 30 years, he has recorded many albums and published three poetry books and a children’s storybook. With his wife, Brenda Liddiard, he has done many tours of house- and church-based music concerts, in New Zealand and overseas.

Mark and Brenda live in a high-rise apartment in central Auckland, close enough for Mark to do busking on Queen Street. As he writes: “It’s good to keep in touch with life where it happens – with people where they are.”

This collection contains seventy-one poems inspired by the Hebrew Psalms, which provide ‘good jump-off points’ for the poems that express Mark’s ‘love, hopes and fears to God’.

As the poet writes in his introduction, “The songs are numbered instead of having titles, in the hope that this leaves a degree of open-endedness, so that God can say to you what you need to hear. Dip into them at random. May there be a few holy surprises here for you.”

The language is everyday and unpolished, with imagery drawn from the poet’s life experiences:

God holds us, just as I hold this stone
sees our hardness and our beauty
feels our weight and rough edges
knows our history and potential
we’re all miracles, waiting to happen
we should feel loved.

There is a strong confessional and salvation note in the poems, reflecting similar emphases found in the Psalms and the parables of Jesus:

I’m like a child coming home from school
tasting my mum’s home made baking
life seems a bit like Heaven –
now and then.

As reflecting the lows and highs on life’s journey, the feelings embrace both anger and frustration, compassion and hope:

When I look around me
it’s dog eat dog out there
and if you’re vulnerable or broken
they stare like you’re some kind of freak.
There will never be too many God songs
let’s keep on singing about the good stuff
get out the guitar – warm up your voices
it’s time to compose another one
the best and loudest anthem yet!

There are prayers for the individual and prayers for community, and we need both. Redemption Songs complements well Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land: Psalms Poems and Haiku (2015). While Gibson’s prayers/reflections find a place for collective worship in civic and church venues, Laurent’s poems offer resources for those working in pastoral and counselling roles with individuals and small groups in such places as hospitals and rest homes, prisons and shelter homes. They are also good for personal devotions.

These two collections of poetry are published by Philip Garside Publishing, which is to be commended for making it possible for Christian poets in Aotearoa to be widely read.

Those wanting more information, including how to arrange a local concert from Mark and Brenda, can email him at mark@marklaurent.co.nz

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“…vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.” Review by Mary Caygill of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions:
Faith Seeks Understanding

By Anne Stephenson 2016, Garside Publishing, 86 pages
Reviewer: Mary Caygill

in Methodist newspaper Touchstone March 2017

In this book’s opening pages the author states clearly her intent in writing this resource, which is nothing less than naming what she calls the elephant in the room no one wants to name, and especially no one within religious institutions.

The naming of this ongoing reality is exactly what this author does. She claims quite rightly that no religious institution is devoid of the need to deal justly and compassionately with both ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’ when incidences of adult sexual abuse are brought to light and faced up to.

I deliberately choose to juxtapose these two words – ‘justly’ and ‘compassionately’ – as this is the approach the author takes in this valuable resource written out of personal experience.

The subtitle of the book – Faith Seeks Understanding – captures accurately what this book sets out to accomplish and I believe achieves in a most succinct, readable, and informative manner. As such, this book will be a valuable resource for all manner of people both inside and outside of religious institutions.

The author conveys well the complex issues that frame instances of sexual abuse. She helpfully identifies some of the key warning indicators along with some of the key psychological frames of reference that we need to understand to grasp the full extent of adult sexual abuse and particularly how and why it occurs within the context of religious institutions.

It is fair to say that all religious institutions have needed an urgent wake-up call to become aware of the realities of adult sexual abuse by its spiritual leaders. This crisis and the way it has been addressed have proven to be very impetuous.

In many cases there is a need to both address and  establish far more robust procedures that work towards ensuring the pastoral and ethical accountability of those in key positions of trust and influence.

The language used by the author of ‘offender’ and ‘victim’ are rightfully used throughout the book to clearly identify and then address what is at heart an abuse of power which breaches the all-important ethical principle of ‘fiduciary duty’.

As the author establishes, within religious institutions this amounts to breaking the sacred trust between the leader (the one with power) and the congregant who has deemed the leader to be trustworthy.

Because of this sacred trust the consequences are life- changing and the healing required is immense and of a specialised nature both for the victim and offender. The author conveys well the full extent of both the abuse and the healing journey required.

I commend this book as a valuable pastoral resource. It is vital for all involved in any pastoral ministry.”

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Like a Dove – Review in Touchstone Feb 2017

Like a Dove – A memoir and biography in honour of Sione Tavo Manukia

By Rubinstine Manukia 2016, Philip Garside Publishing, 98 pages

Reviewer: Motekiai Fakatou in Touchstone February 2017

“Sione Tavo Manukia was a grandson of Arthur Frances Tindall, a missionary and trader to Tonga. Sione migrated to New Zealand in the 1970s. He was a man full of hopes and dreams with humble faith and a deep conviction about his purpose in life.

After he landed on the shore of Aotearoa, his balanced life grew immensely and started to unfold in new ways as he was nurtured by his parents.

His parents Sione senior and Sela Soakai Manukia were staunch Methodists and a local business couple. Sione Sr was a lay preacher and a steward for many years.

Sione’s inner most character was expressed through his ordinary life in extraordinary ways. He lived out his faith practically which explains why so many people, including those who have written in this book, pay tribute to him.

He was a man of tenacious courage coupled with an   enduring faith and a sincere compassion.

Sione’s strong characters have helped him and his family along with many other families. Through his tremendous efforts over the years they have realised their hopes and turned their dreams in to reality.

Throughout the years Sione faced many challenges but this book, written by his daughter, shows how a person can sustain him or herself through the pressures of life and still reach out to assist others so that they can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

The three main elements mentioned above – courage, faith  and compassion – are the three strands that weave together as a strong cord that strengthened Sione over the years.

This solid cord stems out of his great family heritage from both his paternal and maternal family.

His entrepreneurial sense of life came from his grandfather for whom he was a trader in Tonga and around the South Pacific during the early 1900s.

Sione’s steadfast faith was nurtured by his parents, and they encourage him to participate in the life of the church early on. This is where he deepened his faith and displayed it by hard work in dedicating his time and effort to honour God, support his country, and care for his family.

Sione Tavo Manukia is a compassionate father, committed preacher, successful entrepreneur, effective community worker and faithful man of God.”

Click here for print books.   Click here for eBooks.

Tui Motu Interislands review of Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions

Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions: Faith Seeks Understanding

Reviewer: Kay RyanAugust 29, 2016
for Tui Motu Interislands

“This book is written in response to a deficit within religious institutions where processes to address sexual abuse by pastoral leaders are being inadequately addressed. Based in Christian tradition and drawing on personal experience, Stephenson reveals often hidden dynamics involving sexual abuse by pastoral leaders. She reflects on the current situation, provides information about the psychology of offenders and the effects of abuse on the victim. She gives instructions for Church leaders and community workers on how to support victims while taking responsibility for the criminal acts of offenders. There is practical advice and a structure about how to proceed with complaints.

I like Stephenson’s courage and her resolve to put responsibility for addressing sexual abuse by clergy, firmly into the hands of those in power. She outlines what is needed and how it should be done. Church leaders are challenged to be alert and not allow offenders to keep offending. The offender “cannot be healed with grace, forgiveness, reconciliation”, but must engage with the Criminal Justice system. She is a strong advocate for victims and states how important it is that we get it right for all concerned.

As well as noticing some editing issues I found myself looking for references to other current writers on sexual abuse and trauma, perhaps from a secular perspective. I think this may give more credibility to her general assertions that this is the way it is.

While some victims may view this as a useful text that validates their experience, I think others may find the prescriptive nature of the writing – the do’s and don’ts –  difficult to relate to. I think it is important also to acknowledge that the person’s process itself leads the way. Even though there are certain themes that can be recognised, each person’s response to trauma is different.

Stephenson’s instructions to pastoral workers are clear. However I wanted to hear more about some of the complexities of disclosure within community settings. Instructions such as: “Do not pay attention to what erupts”, needed more explanation.

I agree with the author that this book would be most useful for Church leaders, those in positions of power, clergy and pastoral workers. It may also benefit counsellors who are working with victims of sexual abuse as it gives insight into Christian communities and what they may be struggling with.”

Kay Ryan is a psychotherapist in Auckland.

This review is online at: https://hail.to/tui-motu-interislands-magazine/publication/KrJM98L/article/FaqM3YN


Click here to order the print edition, and here to order an eBook

The value of a book

I’ve just posted these thoughts on https://kiwiconnexion.nz where stimulating discussions are going on about the nature and future of books.

The value of a book

In the beginning was the story and the storyteller told her stories to a few other people at a time. Then the listeners shared the the story as they remembered it to a few other people.

The best stories moved people and became a part of their culture, and who they were,  and were treasured because they were true. And the storytellers told the stories to their grandchildren and the stories lived on.

Then the stories were written down – on clay tablets, on parchment, on smooth tanned animal hides. And the stories were now separate from the storyteller and could be spread to the next village and the next town without the storyteller traveling there. And the stories were copied and read and told and grew.

And wisdom could now be retained and passed to the next generations and the community prospered.

And the stories became books and the books were copied and each new copy changed the story – by accident or on purpose – and the stories grew and grew.

But writing the stories by hand was a pain and took a long time. So better ways were invented and lots of copies of the book could now be printed at one time. And everyone could now read the stories about God and important things. And new ideas were shared and evolved and soon no one person could hold in their head everything there was to know in the world. And the stories grew. And the books huddled together in libraries for warmth on the cold nights.

And the people enjoyed having lots of books in one place and read as many as they could, and the stories grew.

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As a publisher, I’m part of this long tradition and evolution. My job is to enable authors to share their stories with people who want to read them. Books are the conduit that take ideas from one person’s mind to another person’s.

I take an author’s words, and create a product to share and sell. About 16 years ago I learned how to create print books, and sent PDFs to the printers. Three years ago I taught myself how to create eBooks in ePub and Kindle formats, and discovered short run print-on-demand processes that make producing print books economic.

A couple of the online articles that have been shared here in the last day or so decry the commercialism of eBooks and predict that  ePub and Kindle are going to die soon. Naw, don’t think so.

Whether you like or loath Amazon.com and all the other big online eBook marketplaces like Kobo and Apple, the rise of this technology has made it possible for authors who would previously have submitted manuscripts to publishers, to actually self-publish and market their own books. Some are just earning pocket money on the side, others are making a decent living as writers and a few have made $millions. Dominic Crossan has described Jesus as a “paradigm shift in Jewish apocalyptic eschatology.” EBook production and online selling comes pretty comes to this as a game changer in my view.

If you have now, or can learn, the skills to self-publish, then you as a writer now have the power to share your stories with the whole world. I recommend that writers visit Joanna Penn’s website http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ and especially listen to the podcast interviews she does with all sorts of people in book world, to keep up-to-date with the best and latest ideas.

I have found a niche providing a service to authors who have stories to tell and information to share, but want someone else to package their content into a book, make it available on a bunch of sales channels and help them to sell it. From one manuscript I create several products. For example, Anne Stephenson’s new book Adult Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions (https://pgpl.co.nz/?page_id=55280) is now available as an ePub, Kindle or PDF eBook, and as a print-on-demand book from CreateSpace and Amazon.com. The NZ print edition is being produced now and will be available in two weeks. So that’s 5 products from one book. Another fairly easy option would be to record the text as an audiobook (to sell as a zipped collection of mp3 files), which opens up some more markets.

David, you are wanting to take this further by creating multimedia online books which combine text, images, sound, video, links…, and pose the question, what is a book?

I have skills to offer on producing and selling some specific formats of books. You have video creation and Mahara platform skills. My children have skills in musical performance, illustration, photography, film making, video and sound recording and editing – that make me proud and warm my heart. Their creativity inspires me to keep going in my little niche, and to ponder the next publishing developments.

I think that a book is any medium or product or artifact that enables people to share stories and ideas. And in the end that’s where the value lies. You can’t beat reading a novel and getting wrapped up in the characters’ world or reading a theology book and having a new idea hit and discomfort you like a Wellington wind gust. The format isn’t important.

Cheers, Philip

Email me your feedback to: books@pgpl.co.nz

Sermon: Cultivate an attitude of hope

I led worship at St Luke’s Methodist Church, Pukerua Bay today – 19 June 2016.

Here is the text of my sermon. I have added links to online resources.

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Reflection

Let’s pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God. Amen

On the internet I follow an American Presbyterian minister John Schuck who does half hour interviews with authors about their recent books. His website is called Progressive Spirit and I download and listen to the interviews on my phone. These are free. He has just talked with Patricia Tull, who  is another ordained Presbyterian minister and a professor of the Hebrew Bible. Her book is called Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis. A couple of points she made struck a chord with me.

First she talked about the Exodus and the lessons that God wanted the Israelites to learn during their years of wandering in the desert. Manna was provided from heaven each morning. There was enough food for each day, but it did not keep for long. This meant that the greedy or entrepreneurial couldn’t hoard the manna and try to sell it later at a profit. And the considerate people who held back politely, waiting for others, could also gather enough.   As it says in Exodus Chapter 16: “…those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.”

On the sixth morning of the week a double helping of manna was provided, so the people could gather enough for that day and the Sabbath, the following day, when they could rest from the work of gathering and preparing food.

God wanted the people to see food as nourishment rather than a commodity to be hoarded and commercialised. And the people needed to learn to be grateful to God who could be relied on to provide for them. These principles were important training for the time when the people came to the promised land, the land of milk and honey, where food was plentiful. Then in the time of plenty the people would respect the land and treat each other fairly.

Another point that Patricia Tull made was about the verses in Genesis Chapter 1 that talk about God giving people dominion over the land, the animals, the fish of the sea and all creation. We people have been all too ready to translate that word as giving permission to dominate and exploit the land and the world’s natural resources. For instance, in America there are many Christians, who take a conservative, literal view of the Bible, as giving them permission to exploit coal reserves by ploughing the tops off mountains to get at the coal. They also deny or ignore the effects of human caused climate change, when the coal is burned for electricity generation, on the basis that they will be saved by the rapture if the end of the world comes in their lifetimes. Yes, that really is a commonly held attitude.

Food production methods in America are a cause for concern today. A hundred years ago farms were small and held by families. They had a few cows, pigs and chickens. They planted a variety of crops, rotated where the crops were planted from year-to-year and enriched the soil by ploughing back in the animal manure. Topsoil was retained. The farms supplied local communities. The food was healthy and varied.

Today most crops are grown on huge farms owned by corporations. They plant vast expanses of a single crop. The topsoil is lost through wind erosion, so the fields have to be fertilised with artificial fertiliser, which runs off into streams and aquifers. Beef cattle, pigs and poultry are raised in feed lots – huge sheds and barns – where they are given corn to eat, rather than grazing in fields of grass. They produce so much manure that the farms cant handle it and it runs off into streams and aquifers. The food they produce is lower quality and less healthy, with a lot of corn starch getting into people’s diets through processed foods. These farming methods are bad for the land, the animals and for people.

New Zealand is little better. Early European settlers clear-felled the native trees for timber and to make way for pasture for sheep and cattle to graze on. As a result in the hilly country we have slips and soil erosion, and need to top-dress artificial fertilisers to keep up the grass growth. On the flatter land big dairy farms create problems with needing to irrigate their pastures, so putting pressure on scarce local water resources. Run off of fertiliser and effluent from the stock pollutes streams and rivers. The government therefore lowers the standards of water quality in our rivers so that being able to wade in them is good enough – forget about swimming in them.

I am very concerned about the current and future impacts of climate change. The sea levels are rising now and will rise a lot more in the rest of my life-time. Storms are becoming more intense and extremes of rain or the lack of it will cause bigger floods and longer, harder droughts. Continuing dumb farming practices will put food security at risk, even in countries like ours.

How should we respond the these issues? Despair and anger are two entirely reasonable options. But I suggest instead that we increase our knowledge and understanding of what is happening, and cultivate an attitude of hope.

There are many good books, documentaries, news articles and internet resources that describe what is going on and the imaginative options for changing our approach. I like watching YouTube videos by climate scientists which give me the latest facts and findings.

There are also lots of inspiring local initiatives around the world to discover. Local farmer’s markets are a great way to buy fresh food direct from the growers. Many smart dairy farmers in New Zealand are planting trees alongside streams and fencing them off, and the quality of the water in their streams is slowing being restored. Some are milking only once a day and finding that the improvements in the health of the animals, their land and the quality of the milk, make up for the lost income caused by producing less.

As people of faith we have the stories and lessons of the Bible to sustain and encourage us. We need to interpret them with good hearts and intellectual honesty. Instead of treating Genesis chapter one as permission to dominate the earth, we should read it as a reminder to be grateful for all that God has given us, and to take seriously our role as servants and guardians of the land. We hold the world in trust for future generations – our children and their children and so on. And as the Israelites in the desert learned, we too can learn to be satisfied with having enough, and put aside the greed that causes us to always want more.

In the letter to the Galatian church (Gal 3: 23-29), Paul tells us that he turned around his thinking. He admits to previously having a legalistic, literal interpretation of the Law that kept him prisoner and led him to persecute those with a different approach to faith and to life. Paul interpreted the Law – that is, the first 5 books of the Old Testament – especially Leviticus and Deuteronomy – in a pedantic way. He forgot that the original intent of the laws was to help people live well together in community. His spirit-filled experience on the road to Damascus changed him.

Listen again to this beautiful new vision: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Warm hearts, open minds and wise actions are necessary to safeguard the earth. We all need to work together.

May the winds of the spirit blow freely among us, and fill and inspire us with life-giving joy. Amen.

* * * * *

I then led the congregation singing my recent song Breath of the Spirit. The sheet music is below. Click this link to download a free PDF of the sheet music: Breath_of_the_Spirit – Melody Click here for a video of me performing the song in a lunchtime concert as part of our Winter @ Wesley programme.

Breath_of_the_Spirit - Melody_square

 

 

Your comments are welcome. Email me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Philip Garside, 19 June 2016

Breath of the Spirit – a poem, litany and song

Breath of the Spirit — a creative process

I’ve just written a poem, that became a catch phrase for a concert series, then a litany and then a song. Here’s a description of the creative process.

Some background

For the past 7 years Wellington Methodist Parish have offered a series of free lunchtime concerts and weekend film showings as part of our Winter@ Wesley festival. Graeme Millar sowed the seeds for W@W when he was our minister for a year. His vision was that we should spread some light and warmth in the gloom and misery of winter darkness. We offer free soup and bread after the lunchtime concerts and have found this to be an effective, gentle way of reaching out to our central city neighbours. The performers also bring their friends along. My wife Heather has managed the concerts from the start and does a fine job of contacting and hosting local musicians and singers at our church.

Each year I have designed a poster for Winter @ Wesley. Last year Rev Motekiai Falkatou suggested that we make wind the theme for the festival. With that in mind I created the spiral logo you see in last year’s poster. 10 days ago I was talking with Motekiai again and he said that this year we could focus on breath and wind. That immediately made me think of the Holy Spirit.

Winter_at_Wesley_2015_A4_22_May_15

The writing process

A couple of days later the phrase “Breath of the Spirit, blowing among us” popped into mind and I grabbed a pen and scrap paper and started to write the poem. Take a look at the three photos of my scrawled notes which show how the words developed.  This took less than half an hour.

breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1A breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1B breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1G

I started with passive phrases “blowing among us” and “reforming and reshaping us.” When I realised this, I changed them to active voice phrases “come blow among us” and “reshape and reform us.” This gives the words more urgency and implies movement.

There were too many instances of the word “us” at the start, so I took some of them out, e.g. “fill us, inspire us with…” became “fill and inspire us…”  Some phrases didn’t work at all, e.g. “connecting to each other” became “link us together to form a new whole.” And the odd word got changed, e.g. “dark corners” became “dark places.”

So this short poem emerged:

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

You can see a video of me performing the poem on YouTube here:

 

2016 poster takes shape

The next step was to include the words “Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us…” in this year’s poster. You will see that I have fitted the words on a curve below the spiral logo.

A design tip…The best way to create a poster like this is to use multiple layers in Adobe Photoshop. This enables me to size and position each element separately, until a nice visual balance is achieved. You will also see that I have re-used most of the 2015 poster design, with the biggest change being the background colour, which was blue and is now purple.

Winter_at_Wesley_2016_A4_23_May_16

When the design is finished and approved we will print an A1 poster for the front notice board, A4 and A5 posters and maybe A6 leaflets, all from the same A4 PDF file.

Then a litany

Being a worship leader, it soon occurred to me that the poem could be adapted as a responsive litany. It would work as a call to worship or a prayer of approach a bit later in the service. The congregation repeats the refrain and the leader speaks the verses.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy. Amen

You can see a video of me performing the litany on YouTube here:

 

 

 Then a song…

 I showed the litany to a poet friend. The next day she sent me a Facebook message saying, “The liturgy you wrote yesterday could also be turned into a hymn with a repeating refrain.”

To which I shrugged my shoulders. Mmm, maybe?

But the next day, when walking home from the bus stop after church, a bit of tune came into my head from the Finale of Jonathan Berkahn’s The Third Day, Easter cantata, which I have sung many times with Festival Singers. It fitted the first few words of the refrain. When I got home I got out the litany and started to sing melodies to the words – the first step in composing.

Having convinced myself that I had some good melody ideas, the next urgent step was to write out the musical notation. Urgent, because if I don’t capture the musical ideas quickly I will forget them. I don’t write the notes by hand onto lined manuscript paper. Instead I use music notation software – Noteworthy Composer (US$49). This lets me enter a few notes and I can then get the software to play them back. Often I enter the wrong pitch or length of a note, so hearing the melody played back lets me check what’s written down against what’s in my head.

The other tool I use at this first draft stage is an electronic keyboard. I have an old Yamaha keyboard which can sit next to my screen and computer keyboard. I use the keyboard to try different patterns of notes for the phrases of the song, and keep fiddling until I’m happy. After I have entered all the melody line into Noteworthy I print out a first draft of the sheet music.

20160527_223542

Then I get out my guitar and experiment fitting different chords to the melody, and write them by hand onto the music. Then I sing through the whole song, ironing out the rough edges until I’m happy. While I have Grade 7 Royal Schools music theory and have sung in good choirs for many years, I can’t “hear” the underlying harmonies and chords when I’m writing a song. Heather and my son Christopher do have that ability, which I greatly admire. I just have to bash my way through.

Now the acid test. “Heather, I’ve got this new song. Would you like to hear it?” To which the response, after listening to it, is, “It’s good, but…” An exercise in humility then follows in which I am given several suggestions for better chords, tweaking the verses so the melody ends on a rising note, allowing ease in the timing so that people singing can catch the breath we are singing about and so on…

I accept some suggestions and tactfully decline others. Another couple of rounds of editing the sheet music follow. And, we are done. The whole creative process took 3 days.

Click this link to download a free PDF of the sheet music: Breath_of_the_Spirit – Melody

Note: The song is set fairly low which will suit basses like me and altos. If you prefer a higher setting, transpose it up a tone or two by using a capo on your guitar.

You can see a video of me performing the song in our Winter@Wesley concert series on YouTube here:

 

Then publish abroad God’s glorious name!

Now I get to share the poem, litany and song with the rest of the world.

I’ll make them and this story available as a blog post on my website. (This is it!) I’ll share that post on Facebook and Twitter to help build my brand.

I’m going to sing the song when I perform the first concert of the Winter@Wesley series on 9 June. I’m going to introduce it to Festival Singers when I lead the closing devotions on Monday night, and to our 10am Singing Group at Wesley.

I’ll also do a post on kiwiconnexion.nz and record videos to post on You Tube performing the poem, litany and song.

I might base my next service at Pukerua Bay on the litany…

People, choirs and churches are free to use these in worship or anywhere else. Please just credit me as the composer/writer.

If you want to record or publish any of them commercially please email me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Brief reflections on the creative process

Interactions with other people were important. Motekiai sparked, “Spirit.” My poet friend liked the words and said, “Song?” Heather helped to polish a rough diamond into something shinier.

It’s good to recycle and re-purpose an idea. A simple devotional poem, can be extended for use in worship. I have also in this case borrowed the first two bars of the tune from Jonathan. I don’t think he will mind.

I wrote the words and the song because I felt inspired to do so. I like making things and the process somehow comes naturally to me.

I’m not the best poet, liturgist, composer, singer or musician in the world. But I have enough skills, and the confidence to use them, to produce worthwhile creative work. It would be silly for me to be held back by waiting until I achieved perfection, good enough will do.

Make it, share it, see what happens.

Philip Garside
28 May 2016

p.s. There is an excellent podcast interview about the creative process here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/05/16/creativity-art-business/

Video Celebrates NZ Methodist Theologian Jim Stuart

In this video, David Bell of KiwiConnexion  praises Jim Stuart’s approach to theology.

Click these links for information about and to order Jim’s book The John Wesley Code: Print edition or eBook editions.

Click here for a free Study Guide to the book.

 

“Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.” Review by Rosemary Dewerse of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight.

‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe
Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight: Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist Parishes 2006-2014

(Wellington: Philip Garside, 2014), 68pp.

Review by:
Rosemary Dewerse, Mission Educator, College of St John the Evangelist, Auckland.

(This review will be published in the December 2015 issue of the
Australian Journal of Mission Studies
.)

“In our part of the world where practitioners significantly outnumber academics in the field of missiology, we often do not benefit from their wisdom because they are too busy “doing.” This is especially the case with Pacifica leaders. In this remarkable little book Rev Ngahe, a Tongan Methodist minister working in Auckland, New Zealand, does, however, take the time to pause and record his ministry strategy across 2006-2014, a strategy that because of its deeply contextual and outward-facing commitment exemplifies missional church leadership.

Ngahe’s strategy is straightforward. He seeks out visual images that can capture his own but also his people’s imagination and then explores their riches as he leads his community in building connections within and beyond their own boundaries in service of Christ and the people.

For himself as a Tongan the image of a Fala (a mat woven by one’s family) keeps him humble in reminding him that when he joins a community he joins a history and comes to contribute to that. It keeps him open as a Fala’s purpose is to invite family and others into talanoa (conversation seeking agreed solutions). It also keeps him mindful that when he moves on it is good for the people to be continuing to weave a closely interlaced Fala.

When Ngahe arrived in Avondale, Auckland, in 2006 he found the local icon of the Avondale spider. This got him thinking about the care with which a spider (in his imagination, God) weaves a web that despite the weather holds fast. The legs of the spider he saw as us all doing God’s work in reaching out across the community web through good and difficult times. Such thinking saw him lead the renewal of a rundown church building by seeking and welcoming help offered by likely as well as unlikely groups (eg the NZ Methodist Church, local businesses, the Mormons, the Department of Corrections). The congregation had a vision of being ‘Christ’s light to the community’ by running a homework club as a way to begin reversing endemic unemployment in the area; it was a vision others wanted to support, though there was some discomfort at first amongst parishioners with some of their partners. Though Ngahe left in 2010, the club, and other community activities, continue to this day in the refurbished church.

In Manurewa the image drawn upon was the name of the suburb: in Maori it means “soaring bird.” There, as Ngahe notes, “the listening and storytelling took pictorial shape” (p26). A mural on this corner church was painted with the help of local businesses, community police, local graffiti taggers, and MPs, as well as church members. They and nearly 40 other community groups now see “The Corner of Hope” (the name of the Church) as a place of welcome and belonging for all people. Hospitality and transformation are the two key theological themes underpinning all that happens there.

For Ngahe it is clear that finding a language that embeds God’s mission in the local context and in words and deeds that all people can understand and feel embraced by is crucial. It is exemplified not only in his approach to his ministry but also in the way in which he has written this most accessible book. Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.”

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