Tag Archives: theology

Review of Wherever You are, You are on a Journey

The following review by Paul Inglis has just been posted on the Book Reviews section of Australian progressive Christian website: Open Discussion on Progressive Christianity https://ucforum.unitingchurch.org.au/

Wherever You are, You are on a Journey: Conversations in a Coffee Shop.

Book 1 of a trilogy by Susan Jones. Philip Garside Publishing Ltd.

“It is easy to lose sight of our inner convictions as we stumble, fall, pick ourselves up and deal with critical fellow-travellers. It is not easy to seek directions through mists of disillusionment and disenchantment.(Susan Jones)

This is a novel with a powerful use of simple understatement and a generous discourse that touches on what it means to be fully human. It is about Hope (her friend’s) journey and her own journey of discovery and evolving relationship with other seekers. Susan Jones has imaginatively located the events in a coffee shop where she meets regularly with Hope to unpack ideas and help Hope, as her minister, through the struggle we all have with finding meaning in life and faith.

She examines Hope’s journey as a typical pathway through faith which, for her, ultimately led to wrestling with questions openly. This includes the shock of unpacking the shibboleths of fundamentalism and literalism, clearly the responses of many people to this awakening of values – from trying to stay within the old ‘acceptable’ outlook to comfortably challenging it.

The story demonstrates what happens when one is allowed to think critically and share doubts.

Using the vehicles of the novel and the coffee shop conversations, Susan interrogates the issues many of us are living through – truth, facts, faith, church history, historical criticism, post enlightenment thinking and even Schleimacker’s work on the ‘scientific discipline of religion’.

Drawing on many contemporary progressive theologians, Susan takes the reader on a journey of continuous unfolding of understandings and practices that have so often been thought of literally rather than as metaphor, making more sense when seen as the latter.

Reflections on the decline of Christianity and the rise of openness to discussing the alternatives raises the question as to what ideology fills the vacuum in an age of omnipotent (acting) world leaders?

But the impossible quest for answers bedded in old beliefs is a block to our journey if we don’t take a new direction. This is an invitation to ask ourselves if the old assumptions, beliefs and habits are the limit of our understanding. The author asserts that it is not, and our journey is about finding oneself – becoming fully human in a world where the church has failed to deliver this for us.

This subtle unpacking of myth makes good reading for anyone re-thinking their life and what has shaped their thinking. It is an imaginary set of conversations and not a heavy theological treatise, that draws on psychology and philosophy to aid the process of thinking about the big topics of sin, evil, baptism, communion and scripture.

Recommended reading for personal reflection on one’s own journey.”

• • •

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Workshops on sustainability

Awhi Mai Awhi Atu – Action Point 14

Host and promote practical workshops. Find people who can pass on practical skills to equip people for living sustainably. Connect with people in the community and build friendships as you learn new skills together.

  • Tap into the skills of church members, especially retired folks
  • Training and resources at Future Living Skills: www.sustainableliving.org.nz
  • Host a Repair Café or Repair Fair, to help people mend clothes and toys, fix computers, small appliances, furniture etc. Find Repair Café Aotearoa NZ on Facebook, or folks like Repair Riverlution in Christchurch
  • Bike repairs; find folks in your community keen to help people fix their bikes
  • Make reusable menstrual pads; find Divine River on Facebook
  • Clothing repairs and upcycling fabric; connect with community initiatives such as Stitch Kitchen in Otago: www.stitchkitchen.nz
  • Talk to your local Men’s Shed, e.g. making ‘DIY’ bird feeders or possum traps: www.menzshed.org.nz

* * * * *

From the chapter To Come Home by Anna Baird
in Awhi Mai Awhi Atu, edited by Silvia Purdie. 

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Loving God of Aotearoa

A Thought for Today

Loving God of Aotearoa

Loving God of Aotearoa,
hear now our call to you,
We have gathered in your presence,
to celebrate anew!
We have come from many places,
speaking, thinking differently,
But in you we are united,
one whole, strong family.

Let us heed your call to service
and follow lovingly,
May we be compassionate people,
alive in you and free.

Scripture tells of faithful people,
who spread your light and love.
Now inspire, lead, direct us,
so we can be like them.
May the Way that Christ has taught us,
and the power of your Word,
Set a fire burning in us,
for justice and for love.

Rimu tall, with tui singing,
proclaim your majesty,
You who care for all creation,
will always care for me.
Matariki’s spirit guide us,
rise within us all the year.
Help us live and speak forgiveness,
your people want to hear.

* * * * *

About this hymn

Rev Desmond Cooper, our minister at the time, was president elect of the Methodist Church in 2010 and wanted a song for the Induction service at Conference. He mentioned that he liked Holst’s tune Thaxted (I vow to thee my country) but would prefer alternative words that were less nationalistic.

Loving God of Aotearoa is the result. I consulted Desmond and vice president elect Susanne Spindler as the lyrics were being written and they smoothed off a few rough corners. The hymn is dedicated to Desmond and was sung at the Methodist Conference in Palmerston North in 2010.

This poem is found in my collection of, music, prayers and poems: Kindle a Flame
which you can download as a free 30 page PDF eBook when you sign up for our email newsletters.

Click to sign up and get your free PDF: http://eepurl.com/cSKIF5

Engaging and inspiring the listener

A Thought for Today

“The earthquake was oddly localised. The jail was badly shaken, but not the jailer’s home nearby. If the jail, one of the most strongly built structures in town was seriously damaged, we could expect a home built of unreinforced mud brick to collapse completely.

This is typical of the writer of Luke and Acts. He is telling a good story to make a point. The facts, whatever they really were in this case, have been moulded into a coherent narrative, designed to engage and inspire the listener.

When I was doing some introductory New Testament study as part of my lay preacher training, I did an exercise of trying to match up the accounts of Paul’s voyages in Acts – written sometime after Paul’s death – with the various letters that Paul wrote. I was frustrated that I couldn’t make the sequence and dates for the journeys line up. The writer of Acts had taken the basic facts and harmonised them into a logical order… which is fine.

The purpose of many gospel accounts is to convey meaning, rather than a set of historical facts.

* * * * *

From the sermon – What must I do? – 12 May 2013
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

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Celebration – Struggle – Transformation

A Thought for Today

“Somewhere in this week Jesus went through a process from celebration to struggle to transformation, from prophet and social revolutionary to victim, then to victor. From a human plane to a divine plane. From giving his supporters hope, to despair, to hope again.

I hope that you didn’t find the exercise of making flax crosses too difficult.

I’m sure you can guess why I worked through this with you. We have gone from waving flax leaves to celebrate, to struggling with crafting them, to transformation of the flax into our most important symbol as Christians.

I enjoyed practising making the crosses at home. They are a real kiwi icon. I like the way the flax comes from the land, the whenua that we sang about in our Māori introit. A flax plant is grounded in the way that our faith can be grounded. Change takes effort. We sometimes need the help of our friends to move forward to get the job done, just like we need friends on our journey of faith. And while the completed flax crosses might seem like an end point, the cross as a symbol has no end, just as God’s love for us has no end.

And just as the flax is strong, so God’s love for us, symbolised by the life, death and rising of Jesus is strong. I can’t break this flax leaf [demonstrate]. Nothing you or I can do, can defeat God’s love.”

* * * * *

From the sermon – Celebration – Struggle – Transformation – 24 March 2013
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

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Understanding what it means to be saved

A Thought for Today

“The reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans urges us to share publicly our belief that Jesus is Lord, that God raised him from the dead and that if we do so we will be saved.

If we don’t make this profession of faith with our lips, will we still be saved?
What does it mean to be saved?

We have no way of knowing for sure in this life, what will happen when we die. Perhaps if we lead good, faithful lives we will have eternal life? Perhaps Jesus dying on the cross made this possible? Maybe.

What I do know is that we all have a choice. Either we can turn towards God, to strive to understand the messages of scripture, and to respond to God’s love for us by reflecting that in our treatment of and relationships with others.

Or we can turn away from God and go our own way and follow the way of the world.

In saying all this, I don’t stand before you as someone who is perfect. A few months ago, a young man attended worship here. He didn’t have a permanent place to live. He asked me if he could stay at my house and I said no. I’m not proud of that. But my answer would probably be the same today…

The example of Jesus’ life, and the mystery of his resurrection, are a compass, pointing our way to a safe passage through this life, saving us from the temptations of the world. This feels to me like one useful way of understanding what it means to be saved.

* * * * *

From the sermon – Lent, Season of Love – 17 February 2013
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

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Accepting the Challenge

A Thought for Today

“…What extra meaning might we take from this story today?

Christmas Day is nearly upon us. Just two more sleeps as we tell the young children. As children we loved Christmas because we knew we were going to get special presents and eat special food.

And, because we loved the nativity stories about baby Jesus in the manger and the shepherds and the kings and the angels. And maybe we got to be in the Christmas play and learned beautiful carols for the first time.

With this childish wonder and delight we began our faith journey, a life-long journey. We have had good companions along the way to share with and challenge us and support us, as we grow to new and deeper understandings of the good news of God’s love for us.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle Christmas shopping, and end of year parties, and worrying about whether family members who don’t meet during the rest of the year are going to get along this time round… or what have you.

We know another story, of a brave young woman who accepted the challenge of being the bearer of a child who would become the symbol of God’s love for the world.”

* * * * *

From the sermon – Journey in faith – 23 December 2012
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

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A New Hope

A Thought for Today

“This is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is the church’s New Year.

As Christians we get a few week’s jump on the rest of our community. We can make our New Year’s resolutions now, have time to break them before Christmas and get a second chance to set some more on the first of January. Well maybe…

Last Saturday Festival Singers presented a Christmas concert at St Ninians’, in Karori. We called it From Shadow to Light. We went on a musical journey from Purcell’s 400 year old sombre funeral music for Queen Mary, through to contemporary English composer John Rutter’s Gloria. The Rutter piece is joyous and jolly hard to sing.

We arranged the programme for the concert that way to acknowledge that while Christmas is a happy celebration, it also brings sad memories of loved ones who have passed away and can no longer share it with us.

It’s good to take a little time in Advent to pause and reflect.

The world has troubles. We all have our own troubles and concerns.

Then God’s love breaks through.

The birth of baby Jesus is a symbol of God’s love for us.

We have much to celebrate and to be hopeful about. Amen.”

* * * * *

From the sermon – A New Hope – 4 December 2012
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

Click to order eBooks: https://payhip.com/b/FJSL


Controlled by Love

A Thought for Today

“…The group learned to prepare and lead prayers and then other parts of worship services.

Some of us moved on to try preaching. It is both uncomfortable and exhilarating to preach five sermons in a year and have them critiqued by your peers, to qualify as a lay preacher. Thank you to the members of this congregation for putting up with my first attempts and encouraging me since.

Today, I’m very comfortable choosing music and prayers and putting the rest of a service together, but writing the sermon is always a challenge. I start with some initial personal responses to the Bible readings and have an overall structure in mind. But once I start writing I don’t know exactly what will come out. I’m not in total control. I must let go and let my words be directed the spirit, by intuition, by the mystery and love that flows from God…

Life isn’t like a model railway. I can’t control all of it. Sure, I need to take my duties and responsibilities to my family, business partners, customers and suppliers, church, choir and clubs seriously, but at some point, I must let go control. And that is a relief. I don’t have to do it all. I can let other people give a lead. I can leave room for the spirit to guide me in a new direction.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” “Those who come to me will never be hungry; those who believe in me will never be thirsty.”

Let’s make room in our lives for the mystery of the love of God as shown through Jesus’ example and enabled through the Holy Spirit.

Let’s re-orient our lives to accept the love of God. We don’t need to be in charge all the time. We can be controlled by love.


* * * * *

From the sermon – Controlled by Love – 12 August 2012
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

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Love is the point

A Thought for Today

“Do we understand the mechanism by which Jesus healed people? I don’t. Medical science lets doctors remove a cataract and enable people to regain clear eyesight. That makes sense. All people in the gospel reading needed to do was touch Jesus’ cloak, once. How could that logically work? Did these miracles really happen? That’s not the point.

Love is the point. Being involved with others in need is the point…

There is another link to Festival Singers in the song that I’ll play for you before the offering. Rosemary Russell, the composer is the choir’s director. As well as a knack for words and melody, she has a strong faith that shines through all her compositions, and they are all uplifting. Her song is about the choices we make in living our lives and responding to need.

It’s how we live that matters.
It’s who we live for that matters.

God is love, God gives love,
God shows love, we are God’s love.


* * * * *

From the sermon – Love in Action – 22 July 2012
in Let Your Light Shine Through by Philip C. Garside.

Click to order eBooks: https://payhip.com/b/FJSL