Monday, December 21, 2020

Last Post, Merry Christmas, Better 2021?

It is an illusion but a pleasant one that on 1 January 2021 all the trials and tribulations of 2020 will disappear and a better year will begin merely because the number of the year changes.

Fortunately there is some hope - vaccine discovery and distribution - that in the months ahead, life a la the Pandemic will get better. But 1 January itself makes no difference!

21 January 2021 will make a difference for more than a few people on our planet: on that date we will see the back of Trump who even in the past 48 hours continues to inspire people to threaten - yet again - to dismantle democracy in the USA (the ramifications of which, should it happen - ever - would be untold for the democratic nations of the world, to say nothing of the encouragement it would give to undemocratic regimes everywhere.

So the year and the Trumpian era draw to a close. Christmas is but a few days away and this is the last and fiftieth post on ADU for 2020 - don’t look for the next one until 18 January 2021. “I need a break.”

Highlights of this year? The lens here is local, ecclesial rather than (say) global, political, personal:

- looking back, Lockdown was a really neat “rhythm of life” - a Sabbath of sorts, despite the many emails and Zoom meetings;

- our Cathedral Project made considerable progress and we are seeing significant steps in the stabilisation of the building taking place;

- our clergy and congregations have been faithful and fearless in responding to the challenges of the year.

In summary: God has blessed us.


- The fact of a Royal Commission in NZ on Abuse in State and Faith-based institutions: how can (some) Christians be so evil? Which is also a question about how the Spirit of God works within us to transform and change us into (not away from) the likeness of Christ?

In summary: the questions of evil and suffering has been very sharply posed this year for our church and other churches.

Finally, a Christmas thought?

There are so many and social media doesn’t necessarily need to communicate another one from me. But since you have read thus far, how about this?

When Mary sings in the Magnificat about a world of injustice being turned upside down, we are faced, 2000 years later, with the question of how much more needs to be done in God’s project to bring the world under God’s rule - the kingdom of God.

Are we up for the challenge of Christmas when viewed through this Marian lens?

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Royal Commission on Abuse

"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (John 1:9).

This verse was not part of the Gospel reading yesterday (which was John 1:6-8, 19-28) but it was a verse I mentioned in my sermon.

Having spent three days last week in hearings of the Royal Commission on Abuse which were focused on Anglican complainants and how we had provided (or failed to provide) redress,* I felt strongly that yesterday's sermon could not by-pass the reality that while our readings invited us to speak joyfully and constructively about God's intention in Christ for the world, some people have experienced the church as a negligent and uncaring institution or suffered perverse, predatory abuse by its officers.

How can the church be an agent of the good news that the true light has come into the world when in its history there have been corners and crevices filled with deep darkness?

Yesterday I offered three reflections in response to the disparity between our claim to offer Christ's light to the world and the reality of darkness within. With some further development here in this post, I offer these reflections to you.

1. In the sweep of human history, the true light of Christ is still finding the darkness within human society, including within the church. The Royal Commission is an agent of that light, exposing that which is either not yet right or not yet put to rights. As darkness is replaced by light we need to maintain the light (e.g. by continuing commitment to boundaries training, to safguarding practices).

2. We can only be a church shining the light of Christ out to the world if we have that light shining also on us because we know we need help with our dark tendencies.

3. We should remind ourselves of the doctrine of sin: ALL (including ourselves) are sinners in need of God; Christ died to save ALL. None of us is beyond need for the redemptive work of Christ. Sin is pervasive in this life, and none of us should ever be complacent about our propensity to do wrong.

*Stories reported in NZ media here, here, here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The energy of Mark’s Gospel

Reading Mark 1:1-8 for last Sunday’s sermon [Advent 2] reminded me that despite Mark’s deficiencies relative to Matthew, Luke and John - no Beatitudes, Good Samaritan, Road to Emmaus, Exposition on the Bread of Life, etc - Mark is nevertheless a great gospel and worthy of much praise.


Mark takes us almost straightaway to the action of Jesus. No wasting time and papyrus with a genealogy, story of conception, pregnancy, birth and infancy. No Herod or Quirinius, census, shepherds, or wise men. No songs. Eight verses acknowledging the forecast of ancient prophets and the announcements of a contemporary prophet and then, 1:9, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth ...” Preaching, forming a band of disciples, and healings soon follow.

Among Mark’s achievements with his gospel is the confrontation of the reader with the power and provocation of Jesus. Mark’s Jesus changes his world - people and power structures are either transformed or challenged. As a reader, what is my response to Mark’s Jesus? Mark does not allow me to be neutral about Jesus.

In Mark 1:1 we read that we are reading a “gospel” - a good news story or great announcement of importance for the world - and Mark’s urgency in communicating this story to us lies in the word “beginning”.

The beginning of the gospel for Mark is not Matthew’s Abrahamic genealogy or Luke’s Zechariah on duty in the temple or even John’s “before the beginning of history.” The beginning is the coming of Jesus himself as a full fledged, adult agent of God’s dramatic plan for the healing (salvation) of the world.

So there is (Christological, missiological) energy in Mark’s Gospel and he does a remarkable job of conveying that energy to his readers and sweeping us along through his breathless narrative.

This is the Gospel of Christ.

Praise to Christ the Word!