We have had a very busy week taking every possible spare moment to work on renovating our bathroom. The job has been difficult, because it is an old house with lots of problems. We had our first showers in our new shower this morning. There is still lots of finishing off work to do, but we have a functioning bathroom again. We are so lucky. Our daughter and son-in-law live in Dunedin and we have assisted them with alterations, so they come and assist us. We do seem to work well together. They are experienced at doing up their old house so they give us a bit of confidence and vici-verca.
|Last Monday still pulling out old pipe work.|
|Shower and vanity unit installed on Saturday|
I normally face the discipline of leading our services based on the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. I find it important to have to wrestle with different passages and it can help keep me from flogging my favourite issues. But I have started a series of topical sermons to pass on some important messages before I retire. I am bouncing off the chapter headings of the book by Philip Gulley entitled "If the Church were Christian." As I explored today's subject (... Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship.) I was reminded of something that I have held for some time. Jesus did not intend to establish a new religion in his name! That was one of the points I wanted to make in my sermon this morning. I found myself saying that very sentence out loud in front of my congregation. I went on to explain that "Church" is only mentioned twice in the gospels and that these instances are thought to be the author writing back into Jesus' words the situation of the christian groups at the time he was writing. I admitted out loud to the congregation that I did not believe Jesus intended to start the Church as we have it, that he saw himself rather as correcting distortions and lack of integrity in the practice of the Jewish faith about him. Like the prophets before him he was a voice for true faithfulness. The funny thing was that as I was speaking these words a whole lot of implications came into my mind. If Jesus never intended the Church... the church has no right to speak about who is in and who is out as it does with things like baptism and communion. ... the church has no need to be exclusive trying to say "Jesus is the only way".... The church which follows Jesus could even be a movement within another religion??? ... if Jesus was not interested in "religion", that is setting up an institution, could the Church (which means essentially a gathering of people for a purpose) be a religionless movement? .... and so my mind raced even as I was speaking. The whole concept blows my mind. It frees Jesus from all the creeds, dogmas and doctrines that lock him up in "religious mumbo jumbo land". He is a teacher and example encouraging authentic living, true mutual caring and connection to the love at the heart of the universe. There are all sorts of implications when you change your thought patterns from assuming that Jesus intended to form a new religion.
All that to say that as I tackle and do my own fuller exploration of the topics suggested by the book, I am excited yet scared about where it might lead me. I will enjoy the challenge of putting into words, defining for myself and others, concepts that are half-thoughts and hunches in my mind. I will be preaching to myself.
I have been mentioning good people in my life. Today I pay tribute to the Dunedin Firefighters. They have been so good to me over the years. I began as their nervous chaplain in 1994 and we have journeyed together over the years. I have taken funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies. I have had endless conversations with lots of laughter over cups of tea and a scones. I have been there when things have been going well, but also there have been times of industrial action and tension. Anyway they have been generous toward me as the photos will show. I love the way they look after one another and appreciate that they accept me into their group.
|Since about 1995 fire fighters have assisted with our Christmas Day Dinner|
|Two years ago they cut down two big trees at our place. And chopped them up into disks ready for splitting.|
|This mountain bike was a gift from a firefighter.|
|While we were overseas in 2010 they painted our house.|
|In 2001 they passed the hat around and bought me a van.|