Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A strange book.

I went on a tramp. My dad would have monitored this intake to the city's water supply in the late 1940's

My family lived out in this area when I was born.
The setting sun on my recent evening walk.
My walk was colourful that evening.

A strange book
I am reading a book.  The stories are claimed to be true stories and they are old but interesting. In some ways the behavior of the heroes in the book is totally disgusting. I will give you an example. This hero's group have decided that they will take over new territory.   So they invade an area populated by another group. Their leader tells them to destroy it and claim the livestock, harvests and vineyards as their own. So away the army went, had success and returned. The leader asked them about the results. They had killed all the men, but had left the women and the children alive. The leader was angry. "Go kill the women and the children," he said, "except the young women who have not slept with a man (the virgins) these you may claim as your own." This hero has been revered down through the ages. His adventures have been turned into a film. He actually would today be put on trial for shocking war crimes and remembered with a reputation as bad as Hitler in today's world. There are other stories with other heroes who do other horrifying stuff.  It is an interesting book full of such stories.
The book? The Bible! The hero of the story? Moses! I hear people claiming the Koran is full of hatred and violence, but have they read the Christian scriptures? As a retired parson, years ago at Theological college we were introduced to the main thrust of these stories. In the set Sunday readings I have read selected parts of these stories and associated commentaries. Over the years I have read all of the New Testament, many parts over again and again. I have mainly led services from the New Testament or Gospel readings, and have often felt uncomfortable about some of the Old Testament readings being read in Church. I have enjoyed many readings from some of the prophets of the Old Testament.  Some of the Psalms, ring bells for me, but others seem to be small minded, tribal and selfish in nature. I have decided in my retired dotage that I will read the Bible from cover to cover, so I am plodding my way through it. I am nearly finished Deuteronomy and I have found the characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses to be terrible megalomaniacs. Their "god" seems a vengeful, blood thirsty nasty piece of work. There are those who like to say, "I believe the Bible is the Word of God from cover to cover." Have they ever really read the book? If they do believe in this God, and revere these people as heroes and models of "goodness", then that is very scary in itself.  I can see in these writings a gradual growth in the understanding of what is right and wrong.  That is instructive in that it mirrors the process of "spiritual growth" we all as individuals go through. But to see these as sacred scripture, giving a correct description of God and sacred "truth" is inconceivable. 
Cecil Rhodes of South African history has been revered. There are statues honouring him in different places and of course, the Rhodes scholarship. Nowadays there are some moves to take down the statues and stop honouring him, because he actually had some terrible imperialistic ideas. Of course we are viewing these concepts from our very politically correct age. Maybe these "heroes of scripture" should be revisited too? 
Anyway wish me luck with my reading.    

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Taking care of ourselves."

Cloud and setting sun during an evening walk. 
The setting sun on the Otago Harbour during the same walk. 
Last Sunday afternoon's bike ride. After 16k I stopped for a drink and turned for home again. 
I love fresh vegetables out of the garden. 
My workshop where I "take care of myself."
Recently I received an invitation to a special "Commencement day" for Workplace Support chaplains. The theme for the professional development day is to be "Taking Care of ourselves". I groaned inwardly, because this seems to be a frequent theme for chaplains' gatherings. I decided that I would reply that I would be going to the day, but I also wanted to share a different perspective on the theme. My boss, thankfully, is an understanding person. I share with you what I wrote, a bit tongue in cheek.
I wrote....

"Yes I will be there. I am a bit cynical about the "Taking care of yourself" topic... It seems to be a frequent mantra at meetings....  It almost becomes a stress in itself.

There is truth in the theme but I have some questions about it taken too simply .... Just some one liners to think about ... ...

.... If Jesus was busy "taking care of himself" he would not have got crucified.

..... I encounter (in our drop-in centre, on the street, at the night shelter and sometimes in chaplaincy) heaps of messed up lives, in a mess because parents, teachers, ministers, social workers, friends were busy "taking care of themselves" ... watching their boundaries etc etc.

.... On the other had I see lives saved, changed, renewed etc. when people are willing to go out of their comfort zone, or the second mile for others. 

... There are charities, sports clubs, life enhancing community groups and churches struggling to do all that they should be doing because too many in the community are focussed on "taking care of them selves" and don't want to get too involved.

... We miss out on lots of stuff if we are too busy "taking care of ourselves".
e,g. In ministry on Friday evenings I would finish chaplaincy at 6 p.m. totally exhausted having worked 9 hours already. I would feel like going home and wish I could (if I was "taking care of myself" I would)... but at 6:30 I had to open the doors for the drop-in centre.  When I headed home some time after 10 p.m. I would be more exhausted but glowing... Just the feeling of fulfillment from giving myself in relationships etc.
or... I have in the last couple of months taken funerals that were vaguely related to chaplaincy. I had no need to take them. .. I was not currently chaplain for the people - I could have turned them down ... but I accepted them, (grudgingly) was super stressed out about them because they were difficult... But ...  when I conducted them, linked with the people, said things in a way that made sense for the people, saw their appreciation and them soaking up ministry I felt fulfilled, glowing, on top of the world. If I was "taking care of myself" I would have refused to do them, walked away from them and failed to know that deep sense of being.
I could give other examples... Often when we force ourselves beyond our comfort zones that's when real living takes place.

...... Do we truly believe Jesus' words "If you lose your life you will find it."?

...... Jesus was tired when he sat down at the well. The disciples went off to buy food. He was exhausted and thirsty but still engaged the woman in caring ministry. When the disciples returned with food he said, "I have meat that you know not of." He had been "fed" as he gave himself in ministry.

Sorry .... just a different perspective for your eyes only .... Don't worry the old man might soon be out of your hair! :-)

I'll be there with bells on. :-)

Dave Brown."

She replied with understanding and patience, but reminded me that as a workplace they have a responsibility to make sure we chaplains are looking after ourselves.