Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fuel for the journey.

In the hills overlooking Island Bay where my son lives in Wellington, NZ

On the top of one hill an intriguing statue.

Richard Holloway's book.

A bigger than life depiction of a NZ soldier departing Gallipoli.
Getting older..
Our oldest son and daughter-in-law have moved to Wellington from Waiheke Island, so we went to see their new place and catch up with them. While there we visited Palmerston North where, in the late 1970's we had six years as a Church minister, fresh out of theological training. Visits to grandchildren and nostalgic visits make you realise that you are getting older, but lately I have been feeling my age more acutely. On the day we arrived in Wellington, my son and I went walking in the high hills surrounding the city. Wellington is known as the "Windy City" and it lived up to its name. I had puffed my way up to the top of the hills behind my son, and we were surveying the scene, side on to the wind. Suddenly my glasses flew off my face, through a fence and disappeared into the long grass. We had to go searching for them and indeed were fortunate to find them. I then realised that my $4000 hearing aids could easily suffer the same fate, so I took them off and put them in my little backpack. A friend on facebook joked, "Its a good thing your wooden leg was well strapped on." Also somehow on our journey, I lost the top plate with six teeth that I have. When this sort of thing happens you recognise your age. Glasses to see, hearing aids to hear and teeth to look OK. Back in my home town, Dunedin I visited one of the fire stations in my chaplaincy. The crew invited me to go to the park opposite to kick a soccer ball around, so I was happy to join them. At one stage I headed the ball and the bridge of my glasses opened up a gash on my nose, so blood started running down my face. The park looked dry, but underneath was quite wet from recent downpours. I fell flat on my back twice, ending up bleeding, wet and muddy. I had also strained my arms trying to save myself so have had to recover from that. The other day too, I began to cross a busy street but had to back off when an oncoming car seemed to have me in its sights and followed my backward retreating steps. I tripped on the curb and fell on the footpath, glasses, hearing aids, wallet, pens and bag spreading over the path. I went on to attend a meeting with blood oozing out of grazed arms and hands. I have also had to go to the urology clinic because blood tests revealed high PSA levels. With disappointment and trepidation I await a prostate biopsy. I revisit prostate problems I thought were behind me.  So lately with falls, spare parts and prostate issues, I have been feeling my age.  But that's OK, plenty of people I know have not reached this age, getting old is the price you pay for living longer.
While in Wellington I visited our National Museum, where my son works. I went to the exhibition on Gallipoli, a terrible battle New Zealand forces, along with others, were involved in during World War one. As I went through the dramatic display, reading the descriptions and quotes from soldiers journals and letters home, my heart was deeply saddened, a lump formed in my throat and I had the sort of emotions I had when I visited Auschwitz years ago. Human life was cheap, men were cannon fodder, and the whole thing was one mad, miserable disaster. I could not help but be reminded of and recite under my breath G A Studdart Kennedy's poem.
Waste of muscle, waste of brain,
Waste of patience, waste of pain,
Waste of manhood, waste of health,
Waste of blood, and waste of tears,
Waste of youth's most precious years,
Waste of ways Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God, - War!

I am still thinking and growing "inside".
I was talking progressive theology with an older friend recently. He challenged me, saying that he had not seen any book with a "popular" version of progressive theology that lay people could enjoy. "We need someone willing to write that."  The implication was that in retirement I could do that. I doubt I could, but I have often thought of leaving something when I die which explains where I ended up in my journey for those of my family that might be interested.  I am grappling with thoughts, and still journeying and thought I'd pass on a couple of things.
"Oh My God"
I listened to part of a TED talk by nature film maker and photographer Louie Schwartzberg. He commented that people saw his work and often said, "Oh my God." He invited his listeners to think about what that meant.
"Oh" - It caught your attention, makes you present and makes you mindful.

"my" - It connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.

"God" - Is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we are connected to a universe that celebrates life.

I liked this! It resonated with me and put into words inner stuff I struggle to express.

"Doubts and loves - What is left of Christianity."
I have been reading a book by Richard Holloway. He used to be Bishop of Edinburgh, but because of his progressive thinking was dumped from the job. I like his thinking. He wrote the book "Doubts and Loves." and eloquently expresses where he was at. He too puts into eloquent and learned words "inner stuff I struggle to express." I share just one paragraph that so resonated.
"... I would like to suggest that we ought to switch the emphasis in Christianity from belief to practice, from Orthodoxy to Orthopraxis, from believing things about Jesus to the imitation of Jesus. There would be three challenging elements in such a determination, none of them easy to follow. The first would be a resolution to love rather than condemn sinners; to seek to understand others rather than rush to judgement. The second element would be an active pity for the wretched of the earth that worked to change their lot. Finally, there would be a mistrust of power and violence, both personal and institutional, and an active opposition to them. This was the programme that got Jesus crucified. Following it today won't make us popular, but it would be a more creative response to the confusions of the human condition than the endless disputes over doctrine that have so disfigured Christian history."

He explores a lot more in his book and stretches your mind and soul. I enjoyed the journey of sharing his journey. This quote reminded me of when I in conversation mentioned my theology, a poet friend retorted, "Your 'theology'? Your theology is 'Just do it!' "  Holloway seems to endorse that approach.

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