The New Year Party

One of the things about Jesus both in his teaching and social practice was that he liked parties. Time and again his stories end with a party. Time and again he is found with society’s desirables and dregs happily mulling life over around the dining table.

His critics noticed. ‘The people are suffering and yet you are celebrating?’ they sneered. ‘Mr Jesus, how can you be pious and party?’

They had a point. Jesus lived in Galilee, Palestine. It had been invaded by the Roman Empire and its greed some years before. Taxation was heavy. Most people lived on very little and were pressured to pay more. Resistance was brutally suppressed. There seemed little to celebrate.

This December in New Zealand there also seems little to celebrate. The pre-Christmas lay-offs featured. As the discretionary dollars dry up so does tourism. So do many consumer goods industries. Staff Christmas parties were downsized. More insidious and destructive however is the daily diet of ‘it’s going to get worse’.

In the time of Jesus there were other prophets who went around telling people a similar message. ‘It’s only the start of bad things’, they’d say. These prophets advocated belt-tightening, prayer, and hope that a God somewhere off the planet would come and rescue them.

Jesus, seemingly uniquely, had a confidence in the basic goodness of a God who was close at hand and close to the heart. It was an irrational confidence. Yet from that confidence emanated hope. It was a quiet assurance that all would be well even when everything looked so bleak.

There are many people who can look back over this year and recall heartache, tragedy, and pain. The deaths of the six students and their teacher in the flash flood at Mangatepopo. The abuse and murders of children like Nia Glassie and Jyniah Te Awa. The little publicised suicides that have been steadily increasing since the downturn in the financial markets.

Having a party to celebrate life when times are tough is not a crass act of denial but a tentative act of faith. It is not ‘eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die’, but eat, drink, and be merry for today we are alive. It is getting together in the faith that no matter how desperate things seem the spirit of life is stronger still.

This New Year I hope we will not fix our minds on the over-consumption of beverages, or the resolutions we vainly hope to achieve. I hope we will not be bewitched by the usual talismans of success and our inability to acquire them.

Instead I hope we will quietly take stock of the good things in our lives. Many of us have relationships with partners, parents, children, or friends that nourish and sustain us. Many of us live close enough to walk or drive to a beach, or a forest, or a hilltop. Many of us can listen to nice music, watch a sunset, or admire a beautiful piece of art. Many of us are spiritually sustained by what we call ‘God’. We need to quietly take stock and be thankful.

Gratitude is a discipline. Irrespective of whether we in good health or not, been successful or lucky or not, or are rich or poor or somewhere between, gratitude is something we can choose to nurture within. We can then choose to share our sense of gratitude by giving to others.


A Special Christmas Present

The whole thing of getting and giving presents, Christmas stockings, et al, isn’t really in the Bible. What is in the Bible though is living a generous life –
inviting people to share a meal with you,
helping someone who is in need,
being kind to strangers
giving to others

The origin of Santa Claus was this European bishop called Nicholas. Probably the best known story about him is when the poor tailor couldn’t afford the money necessary for his daughters’ weddings [he had 3 daughters!]. So Nick, quietly so no one would notice, climbed to the top of the tailor’s roof and dropped a bag of gold down the chimney.

Nick was generous. The tailor’s daughters were grateful.

Nowadays at Christmas time it seems most people want to be a tailor’s daughter and receive a nice present; and not many want to be a Nick – giving and getting nothing in return.

This year I received a special present when a group of people came and gave their time helping me move house. Apart from feeling very grateful it made me feel like helping others in similar circumstances.


Walking in the Woods with God

A friend of mine in Canada, his name is Tom, shared this story with me:

A man wants to take his children out to the woods to experience nature, to enjoy creation and find a connection to God in it. He and his kids walk through the woods with the kids talking and stomping in streams, breaking dead sticks, kicking the leaves on the forest floor. Birds scatter at their approach and there is no other wildlife to be seen. The man, on several occasions, admonishes his kids to stop making so much noise so they can enjoy the sounds of the forest. The kids try but they just can't do it for more than a few seconds at a time. The man becomes increasingly frustrated and returns home with his kids feeling angry that the connection he sought and wanted to share with his kids couldn't be found. He tries this several times - hoping that, this time, the kids will be able to be silent and enjoy the sounds of nature. Each time he is frustrated and eventually gives up on his quest to encounter God in creation with his kids present. The walks continue. Then, as he is walking with his kids, talking and crunching and splashing their way through the woods he realizes that God has been screaming at him the whole time - through the conversations with his kids, the time together, in the splashing in the streams, in the crunching of the leaves and, yes, even in the scattering of the wildlife as they approached. The surprise of God was that God was present the whole time, just not where
the man was looking.



Letter from Isabelle: Is Jesus alive?

Dear Revd Glynn,

Is Jesus still alive?

Love from Isabelle.

Dear Isabelle,

The answer is no and yes. Let me explain.

Jesus was born about 2,012 years ago and he died about 1,979 years ago. He was a real man, made of real bones, skin, and flesh and blood. When he died all that real bones, skin and stuff died too. There is no real flesh and blood Jesus hiding in heaven or anywhere else.

However there is more to us, and more to Jesus, than just bones, skin, and flesh and blood. The most ‘real thing’ about Jesus was his love and his vision for how he wanted life to be. That ‘real thing’ lived on in his followers after he died. That ‘real thing’ still lives on in people who try to love as he did, and try to make the world a place similar to his vision.

This is what many people in the Church understand by the word resurrection. It wasn’t that the real bones, skin and stuff of Jesus came back to life and continued walking around in Palestine for the next so many years. Or that the real bones, skin and stuff of Jesus continues walking around on earth or up in the clouds somewhere. Rather resurrection is a way of talking about how the real love and vision of Jesus lives on within his followers, and sometimes even within people who aren’t his followers but love anyway.