Archive for May, 2022

‘Beyond Boundaries’

Posted: May 31, 2022 in Uncategorized

‘Beyond Boundaries’

I think that our readings today are that we need to listen the Pentecost Spirit more keenly. That what our present religious situation calls for first of all is not a set of updated creedal affirmations, like new statements of faith, or new phrases to govern our thinking by but rather something prior: something like an unconditional commitment to veracity, and to authenticity and to what, to the best of our knowledge, corresponds with our reality. Our theology and response to the call of the sacred needs to be contextual and real on the ground of living. That is the most pertinent answer, (for those who are inclined to ask,) to the question, “What would Jesus do?” His parables and aphorisms are expressions of his own vision of reality and of what that reality implied for him and his contemporaries and called upon them to do about the way they think and the way they live. Basing our faith and life on what is our reality is, in that sense, to do what Jesus would do, even if that leads us to understand ourselves and our world in ways that never occurred to him. An unconditional commitment to veracity and authenticity is the narrow gate that will admit us to terrain where we will be able to identify the meaning that can nourish our spirits in a new axial age. We need to manifest the bizarre hope of the gospel not as a recitation of statements or a protection of some sort of historical truth. The gospel and the church and the faith community doesn’t need protection it needs risking within this time and place

Richard Dawkins says it is the root of all evil. Christopher Hitchens says it poisons everything. Both were talking about religion. And they are not alone in their ‘evangelical nontheistic’ comments. Alongside this is another approach and that is one that I have argued for. It is in John Seel’s, book on the millennial generation called the New Copernicans. His argument is  that the Atheistic argument is just one position amongst a bigger picture. That, if one is to examine the history of Christian thought and practice one would see that at least over the last two thousand and more years there have been indications that thinking has evolved; not in a linear fashion but in a more spherical, spiral or chaotic manner. I think this is an indication of how that which we name God works for us. Some traditional and ancient thinking has prevailed and been modified and other thinking has been super-ceded and cast aside. Most scholars today will have a list of people they cite as resource for their thinking. There have also been many popular books written about preaching these positions. My attempt back in 2019, with the New Copernican series was to argue that the complexity of thought is best addressed by accepting that experience has and is a major influence upon what we think. In other words to choose one truth is to buy into an unhelpful extremism. As one Australian newspaper columnist said some time back now; “The swelling of atheist literature is a reaction to a worldwide rise in fundamentalist religion. But in kicking back at extremism, the bestselling atheists don’t discriminate between mainstream faith and the loony fringe.  It’s religion itself they object to”. Being in the so-called religion business we need to be aware of these author’s thoughts because reality is not that simple. It is not governed by pluralistic either-or notions.  Thought is more complex in its nature and cannot be contained within simple boundaries. Look at the most recent discoveries are propositions that the brain works in multi universal networking. Think about the impact on our understanding of collective consciousness and pan psychism this can have.

Today, in the traditional lectionary of the church, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. The so-called ‘birthday’ of the Christian church, even though scholars of any repute would claim the traditional story is the result of Luke’s own literary imagination, rather than an historical report. On the other hand, today in progressive church circles Pentecost also carries another title: That of Pluralism Sunday. A day that is given over to being thankful for religious diversity.

We might note here that in the emerging approach to sacred and secular as dichotomies’ the secular world, can be said to be a world of inclusive spirituality, pluralism itself is almost a non-event. In the so noted decline in belief of God is a rise in the search for an authentic spirituality. While less and less people attend church mor and more appear to believe in that which we name God. The main issue is that it is not just two paths it is multi path environment. Meta narratives and common thinking is no longer of value.

This brings me to the core challenge in this sermon, that of the exclusive boundaries we have established as children of our tradition, our past and some might say the exclusiveness of the closed transcendent position or the exclusive fixed supernatural position I spoke of in the series on the New Copernicans. Remember this is a challenge to the super – natural claims not the God is real or not issue. I want to again challenge our thinking by introducing the science faith connection, the imagination verses real dilemma and lastly but not least, the John D Caputo’s suggestion that God does not exist but rather insists and I acknowledge Caputo’s work in developing what is known as a weak theology, or a God who is to be found in the weak and not the strong, in the vulnerable and not the mighty, in the inverse power of vulnerability and perhaps in the foolishness of the cross or the folly of loving one’s enemies, turning the other cheek and so forth. This is a big challenge because we find it hard to let go of the transcendent or more importantly to re-imagine it as less about over and above, and outside and in control of and more about a God in and through everything in and outside of reality. A new sort of panentheism. I do however deviate from J D Caputo when he suggests we need to create a theology of ‘perhaps’ in that I prefer the word ‘almost’ because I want to express and make a claim for a somewhat less benign and more positive hope filled stance. God is the ‘almost’ which to me means God exists but not in the traditional way we think and that God is found as the ‘almost; the not yet, but the sure to be, the weak, vulnerable God at the mercy of humanity and the serendipitous and randomness reality of evolution. Yet the God that is surely in the ‘almost’. The hope of the God with us is to be found in the God who may not arrive but is almost here. Here I think also is the New Testament Kingdom of God that is yet to come and is also within you. About now I am wondering if you sense the exclusive boundaries, I am asking you to examine and look beyond?

Last week I spoke a little three years ago and last week about prayer and after the service three years ago a person asked me “Then why do we pray?” My reply was that we pray because we are human and we need to put into language our thinking. J D Caputo in answering a similar question suggested that his book could be thought of a faithful prayer to God. So, what if our God as ‘almost’ is actually an element of prayer? What if we believe in prayer, we are people of prayer? We are praying all the time and we are deadly serious about this because while we don’t think prayer is a conversation with a theistic interventionist all powerful transcendent God, we do pray to be able to honour the serendipitous chance of an event, event being what the name invokes. Event as the dynamic relational energy or ground of the sacred. We are praying for the possibility of the impossible, the ‘perhaps’ as Caputo puts it and the ‘almost’ that I prefer. Prayer is the precariousness itself it is an engagement with the unexpected and we invoke prayer and grace in the name of God and sure, our language and vocabulary might challenge the traditionally pious because of the lack of religious jargon because it is always necessary to have an ‘almost’ when it comes to God. It has to have a cloud of unknowing and uncertainty over all divine matters if we are to move out of the closed transcendent limitedness. And to put it bluntly, there is no God except insofar as there is a chance of an event, which we cannot see coming and I would add has the expectation of an ‘almost’. One could say that God is the unforeseeable come-what-may which may be the grace of a new beginning. Here we also have the insistence of God as the insistence of the event or the serendipitous chance of the event and the corresponding faith that God can happen anywhere at any-time. I know God can exist because I know I am involved in that existence. God is always almost here. Always insisting.

To finish today we might take another look at the interfaith issue. It is the case that in recent years two American based groups have been at the forefront of the church’s attempt at keeping up with this change in thinking. One, is the Westar Institute Known initially as the Jesus Seminar and the other, The Centre for Progressive Christianity. In an interview back in 2006/7 the coordinator of a Progressive Project, Revd Jim Burklo, said there were three general ways in which religions relate to each other: The first is (i) Exclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is correct, and all other religions are wrong, at best, and evil, the worst… The second is (ii) Inclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is the only true one, but yours is interesting. So we should tolerate each other’s religions and find ways to cooperate and communicate… And the third is (ii) Pluralism, the idea that my religion is good for me and your religion may turn out to be as good for you as mine is for me. I quote Jim Burklo: “pluralism is the concept that there are multiple loci of truth and salvation among the religions. [It] does not imply that all religions are the same or that all religions are equal; but it does recognize the possibility that my way is not the only way and that my religion is not necessarily superior to yours” (Burklo. TCPC web site, Pluralism Sunday, 2007).

In saying that I think it is almost redundant to say what I just quoted. Redundant in the sense that the focus on differences has been part of our culture for some years now and we have moved on because we are now asking if it is important to recognize the difference in order to reach harmony and just an acceptance of the differences or is it time to recognize the things that hold us together, the things that are as far as we can tell intrinsically human. It is also a challenge to change when differences become the primary goal of the search for a way forward together. Again the issue is not whether god exists or not but rather about the definition of the sacred or the God we create.  This is about authenticity and not about fact or absolutes.

We might ask what some churches have been doing on pluralism Sunday and we might see that some years back First Congregational Church, Long Beach: has had an Islamic leader as the preacher; Christ Community Church, Spring Lake: had studied the book ‘The faith club’ – a book by three women, a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian – They sought to find common ground on which to share their faiths; University Place Christian Church, Enid: had used multiple languages to express the wisdom of different world religions in worship; And Mizpah United Church of Christ and Beth Shalom (Reformed Jewish), Minneapolis:  had a ‘pulpit’ exchange between faiths. Some years back at St David’s in Auckland we too had an Islamic scholar preach but the question might be; what has this done for interfaith relations in our daily lives?

Some years back now His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, visited Canberra and the people were told that the Dalai Lama advises his lamas who travel to different countries not to emphasize the teaching of Buddhism too much,
as trying to convert people may not only fail but could also weaken their faith in their own religion. He said that it’s better to encourage those who believe in something, to deepen their own faith. “The point isn’t to convert people, but to contribute to their well-being” (Ian Lawton. 3C/Christ Community Church web site, 2007).

The Dalai Lama said that he didn’t go to the West to make one or two more Buddhists, but simply to share his experiences of the wisdom that Buddhism has developed over the centuries.  He said that if you find anything, I’ve said useful, make use of it.  Otherwise just forget it” (Quoted in Ian Lawton, Christ Community Church, 2007).

In response, someone said: “Now there’s a balanced attitude to east/west dialogue.  I can just hear a new form of Christian evangelism – which states ‘This is our tradition.  This is what it has meant for us.  If you find it useful, use it.  If Christianity contributes to the well-being of people, and contributes to world peace by inter-faith relations, then take and apply it.  Otherwise, just forget it…” (Ian Lawton).

And then Ian Lawton who was vicar at St Matthews in Auckland some years back concludes, “This is the attitude which will give Christianity a bright future. It should come as no surprise to us.  This was also the way of Jesus” (Ian Lawton). While another wrote: “In a time of religious tension, and in what I see as increasing tribalism, when Christians think the only way to peace is to convert Muslims to Christianity and when Muslims think the only way to peace is to convert Christians to Islam, I think Jesus would shout: ‘Enough!  Convert yourselves!  Listen and discover the better way’” (John Shuck. Shuck&Jive blog site, 2007)

And again that same cleric says; “I am a Christian.  Christianity is unique and it has much to offer our world.  But being unique does not necessarily mean being right or being the only way to be.  Hinduism is also unique, as is Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Wicca, Native [Aboriginal] religions, you name it.  We all have truths and shortcomings.  We all have something to offer.  We all have something to learn from one another.  Maybe Pentecost is a great day to listen to the Spirit’s voice present in other traditions as well as our own” (John Shuck)

So here we are celebrating Pentecost, saying that we need to break through exclusive boundaries and embrace not only other religions and honour them at a deep level of respect and openness but also and perhaps more importantly, break through the exclusive boundaries that separate us from the secular and worldy world or ambiguity, uncertainty of serendipity and discover the weak power of that which we name God the foolish power of the cross perhaps. The boundaries we have erected over time do not exist as immovable unhealthy support systems unless we leave them unchallenged. Pluralism Sunday is about letting the world of newspaper columnists and TV producers and the neighbours with whom you chat over the back fence, know there are Christians who are unafraid of uncertainty, unafraid to live humbly, unafraid of the hard questions, and there are Christians who challenge the exclusive dogmatism of fundamentalism be they conservative or liberal or even radical.and the churches who claim Christianity is religiously superior.

The challenge of this is that there is a way to be authentically and particularly religious, involved and immersed in a religious culture, and to practice a specific religion and path, but…“if you go all the way with that, you will discover that we all end up on the top of the same mountain [with]… brothers and sisters of other faiths who have done the same sort of thing” (Burklo, TCPC). If the exclusive boundaries remain un-challenged we will all fit in one box and be shelved. It is just possible that the church decline is due to our conformity, apathy and blind fear of difference.

So, let us this Pentecost, commit ourselves to a honouring each other’s minds, asking the hard questions of each other, and together explore what the human potential might look like. Let us seek an authentic faith path which both encourages participation in the Way with others who think differently from us. They are our neighbours. Amen.

’Sacred Like Us?’

Posted: May 24, 2022 in Uncategorized

’Sacred Like Us?’

The Revised Common Lectionary reading from John this week gives us a portion of a prayer by Jesus. It is thought to be the culmination of his farewell discourse to his disciples In the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday.  Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet, foreseen Judas’s betrayal, predicted Peter’s denial, promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, and suggested that it might be that time is running out. 

In the final moments before his arrest, he “looks toward heaven and prays.”  This prayer is commonly known as part of the high priestly prayer and by some as the other Lord’s Prayer — the one we haven’t memorized and recited on Sunday mornings.  It’s certainly not polished and poetic like the “Our Father.”  It doesn’t flow, or cover its bases efficiently.  It’s long, rambling, and rather hard to follow.  And though the disciples are meant to overhear the words, Jesus’s tone has an urgency and passion that is achingly private.  It seems that here Jesus isn’t engaging in a teaching moment with this Prayer; he’s rather rending his heart.

A Debbie Thomas of a blog called Journey with Jesus wrote that she sat with the words of this lectionary reading for a long time waiting to see what words and phrases would stand out. She says that she didn’t expect anything to come and was surprised when the words ‘I ask’ leapt out at her. I was reminded as I read this that that is the way Jesus lived. He asked the questions, His answer to many requests was another question. He very seldom gave an answer and if he did it was always followed up with a question.

In Debbie’s case the question she was encouraged to ask was “What does it mean that Jesus spends his final moments with his friends in humble, anxious supplication?”  We have the Jesus who healed the sick and fed the hungry and raised the dead, and we might ask; “What does it mean that that same Jesus ends his ministry by asking into uncertainty?  Hoping into doubt?  Trusting into danger?

It seems that in an outpouring of words and emotions, Jesus asks God to do for his followers what he himself cannot do.  To be for people in spirit what he can no longer be for us in body. “May they be in us,” he prays. May they all be one.  May they know the love that founded the world.  May they see the glory of God. This is less about calling for a supernatural God above, to do the magic Jesus can’t do and more about his acknowledgement that in and through the unity of humankind the more than, the Spirit and source of transformation is in the admitting of one’s limitations and accepting the life of uncertainty.

In his book entitled, Tokens of Trust, Rowan Williams, describes the strangeness and wonder of this Jesus who prays: “Yes, Jesus is a human being in whom God’s action is at work without interruption or impediment.  But wait a moment: the Jesus we meet in the Gospels is someone who prays, who speaks of putting his will and his decisions at the service of his Father.  He is someone who is in a relationship of dependence on the one he prays to as Father.  In him there is divine purpose, power, and action; but there is also humility, responsiveness, and receptivity.” Williams is acknowledging the importance of Jesus as revelation of divine purpose and power and action and he is a human being who lives with humility and uncertainty. Is tis an example of his working out the ‘I am” or “the yet to be” or as I might say, “the Almost” or God as verb rather than noun?

Do we know this Jesus, the one who pleads so earnestly?  We can very likely say that we know the Jesus who teaches, heals, resurrects, and feeds because our tradition has developed this, over hundreds of years.  But do we know this Jesus?  This vulnerable one who in this passage does the single hardest thing a friend, a lover, a spouse, a parent, a child, a teacher, a pastor ever does? It sounds harsh but in recognizing his limitations, his humanity this Jesus sends his cherished ones into a treacherous, divisive, broken world on nothing but a hope and a prayer?  Another way of saying this is to say that he entrusts the treasures of his heart to the vast mystery that is intercession? Is this another way of saying “living the resurrection”? or “invoking the Holy Spirit”?

Put yourself in Jesus place and you might be saying to your God, “I don’t know what you will do with my asking.  I don’t know how or when or if you will answer this prayer.  I can’t force your hand.  But I am staking my life and the lives of my loved ones on your goodness, because there’s literally nothing more I can do on my own. I have come to the end of what this aching love of mine can hold and guard and save.  I am asking how this love of mine can become the embodiment of that love”.

To me this seems to be asking us to ask what role prayer plays in our world, a world rife with tragedy, injustice, and oppression? Is this prayer of Jesus in his circumstances, the immanent arrival of his possible demise or imprisonment, reminding us to ask the hardest questions we can think of about God — questions we don’t know how to answer. Does God intervene directly in human affairs? Does his intervention — or lack of it — depend in any way on our asking? Is this God actually an interventionist God? Can prayer “change” God? Big questions yet questions that need to be asked if we are to be responsible human beings. But let’s put those down for a bit and return to the place Jesus finds himself in.

We have in traditional words “the immanence of Christ taking leave of the Apostles”. This is the situation of our text meaning and as many could perhaps say our beliefs about prayer have changed a lot over the years. Many of us were raised to believe that God intervenes very directly in human affairs, and that intercessory prayer has powerful and undeniable “real world” effects. As a child, we might have believed with all our heart that prayer heals diseases, prevents car accidents, feeds hungry children in far-away countries, fends off nightmares, prevents premature death, and “stops the bad guys.”

As a teen and young adult for many of us, much of that certainty collapsed under the weight of life experience — some diseases didn’t get better, car accidents happened, we have nightmares, babies starved, young people died, and “bad guys” won the day.  When we asked our elders to explain these discrepancies, some gave us two answers: The first is that we need to pray with more faith, and the second is that sometimes God’s answer is no. Both of those answers might have struck us then — and now — as too simple to be true or alternatively pretty lame. Intellectual credibility or the lack of it is emptying the pews.

Today, we live along the borders of a more complicated world. we have friends and family members who pray for parking spots, lost house keys, Rugby victories, and Grammar Zone admissions for our children. But we also have friends who avoid intercessory prayer on principle, convinced that the true purpose of prayer has nothing to do with asking God “for stuff.” In their words: “He’s God.  Not Santa Claus.” While not perhaps making that dualistic response, I can identify with the questions about intercessory prayer. I remember being challenged at Knox that intercessory prayer should not contain requests for what i think other people need. That made interceding for others very difficult.

It seems that the challenge of intercessory prayer is that it’s subjective. What looks like God’s “yes” in our eyes might easily look like God’s “no,” God’s silence, or even God’s non-existence in other eyes. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, “The meaning we give to what happens in our lives is our final, inviolable freedom.” When is an “answer to prayer” really an answer? When is it coincidence? Randomness? A trick of the light? The truth is that we can’t say for sure. Not in this lifetime at least. Not without losing our freedom to avoid a simplistic answer.

So why do we pray?  One answer is that we pray because we are compelled to do so. Because something in us cries out for engagement, relationship, attentiveness, and worship. Albert Moore of Dunedin wrote that five things make up any religious system, Ceremonial, or rites with sacred objects, Devotional, or utterances with experiences, Educational, or stories and discourses, Regulation, or principles with penalties and rewards, Organisational or concerns for origins.

We pray because our soul yearns for connection with an, Other, whom many of us name God, and other just engage with without naming and it seems that, that connection is best forged in prayer. With words, without words, through laughter, through tears, in hope, and in despair, prayer holds open the possibility that we are not alone, and that this broken, aching world isn’t alone, either. We pray, as C.S Lewis writes, “because I can’t help myself.” Because “the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping.” Tau Malachi might say we pray because only we can as the means of embodying the dive purpose and activity. Being responsible as the co-creating ’I am”.

Well, here we have a reasonable answer. But maybe this week’s Gospel reading offers us another one: Maybe we pray because Jesus did.  We ask because Jesus asked.  Asking is perhaps the last thing he did before his arrest.  The last tender memory he bequeathed to his friends.  He didn’t awe them with a grand finale of miracles.  Neither did he contemplate their futures and despair.  In traditional words we might say; He looked towards heaven with a trembling heart, and surrendered his cherished ones to God. He was as uncertain as the rest of us. He was a very real human being. He was the Son of Man and the Son of God because he was both. Sounds a bit like us does he not?

A final line this morning might be to say that he asked questions because he loved too much not to.  What better way to walk the Jesus Way than by honouring the mind’s ability to find the questions that matter, to live the questions because that acknowledges the uncertainty that is only recognised through the questioning and to explore the adventure of being human with humility and courage because that is what Jesus did. Amen.

‘Sustained by What Could Be’

In recent times it has been evident that some churches have succumbed to human greed and control once again. It would be fair to day that there is evidence that in some cases religion has been captured by the; ‘Blessed are the greedy’ distortion. And we are reminded of Sally McFague’s comment some years back when she said that “Given the many differences among religions on doctrines and practice, it is remarkable to find such widespread agreement at the level of economics”. The blind adherence to modern economic theory has been exposed by crashes and pandemics as fraught with manipulation and assumptions.  Her comments I thought were again an ideal intro into my topic for today which is that having a vision is important but sustaining it is the hard bit and probably the most important bit. It is also an acknowledgement that sustaining it is never easy because it has to battle against the visions that are already in place. Look at the slowness of the world to grasp that climate change is a human responsibility. Look at the recent governments attempt to implement a wellbeing culture. Already such visions are competing with visions of affordable housing, or the dilemma of the construction industry as well as printing money induced inflation. Blessed are the greedy could be battling with blessed are the incompetent or maybe it’s the system that is at fault. These are visions of a better world that seem to be competing.

One of the things that has come to mind in the last few years in the church is the need for a sustainable mission vision. Questions such as why does a congregation exist? What is the church’s purpose have been at the forefront or at the base of our thinking about our future but on the tip of our tongue has been the need for a sustainable vision of what we would like to aspire to. So, it seems to me that it is appropriate and timely that our gospel story this morning, is centered on the importance of being sustained by a vision of what might be. It is appropriate, because as someone once said; “in the absence of a vision there is nightmare; in the absence of compassion there is cancer. I will not say it but it could be said that we might know this well given our experience.

Our biblical storyteller says Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem, by the pool or mineral spring of Bethesda. Around the pool, in arcades, lay a variety of invalids. Jesus picked out one particular man who’d been siting there for 38 years or so. And the dialogue goes something like this:

  • What would need to happen for you to proclaim yourself well?
  • Hang on mate. It’s not my fault. There’s no one to help me into the water at the right time.
  • You’re right! Your sickness is not your fault. Pick up your mat and walk.

That’s our biblical story.

The invitation is to ponder the proposition that this is not a story about a so-called physical miracle, but rather a story about a political – economic – religious situation as well as a vision or world view on life. What part does religion play in politics, economics etc. might be questions being faced here?

Being content with, or trapped on, one’s ‘mat’ may seem, after 38 years or so, fairly fixed. fairly secure, authentic, settled and safe, but it is an extremely limited and limiting world view that one gets from that same mat.

The challenge or vision given the man by John’s Jesus was for him to want to move beyond those limits… To want to re-imagine the world from a different perspective, from a different experience, with a different vision. To become whole. And we all know that that was and is a bit of a challenge!

New insight or vision is always at odds with the old way of looking at things. All the more so when those old ways leave people, physically malnourished or hysterically disabled. It is pretty certain that each of you could name someone else for whom it might be beneficial to either hear this sermon or receive a printed or email copy of it. And, while that all may be very well and good, each of us needs to be encouraged to remember these stories are also for us – now. The challenge here is to resist projecting away on to others the challenge we find. How do we do this?

Well maybe we could start with Jesus’ words and his interaction with others. We might see that what he says and does bears witness to a re-imagined world. A new vision. A new consciousness. A new way of being in the world.

We might then see that by connection, we might be being asked to examine when the structures and dominant theology of our wider church helps keep people ‘sick’ or ‘stuck in their condition’ rather than offering new life, a re-imagined world. How might what the church expects of us to be and do removes the risk of re-imagining with Jesus that his world will work, and be a safe place. Brandon Scott put this as having Faith with Jesus rather than faith in Jesus. A traditional way of saying this might be to be about confessing our own sharing in that sickness at times…

Charles Campbell, in his book, The Word Before the Powers, wonders that if one of the ways the Principalities and Powers, the Systems of Domination, keep us under their thumb is by keeping us busy, tired, and diverted. I might add with a non- authentic, non-sustainable vision.

We become numbed to the call of Jesus to serve God and serve the hurting because we don’t have time. We slip into blaming the victim. he or she isn’t taking the opportunities, he or she is lazy, too easily led or can’t help themselves. We come home after work and collapse in front of the TV until it is time to go to bed and repeat the process all over again. Weekends are when we want to get out of town or do something else. They are our escape times. So, we live life to the minimum. And we say we want change when we actually want to remain the same – but the most difficult bit is that we want to feel better about it.

We know that to get up and follow Jesus will involve us in people’s lives in ways we’re not sure we want, because to be whole means to be re-membered, re-connected with the thing we name God and with God’s people and God’s creation. No more isolation. No more living my own private life where no one bothers me. It’s an either-or thing, simple and clear but the trouble is that it’s not based on anything sustainable theologically or spiritually. To be whole means to get off of the couch and get involved. It means to work our buts off, often doing behind the scenes work that is tedious and overlooked. We know that to walk out of the door and say, “Here, am I Jesus! Send me!” is an invitation to maybe getting crucified like Jesus.

As Dan Berrigan has said, “If you’re going to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood, because that is where you’ll end up.” We know all of that, so maybe our couches and our pallets don’t look so bad.

It is no wonder then that so many churches are still on the pallet. No wonder so many of us are reticent about being made whole. And no wonder we have neither the courage nor the will nor the energy to say, “No!” to the many ways the systems grind us all down. No wonder we are reluctant to say “Yes!” to Jesus who was later seen as the Messiah and of course as the Christ when Greek culture became the basis and when the embodiment of his Abundant Life became the issue of sustainability.

In our story, this man has the guts to be whole. He takes a deep breath and nods to Jesus, “Yes, I want to be whole, healed and well. I know it will take time Jesus. I know it will take work and lots of unlearning old pain-filled habits accumulated over 38 years, and learning new habits. I know it is not going to be easy, but yes, Jesus, make me a whole person.”

And Jesus does. No questions asked. No stipulations. No checking to see if he is truly deserving or not. Jesus just heals him. Grace. And the man picks up his mat and walks out of the door to new life. To wholeness. Jesus gives him a personal vision of a new world, a new future filled with new possibilities.

A prayer for today might be let us likewise be empowered and blessed by the grace that we belong to a wider community of faith that is not static but dynamic; that is not set in concrete, but ever-changing. For such a community reflects the creative and ever-evolving nature of the one we name God4 beyond our feeble church structures, economic theories and strategically and logistically imprisoned visions.

And maybe we could say that such a God is always present in all our faith adventures. John D Caputo might say that that is the insistence that is God at work. But it seems clear that along with those who, with the one we call Jesus, we too can re-imagine the world in an outward embracing of all beings. Even the 38-year member who can’t see the wood for the trees, who can’t see the possibilities of a reimagined life. Can be changed and see a new vision to live by or with.

It is important to be sustained by a vision of what might be. It is also important to check out what shapes that vision. And if what shapes our vision tends to exclude some by benefiting others, or erect walls rather than include all, then maybe that ‘vision’ needs to be questioned. Does our vision for a sustainable church go far enough? Does it in include the poor or just the elite? Is our special character or what we bring, actually healing and supporting and changing the world or is it just about us gaining some benefit?

It has also been said stories can be ‘dangerous’. Whether this biblical story in our text today is of an actual event or the invention of the storyteller, it is a ‘dangerous’ story, because it challenges us at the chore of our being. Are we doing the right thing here in this place and is that right thing for the wellbeing of people or about keeping the organisation going? Is our mission vision sustainable not just in terms of monetary concern but also in terms of community, wellbeing? Will it change things for the better? And we remember, that that challenge also goes for our country’s budget economics, is our wellbeing budget big enough, sustainable enough, does it include as well the possibility of a just and sustainable planet, which incidentally is being hailed as the ‘great’ work of the 21st century to which all human endeavour is called. Or is it going to succumb to the economic theories that are under pressure. Is Pilate here again? Is our vision sustainable in the face of systems that would have it go away because it is dangerous? Dangerous because it will deprive the elite or the ones who have the power and control. Dangerous because it has the ability to change things? Amen.

‘Unexplored Tomorrows’

Posted: May 11, 2022 in Uncategorized

‘Unexplored Tomorrows’

When the progressive Christian movement began to pick up a following there was an attempt to define its goals. To their credit they did come up with 8 points of identification that a global organization of Progressives might claim.

I guess by now you will also have gleaned that I have spent some time in my last parish ministry searching for something a progressive congregation might say about itself today. I hope that you have been able to recognise this struggle in the services I take. I am not claiming anything like perfection but I do try to be consistent theologically and to apply the thinking to the fact that while words are transitional in nature the conceptual change and challenge is there.

Despite a loathing for labels, I have said that what makes a Progressive Christian, a PC as opposed to a traditional or mainstream or liberal of conservative or any other definition is that in following Jesus a progressive Christian is able to discern one of many ways in which the sacred might be understood and he or she can see the oneness and unity of all life. A PC can see that while the bible is essential as the story of Jesus, they can draw from many other sources in their spiritual journey. They can see that all people regardless of their differences are to be included in community because they believe that actions toward others are the fullest expression of what we believe.

I wrote a poem that speaks of this that I will share it in the hope that you might feel the essence of this sense of oneness I am talking about.

The truth is that I need you as the other

I need you to ask me why I care for you this way.

I need you to wonder how I could smile every day.

The truth is that I need you as the other

The truth is that you make my life worthy

Having you around makes my day smooth and easy.

Without you it is hard for me to end a day fulfilled.

The truth is that you make my life worthy

The truth is that you give me reason to love

Without you I cannot say “I’ve loved you since the day I met you.”

I cannot stare at you from afar and know the deep feelings that rend me silent.

The truth is that you give me reason to love

The truth is that without you I cannot love

In you I see the stories of the one you meet

You share the love you have known that stops my heart from beating.

You speak of happiness with a smile that makes me weep with joy

The truth is that without you I cannot love.

The truth is that I need you as the other

I need to be able to say, “I could be the one that loves you like you love me.

There’s nothing I would do better than to be able to keep it this way,

Wishing that you would know all the secrets I’ve kept,

Especially those that have kept our friendship sure and true.

The truth is that I need you as the other.

PC people are also people who place more value in asking questions than accepting absolutes not as a denial of absolutes but rather as a recognition of their limited nature, and they are people who strive for a peace created by justice as opposed to victory. Winning and getting revenge are not part of a healthy progressive nature. PCs are a people who seek to restore the integrity of our planet and commit to a life long journey of learning, of acting compassionately and of a selfless loving. Of course these are goals or aspirations that will never be complete, or as my title suggests a people who see life as the experience of unexplored tomorrows.

To that end then, I want to talk about being a progressive, healthy congregation, and I want to do this from what I think is most likely to have come from Jesus of Nazareth.
The reading I have chosen to speak from is a saying from Thomas about ‘new wine’ and old wineskins’, that appears in every gospel – except John.  What is significant is that this is a saying and that it is found in the Gospel of Thomas, a gospel most likely to have been earlier as a selection of sayings of Jesus. Biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar, suggest that it is probably the most authentic version of these sayings.

“Nobody drinks aged wine and immediately wants to drink young wine.  Young wine is not poured into old wineskins, or they might break, and aged wine is not poured into a new wineskin, or it might spoil…”

We could embark on a short course in winemaking or wine appreciation but as I have said I want to explore briefly, a metaphorical image about being a congregation. And, I want to claim that saying this raises a very important question: can we leave our communal religious life in old vessels, or do we can embrace new theological understandings and new church practice, as we continue to evolve as a Congregation.

I don’t know about you but I have heard stories that affirm an emerging expression of what we might call church in its first stages of development. It might even be said that it comes out of the work being done by PC people to find the earliest expression of church and begin again but it might also be a quest to find an ecclesiology and a hermeneutical framework for today. What seems to be universal is essentially people gathering to journey together in the search for an understanding of human spirituality and how that is to be expressed in real places where real people co-exist. With the ethnic, religious faith and cultural differences, the world is a place like no other has seen or been before. So much so that it seems absolutely arrogant, insensitive and downright ludicrous to assume that we know what our world needs by way of response. For the church as we know it to say that if only people would join us we could help is a benign statement at best and an alienating pompous arrogance at worst.

I poked my computer nose at the general assembly on line recently and heard a little of our church’s attempt to train leaders for this new world where all the old ideas of what Church is and how to do church are no longer considered helpful. The writing on the wall is clear. The way we do things, the way we do church is not working. The time spent and the struggle of the PCANZ to find a way forward is very sad. The decline is no longer just the result of looking at statistics it has become our way of life, so what is the point of continuing to do it the way we have always done it. The difficulties loom large here also, not least is the question; can we, who are the church make and resource the changes that are needed. Do we have too much invested in the way we are to make the changes required?  Again, in light of my title to this sermon “Unexplored tomorrows”, there are some huge challenges for us to consider.

Just some of those challenges are what do we mean by ‘membership, is the centrality of worship essential, do we need to own property? The assumption that we have a model of community that works, the assumption that the way we manage our lives is helpful but is it? And that’s just to name a few issues we need to consider. And let’s be clear it will not be easy to contribute to this new thing, this emerging church so to speak. I remembered the sermon David Clark gave at my induction to my last parish in 2001. He was eluding to this matter from an institutional aspect but what he was suggesting is unfolding further today. The church world has changed and the task to put it crudely is to change or die. The next question is of course the same as it was then. How? How do we change given that the way we engage with life, the way we value the important, isn’t the way we value our lives bound up in the fact that the way we do things now and where we do it is part of who we are.

Like many other congregations in the Church, many of us are part of a smaller congregation, membership-wise, than we were in the past. Things like ‘heritage’ and ‘nostalgia’, ‘honouring the past people, all come to the fore, but the reality remains. We are not what we were in terms of being a congregation and being involved in the community of our day. The word has changed around us. And like many other congregations we have not stood idle and given up on the future. Most of us are a future oriented people and I think courageous people who have given towards creating a better future. And I am not stroking any backs here, I genuinely believe that people are ready to give their all including their buildings, their hearts and souls into the future. And just like many others they want to do this well. I am encouraged when I hear young people talking about making the world a better place. I was a little saddened to be reminded of an attempt to plant a parish school being lamented by some. It was agreed that this was sadly a vision of the possible that the institution was unable to risk because the change would be too difficult to manage. I sensed a bit of this institutional fear on line at the General Assembly too.

I can remember from many years back meetings talking about innovative learning hubs where the future church could be explored, nurtured, tested and developed free from the rules, regulations and order that our current institution is bound to, shaped by and maintained with. This for me affirmed and encouraged my thinking. We spoke of learning centers and a school was and is seen as an expression of such. The mission statement I still adhere to today is that Mission is expressed as honouring the mind, in other words bringing neuroscience, psychology, biology and theology, together as all products of the human mind and our only way to grapple with questions of God. Living the questions, in other words accepting that life is a journey and not a destination, Eternal life is the state we live in and not something away out ahead that we need to capture for ourselves. Life is not black and white, it is not a collection of absolutes, nor is it from a faith perspective finite. Finite perhaps from a biological view but not theologically. Or finite within infinity. And the third part of the motto or mission statement , Explore the adventure of being human. This is a claim that with our minds and bodies we have a unique and valuable contribution to make to the reality as we see it. Being human is an invitation to evolve and it is an adventure like no other and it has a role to play in the picture we have of that which we name God. Our motto of Honour the Mind, Live the questions and explore the adventure of being human expresses the biblical hope of a promised land, a land shared with our God, It expresses the hope of a new world Jesus opened up with his life, and it expresses the confidence in a more complex and better future.

Progressive Christians, as a congregation has also intentionally decided to become a niche congregation, by making itself open to encouraging progressive religious thought,
and living out of its own space. And here I want to challenge some thinking also. Taking the energy sapping issues around buildings and demolitions and political machinations out of the equation, becoming a so-called progressive congregation has been and can be a successful thing to do. It is well documented in the church that building projects can cause decline, not because of the potential but because of the inevitable conflict that comes with such projects of change. When one takes that factor out of the equation it is probable that an arrest of the decline in membership might happen by attesting to an intellectual creditability and a more real engagement with community. Life is not black and white nor is all bad and in need of redemption. Yes, it is complex and yet it must be lived as it is, and yes, it is a wonderful participatory experience. I want to suggest that we might be able to arrest the decline, even though we will not recognize the outcome because it is hard to see the change and that is because we are subjectively measuring it from an older culture.

Yes, growth might seem small in terms of numbers attending but maybe our influence cannot be measured by old criteria. I can hear all the buts rising up in your minds now but I suggest we might ask those buts where they are coming from?

On the obvious matter of worship… which is a measuring criteria that we use and one that gets in the road of a new thinking we would have to say that the worship service on a Sunday morning is our celebration of Life, and traditionally is the hub of our faith community’s life. Community is when we express our togetherness and it is the place where our vital vibrant differences rub shoulders with the least friction. The essence of a faith community is that all the social, political and cultural differences take a back seat to the common inclusive faith setting. What we struggle with is that with the rise of social media, online everything, and electronic communication we have something that we like, something that makes much sense and something that is inevitable taking place that does not replace the human need for engagement with others and I suggest the all-important empathy creation that is vital for human community. The shape of the community might gather differently but it will gather. I think the quality of community depends on empathy building and this is what online or facebook and twitter type community seeks. The difficulty is an authenticity or a credibility as safe, common and resourceful. If there is one thing we do not do well yet it is the online presence and more importantly the online connections. I heard some years back already that the only growth in the business world was in many cases in the online sales. Something like 80% of sales are online in some cases.

My traditional fears were raised the other day when I heard of the world of avatars and a new economy based on NFTs (NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos.)

I want to make the claim that we can offer people an experience that it helpful by reminding ourselves why we are here. That at the core of this gathering is a progressive, inclusive, ‘familial model of what might be termed a faith journey. The challenge for us is to explore newer ways of inviting people to share our discoveries.

What are those discoveries? They are our ‘progressive’ theological underpinnings.
that we think there is more to know and that this is not easy. It doesn’t mean we all think alike.  We have agreed that we would search the idea of progressive religious thought. That single decision has had a huge effect on how a congregation is perceived. What it does is give others ‘permission’ to follow suit. There is a growing ‘progressive’ movement in New Zealand. Not the doing of any one congregation alone, but in partnership with others. The hub of this movement is already nationwide, and like the movement nationwide the progressive theology it is theological based in biblical scholarship, honesty, and integrity. The challenge is the environment where theology is seen as the domain of the academic elite and not of the common people. This says that thinking theologically is different now than in the past and it requires us to imagine what this new understanding implies for worship, for preaching, for prayer. And while not obvious many of us have personally become committed to that future.

The challenge is that like Christianity’s earliest theologian, Paul, we are standing at the intersection of two eras. We are aware of the difference between old and new wineskins, we recognize that we are old wine and that we would break the new skins if we try to put conditions on the new wine yet we know there is a need for new wine and new skins. This is what Progressive theology means. It means an appreciation that we are products of a past that we have to let go of the present if we hope to have a future of ‘unexplored tomorrows’. In this context congregations of faith are crucial for the future, if they do not exist, it will be necessary to invent them like NFTs because a congregations roll role today is not to teach or critique are to lead the way. It is to fill the imaginary hole between the old and the new, perhaps to hold the old wine in the old skins so that the new wine will be free to mature and the new skins to age. The idea of ‘Unexplored tomorrows’ invites us to approach change with confidence, courage and creativity as a congregation on the move.

As a community of people seeking to be inclusive by searching to discern together the transforming presence of God in the world and in our own lives, we Honour the mind, live the questions and explore the adventure of humanity and we discover what this journey is like through reforming and reformed worship, radical hospitality, and open and vulnerable conversation with care” PCs are a community of people open to unexplored possibilities! We have been focusing our resources both human and financial on the future and while we have a diminishing resource the most important is the investment of personal spirit.

If I was to give you a plea today it would be to ask you to realize your, and your gatherings full potential as an agent of change. We are talking the walk and we need to remember to walk the talk!

Everbody’s future is before them and it is filled with both challenge and possibilities.
Our need is to build upon the strengths of our long history, valuing “the richness of that mature wine.  But we must create new wineskins to hold the new wine” (Stinson 2007, FCC, Long Beach web site).

And let’s be clear about our motivation. “We move into that daunting but exhilarating challenge not because it is the expedient thing to do, but in response to a desire to follow the historical Jesus into [all] arenas of human need…” (Stinson 2007, FCC, Long Beach web site).

And at risk of going on too long I offer another you a poem about an ‘Almost God; that does not exist but rather insists.

Almost is about something that is not yet

It is about to be but not yet

Its promise is in it’s all but

And its approximately

Almost is around and as good as

It is bordering on and close to

Always close upon and essentially about

for all practical purposes it is

and for the greatest part too.

Almost is in effect

And in the neighbourhood of

Assured to be in the vicinity of

Yet also just about and mostly

It is much to consider as

near to, nigh and not far from

Almost is not quite yet

on the brink of and at the edge of

It teeters on the point of

on the verge of practically and pretty near

relatively speaking it roughly describes

It substantially and virtually reveals

The well-nigh and within sight of


‘Life as an Evolutionary Me’

As you might have already guessed that in some communities this time is about recognizing the harvest time and about the abundance of nature. It is of course a topic of our everyday as we deal with climate change and its effect on harvests and as we wrestle with the fact of overpopulation of our planet or of blatant disregard for its ability to cope with exponential growth of the number of people on it and how resources are distributed in a fair and just way. Questions of equity and fairness abound in our everyday if we are a thinking person. When I was struggling around trying to find what to say about harvest alongside the reading for today the last time, I preached on these texts the issue became what is there about Shepherds and sheep that can be placed alongside the harvest of grain, produce and things of resource for human life. I played with the idea of metaphor and I thought about what there was in each of these a metaphor that could be universal. In the end I settled for what could be loosely called nature. In the raising and managing the herd and in planting and harvesting the produce there was a sense of a universal food source. And I though perhaps a sense of oneness might be found in this development. I came across an article by William Edelen entitled ‘Exploring the truth of nature’ that interested me, not in its affirmation of what I was thinking but rather as inadequate in the light of where we have already come as ‘Progressive thinkers’. Edelen quoted two writers with statements that I would question strongly. He quoted Thomas Paine as saying; “Men and books lie … only nature never lies.”  And Goethe who said “Nature is always true, only in nature can truth be found”. While I agree that men and books can lie I am not so sure anymore that nature is the only place where truth exists, not because of nature but rather my understanding of truth which I have mentioned before.

Over 100 years ago, Kierkegaard observed that maturity consists in the discovery that “there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot ever be understood.” This “critical moment” of maturity appears in the journey of life when certainties of personal identity and self- worth based in an empirical literal truth evolves to the point where the so called “human wisdom” pales before the wisdom of the integrated scientific cosmic view of nature. In fact, Loren Eiseley, the distinguished Anthropologist and Chair of the Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania wrote that, “There is no such thing as wisdom.” The only “wisdom” there is can be found in nature where the spiritual and the material are one. One might read that as a claim that wisdom is found in the cyclical serendipitous cycle and not in its naming or nature is not a thing but rather a process or a living and dying eventing.

The challenge I think, here, is to wrestle with the idea that only the human (Homo sapien) is special, sacred and made in the image of God. In a conversation I had last week with one of you the issue of any supremacy of the human creature above any other creature was discussed. I suggested that it is only the idea of humans being conscious beings that sets us apart, not in the sense of any distinction, as we have come to understand that many so callen entities have what we call consciousness, even plants etc. Our concern is rather an exclusivity or a higher participatory role within the whole. Traditionally we humans have differentiated between the supernatural and the natural, the sacred and the profane. But if the progressive understanding is to make sense, then the entire cosmos is a revelation and everything, sum total, is natural, sacred and spiritual and reflects the image of that same mystery.

Again, this discussion is not new. Albert Schweitzer wrote “How we delude ourselves, if we think otherwise. When we consider the immensity of the universe, we must confess that man is insignificant. Man’s life can hardly be considered the goal of the universe. Its margin of existence is always so precarious. A man is ethical only when he considers every living cell, whether plant or animal, sacred and divine.”

And Dr. Lewis Thomas, head of New York’s Sloan Kettering research centre said, “Every living thing is alive thanks to the living of everything else. Every form of life is connected. (I might say interconnected to recognise the fluidity of that which we name as ‘self’.) The planet Earth is like a single cell. Homo sapiens is really a very immature and ignorant species in the horrible way it has treated all other living organisms.”

I might want to disagree a little with Thomas in his caricature of humans as an ignorant species and perhaps as an arrogant species despite its record but I suggest that being ignorant or in need of knowing is the lot of an evolutionary participant and as a conscious being, or as it is now put, a co-creator with God in the very creation of the cosmos, we are all manifestations of the Mystery. We are all not that significant being made from the same elements, yet we are crucial for the life of the planet. From the same fund and the same material came every living organism that our consciousness invites us to know. The micro world and the macro world are of the same dust and they breathe the same wind and drink of the same water. Their days are warmed by the same sun and their little hearts or life pulses are just like ours and were created by the same evolutionary fountain. That is a very generalised statement but it makes a point.

This view of reality, of the oneness of everything, long held by native peoples and Eastern sages is today being debated and in many cases confirmed by physicists and astronomers, neuroscientists, anthropoligists, biologists and the like.. “The universe is everything, both living and inanimate things, both atoms and galaxies, and if the spiritual exists, the spiritual and material are one, for the universe is the totality of all things,” wrote Fred Hoyle in Frontiers of Astronomy.

For many thinkers today behind and beyond our senses lies a plane of consciousness in which all is related and all is one and all is now. Everything is united in the Mystery as one, the energy of the sun dancing in a wood-burning fire, a cucumber cucumbering, a flight of geese honking into a north wind, a rising tide crashing and breaking against a resisting beach, a wild stallion, with nostrils bulging the pride of the free racing to his mare, mist covering with affection hemlock and pine, a mountain lion stalking a fresh spore on a mountain trial. It is all one and all natural and all sacred and all divine, and all revealed images of the “great Mystery” behind it all and for some people it is known to us … as Nature and all truth.

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have in recent years seen photographed from the moon;” wrote Joseph Campbell. ”We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the Earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula, and that nebula in turn from space, So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all, and with no horizons.”

One of the interesting links to harvest at this point is the recent development in our schools where gardens and harvest are renewing the interest of our young ones as they begin to understand the creative cycles and the particularities of nurture that produces bounty by way of coloured food stuffs that result in and from human endeavour. One might also suggests that the idea of ‘the commons’ is being raised as a means of dealing with a society that is defunct in terms of approaching diversity and difference. Conflict as normal discourse of a healthy doubting critique needs addressing and revenge as a manes of justice also, if we are to be responsible human beings with a society based on the creation of and sustaining of a loving nature.

In this broader way its possible to see that even life and death are one. Life, so called, is the seemingly short episode between two great mysteries which are yet one. Spring begins with winter, and death begins with birth. We all share the same breath together in this short episode, the trees, the birds, the animals and the humans. We dance to a common rhythm.

This interval we call Life is a Mystery between greater mysteries which are yet one in a universe where all is natural (nature) and sacred, an image of the Source, the evolutionary fountain, initiating consciousness, imagination becoming that we call in our tradition … maybe  naming as ‘God’.

What does this have to do with Hope and Real Life? Well for me the hope is in the idea of eternal life that is possible here and now. As co-creator, and co-participant this short phase of life is real in the context of the larger evolutionary reality I am a part of and this short span of conscious life has a huge, immense value in that I am a participant in the creation of reality and I can affirm with confidence that what I do and say matters, the value of what I do and say has a purpose which is the completion of the sacred or God, if you like, or the individuation of the God I spoke about earlier and I can in this understanding say categorically that love changes everything. This is how I contribute and participate most effectively. By loving.

The fascinating thing is that all this co-creating happens so quickly that we are unaware of the separate experiences, which are like the separate frames of a motion picture. This is where our despair finds its way in to this picture. Again it is a creative moment in that it poses the question. ‘Why am I here’ and again we find our purpose if we can put down the indulgence of despair long enough to notice. Similarly, we are unaware of the separate cells of our bodies, to say nothing of the molecules and atoms that constitute them. Each cell a life so to speak, yet we can’t know them all at once. And this is despite the fact that they are renewed every seven years or so. We are unaware of most of what is going on within and around us, let alone throughout the universe. We don’t need to know the subatomic structure of a kitchen table in order to put groceries onto it, but that doesn’t mean that there is no such structure. So it is with the evolutionary experiential nature of the world. Although we may not be able to focus on the individual frames of our lives, that which we call Mystery, or Nature, or God does.

What does this have to do with harvesting food produce? Well it says that the human relationship with this thing called nature is a complex one. It is one of substance and of management. It is a living, dynamic evolving thing if you like. We are in fact the creation and its creator so to speak. Our connection with the land and the harvest of its produce is a real vulnerable, serendipitous and relational one. When I value the process of the cosmos as a participant in its creation I am in harmony with the goodness of creation and I am responsible with and for its fragility and its serendipity. There is all that stuff about free will and choice and difference and compatibility and ultimately about the efficacy of loving. The choices I make are crucially valuable and important. I care for creation because I am of it and it is of me. Again, we might see this relationship as part of the individuation or completion of God and humanity. Again, we might see this relationship as a spiritual and material one of great and wonderful mystery and we might affirm that love is the way it evolves. Amen.