Thoughts – 14 November 2021

“You see, it’s a liturgical world out there, and we’re all wired up as liturgical creatures who run on repetition and habit. And when you think about it, how could there be anything new if there was nothing old, or anything spontaneous if there was nothing planned?” (John Leach)

May we discover a deep, practical, generous, and compassionate trust in God as we worship this week.


Thoughts – 7 November 2021

Readings: Psalm 146 and Mark 12:38-44

With a close read, we notice how these beloved Biblical figures were failed by systems that should have sustained them. But for those who are failed by humans, God intervenes, offering them back the pleasure of life they
always deserved. The Divine is made manifest in full stomachs, security, and broken chains!

May we discover a deep, practical, generous, and compassionate trust in God as we worship this week.


Prayer for Ash Wednesday


Dedication of Church Banner – Easter Day 2019

Psalm 144 is a Passover psalm and no doubt that is why the lectionary uses it at Easter.

It celebrates the physical events from the Exodus out of Egypt and the desert wanderings in a poetic way – the Red Sea looked and ran away, the river Jordan stopped in its tracks, the mountains skipped like goats and the hills jumped like lambs (perhaps a reference to the quakes and storm on Mt Sinai as the law is given to Moses?).

‘Red Sea, Jordan river, mountains and hills, why did this happen?’ the Psalmist asks. And the unspoken answer is that the Lord is Lord of all the Earth and Earth trembles in God’s presence. The Psalmist continues.  ‘This is the God who changes rocks into pools of water and solid cliffs into flowing springs.’ This is the God, then, who not only rescued Israel from slavery, but also kept the people alive and sustained them on their journey, that eventually led them to the promised land.

For a people travelling on foot in the desert, the road is from one oasis or water hole to another. If that is not the road it is a dead end, literally. Water is life and its presence is what opens up a road way. To those who dwell in an arid land, to be in a place of abundant water is both gift and blessing.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Waikoropupu-Springs-Takaka.jpg

Te Waikoropupu Springs, Takaka

Jewish and Christian scriptures talk about ‘living water’. Living water is water that has come from a spring or a river or a stream or falling rain – fresh water. It is not there because someone has carried it or stowed it. Living water is water that comes directly, as a gift from God.

I have heard it said that the history of the Tawa settlement parallels the history of Wellington and its transport systems. The first road, the railway first from Johnsonville, then following the Tawa rail tunnels coming directly into the suburb, the motorway north/ south and now the new motorway, all of these have had and will have an impact on this settlement.

But before them all, before Pakeha settlement, there were the old Maori tracks that came up the stream gullies from Whanganui a Tara (Port Nicholson/Wellington Harbour) – the Ngaio, Ngauranga and Korokoro gorges and made their way over the hills to drop down to the valley on the other side. Our valley, with its own stream running through it – the Tawa Stream fed by tributaries from what we call Takapu, Stebbings, Kenepuru, and from a number of other smaller streams running off Colonial Knob- some of them in culverts now, and hidden.

The flood plain of the Tawa stream created flat land all the way to Porirua Harbour. And that made it the obvious route for the Old Porirua Rd that the soldiers built soon after the European settlement of the area began. That was the road that connected the two harbours in the region, the road that was the beginning of a land-based connection between Wellington and further north.

In a fundamental way this stream gave life to our settlement and others. It gave access to Maori and European settlers. It was their trade route, their water supply, a food supply, their playground. A generous stream.

The plan was to do a Tawa banner – so we had to have the stream.

The phrase ‘its waters gave life’ comes from the end of the book of Revelation. The writer has picked up on an old passage from Ezekiel, of a stream flowing out from the temple, getting bigger and deeper as it goes. A stream that brings life, fruitfulness, healing and blessing to all that it touches directly or indirectly. In the book of Revelation, the stream flows from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb (Jesus Christ). The trees that grow alongside it produce leaves for the healing of the nations.

The Easter story is an exodus story. It is about God in Jesus making a way for us out of entrapment and into the freedom of God’s grace and love. Easter is about the healing of you and me, and our neighbours and the nations. Easter is the generosity of God, a stream that gives life.

In John’s gospel there’s a story about Jesus talking to a woman he met at a well. She had had a tough life, been in and out of a fair few relationships. She was a battler and a survivor. They were at the well in the heat of the day and they got talking about water. Jesus said, ‘This well water – everyone who drinks it is going to get thirsty again. But I can give water that will satisfy a person’s deepest thirst, for good. The water I give will become like a spring inside them, bubbling up to eternal life.’ So they’ll not only find that their thirst has been quenched, but the life giving water they have received wells up and spills out of them to refresh others. So they themselves will become life giving water for others.

When you stitch something like this banner, it is not quick, and you have a lot of time to think about things. Those of us who worked on it have been looking at these words for a while, and we have been thinking that ‘giving life’ is pretty much what we are called to do, as Christian people and as a church.

The ancestors of the Jewish people spent their lives learning and relearning to trust their story with God. Our own lives with God involve that same learning and relearning to trust. But being open to receiving new life from God and working away at giving life to others is at the heart of it.

Clare Lind

Faith Explorers Recent Topics

20 March 2017: Mission in Contemporary NZ – a discussion paper by Prince Devanandan, President of Methodist Church

We have lost a sense of Mission as traditionally understood in the last 100 years. It’s no longer ‘saving souls’.  It’s something that the church helps, prepares, trains members to do.  We are in a new axial period so there is no clear path as to the future direction of Christianity.  Is ‘being active in the community’ sufficient? No, as it doesn’t address the spiritual aspects of an individual, or answer ‘Give a reason for the faith within you’.  Jesus spoke and taught (while socialising?) much more than doing healing and feeding.

John Wesley and Billy Graham told people they were sinners and needed to repentant to save their souls.  While this had a short term impact of people attending church, it has not been long lasting- perhaps because this interpretation no longer rings true for people today.  Our world view has moved on.  In the paper this is referred to as “inherited mission” contrasted with ‘Emerging mission’ for 21st century.

We were concerned that the church has become a ‘corporation’ that needs to be supported with rules and regulations.  Has become myopic – the organisation and its existence becomes the focus.  Jesus and Wesley stepped out of their corporate church world?

We thought the word ‘God’ is a stumbling block with its image of an old man in the sky determining ones fate after death.

A recent article suggested that the focus of Conservative churches is overseas mission(aries); Liberal churches on social justice. 

What is the motivation for mission? Self-interest (not selfishness), a sense of achievement, attaining something one’s strived for; altruistic because it needs to be done, without expectation of reward

We noted the emphasis on discernment, which always has a component of ‘what I want’; in learning what are the needs in the community, it’s important as to how we react to it – positively/negatively, do something about it/ignore/too big.  Prayer => silence => discernment.  Discernment issues now? – petitions to Parliament on water use/rights/free for commercial exploitation, parking costs at hospital.

Definitions for 21st Century mission:

  • Bringing people into a right relationship with everything in and on the planet
  • Make the world a better place – for all living things
  • The seen and unseen church in action

We will lead the service on 23 April on Mission.

Faith Explorers Recent Topics

13 March 2017: Article “‘…as we forgive them…’ or not: when forgiveness is inappropriate” a précis of and by Trish McBride 2010; led by Heidrun

This challenges the traditional view that forgiveness is the embodiment of the Christian message; in some situations, it is not appropriate eg abuse of children, rape, lack of guilt.  Acknowledged that forgiveness is a laudable and a real Christian characteristic.  Forgiveness allows those who have been injured/wronged to move on, but need time and opportunity to release feelings.  Whether forgiveness is accepted or not by the other party is not important, forgiveness is for the individual wronged.  Consequently giving an apology is not necessary but depends on level/perception of contrition can help. Forgiveness is a journey; being able to move on, no longer angry; relationship will always be different than before.

Forgiveness by you should not prevent reporting to the police; removing the wrong doer from society prevents further ill/wrong being done.  Christian repentance needs to be genuine so there should be no further wrong doing.  The Christian emphasis is on the perpetrator (repentance) not the victim.  Jesus on the cross asked God to forgive – but by implication he didn’t forgive!!

In the end forgiveness is about the power one has (imbalance).  Men have more power, ego, less forgiving; women tend to be opposite. This is reflected in the typical/historical church attitude that the wife is in the wrong in a family situation – ‘go home and try harder’!


What river runs through your life?

What river runs through your life?

Maybe you lived by it.  Maybe you holidayed beside it.

What did your river teach you?

Braided River4

This is the Tawa Union Church logo.  I am told it is a depiction of a braided river.  What does the logo represent for us?  What does it say about who we are and what we value?

I once got talking to a retired engineer, at the mouth of the Waitaki river.  There are fishing camps north and south of the river mouth and he lived in one of them.  He had come down, as I had, to look at the river.  He told me that there is very little river sand in the river.  Because of that boats on the river need special anchors that will grab the gravel sufficiently to hold them.  He recommended a couple of spikes attached to a couple of car suspension springs welded to a short length of railway iron.

He said that only around a third of the water from the river flows above the surface of the shingle that forms its bed.  The rest flows through the shingle which acts like a giant filter.

All large rivers have plumes where they enter the sea.  Often they are obvious after a storm; the water from the swollen river is a very different colour to that of the surrounding sea.  The fresh water plume from the Waitaki extends a long way out to sea.  In the days of sailing ships, ships were able to replenish their drinking water without having to come in to land.

My mother’s old neighbour is a geography teacher at the Girl’s College.  Each year she takes the girls on a field trip along the length of the river.  I asked her where the river begins.  She laughed.  ‘It is usually traced from the beginning of its longest tributary,’ she said.  ‘We say it begins at the Temple Basin at the head of Lake Ohau.’  She gets the girls to observe and measure the river stones along the course of the river.  ‘It is a bit hit and miss, because the three hydro dams on the Waitaki hamper the movement of the stones down the river.

ISS_Waitaki_River,_Canterbury_and_OtagoThe Waitaki has one of the biggest catchment areas of any river in New Zealand.  Snow melt from the Temple Valley, Mount Cook, Mt Tasman and from further north in the Southern Alps, feeds the glacial lakes of Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo.  Their rivers flow into the hydro lake of Benmore.  When it leaves Benmore it is finally called the Waitaki, and it passes through two more hydro lakes on its 110 km journey to the sea.  It is a braided river.  It frequently divides and merges along its course.  While its main channel is always deep, some of its strands are stream-like and easily waded.  With all this movement you might think that the overall course of the river would be full of twists and bends.  It is not.  If you look at this aerial photo you can see that the course of the river from when it leaves Benmore is surprisingly straight.

taieri-scroll-plainIts straight course is very different from the course of the river that was part of my growing up, the Taieri River.  The Taieri is a river full of sinuous bends.  In fact, its whole course is one great bend.  Its mouth is not all that far from its source as the crow flies.  In rivers that snake like the Taieri, sometimes the beginning of one of its bends is quite close to the end of the bend.  When the river floods it may change its course and carve a short cut through the land separating the beginning and the end of the bend.  When the flood recedes the bend is now cut off from the river.  It has become what is called an oxbow lake.  Given that it no longer has an inlet or an outlet it may eventually dry out.  In the upper reaches of the Taieri River there is a scroll plain where this has happened over and over.

We are commissioning people to be our leaders this morning.  How does all this talk about rivers connect with our life together at Tawa Union Church?  What questions does it raise for us?

I want to draw your attention to three areas that might bear our consideration.  You may have others.

1)The first is to do with habitat.  Braided rivers are full of shingle islands.  These islands lying within the riverbed between the strands of the river teem with insects.  This makes the islands an attractive habitat for our native wading and water birds –  oyster catchers, banded dotterels, wrybills and the rare black stilts.

 And the river isn’t just home to the waders.  I knew someone years ago who did some bird counting for DOC along the Waitaki.  He came back with an incredible photo of a New Zealand falcon.  He had unwittingly got too close to its nest and it buzzed him.  He said he could feel the wind from wings on the top of his head.  He held his ground and when the falcon came again he took the photo.  Its wings were fully spread as it pulled itself up from its dive, just avoiding him.

These precious habitats need to be considered when it comes to management of the water ways.  Changes in water flow can lead to increases in weeds.  It may also mean that predators like wild cats and rats and ferrets can reach nests and young birds more readily.

What are we doing to identify and nurture the precious life that exists along and between the strands of our TUC water way? 

2) A place of constant movement and change   Instability and change are inevitable features of braided river systems.  These river systems are in constant movement.  Small shingle bars appear and disappear as river channels shift and water flows vary.  Birds that nest in these areas have adapted to these changes.  For instance, many of these birds do not build elaborate nests, so they can rebuild them quickly if destroyed by flood.

How lightly are we holding things?

Are we living expecting things will change?  Because on a braided river they certainly will. 

3) Connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting

Along a braided river the different water courses within the river bed are always moving in and out of each other.  But the overall course of the river is remarkably straight; it is clearly heading in the same direction.  At TUC we are very proud of our different strands – different services, different programmes for different tastes and needs.  We are good at recognising difference and making space for it.   But how good are we at connecting and reconnecting and at moving together across the strands?  Are we only this wonderful community because we don’t see much of one another?  If that were so it would be a poor sort of Christian unity, and it would only pay lip service to our diversity as well, because we would never be getting close enough to really get to know our differences.

Our Tawa Union Church logo has a pleasing balance to it, with the curves on either side of the main stream suggesting alternate strands.

Does our logo look closer to a river with ox bow lakes or a braided river/ Or, more importantly, are we acting like a braided river or are we simply making ox bows and a scroll plain?

When did you last have a meaningful interaction with someone outside of the group you usually relate to in TUC?  What are you going to do about that?

Clare Lind

Faith Explorers Recent Topics

5 December 2016: film on Utube ‘Taking Root: The vision of Wangari Maathai’

Wangari won the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her work in Kenya.  Wangari first came to some prominence when she started a movement (The Green Belt) to address a shortage of firewood for cooking in villages, by simply planting trees.  The villagers collected seeds and propagated them and nurtured them until large enough to be planted out.

Wangari’s story was inseparable from the political history of colonial and then dictator Moi’s abuses, power and economic exploitation.  The film suggested a deliberate elimination of cultural heritage through the spread of Christianity so as to ‘tame’ the indigenous population. The Mau Mau uprising in 1952 eventually resulted in independence from the UK in 1963. However the removal of the forest to grow tea and coffee initiated under the colonial rule was accelerated after independence.  This resulted in the loss of knowledge of traditional crops which exacerbated health issues from food shortages.

The Green Belt continued to expand and plant trees, despite challenges from the Moi regime.  Wangari herself became used to challenging authorities and, with the momentum of the Green Belt behind her, succeeding. This included organising a hunger strike (11 months) for the release of political prisoners, protesting the selling public forests and spearheading a campaign using international connections, to prevent a hotel being built on a central Nairobi park.  Moi was very unhappy as it showed the regime was not all-powerful.

When democratic elections were announced (which Moi lost), the Green Belt ran Civil and Education Centres to inform people about the election process an importance of voting. Education was largely by using stories and encouraging ordinary people to challenge the ‘ney sayers’ – Why should we not plant tress, What’s wrong with trees?  Trees can’t vote! She stressed the importance of stories, and sharing stories, to stand up for what we believe in and not to be intimidated.

The film ended with the observation that ‘the little people (the ordinary person) can change this world’.  Wangari Maathai was one of those people.   An inspiring story.

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28 November 2016: Book ‘Matter and What Matters’ by Lionel Sharman Chapt 11 – led by John

This last chapter starts by considering prayer.  If god in non-interventionist, is prayer a waste of time? We thought not – it clarifies and calms our thoughts, stimulates the brain to a higher consciousness, calms a troubled mind – via the rosary, Taize chants.  Is there some spirit in the universe which draws mystics towards a common understanding, vision – that of compassion?

The true message of Christmas? The image of a baby – humbleness, potential, helplessness.  The traditional view as god incarnate as shown through Jesus’ love of self and in his relationships with others, challenging the primacy of the Levitical laws.

The author contents that god/Jesus had to die – we could not rationalise this view.  Jesus was killed as he was a potential trouble maker for the Roman authorities; a theological argument was created later.  Religious ‘promises’ give people hope and meaning especially in times of stress /bereavement – when its appropriate to let go (of more rational views) and just hope.

Faith Explorers Recent Topics

21 November 2016: Book ‘Matter and What Matters’ by Lionel Sharman Chapt 10 – led by Ian

With the backdrop of the Presidential election in the US, we discussed the seemingly dawning of a post-factual, post-truth age; lies are put forward as truth, those that wish to believe do – the rejection by non-believers is not important or relevant.  The lies are ‘revisited/re-interpreted’ later.

As God is not interventionist what are the implications for biblical themes of judgement, prayer and petition?  What is the concept of ‘fairness’ – is there any, how might it be measured or recognised?  Is an earthquake fair?  Is nature fair or simply ‘neutral’?  Does judgement fall on communities eg bush clearance resulting in land slips and local climate changes? Karma – what goes around comes around.  The group thought we all needed to work together, to cooperate to create a ‘fairer’, by which we meant more equitable, society.  There is never a single answer to What is the mind of God?

Humans are social creatures and therefore need to belong, want to feel part of some affiliation – hence clubs, gangs; the Jews of the Old Testament had a tribal identity.  Over time tribes have morphed into principalities, into countries/nations and more recently, as a consequence of globalisation, into global corporates.  Corporates are replacing national governments as the decision makers eg via free trade agreements.  The poem by Epicurus assumes an interventionist god – but what if god is more laize faire? Is there the possibility of a wisdom dimension of the universe that people can tap into through prayer and mediation?