You know God is good. Well of course we all know that! Sometimes though, things just kind of fall into place, like today's worship and everything that's going on. I was a bit befuddled as to how to draw together all the amazing themes and activities and comings and going that are happening today. How do I put all that into a sermon?
We have the delight and pleasure of baptising two young men, Leo and Griffin, who with their mum and dad. Alice and Ryan are part of our cathedral family. Guys it's going to be such a please to baptise you. And its a Family Eucharist so those other youngsters who are here will all be a part of it too. And it's Bruno and Kathi's 50th wedding anniversary – Golden Years. What a delight to share in their joy and to give thanks to God for the blessings they have received and share with us. And sad as we all are at the sudden death of Rosemary Ellis, our grief is tempered by the thanksgiving we have for having known her, for her faith and the knowledge we have that she is held in the closer embrace of God's. She's fine! There is joy here.
And today we farewell Doug and Nancy Getson. Parting is as Shakespeare said such sweet sorrow. We will miss you and we give thanks for you and we pray for you as you return back to the USA, wishing you au revoir which means as you know 'to the next time we meet' or 'yo'll come back now!'
And today is disability awareness Sunday. We reach out and embrace one another in love – acknowledging that we are people with abilities and disabilities, each with different abilities, young and old, rich and poor...all of us with hopes and dreams and visions, each of with the unique contribution we can make to the whole body of Christ.
How do I gather all these things together in my sermon for today. God gave me the answer…..The theme of our stewardship programme today is sharing the joy of God's blessings. Over the last two weeks I've really found myself deepening in my understanding and sense of the joy of believing in this God of ours. My pew sheet letter expresses what has been happening for me.
We have explored how joy is so much a deeper emotion than happiness. Happiness can be so transient in the topsy turvy world we live in. Joy is a serious business. And what joy there is in sharing the joy of God's blessings, in experiencing the joy of generosity. It lights me up, and I don't want to hide that light under a bushell basket. Let it shine!
I had a real sense of letting the light of Christ shine this week. 120 primary school youngsters from Merrilands School came to the cathedral on Thursday this last week. They were on a school project called 'Take care', and were visiting the Police, the Fire Service, the NPDC and the cathedral to find out more about how we are 'taking care' of people.
I had a great time with them. Not only talking about how we take care of people through the food bank, community café, soup and go, the monthly Saturday lunch, the many folk who pop in for tea and toast and every day, Stop In and the new Food Co-op and that sort of stuff. I also found myself talking about taking care of our history and story and how the cathedral is so important in all of that for them and for their children as we build and shaping our future, their future. 'Taking care' of our Taranaki vision for Pākehā and Māori, and how the cathedral is so much part of all this. We talked about reaching out to help others and caring for others in every way is what life is all about. In the group some youngsters who go to church, some who were clearly of other faiths, and some who had never been in a church before and knew nothing about or had any experience of religion. I said anyone who cares for other people and wants the world to be a place of love and peace, is my friend, and that is what this cathedral is all about is what we are all about. They were really into it, and if I hadn't already been, I quite convinced myself of what a resource and asset this place is for our young people!!! They were really rapt to stand in the foyer of the cathedral and look inside knowing that this is the oldest stone church, one of the most important buildings in NZ, and it was for them. I felt real joy in sharing what for me, for us is such a blessing, and feeling that a seed may have been planted. And I did at least 120 high fives.
So, what we seek to do and be as this community of faith here is so important not just for us, but for everyone. You know the Church is the only organisation in the world that actually doesn't exist for its members? We exist to be the Body of Christ and to share God's love and blessings with our communities and our world. On Thursday I really felt the joy and the responsibility we have to share the Gospel, the Good News. For as that great 14th century saint St Teresa of Aliva put it:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours,
No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless all people now.
So dear friends today I invite you to make your pledge of joyful service of time and talents and money for the work of this cathedral and this cathedral community for the coming year. As our Stewardship team reminds us – how could we not be joyful when the creator of the universe chooses us to be his stewards who care for his creation and his gifts to us? How could we not want to express our gratitude though our faithful and joyful giving?
In each of the three Sundays of the Stewardship programme a member of our congregation has given their testimony. Today Cath McVey.
Thanks Cath. I invite you now, those who wish to, to make your pledge [some of you may have done so already] and seal it in the envelope you should have. These then I invite you to place in the collection plates when they come around during the offertory hymn
Thanks. To have a baptism at this time is just so appropriate. AS we baptise Leo and Griffin, and as we do so each of us can recall that we too are baptised and with them, their parents and god parents remake and confirm our own baptism promises.