Up to our necks in life

May 1, 2016

Sermon on installation as Dean of Taranaki 30.04.2016

Readings: Is.40 27-31; Mark 16.1-7

I drove in this morning about 6.30 from Okato way where I’m staying with my daughter Liz and Duane my son in law. It’s a lovely drive and this morning the mountain looked amazing. As I looked at it the words came – ‘It is good Lord to be here’!

God bless this place! God bless this great company of people!

Nearly 14 years ago I stood in the pulpit of Christchurch Cathedral on an occasion similar to this and I had a conversation with God. Would you pardon me please while I check in with him today?

‘Lord, what am I doing here? I’m feeling decidedly inadequate and unworthy. Who am I that I should take on this role? I am getting on a bit you know? And to be honest I am both excited and pretty daunted! All I want to be is your faithful priest and if it’s not too demanding, have an abundant life!’

And God says, ‘What has age got to do with it! Didn’t you listen to the first reading? I would not have brought you to this point, to leave you on your own. Be not afraid!… Put your mind into your heart and stand in my presence all the day… I am with you. I know you Peter Beck. I know your gifts. I know you, warts and all, and before long these people will to, bless them. Go for it!’

Well, on the basis of this hugely truncated conversation – here I am!

First of all I want to pay my respects to this place, this transitional cathedral, this Peace Hall which has been a place of significant ministry and outreach over many years, and is now our temporary Cathedral house of prayer. I worshipped here on the first Sunday that it took on this role and felt a warmth of welcome within its walls. E whare karakia , tena koe..

I greet the Cathedral across the road which stands at the heart of our city and diocese, holding and nurturing the essence of our yearning for meaning, value and purpose in our lives. This is truly a great house of prayer seeking to express the soul of the city and diocese in the heart of the city. With all our faults and failing as people we are committed with our brothers and sister of the other churches and other faiths, all people of good will, to seek what is true and of wholeness and justice and peace. And I look forward as do we all to the day when once again its doors can be opened to people of all faith and none, to play its role in nourishing the heart and soul of our city, engaging with the life of the city and diocese and ministering to its needs. In the meantime this humble hall will be our dwelling place and our launch pad for ministry and I feel at home here. It is a worthy place to be that we shre with ll the other activities that go on in this

I greet all of us here today. To my family and friends and colleagues, thank you for coming to see and make sure Gay and I are safely delivered into the care of the diocese of Taranaki and Waikato. To Pihopa Kito, tena koe. Thank you for taking the risk of presenting me, along with my friend Lianne the amazing Mayor of Christchurch I am honored indeed that you were able to come. Dame Adrienne, good friend, you have been an inspiration to Gay and I in your support over the years. I could speak of each of you who have come to hand us over. You are precious to our lives and we thank you, Gay and I are delighted of course that we come to the city where our daughter Liz and husband Duane live, and great that Laura can be here leaving her cows in safe hands for this weekend . And of course to Gay, my beloved wife, who has to put up with more of my warts than anyone else, you have my ongoing love and devotion. To all of you who have come as part of our whanau, thank you for all that we have given and received from each other over these years.

And now I greet all of you who represent the great diversity of life of this city, diocese and of Taranaki. Kuamata Tiki, tena koe e rangatira ma. Thank you for your welcome. Thank you to the tangata whenua for being willing to strive with us as we journey into true partnership. Thank you for the importance you place on the role of this cathedral in your life and community, where out three tikanga can meet and worship together..

And finally to the Cathedral parishioners, the staff of the cathedral, choir and volunteers, and the many more for whom this place is your spiritual home, I am truly delighted to be your new dean, and I do look forward to the trials and triumphs we will have ahead of us together. I hope for your encouragement, your patience and tolerance, your good humour and your friendly critique. I look forward to lots of fun, and the open, honest relationships where we are all doing the best we can to live in a way which expresses what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. I pay my respects and homage to all who have gone before us, and especially for Dean Jamie and all the love and energy he has put into his ministry here in these last six years. It is now ours to build on, a new chapter in the life of this cathedral as we aim to do God’s will in this place. One of my daily prayers, which you might like to consider too is this – ‘God, please don’t let me get in your way today!’

So then to all of us gathered here today – nga hau e wha, nga iwi e tau nei, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

All of us are up to our necks in life. I sometime think it is like sploshing around in a great mudpool together trying to make sense of it all, trying to find meaning and value and purpose for ourselves, trying to make a difference for good. There is no divide between sacred and secular. That’s a barren dualism. Our God is a God of incarnation, and is with us, up to God’s neck in life with us. The particular role that the Church, and this Cathedral plays in this great mudpool, is to seek to point to the activity of God, to share in God’s work of building a world of peace and justice and love, where all are treated with respect and integrity. Our role is to celebrate in worship and in our lives the incredible wonder of God’s love in Christ as the Ground of our Being and source of all life and love.

I look forward to being part of that life here as your Dean. I look forward to the relationships we will make with one another, the dialogues we will share as we search and ponder on life and God’s will for us all. We will agree and disagree. There are tough decisions to be made. And in our engagement with the life of the city and world as it flows in and through this Church, we will have as the foundation of our response, our faith in the risen Christ. As Mark recounts in his rendering of the Resurrection story, this risen Christ is not to be found locked away in a hidden room, safe and sanitized, or in a pulpit six feet above contradiction. Rather he has gone before us into Galilee, the Galilee of the Gentiles, the marketplace – there you will find him, up to his neck in the gutsy reality of everyday life! Emmanuel – God with us! And we are to roll up our sleeves and join him. The very heart of our proclamation in word and deed is our resurrection faith, which is this – life is stronger than death, love is stronger than hate. All the rest of our church language and tradition is at its best explanation to act out this faith, at its worst distraction.

In the darkest of times in our world, in our lives, though all around me would seem to deny it, I will hang on to that faith – all that separates and injures and destroys is overcome by all that unites and heals and creates. It’s hard – Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief! Please don’t let me get in you way.

No wonder then that I feel so inadequate and unworthy, for it is not easy to have the courage to live life on the basis of this premise. It may lead to a cross! It is however what we humans are called to do and be. It is the purpose of the Church; it is our offering to the rest of the creation. And it is true!

I have preached a few times at the induction of some friends and colleagues as vicars. I usually end the induction sermon, by giving three gifts. I thought I’d offer these to the Cathedral family and myself as we begin this new chapter today.

This book holds the constitution of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia/ Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aoteoaroa ki Niu Tireni, ki nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. Revised in 1992 it honours our foundation and heritage in the Church of England, and it firmly sets the framework and context for this Church in this country. It is to be a true partnership based on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, the foundation document of this nation. I bring it to remind us who we are in this land and that we are to strive for a just, true and loving partnership within the three tikanga of our Church, and to offer this vision of partnership of respect for the integrity of all the cultures in this increasingly multi-cultural nation we are part of. I know the significance of St Mary’s in this history and the journey we are on to bring healing and reconciliation for past wrongs. We have a long way to go – and I want to embrace this journey whole-heartedly.

This circle of flowers represents Sarah’s Circle. It is set against Jacob’s Ladder, where people clamber over one another to be at the top. Sarah’s circle is about mutuality and respect, about empowering one another. Jacob’s ladder is about having power over others. Sarah’s circle is about doing things with people rather than to people. We have learnt this in Christchurch since the earthquakes. I choose Sarah’s Circle.

And finally, I bring you this bottle of wine and some balloons. Let’s not forget that Jesus, the crucified one, likens the Kingdom of God to a party, to a banquet. Let’s not forget to have fun. Let’s never forget to celebrate life. For if we actually believe that life is stronger than death and love is stronger than hate, then celebration is the only thing that ultimately makes sense

Here in this Peace Hall, this transitional cathedral we celebrate life in all its fullness, in all its joy and pain, its agony and ecstasy, its hope and our anxiety. In moments of intimacy and in the great and splendid state occasions, and alone in the quietness of our yearning hearts, we honour our God and acknowledge our humanity and we are reminded in the reading that Liz read from Isaiah that those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Let us pray.

God of many names. Love of all peoples, give us a vision of our world as your love would have it be:

A world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor

A world where the benefits and blessings of life are shared so that everyone can enjoy them; a world where people of different race, colour, gender, religion, sexual orientation the great kaleidoscope of humanity are all treated with dignity and respect. A world where our environment, our earth is honoured and sustained,

A world where peace is built on justice and justice is guided by love.

And give us the courage and the inspiration to build it.

Kia Kaha! Amen!


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