Sunday 19th September 2021

A few days ago I had to interact with the press. It is at times part of my job, and yet another reason that this place is anonymous. I said — and this made it from the local rag to the daily fishwrap in the biggest paper in NZ — that we had become hateful and judgemental as a nation because we had been fed a daily diet of fear by the politicians speaking at their daily COVID propaganda sermon.

COVID is now a cult: there are other ways to deal with this. But it is a cult that holds us in despair. I spoke against that. I was praised by many for my courage, because it now appears people fear words more than bullets.

And the news cycle moved on, as I knew it would. That controversy is last week, forgotten. The fear and anxiety from this remains.

And I had some horrible, abusive emails, and appeals to authority. If you stand up you will be wounded. You will moan. You will feel that there is no victory. You will not see things change around you. You are instead fighting the battle.

Yee of little faith. Those of us who step up like to complain about it once in a while. It does not mean that the stepping up will cease to be, that is unless I suddenly shuffle off this mortal coil. Fighting the good fight is about continuing when all hope seems lost, when the powers at be seem to be on the cusp of overwhelming victory and our cause an utter failure.

We have been praying this collect this week. It is not us who preserves the church and the nation. It is God. This week I have been playing music, not necessarily Christian, but beautiful. So, today, different music.

Collect One

O Lord, we beseech thee,
let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church;
and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour,
preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jeremiah 11:18-20

18 The Lord made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
19 But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.

James 3:13-4:3

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

4 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Mark 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

The prophet and the gospel clearly are pointing to the same thing: the cross. If we think that in this time the forces of darkness are against us and are triumphant, consider how they rejoiced when Christ, the incarnate son of God, was hanging, condemned, slowly dying.

And how they screamed when he broke the doors of hell so he could speak to the generations who lived before him.

For that we need to praise God. We need to worship. If we can do this together, let us do so this Sunday. Let the table be made: the bread shared, the wine drunk. Let us proclaim the death of Christ until he returns.

In the meantime, we need to kill any sense of ambition. You will not get promoted and praised by the authorities unless you accept the loss of your soul. Unless you approve of the young being sacrificed for the old. Unless we approve of their lies.

Their ambition and the approved wisdom will truly lead to destruction.

But we need instead show whatever wisdom and maturity we have by our behaviour. For this I know. No one will recall how well you complied with the current governmental micromanagement. Instead, they will recall how you were gentle, kind, helpful: how you mended fences, rescued sheep and pets, and comforted the lonely. The wisdom of God is shown in our patience and gentleness. Let the ungodly seek power. We have to build the kingdom of God.