Sunday Worship Times
English Speaking Service: 10am The first Sunday of the month is a Communion service (for streamed services, please be prepared at home with your own ‘bread and wine’).
Korean Speaking Service: 1pm
Takapuna Methodist Church’s Sunday English services are live streamed and viewable on Youtube at any time.
All are welcome to our Jazz Vespers service on Sunday 12 September at 7pm.
Sermon July 18 2021
Jesus travelled the dusty roads of Palestine. He challenged the status quo. He went into communities, connected with the displaced and the marginalised, showed compassion, he was inclusive, he was concerned for the spiritual well-being of the populace. He also tried to maintain his own spiritual well-being through going away to a “deserted” or “solitary place” sometimes “alone to pray.” We are all on a journey a spiritual journey. The word “spiritual” is meant to convey the universal desire among all human beings to find or create a sense of deep meaning and purpose to one’s existence and a life of inner peace, well-being, wholeness, and contentment. For many people, “spirituality” includes transcendent experiences through practices such as meditation, a sense of awe and wonder through the study of science or time spent in nature, artistic or creative expression through music, dance and the arts, or living one’s life with a reverence and mindfulness for the interdependent web of all existence.
Back in 2003 the Rev Terry Wall wrote of Methodist spirituality. “There are attractive unities in Wesley’s thought. There is a wholeness to Wesleyan spirituality. The warm heart, the awakened soul and the open mind are not opposed to each other, heart and soul and mind are held together. Each is caught up in the dynamic of the Spirit’s action. Change begun in the heart finds expression in sharing the Good News and addressing social injustice. Methodists today have much to receive by engaging with this strange yet empowering and transforming tradition.” As Wesley proclaimed in his sermon The Witness of the Spirit, “the immediate fruits of the spirit ruling in the heart are, love, joy, peace, bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness and long suffering. And the outward fruits are doing good to all… and… walking in the light.” What does all that mean for us living in 21st Century Aotearoa?
Some recent New Zealand writing describes the spiritual dimension of the self as a prime determinant of health, throwing health promotion or the maintenance of wellness right into the lap of the Church, should it decide to notice. It is suggested that there a number of literary themes, which encapsulate the concept of spirituality. These are relationships, connectedness, meaning, and beliefs or clarity of purpose. Relationships are to be had with the self, others, the transcendent, and the natural world. Our health is seen to rely on the degree of our connectedness within those relationships. Our individual understanding of life, our meaning, tends to be determined by our relationships, especially when the concept of hope is apparent through all of us working together for the betterment of the system.
There is a sea of literature and thought that either predicts the demise, or the imminent renewal, of the institutional church. With some justification, for example in 1966 those who claimed to be Methodist made up 7% of the population, but according to the 2018 census that figure had dropped to 1.6%. Those figures indicate that something is wrong, something is missing!! What is it?
Many, see this uncertainty, the tenuous connection with its own existence, as a positive state for the Church. Being too sure of itself has, historically, led to a pattern of domination over others and their thoughts. More recently, what looks like rejection by the majority in our part of the world, has brought on an overwhelming timidity, which turns us in on ourselves constantly preoccupied with fixing the internal workings of our structure instead of retaining a vision for the future. Once we dreamed of a heaven where all would be well, with a saviour God triumphant over all that life might demand of us. But stories, as we have come to understand, can be taken in many ways; it rather depends on where you hear it from and what our context is, which can lead to something of a muddle if the stories are held out to be the literal truth.
Dr Andrew Hornblow, retired Dean of the Christchurch medical school, suggests “The most basic and urgent challenges facing New Zealand society are not economic. They are to do with our values – those activities which give meaning and purpose in our society, our social ecology, spirituality in the broadest sense”. Peter Matheson who was an associate professor at Otago University adds, “Parallel with the collapse of Christendom, there is a new quest for ‘spirituality’, and a stubborn refusal of religion to die out.” Peter Lineham, who most of us know, argues that ‘‘Spirituality has replaced religion in our society; formal religion is now seen as a very negative force by many in our society, but spirituality is seen as a way for people to connect with something deeper.’’ Richard Egan, senior lecturer in Health Promotion at Otago University concludes, “Along with many in the field, I believe spirituality is a missing factor in the way we structure our society, from politics to health and education. Inclusion of spirituality, from my point of view, in no way implying a particular way or belief is right, but rather an awareness or transparency of values and beliefs is needed. It is about making space for spirituality as a determinant and dimension of health and well-being.”
Therefore, an alternative is to open oneself to deeply meaningful and profound experiences of love, serenity, peace, comfort, connection and belonging along the everyday paths of life. These can be felt through everyday experiences if a person is present and open to it in any given moment. Ordinary scenes can produce a sense of joy, beauty, wonder, serenity, and a deep sense of connection with other humans, nature, the universe, and all living things. There is not a right or wrong answer about why or how a person experiences life as deeply meaningful. Many people have found that the source of love, peace and wholeness is not a supernatural human-like religious God up in the sky who comes to people in the form of an interpersonal relationship. Instead, many people find that the most sacred, divine, deeply meaningful, and profound experiences they have, come to them as a natural part of their lived human experience. Jesus himself blurred the lines between what is “divine” and what is “human.” He said he was both at once. He claimed a oneness with God and told his followers, “If you love me, keep my commands and you will receive the Spirit of Truth. Whatever “God” is or could be, it is not a religious compartment, or something located in a celestial being up in the clouds or separate from our experiences as human beings. Korean theologian Grace Ji-Sun Kim puts it this way, “the world is filled with the spirit of God. Everywhere you look, the presence of the spirit is felt. The presence of the spirit is undeniable, and we need to be aware of this presence and make room for its participation, allowing it to permeate our lives and to move and work within us.”
Religion is clearly spiritual in nature, but spirituality does not need to be religious. Spirituality means different things to different people. For Māori, the terms ‘wairuatanga’ or ‘wairua’ are used to speak of the spiritual dimension and things pertaining to the spirit of an individual or living being as in the ‘wairua’ or spiritual essence of each living thing. Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred. “Spirituality can be considered as being essentially about primary relationships. In this regard there are at least four qualitative relationships that express spirituality, and these are the relationships between: people and their environment, land, mountains, sea, sky, etc; people and other people in terms of justice and love, families, communities, nations, etc; people and their and other persons’ heritage, ancestry, culture, history, etc; and people and the numinous that which is other, beyond the physical, transcendent, what some people refer to as God.” (Rev. Charles Waldegrave, 2003). We have in Aotearoa a ripe opportunity to nurture spirituality across its many forms. If one accepts that, like keeping physically fit, it is important to be spirituality fit, then creating an environment where this can be enabled may be one of the few new things we can try in a country and planet that is running out of answers, or at least keeps on doing the same old inane things for the planet and the majority of animals on it. Fostering spiritual, awareness, learning, needs, fitness, and so on, must be considered at every level of society.
The Judeo-Christian stories were great stories for their time, and they still have a place in the ongoing reconstruction of our world. But they need to be told in the context of ordinary day to day living, intertwined with the ongoing stories of our day. In the same way that indigenous cultures, sometimes on the edge of extinction, have reclaimed their stories, language and heritage, Christianity has a reclamation job on its hands. Teetering on the brink of irrelevance, the survival and reinterpretation of this rich tradition and its stories of living may only be achieved by remembering and acting, not as though we have the mortgage on community, but as though we already belong to communities containing the pre-existent good news. The institutional church faces some tough choices. Do we continue shuffling utensils at the altar until extinction, or are we prepared to undertake, what is commonly termed, a paradigm shift; a complex shifting of gears and windows so that the way we view the world, and our place in it, is changed beyond recognition?