12 December 2019
Advent - Saving the Earth Saving its Peoples
Dear People of St Johns and St Philips Parish
On the last Sunday in November we begin the Season of Advent – the time of preparation leading up to Christmas – the waiting time. We also focus on the church world wide and faith in action through our agency, with the other New Zealand denominations, of Christian World Service and the Christmas gift appeal.
This is OUR work, enabling practical work, with local partner churches and agencies in other countries, targetting where it is needed and makes a difference. Each year we contribute financially through the CWS envelopes given out and by giving the offerings of our Christmas Eve service. Note, that apart from our significant contribution from our church ministry budget to serving our community through our own St John’s community centre activities, Christian world service [along with our mission boxes] and Presbyterian Support Northern [which has a Support day in July] are our main channels for contributing to work locally and overseas which we cannot personally carry out.
This year the CWS theme is “Save the Earth: Save its Peoples” and the two are inextricably entwined.
Our biblical tradition, and that of the Presbyterian church, is strong in understanding that we are called to be nurturers, not plunderers of the earth. The earth is God’s and we are the stewards of it. To care for one another we also need to ensure that all peoples have clean air, water, and earth to grow food. Christ leads us in the way which brings life to people. “I come that you may have life in all its fullness” he says. This doesn’t mean just being happy and self contained. Life in all its fullness has hope, peace, love and joy, not just for us but for those around us. The word translated in the bible as salvation [from the Greek,] can also be translated as wholeness or healing, the Hebrew shalom, peace, has the same wider understanding.
One story from a CWS partner, to which we have contributed is from South India.
“ for years, CWS partner Neythal has been working with traditional fishing communities in Tamil Nadu, helping them fight mangrove clearance, commercial shrimp farming, and beach beautification schemes that have caused environmental damage to the coast and the fisheries , which communities rely on for their food, incomes and general living. When the Boxing day Tsunami hit the South Indian State, it was the areas that had preserved the mangroves that had some natural protection from the force of the water. Around the world local people are often best placed to understand the delicate balance of their ecosystems and can see beyond the quick economic gain that costs poor communities and future generations dearly.”
We enter the Season of Advent through scripture that challenges us to think wider, through prophets who told us that God does care and will show us the way to life.
We still have massive needs in our community, but we are assured that we are gifted with love, without a limit, for it is God’s own love. We do have room to offer those who work for wholeness of the earth and its peoples in the name of Christ, our love and practical support of finance, prayer and being open to listening to the voices of the very poor. And we are promised that in doing this we too will find life which spills over into our community and our families.
Yes, we will be vulnerable, yes, we may have to give up something else, yes it does take our time, and yes we might be challenged in how we think - but wait…a moment……….. isn’t that beginning to sound like following this Jesus?
O God enlarge my heart,
that it may be big enough to receive the greatness of your love.
Stretch my heart
That it may take into it all those who with me around the world
believe in Jesus Christ.
That it may take into it all those who do not know him,
but who are my responsibility because I know him.
And stretch it
That it may take in all those who are not lovely in my eyes
and whose hands I do not want to touch
Through Jesus Christ my Saviour. Amen [A Prayer of an African Christian]
May God walk with us all in the coming weeks in our daily lives.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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