22 January 2021
Focusing on the Essential
Dear People of St Johns and St Philips
It takes a long time, years of practice before the first heats. Before that, the dreaming of what was even possible, the groundwork , the defeats,, all building on the expertise of the past and the best of present knowledge. There is no instant win, the tickertape parades and the hakas come afterwards.
As our athletes compete to win. The medals are the symbols of the achievement of a dream. A David and Goliath struggle against other teams, but also pushing the human body to the limits of its endurance.. Even being present needs a determination to be best, not to accept the second best. Medals are won with hard work, courage, and teamwork financial support and never, never letting go of the dream.
If all this is done to win a prize which will pass on, how much more should we be focussed on our goals as Christians when the results are so much greater?
At the same time as the athletes have been training another sort of endurance has been going on. A young woman working in Manukau City council has been waiting and praying for good news of her brother and his friends held hostage in Iraq. When his American team mate’s body was found by the road side the fears intensified. Then today as I write we get the good news
“The Auckland based student Harmeet Sooden who has been held hostage in Iraq has been freed along with two fellow western peace activists.The trio's release was secured on Thursday in an operation mounted by US-led forces in Iraq, a British embassy spokeswoman said. The two Canadians and a Briton from the Christian Peacemaker Teams were snatched in Baghdad in November.”
Brave peacemakers, foolish some say, but focused on the message that peace is possible even in the mess that is today’s Iraq. And other people did not give up on them, the rest of their team at home, families friends and colleagues did not abandon them. In securing their freedom people who normally are against each other united to rescue them. Their rescuers did not lose hope but knew that those who were still captive are valuable, worth rescuing and restoring to life. It would have been so easy to do nothing, shrug their shoulders and say its not possible, its too late and use very good reasons for not taking action. But they didn’t, family, friends and strangers did not give up. Tenacity and persistance are gifts of the Spirit which confront our natural desire to seek the easy path and avoid the hard decisions. They challenge those who want to stay in places that seem safe
The writer to the Hebrews [12: 1- 12] may have said in these times of the Games. “ Since we are surrounded by crowds of people cheering us on, and all those who in the past have run in many races. Let us remove all the things which weigh us down and hold us back from running freely.. Let us try again when we fail, and persevere until we have tools perfect for the task which we have set before us. Let us continually support each other and not lose sight of our vision, by looking to the one who gives us that goal, Jesus, who has won this race before us.
It will not be easy. You will need to redo things over and over again until you get it right, this will need patience and endurance, and there will be times when it is painful. But you need to know that you will reach your goal, it is worth doing. The methods may need to be new but they will work.. You will need to continually refine the gear you use so you can gain speed, but be encouraged, you have the resources and they are good. Make sure that your teamwork is harmonious, that everyone is working for the same goal. Work for excellence.
Our goal is not something which is tangible, or be seen or heard, but is more than all those things, it is permanent and good. It is beyond what we imagine as possible, a world that is complete.”
To win, athletes need all the people who were involved, from their families’ support, to the people on the ground in New Zealand, those who sponsored them, those who designed and built their equipment, To find the hostages skills of negotiation, discernment of when to move in, secrecy to protect the hostages and then risking life to do the rescue .Different skills were required, but the most important factor is the unity of the whole team. Note, unity did not mean being the same, it is the diverse input all working together which achieved the goals.
In the church our goals cannot always be expressed as specifically as winning a medal in a certain place and time, for we look to Christ who invites us to “come, follow me”. We are called to follow, not just as individuals but as church. All the ingredients of the race preparation are essential if we are to achieve the tasks we are given as people of God in the city of Manukau.
Let us support one another, and recognise that as we travel together we will gather others as we go. We have a dream of a world that is healed, where all are accepted and of people who can live together in peace. We have faith that it will be brought to completion by the one who is the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. It is only when we ourselves are underway that others will recognise our goals and join with us in the work which is ours to do. And we will celebrate together.
Yours in Christ
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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