21 September 2021
LIGHT ON THE HILL
When we are familiar with a place we often don't notice what others see. Have you noticed that around Papatoetoe when you stop and look up often it is the St John's bell tower with the cross at the top which you can see on the horizon?. Despite the signs that crowd around the building close up, if you are, for example, out on the golf course on an early morning walk, look over to where the sun is rising and the distinctive tower is there. Our church is on the highest point of this part of Papatoetoe, placed there not only to be on firm ground [no liquefaction!] but also to be seen, so people can find their way to it.
It is surprising where our tower and its cross is visible from and who notices it. When the Council came to install the lighting for enhancing the church the then departmental head was very keen that the night lights showed the cross "which can be seen for a long way off" against the sky.. I hadn't thought that anyone else noticed!
Within the tower is the bell, doing what church bells have done for centuries, telling people that the church, a centre of care for the community is there. For centuries, in Christian villages around the world, the church bells have been rung rung to signify the time, to call people to worship or prayer, for special events such as weddings and funerals, or to sound a civil defence or fire alarm.
We rang the bell when we held the public silence and time for the victims of the huge tsunami in Indonesia. People who heard it came off the street to join us, they guessed this was what we were doing. We ring the bell for weddings, and of course every Sunday when there is a service even if those inside the church can't hear it very well. The tower is for being seen and the bell for being heard by those who are at a distance. It proclaims that our Christian church is at worship and our physical presence in the community and it is for the community.
As we approach Christmas - our festival of light- celebrating that the light of the world has come, we will be ringing the bell and also lighting the cross to draw people to the message we bring.
But our main visibility in our community and beyond is carried far further than our physical buildings by each of us in our daily lives. We are the living church, the bearers of the message of Jesus.
Jesus says to his disciples “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. [Matthew 5: 14 - 16]
The stories of the Christmas news of God-with-us are told in different ways. Stories of light shining which overcomes the darkness, where the light shines out from a manger and draws us into the welcome of God's divine love. There are hosts of singing angels and wise ones travelling and some sheep deserted by shepherds running to see for themselves. But they all tell of the good news of the Child of hope and peace which we and our community needs to hear over and over.
This Christmas and throughout the coming year, may we know that peace and be the bearers of that love through our words and actions.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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