This past week has been one of considerable mourning for us as a Church community. It was been particularly hard for a number of our members. In particular our love and prayers are with the Davies, Wright, Gous and Bartlett families at this time!
The Psalmist always has an interesting way of looking at life. Considering the losses that we have endured this past week I was starting to wonder how we might approach our Jubilee celebrations that are due to commence in a few short weeks (starting Sunday 24 February). It was in this frame of mind that I found myself pondering Psalm 30, especially the last few verses.
It is super tough losing loved ones! However as Christians, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. Instead we are a people for whom our mourning is filled with the hope and peace of our Lord and God, a God who is able to turn our mourning into joyful dancing...and clothe us with joy.
And so our response to Him, even through pain and mourning, can be one of praise. Even amid our sorrow and loss, still we can praise Him. Let's ponder this as we prepare for our month of Jubilee coming up.
The last couple of days my family and I have been running around the countryside on a pilgrimage to Wairoa in Hawkes Bay. My 84 year old Great Uncle Poho, the last of my Grandfather's siblings, doesn't have long for this life and I felt a strong tug in my spirit to spend time with him before he passes.
I guess it's natural to have this kind of urge, but I have to admit it's never been quite like this for me before. There is something very spiritual and emotional about it, as if somehow this pilgrimage is mixed up in my identity - issues of belonging, connectedness, land and generational significance are running through my heart and mind. It's hard to explain, but it's what has driven me to take this journey; to seek a blessing from my Uncle; and to pray blessings on him in these last days of his life.
As I reflect on all of this, one of my favourite passages of Scripture comes to mind. It was written for another culture who were whakapapa (generational) and whenua (land) oriented people - the Hebrews. Take a look at what God says to them through his Prophet Moses (Dt. 30:19-20):
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It occurs to me that this blessing found here in Deuteronomy has a touch of eternal significance for individual salvation...but it is so much more than that too! It's also about a communal and generational blessing/salvation which can be experienced in some measure in this life and in this land. Sometimes, I think, our "western" thinking can emphasize the former truth without giving enough attention to the latter.
Uncle Poho is still holding on to life, but he will not hold on forever. Part of my identity is wrapped up in what my Uncle represents and that's not too far from the blessings and curses talked about here in scripture.
"Ma Ihowa koe e manaaki, mana koe e tiaki: Ma Ihowa tona kanohi e whakaara ki a koe, mana ano e tuku te rangimarie ki a koe. A ka karangatia e ratou toku ingoa ki runga ki nga tama a Iharaira; a maku ratou e manaaki." (Tauanga 6:24-26)
‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn hisface toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)
Pastor David Auty