Dan and David

You know, one of the things I love about the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God is that Jesus invites us to give up what is keeping us from a relationship with Him, with our world, and with each other, and find a better way. He was constantly forgiving people’s sins, and healing people, and in the process, restoring them to their communities again. And the greatest thing about Jesus is he was willing to die for what he believed in, which is that the world can be made right, justice can come to our societies, and healing can come to our souls: through the power of his life, death, and resurrection we are invited to share in his work of bringing spiritual, physical, emotional, communal healing to the world, by being transformed in the grace and love of God. Participating in that story is the mahi that I’m about.

And it’s my belief in this God revealed in Scripture to us, that has meant in the last two weeks I’ve been deeply troubled by the political discourse coming from the MP for Epsom and the National candidate in the Northcote by-election.  David Seymour, the Act Party leader and MP for Epsom sent a letter to his constituents about a Housing New Zealand development in his electorate which he argued would bring in undesirable people with mental health issues into the neighbourhood and cause security risks and trouble for those already living there. In the Northcote election, Dan Bidios said that new affordable housing developments in the area would cause an increase in crime. He later backpedalled when he was asked how the link could be made between the two.

I’m just going to lay my cards right out on the table. David, Dan, statements like that are what weaken our nation. We are all in this thing together. What I mean by that is we are a nation, we are a city, we are local communities, made up of all kinds of people, and that means we are each other’s responsibility. But unfortunately rhetoric like yours serves only to insulate some of us from the rest of us. Barriers between us make us weaker. I’m going to call it. You both only have the interests of people like yourselves in mind. People who are middle-to-upper class. People who have made it. People who have wealth, and security.

If you stopped and asked yourselves what is at the root of crime, mental illness, and poverty, you would realise that inequality in our society, separation, segregation, all reinforced by the worry that people over there will discolour our patch over here, lies at the heart of these issues in the first place.[1] Let that sink in a little, would you? You are reinforcing the issues that lie at the foundation of what you are trying to protect yourselves from. Counter intuitively, healing for people who’ve committed crimes, people with mental illness, and people in poverty, is inextricably linked to us all embracing one another. Can you not see beyond your own interests, to the extent that you have missed the humanity in others who have a different life story to your own?

What you have said in the last few weeks shows your true colours. And it worries me. Because I passionately, firmly, believe that one of the great tragedies of our society is that we don’t actually know each other well. And if politicians espouse views like yours, then we will not see our communities come together and move forward because it will entrench ideologies that prop up inequality and division.

I have lived in the Epsom electorate, and in the Northcote one. I am linked to both of your communities. At the moment I work as a pastor of rangatahi in in West Auckland, in an area people like yourselves, it seems, would think no good could come from. But people said that kind of thing about Nazareth too, and look what came from there: Emmanuel  – Jesus Christ. Good comes from all people, if we are able to see their humanity, reach across the fence and stand united as a community. Until we can see the humanity in each other and treat one another with dignity, we will stand divided as a nation and weaker as a result. So I ask you, retract your statements, apologise.

Then come and see.

I’d love to connect face to face, and talk about this some more. I am sure you are both very busy, but if you’d like to meet, I can be found at jharris@auckanglican.org.nz.  Perhaps I can show you round my neighborhood, introduce you to some friends, and maybe have you over for dinner.

[1] The entire book, The Spirit Level, is an academic consolidation of research that shows this.

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Faith and Mahi: Following up from last week’s gathering

Mahi Slide Crave

 

I want to begin by covering some ground I hope we can all agree on. It’s not about work, but it will get us there. Because it’s a foundation to stand on, that hopefully always gets us thinking about life with God’s heartbeat guiding us: scripture.

As Christians we believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That it has been crafted and inspired by the Holy Spirit in partnership with humanity. I’ve heard people beautifully describe it as God’s love letter to us, the story of his relentless love affair with creation (and creations tendency to try see other people). It contains all kinds of literature, speaks to all facets of life, and for Christians, it shapes the way we live. Because we believe that it has power, as God’s Word, to speak to us and form us. We believe it is both alive – speaking to us where we are, and grounded in history, needing to also be read in context to reveal what God was saying in time and space in times gone by.

And the scriptures begin with a book aptly named “beginning” – Genesis. We are told through poetry some theological realities about creation. You might say it’s not speaking to factual truth about how creation happened, but rather, it is trying to reveal somethings that are true about what was created, and most importantly by whom. In Gen. 1: 18 we hear that humanity was created and called by God to be fruitful: to make some babies, to “fill the earth, and subdue it.” We are told that humanity is called to rule – to govern – the earth, and the living creatures in it. Later in chapter 2:15, as the book goes into more detail about the creation of humanity, the writer of Genesis writes that humanity was put in the garden “to work it and take care of it.”

These words all have implications. And the implications are work. Filling the earth and being fruitful…takes particular kind of work. And the result: raising children – is work. Subduing the earth, and governing it, requires that we tend to the plants, look after animals, and that has the potential to look a little like farming. Governance requires organisation, forward thinking, conversation, care, and effort. You can’t be passive, if you are to embody these words. They are verbs by nature. And finally, if it wasn’t clear enough, we are told to work the garden, to take care of it.

Work is part of the way that we were made as humans. It’s part of the what that the whom made. And if we are made in God’s image, the image of the great worker in all things, to reflect the image of God is to work (and to rest mind you – Gen. 2:2-3).

The early Christians had many perspectives on what kind of work reflected God’s glory. They tended to stay away from military positions, prostitution, and the halls of power. That aside, it is not as though they only preached and prayed. Paul was a tent maker, as well as a missionary. Even Jesus grew up as a carpenter.

So the challenge is laid before us: to reflect God is in part to work. To create. To take what we have and produce something else after toiling, after trying, after experimenting, after enduring.

I genuinely believe God can call us and does call many of us to change our professions because we have been transformed by God’s love. Sometimes God leads us from one job, to another for specific purposes. Sometimes our position compromises our values, and so we remain in the same line of work, but move to a different organisation. Sometimes we are called to big change. But often, actually, we are can bring God glory, be who we were made to be, and usher in the Kingdom of God here and now by changing how we work where we are to conform to the ongoing work of the Spirit in our lives.

The question becomes, as a follower of Christ crucified, the homeless rabbi and king, what kind of lawyer, doctor, barista, uber driver, cycle messenger, student, union organiser, nurse, electrician, youth worker, pastor, will I be. And perhaps you are called by God to up and move into ministry, into full time mission, or become a youth worker, or whatever it may be. But actually, it’s likely, that the Mahi, the mission and ministry you are called to is the ministry of electrical work, the ministry of building, the ministry of making the best damn coffees in the world, the mission of nursing well, the mission of organising unions to get the best outcomes for workers possible. God’s Kingdom is breaking forth everywhere in unlikely places.

Watch for it at your workplace.

It might be in a conversation at the water cooler edging toward a bridge-to-life-diagram or a “have you met Jesus?” question (maybe), but just as, if not more, likely it is coming through you working hard, giving your all, and pointing to the one who made you to do just that. The Word of God – God’s inspired story of love – shows that to be the case right from its genesis.

 

J H update

About the Author:
Jeremy works part time as the part time as the Diocese’s Young Adults Facilitator and as Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Northwest Anglican. Jeremy writes blog posts for the Grace Collective about Jesus, social justice, and all things related.