The Village Service of Readings, Poems & Carols – 10 December 2017

The light that brings peace. Rev Anne Stewart

Carol: ‘O come, all ye faithful’

Reading: Verses from 1 John 4

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to bring us back into right relationship with God.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because God first loved us.”

I have been thinking a bit about people in our country who have recognised the light and have dedicated their lives to both lighting and lightening the way for others. There are quite a number of these people but the first one that came to my mind was a Maori chief named Te Whiti. Te Whiti was born into a Taranaki iwi, it is believed sometime during the ‘Musket Wars.’  I can’t tell you exactly when he was born because opinions are divided on that but it was somewhere around the early 1800’s.

Te Whiti’s introduction to the Christian faith was profound and he had a strong and prophetic faith. He moved to the inland village of Parihaka in the late 1840’s to get away from the pressures of coastal living and in search of a more contemplative setting to live out their faith.  These were tumultuous times.  Settlers were, with government approval, simply acquiring land, previously occupied by Maori.

Parihaka became a centre of peaceful resistance and a rallying point for many Māori who were increasingly unhappy about the land confiscation that was going on and the government’s failure to set aside reserves for Maori that they had promised they would. By the mid-1860’s Te Whiti had become convinced that peaceful resistance to the European incursion and the loss of land was the right way to make their point known.  In 1879 the government began to survey 16,000 acres of the confiscated Waimate Plain without setting aside any land for Māori.  In response, Māori, led by Te Whiti, began ploughing the land that the Government had allowed the settlers to occupy.  They pulled up the survey pegs but they would not take up arms or allow violence against those taking their land.  On 5 November 1881 a force of almost 1600 Armed Constabulary and volunteers, led by the government minister for ‘natives’ John Bryce, invaded Parihaka.  The Māori inhabitants, numbering about 2,000, put up no resistance.  Instead they greeted Bryce and his men with bread and song.   They were dispersed and Te Whiti was arrested.  The soldiers then systematically wrecked the settlement, and Māori tradition speaks of brutality and rape.  Te Whiti was charged with ‘wickedly, maliciously, and seditiously contriving and intending to disturb the peace’.  He was for a time imprisoned in Addington jail here in Christchurch. Some of his people were later taken south to Dunedin and used as forced labour to build the Otago harbour wall there.  They were there for many years.  Held without trial, Te Whiti was not released until 1883, when he returned to the ruined Parihaka settlement.

Te Whiti continued to lead peaceful protests, and he was imprisoned again for six months in 1886. In 1892 the West Coast Settlement Reserves Act brought in a system of renewable leases given to settlers on more than 200,000 acres of Māori land.  In response, Māori persisted with the ploughing campaigns.  In 1897, 92 Māori were arrested for ploughing in protest at delays in resolving the grievances over these leases.

The white albatross feather became a symbol of peaceful resistance. There are various stories around why this happened.  Some say it was part of a vision Te Whiti had of two birds which were to lead people from oppression to knowledge.  Others say they saw a white feather shape in the sky that indicated God’s sanction of the movement for peace.

Peaceful protest is a puzzling thing to those still in darkness. Darkness demands a fight, fear needs a battle.  Light and love disarm, they take the power from the dark – the light brings peace.

Carol : Come now Lord Jesus enter our Christmas

Reading: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

‘The peace of wild things’ – Wendell Berry

When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,

and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world,

and am free.

For many of us peace is the most readily found in the natural world. While we know that the natural world can be wild and can break things with its power, we also know it can be gentle, calming and good for our souls.

Those who walk, tramp or climb know what time spent in nature can do. Those who plant, weed and pick flowers and veges, know what time spent in their gardens can do.  Those who can no longer do these things know what an open window, a view like this one here, can do.

The presence of still water, the soft evening light. The effect of being surrounded by the life-giving quality of green.  The soothing effect of the sea lapping in its gentle ebbing and flowing.  And then sometimes it’s the wild wind we cannot control or the sound of the sea crashing, or heavy rain on our roofs that captures us.

Whatever mood we experience we are reminded that we are not all there is, we are not always in control there are systems in our natural world that are beyond our control, systems we must bend to and adapt to and accommodate

One night long ago a strange phenomenon appeared in the sky and angels sang, and shepherds ran…

Carol: Hark the herald angels sing

Reading: Luke 1: 26–33, 46-5526In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 48for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Let Peace Prevail In This World……. – Ravi Sathasivam

When you look for peace then the peace lies within you
When you search for peace then it is not hard to find
When you want to keep peace alive then you allow white doves to fly over you
When you make peace with others then the whole world lives in your heart
When you let peace be in the world then you live in a wonderful world
When you allow peace to flow around the world then your hateness will go and love will flow
When you open the door for peace then peace is welcomed to your lives.
Let peace prevail in our wonderful world

When we talk about peace, what pictures come to mind for you? I imagine, to some extent, that it might mean different things to different people, but there are generic aspects to peace that I think we would all wish for.

A lack of war, or violence perhaps, between countries, between faiths, between those with and those without, between families, within families, within people. I think we would all agree that that would be a good thing.  Politicians who work to lower tension rather than to escalate them as though their winning some parochial battle is worth the cost to others.

Peace doesn’t have to mean a lack of debate or rigorous discussion but it does mean that we take care of one another in that. It means we seek the best for others before we fight for our own cause.  It means we see the best in each other before we point out the worst in them.  And it means we be the best we can be toward each other before we worry about how others are with us.

Make us channels of your peace Lord, seeking to understand before we are understood,

consoling before we are consoled and loving with all our hearts.

Song: Let there be peace on earth

 

Reading: Matthew 1:18–23

 

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 

God with us, with us – not a distant airy fairy concept up in the clouds somewhere but with us.  On the streets with us, in the playground, in our work, in our homes.  The light comes, God with us.

The story of Christmas is not about this one event but about how we enter every aspect of our lives. Advent traces this way of being, this way of God being with us – hopeful, peaceful, joyful and loving.

By living hopefully not despairingly, peacefully not disruptively, joyfully not gloomily, lovingly not hatefully. Sounds simple, or as Michael Leunig puts it: Love one another – it’s as simple and as difficult as that

A few quotes about peace:

“When the Power of Love, overcomes the Love of Power, the world will know peace” – Jimi Hendrix

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. Your talk to your enemies.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

and

“Darkness cannot drive our darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

 

Video: The power of words

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU

Blessing: Henri Nouwen

Did I offer peace today?

Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing?

Did I let go of my anger and resentment?

Did I forgive? Did I love?

These are the real questions.

I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here now and in the life to come