Brian Miller, 21 December 2021
Christmas Message from the National ModeratorDownload file (PDF, 1.62mb)
Richard D, 1 September 2020
The Gospel, or at least belief in the Gospel, implies some priorities in life and we tend to argue over what these might be. Some point to the importance of conversion, some to the priority of discipleship, some to the majesty of the person of God and some to worship. To be honest all of these are vital but if I were to pick one it wouldn’t be any of these. When I first became a Christian, an adult Christian, the first thing God led me to was service.
I found a new desire and call to serve… anyone and everyone. It was as if the love of God was welling up within me to be expressed by serving others. And it made an immediate change in ways I could never have imagined.
In the first place I confounded all my teachers who’d come to expect well… nothing really from me. They began whispering behind my back about what had happened and what they thought was the ‘problem!’ Secondly my own cohort wondered what had happened and began to view me in a completely different light, so much so that at the beginning of my final year at school I was nominated to be head boy. Clearly, I hadn’t convinced my teachers because they took me aside and asked me to step down which I did because I wanted to devote my spare time to teach a youth group.
Finally, I found that my understanding of leadership began to grow and develop as I found more people willing to follow someone who was willing to serve not just them but anyone. Suffice to say the Gospel gained much traction in my life and the life of those I served through this new commitment to serve others.
We believe. That is good. But belief must find expression or it remains a dead thought. Will we, can we, dare we serve?
Level 2 Again
Richard Dawson, 25 August 2020
I wonder how you’re feeling?
If you’ve found yourself to be ‘on edge’ recently don’t be surprised. This has been a year of (and I hate to use this word again!) unprecedented change. No matter how few people Covid kills compared to the infection rate (somewhere between 2 and 4%) the very changes we’ve made to try and combat the disease are pushing us into a fight or flight mode. Now you may question where the ‘fight’ mode is but I suspect it can easily be seen in the civil disobedience of those who stay partying and who escape quarantine and do other rather rash and silly things. For many of these people the very context of change is threatening and though we may not admit it – we are suffering together from all of the changes made to everyday life.
So, what to do? I am not at all sure that simply ignoring it will be enough. I am sure than any chemical solutions will not be kind to us in the long run. Instead we need to share each other’s burden. We need to show extra patience with those who have lost theirs. We need to show extra kindness to those who appear unkind and we need to be kind to ourselves.
Can I encourage you to get more rest, eat more healthily and find someone to share your load with. Talking helps. Giving unsolicited advice doesn’t. Laughing helps as does giving others a hand before they have to ask.
Try not to listen to too much news. The news makers always try to make things appear worse than they really are. Definitely don’t get into all the conspiracy theories flying around at the moment. This isn’t a CIA plot gone wrong; it’s not China’s secret weapon and the Janola should be kept under the sink!
Finally friends, know this – God is here in the valley with us all. We are not being punished. This is life Jim – just not as we know it!
Big News for Leith Valley Church
Richard Dawson, 20 March 2020
I have some rather big news for all of us who call Leith home.
The elders and staff have decided to close our regular weekly service meeting at George St Normal School for a month. We will review this near the end of April and keep you informed all the way.
In the meantime church won’t end - it will just make a new beginning. We will have some live-streamed worship on Sunday and I will be blog posting a video to you most days.
We will send out another email later today explaining everything in much greater detail. We are dividing the church into pastoral divisions we’re calling Network Groups whose main task will be to keep in contact with each other and meet occasionally for fellowship and possibly meals.
As you know, the government is trying to slow down any community based transmission of the disease and so meeting less often and in smaller groups is an attempt to promote this. We are supportive of this and any efforts which can save lives. Let us pray for our leaders that they may continue to make wise decisions and let's get on board with the decisions being made. Our Health Minister David Clark who is a Presbyterian Minister is doing his very best to keep things in control.
Tonight’s email will explain things in much greater detail. The staff are all still working hard and we are contactable through the usual methods.
God Bless you all and stay safe.
Richard Dawson, 3 March 2020
For literally a thousand years, indeed longer, the season of Lent dominated not just the Easter calendar but the whole of the Christian year. It set the scene for the rest of the year and it
coloured worship on every Sunday. 40 days of fasting, prayer, penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving and other means of self-denial. Lent was a time of mourning; mourning the sufferings of Christ but also mourning a world separated from God. Mourning a
world in rebellion and a race committed to a painful path without God. Lent raised all these things and more and in doing so established a spiritual context for all of life. This was one of the advantages of Christendom – nations were bathed in a Christian spiritual worldview and as such, despite the brutality of the various ages of Christendom, the person of Christ could shine forth
into the life of whole peoples.
Today our supposed enlightened minds are free to pursue whatever spiritual course we find satisfying and any sense of a national agreement around these things is gone but along with this I believe our spirituality and thus our humanity has declined.
We no longer raise up the supreme example of self-giving generosity to a world dominated by an ethic of self-advancement. Once Lent raised an annual challenge to the selfishness which characterizes our race. Rich and poor alike could see in countless pageants and celebrations that integrity, rather than material wealth, were what defined the humanity of each person.
We no longer celebrate a power that could tame all political and personal powers, not by violence, but by love and grace and so every person and every politician and every military
commander of whatever rank knew that peace was the desired outcome of every conflict.
Finally, we are no longer faced with a definitive purpose for all people – a purpose which made them both worthy and wanted – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Instead we are
made purposeless by a culture with eyes only for people who can serve a utilitarian, materialistic end and for those who can’t – the winds of expediency are directed towards them in a manner which may even see them euthanized… in a painless way of course. We really do miss Lent, friends. Celebrate it with all your heart!
Fakaofa Kaio, 22 January 2020
Greetings in Jesus name.
Jesus said, "Love your neighbour, as yourself." Matthew 22:39
The bush fires that have devastated the beautiful continent of Australia are merciless and unrelenting. It is like a wild beast running amok in a supermarket. This fire's span has not been days or weeks. It has been raging and destroying for months. Many human lives have been lost, homes and neighbourhoods turned to ashes. The animal wildlife loss is insurmountable, immeasurable.
Australia is our closest neighbour, both geographically and we have many ties in times of peace and war. We have a real sporting rivalry, in all sporting codes. We bring the best out of each other. But when calamity takes place; when turmoil and disaster come upon either nation; we respond, with aid, assistance, and resources to each other's hour of need.
Our firefighters, and military (Army, Navy) personnel, and many others with the required skill set have done us proud. Aotearoa New Zealand, we have reached out and embraced, and supported our neighbour, Australia. Bravo.
In the Church sphere there is a special relationship between the PCANZ and UCA (Uniting Church of Australia), more than any other of our partner Churches. Apart from Uniting Church ministers and congregations working in the local communities, they are also providing disaster relief chaplaincy which is being coordinated nationally. Their community service agencies are also working locally in effected communities.
Let us continue to keep our neighbour Australia in our prayers.
There are also opportunities for us to support financially. I draw your attention to one - details below.
The Uniting Church have a National Disaster Relief Fund that donations can be sent to, and which donations will be put through for this disaster.
You can make donations through the Assembly website, https://assembly.uca.org.au/
Also, if you wish to make a transfer of funds, please use the following:
National Disaster Relief bank account Bank name: Westpac BSB: 032003 Account number: 269941
Account name: ASM National Disaster
Richard Dawson, 8 November 2019
There’s nothing like having to wait for someone or something to test character. We imagine we are good people until out ambitions or expectation are limited by someone or something. Then the reality of what lies beneath the cultured façade of our public self is exposed not just to ourselves but for all to see and hear.
The impatience, the distain, the lack of empathy, the shear bad temper rises to the surface and we are faced with the truth about ourselves... our red-handed, raw and raging sinfulness still exists and must be dealt with daily, sometimes hourly.
What happened to being ‘dead to sin and alive to Christ?’
Don’t worry. The principle still holds true. We must still be ‘dead to sin’ but the dead thing isn’t sin, it’s us. Paul makes this distinction between who we are and sin a number of times in the NT. Sin is a power, a force, an evil which while it can find expression within us – is not who we are. Christ has given us the ability to ‘come out’ from sin and be separated from it by including ourselves in Christ’s death and resurrection and one of the key dynamics in this process is to learn to wait on God; to forego defensiveness and reactivity and just to wait. The more we give ourselves to the temptation to ‘lash out’ at either perceived or real rejection the more chance sin has to determine both our thoughts and our reaction. Wait on God. He is just. He will defend us. Richard D
The Spirit of Pentecost
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 15 May 2018
The Spirit in the Church
Pentecost 20 May 2018
At Pentecost, the Spirit of God comes in a manner that is both reassuring and completely alien; unless we understand this we will be doomed to look in the ‘wrong way’ for the Spirit moving amongst us today.
For centuries Christians have read the accounts in Acts of the Spirit’s coming in Jerusalem, plus other towns in Israel and the Roman Empire, in a manner which has inured us to how strange these episodes are in the Church’s life…but they are. The spontaneous breaking into praise in languages unknown to the speaker but known to those listening; two jail breaks achieved with no human intervention, including the spontaneous release from chains and the mysterious unlocking of prison doors; prophetic utterances which reveal information that could not have been known by the speakers. There are healings and various other miracles which all trace activity of the Spirit which is, frankly, alien. And yet, the fruit is an acceleration of the growth of the Church and of faith throughout the Roman Empire.
We are justified in looking for the Spirit to move again today and we should all be expectant that the Spirit is still moving through the Church to convince and convict those who do not know Christ’s love and grace. The Spirit is in no way finished with the Church or, frankly, with the world which God loves. But the Spirit has not changed and so the Spirit’s activity will not look like it once did. In other words, we can expect it to remain, in part at least, strange.
I too have made the mistake of looking, on many occasions, for the Spirit to move in a familiar way. I was involved in the great move of the Spirit in this country in the ‘70s and ‘80s and it was amazing and gave great heart to the Church. It introduced many young people to both the grace and the sovereignty of God and it convinced us of the desire of God for intimacy because we experienced in many various ways the closeness of God. But that was then and since then I have found many who are disappointed that God is not moving in the same way as God did then. And yet this is precisely what we should not expect.
In any revelation of God, and this is precisely what occurred during the revivals of the ‘70s and ‘80s, both the likeness and the unlikeness of God will be exposed and we must be prepared for that. God is like us in some respects but, as the theologians are fond of saying, God is also “completely other”. We must take this into account when anticipating God working through the Spirit.
Now although we thought we could recognise the likeness of God in the ‘70s because it seemed like the Acts experience in reality there were many things which happened then which were unlike anything in Acts. The rise of new and more modern music and the phenomenon of ‘Spirit -filled worship’ through this took things to a new level. The rise of people falling down under the power of the Spirit – something which had occurred in previous waves of revival - is not recorded in the New Testament. And there were many stranger things than this – things that many others in the Church could not accept were real - and I witnessed some of them.
The question is, where is the Spirit of God today? What is the Spirit doing today? I do not believe that the Spirit has gone into hiding. I simply think the Spirit is working strangely in a manner we do not recognise to bring about the same things – a glorifying of Christ in the world…and I do mean the world.
Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding about the Spirit’s role is that we imagine that it is confined to the Church. It is not. Yes, the gifts are given to the Church so that the Church might operate to reflect Christ but the key goal of the Spirit’s activity is to convict and convince the world of God’s love and this is where we probably need to start looking for the next move of the Spirit. I say this because I believe that wherever the Church sets out to address the world’s needs with any kind of real intentionality, the Spirit will attend that activity. The Spirit is the Spirit of God’s mission first and foremost.
So, may you know the moving of the Spirit in your Pentecost celebrations but more so, may you be led by the Spirit to bring the healing love of Christ to the world, for through this are we more likely to witness the strange but powerful moving of God amongst us again.
Yours in Christ
Moderator Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Moderator's Anzac Message
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 24 April 2018
The commemoration of New Zealand’s involvement in both the first and second world wars has taken
on a new life in the last 20 years or so. Crowds have grown at Anzac Day services, particularly among
the young. Children and young people seem to make up at least a half of the congregation gathered for
this special day and they usually have to sacrifice considerable comfort as they turn up to dawn services
very early on those chilly Autumn days.
There is speculation about what is driving this unusual display of identification with generations past, but that it is exists is beyond question.
The connection today’s young people are experiencing with this violent part of our history is occurring
against a background of growing pacifist sentiment here in Aotearoa, and in the West generally. Indeed,
since the Vietnam War in the 60s, youth have generally been identified with an anti-military stance and a
latent pacifism that dislikes military solutions. This is, to my mind at least, as it should be.
There should always be a policy of military involvement only being considered after all else has failed. The results of military action are almost always relative and incomplete creating – at best – an opportunity to
resume building a peaceful and free state.
The question remains, however, whether military force is able to be a part of a Christian solution to the
political and social realities of human life. Can force ever be said to be a Christian option? Do we have to
settle for violence?
Whatever else may be said on this matter – and it is, admittedly, something that has occupied debate and discussion for centuries – several realities remain uncontested.
Firstly, fallen humankind, sinful humankind will use power to enforce its will on others and that includes
military power. In these circumstances, history often demonstrates that nothing short of a display of balancing power will stop the violence. Military action against Isis or Daesh (as they are otherwise referred to) is a good example. The terrorists who drove the violent Isis crusade represent no one but themselves
and have been disowned by most of the Muslim world.
A letter to David Cameron signed by the Islamic Society of Britain and the Association of Muslim Lawyers
made this very clear when it stated (regarding Isis): “It is neither Islamic, nor is it a State. The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations.”
So this group who has no standing with the majority of peace-loving Muslims uses unconscionable force and violence to achieve its aims, and the only thing that will cause those involved in it to give heed to the voices of the innocents caught up in this violence is in fact, violence itself.
And this is, in the end, what has happened: a coalition of western military has supported Iraqi military, and Russia has supported the Syrian military to defeat Isis. It hasn’t been easy and the violence has still not abated, but the alternative was to allow a violent faction take root in the world. And this brings me to my second point.
In this life and in certain situations where the State or, indeed, the world is faced with power that chooses
violence – violence seems to be required to bring about a just solution.
In such situations, however, it must also be admitted that the outcomes are extremely limited and often, in
themselves, full of injustice. Innocent people are killed, violent people are exalted and the states which are left
are often not much better off than before. Despite this, one must ask whether the alternative would have been preferred.
Last century New Zealand lost thousands of men and women fighting a regime which chose violence to enforce its will on its own people and on the nations around it. It was determined to rule Western Europe and, in doing so, to rule the world. Today we no longer live with that threat because of their sacrifice. God forbid it should ever
happen again, but if it does, I wonder if we’d make that same sacrifice so that our children and grandchildren might live in relative freedom again?
Moderators Christmas Message: Christmas for the Lonely
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 22 December 2017
Christmas is a struggle for the lonely. Nothing compounds feelings of loneliness quite like seeing others celebrate a festival for families, and being asked common pleasantries such as if family are coming to visit. It’s not the fault of Christmas but it’s what happens. Christmas is hard on the lost. Who can begin to be found when everyone’s so busy with each other that no one’s even looking for the lost?
Christmas is tough for the unlovely. Those who feel rejected because of something they can’t help, struggle to feel valued at a time when value becomes synonymous with price. Christmas is great but I feel for the marginalised people who are forgotten at this time of year: the lost, the lonely and the unloved.
I wonder if we could focus on making a difference this Christmas, even for just one person who lies completely outside the circle of our own family, someone who just won’t get to celebrate unless we include them in some way.
Perhaps it’s a person living on their own. Perhaps it’s a solo parent living down the street. Perhaps it’s a couple of little ones you’ve seen playing around your place and you’re pretty sure they won’t be getting much in the way of Christmas fare on the 25th. Whoever and however you choose to help, if we each make an extra effort it would make a huge difference.
I recently watched a wonderful video talk by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of The Justice Initiative, which among other things has saved many people from death row in America. The key phrase which still rings in my soul from that talk was the first point he made about justice: true justice requires proximity. That is, it requires us to get close to those who are suffering injustice. Isn’t this what Jesus did by coming to earth on this amazing day we celebrate as Christmas? Isn’t this the universe changing version of getting proximate? I certainly think so. I want us this year simply to ask ourselves who we are going to bring into our inner sanctum, to share with and to learn from, who is in the lost, lonely and unloved category.
I hope and pray that you might be greatly blessed this Christmas. Thank you for all you work and commitment to our Church. It makes a huge difference to me and to so many who travel with us in this journey of faith.
God bless you and yours this Christmas,
Richard Dawson Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
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