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By Marcia Hardy in Sermons

the importance of having a sense of perspective, a sense of belonging, and a sense of loving towards others

At Labour weekend, John and I travelled to Christchurch for a couple of reasons – firstly it was time to help some family members prepare their home for sale before they shift into a retirement village, and secondly we were invited to attend the 125th anniversary of a church in my previous Anglican parish.
We expected to be busy, but what we didn’t expect was John being grabbed immediately to join the basses in a holiday weekend depleted choir, a huge morning tea with lots of ‘catch up’ conversations, and a special lunch arranged later for us to meet up with both Anglican and Methodist people from our previous congregations!
I’d been thinking that, since we’d moved on we’d also been forgotten, and although we’d quickly felt at home here in Dunedin, there was a sense of loss. The weekend reminded us that we carry our loved ones, both family and friends, with us, no matter where we are living. Whether it was ringing my daughter in Auckland on her birthday as we drove up, or a quick call to an old Christchurch mate to help John load up the trailer, it was, and is the heart connection that matters.
The great gift of travelling on a long car journey is often the companionship, and also the opportunity to talk without any interruptions. We realised that we now know where we belong, we’ve come home, and we hope our family will also successfully make the difficult transition from their much loved spacious home to a small apartment and emerge knowing that they’ve made the right decision.
Driving on the motorway through the outskirts of Christchurch we saw hundreds of new houses, all looking identical, and we felt smug about our rather rundown but homely villa overlooking the harbour, but as I’ve been writing, I’ve heard an interview with a formerly homeless man who now has his own home. He sounded so happy as he said something like ‘now I can see my family in my own home instead of on the street!
Apparently, among the most popular songs at funerals these days is the Monty Python comic song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ from the movie, The life of Brian, which is either hilarious or shocking, depending on your perspective.
I realise, as I reflect over the last few days, that it’s all been about perspective - loss or gain, sadness or happiness, house or home, journeying or settling, the enduring love of people, wherever they live and the presence of Christ with us on our journey.
Another important word is floating in my mind – belonging. Where do we feel we belong and have our spiritual home? Where can we be ourselves and feel safe?
The easy answer to that would be our church community, but the difficult answer is that, for many people, church is not a safe place.
Lately we’ve heard heart-rending stories in the media about historical clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, and in my years in ministry, I’ve also heard stories about clergy or lay-people in positions of power in our own denomination. Too often we have protected the powerful when it’s the vulnerable we need to be listening to and caring for.
When we were in Christchurch we caught up with the Anglican situation where a number of people have left the diocese because it no longer fits their theology. We felt very saddened by that. We wondered if we’ve lost our way as followers of ‘The Way’ when theological positions become more important than loving? What’s happened to the call, and even the command, to keep on loving our neighbours, whatever may befall us or them?
As usual, a well- known hymn writer has already been this way in his hymn “It all depends on where I’m going” found in ‘Faith Forever Singing’
It all depends on where I’m going if I reach my anywhere,
but this I’m surely, surely knowing, that I’ll never leave God’s care;
it all depends on when I’m travelling, maybe now or maybe then,
but the son of God will lead me
through each where and why and when.....
‘It all depends on who comes with me if I break or if I bend,
But this I’m surely, surely knowing, God will be there at the end –
In the laughter and the sadness,
in the pleasure or the pain,
by my side and all about me
God’s own Spirit will remain’. ©Colin Gibson
Marcia Hardy