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- Added June 24th, 2016
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Finding the Path
By George Davis in All Sorts
what is the path of Christ in this age?FINDING THE PATH
Sunday week ago I gave a reflection in Church which posed the notion taken from Sioux Indian anecdotes about the "path of a true man". Those of you who were present or those who can recall the plot of the film Dances With Wolves might remember that these words were said to Lieutenant John Dunbar a.k.a. Dances With Wolves by the tribal priest Kicking Bird once Dunbar had learned some of the culture of the tribe. I proposed that in the Great Plains there occurred a clash of two worlds: the natural world of the Sioux (now called Lakota), and the world of the white man. The first was conservative and protective of the environment and the second was aggressive and exploited the natural world. Yet the latter, the white world judged the native Sioux world to be "uncivilised" and not worth keeping.
In the address I made the remark that the Indian notion of true humanity was akin to what we hope to achieve in our life - following the path set by the life of Christ and hoping to learn the ways of God. Perhaps we can take this idea deeper.
A "path" exists between two points and suggests that it has been previously traversed - from where we are to where we hope to arrive. Someone has gone before and laid out the ground and perhaps shown the way to go. Proverbs Chap 4 v. 18 refers to "The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Also in the Koran, Sura 1, a supplication is made for believers: "Guide us in the straight path, in the path of those whom Thou has blessed...") The notion of a path from which straying leads to ruin is not uncommon. In Matthew's Gospel, Ch 7 v. 13 the familiar notion of a broad path or way is spelled out: "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in..." and its corollary is found in the next verse: "Straight is the gate, and narrow the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it."More frequently in the Bible the word "way" rather than "path" is used as in Proverbs: Psalm 5 v.8 "Make thy way plain before my face" or Matthew again, Ch 3, v2: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."
On the one side we are guided to fix our direction or way by the "path" which has been taken before, and we are told that the journey is straight but probably difficult. On the other channelled by the threat that the less desirable way, which seems to be chosen by many, is wide but leads to destruction. The choices seem plain and sensible to one raised in the environment of the Church, but what do they mean to the outsider, to one who does not believe in or understand the Christian message of salvation and redemption?
It must seem strange to many living outside the culture of religion that people still worship an invisible God, and follow the teachings or path of Christ. In a land where there are plenty of resources to share there seems less dependence on the Almighty. But stop there.
This land might be a land of plenty with beautiful landscapes but it has its ugly side: one where poverty is evident, where the split between the poor and the extravagantly wealthy is growing daily, where abuse of children is far too prevalent, where suicides are unfortunately frequent, and where unemployment is hidden but very real, and housing is unaffordable for many. This strong and evident undercurrent in New Zealand society is rapidly becoming a norm, and many good people seem to be powerless to act in any way which can change the situation. The politicians of the 1930s faced a similar situation as New Zealand was emerging from the Great Depression. Many of them were motivated by a vital set of Christian values which led them to act positively for the poor, ill, unemployed and poorly housed in that society. I firmly believe that we are in a similar situation of emergency today.The question is what can we do? The options are difficult. Today is not 1937 even if our social problems are the same. At this time our present Government seems unable or unwilling to act forcefully for the good of the underprivileged. The Christian way is straight and we are instructed we should be generous and charitable if we have money and other resources. There are signposts for modern Christians. Some of them are old and nearly forgotten - the Apostles and the Nicene Creed, each imbued with obsolete language but containing truths which one should not ignore.
There are other signposts: the example of the older people. This signal piece of culture is much more a part of NZ Maori and Pacifica culture than it seems of pakeha or white culture. Indeed we are taught salutatory lessons about respect for the elderly by Pacific and now people of Middle Eastern cultures entering our country. Old ways, traditional foods, polite customs seem built into some of the refugees entering our land. It seems to me that different but acceptable ways of living are being presented to us as visible signposts here in Aotearoa.
Ultimately, not just our Church society but our personal fate is bound up in how we face up to the present societal problems. If we sit on our hands and do nothing or very little, we face self-judgement. The Bible tells us that action is rewarded - helping the sick, being generous to the poor, visiting the prisoner, lifting the depressed. "When you do this to the least of these, you do it to Me."
George Davis, 23 June 2016.