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A Prayer Vigil Homily: Love, hatred and us

This homily was written and spoken by Strahan Coleman at our Prayer Vigil on March 20th.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

What is love?

We say that God is love.

But if so, what kind of love is God? Is it the kind of love that seeks for itself to be in control? Or to overcome evil or their enemies through coercion and strength?

Is God the kind of love that separates, see’s others superficially and seeks to overcome their individuality and personal expression?

What is love?

God is love.

But what kind of love is he?

And if God is love, then what does that mean for us, for humanity and for the world?

God may not be anything at all for you tonight. God, may be a myth, a hypothetical or an obstruction to love. God may even be a terrible memory or a bad taste in your mouth.

If so, then what is love?

And if God isn’t love to you, then who is God?

We can be in danger of misunderstanding love. Without an anchor love can become a chameleon to our own personal motives, our selfish ambition or at worst, our untamed hatred.

When we misunderstand love, we misunderstand one another and even our enemies because humanity was made to function perfectly only under the warmth and expression of love. Love is meant to be in our DNA. Like oxygen, love has the power to air out the sickness within us, within our communities and within our minds if we will allow it.

So when we lose love, when we misunderstand or manipulate it, we risk the wellbeing of our society, and the fabric of goodness that holds it together.

Regardless of religion or belief few people could disagree about the qualities of love that we heard earlier tonight - that it is kind, that it is patient, that it is caring and seeks to build up rather to tear down another.

Few people would argue that love is violent, that it is self-seeking, that it excludes or that it would rather risk harming the other before laying down it’s own self.

In the Christian tradition it is believed that God is love, and that he is the kind of love that would rather die for His enemies than kill them. Something we largely misunderstood for millennia, and something that sadly today, many of us still completely miss. That kind of love, that Christ-love, would have been found lying with the victims in the mosques last Friday. That kind of love would rather have bled with them than be the aggressor against them. That kind love, we must sorely admit, has on the whole been absent from our tradition for far too long.

That same kind of love would refuse to coerce even its enemies to believe as it does, or to act as they do. Because that kind of love also respects the autonomy of the human heart to choose.

Because what is love if it is not free?

Love was made to be the fabric of every culture, religion and race.

Love is humanity expressing herself at it’s best. But when love is centered on oneself, one’s own race, or one’s belief systems, then this distortion tears at the fabric of human dignity.

What happened last Friday was not right-love. It was fractured love, love for self and an obsession over differences.

In fact, it wasn’t love at all. It was hatred, hatred born from the fear of losing power. What if that kind of hatred is born when we consider ourselves more worthy of particular rights than another? More worthy of land or peace or power.

Maybe hatred isn’t in that sense necessarily an absence of love but a misdirection of it. Maybe it’s an over consideration for one’s own self which when placed in the hands of ideologies that further exaggerate them, causes love to suffer great harm.

In this light, last Friday, the life of fifty people were taken because one refused to allow a self-sacrificing love, an other-love, to inform their own worldview.

It’s easy to place the blame for that kind of misdirected love solely on the deranged, the obscure or the rare. But painfully, the risk of that kind of malfunctioned love exists within every one of us.

Last Friday true-love wept and grieved as hatred stole the lives of fifty innocent people.

People who were themselves seeking greater love, greater peace, and greater hope.

These fifty people had taken time out of their week to actively embrace love, and were slain during their ascension toward it.

That injustice, that heartbreaking image will haunt our history forever. There is no way to go back, no way to erase the pain and horror that their families now experience as a result of another’s hate.

In our limited capacity we can’t change the past.

But we can change the future.

We can change the future by not waking up tomorrow as we did yesterday, but by being more aware and more willing to seek out the other.

We can change the future by refusing to continue to love in a passive or naive kind of way.

We can change our future by allowing our love to be affected by grief, even matured, even transformed by it.

By choosing tonight to wake tomorrow with the kind of love that humanity should hope for - a selfless, other-filling love, love that seeks to embrace and celebrate difference rather than allow it to separate us, a love that doesn’t need to agree in order to eat together, play together, or dream of a better future together - we can change the country our children will grow up in and that the marginal in our communities can enjoy.

These days require so much more of us than the past. For the religious, they require us to practice what we’ve preached for so long but refused to live. We must look outward toward those who are different to us and unite in the face of a world in crises, an environment in deep threat, and a society broken in pieces by the politics, beliefs and actions of hate.
These days require us to not allow assumption to empower our enemies. They require us to speak up, not just for Muslims, not just for immigrants or those from different cultural backgrounds, but for the marginalised wherever and whoever they may be.

These days require us, regardless of beliefs, to seek out a true love, a love that can unite an increasingly hostile global community and an increasingly aching one. They require us to lay ourselves down not for one another’s similarity, but for the innate value of humanity in every single human being.

Because the kind of love we long to celebrate, the kind of love we hope to saturate our lives in, is the kind of love that seeks not to assimilate one another, but to honour and embrace.

That is probably the kind of love being sought by the men, woman and children at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre last Friday.

So today we grieve, we weep and we remember the fifty who were unjustly slain and their mourning families.

But we can also resolve to not allow our communities, our families and ourselves to go on un-evaluated and unwilling to make this world a better place, in love.

We may carry wounds, we may carry anger and frustration, but those wounds can strengthen us if we let them, they do not have to weaken us.

They are a part of our story now. A story of redemption and hope and of forgiveness and love, if we choose it to be.

My prayer is that that story will become our story.

The story of Aotearoa.

A people learning to love.

Together.


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New journey: Twenty_One_Days

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We’ve just spoken about our sacred togetherness as a community, and now it’s time to put our action where our intent is. As a church our vision is to pursue Jesus fully with our whole lives and to actively play the unique part He is calling each of us to, together.

You might realise something as you read that, but if you missed it, we’ll make it clear: something our church is passionate about is to see the vision Jesus gives you for your life happen.

But how do we get this vision?

Jesus had a rule for how he went about this himself. He said in John 5:19 that He “only does what He saw the Father doing.” He did this by retreating to pray and seek, or other times He did it by spotting the Father’s leading in the moments right in front of Him as He met a person who needed to be healed or forgiven. All Jesus did was informed by His choice to be a person of prayer, so as a church, we are taking 21 days to seek God in this way for ourselves, our church and our city.

TWENTY_ONE_DAYS is us together seeking God in many ways – messing up the norms and moving the furniture around as we do so – and if you want to pursue Jesus intentionally with us, we’d love you to join us in this journey.

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER PARTS OF TWENTY_ONE_DAYS:

 

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Welcome to 2019 at Central Vineyard!

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We’ve had a couple of weeks powered-down and this week we have turned off the auto-reply on the emails and flicked everything back into action.

With the beginning of this new year we are excited to begin with our new staff and leadership structure. Welcome to Rob and Alisha Wiseman who now begin their new roles as co-leaders at Central Vineyard alongside Dan and Gab! There are some other changes in our team and some new things, but more on that later in the month...

With this new season, we want to ask something of you: Can you please take some time this week to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you afresh about what His call is to you and our church this year? We are so quick to put in plans, but we do not want to go where Jesus is not leading us as we begin this chapter of the pilgrimage together. As Jesus taught us to pray; give us today our daily bread – what we need for now, not what we had last year.

We believe that as we continue to trust Jesus we will be in for a great journey this year.

See you at our gathering this Sunday – or the next one if you’re still away – and don’t forget to get your tickets for our big start-of-the-year moment together: formatio.

See you soon!

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The God Interruption / Advent week 3 (Peace)

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Could it be that peace really is that simple?
— Hayley Morrison
 
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MID-WEEK PRAYER

Teach us the simplicity of peace Father,
and to trust that the way is clear for us,
amidst the turbulence of a world paralysed by apprehension.


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Peace

By Anna Roughton

Would I call you

well-made plans

comfort, control, everything that stands

Would I call you

the things I can make sense of

about all that you are & will be

Would I call you

the space where wars cease

when I feel most alive,

when I can fully breathe?

Or could you dwell in heart’s heaviest beats

the places I’m running, dusty swollen feet.

Would I call you

the world spacious and free

where you lead me to a kingdom that is quiet and neat

or would I call you the holder of dreams

when some remain silent & unravel at the seams.

Would I call you

certainty to validate what I think

moving when I want it- quick, sure and succinct

or could you be unimaginable truth

visible & tangible, yet illogical proof

Would I call you

able to be tamed

speaking and moving, in ways I can contain

or would I call you a baby that sleeps

while heaven and earth collide in a heap

politics, wisdom, money, bend to their knee

Would I call you a ruler, a king

sitting on a throne that my human eyes can see

or could it be that you grow

in a stomach expanding

and stretching beyond what I once knew

Into all of this wild,

you are entering

a world that is less like we thought it should be

and more a slow moving to eternity

even the best dreams of man could never compete.

I will call you Jesus.

God here with me.

Not what we expected.

But the Prince of Great Peace.

The wholeness that travels, unravels, grows life way down deep.

Never changing, always remaining, precious mystery.

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The God Interruption / Advent week 2 (Joy)

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We are usually most joyful for that which we have waited for.
— Dan Sheed
 
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MID-WEEK PRAYER

Teach us Father,
how to live in holy-tension,
to be a people of the middle,
and to wake the dawn with the kind of joy that only you can give.


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Genko

By Shelley Taylor

Beneath the Ancient one 
Bruised reeds lie 
Beneath the Ancient one
Gentle giants gather 
Hands heavenward 
Perfumed prayers 
The angelic activated 
Beneath the Ancient one 
A sheltered canopy kingdom reigns 
Yokes lifted 
Souls sing 
Beneath the Ancient one 
Faith fist-pumps
Hope hoorays 
Love laughs 

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Good Gifts for Gratis

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Each year Central Vineyard takes the opportunity of Christmas time to look outward in serving and blessing our community in a meaningful way. For the last two years we have begun an initiative called Good Gifts - together, we contributed to, assembled, and gave beautiful gift hampers to those nearest to us.

This year we are excited to be giving our Good Gifts to our Gratis community!


WHY GRATIS?

Our Gratis community comes from the Gratis Free Store, which we have been running out of our Community Hall for the last year and a half. We collect surplus food from local cafes and give it out freely every Monday evening, creating conversation and community with all who come. Many people in our community don't have a lot, and Christmas can be a challenging time to make ends meet. We want to do what we can to make their Christmas season a little more special.


What are our 2018 Good Gifts?

This year our Good Gifts are going to be a mix of practical and treat; socks, tea, soap and chocolate, all bundled up with care and love.


Donate, Assemble, PASS-ON.

Each Good Gift for Gratis costs $20, so please consider donating for one – or as many as you would like – below.

On Sunday 16 December 3pm-5pm we will be assembling our Good Gifts at Community Hall, please consider volunteering to come and help us, sign up below.

The Good Gifts will be passed-on to Gratis customers on the final Gratis evening of 2018 (17 December) by our wonderful Gratis team and the volunteers that evening.


Donation

Name *
Name
Donations are given to Central Vineyard Charitable Trust and are tax deductible.

Online giving information will follow form submission. Any questions please email accounts@centralvineyard.org

Assembly

Name *
Name

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The God Interruption / Advent week 1 (Hope)

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To be people of hope, we must sit and wait in the place of absence. We won’t understand how powerful hope is unless we do.
— Dan Sheed
 
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MID-WEEK PRAYER

God of refugees, emptiness, oppression and fear;
make us a community of hope and a people unafraid of absence,
that we may know what hope is for ourselves,
and for the good of the earth.


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A Quiet Swell

By Abigail Egden

Sorrow upon sorrow is stacked up before me,

Walls of it, great harsh bits of light which cause me pain.

Nothing but everything at the same time,

Crushed on the coming waves.
Why did I choose to set sail here-
It was beautiful though, remember?

I watch the plans, the dreams, the joys fall overboard,

I watch fine bottles of wine smash on the decks,

Plates and glasses, priceless antiques

and paintings of a beauty no words could express.

The shock of it all can’t claim me for long,

Soon I distract myself from this mess,

By looking to the sky, or collecting shards of porcelain on the deck,

Pretending it makes a pretty picture,

When all I see is mess.


We almost went camping,

We almost made it to the country,

But with a quiet swell my love went overboard,

Clinging to the ropes with desperate hands.

Pulling out the frames tied into the ropes,

And all the things they’d built to keep it in place.

And out came my dreams,

out came my hopes,

The bits of thread that had begun to link and make meaning,

That had wove through all this and found some deeper purpose.

Out those came too and I find myself alone at sea,

Not sure of how I came to be,

Afraid of all the splits I see,

Afraid of the ice thats gathered in me,

The hard shell heart that looks in shock,

Unable to say it, unable to see it, unable to- he’s gone.


I had to let him go,

as the boat tipped I watched him slip

and in a scramble I tried to catch him.

I saw him fall and with his last moments,

I saw his fingers loosen their grip.

He fell into that sea of sorrow

And I watched it fall around me

“My love!” I screamed into the oncoming waves,

But the rush and the spray covered up my sound.

“My love,” I whispered to the broken plates.

“My love,” I said silently.

I wonder why I didn’t jump down with him,

Wonder why I’m still standing on this deck,

Wonder where this boat is going anymore.

I thought we were going to the country you see,

I thought we were safe now, you and me.

Us here out at sea.


But now its me, slipping on the pitching deck.

Still here somehow.

Ready for the sky, to reach down to me,

For some animal to give me,

Some kind and friendly seed-

How funny that we share this plot together,

With creatures great and small,

Spiders, robins, moths and mice,

cats and worms, shrubs and herbs,

bees and flowers, all sharing in their peaceful ease-

Would a bird lean down to touch my arm,

To mount its feet and drop some grain,

To whisper in my ear that still, You’re there,

That out there a land is near, where things do grow,

And the earth will bear, and the sky is fair,

And the road is clear,

You’ll meet me there, I needn’t fear,

A river meets this sea.

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Advent Journey 2018: The God Interruption

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In amongst the absence of God speaking to his people,
the oppression of another Empire ruling over them,
the apprehension of what was to become of them,
and the narcissism of self-preservation, came the God interruption.

From the absence, came hope.
From the oppression, came joy.
From the apprehension, came peace.
From the narcissism, came love.

Emmanuel – God with us – interrupted human history and started to write a new story.

For December we are making space for this same interruption to grab us as we head towards Christmas by walking an advent journey through each of these themes together.

Hope, joy, peace, love… Christ.

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Our future: a co-led whānau

Central Vineyard was planted with a ministry philosophy of celebrating united-diversity. Simply, we see in the letters of the New Testament that communities were encouraged to be united together around their cause of Christ, but each person is to play their unique part with their unique gifting. Like a good sport team, or a body, or a menu at a restaurant - diversity is good, and when it’s unified, it’s even better. Maybe a helpful image is this: a flotilla. When a dozen of us first met to pray about the new church God was calling us to plant, one of our team had a picture of a flotilla heading down a river – a diverse bunch of unique boats all heading in the same direction together. This picture has been an important vision for us,

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In starting this church, Dan and Gabrielle have been the planting-leaders. They gathered a team and through these leaders, released all kinds of ministry in all kinds of direction. The result has been that Central Vineyard has become a diverse place to belong and minster, but as leaders they can only hold so much, and Central Vineyard has out-grown their ability to hold all of it by themselves.

During this year we have felt that we were no longer a “church-plant” but to become a “church-in-formation”, realising that we are now to grow up together into a healthy and flourishing community. To do this we want to honour diversity. No one leader can lead Central Vineyard fully into its future, it has taken a team so far, and will take a team to go on.

As the planting-leaders, Dan and Gabrielle have been the ones responsible for stewarding our journey together, and while they have always done this with a team of leaders around them, we feel a more intentional move needed to be made. It was time to make room for more and share the responsibility. To bring further safety and structure, we have restructured Central Vineyard leadership to itself reflect unified-diversity and will now be co-led by two couples - the Sheeds and the Wisemans - each couple gifted with their own unique gifts but united in responsibility to care for the journey of our whole whānau.

As we walk into the future, we do it together, and we think that’s a pretty beautiful way to do this.

Dan, Gabrielle, Rob and Alisha

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Monuments: Central Vineyard's Third Birthday

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On November 4th Central Vineyard turns three years old! We want to lean into this monumental-moment by celebrating our journey this year with creativity and by practicing gratitude and having a big party. We don’t want anyone to miss this special moment of our year, so get it in your calendar as a gathering not to miss – and don’t make any lunch plans because we’ve got that covered! 

Sunday November 4th, Epsom Girls Grammar, 10am

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