‘…to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of your people Israel…’ [Luke 2:32]
Greetings to you all and may God richly bless your ministries this year. I hope you all had a refreshing break with your families and friends.
The cycle of the church year has reached once again the story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. As the contrast of new beginnings and a lifetime of experience is presented, I am reminded that we live lives of pan-generational consequences. This is a story that is played out time and time again too across the Old Testament as the faithfulness (and failings) of our forebears bear fruit long after their deaths, and as God’s promise extends across peoples, geographies and time.
Simeon and Anna never saw the fruits of Jesus’ ministry – his death, his resurrection, Pentecost, the spread of the Gospel message across the world. Reaching the end of their ministries, they once again were called to trust that the impoverished couple with an ordinary-looking baby would indeed be the catalyst for the change that God had promised.
The writer of Hebrews distils the essence of faith in Chapter 11: ‘confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see’ (NIV). He notes how across God’s story, people of faith continued in that faith when they died: they ‘did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.’
As people of faith, we may not understand the process as our faith communities change around us, but like Simeon and Anna we need to be looking at the generation to come. They understood that the church was being renewed not just for themselves, but for those to come, and were not passive bystanders but active participants in that change process.
On the topic of active participation, this month New Zealand welcomed the first quota of Syrian refugees into the Mangere resettlement centre. As they prepare for their new lives in Aotearoa, please keep this group in your prayers. Keep an eye out too in Movement for ways that you will be able to be involved when those to be settled in Wellington arrive. Thanks to Archdeacon Stephen King for leading the response to this crisis on behalf of all the New Zealand Dioceses.
I would like to encourage you all to write to your MPs to lobby for an increase to the numbers of refugees entering New Zealand each year. In particular, we would like to ask you to ask them to double the annual quota. Please see the Refugee section in this week’s Movement for information to support this request, and write to your MP at [MP name], Freepost Parliament, Private Bag 18 888, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160.
Your generous responses to my call for help last year have proved just how able we are as communities to offer assistance where it is needed, and doubling the quota would mean lasting change for so many more families whose lives are desperately burdened.
Thank you all so much.
Bishop of Wellington