Sunday Observation

I believe in the Holy universal church.

“I live a much more Christian lifestyle than those supposed Christians who meet at that church down the road.”

This sentence has been rolling around in my brain all weekend. I can’t seem to shake it. It was the beginning of a listening session that I was able to be on the receiving end of. The hurting woman told me about the horrible bitterness she had encountered at the church she was talking about (luckily it wasn’t the church I am pastoring), she told me that she didn’t have much respect for Christians, or for church politicking (me either).  She rounded off by telling me that she would never understand why people would waste the time going to church. And finally she looked at me and asked what I was doing in New Zealand. I kind of chuckled and told her I had come over for work, and I half hoped she wouldn’t ask what sort of work I was doing.

She did ask, and I then got to tell her about how I was so serious about being a Christian I had become a professional one. Just kidding. But really I told her that I was working at a church in the area. I told her that we believe that things like shame and guilt and hatred and pain don’t have to stick with you for your whole life and that we believe there is healing from that. But at this point in the conversation I could have told her she had won the lottery and she wouldn’t have heard me. She had checked out of the conversation.

So I find myself wondering about church today as I preached the sermon, and as we prayed the prayers, and as I listened to my wife lead us in singing on her ukulele, and as we recited the creeds, and as our small congregation gathered for tea and bickies afterward.

It is of course trendy right now to say that the church is not the building, but rather it is the people inside who make up the church. I can’t help but wonder if this sentence has lost its meaning to many people. What does it mean to be the church anyway? What does the church do? Why the church? The church has always been, and I believe always will be known for her habitus; our embodied disposition. Those things that we do. When we love our God and our neighbor in actuality it is love that we become known for. Maybe try giving a listening ear or a hug if it is welcome.  However if we simply meet together as a social club that is sometimes full of bitterness and church politics each week then chances are good we will become known for that disposition. If we gather and talk about all the things that Christians don’t do, then we will become known for that. If we gather and don’t talk, or don’t listen, or don’t celebrate, then I think you get the idea.

Maybe you’ve asked the same: “Why church?” It is a legitimate question. One that doesn’t always have an easy answer but I think novelist Flannery O’Connor speaks to it,

“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed”

Sometimes, when a person in my congregation will come to me and tell me they are frustrated and tired and about ready to give up on God, I won’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say a lot of the time, and I don’t know why frustrating, and horrible and hurtful things happen. I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know how to hug, and I try my best to listen, and I try to be the body of Christ.

Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need the church, and maybe you’re right. But I think its only because the church you’ve encountered isn’t the church that God has envisioned for God’s people. 

Maybe you are hurting today, and frustrated, and ready to give up. If this is you, please know you’re not alone. Please let me (or someone near you) listen to you and hurt with you and be the body of Christ.

Our First Six Weeks: 6 Things We Love About NZ!

Hello! Long time, no blog post! Moving to a new country is hard, hey?! We often find ourselves exhausted and overwhelmed (<<thanks to culture stress) but that’s par for the course. We’ve noticed though, that much of the conversation in our home revolves around our excitement for NZ life! We are still so new to this country but at first “glance”, here is what we LOVE about living in New Zealand so far:

1. Eco-Friendliness

It seems that everyone and their mom cares about the environment here in NZ. And they don’t just SAY they care, they actually DO things to care for the environment. For example, at coffee shops you have to request a takeaway (to-go) cup when ordering. Otherwise, they just automatically put your drink into a mug for you to drink there. Generally, takeaway containers and grocery sacks cost extra to encourage you to use/bring your own! At every cafe I’ve visited, I’ve seen people bring in their own cups. It seems like everyone recycles and composts (the “trash trucks” pick up food scraps and compost it for you!) and I’ve overheard many conversations about being more green. Obviously, there are definite areas where we can all improve, but this is something that has stood out to me since arriving!

2. Opportunities for Nature Exploration

If you didn’t know, New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful and a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for spectacular views and amazing hikes. The South Island, where we live, is home to the Southern Alps and we get to drive by them all the time! We’ve taken advantage of nearby nature reserves, parks, ponds, and forests, spending time hiking, walking, and picnicking. We love to admire God’s creation, knowing full well God delights in our enjoyment of it. Our adventures out and about have helped us meet people, learn a bit about NZ’s history by reading strategically-placed signage, and simply explore our new area. Also, it’s free!

3. Cultural Diversity

One thing I noticed right away was the diversity in Christchurch. People who know NZ are probably laughing because Christchurch is actually one of the least diverse cities here! But even still, there is a great international presence here. We’ve met people who’ve moved to NZ from Germany, Ukraine, the U.S.A, India, Fiji, England, Canada, Colombia, and Chile. We’ve also been able to learn a bit about Maori culture, NZ’s indigenous Polynesian culture. The Maori language is popular in schools and is on various signage throughout the country. There are a few Maori songs and many words that get used in daily conversation that everyone seems to know. For example, “Kia Ora” = “Hi/Welcome” (Literally means “Be Well”), and “kai” = food.

4. Slow Pace of Life = Kind Citizens

We all know that Americans love to be productive, efficient, and busy. I’ve noticed a big change in my lifestyle since moving to NZ, surrounded by people who actually take vacation days and often have nothing on their schedule. This allows for time to explore this beautiful country and enjoy family and friends! People obviously go to work and participate in extracurricular activities, but it does seem like there is a slower pace of life here. It’s been good for all of us! For example, one thing I’ve noticed is the ability to wait for various fruits/veg to be in season. There’s no rush to have avocados in the Winter, they’ll just wait for Spring and Summer when they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Also more often than not, random strangers seem to enjoy taking the time to say hi and ask how my day is going. Everyone has been kind and welcoming to us.

5. Accommodating to Dietary Restrictions

Overall we’ve noticed that almost every restaurant/cafe has vegetarian/gluten free/dairy free options. I’ve met more vegetarians and vegans here than I’ve ever met in my life! Everyone has their own reasons for eating the way they do, and I love the intentionality behind it. Some do it for health reasons and some do it out of concern for the environment, but no one bats an eye at our family’s odd mix of restrictions. And better yet, there are loads of choices for us if we get the chance to eat outside our house (a rare occurrence, but still…)!

6. 100% Kiwi

New Zealanders are humbly proud of their unique culture. You’ll see “100% Kiwi” on labels and in shops, stating that the ingredients and/or labor all originated in NZ. Websites like ebay, craigslist, amazon, and groupon don’t exist here because someone has created a kiwi equivalent. There are hardly any outside chains, because Kiwis just create their own awesome stuff!

the sunset over our house last week 🙂

There are so many more things we love about this place, but I wanted to keep this short. You can count on us writing more about our life here as we continue to get settled and find our footing. Thanks for stopping by! Give us a shout if you’re thinking about us. It really helps in those times where we miss our dear friends and family back home <3