Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Auckland
28 October 2017.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
This is a great privilege. My sincere thanks to the Bishops of the Diocese of Auckland for the invitation to preach on this historic occasion.
Greetings and congratulations
This is a remarkable achievement: (Because of...)
• The linking of St Mary's
• The removal of the bridge
• The wonderful, breathtaking Selwyn Chapel
• The refurbishment and rebuilding of the organs in St Mary's and here in Holy Trinity.
• The beautifully developed grounds.
I want to acknowledge all those who have gone before who have made this day possible.
Especially former Bishops and Deans, particularly Archdeacon Jo Kelly Moore, Bishop Ross both as Dean and now Diocesan bishop and the current Dean, Anne Mills, and indeed the whole team here at the Cathedral.
Also, the Selwyn's Vision team, every member for the unified, purposeful and determined way you have approached your task. To so many people who have worked and scrubbed, and prayed and laboured to bring today to reality, Congratulations.
I bring the greetings from your brothers and sisters across the Anglican Church in these islands
And I acknowledge our wider Anglican Communion represented today by the Primates of Australia and Melanesia, and the Bishop of Lichfield
It is my profound privilege to bring the greetings, congratulations and assurance of prayers from the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby and Dean of the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, Canterbury Cathedral, Dean Robert Willis.
To those here today who represent this city, especially members of the City Council - and the wider community, to our ecumenical partners - thank you, for your presence, vision and generosity. This is your place, your Cathedral.
This place has particular significant in my own life – I watched St Mary's being moved across the road, I was ordained deacon, sitting in the "tin" end by Bishop Paul Reeves, and I preached at his State Funeral, which was an equally terrifying experience!
This extraordinary building points to many dimensions of our faith and human existence - but let me focus on just four:
This is a place that points us to purpose and meaning
“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.”
"A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m moulding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”
“Three craftsmen, three different attitudes, all doing the same job.”
With startling clarity, this story illustrates that purpose has the power to transform not only our attitude about the work that we do, but the quality of our work as well. And if purpose can help one transcend even a physically laborious task as that undertaken by the three masons in our story, then imagine the impact that such clarity of purpose can have on all our work, and on all our lives.
So what purpose drives you? What purpose motivates you in your life?
The Gospel answer, the Gospel message is simple, our purpose is to; love God, love neighbour and know that you are loved. To do so is to bring glory to God.
So it all begins and ends with this simple truth – “We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love”. This is a whole different frame of reference.
Psalm 139 is a remarkable poem celebrating the intimacy in which we are known and valued and loved - and that this is so for every individual, every living thing.
Lord, you have searched me out and known me:
you know when I sit down and when I stand up,
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You mark my path, and the places where I rest:
you are acquainted with all my ways. R.
Even before there is a word on my tongue
you Lord know it altogether.
You guard me from behind and before:
and cover me with your hand.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me:
so high that I cannot attain to it. R.
Where shall I go from your spirit:
or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven you are there:
if I make my bed in the grave you are there also. R.
If I take the wings of the dawn:
and alight at the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me:
and your right hand will hold me fast. R.
Surely one reason why people go to a mountaintop or go to the edge of the ocean is in part, to look at something larger than themselves. That feeling of awe, of going to a cathedral, is about feeling lost in something bigger than oneself. That something is this power of love. That is the creative centre of the universe. God is Love. We are called to love one another, for love is of God and whoever loves is born of God and knows God. In this we find our identity and our dignity.
We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love. This is a whole different frame of reference. This is our purpose.
This is to be a place of radical hospitality
This Cathedral is called to be a place of wide open doors that swing both ways, not seeking to restrict or to contain. A place which is full of light, seeing the world beyond, and the world beyond seeing in. We are called to offer expansive, generous, unconditional hospitality.
"We honour God by being an open and inclusive church that helps people to question and discover for themselves the significance of Jesus Christ. We offer support and encouragement, not facile answers that sound good but don’t last. We are people of faith but faith means many things. It means listening, accepting, trusting, questioning and following. Faith may be one person’s experience but more importantly faith moulds and defines a community of disciples. So if we are to understand God’s purposes in the 21st century and avoid being irrelevant to Auckland, and beyond, then we must uphold each other as we seek deeper truths and strive to be a place of encounter between people and God."
"The community at large remains to be convinced that the church is more than a group of people looking after themselves. Our words are good but history, economic conditions, wealth and poverty, create many walls that define us. This Cathedral does not stand for privilege. The essence of a cathedral is that it belongs to the community and mirrors whatever makes that community rejoice or sorrow. God requires that of us."
The Most Rev Sir Paul Reeves
So this is the challenge of love, this world is no waiting room but the construction site for a new community, a community that is created when we live by the precepts of love, justice, peace and righteousness.
We must consistently work for justice and peace, work to reconcile the conflicted, to create an environment where opposing positions feel listened to and so might begin to listen to each other. The Gospel calls us to stand astride fault lines in our communities and encourage dialogue.
These peaceable ways are shaped and nurtured by the gospel of Jesus Christ and ultimately are rooted in the simple truth – We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love.
This is a whole different frame of reference. Not retribution but redemption, not revenge but restoration.
Looking for the best, believing in the best, refusing to be deterred by human frailty and sinfulness.
Can we imagine “a circle of compassion and then imagine that no one stands outside of that circle”? (Fr Greg Boyle)
This Cathedral is not big enough but it can point to this reality .... These are the consequences of the central reality we proclaim "We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love". This is a whole different frame of reference.
This is to be a place that points us to transformative grace.
Zacheaus - Tax collector, despised, regarded as traitorous. Gives 1/2 of his income to the poor - it is an existing pattern and it is clear he intends that pattern to continue. Jesus wants to hang out with him. What does this gospel tell us? Jesus is coming. He’s looking for you. He’s inviting himself into your heart. Right now, as you are… run to him. Welcome him. He will enter your life and fill it with grace. No one is beyond this grace, no one is beyond redemption.
Esmae - brought to church by her Baptist neighbour because she is unable to walk, child dies at 15 from an asthma induced attack, an adopted son who was addicted to drugs beaten to death. Her husband died early. Her oldest daughter has died recently after a short six week illness from diagnosis to death. My life through all of this, I have been deeply blessed ....
Concentration Camp Letter:
O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us:
Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering—our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.
When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
(Found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck concentration camp.)
Theresa of Calcutta was surely right when she said that the problems of this world begin from the fact that we have forgotten that we belong to one another. Even in the face of such abandonment, such profound evil, or profound loss, the beauty of the human spirit, created in love, redeemed in love, called to give expression to that love - is clearly seen. We do belong to one another - even those who are the perpetrators of great evil.
"We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love." This is a whole different frame of reference.
Nothing, no one, is beyond the power of this transformative grace.
A place that points us to the power of beauty.
"Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood" - TS Eliot. This is true of this eccentric juxtaposition of space, and volume and shape; of colour, and light and shade and coolness and sunshine that any time spent exploring this remarkable Cathedral complex.
My recent experience of silence and solitude in Canterbury Cathedral, the shear weight of more than 1500 years of prayer, music and reflection resounds from the walls. I felt tiny, inconsequential and yet embraced, drawn into a deep knowing and reality that words cannot adequately describe. I found myself inexplicably weeping. Touching and being touched by a deep joy. The building had its way with me.
This Cathedral will endure for hundreds of years. It will be the place where this city can gather to celebrate and to lament, it will be the place of public debate and discourse, it will be the place of quiet private reflection and boisterous, noisy gatherings of thousands of young people, it will be the place of plainsong - and perhaps even a little bit of Hillsong, it will provide a narrative of Christian faith and it will invite us all to join our own story of faith into this stream.
Above all this wonderful place points us to all the beauty and joy that surrounds us in this remarkable world, - we will be reminded of the simple, inescapable truth with all its beautiful, yet disturbing consequences of this simple truth - that We are created in love, we are redeemed by love and we are called to love.