Introduction to Reflection - Rev. Ian Faulkner

As I prepared for this morning, I had a hymn of my childhood ringing in my ears. I’m sure that a number of the congregation this morning will remember it. Found in the Citizenship and Service section of the old Methodist Hymn Book, number 898, is James Russell Lowell’s 1845 hymn: “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide. In the strife of truth and falsehood for the good or evil side.”

This hymn and the tune that I know named EBENEZER, flooded into my mind as I read of events unfolding in the city of Minneapolis, in the United States of America, following the death of George Floyd early this week. I do not understand a civic environment where such events originate. I do however know that the anger we see demonstrated on our TV screens and the perceptions being enacted are very real.

One of the reflections that I have read was written by Diana Butler Bass, a church historian, commentator on civic events in the USA, who contributes regularly to magazines that are set in a progressive Christianity space. This week she has written of these events in Minneapolis and placed them alongside the images of the day of Pentecost. Her words: “Pentecost is no party this year. Indeed, this feast fall on the eve of a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, June the 1st, to be marked by silence at noon. Silence more than shouting this year. Mourning not celebration.” She also writes: “this discomforting Pentecost drew my attention away from the traditional readings. My attention was drawn instead to an alternative reading set for today: those words found in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 13 that read: ‘for in the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.’

These are powerful words.

How do we in Aotearoa view these images on the day of Pentecost, knowing that our own civic record also has underlaying currents that signal all is not well within our own shores? Do we recognise the inequalities that are evident here in New Zealand in the outcomes for many in our communities, reflected in health, housing, educational and other social indicators?

Diana entitles her sermon for this day: Pentecost, Prejudice and Pandemic. They are written to a community that is also grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a distance, we can only mourn with her, in her setting where now there are more than 100,000 deaths associated with the virus – more deaths in total than those killed in the conflict we know as the Vietnam War: a war known in Vietnam as ‘the American War’.

On our Pentecost day 2020, I invite us all to reflect on the words of Diana Butler Bass. Are we able to stand in solidarity with her as she brings these words today to her readers: words that she also brings to us, here in Aotearoa, many hours away from the events she’s commenting on?

Today, our guest is Lesieli Samiu, of the Epsom Congregation. I have come to know Lesieli as a member of the Board of Methodist Mission and Ecumenical. Lesieli led our Board devotions this past Tuesday night. Her reflection, noting the impact of the Corona Virus on her world and mindset, spoke to me. I invited her to reshare her words with us this morning.

Reflection - Lesilei Samiu

If you would like to read the words rather than watch the videos, please click here.