Vern Mason

My friend and former parishioner Vernon Mason died this week.  Vern was a real treasure.  I hope that every minister of the gospel has had a person like Vern in each place they have served – I have been so fortunate to have people like him alongside me in each pastorate.  Vern was the person more than any other, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Gore, who was a friend and confidant as well as parish member.  In a season when ministers were being encouraged to be professional and to ‘keep the lines clear’, I was fortunate to have a companion who allowed me to be me – he did so without feeling compromised by the different responsibilities we held – he was blessedly free – comfortable in his own skin and therefore able to enter a level of calm that enabled him to be trusted.  Vern was a respected elder in the church – a person who did not seek or need to be noticed in the role, and therefore someone with the capacity to befriend the minister and provide a range of ways of being supportive and do so without fanfare.  With his treasure of a wife, Joyce, Vern offered me and my family hospitality, practical and understated spiritual support, a listening ear, a place of refuge/sanctuary, and time out on the golf course where he allowed me to vent… something I needed to do from time to time.  I never felt judged, only supported and embraced.  He was also very wise and quite funny… he had the ability to play with the things hovering around me that seemed so serious; he taught me to see the big picture and to not take myself or the situations before me, too seriously.  He was one of those people who discovered how to walk on the earth lightly – I have a feeling that these sort of people are those who Jesus describes as the meek who will inherit the earth… the people who actually get to live life in its fullness… the kind of people who are truly free.  I think he was both extraordinary and ordinary… extraordinary in his ordinariness… one of life’s treasures.  He is among a small group of men who have been my closest mentors in life and I have long mourned the loss of him as a regular presence in my life.
Vern and Joyce were the people who I found hardest to leave when I moved on, and even then, I did not feel judged. He was selfless in his encouragement.
I talked to him last week – he relayed a story that illustrates his playful humour… he said “Martin, do you remember me telling you on the golf course one day that I hoped to get to 83 years old and dying after being shot my an angry husband?  Well, I have got to 83, but I think I might need a manual to find out how to do what it is that would cause an angry husband to shoot me!”

Farewell Vern you gracious and generous man.  Thanks for modelling for me the kind of life that I was trying to preach about!

Do we deserve anything? Reflection on the Lost Son/Waiting Father/Graceless older brother…

Today’s sermon from Luke 15:11-32… the passage from the Bible against wish I reckon anything else we say about God should be tested!

Anne and I have always raised our eyebrows when we hear people use the word ‘deserve’ or talk in ways that use the concept.  For us the idea that we deserve anything is anti-gospel… it is the opposite of grace… it is ungodly.  The idea that we deserve or merit anything defies the teachings of the scriptures, of Jesus and Paul.  There is nothing you can do to put yourself right with God, they say… nothing.  That is what we believe is at the core of the Christian Faith.  For us, the idea of deserve is the opposite of how God is and how we are called to be.  Deserve is de-serve… the opposite of serving.  Deserve is another form of me-first… the me-centred life that the gospel won’t have a bar of.  Life is a gift – a grace.  We don’t deserve it – it just comes at us.  We don’t deserve an easy life, a healthy life, or a life free of pain and suffering… as nice as these things are and as grateful as we are when things are going well, we don’t deserve them as such… life is a privilege not a right, we don’t deserve, we serve.  We are called to give thanks to God in all things and to live our lives as a gift.  Grace is the only show in town.

Interestingly, most of us, one way or another, seem to regularly slink off to the outskirts of the town and practice other ways of seeing. Continue reading

Ellerslie Flower Show 2013

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the sculptures were a real highlight this year

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in the weta workshop Andrew Ellis-Danny Kamo design

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Susan Higgs’ ‘Migration’

Anne and I attended the show today in Hagley Park – first by volunteering with Christian World Service for 4.5hrs and then having a good wander around.  There were some great highlights, but this year’s show felt less than last year… less food, less quantity and quality exhibits, and less punters.
This collection of images were some photographic highlights for me… DSC_0417 DSC_0425 DSC_0438

Ben Hoyles Gold Winning garden - quite a gem!

Ben Hoyles Gold Winning garden – quite a gem!

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a very chatty Maggie Barry

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a school group from the Wellington area

a school group from the Wellington area (Raumati)

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The grand winner and my favourite as well

The grand winner and my favourite as well – Revolutionising Reuse

Tomato Soup

here’s a grand recipe we love… we anticipate making 30kg of our homegrown tomatoes into soup this year!

Tomato soup one hour from now!

Tomato soup one hour from now!

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Tomato Soup

9lbs/4kg tomatoes

3lbs/1.5kg onions

1 cup sugar

1 dsp salt

Pepper

1 tbs short grain rice

Mint or mint flakes

Chop tomatoes & onions

Add other ingredients

Bring to boil

Simmer until well-cooked

Puree the mixture (can wait until a bit cooler)

If want to dilute a bit water is useful

Freeze as much as want in containers
(a margarine container is just right for two adults – the children starve)