Welcome to our Easter programme of renewal! We have only just completed the season of Lent that brought us through to the joyful celebrations of the death and resurrection of God's Son. We now rejoice in that Light and look forward to living our lives in it and to sharing it with others. That is what our next few weeks are going to be all about. Preparing to move out in faith.
We all know, if we are honest, that we are not the kind of persons that God wants us to be. We fall short of that mark through sin and human weakness. Nor are all of our families good examples of the true Christian family that God calls us to be. If we look at our parishes, we will see all kinds of struggles, fights, bitterness and feuds. And then there is the Diocese itself which is anything but a united Body of Christ. No wonder the city of Port Moresby is having such a bad time! If the community God has called to be their light is so full of darkness, what hope do the rest have? If the Body of Christ cannot live together in love and harmony, then how can we expect others in the community to find peace? We need healing. We need to be healed and to reach out to heal others. We need forgiveness. We need to be forgiven and we need to forgive others. We need to be reconciled. Reconciled with God, with our family and friends, with our parish and with the whole Church and we need to let these be reconciled with us. It is only when we have done these things and allowed them to happen to us will our own lives, our families, our parish and our Diocese begin to come alive with the blessings of God. There will be no change until there is healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
That is what we want to be working on over the next six weeks. We want to prepare to celebrate the great feat of Pentecost and to be free of sin and filled with hope so that the Spirit will take us up into the life of God and we can enjoy life as a new creation in the new creation of God. But there is a lot of work to be done first. We would like to move, as a Diocese through four stages of reconciliation and healing. The first is myself with God. Even if we went to confession before Easter, we can still take those steps towards forgiveness. We should all try and go to confession some time between now and Pentecost. The second reconciliation is within our families. During the next few weeks there will be many opportunities for families to come together in prayer and in sharing and to say sorry for our failings as members of a family. In the second week there is a short service of healing that we can have in our family homes, where we ask forgiveness and we are given forgiveness. It is the time to heal our family wounds and to allow us to start again. The third reconciliation is within our parish. On the Sunday of the Ascension all families will come together in our parish and bring our desire to be healed and forgiven. Special parts of the liturgy will be drawn up on that day so that our Sunday Mass will be one that truly unites us together and ends all past wrongs, bitterness and hatreds. The final reconciliation is with the Diocese. On Pentecost Sunday we will all gather together and be reconciled with each other, seeking forgiveness for our failings in the past. Again, at that Mass there will be all kinds of liturgical actions to make that real for us and so that we make full public commitments to forget the past and to work together on building the future.
An important part of reconciliation in Papua New Guinea is the offering. Traditionally in an act of reconciliation, those being reconciled would bring gifts - pigs, food, money, etc. These were all signs of what was going on inside the person's mind and to show just how serious they were about being reconciled. It was not just all words, but they would make a sacrificial offering along with the words. We would like to bring a similar kind of offering into our service as well. Over the six weeks, families could put money aside each week (making some sacrifices and cutting out some things we might normally have) as an offering of reconciliation they would then bring to their parish reconciliation day on Ascension Sunday. This is their sign of a desire for healing and to make up for the wrongs they have done. Each parish would then bring that money along on Pentecost day as their offering of reconciliation to the other parishes and the Diocese. This money would be used for the mission work of the Church.
Throughout the programme, individuals, families and parishes will be invited to prepare to make some firm commitments to renewal when we gather for Pentecost. This is the whole point of the six weeks - to be healed of the past so that we can go out into the community and be faithful. That will need a lot of prayer and a lot of reflection if it is going to succeed. In this time God is giving us a wonderful chance to start all over again. He is inviting us to leave behind the failures and weaknesses of the past and to walk with him in his new creation. Whether or not it works will depend on just how strong our desire is to change and how willing we are to put in the hard work and sacrifice such change requires.
Anglican Bishop of Port Moresby
THE PROGRAMME FOR THE SIX WEEKS
- Who am I?
- But we have all sinned!
- What does it mean to be a Christian?
- The hour has come. Repent and believe.
- Do you want to be cured?
- Awake O sleeper and arise from the dead.