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Vicar's Musings for Easter 4

29 April, 2012

"God said to Moses, 'I am who I am'." Exodus 3:14

I remember the day I first encountered Colin McCahon's monumental painting Victory Over Death 2 (1970) The Auckland Art Gallery were exhibiting a collection of McCahon's works and had secured the painting from the National Gallery of Australia where it usually resides. I turned the corner into one of the main display rooms and there it stood, towering over me, dominating the entire space. I was transfixed.

The painting looms two metres high and nearly six metres in length. Its limited pallet of black and white gives a numinous power to the Biblical text "I AM." Then as one is drawn into the work, a textual echo to the left hand side of the painting slowly enters the viewer's consciousness, presenting an unsettling human response to the divine imperative: "AM I"? Faith and doubt lock antlers as that vulnerable inner reality is brought out into the open.

McCahon's imagery has been particularly resonant for me in taking up my responsibilities as Vicar of St Peter's Eastern Hill. Once I made the decision to take up the Archbishop's invitation I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of God's call; almost a burning-bush type experience. At the same time I was reading Dr Colin Holden's wonderful book From Tories at Prayer to Socialists at Mass (1992) and was plagued by doubts: am I really the right person to take up a parish like this? I am often greeted at Diocesan meetings with such affirming statements as: I hope you know what you've taken on.

The artist captures the human condition of anxiety so powerfully, but behind it the archetypal story of Moses sits majestically: "Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt?' He said, 'I will be with you'" (Exodus 3:11-12a).

As we embark on our journey into God's future together, I am sure many of you will be experiencing some anxiety too. Where will our new Vicar take us? I have to be honest at this early stage and say: I don't know. I have started my process of listening, visiting as many groups and individuals as I can each week. Already I have heard enough to realize that there are almost as many possible ministry directions as there are parishioners. My job in the coming weeks and months is to keep listening deeply and widely, and in close consultation with the Wardens, Vestry, Parish Staff and others in key leadership positions to truly "hear what the Spirit is saying to the church." But please do be assured that whatever direction we sense that God may be calling us to go as a community, communication is going to be a crucial component of that journey. I am called to travel with you and I certainly do not intend to trek off into the desert alone!

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster


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