From 2009 Autumn Arena – New Zealand Corner
Neville Twist, Auckland
Easter in New Zealand
It’s Friday the 10th of April, 2009 – Yes, Good Friday, that most sacred of all the Christian celebrations. From 7:00AM onwards I scan the radio station of the government operated Radio New Zealand – National (equivalent to the ABC in Australia), hoping to tune into some religious program to commemorate this momentous occasion – maybe a hymn program, maybe a broadcast from a church Easter service, maybe a BBC documentary on the subject, anything to reflect upon this day’s events that occurred some 2000 years ago, but no nothing, absolutely nothing about the Easter story. Not one reference to Jesus or the significance of this most important occasion. I check the TV guide. Surely there’ll be at least one program with an Easter message. Maybe an old movie with an Easter theme, maybe a live broadcast from a Christian church, maybe a discussion panel of religious leaders, anything. But no, not a single item listed with anything to do with Easter and the significance of this epochal event. Nothing, absolutely nothing!
In desperation I scour through some old vinyl LP’s I have and pick out one by Billy Graham. Yes, that great American evangelist and one of the world’s last true great orators. I listen to a sermon entitled ‘The Frontiers of Tomorrow’. This would have been recorded at least 40 years ago, and yet one would think it was produced yesterday. So powerful and awe-inspiring are his words on how the western world has turned its back on God and has instead perused the gods of materialism, money, self-gratification and pleasure. Billy preaches from the Bible book of Jeremiah and tells how the prophet warned the people of Israel that if they didn’t turn from their idolitise ways, their civilization was domed. And about how Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem. He tells how they (and we of today) have never had it so good in a material sense, but are so dissatisfied with life and possess an emptiness that can’t be filled. What a shame we don’t have a religious leader or an orator of Billy Graham’s, Charles Finney’s, C.H. Spurgeon’s, or for that matter, William Sadler junior’s caliber today.
Little wonder so many people, especially young people, are stumbling through life today without even the most basic concept of God or of spiritual meanings and values in their lives. Recently, an intelligent 27 year old couldn’t even tell me what happened on Good Friday. Try and get someone to recite two or more of the Ten Commandments. Surely, it’s a sad indictment on western civilization that things of spiritual nature have been relegated to the position of no importance. That the Source and Destination of all life in the universe should be discarded in favour of the pursuit of money, careers, material processions, self indulgence, prestige and pleasure. At least this is the case here in New Zealand where society has been almost completely secularized. This is a country where some 4% of the population, attend church on regular basis and where ANZAC day has become the new secular religion, more important than even Easter.
So what for the gospel of The Urantia Book? How can these superb teachings be conveyed to a lost and confused generation? Surely we Urantia Book students have an awesome responsibility to share the gospel message of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man with our fellow man. But how can we achieve this in this modern age? I don’t really know the answers, but looking at how Jesus achieved this is a great place to begin. Perhaps we could start with honestly living these precious truths so that our fellow man is naturally drawn to us, to enquire the source of our happiness and contentment with life. Let’s bait and encourage our fellows to seek the truth and to find the true meaning of life. Once their curiosity is aroused, we can explain the joy of our faith sonship with the Universal Farther and the wonderful hope we have of eternal life. Maybe, just maybe, the economic turmoil the planet is currently facing will steer people’s attention away from the material, secular world of discontentment to those higher plains of spiritual values and to that peace that passes all understanding.
From 2009 Spring Arena – New Zealand Corner
Frances Potter, Lower Hutt, NZ
International Study Day — Paper 100“Religion in Human Experience”
A small but enthusiastic group of three UB readers gathered in Wellington for the International Study Day on May 23rd. This gathering had been a long time in the making. I knew of the existence of two readers in Wellington, but had only contacted Colin Hemmingsen once, and despite having had Matthew Hall’s email address for years I had never got around to using it. The Study Day seemed just the occasion to start the ball rolling – with Rita’s help. I had not studied the UB properly for many years, so I wondered how I would react to its teachings after so long. I was not disappointed!
Before tackling the Paper we got better acquainted over a cuppa with a discussion about the search for the meaning of life and the many and varied ways of approaching it. We agreed there are many paths on the journey and between the three of us we have followed many! Colin was full of enthusiasm over the recent discovery of a type of lemur which he was sure was mentioned in the UB. With the help of a concordance we investigated and found the reference to the “highest lemur types”, said to have evolved into humanity as we are today (in Paper 62). After a further diversion via the first three paragraphs of Paper 102 (my all-time favourites for their stunning language and uplifting message) we settled to the appointed task.
Paper 100 struck me anew as one of the most densely packed repositories of wisdom I have ever come across. Almost every paragraph contains concise gems of real practical assistance in daily living. The strength and quality of these messages left the Buddhist book I am currently reading for dead. It is hard to describe the personal difference I felt in returning to these words after a gap of several years. I was heartened to feel a certain subtle difference in my attitude – perhaps a little less struggle, a little less inclination to “take exception” and a greater sense of gratitude for the existence of these valuable teachings. A couple of us were even moved to tears at one point (although I can’t remember the phrase which did it). One of us who shall be nameless said he finds this happening more and more as he gets older!
The experience of reading a section each in turn, with lively discussion in between, took me back to the days when this was a regular and inspiring event for me, in the company of the Sydney study group. That time seems both very long ago now, as well as a mere moment ago. It is not often that one shares a room with likeminded people who are sincerely dedicated to the search for spiritual truth. I felt a sense of honour that we were “gathering in God’s name”, and felt truly nourished by sitting down with two people I did not know well and feeling great fellowship with them. All of us were mystified as to why more people are not interested in taking this journey – not even our partners. Perhaps the fact that such an experience is sought only by the few is what makes it so special when you do get it.
We all enjoyed our morning together and as a result, have arranged to meet again soon to read another paper. I would be happy for this to become a regular occurrence.