The Community of St Martin @ St Chad's is an Anglican Parish that serves the people of Sandringham and Mt Roskill. The Parish Patrons are St Martin of Tours (c.316- 397) and St Chad of Mercia (634-672). Martin and Chad worked on the frontier of Christendom in their respective eras, bringing people to Christ as much by what they did as by what they said. The Community of St Martin @ St Chad's endeavours, by the grace of God, to follow their example in our time and place - and you are most warmly welcome to join us on this mission.
Almighty God, you called Martin from the armies of this world to be a faithful soldier of Christ, and led your servant Chad to be an evangelist and bishop of the fledgling English Church. Give us grace to imitate their lives of love by walking humbly, prayerfully, generously and courageously with you, that we may truly commend to others the faith which we ourselves profess; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen.
In St Martin's @ St Chad's
Sunday, 9.30am - Parish Eucharist with Hymns
Wednesday (third of the month), 10.00am, Senior Fellowship Service - next Service 15 November 2017. This will be the last Senior Fellowship for 2017, so the shared meal after the service will have a Christmas theme. As is the tradition here, each attendee is asked to bring a wrapped, low cost, Christmas gift. These will be gathered up and distributed during the meal.
At Hillsborough Heights Retirement Village
Tuesday, 10.00am - Eucharist with Hymns
At Dominion Home, Dementia Care
Wednesday, 11.00am (2nd and 4th of the month), Eucharist. (next Service 25 October 2017)
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, 22 October 2017, 9.30am
"Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matt 22:21)
You will no doubt have heard the old adage that there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. There is truth in this statement. Death has been a part of life on this planet for the millions of years over which life has evolved from the simplest, single-celled organisms to the incredibly complex forms of life which grace the earth today. Taxes, understood as levies gathered in a systematic way from a population by those who govern that human unit are not millions of years old, but they are certainly thousands of years old and have been with us since humans began to cluster together into sedentary communities that required an administration to maintain law and order, and provide some level of defence from outsiders. The Roman Empire which occupied Palestine in the first century had a well organised system of taxation but it didn’t operate in quite the way that it does in twenty-first century New Zealand. In first century Palestine taxes were collected by agents who obtained the right to raise taxes on condition that they guaranteed to pay the Roman authorities a set fee – whether or not they were able to extract that sum from the people. They were, however, allowed to raise more money than their quota. There was a strong incentive to do so, because that surplus remained with them. It was ‘their cut.’ This system worked well for the Roman state. They were guaranteed a certain income. It wasn’t so wonderful for the population concerned, who were pursued by tax agents anxious to achieve their quota in tax lest they fall foul of the Roman justice system and keen to extract as much money as possible from each person they met. It is understandable, then, that tax collectors were despised by the local population. Any revolutionary figure might have been expected to be a harsh critic of the tax system and to have encouraged his/her compatriots to resist paying it. This is what the Pharisees were banking on when they quizzed Jesus about the justice of paying tax to the Emperor. If Jesus said it was wrong to do so, they could run straight to the Roman authorities and accuse him of sedition. If he said it was just to pay tax to the Emperor, Jesus – the Pharisees might reason – would be made to look weak to his followers. Jesus deflects their cunning, pointing out that there is justice in the paying of tax to the Emperor (“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s”). His ‘knock-out blow’ to the Pharisees is to bring God into the conversation when he states that we must also give God what is God’s due. This makes the Pharisees look very petty. They should have been spending their time asking Jesus questions on how we are to achieve the latter. That would have been a very productive thing for them to do, and so it remains today.
RECREATION AT ST MARTIN'S AT ST CHAD'S
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, 15 October 2017, 9.30am
This Sunday's Gospel continues in a similar vein to the parable we heard last week, about the wicked tenants who were evicted from the vineyard they were meant to be tending, and were replaced by a new set of tenants. Now the parable is about a group of people who were invited to a royal wedding banquet but repeatedly turned down the official summons to attend the feast for selfish reasons – some going so far as to kill the slaves whom the king sent as his ambassadors. Again, as last week, the parable would appear to be aimed at the descendants of Abraham who, as a people, enjoyed a special relationship with God that is often characterised in scripture as a marriage. The Old Testament reports on the highs and lows of this relationship. Jesus’ purpose was to recall his nation to God, or in metaphorical terms, to restore the marriage covenant that God had established with Abraham and his descendants for ever. When that happened, it would be a time to celebrate, and it would be more than fitting that the person central to bringing about the restoration would be at the heart of the celebration. Unfortunately, the nation Jesus sought to restore largely resisted his efforts, but, surprisingly, people from every nation proved much more responsive to the good news that Jesus and his disciples preached. These are the people who, in the parable, are invited in from the main streets, where all and sundry are to be found – both the good and the bad. This change in strategy is good news for people who are not descendants of Abraham in a genetic way. Now they too can come to the feast but they still need to be properly prepared – wearing a wedding robe, as the parable has it. The wedding robe would seem to represent a life lived in faithful response to the good news that Jesus preached, lived, died and rose to proclaim. May we be counted worthy of sharing the wedding feast, with our Lord at the top table, surrounded by prophets, martyrs and the saints of every age.
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, 8 October 2017, 9.30am
The parable in this Sunday's Gospel is very direct and hard-hitting. It is critical of people who have been given a special commission of care by God, who choose, instead, to serve their own interests and not those of the people they have been sent to serve. The parable refers to a well-built vineyard, owned and developed by an absentee landlord, which is tenanted by people who are meant to be making the most of the resources they have for building up the vineyard. In the Bible, the vineyard motif is often associated with the People of God – witness the first reading today from Isaiah which decodes its own parabolic message about a vineyard by saying that ‘the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Israel are his pleasant planting.’ You can’t be much clearer about things than that! Jesus’ parable goes on to describe visits by various agents of the absentee landlord (slaves) to the tenants, following harvest time, ‘to collect his harvest.’ None of these visits went well. They ended in either the assault or killing of the agents concerned. If the vineyard represents God’s People, the descendants of Abraham, then the agents of the landowner are likely to represent the prophets of God – people like Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others – including Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, all of whom suffered at the hands of those in power. The son whom the landowner sends to sort things out decisively, suffers the worst fate of all the landowner’s emissaries. It is very likely that Jesus is referring to himself at this point. The consequences of the tenants behaving in this evil way are dire. The crowd’s verdict is that they will be put to a miserable death and evicted from the vineyard which will be leased to people who will respond appropriately to the commission they have been given. Jesus does not challenge this appraisal. We, as part of the Body of Christ, the Church, are now labouring in that vineyard. The temptation is to see ourselves as superior to the earlier tenants. That would, however, be detrimental to the progress of both groups of people, each of whom God calls back to Godself, holding out the promise of forgiveness and flourishing for the truly repentant, in Jesus’ name.
For the sermon preached this Sunday, please follow the link Sermons
Thanksgiving for Creation - Pet Sunday, 1 October 2017, 9.30am
This Sunday’s gospel (Luke 12:22-34) affirms the significance of creation and the value of all life, human and non-human. It is one point in the New Testament scriptures where the goodness, beauty and importance of the material world is spoken about very explicitly by Jesus. That clear enunciation by Jesus of the value of creation gives some perspective to the way we interpret and appropriate parts of the New Testament which, on the face of it, are less affirming of the value of the created order. Jesus’ statement in John 6:63 that ‘the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing,’ or Paul’s assertion, which we hear today, that ‘the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ are understood much better when they are read with the clear affirmation of the natural world that Jesus makes in Luke 12:22-34. From that perspective, the teachings of the New Testament that bid us reject the world in favour of the Spirit are exhortations to radically alter our approach towards the material world that God created good. The call is to accept our created status, and to trust in God’s provision, laying aside our tendency to make ourselves gods and place our trust in material possessions. Today’s gospel, as it were, elevates the material world – from human bodies to the grass of the field – as gifts of the living God, but just as strongly demotes materialism, understood as the pursuit of anything in creation – for whatever reason - that distracts us from God, the source of all life and goodness. There can be little doubt that materialism has a major grip on the world. The consumer economies of the world have an insatiable appetite for the next best gadget, and we accumulate redundant items – particularly electronic ones – at an astonishing rate. I was reminded of this recently when my son found a video camera and a large digital camera that I had forgotten we still owned. Their purposes have both been long superseded by smart phones. I don’t think that development, in itself, is a bad thing, but the compulsion to purchase the latest technology, to be up with the latest trends, calls our attention away from the appreciation of the miracle that life itself is. This morning we very deliberately turn our hearts and minds to the wonder of God’s creation and give thanks to God for that gift.
For the sermon preached this Sunday, please follow the link Sermons
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 24 September 2017, 9.30am
God’s desire to save people from themselves, at any cost to Godself, is beyond human imagining. The New Testament, as a whole, is a reflection on that fact. When read through the eyes of faith – no matter how small - the New Testament leaves a reader with the overwhelming impression that God will stop at nothing to restore broken people and a broken world to Godself. The same message is apparent in the Old Testament, at many points, but that lesson sits alongside other material that presents God’s concerns as restricted, primarily, to the benefit of one tribe of people. The latter portrayal of God’s purposes probably reaches its highest point in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah which report and reflect on the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem following their exile in Babylon (597- circa 539 BC). During their exile, many Jews had married non-Jewish partners. This might have been seized upon as an opportunity to advance belief in the one true God beyond tribal constraints, but Ezra, the priest, saw things quite differently. He was sure true religion could only be guaranteed by maintaining the ethnic purity of the Jewish people (see Ezra 9). To this end he ordered that Jewish men divorce their foreign wives (Ezra 10:11). This policy must have had fairly broad support or it wouldn’t have ended up being favourably reported in the scriptures, but there are indications in scripture, too, that Ezra’s policy of ethnic segregation was seen as too extreme and/or in need of serious qualification. The books of Ruth and Jonah are cases in point. It is likely that they were written around the same time that Ezra was composed. In both books, non-Jews play a leading and/or positive role. The former book is named after the non-Jewish woman, Ruth, from east of the Jordan river, whose loyalty to her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi was without fault. The latter book is named after the comical, cynical Jewish prophet Jonah who, with the greatest reluctance, called a foreign people - the Assyrians of Nineveh – to repentance. His lack of enthusiasm stemmed from his low opinion of the Assyrians and his awareness that God was likely to forgive their sins if they showed remorse. Basically, he would rather they die than be saved. The writer of Jonah makes that point, in a comical way, in this morning’s first reading, when he has Jonah say, after Assyrian repentance has occurred and God has relented, ‘And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ The Book of Jonah spells out very clearly that God’s love and mercy is for everyone and that those who are blessed to already be in relationship with God have an obligation to speak God’s truth, in love, to all.
For the sermon preached this Sunday, please follow the link Sermons
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, 17 September 2017, 9.30am
The 1989 Prayer Book of the Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (entitled, A New Zealand Prayer Book – He Karakia Mihinare O Aotearoa) declares God’s forgiveness of our faults and failures to depend on three crucial decisions on our part. This assertion is made on page 407, just before the general confession in the first rite of Eucharist, namely:
'God has promised forgiveness to all who truly repent (i), turn to Christ in faith (ii) and are themselves forgiving (iii).' [The numbering is mine]
This Sunday’s gospel text addresses the third of these decisions. It is not the only New Testament text that does so though. When our Lord was asked by his disciples how they ought to pray, for instance, he told them to offer prayer to the Father in a very economical fashion which included the following petition:
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ (Matt 6:12)
Or in other words,
To the extent that we forgive others, dear God, forgive us - a paraphrase that is justified by the words that directly follow the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s Gospel:
‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ (Matt 6:14-15)
And the parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-9), who secures his future by significantly reducing the debts of people who owe money to his master who is about to dismiss him, may make the same point, but in a less straightforward way. In that case, the dishonest manager’s master applauds his servant’s actions, which, on the face of it, seems rather odd, but there is a method in the madness. The dishonest manager would have been the signatory to the credit arrangements he forgave, so he might have felt some ownership of them, just as we feel entitled to be personally aggrieved by injustices done to us. Injustices against individuals, however, are offenses against God (‘Those who oppress the poor,’ (Proverb 14:31a) and ‘those who insult them,’ (Proverbs 17:5a), for instance, ‘insult their Maker’), so when we choose to forgive injuries against us, we might be in a very similar position to the dishonest manager in the Lukan parable, namely, releasing people from a debt owed essentially to God whose desire to forgive the penitent surpasses human imagination.
A lot rides on our decision to forgive other people their sins against us – both their future happiness and ours. Let’s be people committed to reconciliation, who actively work to create opportunities for those who ‘owe us’ to ask for (explicitly – as per today’s gospel or implicitly – as per Luke 16:1-9) and receive our forgiveness, so that the reconciliation effected by Jesus on all our behalves can flow into our lives, and out, into the world.
For the sermon preached this Sunday, please follow the link Sermons
Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, 10 September 2017, 9.30am
On Sunday, 10 September, when most parishioners will see this message printed for the first time, Diocesan Synod – the Parliament of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland, will have already met (Sept 7-9) to discuss and vote on a wide range of matters related to the operation of the church in this part of the country, in the Anglican Province of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (the Three Tikanga Church), and in the wider Anglican Communion. From the vantage point at which I am writing this piece – pre-Synod – it is impossible to tell just how divisive – or not – some of the bills and motions will be. Here’s hoping that the members of Synod will have all looked ahead to this Sunday’s readings and drawn from them inspiration and encouragement to engage with one another in ways that are respectful and loving because, as Paul reminds his readers, ‘the one who loves another has fulfilled the law,’ (Rom 13:8b) and ‘love is the fulfilling of the law.’ (Rom 13:10b) This part of Paul’s extended letter to the Romans contains some of the Saints most profound thoughts on Christian ethics – on how we ought to treat one another as followers of Christ. It is the earlier part of his letter, however, that grates with many people today. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul – whose thoughts were often complex and wide ranging, enters into an excursus (v.18-32) on the origin of sin and the degrading effect that the intentional rejection of God has on individuals and society. In verses 26 and 27 he singles out homosexuality as a consequence of this degradation. Many Christians today who agree with what Paul has to say in the first part of today’s epistle, take umbrage with Paul’s reasoning at this point in his letter. They do so for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that some very fine, active and Spirit-filled Christians are homosexual, living in life-long, loving relationships. Other equally committed Christians struggle to set aside Paul’s conclusions on the matter, because they fear that once you start picking and choosing what you want from Scripture, the Bible is no longer an authority on which to base one’s life. That is an understandable concern, but it hardly wins the argument because Paul, as even the most conservative of Christians would have to acknowledge, didn’t always get things right. One glaring example of this is evident in the second half of today’s epistle (Rom 8:11,12a) where Paul refers to the imminent end of the world – a topic about which he writes in earnest in probably his earliest letter (1 Thess 4:13-18). Paul was wrong on that count, so it is possible that on other matters his preconceptions and prejudices clouded his vision too. If that can be said about Paul, the Apostle and Martyr, it can, of course equally well be said about me – and you. But there is one thing upon which we can agree, that will take us forward, and that is to “[o]we no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom 13:8)
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 3 September 2017, 9.30am
Over recent weeks, as the upcoming General Election has featured more prominently in the media, we have been reminded of the fickle and often ruthless nature of politics. The leadership of each of the major parties has been shaken up, some very senior politicians have been rattled, and a number of heads have rolled – yes, the unfolding of events could well be accompanied by Bill Haley and the Comet’s tune, punctuated by periods of silence as politicians scramble to retain their seats. With the exit of Matiria Turei, Andrew Little and Peter Dunne from the race, we have seen the truth played out that 24 hours really is a long time in politics. If we compare today’s gospel (Matt 16:21-28) with the passage from last week (Matt 16:13-20), we might be drawn to conclude that 24 hours was a long time in the early Christian movement too. In the course of only 6 verses, describing events not far apart in time, St Peter goes from being described by Jesus as the rock upon which the church will be built (Matt 16:18) to being decried by Jesus as Satan and an obstacle to him (Matt 16:23). What can have gone so wrong? The answer has to do with the fact that Peter, despite his God-given ability to recognise that Jesus is the Messiah, does not really understand what Messiahship is about. He sees it in human, political terms, presumably as an office which is above all others, and won, no doubt, by the usual means that humans employ to attain status – that is, through force of some sort, at someone else’s expense. Jesus, however, sets out a campaign strategy for himself and his followers that is diametrically opposed to that typical pattern. His way will involve suffering and the surrender of everything he has, even his life, so that there might be real life and resurrection. There is a paradox at work here that is difficult to explain (we are dealing with the mysteries of God after all) but it may have something to do with the unique ability that selfless love has to disrupt cycles of violence at every scale; it disarms people and transforms situations, be they on the domestic front, in the work place or even in the political arena. May we have more of that love, in Jesus’ name.
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, 27 August 2017, 9.30am
Discernment is one of the thematic threads which weaves this Sunday’s readings together. In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah bids his listeners turn their thoughts towards the very simple beginnings of God’s people, and discern or recognise in that act the tremendous and irrepressible power of God who is determined to bring about human flourishing. The Prophet discerns two ways in which God will pour out blessings on the world. One of these is through the return of the Jewish exiles from Babylon to their land, where their fortunes would go from strength to strength – the Lord “will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.” (Isaiah 51:3). The other way involves God reaching out to all nations, bringing justice to the world and a salvation that will last forever (Isaiah 51:6). In the second reading, St Paul encourages the early church in Rome to be transformed in the way its members look at the world, seeing things in the way Jesus saw them, rather than judging things according to the criteria that the world sets. He bids them remember that they are called to a life of loving service within one body in which status has no place and everyone has a special gift to bring to the community as whole. Paul’s mentioning of this would suggest that status seeking was already a feature of that fledgling church, and he wanted to nip that in the bud. In the Gospel, St Peter discerns correctly that Jesus is the Messiah, the person who would be the ‘game changer’ for the fortunes of God’s people and the world. Peter’s discernment in this matter put him ahead of the other disciples, not because he was a better person than them, but because the grace of God had opened his eyes to the significance of Jesus in God’s plan of salvation. May God’s grace open our eyes to the ways in which God is at work in the world around us, and through that re-visioning, transform us into effective instruments of God’s loving peace.
Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 20 August 2017, 9.30am
For a campaign conducted almost entirely on foot, Jesus’ ministry covered a decent stretch of territory. From the region of Tyre and Sidon, where Jesus is found in this morning’s Gospel, to Jerusalem is some 200km in a straight line – and probably a lot longer to walk if the terrain is taken into account. Jesus and his disciples where there, it would seem, to have a break from their busy ministry around Lake Galilee. The local woman who pursues Jesus while he is there is not a Jew. She is described in Matthew’s Gospel as a Canaanite woman, and she is relentless in her plea to Jesus on her daughter’s behalf. Jesus’ response to her is, one could say, problematic - he says, effectively, that she is not part of the mission that God has sent him on and labels her and her people dogs. Charming! Jesus' reaction at this point has caused some preachers – probably most, over the years - to look for explanations that maintain the image of Jesus, the man, as constantly ‘on top of his game,’ always fully aware of the love that God has for all people and ever ready to put it into practice. So, it might be argued, Jesus was testing the Canaanite woman’s faith when he said these words to her, uttering them, perhaps, in an ironic way and giving voice to an opinion that many in his society had towards outsiders. One piece of evidence in the text that this may have been the case is the request that the disciples make to Jesus after they have been badgered by the Canaanite woman, for hours maybe. They don’t ask Jesus to grant the woman’s request; they simply ask him to make her go away. In their hearts they know that Jesus’ granting of her request will probably be the quickest way to get rid of her, but they haven’t got the stomach to say that in so many words because they really don’t like the people of the region, and wouldn’t ever want to be seen openly advocating on their behalf. I think this explanation is plausible, making it an encounter in which the disciples learn how wide God’s love is. Another possible interpretation of the account is that it is not the disciples, but Jesus who learns a valuable lesson at this point from the Canaanite women – her plucky response to being called a dog that shouldn’t have good things wasted on it being a prophetic word from the Father to the Son, who, in his humanity, was still learning the height and breadth of God’s mission of Love.
For the sermon preached this Sunday, please follow the link Sermons
Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 13 August 2017, 9.30am
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid,” are the words that Jesus speaks to a terrified group of apostles on Lake Galilee, exhausted from rowing all night into a head wind, when they observe their Master doing the impossible – walking on the water not far from their boat. They thought they were seeing a ghost, and who can blame them for that; they were practical people, seasoned mariners who were quite familiar with the properties of water. They knew that physical objects sink in water, unless they are specially designed to float, and their experience through the night, rowing through choppy waves made them aware of the frailty of even the best first-century boat technology to cheat the water’s purpose of swallowing them and their vessel whole. Water, as an element, has rich symbolic resonances in the Bible. It is associated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament with cleansing, healing, renewal, and – in a land that was often afflicted with drought, it was connected with thoughts of growth and prosperity. There is a darker side, however, to water as a symbol in the scriptures as well. Right at the beginning of the Bible, in the first account of Earth’s creation, water is present in vast quantities, representing the chaos from which God would fashion an ordered universe. Psalm 107 bears witness to the enormous power of the sea which, during storms, has waves that ascend to the heavens and descend to the depths (v26) causing sailors to ‘reel to and fro, and stagger like drunken men,’ until they are ‘at their wits end.’ (v27) Clearly there was considerable cultural unease about oceans and lakes, but there was the recognition as well that, ultimately, God was in control of even the most violent storm (v25), and that when beleaguered sailors call out to the Lord, ‘he makes the storm be still, and the waves of the sea are hushed.’ (v28) The unwilling prophet, Jonah, and the zealous apostle, Paul, were both beneficiaries of God’s sovereign power over the might of raging seas – Jonah being saved from the depths by a whale or great fish, and St Paul and his shipmates being plucked miraculously from the jaws of death when their prison ship founded off the coast of Malta. In our day, the sea has become less of a threat to people in the western world, who can enjoy holiday cruises anywhere in the world in the knowledge that their vessel can handle virtually anything the elements can throw at it. For the thousands of Syrian, Afghani, Libyan, and African refugees who have been crossing the Mediterranean over the last five years or so, the sea remains a place of clear and present danger. This is not to say that people in the developed world are free of fear; far from it, but it is to say that as we bring ourselves into God’s presence this morning, and bid God to bring calm to the unease and chaos in our lives, we need to bring with us a world that is desperate, anxious and deeply in need of hearing Christ say, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Transfiguration of the Beloved Son, 6 August 2017, 9.30am
2 Peter 1:16-19
The focus of this Sunday's service is on the way God’s special relationship with Jesus is revealed through an extraordinary event that the first three Gospel’s – Matthew, Mark and Luke relate, when Jesus was transfigured, taking on a new and glorious appearance on a mountain top. There he conversed with two historic leaders of God’s people, Moses and Elijah, both of whom were long dead in an earthly sense, but were now, glowing and alive for the witnesses, Peter, James and John to see. It is on that mountain that this core group of Apostles heard a voice from heaven make a declaration and issue a command: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.’ (Luke 9:35) That verbal endorsement of Jesus, by God, served to make crystal clear what was already implicit in Jesus’ open conversation with Moses and Elijah, namely, that Jesus was God’s special agent at this point in salvation history, being at least as important now as the two spiritual heavyweights, Moses and Elijah, were in their respective generations. The voice from heaven is reminiscent of the divine voice that speaks at Jesus’ baptism, addressing Jesus with the words, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’ (Luke 33:22b) The divine voice at Jesus’ baptism and at his transfiguration represents God’s explicit endorsement of Jesus as Messiah, God’s special agent charged with the task of restoring, renewing and redeeming God’s people and ultimately the world. Throughout the Gospel accounts, as well, there are implicit signs that Jesus was the person God had chosen to recover a world through love and for love. The healings, and Jesus’ miracles in general, testified to those ‘with eyes to see’ that Jesus was second to none as an agent of God. The fact that he taught with authority (Luke 4:32) also pointed to the reality that Jesus, like Moses before him, was a person who knew God ‘face to face.’ (Deut 34:10) It is the Christian claim, of course, that Jesus was not only like Moses and Elijah, but superior to them. That supremacy is revealed in Jesus’ sacrificial death and most particularly in God’s response to it, the resurrection. The transfiguration that Peter, James and John witnessed, afforded them a glimpse of Jesus’ resurrection, and though it confounded them at the time, it prepared them for the challenges that lay ahead for Jesus and them in Jerusalem. In worship, prayer, and even in the course of our ordinary, day to day lives, we too may become aware of the profound love of God for us, and for the world, and recognise how powerful that love is. We may not comprehend what that encounter means in an intellectual sense, but, rather than dwell on what it is that we don’t know, our most helpful response is one of gratitude to God for reminding us that we are deeply loved, and that, ultimately, love is in charge of all things.
Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 30 July 2017, 9.30am
There is a variety of expressions about money in our culture. One of these would have us believe that it ‘makes the world around’ and another, derived from scripture (1 Tim 6:10), cautions that ‘money is the root of all evil.’ In his teaching and example, Jesus described and lived a life that was resolutely turned away from the pursuit of wealth. In Matt 6:24 and Luke 16:13, Jesus spells out to his disciples the choice they have to make between the service of God, on the one hand, and money on the other. When he turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple in Jerusalem (Matt 21:12-13), he demonstrated his despair and distain for the fact that that building, designed and built to the glory of God, had a become a place where money or mammon had displaced God from his rightful throne. Currently the Study Group are reading a book written by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, entitled Dethroning Mammon – Making Money Serve Grace (Bloomsbury, 2016). The book was written as a study book for Lent 2017 but it can be read with benefit any time of the year because the topic he addresses cuts to the heart of what it is to live as a Christian, a servant of Christ and of the Love who sent him into the world. Welby sets out plainly and thoughtfully the ways in which money controls our lives as individuals and communities, commanding us to do its bidding and deceiving us into thinking that under its command, we are free. He contrasts this situation with the real liberation and flourishing that follow from our decision, on a daily and ongoing basis, to place Christ on the throne of our lives. Such reassignment of loyalties is described in the Gospel of Matthew as the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and it is about that reign which Jesus speaks in this morning’s Gospel, through a series of word-pictures or parables (Matt 13:31-33, 44-52). May Christ speak into our hearts today and give us grace to allow him alone to be Lord of our lives. Tony Surman
Sixth Sunday after Trinity - Social Services Sunday - 23 July 2017, 9.30am
From the first century till today the Church has been involved in a ministry of practical care to people in need, both within and beyond the Christian Community. On this Sunday in our church's calendar we focus particularly on the Christian call to serve those in need. The Anglican Church in Auckland has one very large charitable agency that reaches out to people living in poverty in our city, regardless of who they are or what they believe. That agency is the Auckland City Mission, headed by Chris Farrelly, whose life's work has been to help people in need both in New Zealand and overseas. Last week a team of parishioners from St Martin's @ St Chad's went to help with the sorting of donated clothing at a coordination centre of the Auckland City Mission in Grafton. We were there in response to a challenge set at the last Diocesan Synod for every worship unit to endeavour to volunteer at least twice a year with the Mission. This is a move that not only benefits the people the Mission cares for, but also raises awareness within parishes of the diverse work of the Mission, and, not least, lets the Mission know that Anglicans far and wide appreciate their Mission's work and wish to support and promote it any way they can. Anglicans, in a variety of ways, are also serving those in need beyond our shores. This morning we will hear about one important initiative that parishioners Dan and Mai Lander were part of in India for a number of years. It is a story of liberation and hope that needs to be heard, and there is no better Sunday than this for telling it. May it inspire us in our mission to set people free so that all of us, together, might flourish as children of God.
Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 16 July 2017, 9.30am
The parable of the sower is found in three of the four Gospels (Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-8, Luke 8:5-8) and it typifies everything that is so great about Jesus’ teaching style. It is simple yet profound. He gathers together images that his audience would be very familiar with, both in the world around them and in their scriptures, and weaves them into an evocative message that has substance and a certain ‘concreteness’ yet is ‘open’ enough to speak effectively into every culture and age. The area in which Jesus taught this parable was – and still is – excellent horticultural land. The terrain is gently sloping, there are rich areas of soil and the climate is humid and quite warm (the lake is around 200m below sea level). Wheat has been grown there for ages but you’ll see a lot of bananas there now. I imagine that most of Jesus’ audience would have made their living, one way or another, working the land. In the decoding that Jesus does of the parable, the seed that is sown is equated with ‘the word of the kingdom.’ This suggests that the sower is God and those who proclaim his coming reign – that is, Christ and his Church. The ground on which the seeds fall represents the human heart (Mat 13:19). There are four types of ground referred to in the parable, each one being more receptive than the last to the good news of the Gospel. The fourth and final sort of ground about which Jesus speaks, describes the situation in which we all hope to be - bearing fruit and an integral part of the expansive, joyful reign of God. In any one human life, it is unlikely that this zone will be inhabited continuously. When we read the lives of great exemplars of our faith, they too had times of barrenness – sometimes quite severe. Painful as those times were, they served the purpose of preparing the ground of their hearts for the seed that God kept sowing in their lives. Similarly, the person who has never heard of God, and has grown up in a culture quite opposed to the gospel of hope, is not abandoned by the God of Love when they fail to be receptive to the Gospel on their first hearing of it. Thanks be to God, the Sower keeps sowing and invites us to create opportunities for the word to break through the well-trodden, inhospitable ground of people’s hearts and take deep root. And in all of this, the word accomplishes that which God purposes and succeeds in the thing for which God sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 9 July 2017, 9.30am
Jesus bids us this Sunday to come to him that we might have rest. He calls us to lay down our heavy burdens and pick up, instead, his yoke and learn from him because his 'yoke is easy, and [his] burden is light.' (Matthew 11: 30)
Jesus’ teaching (Matt 11:16-19,25-30) this Sunday follows his commissioning of the twelve disciples, sending them out with “authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to cure every disease and every illness.” (Matt 10:1b). It also follows a time of indeterminate length during which Jesus taught and preached on his own in the towns around Lake Galilee. Both ministries appear to have been very productive, at least in terms of their initial effect, because when John the Baptist’s disciples come to question Jesus as to his identity, they are told by Jesus to “go and tell John what [they] hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matt 11:4b-5). In the long term, however, the mission to the townships of Galilee was less successful. Despite being witness to miraculous healings and inspired teaching, major Galilean towns such as Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt 11:21) ultimately rejected Jesus’ proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus goes on to reflect that John the Baptist’s earlier ministry of repentance, which was much more spartan and sober – akin to the singing of ‘a dirge’ (Matt 11:17) - than Jesus’ ministry of the Gospel – like the playing of ‘the flute’ (Matt 11:17) - also failed to truly convert the nation. Both approaches were of God, both were wise, and both appealed to the hearts and minds of many for a time, but both suffered in terms of their long-term reception. This was deeply disappointing to our Lord who, with his disciples, had invested a great deal of effort into the proclamation of the Gospel. What it goes to show is the fickleness of human nature, of the way that we can receive blessings at the hands of God, yet return remarkably quickly to old mindsets, unhelpful habits, and negativity – about ourselves, about others and the future. It is as if we are gripped by a force that is determined to drive us in the wrong direction, ultimately to our destruction - like oxen, yoked to a cart in the hands of a madman. That unhappy situation is what St Paul, with great passion, reflects on this morning in the second reading. “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) he asks. The answer is Jesus. Through our acceptance of Jesus – our putting on of his yoke, we continue to be guided, but now the course is set for our good, and the good of all creation, being in the care of a navigator who is “gentle and humble in heart,” whose “yoke is easy, and [whose] burden is light.” (Matt 11:30).
Third Sunday after Trinity, 2 July 2017, 9.30am
The call to be hospitable is made throughout the Bible and is deeply embedded in the cultures which gave birth to our scriptures. In Genesis 18, for example, Abraham and Sarah are visited by three strangers to whom they offer hospitality. Abraham recognises from early on that they are representatives of God, but that is only part of the reason he offers them sustenance. A deep cultural imperative lies behind their action too. In a semi-arid to arid environment where food and water are scarce, populations only survive if individuals are willing to share sustenance with strangers, because there is a high likelihood that at one time or other, most individuals will be in a situation where their own survival depends on the willingness of others to be hospitable to them. It is about treating others the way we hope they would treat us. Jesus' teaching this morning (Matt 10:40-42) underscores the importance of hospitality, particularly that shown to people who follow Jesus. The individuals who provide sustenance to Jesus' followers, be it ever so humble, 'will not lose their reward.' By looking after the people who walk in Jesus' footsteps, people are looking after Jesus himself, and 'the one who sent [him].' This teaching makes it pretty clear that we Christians ought to be looking out for the needs of our Christian brothers and sisters, wherever they happen to be; if we have the means to help them, we need to offer that assistance. But our obligation doesn't end when we have looked after those who profess Christ and identify as Christian. There are individuals, I think it is fair to say, who are disciples of Christ in an implicit or anonymous sense. That is to say, they live a life committed to doing what is right, and following the dictates of conscience but have not connected this commitment with being Christian explicitly (indeed, when you look at the way many of us who call ourselves Christian live our lives, you can forgive this deficiency quite easily). These people may be part of the group that our Lord describes as 'little-ones' in today's Gospel. It is not always possible to know who they are on first acquaintance, which is why the only strategy we can follow to avoid missing out on an opportunity to serve Jesus, is to show hospitality to everyone. God give us grace to be so welcoming.
Second Sunday after Trinity, 25 June 2017, 9.30am
Verses 24 to 39 in the tenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel make quite sobering reading. In that tract Jesus makes it very plain that his disciples will suffer persecution for the Gospel in the same way that he himself faced opposition and hostility. The earliest generation of Christians experienced sporadic persecution which could sometimes be intense and deadly. As Christianity spread around the Mediterranean, Christians for many years were the recipients of localised violence, but by the latter part of the third century, persecution of Christians had become quite systematic and empire-wide. Thankfully, that situation changed in the early fourth century when Constantine made Christianity a legal religion. In the western world most Christians do not suffer for their faith - at least not to the extent of being attacked because they are Christian, but the same cannot be said for many parts of the world where it is still quite dangerous to be a Christian. Over the last few years one of the most dangerous places to be a Christian has been the northern part of Iraq which was over-run by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. Thousands of Christians from some of the oldest branches of Christianity were forced to flee from their homes as ISIS advanced. ISIS is now in retreat, but remains a threat. Despite the risks, brave Christians are moving back to the villages and churches they were ousted from, only to find them damaged, if not destroyed, as part of the conflict, and the wanton vandalism of ISIS. Those Christians are experiencing the sort of desolating pain that our Lord himself knew. Our prayer on their behalf ought to include the petition that they now enjoy rebirth and resurrection as flourishing communities of faith. For more information on Iraqi Christians returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plain of northern Iraq, have a look at the website of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (https://www.nrciraq.org/). The images of destruction on that page are saddening, but the fact that there are people determined to rebuild their lives in those circumstances is humbling and heartening. They deserve our prayer and support.
Te Pouhere Sunday, 18 June 2017, 9.30am
This Sunday, across Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglicans commemorate a very significant amendment made to our Church’s Constitution or Te Pouhere - literally, a mooring post - in 1992 which brought into being a Church composed of three tikanga or cultural strands - Maori, Pakeha and Polynesian. The new set of relationships it established between the cultural groups reflects the way the Anglican Church developed in this part of the South Pacific. Anglican Christianity was brought to the shores of Aotearoa by The Rev’d Samuel Marsden in 1814, and for the next quarter century was overwhelmingly a Maori Church, with its own translations of Scripture (Te Paipera Tapu) and the 1662 Prayer Book (Te Rawiri). The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) between the Chiefs of Aotearoa and the Crown established a partnership between Maori and the Crown that was meant to safeguard the interests of both peoples. Bishop George Selwyn, the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, arrived in Auckland in 1842 and was determined to promote and strengthen Christianity amongst both Maori and the Settler communities. European immigration to New Zealand increased rapidly from 1840 so that by the late 1850s, the Settler population equalled that of Maori before shifting to an even greater rate of increase. Tensions grew between the two peoples, over land rights in particular. As the relationship soured, Selwyn’s ability to bridge the divide between Maori and Pakeha eroded. On 13 June 1857 the Constitution that established the Anglican Church in New Zealand as an independent branch of the Church of England was signed at Judges Bay, Parnell. There were no Maori representatives at the signing. Within a few years, hostility between Maori and Pakeha rose to all-out war in Taranaki and Waikato. Maori who had come to faith through pre-1840 Anglican Missionary efforts came to see Selwyn as the Settler’s bishop, looking out for the Settler’s interests. To Selwyn this was heart-breaking, but he was as much a hostage to political realities as the Maori themselves. For the next century, Maori Anglicanism – which identified with the Missionaries before 1840, and Pakeha Anglicanism - which charted its origins to Selwyn and the 1857 Constitution, existed in largely parallel universes. As the latter church increased in size and the former decreased, the vision for greater unity offered by the larger party was assimilation. In the latter part of the twentieth century the oppressive nature of this policy began to be recognised. Full partnership between Maori and Pakeha (biculturalism) came to be seen as the most just way for the two cultures to co-exist in both civil and religious life. The call for biculturalism was the key driver behind the adoption of a major amendment to the Constitution of the Anglican Church in 1992 which created the Three Tikanga Church. The third partner, the Diocese of Polynesia, was included in the amended Constitution because Anglicans there, who had long had a close association with the Anglican Church in New Zealand, were now at a point where they could stand as a Diocese, in their own right, alongside the Seven Dioceses of New Zealand (Tikanga Pakeha) and the Five Hui Amorangi (Tikanga Maori) of Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa.
Trinity Sunday, 11 June 2017, 9.30am
This Sunday we celebrate the mystery of God who is one, yet revealed and experienced as three ‘persons’ in salvation history, traditionally named as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Christian doctrine or teaching that God is both singular and diverse is one that developed over the course of many centuries of reflection on the scriptures. It holds together statements in the Bible about the co-equality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, on the one hand, and the unity of God on the other. Jesus’ declaration in John’s Gospel, that he ‘and the Father are one’ (John 10:30) is an example of the former statement, as is the assertion that, ‘the Lord is the Spirit’ (2 Cor 3:17), whilst Jesus’ affirmation that ‘the Lord our God, the Lord is one,’ (Mark 12:29) is an instance of the latter. The Trinity is a difficult teaching to conceptualise, and we have to be careful with the models we put forth to understand this mystery because in subtle ways they can easily undermine one of the properties they seek explain. The model of the Social Trinity that has been quite fashionable in recent decades sees God as three individuals united in one perfect society – which is fine up to a point, but risks trespassing on long established beliefs that God, essentially, is simple, not made up of parts. On the other hand, models of the Trinity that present the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as instances of a singularity (say, the different faces of God) downplay the distinctions that are made between these actors in scripture. Even though it resists conceptualisation, the Trinity is a crucial Christian doctrine. Modern science is replete with theories that cannot be conceptualised as such, but are valued nevertheless because of their explanatory power. The theory that light is both a particle and a wave may be as difficult to visualise as the doctrine that God is both three and one, but it is accepted because it explains the way light behaves. Something similar might be said about the Trinity. People over the last two thousand years have experienced the fullness of encounter with God through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet have felt equally drawn to reflect on God as one. It is that mystery and encounter we celebrate today.
Pentecost Sunday, 4 June 2017, 9.30am
On Sunday, 4 June, we celebrate the Church’s Birthday – the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in Jerusalem, enabling them to continue Christ’s mission on earth; to be the Body of Christ in the absence of the physical presence of Jesus after his ascension into heaven. The colour in the sanctuary changes this Sunday from the white that we have used throughout Eastertide to red – red to symbolise the Holy Spirit which rested as divided tongues of fire (Acts 2:3) on the heads of the disciples on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit allowed the disciples not only to continue the work which Jesus had pioneered during his public ministry but to accelerate the expansion of God’s mission, first amongst Jews and then out into the entire world. That rate increase was enabled by the Holy Spirit but it relied on the receptivity of Jesus’ disciples, whose hearts were prepared by years of listening to Jesus, in person, and later, in prayer. John’s Gospel describes the disciples’ receipt of the Holy Spirit differently than in Acts but in that instance too, the disciples had committed themselves to Jesus over a long period of time and had come to believe that he was indeed the Christ, the Messiah of God. This commitment made them receptive to the Spirit that the Risen Christ bid them receive after he declared, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you,’ (John 20:21b) and breathed on them (John 20:22). We gather around our Lord’s Table every Sunday to be strengthened by the meal he told the disciples to continue in his memory, to hear the Word of God speak to us through the scriptures, and to pray for ourselves and others, that the mission begun in Christ before the world began and quickened through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, continues to blossom and grow. May our little church, dedicated to the memory of two saints – Martin of Tours and Chad of Mercia - who drove this mission forward in their respective times and places, be fertile ground for the working out of God’s purpose in our day and age.
Seventh Sunday of Easter - Sunday after Ascension, 28 May 2017
This morning’s extract from the Gospel of John is part of an extended theological speech that Jesus gave to his closest disciples following his washing of their feet and their final meal together. It comes towards the end of that discourse and it takes the form of a prayer, a prayer often referred to as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Through that prayer Jesus offers important insights into the relationship that exists between him, his Father and his closest followers. As I have thought about the relational system Jesus describes here, I have been drawn to the image of a trinity – not the usual Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but one that consists of Father, Son and ourselves, God’s people. This relational trinity is implicit in the words of the Gospel this morning, when Jesus - the Son - addresses his Father on behalf of those that the Father had given him “from the world.” (John 17: 6). In this statement Jesus makes very clear his status in relation to the Father; his disciples were the Father’s and they were given to him by the Father. Thus, a priority is given to the Father in the process of salvation. But although the Father precedes the Son in the working out of salvation, it becomes clear as Jesus’ prayer goes on that there is effectively no difference between the Father’s will and action as Saviour and the Son’s when Jesus says to the Father, “The words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:8). The trinitarian relationship between the Father, the Son, and Jesus’ disciples is most clearly set out later in the Prayer when Jesus pleads with the Father that “[the disciples] may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ (John 17:21). This is a mystery that is difficult to represent except in a rudimentary way (perhaps as the complete overlapping of circles in a Venn Diagram), but it is there for us to take hold of, to experience and to live in-to, every moment of our lives.
Sixth Sunday of Easter, 21 May 2017, 9.30am
The readings this Sunday reflect the fact that we are approaching the Day of Pentecost, the ‘Church’s Birthday’ when the Spirit which Jesus had promised to send his disciples, was well and truly delivered. In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus refers to that Spirit as the Advocate or Helper (depending on which translation of the New Testament you read). Both names highlight the purpose for which that Spirit is sent, namely, to build up the Church and strengthen the Body of Christ by uplifting every member of Church, enabling them to realise their God-given potential. We all benefit, individually and collectively, from the Holy Spirit which we receive in Baptism, but there are some people who stand out as ‘stars’ in their various generations because the action of the Holy Spirit has been so clearly visible in their lives. They are the ones we refer to as Saints. One of the early, and most unlikely Saints of the Church is Paul of Tarsus. By the power of the Holy Spirit he moved from vehement persecution of the Church to zealous proclamation of the Christian message. We encounter him today (Acts 17:22-31) in Athens, Greece, preaching the Gospel in that sophisticated metropolis in a way that is sensitive to the local religious context, without for once selling the Gospel short. In his speech to the Athenians he attempts to find commonality between their striving for truth and the truth of Christ that he is compelled to proclaim. Paul’s whole background suited him perfectly for the task. He was a Jew brought up in a Gentile city, and his intimate knowledge of both cultures suited him well to be a bridge between them. Paul, perhaps more than any other Apostle, opened up the Gospel to the whole world, ensuring that it would not atrophy as a sect within first century Judaism. The Church continues to need bridge builders, individuals who, with the help and advocacy of the Holy Spirit, can draw upon their various backgrounds to advance the Gospel in areas crying out for Good News…go on, start building!
Fifth Sunday of Easter, 14 May 2017, 9.30am
This Sunday we continue to work our way through the Book of Acts, 1 Peter and the Gospel of John. In the case of Acts and John we move forward through the text whereas in 1 Peter, intriguingly, we move to an earlier part of chapter two than we heard last Sunday. The reason for this unusual move is partially explained by 1 Peter’s reference to Christ as the shepherd and guardian of our souls at the end of last week’s reading, which fitted in nicely with the theme of Good Shepherd Sunday. That can’t be the whole reason though, because if it were, the compilers of our readings might have simply moved on from the end of chapter two, where the shepherding reference occurs, to chapter three. They chose to back-track, however, because the earlier part of chapter two contains some of the richest words of encouragement that the New Testament has to offer, both for ourselves as individual believers and as a church. 1 Peter exhorts us as ‘living stones’ to be built up into a spiritual house founded on Jesus Christ, ‘a living stone…a cornerstone…the stone that the builders rejected.’ Our task there, as a people, is a priestly one, namely, the offering of ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ Over the course of a few sentences the outline of the church’s purpose and place in God’s plan of salvation is spelled out powerfully in imagery drawn from the world of building – an activity with which our Lord was very familiar. We need to hear these words regularly so we remember and rejoice that we are, indeed, a priestly people with a message of Good News to proclaim, in word and deed, about God who calls all people ‘out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ These life-giving words should serve us well as we open our doors to the wider community tomorrow morning for our first drop-in session.
Fourth Sunday of Easter, 7 May 2017, 9.30am
Jesus describes himself in this Sunday's Gospel (John 10:1-10) as 'the gate for the sheep' through which his sheep would come when the gate was opened to them by the gatekeeper. This is one of many metaphors that Jesus uses in John's Gospel to help his disciples understand his relationship to them and to the one who sent him. Sheep farming in first century Palestine was rather different than the intensive farming used in twenty-first century New Zealand, where sheep are typically rotated from one fenced paddock to another and remain overnight in the paddock that they've been grazing in. In the first century Palestinian context (and in the ancient Middle East in general) the sheep roamed across unfenced land in hill country that was generally far less verdant than the farms most of us are used to. Their journey in search of fodder was overseen by a shepherd. For this unfenced, extensive grazing system to work there had to be good communication between the shepherd and the sheep. The sheep had to recognise him as their leader and respond to his voice accordingly. It is not surprising, then, that the relationship between shepherd and sheep came to be used very widely in the Middle-East to picture the relationship between rulers and their subjects. In many instances that human relationship was less than perfect. It provided some security to people but it could also be harsh, punitive and oppressive. The sort of relationship that Jesus sets out this morning between himself and his followers is fundamentally different than the poor quality shepherding of some political leaders. Whereas their concern is with themselves and not the sheep they lead, Jesus' concern is that his sheep 'have life and have it in abundance.' That purpose provides us with a measure for gauging how well our relationships - as individuals, couples, families, parishes, towns and nations are really operating. If the way that we relate to one another causes human flourishing at every level, then we would appear to be following the leadership of Jesus. To the extent, however, that human potential is not being realised, and life is not being enjoyed fully by everyone, we are being led, somewhere and somehow by 'thieves and bandits.' I'm not a political expert, but what I see on TV suggests to me that there is still much oppression and diminishment of human dignity in the world. All the more reason, then, to listen for our Saviour's voice, and to respond positively to his call.
Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017, 9.30am
Christ is risen!
He is risen, indeed, alleluia!
This simple statement and response is used on Easter Sunday and throughout the services of the Easter season to remind us of the amazing, heartening and extraordinary fact that Jesus rose from his tomb on the first Easter Sunday. His body had lain there since the late afternoon of the preceding Friday, disturbed by no one, not even those loved ones who would usually anoint the body immediately after death, because the Sabbath was beginning and all work was forbidden. The women who came to tend Jesus’ body as early as they could after the Sabbath were met by an empty tomb and, in Matthew’s account of the first Easter morning, an angelic figure who told them how they were to interpret the disappearance of Jesus’ body; ‘He is not here, for he has been raised,’ the angel assured them, and promised that they would see him in Galilee. There is a saying in business that you should ‘promise little’ to your customers but ‘deliver much.’ I think the angel at the tomb had been trained in that principle because no sooner had the women left the angel to take the message of the resurrection to the other disciples than they ran head-long into their risen Lord – Jesus was risen indeed! Alleluia! They were so overjoyed that they hung on to him by his feet – worshipping him, but perhaps equally determined that he would not disappear again. This Sunday, and all the Sundays of Easter we too will worship Jesus and the God of Love that is revealed through our Lord’s life, death and resurrection. May each of us experience the joy of Christ greeting us and assuring us through his presence of the faithfulness of God and the power of Love to conquer everything, even death itself.
Good Friday, 14 April 2017, 9.30am
On Friday morning we gather to reflect on Jesus' death on the Cross by contemplating the traditional 'Seven Last Words' he spoke before he died. These words are short but poignant statements. Their brevity is consistent with a man at the end of his physical endurance. Short as they are, their substance has rewarded centuries of Christian contemplation.
Scripture, reflection, prayer, music, movement and silence will guide our meditation.
Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2017, 7.30pm
On Thursday evening, 13 April at 7.30pm, we remember two of our Lord’s most crucial commands, namely, to serve one another in the same loving way that he cared for his disciples, and to remain united to him and one another by sharing a simple meal of bread and wine offered to God in remembrance of him – a meal that churches refer to variously as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Mass or Eucharist. This meal took place on the night before Jesus suffered and died, which is why we remember his institution of this rite on the evening before Good Friday. The knowledge that Christ is with us through the faithful celebration of this sacrament fills us with joy, which is why the sanctuary is decorated with white and gold embroidery. This joy is tempered, however, by our awareness that Jesus, within hours of offering thanks to the Father for bread and wine in the presence of his closest friends, would be betrayed, abandoned, ridiculed, and tortured to death on a cross.
Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017
On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the week before he suffered and died on the cross. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week when the focus of our attention is drawn ever more closely to the death that Jesus suffered, and God's response to that sacrifice on the first Easter Sunday. On this Sunday, churches across the world read the account of Jesus' arrest and execution - the Passion Narrative as it is often called - in its entirety. Churches that follow the pattern of readings set out in the Common Revised Lectionary (as we Anglican's do..mostly anyway!) will read the Passion Narrative in Matthew's Gospel this year. Each of the four accounts of Jesus' suffering and death differ to some extent but they are each very emotionally arresting. One way or another they draw us back to a sequence of events that intersect and resonate with events we are all too familiar with in our world, or nation, our community, family and in our own personal lives. May the Holy Spirit guide us through this reflective time, and allow Christ's Passion to effect positive change in ourselves, in our relationships and in our world.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, 2 April 2017
The readings this Sunday focus on rebirth and revitalisation. The gospel account of the raising of Lazarus demonstrates God’s ability to overcome individual death. Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of bones, revitalised sinew by sinew, shows the same divine power over death but this time it is effected on a communal level – God’s people are brought back to life after being long dead and dried up. The extract from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans highlights the truth that the life to which we are called (and into which we are reborn through baptism) is a spiritual one, empowered by Christ to be at one with God – not just when we die physically, but here and now too. These readings are packed with hope, hope which we need to be mindful of every day, not least as we move towards Holy Week and the remembrance of our Lord’s suffering and death.
The Fourth Sunday in Lent - Mothering Sunday, 26 March 2017
The Fourth Sunday in Lent is traditionally called Mothering or Nurturing Sunday, and has, for centuries in the English Church, been a day to give thanks for our natural mothers, and those institutions – particularly parish churches and Cathedrals - which have nurtured us to maturity. In the days when many people in England were servants of the aristocracy and well-to-do, Mothering Sunday was the one Sunday servants could have off to return to the village where they had been born, and the church where they had been baptised. It was spring-time, so the fields would have been coming alive with wild-flowers – offering amply opportunity to gather a free floral present for Mum, and the ride or walk home was probably a pretty jolly one, even if it was raining! Many of the homeward-bound pilgrims carried cakes with them which had been baked in their master’s oven, as a sign of appreciation for services rendered. The cakes, more often than not, contained fruit and nuts and were called Simnel Cake. Each region had its own variety of Simnel Cake, and this morning, after church, we will tuck into a variant that may well be peculiar to this Parish alone – but it will be good, I can assure you.
The Third Sunday in Lent, 19 March 2017
The first part of March this year was strangely wet around the North Island, causing flooding, landslides, the undermining of streets and houses, and the silting-up of Auckland’s major water supply in the Hunua Ranges. And we’re still having to conserve water until that reservoir clears enough to allow processing to occur at a normal pace. Yes, water, when it comes gushing out of the sky all at once, is a tremendously powerful force. This Sunday, Jesus uses the metaphor of gushing water to describe the effect that faith in him has on a believer’s heart (John 4:14). The person he shares this word picture with - the Samaritan woman by the well - demonstrates just how true his words are when she immediately rushes off to evangelise the town in which she lives, and is incredibly successful in that task. This Sunday’s gospel is one of the longest gospel passages we hear on any Sunday of the Church’s year. The reasons for its length has to do with the fact that John tells the Good News through long dialogues and speeches of Jesus, rather than through the more pithy and economic parables that Jesus teaches with in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The writing style of John, then, makes it difficult to break his gospel up into small, easily managed chunks. Consequently, this Sunday – as last Sunday when we heard the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus – we have a rich feast of ideas set before us. Not all those ideas can be examined on any one Sunday – and that is perfectly fine. I know our preacher, Jean Rheinfrank, will discern well which aspects of this text the Spirit calls us to reflect on today. Jean, who already has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology, is now fully immersed in her first year of formation for ordained ministry through the Diocese of Auckland’s part-time ordination programme (called the DTP, Diocesan Training Programme). Throughout her three years of formation Jean will be associated with this Parish - a massive benefit for us, which I hope we can reciprocate by giving her all the support we can to form her into the ordained minister that Christ and the Church are calling her to be. Tony Surman
The Second Sunday in Lent, 12 March 2017
On Wednesday evening, 8 March, we met for the first of our Lenten Studies Series for 2017. The series comprises six reflections by the Reverend Professor Keith Ward on the way Christianity has rethought itself over the course of two millennia. The first of these reflections looked at Christianity as it was expressed in New Testament times (roughly the period from 30AD to 100AD) and found that, even in its infancy, Christianity was a diverse phenomenon in which different communities, each dedicated to following Jesus, expressed their belief in distinctive and, sometimes, incompatible ways. Recognition of this early diversity in our faith may make us more tolerant of the diversity of expressions of Christianity we encounter in the twenty-first century. This Sunday's readings might also help in that regard. We see in them how people from very different circumstances are brought into constructive relationship with God as a consequence of God’s loving initiative. In the first reading, God makes promises to Abram regarding the future which depend on Abram’s faithful response. Abram accepts these promises, entering into the covenant that God has proposed and he goes off, at the age of 75, to fulfil the mission God sends him on. This covenant is reflected upon in the second reading where Paul presents Abraham (as Abram became known) as an individual justified (made right) with God through faith, and a sort of spiritual ancestor not only to faithful Jews but to all people who respond faithfully to God’s call. For the gospel this week we have a break from Matthew’s telling of the Good News and move to John’s account of the meeting that went on between Jesus and Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to see Jesus ‘by night.’ In his encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus is overwhelmed to learn that God’s Spirit moves through creation, blowing where it chooses, transforming the most unlikely people so that they may see God’s kingdom. May that Spirit continue its work in us, and build us up as people of faith, capable of taking the word of life to those we encounter, today and always.
The First Sunday in Lent, 5 March 2017
From Ash Wednesday the colour in the sanctuary, where the Altar sits, changes from green to violet. This colour, which evokes a penitent spirit, will remain at all services until the beginning of Holy Week on Palm Sunday (9 April). If the season of Christmas is one for being jolly, the season of Lent is one for being reflective. The readings on this first Sunday in Lent certainly give us reason to pause, touching as they do on the origin of humanity’s estrangement from God, and the costly remedy God invoked to restore that broken relationship through Christ’s mission in the world. In the first reading we travel back in time to the origins of humanity, to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who manage to upset their idyllic life by disobeying God’s command to avoid eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their curiosity about the fruit of that tree, together with their desire to be ‘like God, knowing good and evil,’ left them vulnerable to the temptation to do something God had forbidden them to do; their human weakness pushed them over the line. Were any adult human of any age placed in the same position as Adam and Eve, the result is likely to have been the same, because we continue to be curious, desirous of knowledge of every sort, and feeble enough to think that we can be God’s equal. That is one way in which the inheritability of original sin can be understood. What has saved us from this unhappy pattern is Jesus of Nazareth, the one human being who obeyed God the Father perfectly, even though his dedication led to suffering, and ultimately, his unjust execution. We meet him today, in the wilderness of Judea, being tempted by the same agent that had beguiled Adam and Eve. In far worse conditions than the Garden of Eden, Jesus resisted an onslaught of temptation orders of magnitude greater than Adam and Eve’s, but, thanks be to God, he stood firm till the end. As a consequence, the pattern of human disobedience and death was facing its first real threat. The decisive victory would come in the form of Christ’s cross and resurrection. Jesus is now the new Adam through whom all people are called back into a loving relationship with God. Lent is the season for us to reflect on the health of our relationship with God and with one another, reaching out in faith for the gift of abundant life which Jesus holds out to everyone.
Sunday, 26 February 2017
On Sunday, 26 February, we heard three very comforting scriptures which remind us of the love God has for us, God’s nearness to us and the wonderful plans God has for our future. The Prophet Isaiah speaks to us of a God who holds us in the palms of his hands, and loves us with a passion that exceeds the natural human capacity to love. The extract from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians reflects on the judgement of one’s ministry. That may not sound all that comforting, but notice that Paul lays aside all human judgement of his work in God’s Kingdom, in favour of allowing Christ alone to be the judge of his ministry. Paul’s decision liberates him from having to dwell upon the criticism of fickle human beings (including himself you’ll note) in favour of trusting in the judgement of God whose love is strong and constant. The nurturing ways of God are described in a captivating manner by Jesus in the Gospel this morning. Our Lord points to creation in all its beauty and intricacy and assures us that God is at work throughout the world, nurturing it at every scale, not least the human one. As a consequence we need have no anxiety for the future so long as we ‘strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’ That heartening reminder is very apt. This is the last Sunday before we begin our Lenten Journey on Wednesday 1 March. That journey is one of return to Christ and to the pilgrimage and ministry our baptism has set us on, a work that is only made possible when we place all our cares in God’s loving hands.
Sunday, 19 February 2017
Christian Ethics II
‘Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matt 5:48). Sunday’s Gospel concluded with this demanding sentence, spoken by Jesus. It fairly sums up the series of commandments that Jesus gives his disciples throughout the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, all of which are challenging, some, incredibly so. The text there contains teachings which few Christians keep in their entirety, whether they be from the liberal left of the Church, the fundamentalist right, or somewhere in between. The first part of the text requires Jesus’ disciples refrain from defending themselves against those who would attack, prosecute, conscript or use them. Neither liberation theologians - who counsel the downtrodden to resist tyrannical powers that be, nor fundamentalist preachers - who advocate for a powerful military to defend national freedom, appear to agonise much over these clear commands of Jesus. That is probably because these teachings are difficult, if not impossible rules to run a country by, or to govern a human life, if we don’t wish to become door-mats for tyrants, users and bullies. If these commandments are observed by most Christians ‘in the breach,’ that does not remove from us the obligation to face up to them and pray to God for the grace to respond appropriately to them, as individuals, as Church and as a nation.
Sunday, 12 February 2017
Christian Ethics Part 1
On Sunday, 12 February, we continued to hear Jesus preaching to us about the ethics of God's Kingdom from the fifth chapter of Matthew's Gospel. The particular text, Matthew 5:21-37, gives some concrete examples that develop the ethical principles set out in last Sunday's Gospel, Matthew 5:13-20. The really quite radical ethical demands that Jesus calls his disciples to in Matt 5:21-37 are perhaps best understood as the outworkings of the core ethical principle that Jesus gives voice to later in Matthew's Gospel (7:12), namely, that we treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. This principle - the golden rule - demands, for example, that we not only refrain from violence, but cease to remain angry with people. And it means that we should stop thinking of other people, whoever they are, as objects, but as human beings who have inherent dignity and deserve the same respect we expect to be shown us.
Sunday - 5 February 2017
On Sunday, 5 February, we encountered a powerful and demanding set of readings as we returned to 'Ordinary Time' and began working our way systematically through Matthew's Gospel. In the first reading we were reminded (Isaiah 58:1-9a) of our need to treat people well at all times, to deal ethically with everyone, taking particular care of people for whom we have responsibility. This theme was picked up in the Gospel (Matthew 5:13-20), where Jesus calls his disciples to be salt of the earth and light to world, which they can only be if they follow the commandments of God which he came to fulfil. The commandment of God, spelled out in the first reading, is clearly one of these and it remains as arresting to its hearers today as it was when it was first proclaimed. God tells his people through the lips of his prophet to liberate those who are oppressed, feed the hungry, house the homeless and destitute, provide for those who have nothing, and respond faithfully and with generosity towards extended family. That is a big, and rather daunting commandment. It is beyond human power to achieve, but if God has called us to this mission, we can be sure that God will provide the grace necessary for us to get the job done. Let’s pray for that grace - that enabling, faithful, loving power that will make us effective instruments of God’s peace in a world where oppression, homelessness, poverty and hardheartedness are real and need to be challenged and changed.