Community of St Martin @ St Chad's

Anglican Parish of Sandringham and Mt Roskill

17 November 2019

Walk the talk! Put your money where your mouth is! The whole nine yards! You’ve heard all these sayings before. Whichever way you interpret them one thing we can all accept is that we need to work to be fed. Some Thessalonians had quit their jobs expecting the wealthy few to carry them, and Paul knew it! Although Paul may have had a right as a religious teacher to expect the community to support him, he and his companions "worked night and day" so that they "might not burden" these fledgling Christians. Paul was notorious for doing that. He worked instead of living from the hospitality or tithings of those whom he conducted his mission with. Paul urges the Thessalonians to follow his example and work hard too. Already in Paul's time he was aware that some were taking advantage of their congregations and acting in their own interests. It became necessary to be very careful about visiting preachers. Charlatan preachers could have a great time at the expense of locals. They would acquire great references and letters of commendation then make claims for financial support. Some outstayed their welcome and were leeches on congregations. Paul refused to play that game! He was not into sponging off congregations! Let the preachers work and pay their way, was his motto. The church needed to be grounded in its approach to resources and employment. Paul's model was to become increasingly relevant in contexts where congregations could no longer afford paid ministers. At times it was appropriate even when congregations could. Abuse and exploitation, on the other hand, is never appropriate! God gifts us all to contribute, in Christian freedom and mutuality, to the good of all. "In the Lord Jesus Christ," we owe one another our best efforts, doing good work and serving human need out of love for one another and our Lord. Let’s be who we claim to be, go the extra mile, for in giving we receive. Do what is right, not what is easy. A life lived for others is a life worthwhile. Amen.

10 November 2019, Patronal Feast

The Parish Patrons St Martin of Tours (c.316-397) and St Chad of Mercia (634-672) 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. I offer these synopses of their life. While St Martin of Tours was still a soldier he experienced a vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. He was at the gates of the city Amiens when he met a half-dressed beggar. He cut his military cloak in half and shared it with him. That night he dreamed of Jesus wearing that half-cloak and heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has dressed me." In some versions of the story, when Martin woke, his cloak was restored. His early life was written by Sulpicius Severus, who knew him personally, who wrote about accounts of miracles and encounters with the devil among many other things. “No one ever saw him angry, or excited, or lamenting, or laughing; he was always one and the same: displaying a kind of heavenly happiness in his countenance, he seemed to have passed the ordinary limits of human nature. Never was there any word on his lips but Christ, and never was there a feeling in his heart except piety, peace, and tender mercy.” St Chad of Mercia from Northumbria was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom were priests. At a young age came as a monk to his brother's monastery and upon his brother's death he became the Abbot and was happy in the peace and quietness he found there. The church in Britain was in considerable turmoil at the time and after some initial confusion he was ordained a Bishop. Chad travelled extensively round his diocese, mostly on foot, until Archbishop Theodore insisted that he ride a horse. He founded monasteries, evangelised, preached, reformed monastic life in his diocese, and built a cathedral on land that had been the site of the martyrdom of 1,000 Christians by the pagan Mercians. Miraculous cures were reported at the wells he caused to be dug for the relief of travellers. Chad was much loved for his gentleness and humility and for the great holiness of his life, patterned on the example of the ancient fathers. He tirelessly worked at spreading the gospel. Chad was bishop of Mercia for only three years and died in 672 of the plague. 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 you Son, our Saviour.

3 November 2019

What a pleasant letter about a group of people receiving a great deal of credit for their fledgling Christian journey! I don’t think Paul needed to be reminded to care for the wellbeing of his congregation and this letter is a great demonstration of the “teaching and nurturing of new believers” that we as Anglicans continue to subscribe to today. This letter reveals Paul’s deep pastoral care for a congregation he’d had so little time with. Paul’s intention was clear. He stresses their new identity, not as Roman citizens, not as Thessalonicans, but as people defined by their relationship with God and Christ. No longer are they identified as under the emperor or any other ruler or nationality but were now first and foremost a new people in God and Christ. Paul encouragingly boasts not simply in their faith, but in their endurance. Something significant considering that the congregation were facing persecution for their newfound identity. If we were writing to the church today, we might settle on endurance as one of the most undersold and underappreciated virtues for those who have given their lives to the benefit of others. And in this very privileged world of entitlement and expectations, where might God and Christ in identity be given rightful place? On this All Saints Sunday let us hold to what Paul describes as an ever-increasing love for one another. Let us hold, unshaken, to our identity as siblings in God and Christ, loving one another, enduring in faith, empowered by God and Christ. Let us pray from ‘For All the Saints’: “Almighty God, your saints are one with you in the mystical body of Christ; give us grace to follow them in all virtue and holiness until we come to those inexpressible joys which you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen.

27 October 2019

As Paul sits in prison having been condemned to death for the crime of preaching that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and that he has died and risen that we might receive eternal life, he looks back at the life he has lived, and looks forward to the life yet to come. He tells Timothy, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” Paul has persevered to the end, through thick and thin! Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t for the faint hearted and requires a great deal of energy and effort. Paul knew what it was like to need, and to have plenty too. He learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. “At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Thank goodness! Much can be said about those who had abandoned him. Paul was deeply hurt by the desertion. He now says goodbye to his long-time friend Timothy telling him that his work is done. Age, beatings and long imprisonment had broken down his aging body. He had held on for as long as he could. Paul had done all he could to prepare Timothy and the churches he had founded to continue on without him. The Bible promises that followers of Jesus Christ shall suffer persecution. And even if persecution passes us by for a while, we still have to face the everyday difficulties of life. We face failing health and the ravages of age and somehow, we need to make the best of it. We cannot just sit back and wait on our trip to heaven. Paul was wise to prepare the church and Timothy for the road ahead. This we must do also. How wonderful it is to be busy doing the Lord’s work and be occupied at the tasks of ministry to which the Lord has entrusted us. Paul made full proof of his ministry. He commends Timothy to do the same, to finish the race boldly as he did. And Paul says this to us also. Amen.

20 October 2019

All of us at some time in our lives have been called upon to minister in difficult situations. Sometimes that call can last years and for some at least, possibly a lifetime. It’s in these times that we have to draw on the Spirit of God and the people of God for encouragement and strength. In doing so we also turn to the Word of God, something Paul knew would strengthen and direct all believers. Let’s consider the word “all”. It’s not some and it’s not just a little bit. It’s “All”… Scripture is inspired! Yes, there are times when we think that certain parts of Scripture is not important or necessary for our self-development. We might tend to lean on our own understanding, and we pray about this all the time! Ultimately, there are some who claim to love God but are not really committed to the truth being affirmed in this piece of Scripture. We show our defection when we read only what we like and give no attention to other books or letters. For example, I’ve heard someone say that they can’t get into Leviticus. It just doesn’t do anything for them. It’s the same with Isaiah. Some even refuse to read verses that don’t fit their preconceived theological biases, thereby limiting their learning experience or dare I say, spiritual experience. The fact that Scriptures are useful simply follows from the fact that they are divinely inspired. They are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. They teach us who God is and who we are. They teach us how to live a life pleasing to God and what we are to believe. They teach us about divine problem solving. Once we accept where we’ve gone wrong, the Scriptures can correct us and show us the way to repentance and how to get back on track. Ultimately, God is training us through his word so that we might be suitable vessels for his work. Suitable for that call to minister in difficult situations often lasting a lifetime!! So, let’s think more seriously about our commitment to the Word of God. Paul told Timothy that he must cling to the Scriptures and we should do no less, for the Scripture is still inspired and useful and the times in which we live are not altogether unlike those of that young pastor in Ephesus.

13 October 2019

OFF LIMITS! Two words, when thrown together, bring to mind negative thoughts, evoking what we are not permitted to do, or being told how to behave or something which we cannot obtain. In short...some hindrance upon which an individual is required to follow! My first thought is closed highway, with lots of orange cones, and frustration knowing Highway 1, AGAIN, is closed up ahead. Will it ever be fixed??? Luke provides us with a comprehensive report of Jesus’ journey back to Jerusalem and the cross, once he had turned his face to head in that direction. Many joined him along that journey including the Pharisees who were always there, one way or the other. And they knew well about OFF LIMITS, given they wrote the rule book in that regard. Jesus’ healings and exorcisms were an indication of his full acceptance of the marginalised deemed religiously and socially unacceptable by those very Pharisees walking and keeping a close eye on Jesus. I wonder if he enjoyed the irony of their company, or perhaps he was just basically and quietly annoyed? What is clear is that Jesus aroused great suspicion, unless of course you were one of those being cured. Being cured, however, was only part of the true plan. For Jesus, the cures were signs of the “breaking-in” of God’s kingly rule. In that regard, Jesus would have enjoyed having as many as possible witness what was going on. For he knew that many could see what was happening, but not perceive it. For it would take eyes which were blessed to understand what was truly happening...God’s kingly rule was breaking in. And so it is with us, as Jesus tells the thankful Samaritan in v 19: “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” AMEN

6 October 2019

The first verse of Luke’s scripture (v11) sounds somewhat like an explanation of geographical downloading, “name this place.” Reality suggests, however, that our gospel writer was preoccupied in making sure the readers of Luke’s account understood that Jesus, was continuing on the road to Jerusalem, and in this particular time was travelling through an unfamiliar place, and that in this place two separate, and hardly congenial people—Jews and a Samaritan—were at that moment sharing the road and the trip with Jesus. Hence the care in pointing out various sectors along the road. Travelers on the road: the Jews and a Samaritan both have been inflicted with leprosy and are not prepared to make this known. But they need not have bothered, for Jesus knew already of their affliction, but kept that knowledge to himself. Jesus has cleansed them all and moves on. One, however, is prepared to approach Jesus and offer his thanks, for he has been “saved,” and he knows it. And remarkably, the individual in this case is the least likely—being the Samaritan (the man who truly stood outside the community)—who does offer his appreciation. And in that moment, the true nature of Christianity, that bringing the individual from outside the community into the community is demonstrated by Jesus’ action. Each Christian is required to stand ready to retain a sense of thankfulness not only for themselves, but for others as well. The Christian appreciates the power that comes to those who do not remain outside and are free to enjoy Jesus’ grace and the forgiveness of God. This moment of scripture would have been greatly rejected by the Pharisees, who would have been quite disappointed that others would so easily have been welcomed into the community, instead of being shunned by it. Further, realizing that only one, and that person a Samaritan to boot, would have bothered to go back to Jesus, and offer his thanks would not have set well with the Pharisees passing judgment. Luke has written a short, and uplifting report that would have resonated well on the so important journey to Jerusalem, and the cross. AMEN

Combined Service, 29 September 2019

Do you know someone who thinks the world revolves around them. They actually believe the purpose of all that God has created is to make them comfortable and happy. Society often indicates that life is about us, what we want and what we deserve as individuals. Our entitlements as it were. In today’s context it is hard to escape from this mindset. Facebook and Instagram make it easier to let the world know, it’s all about me. If I want it, I should get it. If I don’t want to do it, I shouldn’t have to do it. If I say I need it, somebody should get it for me. If I got it, it’s mine to do as I please. It is hard for us to escape this reality from creeping into our spiritual lives and into the life of the church. We have to ask ourselves, how much of my walk with Jesus is all about me? How much is it being in control of what I have, receive, or reject. Of all the sins that clutter our lives, very few of us think of greed as a problem. In our modern way of thinking greed is acceptable because it tends to come in so many disguises. We’re not greedy, we just good savers. We like fashion and it’s all in my budget. We’re not greedy, we deserve it because we earned it! Then Jesus comes along and messes all that up! He’s saying that the way to handle greed is to have less and to learn to be more content. It would be so much easier to be a Christian if it weren’t for Jesus! Andy Stanley wrote this. “People with greed lodged in their heart fear that God either can’t or won’t take care of them.” More to the point, they’re afraid that God won’t take care of them in the way they want to be cared for. And the gap between what they suspect God might be willing to do and what they want becomes a major source of anxiety. Greedy people then carry the burden of getting and maintaining everything they need to provide the sense of security they desire. You’ve heard this all before! Nothing we have is going to last forever, so even when we pay for it, we’re only paying to get to use it for a certain amount of time, until we sell it, trade it, give it away, or it falls to pieces and we go out buy another one. We never own anything. Even if they put it in our coffin or grave, we still can’t take it with us into the next life. Naked we came into this world and naked we go out. Jesus wants us to get back to what the real needs in life are. He tells us that life does not consist of an abundance of possessions. Then he tells us what we really need to hear, “fight the good fight of the faith!” Amen.

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 22 September 2019

Why do we tell stories? To get attention, to entertain, to fill a quiet spot, to make a point, to share an idea, to understand a situation, or simply because certain things provoke us to tell them. The best stories told, if truthful, are credible and not so fantasised. A story that relates clearly to the point can help people make a connection. But Jesus’ story, in our context, the connection and the point of the story is not plainly clear. It has explanations that offer a plethora of interpretations, and this reflection is no exception! So the rich man hears on the grapevine that his steward is squandering his resources, tells him he is being sacked, and demands to look at the books. The steward works his fraud quickly before the rich man arrives at the various farms. When the master leaves his life of luxury and goes out to assess the situation, he finds that the steward has put him in a position where, if he fires the suddenly popular steward, he himself will be dishonoured. The steward's ingenious approach has placed the master in a quandary. Firing the steward will have confirmed that his steward was dishonest in the first place. If he cancels his steward's agreements, he will be seen as having gone back on his word because the steward's actions are the directives of the master. The story works. The story has its own power. It’s plausible. It was quite possibly an actual event being retold by Jesus. People might enjoy the spectacle of a rich man being trapped by his own honour. And a rich man, like a politician, can appreciate the skill of someone who outmanoeuvres him, even though he may not enjoy the experience. So, what is the point Jesus is trying to make? We may not approve of the steward’s behaviour, but we must applaud his shrewdness. How shrewd are we in this generation, that is, within our setting as people of God? Are we making purses that do not wear out, unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys? For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Yes, the story of the steward is far removed from our time, but the problem with getting the point both Jesus and Luke make is mostly that we do not see how deeply we are comprised by wealth. No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’ Amen.

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 15 September 2019

Luke and his writings were not popular in the early church, and he was overlooked often for the more desired Matthew. But Luke has travelled well, for many Biblical readers in the 21st Century are quite attracted to Luke’s descriptions of Jesus with regards to human qualities, allowing us to embrace Jesus’ true concern for the less fortunate and the less loved, many times referred to as those on the fringe of society. Luke had deep concern for the gap that existed between those with riches and the far more living within poverty. Sounds hauntingly familiar, doesn’t it. Many of the parables found in Luke, which are so easily understood and appreciated now, deal with the unpopular members of society of that time (such as tax collectors and sinners, women, orphaned children, and the like). Traditions adopted by the early church such as The Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis and penned by Luke, are widely used to this day in the church. We can thus say with certainty that Luke and his writings live amongst us and show us the good news of how God’s Way Triumphs! The Lost Sheep is a key example of both Luke’s writing and Jesus’ mandate. This parable is the first of three which are linked: The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (the Prodigal Son). As demonstrated in the Lost Sheep, we are struck with the shepherd’s sense of responsibility to find that sheep and return it to the fold, at all cost. The shepherd’s joy in succeeding in this task (as equally exhibited in the other parables) is apparent, and the sharing of that joy with others expresses the feeling which results in a sinner’s repentance and return to community. A simple story, it nevertheless demonstrates Jesus’ ability to share the meaning of his tale so as to be understood by his disciples and members of the faith community as to what is meant and achieved in the Kingdom of God, whilst slipping oh so quietly and without notice by those so wanting to trap Jesus! Luke provides us, indeed, with compelling good news of which we can embrace and certainly remember. AMEN

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8 September 2019

No doubt we all have encountered the odd ‘crackpot’ in our lives, and I don’t mean like the image on the left! People of many backgrounds cross our paths and sometimes we’re unable to connect. Their different, and they’re not typically like the others we know. By all accounts they look like us, they seem to fit in for a time, but eventually their imperfectness clouds full acceptance by the whole. The Judean pottery in our text was simple. They were not expensive items costing big $$ that only the wealthiest Judeans could afford. These were pots of a typical household, serviceable, perhaps not perfect in shape or color, but useable by a family to hold grain or wine and enough to sustain common life. The pots were known for a rather short life span, given their poor construction out of equally poor materials, hence, a trip to the local potter was frequent. Now, if you’ve tried your hand at pottery, and I know some of you have, you will know the anguish of a pottery piece going wrong on the wheel or cracking after it’s been fired. It’s easy to deem it useless and simply throw it away. However, not so in this Judean period. Not so in God’s plans either! “Am I not able to do to you exactly as this potter has done?” The lesson of the potter is clear enough. God is the potter, having full control over the fate of the pot, Israel. Like the potter, God can start again after breaking it. Cracked pots are not just thrown away. We have a chance to do better. God’s mercy is for all to do His will on earth. There is a problem here theologically. If I do better, then God will be nice with me. If I do badly, then God will reprimand me. Then what do we do with this old theology? Is it all to be thrown out? Perhaps not. Focus instead on the pot, the common flawed and easily cracked pot. We are the cracked pots of God. In this light, the parable of the pots is less about the ability of God to respond to our good or evil acts, than it is about God choosing us to contain the gospel, despite the fact that we too often muck up and despite the fact that we are all cracked pots! Nevertheless, God has chosen us to be vessels of God's gospel. We are God's cracked pots, and let’s be willing to be molded by God’s hand! Amen.

The Builders of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, NZ, and Polynesia, 1 September 2019

Normally we think that wisdom comes with age but from out of the mouths of children come these pearls of wisdom: · Patrick, age 10, said, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.” · Michael, 14 - “When your angry dad asks, "Do I look stupid?" don’t answer.” · Michael, 14 - “Never tell your mother her diet’s not working.” · Naomi, 15 - “If you want a kitten, start by asking for a horse.” · Lauren, 9 - “Felt tips are not good to use as lipsticks.” · Joel, 10 - “Don’t pick on your sister when she’s holding a baseball bat.” · Eileen, 8 - “Never try to baptise a cat.” This inspirational next story was penned by Steve Shepherd, Church of Christ. “Sometimes people may seem ignorant but may be a lot wiser than we think: A jobless man applied for the position of ‘office boy’ at Microsoft. The HR manager interviewed him then watched him cleaning the floor as a test. “You are hired,” he said. “Give me your email address and I’ll send you the application form.” The man replied, “I don’t have a computer or an email address.” The HR manager said, “I’m sorry but if you don’t have an email address then you can’t have the job.” The man left with no hope and didn’t know what to do. With only $10 in his pocket he went to buy a box of tomatoes. He went door to door and sold them. In less than two hours, he managed to double his money. He repeated this three times and went home with $60. He realised that he could actually survive that way and each day went out earlier and got home later. His money doubled and tripled in no time. He bought a cart, then a truck, and soon he had a fleet of delivery vehicles. 5 years on the man was one of the biggest food retailers in the country. In planning for his family’s future, he called an insurance broker and chose a plan. The broker asked him for his email address. He said, “I don’t have an email.” The broker answered curiously, “You don’t have an email, and yet you have succeeded to build an empire. Can you imagine what you could have been if you’d had an email?!!” The man thought for a while and replied, “Yes, I’d be an office boy at Microsoft!” The wisdom of God will do things for us that nothing on earth can. "To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper." Proverbs 19:8. It’s always right to walk with God and listen. God’s wisdom is speaking. Are we listening?

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2019

The story of Jeremiah’s call to preach is a job he neither seeks nor welcomes. Citing his young age, he objects. God, however, will not let Jeremiah's youth stand in the way of sending a message that the people of Israel need to hear, even if they don’t want to hear it. Reluctantly, Jeremiah agrees to God's call. Just for context, Jeremiah’s home is just three miles north of Jerusalem and he is a member of a priestly family. With this in mind, it seems likely that Jeremiah’s call to ministry was a call to make public what he already knew in his heart. It is apparent that Jeremiah is called to deliver a message that is both difficult and unwelcome. The declaration that God knew him before he was born, even before he was formed in his mother's womb, does not exempt Jeremiah from problems inherent in his ministerial calling. Neither the command not to be afraid, nor the promise of God’s presence, is enough to shield Jeremiah from the trouble that awaits him. Anticipating the difficulty may have been part of the reason why Jeremiah objected to God’s summons. Though compelled to preach, Jeremiah seems to retain the reluctance of his youth throughout his ministerial career. For example, later in Chapter 20 he complains, “Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame”? Not only does he protest that he has become a ‘laughingstock’ he accuses God of enticing and overpowering him. The duality of his response might cause one to wonder whether he is struggling with mixed feelings, misunderstandings, or just having a bad day! By the end of the book it is obvious that despite his misgivings about his call, Jeremiah’s faith was big enough and bold enough to embrace the whole tragic sense of human history and to see that God had been fully involved in it. His faith was big enough for the difficult complex task to which God called him. Do you feel called too?

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 18 August 2019

There was a documentary series titled: Life After Humans that surmised what earth might look like without humans after 50 years, 500 years, 10,000 years… It was a fascinating prediction of how long it would take for tarmac and concrete to crack, buildings to fall, and how well animals and plants would do. The fate of religious symbols and artifacts too, such as the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, the Crystal Cathedral, and St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The idea that a fallen city overgrown with wilderness had a positive overture in that it had naturally reforested and ‘reset’ itself. It highlighted our treatment of the earth as non-sustainable, much less flourishing, and the appeal to rest, repair, & reset, so that fruits may flourish once more, was certainly alluring! Isaiah talks about the people of Israel and Judah as a vineyard, a garden where God did all that God could, to make it flourish. But as gardeners know, it’s not all up to the gardener. Sometimes the fruit fails due to bad seed, disease, and the variances in the weather. And if the soil is tired then we leave it for a while uncultivated and let it rest. Give it time to get over human exploitation. God has seen the vineyard he planted that should have become fruitful with a bounty of love and righteousness. Our best hope is to allow ourselves to be cultivated to work fruitfully in our communities. But if the wild grapes have already fruited, as they certainly have done in so many places, then we must also learn to welcome the resets when they are needed. It is better that the gardens of our common life be brought back to the wilds of an uncultivated garden rather than continue producing bad fruit. We should welcome the return of weeds and await the hand of the divine gardener who will lead us again to the fruits of a flourishing vine. Teach it to our children and anyone who would be open to hear and do what it takes to be a church in the wild and be prepared to learn the skills to tend the earth to rest, repair, and reset it! Let’s get gardening!

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 11 August 2019

Our lives are very comfortable, we have great freedom, and we can come to church and sit in our regular pews week by week to worship God. These routines point to the idea that we are very settled down and at home, and that’s not a bad thing. But, now we are confronted with Hebrews being strangers and foreigners seeking a homeland and better country! A far cry from the comforts of our pews! They are on a journey. They could’ve gone back to what they knew but no, they decide that they are on a pilgrimage instead. Is there a destination or is this script telling us about the journey? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1. We don’t know when we will arrive at our much prayed for destination and each time we gather for worship, it has to be said that unless this is accompanied by a closer engagement with the world around us then I suspect we won’t get very far on our pilgrimage journey at all. When we think about following Jesus and being a church, I believe we are called to think of our Christian service as far broader than greeting at the door or doing the readings or leading prayer. Our pilgrimage of faith is a day by day thing and we are called to live our faith in every setting we find ourselves. We shouldn’t sweat over what the destination might look like. We read that God is less fussed about sacrifices and more concerned that the people “learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” These concerns come up a lot in scripture and they represent all those who are disadvantaged. This is where the rubber hits the road. Being the people of God means helping others and this as Jesus points out is a personal thing. Jesus said to his audience “Sell your possessions and give alms.” The call to serve those who have less than us is a gospel imperative and just as much an expression of our faith as coming to worship on a Sunday. Let us journey on this pilgrimage together. Amen.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4 August 2019

Being a parent must be hard. The delicate dance you do in order to nurture, to teach, to instil discipline and to love must be one of the greatest challenges any parent can experience. But here we have the metaphors we use to talk about God, which is that God is our parent, and we are God’s children. God created us, loves, nurtures, and teaches us. God instils in us a sense of what it is to be just and good people. But if we carry this metaphor on it also means that we probably drive God crazy, make God mad, sadden and test God’s patience! Here are these opening words of warmth, “When Israel was a child, I loved him. I treated them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” What wonderfully warm expressions of love that all parents must identify with. Israel, to continue with our metaphor, was like a rebellious teenager. And here is where we see the warm and loving God turn. God’s voice starts changing and shows some impatience with the disobedient child. God considers letting them fall to the Egyptians and the Assyrians. Yeah, that’ll teach them! Since the people are turning away from God, God isn’t going to lift a finger. You made your bed, now you lie in it! Is it too hard for us to accept God’s frustration? God is showing that ‘tough love’ we all needed from time to time. This is the parenting image of God, offered by a prophet of nearly three thousand years ago. But God can’t do it. “I am God, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” The core of who God is rebels against punishing people. God rebels against God’s own law and God’s compassion wins. God wants us to live, to thrive, to be healthy, just, kind and good. God wants us to show one another the kind of love God has shown us. God wants us to grow into that which we were created to be, children made in God’s own image. God wants to look at our faces and see his own reflected there. Thanks be to God. Amen. But, being a parent must be hard!

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2019

Most of us will have installed ways to protect ourselves and our belongings. We have gated communities, alarms on everything, and even software on our cell phones that if it gets stolen police can trace it to the thief! And because of all these precautions we tend to not subscribe to the notion that we are vulnerable. To avoid vulnerability, we build up mechanisms that deal with tragedy, pain, and sorrow. And one of the things we fear most is change! We live by the illusion that if we take the right steps, if we are careful enough, if we have a good plan in place, we can keep things just the way we want them, safe! The idea of no change is not new, but what we don’t realise is that living as if ‘nothing ever changes’ keeps us from experiencing the joy of freedom and living our lives to the fullest. But one of the major points in Paul’s letter is to show how the good news of Jesus Christ blows away all the myths that have kept us bound to the same old chains and stuck in the same old ruts. Sound familiar? Paul is saying that contrary to popular belief there is only one power of prevention and that is from God. And rather than threaten us with pain and suffering if we step out of line, like Amos has done, this God is the one who in Jesus sets us free. Contrary to ‘nothing ever changes,’ Paul proclaims the good news that everything is changing! For some of us, that is the best news anyone could ever give us. For others it might bounce off the layers of protection we have built up to fend off the pain of this world. Many of us are so closed in that we never get to experience the wonderful transformation. The down side of the good news, if you want to call it that, is that you must be vulnerable to experience the changes. That’s why the most vulnerable people in our world seem to have a way of pointing us to what God is doing. And when God gives us the Spirit, in that generous way that God does, it is a gift that renews the whole world and changes everything! That you and me too! Amen

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2019

As promised, Amos is back this week with a profound message of social justice! Here we have people assuming their privilege and affluence is evidence of God’s blessings on them, despite their religious observance being disconnected from social ethics and justice. What might that have to do with ‘summer fruits’ you ask? At the front of their sanctuary where Amos and others are gathered, there’s a basket of summer fruit or ‘qayits’ in Hebrew or ‘qets’ meaning end of summer fruit. A fine offering to Yahweh from a proud farmer, who is keen to show off his produce. Nods of admiration follow the placement of this succulent and generous gift, and the farmer, with head held high, is delighted to receive the applause his harvest attracts. Amos lurks in the background and sees something very different. Instead of a sumptuous fruit display, he sees ‘qets’ or moreover, the ‘end’. Where the fruit means success and divine favor, Amos sees only doom and gloom for the farmer and admirers alike! Israel's lack of interest in the poor and needy will lead to their own demise. Instead of abundant fruit there will be famine; instead of happy song, dark lament; instead of a bright future, emptiness. But it turns out that the loss of fruit is not the worst tragedy. "The time is coming when I will send a famine on the land; but not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Yahweh. From sea to sea, north to east, they shall not find it" What? Surely, we parade into our churches and hear the Word. Each week, “hear the Word of God" and we respond, "thanks be to God." A preacher then expounds on that Word. Surely that is the Word of Yahweh! Is it? According to Amos, while the poor are ignored, rejected, marginalised, and set aside in favour of the wealthy, no amount of reading, preaching, singing, and praying can ever lead us into the presence of God. So, how’s our fruits this season?

 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 14 July 2019

Many may shy away from the book of Amos because it can be difficult to see where God’s grace is at work. The whole book of Amos carries a tough message of God’s judgment upon Israel. While it is hard to find the grace of God in this text, since it is prophesying doom, we should consider why Amos is the doom and gloom guy telling us about it in the first place! Why does God call this shepherd, a man who has no theological training, to go and preach of the fate to Israel? Little wonder why Amos is silent in the pulpits of the 21stcentury! In a time when all we want to hear is that we are loved by God, old Amos's incessant fury is hardly what any of us want to hear. Try it and you’ll know what I mean. However, we must make a place for Amos in our narrative and cut him some slack. After all, he’s only the herdsman messenger obeying orders. God used Amos as a plumb line. Amos was meddling at a time when Israel was doing well. It was prospering with lots of people getting rich. They’d created a new priesthood all built around a false religion to distract people and keep them from going to Jerusalem like they were supposed to. Then Amos shows up making sure the plumb line is as it should be. Amaziah sees Amos as a threat and confronts him making it clear that his house of worship has nothing to do with Yahweh. Amos's answers have been the source of much commentary. He concludes with a devastating personal assault against the high priest, saying his wife will be a whore, his children will be slaughtered, his property seized, and his death will occur in a foreign unclean place, no less! Very cutting and terribly cruel words! Is this what God had in mind for them to hear and for us to hear today? Absolutely! We cannot ignore Amos. We must address his concerns, even today and next week when he comes again. There is a saying: We are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable! This is our chance!

 

Fourtheenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7 July 2019

Sowing and Reaping’. This emphasises our responsibility to do the right thing in a way that puts God first, not ourselves. According to Paul, we have two choices, sow to the Spirit or sow to the flesh. If our faith is self-serving, we’re in big trouble! If we live life for our own benefit and our expressions of faith have selfish motivation, life can go askew very quickly. Paul’s reminder that we reap what we sow is a serious word of warning to those who think that we can be blessed spiritually while living in and to the flesh. It is sad that often, this erroneous motivation is just as prevalent in the church today as it was in Paul’s day, perhaps even more so! To expect that God will bless what is of the flesh is an insult and an offense to God! So, why do we measure success by outward and external standards? Have we become too preoccupied with ourselves and our own happiness, contentment, and success? In this world of consumerism let us take the principle of sowing and reaping a little deeper. Do we reap or sow God’s Word? We consume when we come to church, then we go home. What happens there? Do we sow out into the rhetoric of others, or do we simply go about our lives until the next time we come to consume again? If that were the case, there would be no harvest to look forward to. If farmers had that attitude, they would have no harvest either. The farmer has a small window in which to sow seeds and if that time passes by, the rewards are what is sown, nothing! The things that are happening to us now, are the harvest of thoughts and actions sown in the past. Today our seeds are being sown for a future harvest. Anyone who receives an inheritance knows what it means to reap what another has sown. Since all of us are now reaping what was once sowed, so too we must leave a harvest for future generations to reap from. It’s a good thing we know about the principles of sowing and reaping then! Let us pray…

Combined Service, 30 June 2019

The God we serve is a God of unity who wants us to live in harmony built on the foundation that Jesus Christ draws us together and the Holy Spirit strengthens our bond. Some churches value doctrine, political correctness, programs, social responsibility, and discipleship. And it's not that these things aren’t important, but God declares that nothing is as important as being united in love. As workers in the Kingdom, we each, in our own cultural and denominational way, go out into the world to proclaim and share that love and unity with others. Unlike Peter, we’re not imprisoned or surrounded by soldiers. Well then, ‘get up quickly, fasten your belt, put on your sandals, wrap your cloak around you and follow me’ says scripture! And like Peter, when we come before the iron gate leading into the city, it will open of its own accord. That reminds me of that popular hymn, “Onward Christian soldiers…” It sings about a mighty army, the Church of God; not divided, all one Body; in faith and in Spirit. God is good! God put our army of different parts together to ensure that we care for each part because each part is connected. The Body should not be cut up. If one suffers, we all suffer. If one of us receives a great honour, we all rejoice. Apostle, prophet, teacher, healer, preacher, administrator. We all belong. No part lesser or greater than the other. God called each part by his own design and each member is to make the Spirit known, in his or her own way just as God wants us to. The good news is that we’re all in God’s plan together! Each of us marching in unity with our various parts, in twos and threes and seventy or more! United in our diversity. Unity is vital to building strong and vibrant churches. Often the body of Christ is plagued by church splits and denominational biases that cause division. Today we gather as a multicultural, multi-denominational, and multilingual, body in Christ. Today, we defy all manner of difference and unite as an army should. Today, we are blessed to be a blessing to each other! Amen.

 

Te Pouhere Sunday, 23 June 2019

Paul was moved by Christ’s love for us, “it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me”. Christianity has been in Aotearoa since 1814, “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy”. Since becoming a new spiritual people living for Christ, we no longer look at each other’s physical appearance, but rather, what is important to us now is what we are spiritually. The old worldly person is in the past. We are ‘in Christ’, and entered into the most intimate union possible. We have developed our relationships in Aotearoa, opened the door for Pasefika to join us, and grown to respect a new system of evaluation. On this Pouhere Sunday we draw upon our bi-cultural three tikanga journey with full acceptance. God has done what is necessary to reconcile us to Himself and with each other. God has blessed us by giving us an all-important stewardship and a Pouhere that binds us together in love. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! That’s so US! God promised that He would ‘smooth out the road ahead’ by taking us down a new path. The Pouhere sought to remove the obstacles, deal with the ruts, break down the barriers, and made them passible. What’s next? Well if we haven’t got that by now it’s time for us to open our eyes and ears! God made it our responsibility and privilege to take the Gospel to the world. The Pouhere made it possible to do it together. Amen.

 

Trinity Sunday, 16 June 2019

How often have you reaped that for which you did not sow? Has there been a time when you benefitted from someone else’s labour? Praised for doing well, knowing that it was not you that deserved it? Received a gift you did not earn? It applies spiritually too. The disciples were sent to reap the harvest of people’s souls for which they had not cultivated. The hard work had already been done! When they turned up the people were ready to receive, ready to hear the Good News, and ready to turn to God. All that was necessary was to reap the harvest. For as much as some people are lucky to bring in the harvest for which they haven’t sown, this is only possible if others have gone before them to prepare the ground, sow the seed, pull the weeds, and tend the new growth. It is these people who have done the hard work. They stuck it out through good times and bad. It is these people who’ve suffered for that harvest. So, suffering leads to endurance. Here we are in our declining churches. We are in it together, and we choose to stay. Even when there’s no payback or obvious fruits. Even when we’re done with religion, we stay! We don’t walk away. We endure. Suffering leads to endurance and endurance builds character. To endure in the church today and to keep at it, when it’s real tough going, is for sure, character building! There is a time for sowing and a time for reaping. We may not be seeing the harvest right now, but we need to keep sowing. We need to be faithful in our witness to Christ as we endure in worship and prayer. We mustn’t be disheartened when nobody comes. The time for harvest may not be now and the ground may seem dry. But the time will come, and when it does let’s not let it pass us by! “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” Let us go out and share this enduring message of hope, thanking Christ for his suffering, and praying for the harvest! Amen.

 

Pentecost Sunday, 9 June 2019

The fourth mark of mission in our Anglican Communion states, “To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.” Christians everywhere hope for a time when racial and economic differences will end. We often pray that discrimination is no longer, and for when equality becomes the new norm. We hold a fervent hope that racism, sexism and a myriad of other destructive ‘isms’ will no longer lead to acts of violence and hate. The story of Pentecost helps us to understand how God sees human diversity, one of God’s greatest gifts to the world. That gift of diversity in Acts, arrives in grand style! God has made us all so wonderfully different. It’s not an accident that we speak different languages and live in different cultures. Why else would God, through the Spirit, enable us all to hear the Gospel preached in our own languages? Why not simply have everyone using and understanding one universal language? Language is messy and intricate. It is rooted in a wider and complex culture and way of thinking and living. It’s not just a matter of substituting one word in one language for a word in another language. Even when we speak the same language, don’t we still have a hard time understanding one another? God meets us in the messiness of different languages and does not ask us to speak one God language. Instead, God chooses to speak our many languages and not just speak a single language. God speaks in Māori, Fijian, Samoan, Hindi, English, and many more! God joins us in the midst of the difficulties in speaking different languages, eating different foods and living in different cultures. What great news! Unity in diversity, no matter what the differences. So, let’s set aside the prejudices that infect our relationships with one another. Let’s set aside the expectation of speaking only one language. Let’s set aside the notion that we can’t understand one another, even when we don’t speak the language of the other. Let’s celebrate who and what we are in God’s language! Surely that’s worth speaking out loud and clear! Amen.

 

Ascension Sunday, 2 June 2019

What do you do when life is hard and unfair? Do people know that you are a Christian during those bad times? Do you outwardly show your Christian faith in times of strife? While they were ministering to the women of Philippi Paul decided to do an exorcism. Boy, did that get him in trouble! Stripped and beaten with a rod then thrown into prison! Ouch! What would you have done in his situation? I may have cried all night, and had a well-deserved pity party, but Paul and Silas decide to have a bit of a prayer concert instead. They didn’t just hum and pray quietly, NO, they prayed and sang so that everyone could hear them. Rather than being angry or sad and feeling sorry for themselves, they sang for the goodness of God in their lives and gave thanks. The events unfold with an earthquake and a suicidal jailer. Only in God’s plan! ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Now Paul makes a very powerful statement. His answer to the jailer was not that he needed to apologise to them or treat them like royalty. Paul didn’t pull the penitence card or flog him in return. Paul simply instructed him to believe in Jesus. How simple is that! Not only was this jailer offered the way to be saved but, his family, children, and servants, were given that same invitation. Each one saved. The jailer washed their wounds, an amazing gesture to do for his prisoners, then he took them to his home no less, and fed them! And his family joined in the prayer concert too! So, despite being mistreated, beaten and locked up, Paul and Silas gave thanks. For bringing them to the region of Philippi, they gave thanks. For finding welcome in the home of Lydia, they gave thanks. For being able to help free the girl from demonic powers, they gave thanks. For the ability to sing and praise, they gave thanks. And as a result, God was faithful and rescued them. Let us give thanks also!

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter, 26 May 2019

The Venerable Carole Hughes wrote, “Lydia is an inspiration for all women. As a leader in her context Lydia encourages women to offer leadership and ministry in the places they live and know well. Lydia was a business woman, who specialised in selling purple cloth. She was educated, skilled and well respected in her occupation. She was also a woman of prayer, and one of her main ministries was offering hospitality. She hosted Paul and his team, when they were in her home town of Thyatira. Lydia was a woman of influence and showed traits of strength and determination. She was creative and imaginative too”. What does this mean for us in our context today? The first lesson we learn from Lydia is we must have a heart open to the gospel. Lydia was taking the next step in her spiritual journey, and that step was trusting Christ as her savior. The next lesson we learn is that a heart open to the gospel usually leads to a home open to hospitality. Lydia begs them to go to her house and stay. The ‘home’ reveals all about you as a person, and Lydia is literally saying, examine me now and see if there’s any evidence that I’ve been truly born again! Changed lives start in the home. Once your heart has been opened to the gospel and your home open to hospitality then you can live, like Lydia did, motivated by faith not fear. Later, when Paul writes in a letter he expresses his gratitude this way, “You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone” (Phil 4:15). No other church except the Philippians! They were generous, hospitable, and faithful, and it all started with Lydia, a woman who chose faith over fear. Amen.

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter, 19 May 2019

For a Jew of Peter's time dietary restrictions included what food you ate and who you ate it with. Purity laws existed, and they encompassed every aspect of being human; birth, death, sex, gender, health, economics, social relations, hygiene, marriage, behavior, and certainly ethnicity. Gentiles were automatically considered impure. Jewish thinking around being ritually clean as being closer to God became a means of excluding people considered dirty, polluted, or contaminated. Jesus ignored, disregarded and perhaps even actively demolished these distinctions. Peter was asked to do the same! Peter learned that God is not a God of partiality or favoritism and warmly welcomes every person from any nation. Peter was deeply perplexed when told, “what God has made clean, you must not call profane!” The Apostle Paul, yes that once very judgmental Pharisee, would later write: “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, slave or master…” Who would have thought? Sadly, judgment exists in our churches today. The church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive, they work against Jesus's teaching about how we are to treat others and how we want to be treated also. How aligned is your Jesus gauge? Do you sit comfortably with accepting the ‘other?’ Do prejudices tend to rear their ‘beastly reptilian’ heads at times? Ask yourself what kind of people you might consider unclean, dirty, contaminated, and far from God. If Peter had his Cornelius, what is our modern equivalent? Who have we sat with, that we would not normally? What boundaries do we wrongly build? I pray that we all follow Peter's obedience and experience to create a community shaped not by the ethos and politics of purity, but by the ethos and politics of compassion! I pray we be Christ-like in all our thoughts, our deeds, and our actions! Amen.

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter, 12 May 2019

Tabitha sounds very much like many of the living saints in our churches today, who spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources in ministry to those in need, just like the Mothers we honour today who have served our church communities for centuries. We learn a great deal about Tabitha who interestingly is referred to as a disciple. She is the only woman openly identified as a disciple in Acts, and in fact this is the only occurrence of the feminine disciple in the New Testament! It’s worthy to note that when men take care of widows, Luke (6:4) calls it 'ministry' but when Tabitha does the same thing Luke calls it 'good works.' As a female priest, this could easily tug at my feminist ‘strings’ or thread and get me quite worked up, especially when we consider the exclusion of women from ordained ministry for so many centuries, and still so in many countries i.e. Central Africa, until Aotearoa raced away in 1977 ahead of England in 1994! But today, I am called to mirror Tabitha who was quiet but powerful in her servant ministry, so I’ll use that string in ‘ministry’ instead! Tabitha was well known by the widows for whom she sewed tunics and garments, which was tedious and labor intensive. She willingly gave of her time and effort to help others. Her example is an inspiration to women today to serve others by whatever talents God has blessed us with, whether as a seamstress, or one who arranges flowers, baking, music, caring for the sick, teaching, and preaching. Was she a woman after God’s own heart? Although the Bible does not use those exact words, the account of her life, death and resurrection was included in this way as a very special example! Today, we celebrate all Mothers who serve in their own quiet and powerful way. You are exemplary of what it is to be Godly women. I honour you! As you go about quietly doing what you do, remember these words of Francis of Assisi, “preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words!” Amen.

 

Third Sunday of Easter, 5 May 2019

The problem with the conversion of Paul is that when we compare it with our own, ours are low-key, less dramatic, ordinary, and no bells and whistles! Only on rare occasions do people encounter Christ in such a powerful way. Recently, I heard an old gang member speak of his conversion. He claimed that Jesus actually spoke to him. He’d come from a rough background as a criminal and drug dealer. His search for God could only have been realised in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, much like Paul’s. Most of us just drift into faith, maybe from the cradle. We search for God, find our path through the Bible stories, and rest secure in the knowledge of Jesus. “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Such a conversion is no less real than Paul's or the gang member! The focus of our passage today is not so much about Paul's conversion, but rather his apostolic appointment. Paul always marveled at the kindness of God in appointing him as apostle to the Gentiles. “This man is my chosen instrument”, says Jesus. “He is to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles”. This appointment is also not without power. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, he was empowered for service. He was given a job to do and the means to do it. We all are, it’s just a matter of knowing it. Like Paul. Like the gang member! Again, we may feel a little less than adequate when we compare our own vocation with Paul's. Yet, in the end all service to God is equal in his eyes; from the greatest to the least we all stand equal before God. He equips us as he sees fit, and we apply ourselves to his purpose. In any case, the bigger the responsibility the greater the trouble. Paul certainly suffered for Christ. Most of us happily accept the little calling we have with very little pain! All who turn to Christ are to serve as a chosen instrument, and so our task is to discern our gifts and seek to apply them under God’s authority and power. Here I am, send me

 

Second Sunday of Easter, 28 April 2019

People had already realised that joining the apostles was risky business. The apostles were being arrested, detained, and interrogated for preaching the resurrection of Jesus. Peter and John had previously been imprisoned because the religious authorities were annoyed at their preaching Jesus’ resurrection. Today’s encounter, however, is motivated by jealousy. When the apostles were brought before the Council, they declare their obedience to listen to the voice of God over human authority. That proclamation is risky business indeed! Proclamation, even today, may mean risking secular approval and community acceptance. So, why is it important to escape some of the prisons in which human authorities place us? Do we publicly proclaim our allegiance to God? If not, how do we change that? Some changes are already evident. With God, Muslim lives matter; Jewish lives matter; refugee lives matter; poor lives matter; women’s lives matter; imprisoned lives matter. God’s people are to be agents of compassion and to love their neighbours. Some religious entities, authorities and communities to whom we often submit do not always side with the oppressed or with justice. They can be swayed by their own biases, dogmas, racism, sexism, classism, and prosperity gospels, and in doing so, we allow God’s voice to be stifled! The apostles refused to stop talking about how God resurrected the lynched body of Jesus. The only reason the Temple police did not arrest the apostles that day was because they feared the mass protests. If it were not for the willingness of the masses to disrupt injustice and protest, the apostles would have been victims of police brutality. When injustice and oppression permeate religious, social, and political systems, nothing short of mass activism will transform them! Our Anglican Mission Statement begs us to consider how we go about “transforming unjust structures.” We must believe it, preach it, and live it. God raised Jesus!

 

 

Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019

What defines our church today? Is it our beliefs or worship? Is it our lifestyle or our political views? No one can deny that we live in a time when we often take opposite sides on issues, and the definition of what it means to be the church is no exception. The book of Acts is the story of foundations. It tells about the early church as a story of witness, witness to the resurrection of Jesus and the new life that comes from it. One of the amazing features is that, despite all the obstacles, against all odds, the early church’s witness to Jesus’ resurrection is a great success! It is natural to wonder what made is so successful. Perhaps we should look for the answer by asking a prior question. What was the witness of the early church? The early church proclaimed that the resurrection validated Jesus’ claim to be the bearer of God’s compassionate justice and new life. They proclaimed the hope that, just as God has restored Jesus to life, so also God will restore all created life. The early church also lived out the good news they were proclaiming, by extending God’s gracious welcome to all, and by their mutual acceptance of one another. Do we claim that today? They sought God’s guidance in prayerful discernment by asking questions together and listening together for the answers. Do we proclaim this? They lived out the joy of the resurrection in worship, that opened their hearts and minds to a genuine experience of God. They shared their faith and their experience of God’s love with one another by sharing their testimony. This we can claim! They integrated the good news into every aspect of their lives through open and humble study. This too! And they went out from their prayer, worship, and study seeking to realise the compassion and reconciliation of God’s realm in every facet of life. Let us do likewise! We all need to be Christ’s faithful evangelists!

 

 

Palm Sunday, 14 April 2019

Two years ago I was in Jerusalem and went to the little village of Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. We retraced Jesus’ footsteps in the so-called ‘triumphal entry.’ There are many changes to the route and it took us about 30 minutes. The journey would’ve taken Jesus about 3-4hrs. I was reasonably sure there were some things that hadn’t changed. Could the stones that Jesus referred to still be there? Stones don’t get around much, and I’ve never heard a stone cry out, at least I don’t think I have. They’re just not made for crying out! What did Jesus mean? Silent stones shouting out praises! If the disciples hadn’t praised God, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” the stones would have! Really? This still speaks to us today. If we don’t praise God, the fault is ours. It might as well be stones doing it for us! As in the days of old, we are neglecting to herald the good news! We should speak up! In this ever-growing world of secularism we are the ones responsible to tell Christ’s story. Otherwise, people thinking that life is operated by the influence of the stars, or seances, and horoscopes, have nothing else to lead them. Excessive intellect in which people try to rationalise everything and make of life that intellect alone controls us. And with all due respect to scientists, some tend to exalt science, in a way that borders on worship. Though it has validity in many areas, it cannot operate in all aspects of life. For instance, science has nothing to say about our purpose in living. We must have a sense of meaning. Science does not give us that, but rather it reduces us to atoms on a small planet in the vastness of space. Thank you to all the scientists in the world! On the other hand, we must not exalt ourselves as the principal or controller of all things. You see, it is up to us to be a mouthpiece. To speak up, not merely here at church but out where we live. In our homes too! I admitted to being a dreamer! I’d rather be that than a dead stone! “Spirit of God search our hearts.”

 

Fifth Sunday in Lent, 7 April 2019

We sometimes hear sermons that we think sounds fantastic! But those who do not share our faith might think that it’s wishful thinking or we’re dreaming! Think about it. We confess ‘Jesus as Lord’ and that we belong to God. When did you last use that language in a conversation? We embrace that God brings life and love and peace to all things and everyone, yet, it sounds a little unrealistic when we see how hard the world can be. Trusting in the faithful mercies of God our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer in the face of tragic suffering, where is that mercy in our turbulent world? Is it too good to be true or are we dreaming? The hope articulated by Isaiah must have sounded too good to be true. The hope that Paul articulated must have sounded like dreaming too! But then, Jesus’ parables must have seemed like pie-in-the-sky stuff too. Okay, I admit it, I’m a dreamer! Last Sunday we heard about the “lost being found and sight to the blind.” Jesus came to set us free from sin, hatred, ignorance, disease, oppression, and even from death, to give us fullness of life. The title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book, “God has a Dream”, says it all! Now I might sound like a dreamer right now, but I think God’s wonderous mystery will always make me feel that way. We don’t do enough dreaming! When we lose the capacity to be inspired, what’s left but sitting on the couch with a remote control? Do we really want our faith to be that boring? Where’s the imagination, inspiration, and passion in that? Do we really want our faith to be so mundane as to be entirely predictable? Not me! I want our God to do surprising things! Things we couldn’t begin to imagine. Things that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived.” Well God, give us the wonder, the mystery, and the dreams, and all the love and faith and hope that they can inspire! Amine!!

 

Third Sunday in Lent, 24 March 2019

Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ call for repentance is found in no other books of the New Testament and remains only in Luke’s gospel. Twice in v 3 and 5, the same warning is given, “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” The warning is strongly worded, and yet the point of the reading was of particular importance to the disciples providing them with the good news that Jesus is compassionate but should not be taken as “wishy-washy.” Jesus’ desire is that sinners repent before it is too late, and he is also introducing his point of developing the theme of peace and non-violence. The timing here seems important, as Luke’s two examples of crises (v1 refers to an otherwise unreported event where Pilate’s soldiers murdered Galileans who were in the act of offering sacrifices, and the blood of the murdered was mingled with that from the sacrifices). And in v 4, 5; 18 were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. The reality was that the catastrophic natures of the two examples noted had no great impact on the group with which Jesus was conversing because evidently, they were somewhat notorious sinners as it was, and were not easily convinced of their own need to repent. It seems Jesus’ motive was to attempt to ignite some sense of productivity or urge the listeners to some proactive response. Whatever his intentions, little impact was being made with the examples used. And so, enter Plan B, the fig tree. Jesus’ parable follows on from the previously mentioned repentance, and certainly shows Jesus’ true compassion for his disciples. For in this example, compassion is shown, in staying the chopping down of the tree, in order to pursue a most vigorous effort to produce first fruits from the tree. A form of “stay of execution,” for the tree, Jesus’ parable illustrates the importance of patience and extended effort to succeed with the tree to bear fruit. The parable provides two encouraging results: Jesus provides comfort for the Christian who stumbles and needs extra support. The parable also provides the urging in a time of crisis to encourage those who may be under-performing or struggling with the inability to meet a more productive effort. It is encouraging that we Christians are not being offered only one option, that seems to suggest all or nothing. We seem to have here a glimpse of God’s kingdom, with all the riches of which Jesus refers time and again. No doubt, more of this will be heard.

Jean A. Rheinfrank

Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland Murphy, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 705.

Second Sunday in Lent, 17 March 2019

We know well that at a point in time, Jesus turned around and faced Jerusalem, boldly determined to make his way there, with his disciples following him on that journey. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke, vv.31-35 represents a climax as the first half of the journey is reached. Jesus gives a challenge to Jerusalem and weeps for the city, as he strives to explain the importance of the Kingdom of God and the truth on how to be included in that kingdom. Luke makes it clear that Jesus is already sowing the seed of the Kingdom. And as the Gospel states, Jesus is performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day he will finish his work. (v.32). Luke’s gospel has recorded often the stories of how the Pharisees follow Jesus as he travels around, in order to question him, argue that which he says, and try to catch him in an untruth. Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, and they ask questions about hand washing, or other more minimal subjects. Thus, it is all the more remarkable that at this point in Luke’s gospel, certain Pharisees actually approach Jesus in order to warn him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (v.31). There could have been so many ways to respond to that message. But Jesus simply states, “Go and tell that fox for me,” and if you think about it, wouldn’t you not want to be the Pharisee who was chosen to give Jesus’ message face to face, to Herod! May have been a good time to resign and quickly retire to the desert! God is perfecting Jesus, and every step of the journey to Jerusalem is playing a part in that divine perfection. As a commentary points out, Luke’s gospel both begins, and ends in Jerusalem. Jesus laments for Jerusalem and sees where the city is headed. This particular weekend, we, too, have been drawn into the sadness of events in one of our cities, and we are somewhat unable to move, with the horror and senseless hate that has happened down the street, or across the town. We can perhaps be reminded what Jesus said, “See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

First Sunday in Lent, 10 March 2019

On Ash Wednesday, 6th March, Bishop Ross reminded us from Holy Trinity Cathedral that Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration of the Easter season. And that in order that our celebration may be a time of renewal and growth we remember this season by remembering our need for repentance and for the forgiveness of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Upon his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus was praying and the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. As Luke’s Gospel explains, Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days. Satan has designed a series of three tests, which might snare Jesus as perhaps the Second Adam, and re-establishing the relationship that Adam lost with God in the sacred garden. Satan’s plan is to have Jesus leave the way of the servant to God as has been approved, and take his own path as a divine voice to assert his sonship. And so Jesus is tempted to command a stone in the desert to become a loaf of bread, and by jumping off the pinnacle, Jesus could force God’s hand and safely see him delivered to earth’s floor, and thereby show a dramatic moment of Jesus’ own ability. And for the simple price of worshiping Satan, Jesus will be bestowed with all the glory and the authority which comes with the acknowledgement of Jesus’ allegiance to Satan. But Jesus will not be so tempted. And so Satan must back away. But he does not retreat without a resounding warning, as voiced by Luke, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him, until an opportune time. We know, of course, that Satan’s next moment will be in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the ultimate betrayal of Jesus. The heart is saddened by that which is yet to come. But we can rejoice knowing that Jesus will, yet again, turn defeat into the most magnificent victory.

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3 March 2019

We warmly welcome members of the Big Blue Judo Machine (BBJM) today to share their story. BBJM are part of our St Martin @ St Chads whānau and we acknowledge the contribution they make in our community to “provide excellent martial arts instruction that builds better people.” Their core values “include expressions of moral courage, mental and physical strength, and a responsibility to be kind and helpful to all people with an expectation that all students value service to others.” Picture the blind leading the blind. A log in someone’s eye. Jesus certainly had a way of painting pictures; our task is to figure out how it fits! One notion is that many of us think of ourselves as eye-specialists or eye-surgeons to others, when we have blindfolds and forests in our own eyes! Jesus is inviting us to be ‘I’ specialists, by firstly looking at ourselves!! That takes discipline and moral courage. To remove the logs so that we can ‘see’ takes a great deal of mental strength too! Only then, can we become morally and physically able to be ‘better people’. BBJM emanates that environment of mutual reciprocity perfectly. It’s built into their values and mission statement. No doubt, they have their students look at themselves all the time. Encouraging them to see the other as they would like to be seen also. To be seen respectfully, lovingly, and helpfully. We all should be ready for some painful ‘I’ surgery so that when the logs are out we will see clearly, how to take the speck out of our neighbour’s eye. We will come out with better vision, and better eyesight, because we looked to ourselves first!

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 24 February 2019

Conflict in families happen! We all know it and may have experienced it ourselves! There is nothing more moving than reconciling with fractured family members from whom you have been estranged from for many years. As hard a pill as it is to swallow, as Christians the road to reconciliation lies in our attitudes. I know what you might be thinking, what about their attitudes? Well, let’s take a look at Joseph. Joseph’s brothers had repented from their sin of selling him into slavery. For 22 years they had spread the rumour that Joseph was dead and believed it themselves. “I am Joseph.” After what they’d done to him, they were speechless! Joseph’s brothers must’ve thought, ‘Uh-oh, this is it, we’re had it now’! They probably expected him to say, ‘you sold me out, and I’ve waited for this moment a long time, you’re gonna get it now!’ But there was no revenge talk. Instead, he spoke kindly and said he would provide for them and their children through the coming famine. He kissed each of them and wept. It blew them away! Moving indeed! Joseph shows us the key to being reconciled to those who have deeply hurt us, whether they are family members or friends, is our attitude. The thing about Joseph was not his brilliance, or his administrative ability, and he was very gifted there, it was his attitude. Our lesson today is to ask God to give us His love and forgiveness toward the one who has wronged us. We’ve got to focus on our attitudes, not on the other person’s behaviour/attitude. The right attitude is at the center of all good relationships. As we think about people who are easy to get along with, are they grumpy, negative, angry, bitter, vindictive, sarcastic, touchy? Of course not. They’re pleasant, positive, relaxed, forgiving, kind, not quick to take offense or hold a grudge. These are the attitudes. Just as Joseph was kind to his brothers by stuffing their sacks with extra grain, feeding them, talking kindly to them, and now, promising to provide for them, so we must do kind things for those who have wronged us.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 17 February 2019

One of the marks of recent morality is the emphasis on one’s personal freedom and responsibility. The measuring stick of morality seems to be, ‘if my actions as an individual do not injure others, then, the actions are permissible.’ Of course, this ignores the broader picture i.e. we, as individuals, form a society. We contribute to that society in one form or another and we need to take a certain responsibility for our society. Personal freedom and responsibility do not preclude social justice, something extremely high on our provincial church’s agenda. It is the obligation of a society to create conditions that allow individuals and groups to receive what is rightfully theirs. The fundamental rights of the individual and social equality flow from the dignity of the person, since all people have equal dignity, and society should make an effort to lessen social and economic inequality. This is a challenge we face here in Aotearoa today.

The Christian virtue of solidarity is ‘social charity’ which is a respect and love for others based upon their dignity as people. Solidarity means a sharing of material goods, and, more importantly, a sharing of faith and other spiritual values. It means the sharing of environmental protection, economic equalities, gender respect, and cultural understanding. In this text from Luke the poor have a sense of solidarity, for they focus on the good of others. The rich focus only on the self and the consequences of actions on the self, while ignoring the welfare of others.

Who art thou, poor or rich? We can look at the difference another way. Love makes us economically poor but enriches our lives. Ambition makes us economically secure but leaves us selfish and shallow. Our lives reveal our priorities. May God give us the power to choose love over ambition. What can we do to become a little ‘poorer’ and a little more ‘blessed?

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 10 February 2019

Like a picture of wonderful beauty and subtle suggestion, this chapter in Isaiah is one of the most important in the history of revelation and requires repeated and careful study. These words are heard and spoken in vision, but they cannot be called visionary in any shallow sense; they are powerfully practical, they contain the prophet’s call, they define his life, and sum up in a few striking sentences the spirit and purpose of his ministry. The vision shows us how Isaiah becomes a prophet, and gives the secret of his strong, consistent calling in the words, “…my eyes have seen...” In a very deep and true sense it is what a person sees that either makes or breaks us. The effect of vision upon character and service is transforming. It elevates or humiliates, according to its quality. Whether we grovel or soar, descend or walk on hill-tops, whether we stay in the physical or rise into the spiritual, is determined by what we see. Those who have shaped history and directed the destinies of nations are those who can see! Martin Luther King Jnr once said, “I have a dream” and lived to see the signing of the civil rights bill.

Isaiah’s destiny was laid out for him. Ours too! We might think how little our place is in the world, how we are like mere grains of sand, shaped by the wind and rolled into a place. Pushed into things by our companions and friends, or, because we think we should be liking something in it. So, let’s take a broad view, set it before us and see its relationship to the world and the state of society as a whole to know that we have responsibilities in regard to the condition of things.

This text from Isaiah is richly loaded with material for preachers. There is enough for a sermon in every verse! Its most popular title is, ‘the Making of a Prophet’ but surely anyone called to do the work of God is the making of a Missionary. That’s me and you too! Come mission with us this Sunday.

Presentation of Jesus, 3 February 2019

The day of the Lord's coming is said to be “like a refiner 's fire and like fullers' soap.” Fire and soap in the same sentence? Seems an odd way to herald Jesus’ coming as a kind of sudsy laundromat sitting by a hearth! Well, when I really apply myself I know that fire is used to burn off the old allowing for new growth to sprout and soap is another image of cleansing the old to make new. Māori have a saying, “kua hinga te kauri, kua tū te tōtara” meaning that when the mighty kauri tree falls the tōtara will stand”. An expression used when an old chief dies another leader will rise.

In Hebrew writing, it is common to express the same idea twice but using two different metaphors. The idea of ‘fuller's soap’ should be understood, as with ‘refiner's fire,’ as someone bringing gold or silver and the refiner uses fire to burn off any scum to purify the metal. Similarly, people would bring wool to the fuller and he would use soap to clean the wool and remove any impurities leaving it cleansed. The gold or wool is not an individual person, but it is the nation itself. “Who can endure his coming?”

In the past, prophets were the carriers of the message of God’s glory. Chosen ones from the beginning of their lives. God’s special favour. And now, Mary’s child. God’s favour resting on him as he grows in strength and wisdom. Jesus came amongst them and he shared the same flesh and blood of that nation. He became like them in every physical aspect, so that he might be in the service of God to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help others being tested also. And as he is presented in the temple Jesus is to be the new dwelling place of God among his people. He is the fire and the soap needed to purify a whole nation, and they will thrive! “Kua hinga te kauri, kua tū te tōtara”, letting the past go, whether it is only yesterday, a generation ago or a lifetime ago. 

3rd Sunday in Epiphany, 27 January 2019

Here we are, already in the third Sunday of Epiphany, and the month of January is busily passing us by. We rejoice for the safe return of many of our fellow Christians, to whom we say welcome back! And it is quite fitting to reflect this Sunday on the 1Corinthians reading recognising that each of us is a member of the body of Christ, and “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” and we acknowledge our particular skills to be used on behalf of St Martin’s @ St Chad’s.

Our reading from the Hebrew Bible concerning Nehemiah is a good example of a man of skill who joined forces with Ezra as they teamed together to rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a righteous man and somewhat like a “Bob the Builder,” who loved his work building, and paired with Ezra, the priest, to help get the job done! They were brought together by God, to help keep hope alive in the people returning to their home.

And the Gospel reading from our gentle and beautiful writer Luke, introduces us to the most important ministry of Jesus in Galilee, and his efforts to preach to his own kind in his home town at Nazareth. Our passage today only eases us into this period of time. It is, however, an excellent hook to keep reading, which was one of Luke’s gifts in ‘building’ the passages of his gospel.

2nd Sunday of the Epiphany, 20 January 2019

Today’s readings in Isaiah, 1 Corinthians, and the gospel of John 2:1-11, focus on the reassuring and steadfast love of God. As Rebecca Kruger reminds us in The Abingdon Worship Annual 2019, God’s love is overflowing. This certainly is a comforting thought, and so early in a new year! A fitting tribute, therefore, that Jesus performs the miracle of turning several (6 stone jars, each with a capacity of 20 to 30 gallons) into jars of very fine quality wine for the wedding guests to enjoy, and so late in the festivities!

When writing his gospel, John acknowledged that sinners understandably needed “signs” (evidence) to help them believe in Jesus Christ, and that he—John—was thus providing seven signs (miracles) that would provide ample proof of Jesus’ power. The miracle of the wine at the Wedding at Cana was thus the first of these signs. Each sign was performed in public, and for the purpose of helping people, and for the benefit of other people. Such was the abundant love of God, that it was so important to bring joy, comfort, purpose, and enlightenment to God’s people.

It is interesting to note, that when the mother of Jesus pointed out to him that the wine was running out, Jesus provided a rather harsh response, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me!” Here again, we have been witness to a moment of disagreement or stress between Jesus and one or both of his parents (remember how he disappeared from them when they were returning home from the festival in Jerusalem). The footnote in the NRSV Study Bible provides an excellent explanation on Jesus’ attitude, “As human, Jesus was close to Mary his mother, as God he was distant from her.” For Jesus was both her son, and her Saviour. Two very important, and quite different roles to perform. We know, of course, that his love for his mother was so beautifully played out at the foot of the cross when Jesus so lovingly showed his mother the way forward for her, with James, after his resurrection back to his heavenly father.

1st Sunday of the Epiphany, 13 January 2019

Today’s scripture readings combined, bring together and acknowledge that God is salvation not only for His chosen people but for all the nations of the world. Isaiah from the Hebrew Bible (known to us as the Old Testament) explains the expectation of Christ, hundreds of years before Jesus’ earthly arrival. Acts continues this theme through the arrival of the Apostles Peter and John to pray for the new Samarian Christians who had accepted the word of God and been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Having laid hands on the Samarians, each received the Holy Spirit for the first time. And the Apostles spread this good news to many upon their return to Jerusalem. “Good news,” such as this cannot be contained in private!

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism (a subject which is covered quite differently in each of the other two Synoptic gospels of Mark and Matthew) John the Baptist quickly reminded the crowds that he, John, baptised with water, but the one more powerful than John (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire! For John knew, even before he was born, that Jesus was more powerful, and was the Lord, and son of God. John had made the decision to make Jesus’ identity completely clear to the others who had come for baptism, so they would fully understand Jesus’ power and his identity. For as John so humbly stated it, “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.” This exclamation of John the Baptist was, for John, so right and so proper, for John was an honourable man, both true and righteous. Both of these John took to his death, and never regretted his purpose.

The presence of the Trinity was clear to see in Jesus’ baptism. God spoke and acknowledged Jesus as his Son. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon the baptised Jesus. And of course, the son was there to receive John’s blessing. A most important set of circumstances, for which we thank God. AMEN.

The Epiphany, 6 January 2019

The Gospel reading from Matthew 2:1-12 signifies the Epipheny with the presentation of baby Jesus to the three wise men from Persia. “The Magoi (which is Greek), comes from an old Persian word, magou. These wise men were astrologers, expert in dreams, omen, and prophesying. As astrologers, they could not ignore the bright star, constantly moving, which pinpointed Jesus’ living now in a house, as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had vacated the barn in which Jesus was born.

Our reading from Isaiah, which was written around 740 to 690 BCE foretold centuries in advance the coming Messiah and His messianic kingdom. The book of Isaiah is one of the Old Testament books most often quoted in the New Testament (Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament). And the section of Isaiah from which this reading comes, focuses on the delivered of God. “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” This is a great reminder to whom we can trust in all things.

Herod’s intention was to trick the wise men in order to find out the location of Baby Jesus in order to murder him. But the Magi were far too wise for Herod, and “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country, by another road.”

Praise God.

First Sunday after Christmas, 30 December 2018

Mary and Joseph are astounded to discover that their 12-year-old son is off doing his own thing! Most parents would be worried too if their 12-year-old was missing, but to be greeted with, “why are you looking for me?” it would be fair to say that they probably would’ve exploded! Mary and Joseph ask, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been looking for you in great anxiety.” I wonder if Mary said it angrily? And Jesus’ response, “Why were you looking for me?” Angry or just surprised? “Do you know how worried I was?” An expected parental response, maybe? More importantly, I wonder why they looked in the wrong places and why did it take them three days to figure it out? Had things been so ordinary since the angels, adoring shepherds, and OT prophesies, that the mystery surrounding their son’s birth had begun to fade away? They knew what their son would become but figured that was still years away yet! Perhaps Jesus hadn’t yet shown any signs of theological curiosity and so his parents couldn’t imagine him hanging out in the temple at age 12. Maybe they simply failed to see that their baby was growing up. Like many parents, they don’t always know their kids as well as they think they do, much less accept that kids grow up much sooner than they’d like them to.

Regardless of Jesus’ tone in the temple, the tension between Jesus, and his parents is heightened. Sure, Jesus returns to Nazareth and is obedient to his parents as expected, but it is now clear that his priorities had changed. Jesus’ primary concern is not the will of his parents per se, but the will of God and the mission that God’s will entails. They found Jesus alive and well and for now he disappears back into the fabric of his hometown. He continues to grow in wisdom and in years. The good news is that we all grow as we respond to God’s love. Little surprise really that in Christ we can expect nothing else.

Christmas Day - 25 December 2018

Christmas Eve, 24 December 2018

We must never forget that it is God who holds the measuring line, not us. Today’s religions tend to measure for themselves who is appropriately righteous and worthy of God’s favour. If it were left to the religion of the day, would Mary have been chosen? Consider how Joseph might’ve been judged? Righteousness is not gained by comparing our self-righteousness with the self-righteousness of other people. It is not the responsibility of any Christian to measure the faith and righteousness of another. That’s God’s job!! God’s measurement for everyone is the same and not based upon biased opinions of race, creed or nationality. If we are serious about being Christlike in our lives, then let’s compare ourselves to God’s standard and obtain righteousness that way.

Salvation is not gained by measuring ourselves against the worst sinners, or the best saints. It is gained only by accepting Jesus as incarnate and our destined Saviour. Holiness is not gained by obedience to man-made rules. It is only gained through the Blood of Christ. Eternal life is not gained by ‘being good’ or just wishing for it. Eternal life only comes through acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross and surrendering our life to him. How do we measure up? Are we measuring up according to God’s standards? Let’s use God as our measurement. Use Jesus as our standard. That’s the only way that we will really measure up to what God wants us to be! Amen!

Advent 4: 23 December 2018

It was a meeting of two expectant mothers, one old, one young. And the fact that they were expecting was totally unexpected! Both were pregnant when really neither one of them should’ve been. This uncommon encounter is commonly referred to as ‘The Visitation”. A time set aside on this Fourth Sunday in Advent that is not just a meeting of the two mums but also the first meeting of the two baby boys they are carrying. What prompted Mary to visit Elizabeth? The angel Gabriel said many wonderful things about this boy to be born, “to be named Jesus, to be called the Son of the Most High, and that the child to be born will be called the Son of God in the flesh”. Gabriel also said: “And your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and she is in her sixth month, she who was called barren.” And that’s why Mary visits Elizabeth. They both share miracle pregnancies.

So, John leaps, and Elizabeth too is filled with the Holy Spirit and gets excited. She tells Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary, you have been given a great honour, to bear the Saviour of the world. I mean, I am honoured to bear the forerunner of the Lord, but you get to give birth to the Lord himself! What a wonderful blessing!

Today we have heard the story of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. It was a meeting of these mums-to-be, yes, but don’t forget those boys! They meet, too, Jesus and John. And wherever Mary’s baby boy goes, he brings blessings with him. Even in the womb, he brought blessings and joy to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah. And Jesus brings blessings and joy into our homes, too. When we gather with our family for Christmas, when the Christ of Christmas is the reason for our merriment, Jesus brings the joy with him. When we gather here with our church family, here in God’s house, Christ is surely present to bless us with his gifts. Christ is here, visiting us with his grace and favour. And that makes this a most blessed visitation indeed!

Advent 3: Nine Lessons and Carols, 16 December 2018

We often use happiness and joy as synonyms for each other, but there is a distinction. Happiness is an emotional response to pleasant circumstances as is unhappiness when things go badly. Though joy is emotional it is not based purely on circumstances but is dependent upon one’s mindset. Joy is present or absent because of what you believe.

Paul’s reaction to his circumstances while writing to the Philippians is a good case. He’s not happy about being imprisoned and chained to a soldier. He’s not happy about people purposely attacking him. However, Paul is still joyful in the midst of his unhappiness, and that’s because his beliefs transcend his circumstances. He understands what God is doing and that allows him to react with a joyful attitude and with joyful actions. He praises God and is thankful that Christ is proclaimed, even if those doing it do not have the right motives. His belief that God’s hand is at work results in an outward expression of joy and thanksgiving.

Let’s not forget that Joy is a source of our being able to rejoice in Christ always. Joy is having our minds dwell on the right things. Joy is learning how to be content in all circumstances, which is founded in a belief that God supplies all that we need. So, in this week of Advent and the lighting of the Joy candle, let us reflect on what makes us joyful in all that we are and do. Let us sing and rejoice, remembering Paul, as we light the Joy candle today! Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising Give me joy in my heart, I pray Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising Keep me praising till the break of day Sing hosanna, sing hosanna Sing hosanna to the Servant King Sing hosanna, sing hosanna Sing hosanna, let us sing.

Advent 2: 9 December 2018

Here we go, singing again! “Prepare ye, the way of the Lord. Prepare ye, the way of the Lord…” In Biblical times, thousands of workers had to prepare the way before the king travelled anywhere. They fanned out removing debris from the road, sprucing up public buildings, and generally making sure everything would be at its pristine best for the king’s arrival. It was hard work. We all are aware that preparations in churches is equally hard work. Members will be fussing with Christmas trees, decorations, Nativity sets, Advent wreaths and candles. Some will hang coloured lights and all manner of paraphernalia will be hung, changed, modified, or replaced.

The prophet Malachi had good news for the Israelites and has good news for us today. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me… and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!” His message was one that would excite the people of Israel. It is not unlike our Christmas message at all! Malachi calls us to a deeper kind of preparation as we anticipate the coming of Christ again at Christmas. He calls us to serious spiritual preparation. Preparing for the Lord’s coming is a matter of purification. True spiritual preparation involves repentance and judgment. Today, let’s call our community of faith to prepare spiritually. If we truly hear the Christmas messenger, we will heed his warning.

Christians know that the messenger who prepared the way for Jesus’ first coming was John the Baptist. He came on the scene wearing camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist quoting Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” That brings me to one of the most haunting portrayals of John the Baptist comes in the musical Godspell. The scene is a busy New York street when the outlandishly clad John blows his rams horn and sings a cappella, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” That clear voice ringing through the streets, calls to us again today – Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Advent 1: 2 December 2018

This first Advent Sunday is an opportunity to do some soul searching in this season of expectation, Christmas. With all the tinsel, red suits, and bows, there are certainties, but I wonder if the meaning of Advent gets lost in the melee of bargains, sparkle, and holiday plans. Advent seems almost pointless, but the message is an important one. The apocalyptic imagery heralds utter chaos and violence. Skies will darken, and nations will experience distress. The day of judgment and redemption is at hand. All this, before the Son of Man comes in a cloud! Little wonder many would prefer to focus on jingling bells, reindeer with runny noses, and Christmas, rather than fig, trees! Speaking of fig trees… when its leaves start sprouting it knows something is about to happen. It knows there is an event beyond its present experience. It knows there are better days ahead. It knows… it just knows.

Whether it’s extraordinary or ordinary signs, we should still be attentive and know that the Advent message is about awareness. A warning really… not to engage in activities that will cloud our vision of God’s work in the world. Not let the worries of this life keep us from seeing what God is doing. No dissipation or drunkenness. So, what word should we take from this passage? What is God saying? As we watch or listen to the news each day, do we let fear control our lives or do we trust that God is present in our midst? The scholar Claudia Highbaugh wrote: “The shape of our faith in times of crisis takes us from uncertainty to reliable faith. Watching for signs and being attentive to the natural world of wonders and change, informs us of how to live through difficult circumstances. and Jesus modelled this!”

When we don’t prepare properly, fear may take hold. We may shut our hearts and minds to the needs of others. But when we can look at the world through the eyes of God, we realise we weather the storms and embrace our calling. Happy Advent everyone!

Aotearoa Sunday, 25 November 2018

"Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa." Dame Whina Cooper

These words from a God-fearing woman, who raised many children, is a poignant lesson that we are to nurture future leaders who, on this Aotearoa Sunday, are the potential to be tomorrow’s Pīhopa o (Bishop of) Aotearoa! Māori have a saying, “hold fast to the knowledge passed down from your ancestors, for it is these teachings that bring wellbeing to all”. So, from our readings of children, teachings, seeds, harvests, storehouses, and treasures, we could ask ourselves, if we are in the quarry that “flows with milk and honey?” For we are what we sow, “… like a mustard seed, when sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds can make nests…”

Aotearoa Sunday, a day to remember the arduous journey of becoming an ‘equal’ partner in our Anglican province. A day to celebrate the ‘Pouhere’ or Constitution honouring a three tikanga sovereignty. A day that welcomes to our parish one of its children, Rev’d Jenny Quince, whose voice carries the legacy of those ‘from the rock she was hewn’ proclaiming the good news!

As printed in the Waiapu Gazette in 1929, let us pray: “0 Heavenly Father, who hast called thy servant Frederck Augustus, to the sacred office of Chief Pastor of our Māori people. In Thy love, we pray Thee, give to him, through thy Holy Spirit, such wisdom and guidance as will fit him for this high and holy office. Do Thou so encompass him with Thy grace and favour that he may in all things fulfil Thy blessed will to the relief of 'their necessities and to the setting forth of Thy glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.”

Ngā Pīhopa o Aotearoa

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 18 Novmber 2018

We find ourselves in the season of End Times where God tells us that nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, and hurricanes. There will be less tendency to look towards God and His Word. These are all signs and we’ve heard of them before. They’re reminders that our world is coming to an end. At the heart of this chaotic text we need to remember that God is always in control no matter what happens in the world around us. It’s easy to rely on ourselves and feel that we’re in control. That our hard work and effort can help us build up savings to weather any storm. At the time of Daniel, God used the Babylonians for the good of his people. God’s people had become too self-reliant. They were too caught up with life. They had turned away from worshipping the true God and were worshipping false gods instead. God warned them to repent, but they didn’t listen. True to his threats, God sent the Babylonians to tear them away from their homeland and carry them off into captivity. He did this because he loved them. He wanted them to repent and turn back to him. Their captivity would last seventy years.

God’s Word today tells us it’s going to be a rough ride until the end. In our text we see words of terror for those who don’t believe in Christ and words of comfort for those who do. Out of thanks and praise for what God has done for us, let us do our duty as Christians. Let’s do what’s right and obey the laws of the land. Let’s serve our country, pray for our leaders, and “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Cherish the freedom we enjoy, savour the resources of this good land, and remember to love our neighbours. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but we are promised that the kingdom of God will stand forever. That’s the recurring theme in the Book of Daniel, and for this, we give thanks and praise.

Patronal / Armistice Day Service Sunday, 11 November 2018

St Martin of Tours (c.316- 397) and St Chad of Mercia (634-672), served Christ with dedication and faithfulness. Both were hard working and known for their humility, simplicity of life, down-to-earth-ness, and resilience to their opponents, whilst furthering the spread of the Gospel. What inspired them through their toil was Christ’s promise of a Kingdom that was yet to come. What a poignant backdrop of character these two bring, especially on this Armistice Day of remembrance. Today we must remind ourselves of the facts of war and conflict, past and present, and we do so with grief, pride, gratitude, and wonder. Something that is truly inspiring and sacred is to be held with respect and honour before God. And another thing we acknowledge today is behind Martin, Chad, and all those who served in WW1 are their families, colleagues, friends, and communities, who supported them to do justice in the world. We must remember and honour them whom from our past, sacrificed themselves to help make our future brighter and better. Thank you!

Speaking of giving, here we have the widow giving all that she has. Jesus knew that this widow’s offering was greater than all others that day. And that’s because of how it was given. Three things about this widow’s giving: One, it was a huge sacrifice. Two, she was giving to God, to do God’s work. And three, she gave out of trust in God to take care of her. Jesus praises her for giving, and it serves as an example of how we, like Martin, Chad, WW1’ers, and her, can aspire to give also. So, on this 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, let us thank God for those whom we honour today. Like them, let us seek to do good in the world. Offer what we have to those whose need is greater than our own. Be inspired to join these saintly witnesses who urge us on to be Christ’s hands and feet in our time and place. Roar the Chorus - Lest we forget. Amen.

Join us in the 'Roaring Chorus' of bell ringing at 10.30am - nau mai, haere mai. 

All Saints Day Sunday, 4 November 2018

Well, here we go talking about the importance of ‘Food heavenly Food’ again! It’s a universal phenomenon that if you’re having an event, celebration, or a gathering of any sort, you’ll certainly need food. We are each accustomed to many of the above and relish those moments when they occur. Many traditions and customs have food as a source of generosity, hospitality, fellowship, merriment, memory making, and satisfying our decadent desires! It shouldn’t surprise us then, that God uses the image of a delectable banquet, an elaborate meal, to give us an idea of the mother of all gatherings, the greatest celebration that will ever take place, the gathering of God’s people for all eternity in heaven! Food for thought indeed! Maybe thoughts of a future heavenly feast are the last thing on your mind right now. After all, there are plenty of other matters vying for your attention. What’s happening in parliament and what are their latest schemes that affect me personally? How am going to pay off these bills? Where do I turn to help straighten out my whānau woes?

Life can be hectic, with so many other matters taking up our time, that we can be entirely caught up in the here-and-now and not at all concerned about the hereafter. We can’t even imagine eternity, because we’re too busy just trying to get through this week! God’s heavenly feast is ready, and the table is set. An invitation has been sent to you in today’s text. There’s a table with a chair that has your name on it, and you know that one glorious day, you will take that spot when God will eventually call you home. It’s a happy coincidence that today’s Scripture talks about a feast, especially when we’re planning our patronal and Armistice day next Sunday. And just as you are all invited to the feast next week, so also God has invited you and the world to this greater feast. When the real end of this world comes, there is a heavenly banquet in store for us all. The feast is ready! Nau mai, haere mai, welcome, ki te kai! Amen.

St Simon & St Jude Sunday, 28 October 2018

Jesus was popular, forever on the move, and attracted crowds from all over. They gathered to hear him, and a growing group of followers trailed him wherever he went. Jesus thought that if the movement was to grow and mature, he had to choose leaders. If you've ever been a manager, you will know that one of your most difficult jobs is hiring the right people to undertake key tasks and hold key positions. When making that selection mistakes can be made, and they sometimes are. These errors can be extremely difficult and expensive to make right. Sometimes, it causes deep hurt, for many years to come. Little wonder Jesus went up the mountain to pray! Jesus now makes a distinction between disciples and apostles. There were many disciples, but only twelve were designated apostles. It’s important that we understand that the apostles are selected from a larger group of followers. Keep in mind that disciples are learners and followers and apostles are disciples given a particular set of orders and commission. ‘The Great Commission’ in fact. Ordinary people for extraordinary ministry.

The people we would pick are not necessarily the ones God picks. God chooses the humble, the lowly, the weak and the meek, not the strong, the powerful, and the rich. It is through those who would otherwise never be chosen, that God works powerfully so that everybody knows that it is God doing these things. If you feel like you are not qualified to be a follower of Jesus, then you are just right. If you feel, however, that you are just what God needs, then you may have some things to learn before God can start using you. Christ picked these twelve to show that He was choosing some rulers for His kingdom, and He also picked these twelve to show us that we don’t have to have great training or popularity to be His apostle. Amen to that!

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21 October 2018

As we struggle through life, we are constantly tempted to abandon our loyalty to Christ. And if we do we are lost, and things can quickly go awry. It will be easy to blame Christ then for not taking our burden away! It's more likely that we’ll question God’s ‘high priest’, claiming that our needs are ignored. The question is, can Christ meet our need? The answer is yes!

For those called to be priests “chosen from among mortals, put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf,” it is challenging at times “to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.” Given that today’s priest is “subject to weakness; and sin,” and should “take this honour only when called by God,” it becomes acutely evident that Christ is a hard act to follow! In Christ, God acts to give us those gifts. In Christ, God pours out love and injects life into this world that can create in even the most confirmed sceptic, the faith and the hope that there truly is something to live for. We need the strength to change our lives that comes from being truly loved. And what we need is the courage that comes from having faith and hope that there is something more to this life than just the endless return of ‘the way things are.’ Faith, hope and love - St Paul says that these three things abide when everything else fails.

Christ is a priest who is willing to represent us in the presence of the living God, he is a priest who is well able to understand our weakness, and he is a priest appointed by God. Christ is completely able to help us in our daily life and eternally save us, sometimes from ourselves! Christ is the perfect priestly Son of God. Pope Francis says this of priests today, “We priests are apostles of joy: we announce the Gospel, which is the quintessential 'good news'; we certainly do not give strength to the Gospel … but we can favour or hinder the encounter between the Gospel and people. Our humanity is the 'earthen vessel' in which we conserve God's treasure, a vessel we must take care of, so as to transmit well its precious contents.”

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2018

Many people have whānau who love them, a good secure job, a nice home, and everything that makes us generally happy. For the man in our story, he must have thought this too, at least before he encountered Jesus. He must have just completed all the checks and balances on what did or did not fulfil his desire for nice things. He may have been doing all the right things with exercise, diet, and finances and his mind might have been totally in tune with the universe. But from what we can tell, when he came to his spiritual side, there was plenty of room for improvement! Here was a man who had found the emptiness of success. He had all the things that ought to bring happiness. And let’s face it, most of us long for the things that this man enjoyed!

Wealth, money, generosity, and giving one’s riches away. What?? Giving it all away? The combination of these ideas is at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching. What a notion, that the richest person is the one who gives it away. St. Francis of Assisi said it well when he wrote: “for it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born again.” Jesus helps us to see that the opposite of rich is not poor, it is free. Our man who had it all was not free to take the hand of Jesus because his hand was too full of the ‘things’ that he loved. He might as well have had a ball and chain around his leg because he was not free to follow Jesus. The story ends with this man refusing Jesus’ offer and walking away to enjoy his riches for the rest of his earthly life. He hadn’t realised that it’s not possessions that keep people out of heaven, it is being obsessed with possessions. Wealth gives us a false sense of security. It is believing that material things mean more to us than salvation, that our journeys get difficult. This story of the rich man is a warning to all people who want to be a Christian but doesn’t want to change their status or upset their lifestyles in any way. If we want anything to do with Jesus, we’ve got to free up our hands of worldly possessions so that we are free to take His hand when he says, “follow me.”

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7 October 2018

What is the key to staying married through better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? What does it mean to stay married when there are times of anger, disappointment, and losses? Jesus said, “the two shall become one flesh.” It says so in Genesis too! When the two become one, a 60-year marriage, like Frank and Dorothy Bartley, becomes possible. The Pharisees accepted that a man could write a certificate of dismissal and divorce his wife, making her vulnerable to a life of poverty, Jesus said no, “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus rebukes the disciples who try to block the little children. “Let the little children come to me.” While the disciples see the little children as expendables, with little economic or social power, Jesus considers them to be supremely precious and worthy of his blessing. To emphasise their value, he makes the claim, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Ultimately, Jesus is standing up for wives and children, and protecting them with a prohibition on divorce. Other early Christian leaders saw a balance of mutuality in marriage. In line with what might be more like a legal contract than Scripture, the apostle Paul says, “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” What’s important is the balance that is created in a marriage; the focus is on a mutuality of authority that exists when two people become one flesh. Today marriage is on a sharp decline. Sixty years ago, it was binding and maybe, that’s why it’s not popular today. As we admire the sixty years of marriage of our brother and sister here in the parish, let’s be thankful to Jesus for his deep concern for the welfare of wives and children, supporting the institution of marriage for the sake of their emotional and economic security. That’s a stand worth taking, whether we are married or single. “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” Join us in marriage of mutuality and respect this Sunday. 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 30 September 2018

The story in Numbers resonates for anyone who is a leader. Moses' cry to God about the burden of leading is profound. Not only does he beg God to take it away, but that death itself is preferable! All the food is dried up! Little wonder they were moaning!. And Moses decides it’s his burden alone. Clearly, he's had enough! This is not just a story about meat and potatoes. It’s not just about people who moan. And it’s not just about Moses having a pity party! Surely, this is a story about team work and support. Surely, this is a message that we're not meant to do it alone. Moses was given what he needed, others to stand along side him. It marks the question though, who will God raise up to do the work with us, here at St Martin @ St Chads, so that we might more faithfully do the work we are called to do. As we gather once more in a Combined Service. collaborating our talents, linking our prayers, and declearing our faith to one another, we know that when we are united we do God’s will. Paul knew it when he wrote to the Corinthians, “for the body is not one member, but many.” The body is not supported by one person, but by all of us. We are one and we are strongest when working together. We are designed to need God and each other. No one has all the skills, gifts, or wisdom necessary for a successful journey in life. We are urged to use the gifts we receive, our talents, uniqueness, and created nature, as well as our spiritual gifts, to serve one another with kindness, respect, and appreciation. In doing so, we recognise Christ in each other and in our deeds so that we can walk together, not alone, in our journey to bring people to Christ. Therefore, brothers and sisters of our combined service, let us break bread together and proclaim the good news of the kingdom knowing that without complaint we choose to serve faithfully in the world. Combine with us this Sunday to share the load also. 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 23 September 2018

According to tradition, Jeremiah is ‘the weeping prophet.’ It is an apt nickname because his preaching is filled with strong emotion. In chapter 9, “O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” Such passages highlight Jeremiah’s anguish. His expression is powerful, especially when his own whānau and friends refuse to recognise his validity. Their concern is that Jeremiah is passing judgment in the name of God. He threatens that God will take retribution on his behalf! In other words, ‘what goes around comes around!’ We all know that this is a recipe for disaster.

Jeremiah is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he’s been called to speak the word of God, words of indictment, retribution, and an even harsher word of judgment. And on the other, he is never comfortable in doing so. He despairs over the harsh message he is called to bring, even though it comes from God. He feels the pressure and he senses that he alone stands with God. The gospel from Mark relates with this complaint from Jeremiah since it emphasises Jesus' prediction of his future betrayal and his current frustration with the disciples' lack of understanding!

The lesson for us must be Jeremiah’s call to be a faithful servant. He did what was expected of him, despite the tensions. It would be so much easier to simply walk away! But he didn’t! He stuck it out. He hardened up to the rejection and stayed the course. Jeremiah’s confession can model an honest and intimate anger with God that can be restorative to those who have been faithful in bearing heavy burdens. Jeremiah’s lament might sound harsh but anyone who is willing to sit and listen to the prophet’s pain may find rich resources for faithful living. Jeremiah’s desire for retribution, however, should probably not be affirmed as a model to follow.

 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 16 September 2018

We’ve heard the phrase, “loose lips, sinks ships!” How about “letting the cat outta the bag” or “spilling the beans?” “Bite your tongue” and “dishing the dirt”. These, and many more, are modern day warnings about the power of the tongue! Gossip, slander, lying, exaggeration, anger and resentment. Perhaps we don’t consider it as serious as adultery or murder. Unkind words hurt. Not just spoken words but emails, texts, and social media too. Once said you can’t take them back! James knew this and he’s quite brutal about it. “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue.”

We each have control of our own tongue. We choose what we say, but what we say is often affected by what we feel. Proverbs 21:23 says, ‘To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble.’ Let’s face it, we all want to stay out of trouble! A couple of lessons I learnt many years ago, doing management courses, is that behaviour breeds behaviour and it’s not what you say or do that matters, it’s how you make them feel. So, ‘if you haven’t got something nice to say then don’t say it at all.’ I could go on forever with clichés, adages, and idioms, and they all lead to the same destination to love your neighbour as yourself. Be kind, be gentle, be thoughtful. James says, “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits” which is okay when it is done without malice but rather, for the proclamation of the good news! And to do this we each must take up our cross daily. Heavy as it may be at times, it is our cross to carry. Lighten the load by having that same faith as in Isaiah. God helps us. God opens our ears every morning. God gives us a tongue that we may know how to sustain the weary with a word. You never know who is going to hear what you say, so always remember, loose lips sink ships!

 

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 9 September 2018

The story by Hans Christian Anderson about an emperor and his new clothes is a poignant tale of how we see ourselves… and how others see us too! The emperor promenades in the streets but no one wants to state the obvious, except for one child! Okay, it’s a children’s story I guess??? Is it?

The story is about the dangers of power. An emperor being held in such high regard that the people live in fear of speaking the truth. James has captured a glimpse of this in his letter. He paints a picture, and then tells us what's wrong with that picture. He exposes the sin of power, partiality, and favouritism. The many sexual abuses in the Catholic Church is a misuse of power and lack of courage to speak out. The people bringing these things to light are labelled by those in power as grudge holders and reputation destroyers, told they are disloyal, wanting to usurp the authority of the God-ordained leaders, and some even fired from their jobs.

Somewhere along the way we’ve created a breed of emperors in our religious spheres who prefer blind allegiance, unquestioning support, and silenced opponents, rather than hear the truth. Worse still, their remedial efforts have been to relocate offenders to wreak havoc elsewhere! Now this is not a shot at our Catholic brothers, but it is a cautionary note about an increasing number of Christian leaders opting to deafen themselves to it. To eliminate those capable of telling the truth rather than stomach the unfortunate but accurate reality. That they may have been at fault. That they may have gotten it wrong. That the emperor is without clothes. The dangers of living with our heads in the sand and donning invisible clothes, are obvious. Not only does the emperor lose credibility, but ultimately, so does the Kingdom of God. We can’t afford to not speak up. We don’t look good! Just admit it when we know the emperor is wearing no clothes! What have we got to lose? More importantly, what have we got to gain! James writes, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2 September 2018

In today’s gospel reading from Mark, we—like Jesus—are subjected to yet another round of criticism and angst from the Pharisees, over an episode of eating with unwashed hands.  In this particular incident, however, criticism is not being directed toward Jesus, but his disciples.  This is an interesting development, for history shows that wherever Jesus appeared he could absolutely rely upon someone being there to offer an argument or make some accusation against him.  We can only surmise how tired Jesus must have gotten over the continuous debates and conversations he was forced to endure from the “most influential sect or movement within Judaism,” as the renowned Gospel of Mark exegete Morna Hooker has described.  One could be forgiven for thinking that the Pharisees were perhaps trying out a new strategy—unable to strike a blow against Jesus by direct criticism, change the game plan and target those around him instead.  However, like other strategies before this incident, Jesus wasn’t coming off second best!

 

Jesus served up to the Pharisees their own words, but as he has done so many times previously, he turned the tables on them, and demonstrated how they were not exactly following their own beliefs.  He notes for the Pharisees in v7, quoting Isaiah, “in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.”  And Jesus shows the Pharisees their concerns are of a man-made situation, and not one of law.  Vv 14, 15 then sums up Jesus’ view as he states, “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  And thus, the food taken in, clean hands or not, are permitted.   The Pharisees would have been better served by keeping their thoughts to themselves!

 

 

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2018

This week’s gospel reading from John is a continuation from 12th August of Jesus as the living bread which sustains the spiritual life of the believer, captured in the first of John’s, seven “I AM” statements recorded in the Gospel According to John, as having been said by Jesus.  His spiritual statement preceded reference to the Eucharist, as such had not been instituted at this time.

In today’s reading, the grumblings and complaints of which we had grown use to reading about as coming from the Jews in the crowds which gathered around Jesus, has suddenly turned inward, with Jesus’ own disciples having great difficulty understanding what he is saying.  Jesus fully comprehends their concerns—in spite of the fact none of them bothers to ask Jesus to explain what he is saying.  He certainly tries to get them to talk, for he asks in v61 “Does this offend you?”  John records no responses from either the broader section of disciples or the smaller group of his 12 disciples. 

And it is here, in v64 that we are treated to an amazing fact about Jesus at this time, “For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.”  But Jesus never let on!  He treated everyone without suspicion, striving to teach and loving each and every one of them.  V66 confirms that many disciples “turned back and no longer went about with him.”  He thus asked the twelve “Do you also wish to go away?”  It is pleasing to note that from these 12 a sense of loyalty occurs as Simon Peter points out, “you have the words of eternal life.”  And this statement continues to resound today, 2000 years later.  

 

 

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19 August 2018

Wise or foolish! It’s a lifestyle choice really. We traverse life’s highways and byways making decisions that are influenced by both wise and foolish. In this chapter of Proverbs, we hear from Lady Wisdom and her invitation to her sumptuous table. Who could pass up such a feast? No fool would, would they? Lady Wisdom invites the wealthy and elite, from the highest places, yet, they are simple and lack sense. Lady Wisdom has built her house and reaped the benefits of her own wisdom, and she calls to others to share in the blessing of knowing and following God. Enter Dame Folly. The Oxford dictionary describes ‘folly’ as a lack of good sense and, you guessed it, a foolish unwise act, idea, or practice. So, in contrast, the chapter concludes with the biography of Dame Folly who speaks of things stolen, secrets, and forbidden things. When sin is committed, the Dame promises rewards and immediate pleasure. This behaviour is practiced not only for the pleasure it gives, but also to escape resistance or abstinence.

  

Wisdom and Folly, side-by-side. We’ve all experienced these attributes in our lives. What’s important, is that those experiences help us to set our moral compasses. That foolish person we once were, should’ve been put to rest. And if you dislodge that fool in you, then you probably need to cut off the fools around you too! Don’t waste your time trying to help fools. You’ll only gain an enemy. You can launch your arrows of wise instruction, but you’ll likely miss the bullseye anyway! Far better to instruct the wise and the teachable, then to fight with a fool who resents your help. Centred in this Proverbs chapter is: ‘Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you, if you are a fool, you alone will suffer.’  

Wise or foolish? Join us this Sunday. 

 

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 12 August 2018

Nobody likes me. They all hate me. These were the thoughts of Elijah as he sat under the broom tree, sulking and feeling sorry for himself. You can sense the despair as he complained “Enough, Lord! I’ve had enough!” Then he rolled over and fell asleep as if to say, Lord just let…me…be!” Elijah certainly wasn’t the only one of God’s chosen prophets to complain like this. Moses protested that leading Israel was too much to do alone. Jonah felt he’d been left to dry when God let Nineveh off the hook. Jeremiah complained bitterly about having no say in his career choice. There may have been many more unwritten ‘pity parties’ but this is part of Elijah’s story. A story that takes us on his journey also. A story that turns inward looking into outward sights. 

 

God sent an angel to bring food and drink. If the first visit wasn’t a sign that God hadn’t abandoned him, then Elijah certainly needed that second visit! God never abandons us. We are nourished enough for the highways and byways of life. God has placed us into a community of believers so that we can build one another up in the faith. God provides the ‘food & drink’ we need when we feel weak, discouraged, and despair. “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” And strengthened by the food that God provides, we are prepared to journey for God’s glory. A prayer to remind us of God’s generosity…

 

“I asked for strength, and God gave me difficulties to make me strong,

I asked for wisdom, and God gave me problems to solve,

I asked for prosperity, and God gave me a brain and braun to work,

I asked for courage, and God gave me danger to overcome,

I asked for love and God gave me troubled people to help,

I asked for favours and God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I asked for, but everything I needed.”

Unknown Author

 

 

 

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 5 August 2018

Last week we looked at how Jesus fed the 5000. Today, his surprised followers are wondering, where is this guy who just served us this massive kai (food)? It seems they merely consider Jesus as a 24/7 café! They want ‘bread and fish’ all the time. Milk and honey on tap. Someone on call to solve problems. Let’s follow Him! He helps us get what we want. This is often how God is perceived. As someone only to get involved with when there are catastrophes. During emergencies. An ambulance on call! And if you’re doing okay, feeling strong, smart, leading a healthy and active life, in control, and succeeding in life, you don’t need any A&E, right? “Truly I say, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” The whole purpose of a sign is to point to something beyond that sign, but somehow, they missed it! 

God is a Giver. Giver of all good things. At all times and in all places. Not just on the other end of a 111 call but present in our daily lives. We must know that we cannot live on bread and water alone. Of course, our daily needs are important and we all need our daily bread. No question about it. The problem is, that we begin to think that our daily bread is all that there is. By focusing on a few gifts of God, we lose the big picture, we miss what God is offering. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. We must see beyond the sign trusting that our cup is half full, not half empty. And when we share that cup we do it ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. 

The last words of Jesus from today’s gospel reading are: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Let’s fill ourselves with the bread of life and the cup of salvation daily.

 

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 29 July 2018

Hospitality. It is given and received by those who gather in fellowship and to create good memories. It strengthens relationships and instils a bond of love. Better still, when the gathering is over, all will remember how it made them feel and will want to come back again. Each of us will experience the virtues of hospitality in our daily lives. Today is one of them! Whether we are many or few, we gather and openly declare to each other, ‘you matter to me’!

Jesus immersed himself in hospitality on numerous occasions. He offered it and received it. The wedding at Cana, eating with others along the way, and feeding the multitudes. What remarkable stories of love, belief, hope, and hospitality. We all share in the delight of hospitality also. It is not new for us. We often yearn for it and make lasting memories, simply by having eaten together at the same table. We were created to relate with others and to bring others into our lives and welcome them. Just like Christ. Our gathering of churches, Cook Island, Samoan, Pākehā, Māori, Indian, and Fijian want to be a church that is incredibly hospitable. We all believe that any experience of good hospitality points us to the hospitality of Christ!

The bible contains many stories of hospitality that feature food, conversation, tradition, generosity, and merriment. These are the principles that guide us. To bathe in the fullness of Christ’s love through hospitality. Paul writes, “may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love and have the power to comprehend what is the breadth, length, height, and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, may fill you with all the fullness of God.”

The Māori proverb, “Aroha mai, aroha atu” simply means “love received, love returned.” Today, we ‘aroha mai, aroha atu’ with each other. It is a blessing to be one whānau (family) sharing in fellowship, worship, and praise. Let us emulate Jesus’ love and hospitality to make memories together! 

 

 

St Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2018

A question persists throughout all the centuries and to us in the twenty first century, “Why are you weeping, Mary? Do you still not know the truth? Why then are you still crying?” This poses a question of us also, “knowing that Jesus rose from the dead, why do we still weep at funerals and when loved ones die? Why do we still cry? It is a universal trait, this weeping at the loss of a loved one. In all cultures, in all centuries, in all religions. No matter who you are, when your loved one dies, we weep. We cry. We mourn. We feel the personal loss. We are devastated. All human beings are the same in one important way: we all cry when our loved ones die.

You would think that Mary Magdalene would have become a legend in the early church, that she would have been talked about and written about and sung about in the most ancient traditions of church. But Mary Magdalene disappears into the passing pages of history. That is, Mary Magdalene is not mentioned in the Book of Acts, nor in the letters of the Apostle Paul, nor in the pastoral letters of the New Testament. She is not mentioned in ancient church history. In fact, we don’t hear about Mary Magdalene until the Middle Ages and early Renaissance when Mary is associated with the woman caught in adultery or associated with the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Centuries later, Mary Magdalene appears as Jesus’ lover and wife in contemporary literature such as in Kazantzakis’ LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST and Brown’s THE DAVINCI CODE. We might prefer the historical reliability of the Gospel of John than the other fictions. Some remember Mary Magdalene as the first person who experienced the Risen Christ. She saw the Risen Christ and her belief transformed her feelings of sadness. Remember the question that Jesus and the angels asked of her and still asks of you and me so many centuries later, “Why are you still weeping? Don’t you know that I have been raised from the dead? Why then are you still crying?”

Come and find out why this Sunday.

 

 

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 15 July 2018

Our passages from both Amos and Mark concern prophetic figures who are confronted because of their condemning, prophetic messages. Amos is asked to leave the land of Judah and John is beheaded. Yet, their messages continue on today in scripture and we still ponder their significance. Prophets are not appreciated. Their views are not well-received. Their constant judgments are a threat to leadership, and considered a menace to those in power! Leaders want them to simply go away and are willing to help them do so! Amos says that he is not a prophet who can just pack up and move to the next city. In fact, he’s not from a line of prophetic ancestors. Amos validates his prophetic words by noting that God called him while he was tending his flocks. God took him from his day job as a herdsman and sycamore tree dresser and made him a prophet.

John the Baptist was not someone who would allow the winds of opposition to deter him from doing what he knew was right. Neither was he a pampered courtier submissive to the monarch. He was a man with a message and a man who had the courage to deliver that message. His ministry was not long, yet John became highly respected in his ministry of repentance of sin. He baptized many, including soldiers and tax collectors. Religious leaders rejected the idea that they needed to repent of their sins. To speak prophetically is to come up against resistance from those who have a stake in the power and system under prophetic attack. We too, would be upset if prophets began questioning our way of life! We can choose to let grace in or to reject it. And this is what we can learn from Herod’s choice. Herod had an opportunity to welcome grace into a situation and instead he rejected it. He chose to satisfy the group of people around him and not his own conscience. This is something we can all relate to. Before we make decisions let’s ask if we are making them to protect ourselves or to build up the kingdom of God!

Prohets are welcome here this Sunday, join us.

 

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8 July 2018

There's a knock on the door, and the homeowner opens it to find a young man standing there. He says, "Hi, I'm a Jehovah's Witness sent to deliver the Good News." The homeowner says, "Come in and sit down. What would you like to talk about?" He replies, "Damned if I know. I've never gotten this far before."

Jokes aside, how should the disciples handle the rejection that will occur in some towns? Jesus says, "if any place will not receive you or listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them" Forearmed with the authority of Jesus and forewarned of the difficulties they will face, the disciples are to hit the road and move on.

Our church is tasked with the message of preaching about Jesus and his kingdom. It must preach at those times when it's well received and when it provokes hostility or yawns of indifference. The desire to be popular or liked must not compromise the message. The honour of God and the souls of men and women are at stake! A faithful preacher must do that. Preach the truth no matter where or with whom. The core message should not alter to suit the crowd’s tastes. No focus groups. No advertising pitches. No team of writers ensuring the gospel message contains nothing offensive. Jesus proclaims God's word without hesitation, qualification, or fear.

 

If declaring God's word leaves people with profound gratitude for God's grace, then we rejoice. If declaring God's word leaves people angry and resentful, we are saddened, but we do not alter or apologise for God’s message. Jesus’ popularity waxes and wanes, but his message remains the same. The time of his ministry may be turbulent, but his declarations of God's truth remains constant. And so, we must support missionaries that relocate to another part of the world, and labour year after year for the gospel. Popularity comes and goes. Civilizations rise and fall. But to the people of Jesus belongs "a kingdom that cannot be shaken."

Join us on the missional road this Sunday. 

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 1 July 2018

Lamenting faith in God’s goodness is not always easy. Where was God when my child… when my husband… when that person… when the doctor told me... when I desperately needed my whānau (family)…? Don’t tell me God was there for me! Why didn’t God do something? How could a good God stand by and allow that to happen to me? Why does God sit back whilst the world implodes on itself? No one can conclude that God is good by studying life! The evidence powerfully suggests otherwise. For all of life’s disappointments, can we accept what Paul told the Romans, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Finding God means to rest in his goodness through poverty, sickness, and all that grieves us. Finding God means to face all of life, both good and bad, with a spirit of trust. We must reflect confidence in God in all our relationships and activities, in all our joys and sorrows. God wants to be found. God delights to be known. Our search for God must be on his terms and they involve a transformation from our natural inclination to evaluate his goodness. God will not tolerate others sitting in judgment of him. We are not the judges. We are the judged, the forgiven, and the invited. Belief in the goodness of God and the worship that flows from this confidence depends on the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. When we are ushered into the presence of ultimate goodness, when our darkest tragedy is pierced by one glimpse of invisible glory, then faith is born. The faith that is given by God’s Spirit makes self-concern redundant. We know that we are in good hands no matter what comes. God arranges things in our lives so that we experience him as the one who satisfies our souls. A good God who never intends anything but our joy. A merciful God whose presence can always be known. A gracious God who knows our weaknesses and forgives us anyway. A faithful God who leads us out of the wilderness and into the glory of His kingdom. A loving God whose love is steadfast and endures forever.

 

Come and share the love with us this Sunday.

St John the Baptist, 24 June 2018

Luke’s gospel goes to the extent of not just introducing John but introduces his parents as well. This, I think, is very important as it implies the authority from which John himself might have received his ordination. Zechariah was a priest who got a specific word from God about his son John. In this way we can safely claim that John had the role of publicly initiating Jesus into the ministry. Gabriel also informs Zechariah that through John many hardened hearts would be returned to God. Though Jesus did come across many whose hearts were hardened, we can still appreciate that it might have been a much worse situation if John had not done what he did. Whilst our gospel deals with John’s birth, naming, and a short intro into his extended life, John's most important role was to announce the coming of Jesus and to baptise him, so if that was all there was to his life he could have died then and there, and would have justified his existence completely!

 

We know that John the Baptist had another purpose. As the gospels note, John publicly criticised Herod Antipas for marrying Herodias, his brother's former wife, contrary to Jewish law. Because of that criticism, John was arrested, placed in prison, then executed, so as to prevent him from stirring up trouble among the Jews. John was revered by the Jews and admired for his principled stand against Antipas, with many believing that King Aretas' defeat of Antipas soon afterwards was divine retribution for the death of John. 

 

John the Baptist, born to an elderly barren woman, too late for her to be having a child, while Jesus is born to a young virgin, too early to be having a child. John is announced at the autumnal equinox, when leaves are dying and falling from trees. Jesus is announced at the vernal equinox, when the green buds are bursting forth and there are signs of new life everywhere. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

 

Join us this Sunday to increase...

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2018

This week marks the commencement of Matariki. It’s literal meaning is the ‘eyes of God’ and is the seven-star constellation which annually reappears over the horizon in late May-June. In Western astronomy this constellation is called The Pleiades. Matariki is the time to plant trees, prepare the land for planting crops and renew associations with family. It is also a good time to reflect on your place in the world, to re-awaken old skills or try out new ones, and set new goals.

 

In Ezekiel, a sprig will be plucked from a mighty tree and planted on a high mountain, and that sprig will be able to grow into a mighty tree. And, it will be so great, that it will be a haven for everything that takes to the sky. What beautiful and majestic imagery of flourishing which is possible when one doesn’t just rely on one’s own strength and understanding, but rather has faith that God is with us, is working for us, and loves us enough to be there. The seed in Mark’s gospel has transforming power. It takes the barren land and produces a fruitful field out of it. That’s what we want. When we sow the land, we look for the fruit. We want a harvest that produces growth, renewal, and refuge.

  

Matariki is traditionally a time to harvest crops, and collect seafood and birds. With plenty of food in storehouses Matariki became a time of celebration, singing, dancing, feasting, and preparing the ground for the coming year. And in faith we will sleep and rise night and day, and the seed will sprout and grow, even when we do not know how. We need God’s grace and man’s response to have a good harvest. It is not all of grace without human responsibility. God’s grace grants us the freedom to sow then harvest our relationships, endeavours, spiritual fruits, refuge, and restoration.

 

Pop in and sow humble seeds with us this Sunday.   

10th Sunday in Odinary Time, 10 June 2018

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark lays out before us three separate groups of people who have come together because of Jesus’ presence amongst them:  members of Jesus’ immediate family, critics and enemies who would like to catch Jesus in wrong doing or breaking a law which could cause his arrest, and a group (which includes disciples—identified as those who are sitting at his feet and seated in a circle around him) who favourably support Jesus and are very interested in hearing what he has to say. In such a diverse gathering Jesus preferred to speak in parables (the Greek word being “parabole” translated as “a setting aside,” as comparison or analogy; which Jesus preferred to use in communicating with his critics and could at the same time reveal for his followers and disciples very important information that would not be discerned by others).  Paraboles were actually first used by Mark in this particular Gospel account.

 

 And what an account of which to write: members of Jesus’ family have arrived to escort him back home—concerned for his mental state—critics and enemies desiring to snare Jesus in a trap, and true followers and disciples yearning greatly to hear the Good News and converse with their teacher, preacher, and friend.  You can almost feel the tension, excitement, and energy in this unidentified space.  And in the middle of it all, the serene and very much in control Jesus of Nazareth opening the discussion to help reveal for those who truly cared, the Kingdom of God.         

Pouhere Sunday, 3 June 2018, 9.30am

It’s been 25 years since the birth of the Pouhere. 25 years of agreement, that we are different. 25 years of tino rangatiratanga or self-determination. 25 years of contextual mission and ministry. 25 years of celebrating a three tikanga church. 

How do you think we are doing? Is it working? Is it what we wanted it to be when we dreamed it up? Does it promise something more in the future? And if so, what? What can we expect in the next 25 years? More of the same? Something different?


So, now I want to urge us to be more honouring of a Pouhere that has given us our tino rangatiratanga, by interchanging ourselves much more frequently. I want to urge us to be more inclusive of each other’s ministry to our congregations. I want to encourage us to stop working in tikanga isolation and not be mono-tikanga any more. Let’s change our usual kaupapa to include each other in most aspects of ministry. Let’s learn, grow, and bear fruit as one… not three.

Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018, 9.30am

On this Trinity Sunday, and the eve of Te Pouhere Sunday next week, let us be compelled to get thinking about those familiar words of warmth we hear at the many three tikanga gatherings in our province. In honouring our trinitarian faith, we might liken it to the welcome, tēna koe (greetings once - to you), tēna koutou (greetings twice - to you all), tēna tātou katoa (greetings thrice - to us all)! 

As in our Trinitarian God we celebrate this Sunday, let us strive to emulate that perfect relationship within our own lives. Within our whānau, communities, tikanga, and denominations. The Trinity we celebrate this Sunday is the primary symbol of a community that is held together by containing diversity within itself. 

At its 63rd General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui this province demonstrated how difficult it can be to stay together within the powerful three-fold debate on Motion 29. This gathering of Christians proved itself, in a trinitarian way, by finding a structure that would keep us together in the sanctioning of the ‘Blessing of Same-Sex Couples’. For some, the decision went too far and for some it was not far enough. 

The point is that somewhere in our troubled midst may God the Creator, Redeemer, and Life Giver be perfectly imbedded in all our thoughts, actions, and deeds. May we be the light in the darkness to others and to those who grieve the hard decisions of this church. Come and be part of that loving Trinity this Sunday.    

Pentecost Sunday, 20 May 2018, 9.30am

The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the day when Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit.  It was a moment in time when God fulfilled the promise that Jesus made to his disciples: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14: 26).  Jesus knew that the gift of the Holy Spirit was the most important gift he could give them because it was the same Holy Spirit that led Jesus throughout his life.


The Spirit descended in the form of tongues of fire and each disciple was filled with the Holy Spirit. The passage in Acts tells us that Jews from many different countries who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost all heard in their own language what the Spirit proclaimed through the disciples. The miracle is not that each person heard what was proclaimed in their own language, but rather, the miracle is that each person heard the word of God spoken to them directly.  It was no longer only hearing the word of God through someone else. Pentecost began a new era in which everyone, regardless of their language of origin, could hear the word of God through the Spirit. 


Join us this Sunday to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Wairua Tapu, nau mai ki kōnei

5th Sunday of Easter, 29 April 2018, 9.30am

“I am the true vine”

Last week, we heard about Jesus being the good shepherd. As a good shepherd Jesus surrounds us with His love, protection, guidance and most of all His life. He is always with us.

Today in our gospel reading, again we hear Jesus proclaiming Himself as the one true vine and the Father as the vine-grower.  Jesus uses the image of vine to the people listening because it was an image of the nation of Israel. In Isaiah 5 we see a song of the unfruitful vineyard, part of it reads, ‘For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel and the people of Judah…’ Jesus speaks knowing that the people understand what happens in a vineyard. They care for it, exactly as Jesus states, to have a fruitful harvest.

In proclaiming Himself as the vine and we are the branches, Jesus is merely saying that we are all connected to Him. His speaking to His disciples that time echoes through us today. As branches, they are to abide in Him, so they can bear fruit, for without him they can do nothing. And as disciples of today we are to abide in Him. Again, in Jesus we see a sense of belonging and relationship. His invitation is simple, we are to abide in Him and let His words abide in us.

Christ is the centre of our Christian worship. Each of us belongs to Him. We are connected to him. Through Him God works through us. He removes each branch of our life that is not fruitful and nurtures the fruitful branches to bear much more fruit. His amazing work is seen in each of us, in ministry, in love, in commitment, courage, endurance and ordinary daily kindness and compassion. Unique in its way, that is God working through us. Come be the fruit with us this Sunday. 

4th Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2018, 9.30am

“I am the good shepherd”

 

Today’s gospel we hear Jesus proclaiming Himself as the good shepherd. A shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. A shepherd who loves His sheep and often goes out to seek the lost one. A shepherd that protects His sheep and they know each other very well. A shepherd whose sheep knows His voice and who brings them together. This is one of the ‘I AM’ statements. In this passage we see two important things, the sheep and the good shepherd. It pictures the life of a leader and his people. It signifies the life of our greatest leader Jesus and we as His people. It may also mean the life within our church, a pastor and his parishioners. It is about relationships and listening to each other. We are the sheep. When we are lost our good shepherd will come seeking for us. He will direct us where to go when in trouble or when there is struggles in our life. Easter reminds us that Christ the Good Shephard laid down His life for the sheep.

 

Psalms 23 sums it up for us. The Lord is our shepherd who lays down His life for us. A shepherd who is loving, caring and sharing. He is our companion when we walk through the darkest valley. The Lord is our host who prepares a table before us and continues to shower His blessings through all of our life. A shepherd who is always with us.

 

Come along this Sunday and be with the flock who follows the shepherd's call on our lives. Praise be to God

3rd Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2018, 9.30am

Recognizing that a passage might have something profound to say to us is a really important step in letting it speak to us. Luke tells us, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” There are many passages in the Bible with which we are very familiar, and we think because we know them already there is nothing more to learn from them. Wrong! Thinking that way means we are not open to the possibility that God might be saying something new to us. Unless we accept that there are passages, familiar or not, that speak to us in different ways every time we read them, we close our minds to the mystery of God’s Word in our lives. We risk shutting out the Holy Spirit’s transforming power within us. Do we sit back and wait for Jesus to appear saying, ‘touch me and see?’ Jesus is to the disciples wholly present and able to be experienced through the senses. So too, for us today. Perhaps, we long to experience the resurrected Christ in such a physical way as those disciples did. To touch and to see. We want to give him broiled fish, like they did, which will give us the concrete experience to fuel our faith in God. What concrete experiences of Christ’s presence are right in front of us that we are so busy that we risk missing it? As we open our minds to understand scripture in our contexts, we open our willingness to allow the resurrected Christ to breathe these words into our hearts, always moving us towards a deeper understanding of our God and of ourselves. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Come join us this Sunday to share the experience. 

2nd Sunday of Easter, 8 April 2018, 9.30am

Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you" and when he had said this he breathed on them...

Māori have a tradition of 'hongi' - a sacred embrace wherein two sides become one through the exchange of hā or the breath of life. This practice is prevelant on marae and where gatherings take place. It is the time when manuhiri (visitors) and haukainga (hosts) become one. For Māori the hongi is a physical expression of meeting on a spiritual level. My wairua (spiritual self) meets yours. You can’t feel someone’s breath unless you are in very close proximity to their body. It might happen when you lean in to hear a dying relative whisper their last words. It could be the immediate aftermath of a kiss between lovers, or in some cultures, a simple peck on the cheek among friends. To feel someone’s breath is a basic experience of intimacy that is grounded in our bodily senses. This is what Jesus meant to do when he breathed the Holy Spirit on the Twelve. Think about how close the disciples must have been to Jesus to feel his breath upon them. This encounter, while seemingly understated in contrast to the dramatic display at Pentecost, illustrates a profound truth: our experience of the Holy Spirit is dependent on our nearness to Christ.

Easter Sunday, 1 April 2018, 9.30am

The tomb was empty. In the early morning darkness of that first Easter, there was only confusion for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. But as the daylight spread, they saw the dawning of a new creation.

At first, they didn't understand the Scripture, today's Gospel tells us. We don't know which precise Scripture texts they were supposed to understand. Perhaps it was the sign of Jonah, who rose from the belly of the great fish after three days. Or maybe Hosea's prophecy of Israel's restoration from exile. Perhaps it was the psalmist who rejoiced that God had not abandoned him to the underworld. 

Whichever Scripture it was, as the disciples bent down into the tomb, they saw and they believed. What did they see? Burial shrouds in an empty tomb. The stone removed from the tomb. 

What did they believe? That God had done what Jesus said he would do--raised him up on the third day. What they saw and believed, they bore witness to, as today's First Reading tells us. Peter's speech is a summary of the gospels--from Jesus' baptism in the Jordan to his hanging on a tree, to his rising from the dead. We are children of the apostles. 

Like them, we gather in the morning on the first day of the week--to celebrate the Eucharist, the feast of the empty tomb. We rejoice that the stones have been rolled away from our tombs, too. Each of us can shout, as we do in today's Psalm: "I shall not die, but live." They saw and believed. And we await the day they promised would come--when we, too, "will appear with him in glory." 

Join us in celebrating his glory.

6th Sunday in Lent, 25 March 2018, 9.30am

Jesus had one final meal with his disciples. He had one last night, one last time to try to teach his closest followers what was coming. He knew their love for him was not as strong as they claimed. He knew all of them would be scattered, and even Peter, his closest friend, would deny three times that he even knew him. He watched as Judas left the table, and knew that in a few hours he would return with those who would arrest him. He knew that in spite of all his efforts, his disciples only just barely understood the significance of this night and had only the barest perception of what he was going to do for them. He knew that in many ways, though they were with him bodily, he was very much alone. It was in this way, that Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane. In the same way, we enter it as well. Jesus knew the weight of the burden he was about to carry. And for someone who had never been separated from continual communion with the Father, the knowledge that a separation was imminent had to be terrifying to a degree that we truly can’t imagine. And so, we commence a very powerful, moving, and emotional Holy Week. Take the opportunity to join us this Sunday and draw near to our merciful God to reflect on his kindness, grace, and love in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

5th Sunday in Lent, 18 March 2018, 9.30am

‘If a seed is planted into the ground and it dies, it remains a seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds and seedlings and those seeds and their seedlings, produce much fruit.’ Those who have grown produce, be it in a large market garden or a small flower bed, will know seeds that appear dry and dead will, when planted, fertilised, and watered, spring forth time and time again. Does this mean that the key to life is death?  Does it mean that dying is critical to living? Could that be the key to all our lives? Dying and living? Jesus uses this story as a metaphor to explain his saying that those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Just as a seed has to fall to earth and die before it lives again, so we must give our life to produce the fruit God intends. In Psalm 51, the singer is asking God ‘to create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me’, so that God's ways can be taught to the unrighteous and they will return to God. Indeed, in the passage from Jeremiah the Lord says, ‘For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.’ In the depths of Lent as we draw nearer to the Passion of Jesus, those are hopeful words to ones who are striving to lose their life and wondering how they can bear the fruit that will make a difference. And it all begins with the seed dying. Let us nurture the seedbeds of our lives in preparation for new life.  

4th Sunday in Lent, 11 March 2018, 9.30am

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" John 3:16. All this and much more is given to us in the wonderful and sacrificial love of God. The moment we believe, we receive the gift of eternal life, that not one person on earth can take away from us. By Christ living in us, and his truth ingrained in our very nature, we are saved. As long as there is Christ in our lives we will live in his love and as long as there is an eternity we will fill it with praises of the God who sacrifices himself for us all.

3rd Sunday in Lent, 4 March 2018, 9.30am

Jesus is in the temple swinging a whip. He chases the animals out, tips the tables over, and scatters the spoils of the day onto the temple floor. He tells the traders to gather their belongs and get out! They retaliate and Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!” Can you imagine the response from the hierarchy! How ludicrous. They say, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” They're thinking, Rubbish! You’re crazy! You can't do it so why do you say you will? Jesus said, “Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The disciples knew what he meant... and now after reading the gospel of John 2:13-22, we know too!   

2nd Sunday in Lent, 25 February 2018, 9.30am

Mark reminds us of the suffering and cost of following Jesus. "Take up your cross and follow me. Deny yourself." These are poignant reminders of what Christ endured for us. Sacrifice, suffering, and rejection... sounds more like bad news than Good News! Let us journey to the foot of the cross knowing that we are not alone and in faith, we know that Christ paid the ultimate cost!