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

Fifth 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. 

Fourth 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

Third 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. 

Second 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.

The Sixth 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. 

The Fifth 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.  

The Fourth 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.

The Third 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!   

The Second 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!   

The First Sunday in Lent, 18 February 2018, 9.30am

 

 

 

 

This Sunday we reflect on the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, as recorded in Mark's Gospel. With a great economy of words, Mark moves from Jesus' baptism to his temptation in the wilderness to the start of proclamation of the Good News in Galilee. That leaves us with a lot to reflect on. We hope you can join us then.

The Sunday Before Lent - Ordinary Time 6 (Pancake Sunday), 11 February 2018, 9.30am

Our Lord healing a leper

The green embroidery in the sanctuary this Sunday, which reminds us of growth and the miracle of life in the everyday world, will make way for the colour violet on Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Violet is a colour that is connected with reflection, repentance and return to God - our purpose for being. It is a shade that may not work all that well with the red curtains behind the altar, but if it is effective – to any extent – at bringing our wandering hearts and minds back to their Creator, the visual dissonance is completely forgivable. The theme of healing that we encountered in last Sunday’s readings continues this Sunday but the sickness becomes more specific. Leprosy is the disease referred to in the first reading and in the Gospel. Today we define leprosy as an infectious disease of the skin, mucous membranes and nerves that medicine can control and cure. In first century Palestine any persistent disease that affected a person’s skin might be called leprosy. The social effect of being labelled a leper was severe. You had to leave your family and break off all normal contact with other people. In an age that didn’t have a cure for leprosy or many other medical conditions, this sort of segregation was understandable, but it must have been a hellish existence for the afflicted, cut off in every way from their previous life. Those with money may have done better than the average person if they became leprous – no matter what age one lives in, this tends to be the case; they might retreat to the equivalent of a NZ bach in an isolated place and have meals delivered - but the average person in the ancient world had to survive by teaming up with other similarly-diseased individuals and eek out a living by begging. It is that sort of individual who encounters Jesus in today’s Gospel passage. The remarkable thing about the man cured of his leprosy is his perception as well as his faith. He knows immediately that Jesus has the ability to heal him, and he trusts that if Jesus is of a mind to heal him, he will be healed. He had that gift to see what others did not see and to believe in something that others easily dismissed. His insight, on a fundamental level, was a gift of the Holy Spirit, but on a practical level it was enhanced by the way his life had been stripped of the distractions that beset people in everyday life. Something positive had come out of a negative situation. That is a theme that echoes through the Gospel Story as a whole, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent is the time when Christians deliberately simplify their lives so that we too can recognise Jesus, reach out to him, and be healed.                                                                                         

Tony Surman

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4 February 2018, 9.30am

'And the whole city was gathered around the door', painted by James Tissot (1836-1902)

Healing was a major part of Jesus' earthly ministry. This Sunday, as we continue to work our way through the Gospel of Mark, we are presented with two accounts of healings that occurred early on in our Lord's ministry. The first involves the healing of Peter's mother-in-law, and the second relates to the healing that Jesus offered, later the same day, to 'many who were sick with various diseases.' The social contexts in which these healings were performed were very different. In the former case, the healing was in a private setting and performed on a person with whom Jesus was probably already acquainted. In the latter instance, 'the whole city,' Mark informs us, 'was gathered around the door' of St Peter's house, and Jesus did his very best to bring healing and wholeness to them. Good news, it would appear, travels fast. Jesus' generous response to being inundated by physically and mentally ravaged people at the end of a day that had already been very busy can only be explained by the uncommon love that Jesus had (and has) for all people. Although he didn't know them - as the expression goes - from a bar of soap, he took significant time out of his day to relieve their suffering in body and mind. That is very intensive work at the best of times. It is physically and spirituality draining - which explains why our Lord moved on from there, 'while it was still very dark' to a quiet place on his own where he could pray. Jesus was no 'grand-standing' actor, craving attention and signing the odd autograph. He was 'the real deal,' fully authentic, putting aside personal comfort and convenience to help people in desperate need. The same sort of love is evident, to varying degrees, in the post-Easter ministry of Jesus' apostles. It is mirrored in St Paul's assertion in today's epistle reading that he had 'become all things to all people, that [he] might by all means save some.' Paul wasn't boasting in this instance about any achievement on his own part, but spelling out what the loving Spirit of the Risen Christ had compelled him to become - a person with a heart for all people, not just his close friends and family, but everyone, so that the liberation, healing and joy that Christ had brought him could be received by the biggest number of people possible. He referred to this compulsion as an obligation and a commission. Unlike many compulsions the world generates, Paul's drivenness had no destructive element to it because it was motivated by selfless love. That is the sort of motivation that ought to be at the heart of every decision we make. Humanly it is impossible, which is why we pray for that capacity to God for whom nothing is impossible. 

The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany, 28 January 2018, 9.30am

Jesus teaching, James Tissot (1836-1902)

When Jesus taught about the Reign of God / Heaven, he did so with authority. He didn't equivocate or defer to the opinions of earlier teachers, but spoke the truth in a way that was perceived by his listeners as self-authenicating. This is not to say that he disregarded the many truths that had been spoken by Holy people before him; to the contrary, he was aware of those truths and committed to the loving principles of God that were behind them. But it is to say that Jesus was capable of delivering messages that were novel, fresh and incredibly powerful whilst remaining faithful to his religious tradition at its finest. His disciples, through the power of the Risen Christ, would go on to demonstrate the same uncanny ability. This Sunday we dip our toes into what it might mean to speak with authority in Jesus' name.

The Third Sunday of Epiphany, 21 January 2018, 9.30am

The calling of Sts Peter and Andrew, Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1255

The Key theme this Sunday - the Calling to Discipleship - Mark 1:14-20

The Second Sunday of Epiphany, 14 January 2018, 9.30am

In the Book of Genesis (Gen 28:10-19) we learn that Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had a vivid dream whilst sleeping in open country  of a staircase that connected heaven and earth, upon which angels ascended and descended. In the Gospel this Sunday (John 1:43-51), Jesus alludes to this event when he welcomes into his friendship a new disciple, Nathanael. Intriguingly, Jesus suggests that, in the fulness of time, he himself will be the ladder that Jacob had dreamed of many hundreds of years earlier. This Sunday we will look at what this might mean for us and all people. We hope you can join us.  

The First Sunday of Epiphany, 7 January 2018

This Sunday we commemorate the arrival of the Magi - the Wise Men as the KJV and NRSV translates the word - in Bethlehem after a long, deliberate journey to pay homage to the infant King of the Jews. The Magi represent the non-Jewish world and signal the inclusion of all people in the decisive work that God was doing through Jesus of Nazareth. In a number of ways they were unlikely visitors. We will examine some of that strangeness this Sunday and contemplate the happy consequences of that fact for all who genuinely seek the truth.

The First Sunday of Christmas, 31 December 2017, 9.30am

It happens that this year the First Sunday of Christmas is the last day of 2017. In this service we continue to explore what it means for the Word of God to become human in the person of Jesus Christ, and we have the opportunity to give thanks for the year that has been and pray that our journey with God will deepen and strengthen in the year to come.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 2017

In the Church's way of thinking, a new day begins at sun set, which means that the Service we have on 24 December, beginning at 8.30pm genuinely is a Christmas Service. During that service we celebrate the first Eucharist of Christmas, through which Christ is made real in our hearts, just as he was made real in a very special way in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. On Monday, 25 December we have a morning service at 9.30am to give thanks for the birth of Christ and the continued expression of his love in the world today through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent, 24 December 2017, 9.30am

The theme of this Sunday morning is Love. The fourth advent candle will be lit to remind us of the love that God has for each one of us and the world that God created. During this Service there will be a Nativity Play in place of the usual readings, Gospel and sermon, that should help us come nearer to the mystery and joy of Christmas - and have a lot of fun at the same time!

The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), 17 December 2017

This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday – Rejoice Sunday – the title of which comes from the Latin introit (the opening sentence of a service) traditionally used this day in the Western Church; the English translation of that introit being:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

Gaudete Sunday has a more upbeat feel to it than the other Sundays in Advent, being less focussed on judgement and more on the joy of God coming to and being with his people. In the Gospel, the focus is on Mary who, it can be fairly said, demonstrates that she is the first Christian when she says ‘yes’ to God’s will that she be the Mother of our Lord.

Unlike other Sunday’s at St Martin’s @ St Chad’s, we have no Communion Service this morning. Instead we have a feast of Scripture readings from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and Christmas Carols which point towards, and rejoice in, the miracle of God becoming human and dwelling with us. May this service bring joy to your heart and soul.                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                 Tony Surman

 

 

The Second Sunday of Advent, 10 December 2017, 9.30am

In all four Gospels, John the Baptist is reported to have made a very clear statement about his inferiority to Jesus by referring to Jesus’ sandals and exclaiming that he was either not worthy to untie them from Jesus’ feet (Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:27) or to carry them (Matthew 3:11). When one thinks of the sort of work that John was engaged in, and the following that he had gained, his overt subordination to Jesus is remarkable. People don’t usually respond this way to someone who arrives on the scene with the charisma, talents, presence – you name it – to put them out of business. Consider the facts: John was older than Jesus, dedicated to a life-long, ascetic ministry in the Judean wilderness, widely known and respected. Then along comes his younger, northern cousin to whom he subordinates himself and all that he has done. His humility is so clear and absolute that it has led some to suspect that these words of submission were put into John’s mouth a generation or more after the earthly ministries of John and Jesus by Christians endeavouring to legitimize their claim that Jesus was the Messiah, in the face of counterclaims from disciples of John the Baptist that he was prior to Jesus and therefore superior to him in importance. I think it is very likely that the earliest Christian writers – the individuals and groups behind the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – did recognise that, in the circumstances, they had some explaining to do as to how it was that a person, who had at one time come to John for baptism, could now be Lord of all, but I don’t think it is impossible that John responded the way he did when Jesus appeared on his horizon. I suspect that John the Baptist, like other great figures of biblical history and into the present time, had a gift of the Spirit that allowed him to take a ‘God’s eye’ view of what was happening when Jesus appeared for baptism, and not to feel threatened by the advent of God’s Messiah. It was a gift grounded, undoubtedly, in humility, that is, in the sense that he, like everyone else was part of a much larger plan of salvation, the blueprint of which is in the mind of God. May we be so sighted when our Lord approaches us on ‘our’ turf.

 Tony Surman

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page

The First Sunday of Advent, 3 December 2017, 9.30am

Advent is a time for reflection and repentance as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, the nativity of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The colour in the sanctuary is violet/purple/lavender, just as it was during Lent, which also is a time of preparation, specifically for Easter. 

Advent 1 marks the beginning of the Church's Year. In terms of our reading cycle (using the Revised Common Lectionary) we move from a focus on Matthew's Gospel (Year A), to Mark's Gospel (Year B), interspersed with a considerable number of readings from John's Gospel.

Mark's Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels and most likely the earliest account amongst them of Jesus' life, ministry, death and resurrection. Matthew and Luke both borrowed from Mark's Gospel in the composition of their own Gospels, but they had other sources besides Mark's Gospel that they worked from, some specific to them and at least one other (referred to as 'Q' from the German 'quelle' = source) which they referred to in common. As a consequence, their Gospels are longer and, in a sense, richer, but Mark more than makes up for his leaner, more minimalistic effort by the directness of his presentation. It is not polished, embellished or flowery, but instead rather rough and ready, immediate (a linking word used frequently in Mark's Gospel, actually, is 'immediately') and gripping. It arrests people and it changes them..you have been warned! Give it a go.

Tony Surman

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page

 

The Reign of Christ in all Creation, 3 December 2017, 9.30am

Christ the King, Cappella Palatina, Palermo

  

In the Gospels, Jesus uses a number of parables and metaphors to describe the Kingdom/Reign of God/Heaven. It is like good seed sown amongst weeds (Matt 13:24-30), like a mustard seed or yeast (Matt 13:31-33; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-21), like hidden treasure (Matt 13:44) and a number of other images which we have examined this year as we have worked our way through the Gospel of Matthew. We have also seen, on our journey through the New Testament, that Jesus has a very special role to play in the Reign of God. He is, in the words of Colossians 1:15, the 'image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation," who now reigns supreme in the universe (Col 1:18). This indeed is good news. The sovereignty that Jesus, as the risen Christ, has over the universe, while present and active in the here and now, is still not fully realised. That fact is plain to see in the world around us where there are many alternative fiefdoms vying for our allegiance. That is a real shame because when we surrender to Christ's Lordship, our lives, in every part, begin to develop in positive ways.  That positivity flows beyond ourselves and out into creation, where it remedies the damage done by selfish human striving. Although it benefits the created world in all sorts of ways, Christ's reign is much more than a physical phenomenon. In response to concerns within the early Roman church about whether or not it was right to eat certain types of food, Paul wrote, for example, that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17). Paul loved to draw contrasts between the world that humans tend to create when left to their own devices, and the world as God would have it. Those contrasts could give the impression that everything material in this world stands in opposition to God’s Kingdom. That, however, is not how Paul or the other writers of the New Testament saw things. For them the material world is still God’s creation, and God is able, through it, to bring people into his Kingdom, not least through the simple elements of bread and wine which we share in remembrance of our Sovereign Lord's sacrificial love for us. 

Tony Surman

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page

 

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, 19 November 2017, 9.30am

St Isaac the Syrian - an Orthodox mystic of the seventh century, who wrote about the positive link that exists between spiritual peace and the created order.

The readings this Sunday are focussed on creation and our call to be good stewards of the world that God created. 

Our Lord attested to the beauty and intricacy of the world that God has created and oversees to the finest detail (Matt 10:29-30). Christians of every denomination over the last two thousand years have echoed Jesus’ deep respect for nature and seen it, as he did, as a realm created by God to which human beings have a special duty of care. Mystics and theologians across the centuries have proclaimed nature (both the outside world and ourselves) as windows, icons or sacraments through which we encounter God. They have also alerted us to the reality that our relationship with God has a major bearing on the way we value nature and treat it – either for good or ill. By striving first for the Kingdom of God, as Jesus bids us do in this morning’s Gospel (Matt 6:33), human beings become more attuned to nature, working with natural processes, rather than against them. The quotes that follow are a very small sample of what Christian thinkers have said over the last two thousand years about creation.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Cistercian monk, writer and mystic said, “One of the most important — and most neglected — elements in the beginnings of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality, to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things, to come alive to the splendour that is all around us.”

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) wrote in 1990 that “[w]hen man turns his back on the Creator's plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace: "Therefore the land mourns and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and even the fish of the sea are taken away" (Hosea 4:3).”

More than a thousand years earlier, a British monk, St Guthlac (673-714) is reported to have declared that “[t]oo often we lose dominion over the creation which is subject to us precisely because we neglect to serve the Lord of all creation, as it is written, "If you be willing, and will harken unto me, you shall eat the good things of the land," and so forth (Isaiah 1:19).”

Finally, St Isaac the Syrian (born about 640AD), wrote about the positive link that exists between spiritual peace - which comes when we look inward to the Kingdom of God that is to be found there (see Luke 17:21) - and the created order: “Be at peace with your soul; then heaven and earth will be at peace with you. Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you, and so you will see the things that are in heaven; for there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the kingdom is hidden within your soul. Flee from sin, dive into yourself, and in your soul you will discover the stairs by which to ascend." 

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page.

 

Parish Patronal Feast Day, 12 November 2017, 10.30am

A statue of St Chad of Mercia

The two Saints we call to mind today on our Patronal Festival, St Martin of Tours (c.316- 397) and St Chad of Mercia (634-672), served Christ with unusual dedication and faithfulness. They were born and died centuries apart – Martin being a saint of the fourth century, when Christianity was in the process of becoming the established religion of the Roman Empire, and Chad being an exemplar of holiness in seventh century Britain among the Anglo-Saxons of the enormous Diocese of Mercia, centred on Lichfield (to which the first and only Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, George Selwyn was appointed, 1868 till his death in 1878). Though separated by centuries and hundreds of kilometres (Martin was born in what is now Hungary and did most of his work in France, and Chad was born in Northumbria in Britain), Martin and Chad shared some very similar qualities of character, and indeed St Chad’s spirituality was modelled quite intentionally on St Martin’s.

Both of them were hard workers, furthering the spread of the Gospel amongst the people to whom they had been sent. Martin took the gospel out from the towns and cities of France and into the countryside by establishing the first monastery there, bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who had never heard it before, and beginning a self-perpetuating system of evangelisation through the monastic system he established - monks trained in one monastery would move to a new location and establish a new monastery which would itself become vital to the lives of those around it. Chad walked, and then rode a horse, around his enormous Diocese as its Bishop, urging his people on, and died less than three years into his episcopate from plague. They were then, both pioneers and missionaries, at work on the frontier of Christendom and beyond – a place that many churches now are finding themselves in all over again. 

Both were noted for their humility, their simplicity of life, their down-to-earth nature and resilience in the face of opposition (often coming from within the church). What inspired them in their struggles was Christ’s promise of a Kingdom that was already among them, but yet to be fulfilled.  We still await the coming of God’s Reign in its fulness, and as we do so we gain encouragement from knowing that Martin and Chad are part of the great cloud of saintly witnesses who urge us on to be Christ’s hands and feet in our time and place. 

Tony Surman

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page

All Saints Sunday, 5 November 2017, 9.30am

Bill Murray, as the lead role in the movie St Vincent (2014)

In the New Testament the word saint is a synonym for Christian, a follower of Christ. So when St Paul addressed his letters to ‘the saints who are in Ephesus/Philippi/Achaia,’ he was referring to all the Christians in those places and not to an elite group within them who had led a particularly heroic life of virtue. Over time, however, the meaning of sainthood developed until it became a descriptor of those who had led exemplary Christian lives, and frequently left a trail of achievements in their wake. This developed meaning of sainthood is the one that informs the popular imagination in our society of what a saint is. That is not bad thing, but what isn’t so helpful are the stereotypical characteristics that this collective consciousness associates with saints – being other-worldly, prudish, humour-less even. There can be no doubt that Christianity is a serious business, but I’m almost as sure that if we were privileged to see into the everyday world of Christianity’s greatest celebrities, they would appear a lot more human and earthy than the popular imagination would credit. Two or three years ago I saw a movie which artfully debunked the idea that sainthood is the preserve of the ‘hyper-holy.’ It was called ‘Saint Vincent’ and follows the life of a cash-strapped, older American man, Vincent, played by Bill Murray, whose hobbies and interests are quite earthy (without going into specifics). Vincent is revealed, nevertheless, as a saint by his next-door neighbour, Oliver, who’s about 10 years old. Vincent reluctantly baby-sits Oliver after school for a few months while the boy’s mother works overtime to keep a roof over their heads. During that time Oliver discovers that Vincent’s poverty is the result of his commitment to keeping his wife, suffering from dementia, in the most upmarket care facility he really can’t afford. He learns some other things about Vincent that also speak to the quality of his character, but I don’t want to spoil the movie for you anymore than I already have, suffice to say that when the boy is given a project from school to describe a saint he knows, Vincent is his choice. On the night when the children give their speeches in the school hall, Vincent foots it very well with the likes of Mother Teresa and John Paul II. It’s not a family movie, but I commend it to the adults in our congregation, as it was commended to me by a parishioner a couple of years ago.

For the sermon preached this Sunday, please go to the sermon page

 

Tony Surman

Earlier introductory pieces are archived in the lower portion of the Home page