Anzac day and resurrection

Wars and rumours of wars. Sounds like the news last night doesn’t it? Actually the news last night was full of Anzac day coverage. We have an interesting juxtaposition at this time of year – we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, once and for all time, and yet, we are commemorating those who have died in battle.

Wars and rumours of wars. These things are always with us. You would think that by now, in the 21st century, human beings would have found another way to reconcile their differences other than annihilating one another, but no, war has always been a distressing part of the human condition. And yet, He is risen, Alleluia, He is risen indeed, alleluia! Continue reading

Laws and Commandments

Service St Chad’s Wednesday March 22 2017.

Readings: Ps 147:13-20

Matt 5:17-19

Often in the church the Old Testament tends to get ignored. People say, well, we’ve got Jesus now, we don’t need all that Old Testament stuff, all that fire and brimstone, all those rules.

It’s true that a lot of religious rules and customs had arisen by Jesus’ time, and he was quick to point out where they didn’t line up with God’s overarching love for people. In today’s Gospel, Jesus states quite clearly that he has not come to replace the Old Testament, but to fulfil it. Not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, or in the King James version, not one jot or tittle – will pass from the law till all is accomplished. Continue reading

Can black-and-white texts help us?

Ps 94:12-18

Mark 9: 38-40

A sermon for St Chad’s Linwood Christchurch NZ on the anniversary of the Canterbury earthquake, Feb 22 2011

Sometimes the Bible is really clear, in black and white. Sometimes it’s not, but actually the clarity of today’s passages can be a bit difficult. Jesus says, either someone is for me or against me. In our world we all like a bit of wriggle-room, and Anglicans in particular are fond of a nuanced answer.

But Jesus is clear when he tells the disciples not to stop the person casting out demons in His name. The disciples had got all judgemental, deciding that the exorcist wasn’t a proper follower of Jesus. They didn’t know him, he wasn’t part of what they were part of. They wanted to see Jesus discipline him, rebuke him, because he didn’t belong, and they thought he had no mandate. But Jesus, as usual, has no time for outward judgementalism. He knew what was at the heart of the man, and looked towards what he was doing. The man was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The demons knew whose name was being invoked, but the disciples, as was often the case, were a bit too hung-up on form. Jesus made it quite clear – Whoever is not against us is for us. The disciples had no wriggle-room. They had no right to decide if someone could be part of what they were part of.

Our Psalm today is also in black-and-white. No complicated parables to leave us scratching our heads today!

God will stand up for his people. God will rise up for us against the wicked. If we follow God’s laws we will be happy. It’s all really clear isn’t it?

Sometimes however life is not so clear, so black-and-white. Today we are commemorating the anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake, where so many people’s lives were changed. I wasn’t living here then. When the earthquake hit I was up a ladder painting Nathan’s bedroom ceiling, and Kevin called me to the TV. I saw what so many of you were in the midst of – chaos and loss of life. I’m sure many of you had the same thought I did – why Lord? It’s not fair. We don’t deserve this.

It’s at times like this when black-and-white bible readings don’t seem to mesh very well with our reality. People are still suffering here – children still won’ go for a sleepover for fear of another quake, houses are still not repaired properly let alone insured, and it has all taken a huge toll. What can the Bible say to help us in these situations?

14 For the Lord will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;

We don’t know when life will get easier, or if we have to wait until we are united with God in heaven. But we do know that the Lord walks the walk with us, that he is always close by, sharing our burdens and our pain, and our joys too. 

The last line from today’s psalm is:

When I thought, “My foot is slipping,”
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.

That tells us that it’s okay to think that our foot is slipping. It’s ok to admit that we are not ok. God’s steadfast love has held us up so far, and it always will. I have noticed that older people seem to be quicker to remember this than younger people. There is an unshakeableness (is that a word?) that I see in people who have been through many of life’s challenges.

Our psalm encourages us to hang in there-

15 for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

May we remember this as we hold the years since the quakes in our hearts today.

I’m starting to understand poverty…

No, no need to be concerned about our lack of funds. It’s not our poverty I’m starting to understand. indeed, we are truly rich in all the ways that matter.

We have been living in Aranui for 8 months, the poorest suburb in Christchurch, as the newspapers delight in telling us, along with shots of rusty playground equipment and fast-food signs. We have been getting to know people, mainly through our kids’ friends, and I’m starting to understand what poverty can be. Continue reading

A new home

Since I last posted, we have had many changes with our family. We have moved to Christchurch! People ask, bemused, why? Well, I grew up here, and we are now close to Mm and my sister, so we are enjoying more family time, although learning new rhythms has been a  bit of a challenge. I hadn’t realised until we moved how isolated we were previously. Maybe having a house full of kids takes up all my attention and I forget to call anyone else!

I have also been continuing to feel God’s call to the priesthood, so I contacted Bishop Victoria, who invited me on a discernment weekend. She wants to see me established as a parishioner for six months before she will consider me for parish work, and priesting is a conversation to have further down the track.

This means that instead of writing sermons and leading services, I am a lady of leisure, and it’s a bit odd really. I hope, now that I have sorted out the computer which was clogged up with Nathan’s games, to be able to write regularly on this blog.

Meanwhile, I am trying to establish a  garden in our large but empty section, which has very sandy soil. I am also making a patchwork quilt for my son Morgan and his fiancee Becca. yay!

Blessings from Felicity

Refiner’s Fire

Refiner’s Fire

How are you going on your New Years’ resolutions? Are you keeping all those decisions to give up unhealthy food, exercise more, transform your life? No, I didn’t think so. Well, I didn’t even make any – you all know how I feel about exercise!

Are you ready for the Lord to come again? The prophet Malachi tells us that God will be like a furnace that purifies gold or silver, and that no one will be able to stand up to him. God’s purity is so intense that it will burn us, melt us, refine us.

Does that sound like a pleasant thing? No, it is downright scary,

if you think about the process of smelting silver, and Josiah has shown me a clip on you-tube where the fellow starts with a bucket of ore and ends up with a silver ring. Continue reading

Weddings

Weddings

It’s the wedding season! Have you been to a wedding yet this summer? Are you going to one in the next few months?Weddings can be exciting and romantic, but they can also bring out the worst in people. There are so many expectations about the day itself, and about the supposed perfection of the new spouse.But wedding days can be very stressful. Marriages can be a source of disappointment.

When I was 19, and my boyfriend said, how would you like to get married? I was on cloud nine! My feet didn’t touch the ground! I had a picture in my mind of my life, that getting married was what you did when you grew up, and everything would go fine from here. You see, I had the blessing of parents with a very healthy marriage. They were my main role model. I soon discovered that my marriage was not what I had hoped. I was always wanting more. Wanting more time and attention, wanting a fuller relationship. I had not taken into account my husband’s underlying problems, and I had no experience to deal with them.

Our Isaiah reading presents two possibilities – deserted and childless, or happily married. But I’m sure all of you know that there are many other options in relationships. How about married and childless? Married and lonely? Happily single? Unhappily married? to name just a few. 

But God presents both ends of the spectrum to us as a contrast. First, that sense of complete desertion, aloneness, having been let down and deserted by everyone, with no one to care for us in our old age. The other end of the spectrum is Happily Married – maybe it’s an aspirational state, but I think we all know what it can mean. That sense that when you walk into the room, your spouses’ eyes light up at the sight of you. Maybe that sense of companionship that means you don’t have to talk to communicate.

God wants that sort of relationship with us. We no longer have to feel deserted, as if there is no one one in the universe who cares about us. We don’t have to feel that when we die there will be no one to miss us, to mourn, or to carry on our legacy. God is always with us, filling our loneliness, caring for us, and God has human hands and feet, and arms. In those people round us, made in God’s image, we can find family, we can find children, we can find love. We all need each other.

These days, so much of our interaction takes place on a screen, with a keyboard, or a mouse, a stylus. Last week at prayers and squares, 6 of our kids were here, it being the school holidays. I looked in to the church to check up what everyone was doing, as they were very quiet, to see 6 young heads drooped over 5 small screens. I don’t think they were interacting at all! This is a very real danger in our technological world, that we spend all our time on line, and forget how to look someone in the eye, how to smile a them, how to hug them. We all share the Peace very enthusiastically here at St Mary’s hugging and talking to everyone. It’s often a bit of a challenge to get everyone ready to sing the offertory hymn actually! But how about when you go home? Do you spend many hours with a screen in front of you? God wants us to give more of ourselves to each other.

The other end of the spectrum from Deserted and Childless in our Isaiah reading is Happily Married. Isaiah predicts for the people of Israel a time when God will be so near to them that they are like a happily married couple. You know the sort, that finishes each others’ sentences, that knows when to give each other a bit of space, that loves each other unconditionally, even when provoked and grumpy. This does not mean that you have to be happily married to enter the kingdom of heaven. No no no. It refers to a type of loving relationship that we can have with God if we let God in, and that means letting other people in.

Churches have often been very much centred around the family, and single people and people without children have often felt like they just didn’t fit in. But we don’t need to have our neat and tidy family along the pew next to us to belong to the kingdom of heaven. I haven’t got a neat and tidy family anyway, mine are challenging and all over the place at times. It’s people outside the church who are quick to look at the family life of Christians, and say, ooh look, the pastor’s teenage daughter is pregnant, what sort of an upbringing must she have had? The pastor must be a hypocrite.

No, the pastor is a human being, and so is her daughter. I’ve found that when I first meet people outside the church, and tell them I am a minister, they can be a bit inclined to sit up straighter, try visibly to not swear, and look a bit uncomfortable. But if I give them a bit of my story, such as saying that I was divorced, or a single mum for some time, they relax, knowing that my life has not been (and still isn’t, I might add) squeaky clean. As if such things matter. What matters is loving God, following Jesus, and showing others Jesus’ love.

Today’s Gospel is the great story of the wedding at Cana, often used to illustrate how much God values marriage, by showing us Jesus’ first miracle in the setting of a wedding. In the Jewish society Jesus lived in, marriage was very important, but it’s the hospitality side of the wedding feast that is the main point of this miracle story. The wedding had taken place, the couple were legally married and would still have been if the wine had run out. But providing generous hospitality was a high value in the prevailing culture. The hosts would have lost face, reputation, and community standing if they had run out of wine.

Let’s look again at what Jesus did. He took water that was used for purification rites, and transformed it into wonderful wine. We use the phrase in the prayer book, ‘making ritual water Gospel wine, cleansing all our worship.’ Here we see the water of a religious ritual, something that was required, a legality, if you like, being transformed into something wonderful, rich and intoxicating, and having a different effect on us. We must allow God to transform our rituals from being a long tall drink of water, to the heady richness of wine, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us.

I hope there’s no cop breathalysing us on the way home today…

Only then when the Holy Spirit’s power is transforming us, does it ‘cleanse all our worship’. And that doesn’t just mean the part of our lives that is Sunday mornings. All our lives can be lived as worship, every relationship, every encounter, as we see the face of Jesus in all those we meet. Then the marriage metaphor can be fulfilled, that we are joined into the kingdom of heaven, as in a happy marriage!