The New Temple

March 7 St Ambrose

Exod 20:1-17

John 2:13-22

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild. I don’t think so! I don’t know what Bible the writer of that hymn had read, or if they were merely trying to contain the behaviour of their children by giving a supposed example of Godly behaviour. But they badly missed the boat with this one!

Jesus takes rope, and braids a cord, and uses it as a whip to drive the animals, and those who tend them, and the money-changers out of the temple!

This story shows a Jesus who is incandescent with anger at what is happening in the temple. There are many reasons for his anger, but let’s first look at the impact it had on those around him!

The temple was not just any little corner synagogue. If someone came in here and angrily threw us all out, and turned over the table, it would be annoying, upsetting and a nuisance, but it wouldn’t really impact the whole of Christianity would it? We would just pick up the pieces, pray for the disturber of the peace, and take up where we left off.

But the Temple in Jerusalem was the mother-ship, if you like of the whole Jewish religion! It’s like St Peter’s in Rome, for the Catholics! Or like any major cathedral in its city, only more so.

Not only was the temple the centre for religious life and worship, but it was also a place of ‘politics and society, of national celebration and mourning’, in the

words of Tom Wright. It was the very symbol of what it meant to be Jewish, and it had already been destroyed and rebuilt several times. It was a holy place.

Ah, a holy place. This is what Jesus’ objection was to the way the temple was being used. ‘Stop making this holy place a marketplace!’ he shouted. In other gospels he says that the people have made his father’s house a den of thieves. Very strong language!

Why were there animals in the temple, and money-changers anyway?

People came from far and wide to offer sacrifices in the temple, according to their law. Some would bring an animal with them, but others needed to buy one. There was a corrupt practice around this that went on – the animal presented had to be perfect, and the people would bring it up to the priests to be inspected. The scam went that the priest would say, ‘no, it’s got a blemish, you can’t offer that one. Here, buy this one, it’s all good. By the way, that will cost you a hundred dollars.’ Then they would take the animal that was brought in originally, put it in the pen with the rest, and flog it off to some other poor unsuspecting worshipper, and make even more money! Dodgy, huh?

How about the money-changers? Again, because folk came from many nations to worship at the temple, they might not have the right currency. There was a special coin that was designated for temple offerings, and you had to use these ones. OK, if there’s a fair and consistent price. But the money-changers had full control as to what exchange rate they were offering for the foreign coins.

I heard about a similar scam last year in Lyttelton, yes, just over the hill from here. The seafarers come off the boat with American dollars for their coinage, and the local shop keepers do accept these. But some of them were taking them dollar-for-dollar for NZ dollars! But, you say, the American dollars are worth more! Yes, the seafarers were being ripped off. I was ashamed of our city when I heard about this practice, and glad to know that the chaplain to the port was dealing with the issue.

When we look back into our first reading, we can see some of the reason why Jesus behaved as he did. The first commandment is I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;you shall have no other gods before me.’

Maybe the money-changers and the animal-sellers had another god before God – the god of greed and corruption.

The second commandment expands on the first – ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol,You shall not bow down to them or worship them’.These days there are not so many literal golden calves that people worship, but many things can become idols and take our focus off God – work, sport, family, grandchildren, video-games… anything which we give all our time, attention, money and love to can be an idol if we let it.

The people in the Temple were not putting God first.

But there’s another commandment that is being broken here, and it’s one that is a warning for the world, the fourth commandment.

‘You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.’

I used to think that this meant using God’s name as a swear word. Yes, that is one way to interpret it. God’s name is holy and doesn’t fit in a sweary sentence, especially a violent and harmful one. But making wrongful use of God’s name can also mean doing things in God’s name, which go against the nature of God.

For example, we know that God is all-loving. Behaviour that isn’t loving, is hurtful or discriminatory, is not Godly. Therefore claiming that it is being done in God’s name is misusing His Holy name, and breaking the fourth commandment.

Many awful things have been done in the past in the name of religion – people have taken power on themselves by invoking the powerful name of God, and their actions have not reflected the nature of God, or shown them to be representatives of Christ on earth. As we let our Holy Spirit radar tingle and twitch, we can call out this behaviour. Hate speech against various groups of our society is therefore not a Godly thing, and not something serious Christians should ever participate in.

Now let’s look at why Jesus cleansed the temple. The Jews asked by what sign he was doing this, but he didn’t tell them much! Instead, he gave this cryptic statement: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

But Herod had started rebuilding this temple 46 years before, and his son was still going on with the work! How could it be rebuilt in 3 days? Now, with 20/20 hindsight, we can think, ah, three days, Jesus is referring to the resurrection! The temple he meant here was the temple of his body. Instead of needing to offer up animal sacrifices, Jesus was pointing to himself as the one perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, the ultimate passover offering. The animals would not be needed any more!

Take Jesus’ example from this story to heart this week, and look for aspects of your life where there might be idolatry, not putting God first, not acting with Kingdom values. Bring them to God in prayer, and remember that this is not the end of the story, because Jesus’ death and resurrection takes away all our sin, and accept that forgiveness.

Something Incredible

Sermon Dec 24 St Chad’s

Isaiah 9:2-7

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

Something incredible happened, about 2024 years ago. A baby was born. Whenever a new baby arrives something incredible happens.

But this was God, you know, God who made the heavens and the earth, who called light into being, whose hands hold the universe!

We have been looking at the stars recently to see two great planets come near to each other, and this is only a tiny part of what God created, and is still creating.

But a tiny, helpless baby is born. God was here on the earth, on a little blue and green marble in the vast galaxies of God’s own creation. Not only was God here, but in a dusty, forlorn country, forced to do the will of a mighty power. And not only in lowly Bethlehem, but God was not in a palace, or in a castle. God didn’t even have a house to be born in.

There was no room for God in the way of the powerful.

But God always makes a way, and God came to earth from a woman’s body, and she made a place for him to sleep.

There is always a way with God. Even where we might not think there is anywhere, God isn’t fussy, and will come to us wherever we will make room for God.

The innkeeper who had no rooms left could have turned Mary and Joseph away, and let them fend for themselves, but there was a place for them, if they were prepared to put aside all thoughts of comfort, or dignity, and make do.

In the same way God will come to you, if you make even the smallest chink of space.

The readings we have had leading up to Christmas have talked about the house of David, whether that be a house built of cedar wood to hold the ark of the covenant, or the house as in a family line.

Jesus was born in the family, the house of David. The physical house wasn’t important, it was the people he was born to who were the fulfilment of the prophecy about his birth.

We hear the story of the nativity, we sing the carols, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. We know what happened. But let’s look into our readings for why it happened.

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.’

Do you have times of walking in darkness? I know I do. The darkness of the sin in the world, of loneliness, of loss, of lack can make this festive season particularly hard for some. But the real meaning of Christmas is not to point out the darkness and the exclusion from celebrating that many suffer, but to show the great light, come into the world. Why did God come into the world?

Let’s look into Isaiah’s prophecy again.

‘For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken.’

Is the yoke of your burden broken by the freedom of Christ? This is the real reason of Christmas, not to eat too many Roses chocolates while complaining about how the old ones were better.

‘For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace.’

Prince of peace, endless peace. That would be good wouldn’t it? This is why Jesus came to us, to bring justice, righteousness, and peace. Humans are expert at disturbing peace, at treating others as if they don’t matter, but Jesus brings peace. We look at the world though and ask, well, where is this peace?

We have a responsibility. Let’s see what Titus tells us:

‘It is Jesus who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.’

You might think, what can I do? I am just one person, with no influence in the world. When Jesus came to bring peace, he needed somewhere to be born. There was a wee space made for him, squeezed into an inn overflowing with people already. His parents were allowed to tuck down with the animals, and instead of a cot or a basket for the new baby, they had to put him down in the only place where we would be safe from getting stepped on, in the animals’ feeding trough.

Do you have a wee space in you heart for Jesus?

There is an old hymn written a hundred and fifty years ago:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

  1. Refrain 1-4:
    O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
    There is room in my heart for Thee.

As we celebrate the birth of your Lord, so long ago, let’s remember why Jesus came to the world. Not to give us a touching story, though it’s wonderful. Not to inspire a mad shopping and cooking frenzy. Not to get everyone stressed about spending time with relatives, and having your house tidy enough. Jesus came to save all of us from the sin of the human condition, and to bring peace.

Tomorrow, the next day, and so on, I urge you to keep pondering on these things in your heart, that heart that has Jesus in it. May you come to God in prayer and strive to do your own part for bringing peace to the world.

And then we will see the prophecy fulfilled:

‘His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.’

Houses

Houses

Sermon Dec 20 St Ambrose Aranui

2 Samuel 7:1-16

Luke 1:26-38

What is a house? In our reading from Samuel we see two meanings of a house. First. David starts thinking about the house he lives in – a house of cedar. The best wood, beautiful and sweetly scented, imported from Lebanon. The cedar tree is so important to Lebanon, even now, that it is on their national flag.

David had peace and rest from fighting, and starting looking round for a new project. Why not build God a house? I live here in this lovely building, but God lives in a tent! Surely this can’t be right?

This idea came from the bright ideas department – you know, the one where we get all starry-eyed about what a wonderful project our idea will be, and how it will look, without looking at all the consequences, and all the steps and resources involved. But David was a king and was accustomed to getting his own way. He had yet to learn the hard way in the sorry tale of his involvement with Bathsheba, but in this reading David does indeed listen to the words of the prophet Nathan. “Are you the one to build me a house? Said the Lord. I have been in a tent all the time I have been with you. Did I ever speak a word with any of the leaders of Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

Well, this should be the end of the bright ideas department. David knew then that building the house for the Lord was not for him, and later on we read that his son Solomon was the one to undertake the project.

But God has more to say to David about the future, and promises him, ‘I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’

Then God uses the other meaning of house, that is, a family line, a dynasty.

‘Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.’

Can you imagine what was going through David’s mind? No more worrying about getting another load of cedar from Lebanon, but thoughts of the future. This meant that his children, and his children’s children, for ever, would be kings! An awesome future, but also a huge responsibility.

We like watching those archaeology programmes on Choice on a Monday night, and what is obvious is that even where there is a line of descent from one pharaoh or king to another for several generations, after a while it changes. There may be no clear successor in the bloodline, or there may be war and the nation is defeated by another. This had certainly been the story in Israel, and was to continue that way until the present day really, if you think about all the nations who have ruled over that area.

But, in a typical ‘God’ way, it was not just the earthly that was being referred to here.

If we skip froward a thousand years from the time of David, the angel Gabriel in our reading from Luke tells Mary, and us, more about this house:

‘And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

Mary and her betrothed, Joseph, were both of the house and lineage of David, that is, they were direct descendants of David. It’s a bit like being an O’Brien makes my husband a direct descendant of Brian Boru, high king of Ireland. Just as in Mary’s story, this one also goes back a thousand years.

Mary would have been wondering about this one, because even though they had a famous ancestor, they were just ordinary people. Why this baby? Why now? She might have been wondering.

The Jewish people were under occupation, and had long been looking for the Messiah, for the anointed one to lead them to victory and peace. Many thought this would be a military sort of operation, and May would have known the prophecies. But when she thought about the last sentence the angel said, she may well have realised that this was more than an earthly, political solution to oppression, but rather the fulfilment of a long prophecy.

“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart, we are told.

Of his kingdom there will be no end. This must surely refer to God’s kingdom – a time when all is fulfilled and the world is restored to peace in God’s eternal presence. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, so we know that this is talking about something outside the earthly, something of God.

There is another meaning for the House of God too. It refers to the church. It doesn’t just mean the building – we know here in St Ambrose that the worship space is not relevant to the gathering. Our big lovely church building is looking a bit sad at the moment while it is being earthquake-repaired, and this lounge we meet in takes on the duty of sacred space because this is how we use it. The church is where people gather, anywhere. It is the people gathered, it is us. We can be church no matter where we are, it’s the gathering together that is the point. The old Greek word for church, ‘ecclesia’, means ‘called out’. We are people called out from our ordinary world to do something special, to make the house of God, to be the place where God dwells with us. Yes, it is possible to worship God alone, to praise God, to pray, to read scriptures. But it is in coming together that we build the house. Our word ‘communion’ means being together. This was really obvious during lockdown when we couldn’t meet, and wasn’t it wonderful to come together again?

What are our readings today telling us about the house of God? That it is not a building, that it is a God-led family. Human families can disappoint and frustrate us, and sometimes we have to walk away. The family of God isn’t perfect all the time either, and just as in a real family there will be differences and troubles, and the family of God will have its tensions. But if we all turn our eyes upon Jesus, and follow his example, we will grow the house of God here on earth, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

This Christmas time, as you contemplate Jesus, a tiny baby born so long ago, may you know that you are part of the house of God, for ever.

Make the path straight

Dec 13

Isaiah 61

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:6-28

‘Gospel is a familiar word.’ It means Good News! Some of you may remember when the Good News bible translation came out – but actually our faith in God is all about good news!

When we look at our reading from Isaiah it is all about good news, hope for the future.

‘he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion’

Take note that it is good news for the broken hearted. For the sorrowing, for the prisoners. God is concerned with helping those who really need it.

It doesn’t say, good news for the arrogant, for the selfish, for those who already have too much, for those who ignore the poor.

Whenever we find ourselves in lack, whether for resources or for joy God’s good news is proclaimed!

This seems to me to be core of the Christian message, that God will comfort those who need it, God will address our lack, our loneliness, our captivity.

This may mean different things for different people. It’s a re-balancing of the

world – if we cry out to God, God will hear us and restore us.

From time immemorial people have been looking for God to help them. John the Baptist came to the land of Judah, in a time of occupation, when for the last 400 years the people had surely been oppressed. They were looking for God to deliver them, for the saviour to save them, for a military solution.

When John starting preaching in the wilderness, there was a lot of excitement, but tempered with a certain cynicism. He wasn’t the first one to be proclaiming the Lord. There were many who had inspired hopes of the coming of the Messiah.

So the people went out to ask John, who are you? He knew they were looking for the Messiah, the anointed one, so he set their minds at ease and said, nope, not me. Then they started going down the list of potential candidates – are you Elijah? They must have believed in reincarnation to ask this I think. No, not Elijah. Are you the prophet? Which prophet did they mean? The one foretold in Isaiah? But he answered no to that one too, before quoting from Isaiah.

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

He claimed to be no one. Just a voice crying in the wilderness. John was careful not to let the people set him up on a pedestal – he was adamant they were not to worship him. He was a very humble man, living on insects and what he could find in the outback. His clothes were fashioned from what he could find, and he is usually depicted with a wild beard and long messy hair.

The people were desperate for the Messiah to come and save them, but John’s message was clear. I am not the Messiah, but you need to make straight the way of the Lord.

What does this mean?

In the old days whenever a high dignitary was expected to visit a city, the roads were smoothed and made straight, the potholes were filled in, and the bumps removed, so that the king could ride in triumph into the city. No windy, bumpy roads covered in orange cones for the motorcade! Or the camelcade!

Somehow I think that John was not addressing the local city council to fill in the potholes though.

‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’

Make the way clear for God to come into your life. Remove obstacles, holes, rough patches, and let God in. In our world there are so many obstacles to letting God in. One of the most common ones is busyness. This is seen to be a virtue these days –

‘how are you? oh, I’m so busy.’

That seems to be the usual response, with a bit of a smirk of virtue at our busyness. But actually most of the busyness is just distraction, it’s unnecessary. You may have met people who are recently retired, and they say they are so busy they don’t know how they ever had time to go to work!

But John is telling us to re-jig our priorities. If we are going to allow God to ride the straight path into our hearts, we need to clear this path. To put priority on it, to make time, to clear the decks. Even when we have nothing in the diary for the day, it’s easy to fill up all our time with distractions, like reading books all day, scrolling through Facebook, doing puzzles … these are some of my distractions, yours may be different. The priority is that if God is going to come to us, there needs to be our hopeful expectation, that there is actually room for God in our lives. Room for God in our thoughts, in our prayer time.

The people questioning John were the Pharisees, who were always good for a legal argument, and for getting all the details straight.

So they asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

They were suspicious that here was someone who was breaking the rules, going against authority. Note that baptizing was not a new thing – it had long been a Jewish symbol of repentance and readiness to embrace the new.

John’s answer is the climax of the passage –

“I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

Here we see the message of who John is pointing to. It’s still not really clear who and what to expect, but in John’s humble way he points to Jesus. The next bit of the story, which we didn’t have in today’s reading, shows John baptizing Jesus, and all becomes clear.

Who has been a John the baptist in your life? Who has pointed the way to Jesus for you? Christian journeys often grow in fits and starts, with potholes and bumpy roads. Someone who can point out the straight path to us can be very helpful as we learn to trust God in all things. Who have you been John the Baptist to? As we learn the way, we can show others. In the real world, folk are usually helpful if they see someone pulled over at the side of the road, wrestling with the map on the bonnet. I think if we know the way to God, we have a responsibility, and a joy, to share that path, to encourage others to make their path straight in the desert, so that God can come in and set them free.

Generosity

Nov 15 St Ambrose

Generosity

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30

The parable of the talents is a well-known story, and there have been various interpretations of it. Even our word ‘talent’ comes from this story. A talent was a measure of weight, of money. It was quite a lot – more than 50 kilos in New Testament times. This was a story guaranteed to catch the attention of the listener, using the Jewish sense of exaggeration that Jesus used in so many stories.

This story talks about trust. The man going away on the journey gave large sums of money to his servants to invest for him, trusting them to keep his affairs not only in order but productive while he was away, and could not attend to them. God entrusts us with a lot too. It doesn’t look like huge amounts of money to use, most of the time, unfortunately.

But what does God give us? God gives us everything we have – our life, our health, our family, our friends, our work, our abilities. To some, the amount is more than to others. Maybe your pile of health is a bit smaller than it used to be. Maybe your pile of talking- to-people talent is larger than someone else’s. Everyone has something in their pile.

In the story, the servant who had been given a large amount in the first place used it wisely and doubled it. This can happen with large amounts of money – they can be invested and grow. Apparently. I haven’t had the chance to try it. But what do we have that we can grow for the Kingdom? Do you have any ability? This is where we need to think outside the box. The obvious talents are things like musical gifts, sporting prowess.

When is was about 21 I met up with a girl I had gone to school with, who had never been very nice to me and my friends, -she was one of the bullies, you might say. But she told me that she had really envied us! Why? I asked. Her life seemed to have lots of stuff going for it. Because you were so talented, she said. It is true that my friends and I were good at music, and languages and such like. These were very obvious talents – it’s easy to see a talent when someone is painting a picture in front of you, or singing a song, or scoring a century at cricket.

But many of our abilities, our talents, are not so obvious. They may be talents with listening to people, the talent of encouraging people. The talent of affirming people. Loving people. These are the sorts of talents that don’t go around shouting from the roof tops, but just like investing money, they will grow if we use them.

If someone comes into the food bank and they have had a really hard day, we will meet them with love, with listening. With affirmation. I wonder what will grow then? We probably will never know what happens to that person when they go home. Maybe there will grow in their heart a bit of their own talent to love, to affirm, to be a friend. We don’t know, but God knows.

The idea behind this talent is that as God has given so we too must give. God has been incredibly generous to us – therefore we can be equally generous to those we encounter.

It’s a bit counter-cultural though isn’t it? So often in our society people do things when they will be seen, so they can be thanked. There was an add a year or so ago, which showed a man loading the dishwasher, and before he shut the door and turned it on, he checked to see that his wife was noticing! It was funny, but it showed our human need for praise. We can give other people the praise and affirmation that God leads us to give, but we don’t need to seek it for ourself.

God knows our heart, what we do and why we do it, everything about us.

Let’s look at the parable again. The first servant was given a large sum, and doubled it. The second also doubled what he had been entrusted with.

But the third didn’t do anything with it. He feared the Master, and instead of even putting the money in the bank to gain even a bit of interest he hid it in the ground!

What talents are you hiding in the ground? What attributes do you have that could be used for the kingdom of heaven, but you are not using them? This is something to take to God in prayer. There may be things about your life that you see as weaknesses, as failures, that are really talents, things of value for God. I discovered this when I used to help with Pop-in, a play group that our church ran back in Tawa. Here I was, a married woman, with my kids, and some of the young mums who came in were a bit self-conscious about their lack of a wedding ring. They were slow to warm up to me and some of the other helpers, preferring to talk to their own age group. But I got one of those Holy Spirit nudges to tell them a little bit of my story – it was only a tiny bit I shared, not a whole talent, only a couple of cents really. I just told them that I remembered the days of shared custody and struggling by on the DPB.

I could have ignored my earlier life, turned the page and pretended it never happened, but God had given me that to use. As a result, the young single mums opened up to me – they knew I could relate to them in their situation, and that I wasn’t judging them. We were able to develop a warm and friendly relationship, and they were blessed by belonging to the playgroup. As a result of this, several of them joined the church, and those who didn’t were peripheral members, and knew that they could come to us when they needed us.

God used my unlikely-looking talent of having been divorced!

Maybe your back story is a rich mine of experience to help other people. Maybe they can tell by the wise glint in your eye, the compassionate nod of your head, even without you saying a word, that you ‘get’ them, you know where they are coming from.

Our stories are our talents. No matter how ghastly, and I do know that the stories represented by people here would keep Shortland St going for years, if they were even allowed by the censor to use them!

Our reading to the Thessalonians tells us why all this stuff is so important – we don’t know the time when Jesus will come back on earth, and we need to be ready. If we need this, so do those around us, those whom we meet and interact with. We have a duty of care to God’s people everywhere to help them be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and we can all bring that Kingdom closer by sharing our talents with the same generosity our wonderful God has shown to us.

As for me and my house…

Sermon Nov 8 2020

St Chad’s Reverend Felicity O’Brien

Joshua 24:1-25

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

These are stirring words that Joshua spoke aren’t they? I made a tapestry of them for Kevin once – they seemed to be important words to put on our wall to dedicate our home to God.

It’s an interesting exchange between Joshua and the people. He seems to be telling them that they don’t really need to serve the Lord, that they can choose for themselves, and that serving God will be difficult, because God is a jealous God. I think it’s a bit of reverse psychology, just like a father convincing his child to eat broccoli by telling him that he wouldn’t like it and only big boys eat it!

Let’s look at what Joshua said:

15 ‘Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living.’

Here Joshua is issuing them with a challenge, after telling them that God has been with their people since Abraham’s time. They are challenged to make a choice, and then told the conditions of that choice. It will not be easy – far easier for them to follow the gods of their ancestors, or those of the land around them.

This has relevance for us too. Do we want to go on as our family did, or like those around us?

Some of us were raised in a Christian home, and have had that example from youth. But others of us were brought up in a situation where ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ was only used as swear words, and there was no understanding of the overwhelming love of God for each and every one of us. It takes courage, doesn’t it, to go against the norm of our family, and choose to follow God.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, stated Joshua boldly. It gives the best basis for a home, and children raised under God’s banner will always remember it. As parents we can do this when the kids are young, but when they get older they need to make their own mind up as to whom to serve. God has no grandchildren, as the saying goes.

How about following the gods of the surrounding people? In our context that means following those things everyone else worships – it might not be golden calves here in New Zealand, but how about the god of money? Or rugby? Or success? Or keeping up with the Joneses? Those other gods are just as relevant to us as they were to Joshua’s people.

Joshua reminds the people again that God is jealous and there will be no turning back from this decision. They had enough information, and they made a clear choice, with witnesses, that they wanted to follow God.

We too make this clear choice in many ways – by being part of a church family, not just on Sundays, but every day of the week. By promises at baptism and confirmation. By reading scripture and letting it feed us. By allowing time for God to speak to us in prayer. By treating others with the same love that God has shown for us. Sometimes it’s hard to swim against the tide of society to keep following God, but we need to do it, because evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

How does our gospel reading mesh into the story of Joshua’s’ people?

The story of the wise and the foolish virgins is about being prepared. If we are following the Lord, we are prepared for whatever opportunities present themselves- we are open to ways to serve the Lord at all times. It might be a conversation at work, or with a visitor, it might be a choice we make about how

we spend our money. If we are prepared to serve God all the time, and not just in the obvious times, we bring the kingdom of heaven closer to earth.

During November, the thrust of our readings is about the imminent arrival of the kingdom of heaven. Be prepared, because we don’t know when Jesus, the bridegroom is coming. Or, as the bumper sticker has it, ‘Jesus is coming, look busy!’

Part of being prepared for whatever God has in store for us, is keeping in touch with our marching orders. In any job you need to follow instructions to do what is required. Imagine if the boss is trying to give you the next task, and you won’t meet with them, or switch your phone off, and refuse to read texts! Just like this, is what happens if we stop praying. Prayer is a two-way conversation – we bring our joys and our concerns to God, and we also listen to God. Sometimes, the answer comes in a clear audible voice. But that’s the exception. It’s more likely that a thought pops into our mind, or a word of scripture, or a line from a hymn. Maybe you feel a nudge to go in a certain direction. It can be a bit like that childhood game Hunt the Thimble – the people hiding the thimble call out ‘warm, warmer, hot, or colder,’ depending on how close you are to the hidden object. The nudges from the Holy Spirit are a bit like those hints about how warm we are.

Part of the talking about the arrival of the kingdom of heaven is ‘eschatological writing’ or end-time stuff. It can sound very weird and supernatural, and makes for great if rather over-imaginative movies, like the ‘Left Behind’ series that came out in the 90s. Paul tells us a bit about what to expect when the times come to an end:

‘ 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.’

It’s not really an action plan though is it? Or a blueprint. There’s no time frame, no specifics about who will go this way.

The main point for us is this phrase: ‘and so we will be with the Lord forever.’ This is the whole point of being ready for the kingdom of heaven, that we will be with God forever. We don’t know when that will be, but there is a plan for our future. It’s something to look forward to, but it may be a long time coming. That’s why Paul said: ‘therefore encourage one another with these words.’ It sets us on a path of hope.

Our world surely needs hope at this time – with Covid, and rioting as a result of the non-result in America, and wars that have become so commonplace that our News programme doesn’t even bother to report them any more. This is a difficult time we live in. But this has happened before. There have been periods in history where people thought, surely things have got so bad that this must be the end time, that Jesus must be about to catch us all up to himself in the cloud, and we will be with God forever. Maybe this is the time, but even a thousand years ago the thinking was similar. We don’t know. But what we do know is that we will be with God forever. Eventually. This is what we must be prepared for and this is gives us the confidence to make the declaration, with Joshua, that ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

For all the saints

Sermon Nov 1

For all the saints

Rev 7:9-end

Matt 5:1-12

Sometimes I look around our small congregations, and start to wonder about our numbers, and I have to admit there’s a sense of smallness, that we are just a tiny group.

But then readings like we have just heard remind me of the vast number of those who have gone before us! One of the songs we often sing on All Saints’ Day is ‘for all the saints, who from their labours rest.

Let’s have a think about what that is all about.

All the saints! That’s not just the ones with Saint as their title, Saint Mary, Saint Francis, St Ambrose. It’s Saint Terry, Saint Jenny, Saint Dennis, Saint Trixie, Saint Graham, insert name of your parents here! Today we commemorate everyone who has ever loved God, all the way back through time!

How about some of the Old Testament characters? St Isaiah, St Eve, St Adam, St Moses? They don’t tend to get the title St because it has been used for people who have spread the Gospel of Christ.

In the Catholic church there are every specific steps that need to be taken before someone is canonised, that is, recognised as a saint. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one of the newest saints. They have to have had a life of loving God, and also miracles have to be attributed to them.

Today, we take the wider definition of saint. I can see some saints, here; St Ila, St Pete, St Kevin, you are all saints because you all love God and do God’s work in the community.

Thinking about the many millions of saints who have gone before us helps us see that we belong to a larger movement than just the smallish group gathered here today, and other small groups gathered in churches around the city. It is those of any denomination, all around the world!

I have no idea how many people would have ever loved God back through time! It must be billions! If we trust our scripture, we know that these saints who have gone before us have not disappeared from existence. Revelation tells us a bit about their current assignment:

‘And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’

Note that these saints were from every tribe and language – there was no discrimination, no segregation. Everyone can be a saint.

The saints in heaven were crying out salvation belongs to the Lord, and to the Lamb!

They were worshipping God, praising and affirming God as the bearer of Salvation, and the Lamb, that is Jesus, as our saviour.

When we are praying, we can hold the image of these multitudes in our mind, and let our prayers mix with theirs! Whenever you think, what can the prayers of little me do, remember that they will be added to the prayers of all the saints in heaven! That’s a mind-blowing thought really isn’t it? We are part of something so huge, so timeless, so powerful, when we think about the sheer numbers involved! Our prayers will have power because of it.

We hear more about the saints in heaven: They have come out of the great ordeal, and they will never hunger or thirst again, and God will wipe away every

tear from their eyes! That’s the future for us as saints in God, and what we can look forward to in eternity with Christ!

On Wednesday we were talking about some of the Negro Spirituals, which often have an idea of going across a river to a new land where there will be no more sorrow. They are talking about the kingdom of heaven.

Our reading from the Gospel also talks about the kingdom of heaven by showing us hope for the future:

Let’s see if we can remember some of the endings:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs ….is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they ….will be comforted.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they ….will inherit the earth.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they …will be filled.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will ….receive mercy.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will ….see God.

These are words of encouragement, but they are not specific about when we will receive our reward, or how long we have to be meek, or sorrowful, or pure in heart, before we can rejoice.

They all have a theme about humility though don’t they?

In our world we are constantly bombarded by images of pride and greed from the media, especially now that the junk mail season, oops I mean the Christmas season, is approaching. So many adds are encouraging us to be greedy and proud, to try and out-do the Joneses. But, blessed are the meek!

Does that mean we have to be doormats for the Lord? no. It is about seeing ourselves as part of a whole, not at the top, but just somewhere in the grassroots.

This is where the work really happens.

Imagine a beautiful avocado seedling growing in a pot, putting up its handsome leaves, and saying to the other plants, I am so beautiful, my leaves are bigger than yours, and a much nicer colour. Look, my flower buds are opening, and my, how wonderful I am to have such lovely flowers. But then the roots of the avocado start to struggle, because there is no goodness or water left in the soil! The avocado starts to look a bit less blossy, the flowers drop off, and the leaves droop, and it can no longer boast about being the most handsome plant in the garden! The meek are the soil, what feeds the whole system. If we work away loving people, praying for people, serving people, without expecting praise or thanks, we are part of other people flourishing. Yes, it’s good to be meek, because then we can be useful.

How about ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God?’ I have often wondered about this one, partly because it was our school motto. Maybe the school was trying to persuade all the green-uniformed girls to be pure in how we lived, and stop thinking about boys all the time, but on reflection I don’t think that’s what ‘pure in heart’ means.

If silver is pure, it has been refined in fire, and all the impurities are burnt away. It is just made of one thing, pure silver. There are no characteristics in it apart from silver. It is completely predictable in how it acts, whether it is waterproof, can conduct electricity, is magnetic or not. There are no anomalies. If we are pure in heart, we are constant, consistent, we have integrity. We can relied on for our attributes. If we purely follow God there will be nothing that we say or do that does not reflect our love of God. This is why the pure in heart will see God.

This All Saints’ Day, remember that you too are a saint, and are blessed.

Why we do what we do

Sermon 25 Oct 2020

Deut 34:1-12

I Thess 2:1-8

Matt 22:34-46

There is a series of Christian videos for children called Vege-tales. Some of you may have seen them with your grandchildren – if not, I recommend them for entertaining programmes that bring a clear Christian message, albeit voiced by Larry the cucumber. A talking cucumber might be an unusual carrier of God’s word.

But the reason I mention this series is that at the beginning of every episode there is a saying, ‘why we do what we do’. The makers of these programmes for children make it clear that their driving motivation is out of love for the children, not to merely entertain but to share the Gospel message of love and hope with them.

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians spells out too his reason for what he is doing –

So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.’

Christian ministry isn’t an easy one, as I’m sure you all know. Paul encourages us by his example to share our own selves as we share the Gospel. This means sharing our hopes and our dreams, our triumphs and our despairs, with those around us. It is how we face life that marks us as Christians – are we proud when all is going well? Or do we give the glory back to God? Or when life turns to custard, and not sweet, hot custard, but lumpy cold stuff that’s burnt on the bottom, do we blame God? Or do we turn our face towards Jesus, confident and determined that nothing will take God’s love away from us, as we continue to put one foot in front of the other?

Paul had a really hard time proclaiming the Gospel. He was quick to tell his hearers about it:

‘though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.’

Paul can sound as if he is boasting about the hard time he had, rather like the Monty Python skit about the three Yorkshiremen, as they try to outdo each other about how hard their childhood was!

I think Paul is being encouraging, rather than boastful. He is telling the Thessalonians that they are worthy of his great effort, that they need to hear the Gospel. And that the love of God is freely available for them. In this he is also encouraging them, and us, to do the same – to share the Gospel with everyone, no matter how difficult it is.

It is difficult though, isn’t it? It seems that we live in a world of apathy at best, and outright hostility towards the church. When members of our on family don’t want to hear about the good news, when their eyes glaze over if we try to tell them about the hope we have in Christ, what can we do? Never give up, Paul would say. But maybe we have to be a bit crafty about how we share it. We show our love fro Christ in how we live our lives, how we love each other, how we behave when life is hard. This might seem too little, but it shines out from us, and people do notice. We have a hard job as Christians too, fighting against the bad reputation that some so-called Christians have given the church.

I was encouraged recently when a friend of my daughter’s was listening to people criticising the church for supposedly being rich and hoarding resources. He stated that all the Christians he had met were hard-core socialists! I was really glad to hear that, because Jesus’ own example is one of radical socialism, caring for others and not trying to grasp for himself.

Paul must have come up against criticism of why he was spreading the Gospel, because he justifies why he does it:

‘For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.’

Why would a Christian spread the Gospel out of deceit or trickery? I am thinking of some of the notorious televangelists here, who are always calling for large donations of money, and seem to spend it on themselves rather than where the need is. People like this give the church a bad name, and unfortunately the media are quick to publicise these stories rather than those of the many millions of Christians who are actively loving and helping others.

Paul tells us why we have been entrusted to spread the Gospel – not to please mortals, but to please God.

It can be very hard to please mortals. I had a friend who was an organist, and she said of her choice of music that you’re never going to please everyone, so you may as well please yourself.

Pleasing God is more than that though. How do we know if we are pleasing God?

We can hold our actions against scripture, or the short-cut, ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? If we can confidently say that we are loving others in the way Jesus would, we are on the right track. But if it takes a bit of finagling to put our desired ministry alongside this standard, it is time to re-think.

In our Gospel reading, we have another of the Pharisee’s questions to Jesus. Unlike last week’s one about the tax, this one is an easy one.

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment.

Fairly standard answer, the Pharisee thought.

But then Jesus confounds them with the sheer power of love.

“And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”

This is a help for us in those what-would-Jesus-do moments. If our action is loving our neighbour as ourself, then we are on the right track. But Jesus’ next comment is also really important.

‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Whenever the church is arguing over details of theology, or what the book of Deuteronomy or Leviticus says about whatever contentious issue is foremost, we need to remember Jesus’ words. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, and must be interpreted in their light. This is why there is such freedom in Christianity – or should be. Rather than trying to follow lots of rules about what not to eat or wear, or who not to talk to, we just need to look at Jesus’ words. Love God, love neighbour.

Here we have help available to us – we don’t need to think it through all by ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit to counsel and to guide us, to warn and revive. It’s good to practise listening for the voice of God. To do this we need space, time, freedom from distraction. This can he hard to find in a busy modern world, where there are so many things to attend to, and so many entertainments available. Even when we have free time it’s easy to fill it up with watching tv, reading, playing on the computer…but to hear from God takes a conscious effort to clear our diary for a bit, a time when we have no distractions, and can let God speak to us.

During the week I went for a walk in Riccarton bush, and for me it was a time to encounter God afresh. There were no people around me, no phone, nothing but the sound of the birds in the tall trees, and I stopped, and just listened for God. Where can you encounter God this week?

Coins

Sermon 18 Oct

Coins

Exod 13 12-23

1 Thess 1 1-10

Matthew 22:15-22

Today’s Gospel has another instance of the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus. They were living in an occupied country, and many prophets had already come, claiming to be the Messiah, saying that they would lead the people to freedom. So the Pharisees wanted to see what Jesus really stood for. Was he just another flash-in-the-pan, another hothead who would call for revolution but fizzle out? If so, was he a danger to the shaky peace they lived in under Rome? The Pharisees knew that if there was any insurrection, the Romans would be quick and ruthless in stamping it out – the countryside was littered with crosses from other wannabe revolutionaries who had been made an example of for disturbing the so-called peace.

So the Pharisees come to Jesus with a trick question. They begin their question by establishing what they know of Jesus – this is a bit like a political debate where the compere sets up the scene, hoping to find a way in which the politician can be made to squirm as they get caught out.

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.’

This would be the statement that would lull Jesus into a sense of security, they probably thought. Then they could come in with the sharp question and catch him unawares!

“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’”

This was a very loaded question. First, they raised the idea of Jesus treating everyone with impartiality. He was known for his love of the outcast and the sinner, that he would not treat them as lesser. But here he was being challenged about how he regarded the high-ups, the leaders and rulers. Would he kowtow to them? Would he be subservient to the upper levels of society?

This is an interesting question for us to ponder about – we know that following Jesus means that we treat everyone as if they were Christ himself in our midst – that we are called to love the alcoholic, the mentally ill, the prostitute, the annoying person next door who steals all our lemons. But we are also challenged to treat the upper ranks of society with impartiality too, not to be subservient and greasey towards them, and not to see ourselves as of little worth compared to them. So what if they have the latest boat in their yard? Or the biggest house in the block? Jesus was known for showing no partiality, and treating everyone as if they were beloved by God. Perhaps people who have a lot of stuff and wealth and power are used to be seen as a meal-ticket by those around them, but they may not feel loved for who they are, not what they have. It’s like someone who wins Lotto suddenly finding that they have a whole lot of relatives they’ve never heard of!

Jesus didn’t fall for the Pharisees’ trick question. He took a coin, and asked them about it.

Let’s have a think about the coin that Jesus took. It was the hated coin, the very one used to pay tax. Just imagine if another country marched in to Christchurch and demanded that we paid them our own money, using their horrible currency! It’s just a coin, you might say. But for the Jews it meant something. Remember that there is a commandment about not making graven images? For the Jews, having the likeness of the emperor on the coin was against their religion, and handling the coin was distasteful for them. Unclean, really. And not only the image, but written on the coins were the words: son of God, high priest. These words were referring to the emperor. Yuk! Can you see how the Jews would have hated these coins and all they stood for? Caesar, the Roman ruler, was claiming to be God over them!

Perhaps the Pharisees were trying to goad Jesus into saying something revolutionary, something inflammatory that would cause the Romans to arrest him and get rid of him and the potential nuisance he would cause to the city.

But Jesus sees through their trick, and gives a surprising answer.

‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ he asked. They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’

So often Jesus gives answers that are not yes or no, not black and white, and need further thinking about.

What on earth could he mean? Pay back Caesar in the coin he used, and pay back God in God’s own coin.

Or give Caesar what he gave, but give God what belongs to God.

What does this mean for us?

What does God give us, and what do we need to pay back to God?

God gives us everything we need – life, health, existence. We would not be here without God. God most importantly gives us love, and that love is seen in his sacrifice of his first-born son.

In our reading from Exodus, we heard that the first-born son is to be dedicated to God, and maybe that sits a bit odd these days, especially for those of us with no children, or a daughter born first. But God gave his own first born son for us, so that we ned never be separated from God’s love. God gave his most precious for us, so we can be his most precious too.

We need to hold lightly to that which is most precious, offering it up to God, asking God to bless it for God’s service.

Some people hold too tightly to their children, wanting to control them, not only as they are growing up, but when they are adults. Set them free, let them learn. Keep loving them, but hold lightly. Some people try to control their partner – again, love means holding lightly, letting God use what we hold most dear.

Jesus is showing us that we might have to follow the world-structure and pay our taxes, but this needs to be done alongside paying God what is God’s, and keeping the priorities of our life in balance.

This week, let’s ask God to show us how we can set free that which we are holding too tightly, so that God can bless it. Let’s pay back God in God’s own currency, which is love without partiality.

Authority

Sermon 27 sept 2020

Authority

Phillipians 2:1-13

Matthew 21:23-32

Our two readings today talk about the authority of Jesus. When Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders were disturbed by him, because he had a new message, and wasn’t following the status quo. They were suspicious, but also hopeful. For many long years they had been waiting for the Messiah, a saviour who would come and make their life better, and fulfil God’s plan for the Jews. For the last four hundred years, they were particularly looking for someone who could lead them out of the captivity the Romans had imposed on them. So they were wondering, could this Jesus guy be the one?

But they were not about to get their hopes up too quickly. There had been many who had proclaimed themselves to be the Messiah, and Jesus was the last in a long line that had led to disappointment. Furthermore, they knew that if the Jewish people rocked the boat, even a little bit, the Romans would come down harshly upon them. So they needed to know who Jesus was, and what he represented.

When they came out and asked Jesus straight by whose authority he was preaching and healing, Jesus, in his typical frustrating fashion, didn’t give them a straight answer, but rather addressed the questions going through their heads.

He pointed them at John the Baptist, his own cousin, asking them about John’s baptism. He had them caught between a rock and a hard place, because they didn’t want to admit that John’s baptism came from heaven, and they didn’t want to say that it was human. They were scared of being stoned by the people who did believe John’s message.

They took the wisest course of action which was to keep quiet and say that they didn’t know.
This is a good lesson for us at times too – if we don’ know the answer to something, there is no shame in admitting that. Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm it, the saying goes.

Jesus took advantage of the occasion to teach them by way of a parable.

This one resonates with all those who have lived with teenagers. The grumpy son who won’t take out the recycling bin on a Sunday night, but then decides to do it anyway, because their conscience is pricking them, or the keen to please kid who says yes of course, but doesn’t follow through. This parable tells us that it’s no good just applying lip service to God’s will for our lives. We don’t want to be like the son who says, Yes, sir, I go, but then gets distracted by the cares of life, and forgets to follow God.

We are urged that by eventually following the will of the Father, we will go into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus points put the example of the tax collectors and prostitutes, showing the religious leaders that these people may not be outwardly living righteous lives, but because they turn away and follow God, they will indeed enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’s harshest criticisms are for the religious establishment, those who are only too quick to follow the outward observances of faith, but don’t follow the heart of it. He never tells them directly where his authority comes from, but I’m sure they know.

Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians to see what he says about Jesus’ authority.

He explains that it is by humbly imitating Christ that we honour him, so that ‘at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.’

We are worshipping one who came lowly to earth, taking upon himself the form of a servant. He did not come on a white war horse to lead the Jewish people to victory over the Romans. He came with a subversive love for everyone that turned the world upside down, and is still turning it upside down.

Paul has good advice for how to live as a follower of Christ:

‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’

This advice to in humility regard others as better than ourselves goes against much of the popular culture of our world. There is such a striving to be seen to be succeeding, to be winning, that it’s easy to be really judgmental and rank ourselves with everyone we encounter. As we get older we stop worrying about such things, and that it one of the benefits of aged wisdom. It is not the Jesus way to blow our own trumpet, to hold ourselves up as better than someone else. There is a lovely Maori proverb about this – The kumara does not speak of its own sweetness.

No, in the kingdom of heaven there is love for others first.

Paul explains that it is because Jesus put aside his glory and humbled himself that God exalted him, so that at his name every knee should bow.

Some churches take this literally, genuflecting or bowing whenever the name Jesus occurs, such as in the Gloria or the Creed. That’s all very well during a Sunday service but how can we bow at Jesus’ name during the rest of the week?

We can follow his example in everything we do, even when our past life has not been too great. Remember the example of the tax collectors and prostitutes? No matter what we have done, or how many times we have failed to be the people God intends us to be, as we say during the confession, no matter how many times we find ourselves wincing at something we said or at an opportunity we shied away from to tell someone about Jesus, if we keep turning towards God’s will for our lives we will be like the first son, who refused to go and work in the vineyard, but heard the nudging of his conscience to do what was needed. To do this we are practising hearing from God, practising feeling those nudges from the Holy Spirit, so then even if the flesh is weak, the spirit is willing. It is this that brings the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Going back to the religious leaders who were asking Jesus by whose authority he healed and preached, I really feel a bit sorry for them. They were so vested in their forms of worship and religion that they were not willing to step out on a limb and try something new, that would bring freedom. I believe that the church in NZ is ready for something new. What that will be is not clear, but I feel hopeful. Here at St Ambrose we are soon to worship and serve in different ways, as we have the renovations done. How can we seize the opportunities this will give us in our neighbourhood?

Let this be our prayer this week.