Get on with it!

Get on with it!

Sermon St Chad’s May 28 Rev Felicity O’Brien

The disciples knew something was going to happen. They asked Jesus if this was the time, the time when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. Maybe they were expecting hosts of angel soldiers to sweep through their occupied land, driving out the Romans. But then Jesus told them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. This statement told them that they were not to wait passively for angels to bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth, but that they had a job to do. Not only that, but that God’s Holy Spirit power would enable them to do that job, and that they would take the kingdom to the ends of the earth. This was hopeful – they were not in imminent danger of persecution and death. The Jesus cult would go on. Continue reading

Ascension

Ascension

2 Timothy 1:3-7, Mark 6:7-13

We are coming to the end of the season of Easter. Tomorrow we celebrate Jesus’ Ascension to heaven, and the following week, Pentecost, where we hear about the holy Spirit coming upon the disciples.

Easter seems a long time ago doesn’t it? Eggs and autumn flowers, chocolate and a holiday. But Easter is a permanent condition in the hearts of those who follow Jesus. He rose from the dead, once and for all, conquering death so it would not conquer us. Every Sunday is a little Easter day, and Jesus’ resurrection is a constant with us. But our church has seasons, – that’s one major difference between the Anglican church and the Pentecostal churches, and it’s part of what drew me back to Anglicanism. In the Pentecostal church, every Sunday was Easter, but it wasn’t showcased, or particularly celebrated, at Easter, and the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross through Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Holy week was often completely ignored. Continue reading

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