T’was the week after Christmas…

T’was the week after Christmas, and all through the house

there was plenty of food for the opportune mouse!

There was cold Christmas pud which no-one could eat,

and the fridge was still groaning with left-over meat.

Scraps of wrapping were strewn all over the floor,

and remote controlled cars crashed into the door.

The grown-ups were having a lie-in in bed,

and plans for their lego filled the little kids’ heads.

The Christmas tree drooped as it started to die,

and the pile of recycling was 2 metres high!

The children were hyper with too many sweets,

and instead of cards, Christmas greetings were Tweets!

The church was now empty – no people or song

and abandoned Christingles were starting to pong.

The Nativity scene figures looked all forlorn –

Did anyone care that the Saviour was born?

The Boxing-day sales were swelling the mall,

and no-one remembered the Christ-child at all.

Why did we celebrate his birth at this time?

and forget him next day as the cash registers chime?

Jesus was born for the sake of us all,

for the man sleeping rough, for the crowd in the mall,

for the over-fed, under-fed, all in-between,

for the poor and the rich, the generous and mean.

We must remember him every day

and give thanks to God that he saved us this way –

not with a Santa and reindeer-drawn sleigh,

but a vulnerable baby, asleep in the hay.

Rev. Felicity O’Brien Boxing Day 2013

Nowhere to stay

I was listening to Luke 2 today, describing the journey Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem. Several things struck me – and one may be the result of the other. They were going to his own town, his ancestral town. Surely there would have been relatives in Bethlehem who could have given Joseph and his pregnant fiancée a bed? What had gone wrong in his family so that the important codes of hospitality were not being observed? Maybe all Joseph’s relatives were no longer alive, or had moved elsewhere, and like Mary and Joseph were looking for accommodation too. Or maybe there had been some terrible disrupt in the family – many families today have problems where one person is seen as the ‘black sheep’, where no one will give them the time of day, let alone open their house. I urge you, if there is a problem like that in your family – and many families have issues – please try to forgive, and to let yourself be forgiven, and open your heart to your own family, no matter how awful they have been.

It’s entirely possible that Joseph and Mary were rejected by their own relatives. Why? Another part of Luke 2 gives a hint – Joseph was engaged to Mary, who was heavily pregnant. They were not yet married. There had been rumours about the coming baby which would float around for years, and maybe the relatives just couldn’t bear the thought of an unmarried couple with a baby nearly there contaminating their house.

As Christians we must guard against this attitude. Many Christians are very judgemental about people who live together, have their families, buy a house, a dog, a trampoline – in short, set up a family, without the legal status of marriage. Is it any of our business? A resounding NO! If it’s good enough for God to be born to an irregular couple, it’s good enough for us to accept those as a couple who regard themselves as one. The Bible continues to surprise us with the sort of people God uses to further the Truth, and human judgementalism and rule-making, which is unfortunately very noticeable in the church, can get in the way of God’s work.

This Christmas, let us welcome those we have rejected, and those who have rejected us. And let’s give thanks for families of all shapes and sizes – if they love each other, that’s a God-thing!

Wind in the branches

It’s Advent! Our family always has a real tree, so yesterday we headed up to our local school where we had permission to take a wilding pine. We found our perfect tree, and between four kids and myself, we cut it down, plus a couple of smaller ones for the kids’ bedrooms – yes I know it’ll make a mess but the smell is glorious!

When my son and I were carrying our tree home, we heard a strange noise, like wind rushing through the trees, but it was coming, not from the distant treetops, but from the tree over our shoulders! It was really weird hearing the wind in the branches we were carrying!

I got to thinking – the Holy Spirit is like that, isn’t it? We can notice the Holy Spirit’s movements and actions when they are a bit distant from us, we can rejoice at healings and answered prayers, but how easy it is to miss the very work of the Spirit in our own lives! So often we don’t recognise what the Spirit is doing for us, because we’re so busy and distracted, and sometimes we’re just not looking for it.

Be surprised this Advent! Notice the wind in your Christmas tree – notice God’s Holy Spirit near you, in your living room, spicing up your life!

Church is like family

An important theme in the Wellington Diocese at the moment is that we are family. I was thinking about this when my children were being particularly ghastly – it’s not necessarily a positive image, but it is a realistic one. Families squabble and put each other down, tease and annoy, but when it comes to the crunch they pull together and present a united face.

Someone leaked the name of the new Dean of our Cathedral. That’s just the sort of thing an aggrieved sibling would do in a family – telling secrets that they weren’t meant to tell, so they could gain some sort of advantage for themselves. Knowing other people’s secrets  when you are a kid is a great source of power!

But in God’s family we are all like kids really. We want to play together and have our own way, to keep our own toys, not to share. We don’t want to clean up after ourselves, but would rather blame someone else for making the mess.

If the church is claiming to be like family, perhaps we have to find the positive aspects. How about wider family gatherings, where tensions emerge as the day wears on? The arguments that break out at Chrisimas after too may beers or sherries? In our wider family we have  learnt that there are some areas that you just skirt around delicately – my step-daughetr and her husband have been avowed atheists, but with two  ordained minsters in the family there is a bit of tension there! Funnily, it’s as we do discuss the difficult areas that we can really model respect for each other.

The church is soon to be dicussing Same-sex relationships as they affect the church, both in leadership roles and in the blessing of same-sex relationships. We have been asked to be respectful of each others’ views. Just like in a  natural family, when you know that there are some topics best handled dlicately, so too with this one. We must give it our best consideration – coming to the table fresh and open to each other.

One of my kids was mugged a couple of weeks ago. (He’s fine by the way). When his sister heard about it, she burst into tears, and said, I know I always say I hate him, but Ilove him really. It would be awful if something happened to him.

Now that the crisis is past she’s back to swearing at him, and him at her( whose idea was it to have two kids going through puberty at the same time?)

But she knew that when the crisis attacked her family, that the love was there. Will the love be there in our church as we discuss these issues?

I hope so.

547 and a half percent – Loan Orca loose

Guest post by Kevin O’Brien

I'm coming for your bacon at 547.5% annual rate.

I’m coming for your bacon at 547.5% annual rate.      Click to enlarge.

Let the borrower beware.

Once interest rates beyond 48% annualised were unconscionable, now in New Zealand, we have no limit. The Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 is a national disgrace in removing the old restraints and general possible review of loan contracts by the Courts. The Act has smoothed commerce but it now putting smiles on the faces of the loan orcas ( like loan sharks but nastier) who are increasingly becoming more predatory. ‘Save My Bacon’ – a NZ loan company – may do anything but that if they call in external debt collectors following a default. They say they freeze the interest after 45 days before they renegotiate from there, with the amount repayable growing by a further 67% during that time. The daily interest rate is 1.5%. Depending on compounding the annualised rate may exceed the 547.5% (1.5%x365). Continue reading

Free desktop, Ipad,tablet or Surface Christian wallpaper: “…As for me and my household we will serve the Lord…”

Published in our wallpaper pages.

Free wallpaper revfelicity.org  #2013-2 "...As for me..."

Free wallpaper revfelicity.org #2013-2 “…As for me…”
Click to enlarge.

The phone rang…

I was asleep, when the sound of the phone started to weave itself into my dreams. Why is the phone ringing? It’s the middle of the night!

Something told me I shouldn’t ignore it, so I found my glasses and stumbled to the kitchen, where the phone promptly got to its allotted 8 rings and stopped to go to answerphone. I checked the number that had called – my parents’ number. Oh no. Dad. Continue reading

Pine needles and Easter eggs

Pine needles all over the house – again!

You may be wondering, why on earth are there pine needles in Felicity’s house? It’s not Christmas again, is it? With all the muddle that the world has over what were originally religious festivals, it wouldn’t be surprising really. Maybe Felicity is a really terrible housekeeper who swept the fallen needles from last Christmas’ tree under the rug, and someone has just moved the rug? Well, knowing my lack of enthusiasm for housework, always finding something else more pressing, such as gardening, or writing a sermon, or reading a novel…

No, it was not me! Actually, in our family we have a traditional of making an Easter tree – a bare branch is hung with decorated Easter eggs (inedible for longevity) as a display for the table. I sent the boys outside to find a suitable branch in the pile that’s waiting to be cut up for our neighbour’s firewood, or to go to the tip, or just waiting. Josiah came in beaming form ear to ear, carrying an eight-foot pine branch which was shedding orangey-coloured needles everywhere! He had to lug it through the house to find me, so you can imagine the mess!

Noooo! I cried! Too much mess!

But then I got thinking. Actually, it’s a wonderful connection with Christmas, using the leftover tree as a way of displaying Easter eggs. It connects the two again in symbolism. I have seen Christmas trees used as the basis for the Good Friday cross – this is just another way they can connect.

Easter can seem so far removed from Christmas – the story is so rich, so dark, so terrifying, and then so joyful, so humbling. Christmas is too, but it needs to be understood in the light of Easter.

May you have a time of encountering the Risen Christ for yourself this Easter. May you see Jesus in the people you meet, and may you be Jesus to them too.

Blessings,

Felicity

Is it stealing?

Today I was communicating with someone about a reading for Sunday’s service. This person was at work, and replied to me twice from there.

I wonder, is it stealing when you attend to non-work emails while at work? Or is it ok in your lunch-hour? Maybe a lenten challenge for all of us is using our time ethically. If we are paid for our time we should use all of that time for the purpose it was ‘bought’ for. When I was a singing teacher, my pupils had half an hour of my time, and if I had to waste some of it chasing my kids away, I felt that I needed to either charge them less, or continue on past the time allotted. How many people who work for large corporations think about their employers’ time? It would be great if all the contact email addresses that people give to church (and bowls, and patchwork club, and all the other non-work activities) were private, otherwise there is a temptaiton to “just” attend to emails before working.

Do you steal? Let’s challenge ourselves to be honest with our time.

Ash Wednesday

“Let us change our garment for sackcloth and ashes; Let us fast and come before the Lord. For our God is merciful to forgive us our sins.”

These are the words we sang at S. Michael and All Angels in Christchurch, where I grew up. It was a high Anglican church, and there I began my love of traditional plainchant.

But I’ve been pondering abut Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and wondering how it all fits into the modern context. I think the idea of a big feast on Shrove Tuesday is really just an excuse for a party. Not a bad idea in itself, but if we are to fast from modern things, like TV, or the internet, as was suggested in our service this evening, eating up all the eggs and milk by way of pancakes seems a little artificial, and in the Southern Hemisphere there is no agricultural connection with the leanness of early spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Tonight’s service of the Imposition of Ashes took me straight back to the solemn liturgies I enjoyed in Christchurch. There is an intensity, a seriousness, a sense that it’s time to get real with God, about Lent. This is a time for raw honesty. I’ve often found it a disturbing time, a wilderness time even, when I’ve been forced to press deeper into finding God. Examining our hearts is a good thing to do, and part of the reason I love being an Anglican is that in this season of Lent we can concentrate on one thing. rather than taking on the whole Gospel message every week, which seemed to be what happened when we belonged to the Pentecostal church.

It is now the season for purple and ashes. It is a season for examining our hearts and our consciences, a season for calling for justice and righteousness. This is a good time to really think about issues of social justice. And please, I do not mean anything about planting trees, or hugging them, but I’m calling for a  renewed focus of Christians everywhere to speak up where there is injustice, not to sit back and say, well, there’s nothing we can do about it.

When two of my kids came home from school today, they were both upset that a stand of toetoe has been bulldozed away. This area was home to skinks, and from the Department of Conservation pictures it seems that they were the rare ones. The kids both were hot under the collar and wanted to do somehting about it. They both went straight to their rooms and wrote letters and petitions to those concerned.

Did you have that fire for justice when you were young? Have you still got it? Do the embers need fanning into flame?

Perhaps for Lent, it’s time to give up apathy, fence-sitting, and being too busy to help others.