When we heard our first reading today, we could have got all excited! ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!’ That sounds good doesn’t it?
‘They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest’ – yes, still good!
‘The yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders has been broken.’ Still great news!
But what is the reason for all this good news? Isaiah tells us, prophesying about the future, that a baby has been born, and authority rests on his shoulders, and he’s got lots of high-sounding names like wonderful counsellor, prince of peace. Isaiah also tells us that the authority of this child will grow and there shall be endless peace. Now that’s something we want isn’t it? So after that reading, we’re all set for a King to sweep into town, full of power! Continue reading →
It’s so busy this time of year isn’t it? These first weeks in December are probably the worst, because all the end-of-year do’s are upon us. Take a plate here, go out for dinner and spend too much money there, break-ups, prize-givings, and then there’s Christmas to prepare for.
It’s really stressful, and many people don’t cope. It doesn’t help either that it’s been so hot.
What does Scripture have for us?
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,(That means us)
and cry to her that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid, Continue reading →
Jesus was a great one for using exaggeration to catch people’s attention! We are told that 1 talent equals 15 year’s wages for a labourer – in our money maybe about $600,000! What a huge amount of money!
So Jesus starts off his parable with a humorously large number. The guy who was given 5 talents to invest, then, had about $3 million in our money, and that’s on the low side! The people knew that whenever Jesus started a parable this way – and there were quite a few with this great Jewish story-telling exaggeration- there would be a good story to remember and to mull over in the days ahead.Continue reading →
Last Sunday was Bible Sunday, so I thought that today I would talk about how our readings are chosen each week.
We use a guide called the lectionary, literally meaning a collection of what to read. Over the years of church history, there have been several different systems for working out the readings for any given time, and there are two main sorts. One is the related lectionary, where the same theme occurs in the Old Testament reading, the Gospel, and the Epistle. These are really good if you’re preaching, because it is usually quite clear how they relate to, and illuminate each other. The other main system is the continuous lectionary, whereby each week you get a new instalment of an ongoing story – recently we have been learning about Abraham, and his son Isaac, and this week, Isaac’s children. The Gospels also work through one particular gospel each year, Matthew in Year A, Mark in Year B and Luke in Year C. John’s gospel is used in festival times such as Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, each year. The Roman Catholic church, after the Vatican 2 council in the 1960s, set out the lectionary that is in use in many churches today, including the Anglican church.Continue reading →
Did our reading from Paul ring a bell with you? It can be a bit hard to understand exactly what Paul is getting at, so I’ll read it again from the Message translation.
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Felicity O’Brien St Chad’s Linwood Wednesday 28 June 2017
In my garden there are some dead-looking twigs, with no leaves, and knobbly little bits on the end. They don’t look like much, but one of them is called a cherry and another one a pear. Why are these twigs, these dead-looking branches called by the name of juicy succulent fruit? It’s because the experience people have of these particular trees is that in the right season they will bear the fruit they are named after. Not every tree is named after its fruit. Some are named for other attributes, such as their wood, or their leaves. Our proverb about good fruit tells us that a tree is known by its fruit, and the extension is that people are known by their fruit. We can see an example of this in such things as the Queen’s Birthday honours list, where people are known for what they have done. Their fruit is what matters, not what family they come from, what race or religion or gender they are, but rather by what they do. So we too as Christians are known for our fruit. And just as one bad apple can spoil a whole barrel, so one Christian who behaves in a way that is not fitting can spoil the reputation of many. We can look at televangelists, for example, and see if they care more about wearing Armani suits and owning boats than about preaching message of love and forgiveness, and humility. Continue reading →
Whom should we fear? Felicity O’Brien St Chad’s Linwood June 25 2017
Matt 10:24-39 Rom 6:1b-11
Whom should we fear? Or rather, who should we be afraid of? Our Gospel reading tells us not to be afraid of anything that is covered up, because everything will come out into the open. Don’t be scared of secrets and whispers, or of those who bully you and give you a hard time. Fear only the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
That means don’t be scared of bullies! Don’t be sacred of other people!
Part of being a human being means, unfortunately, that we need to put up with other human beings. People can be really horrible to each other, and we know that it’s always been like this. People didn’t suddenly get awful just this century. Continue reading →