A tree and its fruit

Felicity O’Brien St Chad’s Linwood Wednesday 28 June 2017

Matt 7:15-20

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?

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

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



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.