Road trips

Neh 8:1-10, 1 Cor 12:12-31, Luke 4:14-21

Let’s take today’s readings and look at them in chronological order. First we have Nehemiah. The people are gathered together and the Law of the Lord, as given to Moses, is read out, and, importantly, explained, by the Levites – the clergy of their day. The people are being brought back to the basics, to the foundation documents of their nation, their faith. And these are also foundations of our faith, and of the legal system of our nation.

The people were greatly moved by all they heard, and began to weep and be sad. Why was that?

Maybe their conscience was being convicted of all their failures to follow God’s law. Maybe they could see that God was so loving that God had a great plan for them, and they had somehow failed to grasp it, and hence were no longer living in the beautiful fullness of life that God had marked out for them. Continue reading

Sermon: Seeds

Genesis 25:19-34, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Sermon 13 July 2014 St Anne’s Porirua
Rev Felicity O’Brien

The story of Jacob and Esau could be a story from today. There are two boys, one is beloved by one parent, the other one favours the other boy. Now, we who are parents know that it’s not a good idea to have favourites. Sometimes my kids accuse me of having a favourite – usually when I have had to tell off the other one. It’s not fair, they say. He’s your favourite. or She’s your favourite. You never tell him or her off!
So then I tell them that I don’t have a favourite, but I have a least favourite, glaring at them. And there are often several least favourites.
Many troubles in families arise when parents play favourites. Isaac loved his outdoorsy, hunter son Esau. There was something about their personalities that just clicked. I’m sure he loved Jacob as well, but we just get on better with some people than others. On the other hand Rebekah loved Jacob, the quieter boy, who loved to grow things and tend the field. Maybe she felt protective of him around his more vigorous, rambunctuous brother. I’ve often felt the need to protect my weaker child against the stronger too. Continue reading

Same-sex relationships and the Anglican Church in NZ

Archbishops’ letter       Motion 30

Over the last week our General Synod have been sitting, and debating, amongst other things, the response that the Church should be making to same-sex couples. While it is still early days for a real change, some very significant things have come out in the report.

the Church is “both affirming the traditional doctrine of marriage, exploring the recognition of those presently in life-long monogamous same-gender relationships, and seeking a process and structure to enable the possibility of a rite for blessing life-long monogamous same-gender relationships for those who wish to offer this rite.”

The Church is also apologising to those of the LGBT community who have been unfairly treated in the past by church decisions.

Well this is good, but just as pulling nails out of a piece of timber doesn’t leave it pristine, so apologising can never erase the hurts. Forgiveness can though, and there is a fertile field for this here. Continue reading

Short talk: Flesh and Bood

John 6:52-59

Short talk for Rest Home.

Eating flesh and drinking blood? You can imagine what some of the first-century people thought when they heard these words. It sounds quite gruesome really, and some people accused Christians of literally eating and drinking flesh and blood.

But, like so many other things in the bible, it’s not meant to be taken literally. Jesus spoke in parables so much of the time, that for this one to be taken at face value would not make sense.

Jesus is using the term flesh to mean himself. Eating his flesh means taking part in him. If we are what we eat, we can be assured that whatever we take into our beings, both physically, mentally and spiritually, with nourish us and affect us, whether for good or ill. That’s why it’s not a good idea to eat too much chocolate, and why we shouldn’t watch horror movies if we are having trouble sleeping!

Jesus tells us to take him on board, to let ourselves become so filled up with the person of Christ, that he will transform us. If we do this we will become one with him! What does that mean? I think it means that we will see others with the eyes of Christ – when we see suffering we will have compassion and love. Even if we see evil, we will not hate, only have sorrow, and pity.

Jesus also tells us that if we share in him in this way, we will have eternal life! That’s a wonderful promise isn’t it? Living like Jesus lived, seeing others with his eyes, and becoming more like him throughout our earthly lives will mean that when our bodies finally wear out and cannot support life, the rest of us, our soul, will go on, in the presence of God! That’s a wonderful promise to look forward to. May we all be comforted will the hope of eternal life in Christ.

Sermon: The Good Shepherd?

Sermon May 11 2014 St Mary’s Whitby Rev. Felicity O’Brien

Acts 11:1-18, John 10:1-10

Today we celebrate several things – Mothers’ Day, Good Shepherd Sunday, and an important event in this nation’s history – the coming of the gospel. Tradition tells us that this happened on Christmas day 1814, in Oiho bay, and while Samuel Marsden certainly did preach the Gospel first onshore on this date, New Zealanders had already started hearing about Christianity as they encountered sailors visiting their country, and worked on ships going abroad.

We commemorate Samuel Marsden tomorrow, and today’s featured guest is the person who made the whole new Zealand mission in 1814 possible – chief Ruatara, nicknamed Te Ara mo e rongopai, or the gateway of the gospel.He served on various ships between 1805 and 1809, when Marsden met him on board ship, as he was being sent back to Australia, unwell after being abused. Marsden had already met many Maori in Port Jackson, and after being very impressed by them and their potential was planning a mission to New Zealand. Continue reading

Sermon: Doubt and Faith.

Last week we celebrated the great feast day of Easter, when the highlight of the story is Jesus’ resurrection. This week our readings look at some of the witnesses to that resurrection, and their reactions too.

Our Gospel reading tells us simply that Jesus came and stood among the disciples, saying Peace be with you. He appeared even though the door was locked! This is a clue to the nature of his resurrection body – there is something different about it. It is not the same as his earthly body. And yet he was still physical, still made of flesh. He showed the disciples the wounds in his hands and side, establishing that it really was he that stood with them. Unfortunately Thomas wasn’t there, and had trouble believing the story that the disciples so excitedly related to him. Let’s wind the clock back a couple of weeks where we met Thomas before, in the story of Lazarus. You may remember that it was Thomas who urged Jesus and the disciples to go to Lazarus, even though Jesus had just told them that he had already died. Thomas believed that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, at that point. Continue reading

Sermon: Resurrection!

Easter Sunday April 20 2014

Acts 10:34-43, Col 3:1-4 Mat 28:1-10

The last few weeks have been quite a journey, haven’t they?We have followed Jesus and the disciples as he preached and healed around Judea, and we have heard about the murmurings of the establishment, as they grew into a tsunami of opposition. The tension has increased, with or without background music – as on the one hand here was a man claiming to be the very Messiah they longed for, but on the other hand, here was a man claiming to be the Messiah! The people in ancient Israel had a dilemma to face. Was Jesus really who he  said he was?

In our readings over the last few weeks, we have seen more and more clearly that he truly did have the power of God with him, the Holy Spirit that could set people free, forgive, heal, and even raise the dead to life! Surely it should have been obvious to the crowds that Jesus really was the Messiah? Continue reading