2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Essay: Islam, Politics and why it matters.

Islam, Politics and why it matters for us.

Reverend Felicity O’Brien November 2013

View as PDF                 Discussion Notes PDF

Supplementary Power Point

Introduction

This talk is about the religion that is called Islam. First we look at its beginnings with a brief historical overview, noting the great divide between two parts of Islam, Sunni and Shi’a, and some of the consequences of that split. We will explore briefly the spread of Islam and Muslim peoples throughout the world, both in ancient and modern times. We will look more closely at some of the groups in both Sunni and Shi’a, and how this plays out both religiously and politically, especially the more radical sector. Then we will explore the interaction of other countries with Islamic nations, the geopolitical scene, where differences between Islamic factions have been exploited by outsiders, in particular the U.S.

Finally, we will consider why this matters to us in New Zealand, especially to Christians, and I apologise to members of the audience who are not included in this group, but that is where my perspective comes from, as a minister in the Anglican Church.[1]

 Part 1: History of Islam

Fourteen hundred years ago, in a mountain cave, an Arab businessman was praying, worried about how his society was deteriorating. Money-making was becoming all-important, and the poor were getting poorer. People were restless, and knew that other surrounding countries practised more sophisticated religions than the Arab paganism. Some believed that their own highest God, Al-Lah (which means ‘God’) was the same deity as that worshipped by the Jews and Christians. But there had as yet been no prophet and no revelation to the Arabs in their own language. The man in the cave, Muhammad ibn Abdallah, woke one night overpowered by a mighty presence of the Angel Gabriel, and then he heard words of poetry pouring from his mouth. Tradition has it that he was illiterate, so therefore the elegant words must have come supernaturally.[2] Continue reading

Secret delight

I wanted to write a companion post to Kevin’s recent post about God and global resources.

When our oldest son was about 18 months old, it was his second Christmas. His father and I filled up a stocking for him, laid it on his bed while he slept, and set up the baby monitor. On Christmas morning, we heard all sorts of noises and delight as Morgan uncovered all the presents wedged into the stocking. His first word had been ‘train’ so it was no surprise when this came over loud and clear on the baby monitor. We tried not to laugh too loudly as we heard his delight in his new goodies!

In a way, I wonder if God also delights as parents do, when we discover the good things the Creator has placed in the world. And it’s not unscriptural to suggest this analogy – just remember the story of the egg and the stone – surely  earthly parents will give  their child what is good,- how much more will your father in heaven do this for you? (paraphrased)

When God made the universe, over many billions of years, via  a big bang, or evolution, or by whatever means, God placed all sorts of minerals and elements within it. As human beings develop their minds and their cooperation that we have been created with, we can do more to uncover the resources of the earth. One of these is thorium – Kevin’s post yesterday talked about thorium as a way forward for safe and cheap nuclear fuel. God did give us free will however, as to how we use it, and that’s where a problem lies. We can choose to use something for good, or for evil. We can use it wisely, or exploit it. Sometimes the end results are not clear at the beginning, so motives are mixed. But what God did not do is make us into little marionettes, to be manipulated by God whenever he felt like it. No, and because God did give us this free will, we cannot blame God when we don’t discover something to use, or when someone uses it for non-lifegiving purposes. We must take responsibility for our own actions, which again must be guided by love. If we accept that God loves us, then we must accept that God loves everyone else too, and enlightened self-interest – with self meaning all the people on , – must mean that we all can strive for the good of everyone in how we use the resources available to us.

Even if we don’t accept that God loves us, then surely it is still in the best interest of ourselves and the earth to behave as if other people have rights to resources too. That is why thorium is so exciting – because it will do away with the desire to experiment with biofuel, which uses up available agricultural land.

God in climate change

Guest post by Kevin O’Brien

Christians worry too much, relying on their own understandings and accepting the misinformation barrage.God has a simple logical proof as well as his word that disproves the reality of the whole of the climate alarmism.

The latest leaked draft IPCC report AR5 attempts to cover over their previous failed scary projections by offering “trust me it will get worse”. Unfortunately science in the climate arena has largely abandoned truth for advocacy and PhD student models. This is no comfort to those who have come to believe their island homes will swamped or other speculative alarmist scenarios.

God has his answers:

Firstly for us to try to reduce the global temperature by only 1/20 of a degree would cost 4/5ths of the worlds productive output. What sort  of God do we have that would put us in that position? This chart is based on accepted science referred to on the 50 to 1 site:

Claymore_1_edge

Secondly we don’t have the world-wide productive capacity or land to enable a switch to biofuels, nor are wind farms or solar panels sufficient. Renewable energy is more aspirational than real. Here it is described as a disaster: it should be described as totally impossible on a global scale. Can we trade topsoil for fuel oil? Where do we get scarce phosphorus for future food crops? God does not expect us to beggar ourselves or our neighbours to produce motor fuel.

Thirdly the switch to renewable energy brings great injustice. Who is to bear the rising food prices and resulting famines? Our God is a God of justice so this is against Gods’ will.

The solution that fits all this: we will adapt to the natural climate changes, the islands will not sink unless supporting water reservoirs are used up, coral will still grow up to sea level; the earth has an unmeasurable equilibrium which each of us will find different in our own lifetimes.

There is energy. God hasn’t abandoned His every growing people to a world without adequate agreeable energy. Nuclear fuel has got a bad reputation because the electric power industry preferred to use uranium to provide a by-product for atomic weapons.

Thorium is no use for bomb making nor popular with terrorists but does make good heat and hence electricity. While it is radioactive, you can hold it safely in your hand. It is now being used in low temperature reactors which cannot explode or do a Chernobyl. The reactors have the potential for factory assembly for neighbourhood use and the fuel is plentiful. Trust God to have provided even before we were aware of our needs.

Jabez re-written

1 Chronicles 4:10-“O that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!”

This is known as the Prayer of Jabez, and some years ago it was very popular. I came across it again recently when a visiting preacher spoke – Dr Charly Tom from Mercy Mission in India. He was very interesting, and brought up this idea of praying that God would enlarge our borders.

I started thinking about this – it’s easy to ask for God to enlarge our borders, but are we prepared for what may follow? Dr Charly has been running an oprhanage and school for many years, and is constantly relying on God’s provision to support his work.

But if we are really asking God to enlarge our borders – maybe for more ministry, or more to do to usher in the kingdom, we must not forget the next bit -“and  that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” If we are prepared to ask God for more ministry, we must also ask God for the support we need to back that up. God’s hand with us – that will open doors and provide our needs. Keeping us from hurt and harm is physical safety, but also spiritual protection.

If we only ask for God to enlarge our borders – or stretch the pegs of our tent, as another version has it- without asking for God’s provision and protection, we will be like bread dough, which we are trying to fit across the pizza pan. If we stretch it without first kneading it properly, it tears and gaps form, which let the sauce seep through. The pizza will stick to the pan and burn. We can be like that too – if we let ourselves be stretched without God’s provision, we too can break apart and burn out.

Perhaps we could reverse Jabez’ prayer – “God, let your hand be upon me, and keep me from hurt and harm, so that when you bless me and enlarge my borders I can work for your kingdom in the world.”

Sermon: Jesus is coming…

Sermon Longview 15 August 2013

Luk 12:32-40

There is a bumper bar sticker that says  “Jesus is coming – look busy! It sums up in a sort of a way part of our Gospel. But it’s not enough just to look busy. And busyness can be such an idol in this world. We need to be ready, not just taking up all our time and energy with feverish activity. Now it might seem a bit odd me talking about feverish activity here in Longview, a Rest-home. Now is the time for you to be resting from a long and busy life, but there are still things that go on for you. Continue reading

Sermon: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

The parable of the Good Samaritan

This is another of those really well-known parables, one that many of us will have heard as children. It often comes with the message – be nice. But there’s another message in it. Jesus told this parable to highlight how the culture his hearers were living in gets in the way of doing God’s will. The priest avoided the injured man, more concerned about his own possible uncleanness as a result of contact with him. The Levite too, a sort of church worker, who would be on all the rosters – was more concerned with the laws of their culture and religion than with care for a fellow human being. But the Samaritan was from outside that culture – he was from the hated next-door people, who were similar enough to rouse a lot of animosity. Just think about NZ and Australia, head-to-head over the cricket! Continue reading

Alleluia!

Sometimes the Christian life can seem to get a  bit ho-hum, a bit the same, year-in, year-out. The cycle of the church’s seasons, after a few rounds, can get a  bit predictable.

But when you stop and think about what it means, that someone who was dead, isn’t any more, it reclaims its sparkle! The Easter season is more than just one day where we say Alleluia a few times, and look at fresh flowers, and sing songs about Jesus being alive. It’s meant as a pattern for the rest of our life. It’s a time to train us in remembering why we call ourselves Christians.

And that reason is resurrection! What was dead, is now alive! Whenever we see new things growing we can remember Jesus’ resurrection. Whenever we see a seed sprouting, or a baby, or a little chick, it’s easy to think of new life. But how about whenever people who haven’t spoken to one another for years find a way through to reconnect? That’s resurrection. A couple who have been cold and distant with each other, starting to do little acts of kindness for one another. That’s resurrection.

There are many ways that the changed resurrection life can impact our lives. If we use resurrection eyes we can start to see, it, pray for it and rejoice in it.

I came across this wonderful Youtube clip today, and the singer – Arlene Auger, sings it with such joy! he is risen indeed,Alleluia!

Flowers for Easter

Well, thought Sylvia, they still look reasonable. I’ll just pull out the wilted greenery at the back and put in fresh leaves, and they’ll be fine for tomorrow.

Sylvia was looking at the flowers in the church, which she had arranged for Easter day the previous week.  She wasn‘t very happy with them at first. When she found out she was on the roster for Easter day, she was all excited! Now’s my chance, she thought, to do something really spectacular. I’ll use gold chrysanthemums, and those creamy white ones,…

Sylvia had all sorts of plans for the flowers, and each week during Lent as she  sat in church, she would plan them in her head.

But when it came to the week of Easter, it was with a sinking feeling that she realized that there were no chrysanthemums in her garden anywhere near ready for picking. There had been an awful lot of dry weather, and the council had banned using hoses to water the garden, so she would just have to make do with what there was.

All her plans for a symphony of gold and cream flew out the window, and it was with a rather grumpy attitude that she ventured outside on Easter Saturday, secateurs in hand, to try and find something that would fit her colour scheme.

But there was nothing at all, just deep red roses, and Leucadendron, and sedum.

Then the light went on. Maybe God was trying to tell her something, and she abandoned her plan. Sylvia had wanted to glorify God in her own special way, with an elegant colour scheme, that would bend to her plan. But God had other plans. She would have to use what was there. Well, she thought, I’m a bit like these flowers myself, a bit of a second choice really. I mean, I don’t have a glamorous public ministry or anything, just behind-the-scenes things like the flowers, and taking my elderly friends to home group.

As she looked at the deep reds glowing in the vase, Sylvia realised that they were like blood! Not in a sad sort of way, but rather triumphantly standing out against the cream wall behind the altar.

That’s what the resurrection is like! she realized. Jesus has taken something painful and a bit scary, like blood, and transformed it, redeemed it, from signifying death and pain, to a glowing, stained-glass tribute to life, to the Living one, coming through death with the keys in his hand!

It was with a lighter heart that Sylvia topped up the water in the vases ready for the Sunday. She had a new appreciation of Easter, and couldn’t wait to tell her friends at home group.

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