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.

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!

Stinky sandals?

 

” I baptise you with water so that you’ll give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I’m not good enough even to carry his sandals.” Matthew 3:11 (CEV)

When I heard this verse recently, I started to think about what John the Baptist really meant in his comment that he wasn’t even good enough to carry Jesus’ sandals. So often we gloss over these familiar words and think of the image as a spiritual metaphor, but remember, Jesus was fully human. I don’t know about you, but there are several young men in my house, and going near their discarded footwear, let alone touching it, is not for  the faint-hearted. (But maybe for the hard-of-smelling.)

Let’s see the image in its vivid earthiness and humanity, the way that John’s hearers would have head it. We’re talking about the sandals that Jesus would wear all day, every day, in the hot and dusty, in the damp and muddy, no matter what he stepped in. Jesus is fully human – yes – so his sandals would have been really revolting to carry.

When we are struggling with our own broken humanity, and even more so with other people’s, with their stinky feet, with the distasteful aspects of other people, let’s remember Jesus had smelly feet too. John was underlining this point in his prophecy. Jesus had to be fully human so he could minister to us. May we in our human-ness minister to others, and look for Jesus in everyone we meet this Advent.

Sermon: The Ten Lepers

Luke 17:11-19

What a simple, pithy story. Ten lepers are healed, and only one gives thanks. As a mum I’m often hissing ‘what do you say? ‘ to my kids when we are out shopping. Failure to say thank you goes against the grain of basic good manners. Did you notice that the one who did thank Jesus was a Samaritan?

During October the Anglican church throughout the whole country focused on penal reform, on praying for the justice system, for prisoners, their families, their victims, and those otherwise involved with the care and rehabilitation of prisoners. It’s easy to think of people in prison as being somehow not like us. To regard the prison population as being largely of another race, another social grouping, and not to truly regard their humanity. Today’s story about the lepers brings out the theme of challenging the listener to regard the outsider, in this case the Samaritan, who is from the hated next-door country, as a real person, and not less-than-human.

It’s easy to be scared of people who are not like us.

Last year I was running a sausage sizzle with my daughter, who was about eleven, as we fundraised for her to go to Girl Guides Jamboree. Lots of people came and bought sausages – they were your usual crowd outside Harvey-Norman. Families, different races, all having a leisurely Saturday. But then a patched gang member came up. My daughter got really frightened, as she had never met a gang member before. This fellow asked for his sausage, he said, please and thank you, and was really polite! In fact he was our most polite customer of the day. He spoke so respectfully as he requested his sauces and onions. It was quite a surprise to my daughter, who had expected him to be rough and scary.

The shock she got was probably just like the shock Jesus’ audience got when they heard that the only person who had behaved appropriately, in gratitude for his healing, was one of that lot over there, the hated other.

For many of us the prison population are like the hated other – in prison because of what they have done, that they deserve to be there.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that no one needs to be in prison, just that we as Christians need to take up the challenge Jesus offers us in the Gospel, and see the Other as fully human, loving all prisoners, their families, their victims, and praying for a godly system of justice and rehabilitation for our society. We can all do that.

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

How does God speak to you?

How does God speak to you? Does God speak to us? It would be great if we can hear an audible voice whenever we need guidance, but for nearly everyone, we don’t hear God speaking that way. What we do have is the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is the only book we are likely to read with the author available to pinpoint bits for us. Have you had the experience of reading a passage of the Bible, and a line jumps off the page at you, as if it is highlighted, or in 3-D? That is a common way for God to guide us. It’s different every time, with every reader, and you may have read the passage many times before, without that particular point striking you. God gives us what we need, if we are receptive and open to it, by ‘highlighting’ something. When we are listening to Scripture it can be like that too. We sit down (or stand) and prepare ourselves to listen to the reading, following along on the screen if it’s up there. Sometimes we can be distracted by the words being in a different version, but often we’ll discover that we’re not still tracking along with the reading. Something has stopped us listening, and we’re going off on a tangent. Noticing those points where we stop listening is a helpful way of becoming aware of God speaking to us. It’s as if God has put up a road-block for us, a diversion for our mind, and wants to speak to us through the diversion. Next time this happens to you, take note of what you had just heard before the ‘stop’ – think and pray about it, and ask God, what is it you want to say to me here?

Sermon: Jesus sends the seventy-two disciples.

St Christopher’s Tawa

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

When I have been at post-ordination training sessions, our teacher Tony Gerritsen has an interesting way of encouraging us to listen to the scripture readings. He says, “Notice when you stop listening.’ In other words, when something strikes you, and you think  -oh. I haven’t noticed that before. Have you had those moments? Well I had a moment like that when I was reading through today’s gospel during the week. Did you notice in the first verse, Jesus sent his people to places where he himself intended to go? Continue reading

Keep us from falling into sin…

Keep us from falling into sin, and running into danger.

Whenever I hear this prayer, as part of the Daily Office in A New Zealand Prayer Book, I wonder whether all too often we run into sin, rather than falling into sin. People are so quick to find bad choices appealing, no doubt helped by the enemy, who is all too quick to exploit our weaknesses.

When I use my computer there seem to be adds that pop up, relying on my recent web-surfing for interests. This is how I knew that my son had used my computer to find some adult material that he shouldn’t have! Suddenly there were adds coming up for me to find ‘singles,’ hot Asian girls’, and the like. How easy it is to run into sin, and to fall into sin, when our internet useage is tracked like this.

We need to be ever vigilant, for ourselves and for our families, of this sort of thing. Many Christians are addicted to porn, and it must be very hard to fight these temptations when they are right under our noses.

What can we do? We need to be open about supporting people with various addictions, and asking for support for our own addcitions. We need to be ever prayerful, whenever we may be in a situaiton that could cause temptation. We pray, ‘save us from the time of trial’, but there must also be a commitment on our own part to be responsible, to fight against falling into sin, or runnign headlong into it. We can exert our self-control – it’s not easy., but the Holy Spirit will help us, no matter how shameful the problem. We just need to ask.

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Deprivation – and no climate change (UN).

Now that the UN Climate Change Chief has admitted NO global warming in the past 17 years, recall what has been and not been done. Whose keepers are we? Part of this video raises these issues.

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UN Climate Change Panel Chief admits lack of warming…

The Australian -Climate NO climate Change

(Paywalled)                                                                                                   (Click image to enlarge.)

This is how the lack of warming show shows up on a graph based on UN data.

. Some scientists are proposing that we are entering a period of potentially rapid cooling which would be much more difficult to live in with reduced food production and restricted energy choices. The IPCC computer models have been shown to fail miserably to predict long term climate. Can we afford to take the risk of them being wrong?

Graphic from the Mail on Sunday article by David Rose

Graphic from the Mail on Sunday article by David Rose (Derived from  IPCC Draft AR-5)

Now, enjoy the wriggle: warmist denies warming requires warming!

Trenberth : Warming No Longer Requires Warming