Sermon: Noticing

Sermon. 31 August 2014
Rev Felicity O’Brien
St Mary’s Whitby
Exod 3:1-15, Rom 12:9-21, Matt 16:21-28

Moses was a man who noticed things. Maybe this was to do with his upbringing – at first he was raised by his mother, in the Hebrew culture, and then he was returned to the princess who had adopted him when she took him out of the river. Imagine how different life would be at the court of Pharaoh for the young boy – he would have had to watch carefully to learn what to do, how to behave, even learn a new language. He was educated in all the Egyptian ways, and learnt a great deal. Continue reading

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Call to 24-7 prayer

From a message delivered by Major Judith Bennett of the Salvation Army in New Zealand.

Presented at St Mary’s Anglican Church Whitby, 6 July 2014.

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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: Flesh and Spirit

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Sermon 6 April 2014 St Mary’s Whitby

Ezek 37:1-14,Ps 130, Rom 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

Today’s readings all deal in some aspect with life and death, with flesh and the spirit.

I like watching medical programmes on TV, and one of my current favourites is ’24 hours in A and E’. I was watching this last week, where someone had been wheeled into Resus, when I noticed the sign for the Resus department on the wall. R.E.S.U.S. It’s only one letter away from Jesus. This got me thinking – is Jesus our Resus?

In our culture we are so frightened of death, and our medical protocol often involves lots of technology to prolong life – the image of the paddles charging up, the doctor calling clear! as the patient’s heart is shocked into life is very familiar from our TV dramas. (I’m thinking maybe I watch too much TV?)

There is a finality about physical death that we all rail against, wanting life to be resuscitated no matter what the intervention.

No one wants to think that physical death is the end of the story, and every society and religion over many thousands of years has had some sort of understanding that life goes on after physical death. Continue reading

Sermon: Upside-down blessings

Matthew 5:1-12

These Beatitudes seem really upside down , don’t they?

How can someone be considered blessed, when they are poor in spirit, or mourning, or meek? These are the people the world ignores, those who are too quiet to make a wave, known only to God.

Some of the other ones are more obvious – Blessed are the peacemakers. Yes, that makes sense. And we certainly could do with many more of these peacemakers, in the middle east and in governments all  around the world. Continue reading

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.