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

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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.

Global warming takes a vacation

Washington Times 17Jan2013Thanks to Whaleoil for his re-post. Here is the article from the Washington Times of 17 January 2013.

Those who dare assert the Earth’s temperature isn’t on a perilous rise are derided as “deniers.” For liberals, the climate debate has ended, and it is an unquestionable article of faith that mankind’s carbon-dioxide emanations have set the stage for rising oceans, devastating hurricanes and disasters on a scale never before seen. To say otherwise is unthinkable, and that has created a dilemma. It’s not actually getting warmer.

In a paper published Tuesday, no less an authority than NASA scientist James E. Hansen wrote, “The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.” Mr. Hansen is the intellectual godfather of the global-warming movement who advised Al Gore on his Oscar-winning climate-scare flick, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Mr. Hansen has just acknowledged more than the lack of warming. His words confirm nature, not mankind, played the decisive role in directing global temperatures over the past 10 years.

Continue reading

Stop climate change – as if we could!

I love this picture from Hawaii – it speaks to me about humans and the Earth. The earth is a changing and powerful thing, which has  been pumping out CO2 into the atmosphere for billions of years. Even now, most of the active volcanoes are under the sea, and their emissions are completely ignored by the ‘climate-change’ scientists.

We can try and change the climate, but when it’s due to things like the orbit of the sun, the wobbles of the earth’s axis, bombardment from cosmic rays, we need to stop and think. This planet and this solar system are much bigger than us, the mere human race. We are just dust really on a galactic scale. Yes, it’s convenient to keep the earth the way it is currently – sea level changes would be a nuisance for those who live near the sea. But the sea level has gone up and down many times over the history of the earth – none of them caused by industrially emitted CO2. It will continue to rise and fall. Ice ages will continue to wax and wane.

I am flabbergasted by the sheer presumption of people who think we are so significant in the scheme of things that human activities can influence such things as global climate, except in the smallest, localised way. I see this as a symptom of a world where perspective has been lost – God has been forgotten  and people think humans are the centre of the universe. Well, we’re not. We are part of a bigger plan, which God has for us.

I am surprised that so many Christian groups expend so much energy on worrying about things we cannot change, instead of helping those who are impacted by various aspects of the climate. We surely are called to share God’s love for all people, caring for the earth and not despoiling it, but if the amount of energy that went into hand-wringing over climate-change went into fighting for social justice, we would live in a changed world!

I recommend that you all read “Heaven+earth: Global warming: The Missing Science” by Australian Professor Ian Plimer (Howling at the Moon Publishing Ltd, Auckland 2009)

This book gives a much wider perspective on the earth and the universe, and stands as a corrective to some of the media-driven hype about Climate change.

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Thirst

My soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Ps 143:6)

I was watering my garden today. Spring here in Wellington is often dry – the wind carries away the moisture, and threatened rain is often just clouds. The garden needed watering, not for the established plants, but for the new vegetables that we put in last week, and for the seeds that are just starting to appear – radishes – or are yet to appear – beans.

I was thinking about this scripture – when we need God with such a thirst as the Psalmist has, it may be that somehting new is on the way, somehting delicate. The old things are established and soldier on through the drought – the old habits of prayer or scripture reading, of living your Christian life as you have done for a while, but for something new and thirsty a fresh anointing is needed. Instead of the deep thirst being a sign of feeling God is far away, it could be a sense that something new is about to germinate – a rootlet is pushing through a hard seed-case, and exploring the fertile soil.

When the rain first hits the parched land,baked hard, it often runs off, taking the top layer of soil with it. Is your soul parched like that, so that the Holy Spirit cannot soak in? Or is it cracked, broken, with deep channels which hold onto the water, giving it time to expand the dried-up soil? It is often when we are most aware of our brokenness that we let God soak in the most.

Broad Beans and Ministry

When I was a girl, occasionally Mum would put something weird on our dinner plates. Oval-shaped things, about an inch long, greyish and a bit wrinkly, like they’d been in water too long, which when you bit them were bitter and rubbery on the outside, and floury on the middle. Yuk! You’ve guessed it – broad beans, or fava beans.

When I was trying to improve the clay soil here, I discovered you could plant broad beans to fix in the nitrogen, so I bought some, and planted them, thinking that they would work as green manure but we wouldn’t have to eat them. As the plants grew, I realised that they were doing really well – fast-growing, bushy, healthy plants, with lots of flowers, and very soon, hundreds of bean pods. I looked up how to use them in one of those gardening/recipe books, held my heart in my mouth, and made a decision.

If they were so easy to grow, I would decide that I was going to like them. Gulp! I picked them small, blanched them and popped the bright green seeds out of the grey, bitter jackets, and added them to salads, and, actually, discovered that they were really quite good! (The kids are still not with me on this one.)

What’s this got to do with ministry? If you find yourself in a  ministry you didn’t think you would like, make a decision to like it anyway. Be open to finding the revelation, the good, sweet centre.

God always makes things easier if we step out in faith, trusting him for the way ahead. God will surely bless those ministries!

When I was picking my broad beans, I could smell a wonderful perfume, and looked closer at the homely plants. Under the leaves were the most gorgeous flowers, black-and-white, very decorative, with a fantastic, heady scent, which wafted across the garden.God was blessing me with these unexpected treasures, all because I had decided to embrace something new, that had the power to grow and nourish me.

1Cor 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”