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.

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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: What is Anglicanism?

CHC2051-4

What is Anglicanism?

Felicity O’Brien  2013

Thank you for asking me to come and talk to the U3A group today. My name is Felicity O’Brien, and I am a deacon in the Tawa Anglican Parish. Today’s talk is on the topic “What is Anglicanism?” We will start by looking briefly at the history of the Anglican Church, both in the UK and here in NZ, then we will look at the doctrines and liturgy that underpin it, noting the way doctrine is treated. We will look at what holds it all together, and then consider the way Anglicanism accords authority to Scripture, tradition and reason, the three ‘pillars’ of Anglicanism. Finally we’ll have a brief look at some of the new ways Anglicanism is responding to our times.

What is Anglicanism?  To put it in context, we will have a quick lesson in English history -‘Anglican’ comes from the Latin word for English.[1] There had been Christians in Great Britain since Roman times[2] but after 1066 England was more integrated with Europe[3] and the church was ubiquitous[4] and powerful.[5] In the fourteenth century John Wyclif[6] started to distribute an English-language version of the Bible to his followers.[7] Many people had little respect for the church,[8] which required heavy taxes, and rulers throughout Europe resented the money going to Rome. King Henry VIII, a very devout man,[9] had a problem. His wife was not able to give him a son, and he wanted the Pope to allow a divorce so he could marry again.[10] He had an Act of Parliament[11] written severing all ties with Rome, setting up what was in effect a new church, with himself as head.[12] [13] Continue reading

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

Abducted children killed by al Qaeda?

Guest post by Kevin O’Brien

Evidence is strongly pointing to Al Qaeda having abducted the children and set them up as claimed gas attack victims of the Syrian Assad Alawite forces.

Ghouta chemic attackRead the rest of this here and here. The report to the UN is here (it’s a long PDF download, very graphic and distressing.)

ScreenShot242-cropThis appears to be video of the abduction and the children being put to sleep.

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Sermon: The forgiven sinner

Luke 7:36-50

This is such a well-known story. It’s a vivid picture – a woman of questionable reputation gate-crashes a private dinner, weeping all over the guest’s feet, then she dried them with her hair. That would have been quite a sight – her hair must have been really long!

And then she pours sweet-smelling ointment from an expensive jar all over Jesus’ feet! Now, this sort of thing would be very strange in today’s context. It’s certainly not regular mealtime behaviour. But in first-century Palestine, when a guest arrived, the servants would attend to him during the appetizers of the meal. They would offer water and perfumed oil, so that the guest would be comfortable and let’s face it sweet-smelling during the main meal.

But when Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus over for a meal, he didn’t extend this usual custom to him. He subtly insulted Jesus by not greeting him with a kiss, and he didn’t have the servants wash his feet. Jesus points this out, and I’m sure Simon would have squirmed a bit.

Simon is also puffed up with righteous indignation at the sort of woman who was touching Jesus. In those days any physical contact was limited to spouses and close family members, and a woman touching Jesus could have made him ritually unclean. Simon starts to mock Jesus, saying that if he was really a prophet he should know what type of woman she was. Simon thought that prophets would be Pharisees like him, rejecting the woman for legalistic purity reasons.

Jesus did know all about the woman – she had come to Jesus in gratitude for the forgiveness of her sins. We are not told what sort of sins she was guilty of, but that doesn’t matter here. What is more important is that Jesus had the power to forgive those sins, and the woman recognized that. Poor old Simon must have been furious – first an unclean woman, then his plan to discredit Jesus seems to backfire. Jesus tells the small parable about forgiveness of a greater debt leading to more love. He doesn’t spell out what that means for us – he leaves us, as he often does, to join up the dots.

So what sort of dots can we join? No matter what sort of sin, no matter how huge, it is not too big to be forgiven. And this also applies to tiny sins too. Nothing is too small for Jesus to forgive. We can bring anything that is on our conscience to Jesus for forgiveness, and as we feel the load lifted from our shoulders, we can accept joyfully that forgiveness.

Our kids learnt this song at the holdiay programme last year, and it sums it all up really.

Sermon: Be One

John 17:20-end

Today’s reading is part of Jesus’ farewell prayer, a long prayer that covers all the future situations. It’s almost like he’s writing a list of all the situations that may arise. Do you remember back to the days when you had a babysitter coming to mind the children, and you left a list of instructions? That list can get pretty long, as you think of all the eventualities. Continue reading