Sermon: Water and Wilderness

Mark 1:9-16

Water and Wilderness

Today’s Gospel story is so disjointed isn’t it? First we have a lovely family christening scene,- we remember when people in our church community have been baptised, with the babies in long beautiful gowns, and cake to follow.

But Jesus’ baptism is different – it’s in vivid technicolor, with doves, and voices from heaven, like a movie where the special effects budget was just too much. That’s because the supernatural aspect of baptism was very visible – and audible when Jesus was baptised.

It’s always there when we have baptisms too – little Beth was the most recently baptised here, and the Holy Spirit was no less present for that occasion that it was for Jesus’ baptism. But when Jesus was dipped under the Jordan, and the heavens opened, and the Spirit descended on him like a dove, it was verrry public. All those around him saw it, heard it. Continue reading

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Sermon: Eagle’s Wings

Sermon St Anne’s Porirua 8 Feb 2015

Rev Felicity O’Brien

Today’s reading from Isaiah paints a splendid picture of power. God is sitting above the circle of the earth – and it would be many centuries before people generally agreed that the earth was indeed a sphere – and God has power over everyone and everything on earth.

He blows on us and we wither.

This sounds a bit horrible really, as if such a big power could be cruel. But no, he calls us all by name, and not one of us is missing. Here we can see the compassion of God, that He truly knows us.

Have you ever felt that no one knew you, really knew who you were? There are times when it’s easy to feel anonymous, defined by a particular label. Continue reading

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

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.”

Healing at the cross?

I was watching television the other day, and an advertisement came on for throat lozenges, which contain healing as well as soothing ingredients. The image used to depict healing was a cross, a square one, like the Red Cross, but in green.

I got to thinking – if the wider world recognizes the cross as a symbol of healing, what are we in the church doing about it? Are we telling our communities that they can come to the cross for healing, that they can ask for healing prayer, and that this will be effective in many cases? I know in my own family of countless instances of healing when we pray.

( see the posts about Josiah’s healing when he couldn’t walk last year.)

If the world can recognize a cross as a symbol of healing, we need to re-claim that cross, the empty cross of the Risen Christ, and tell the world around us just why it is that God can heal.

And we also need to trust God ourselves to heal us. Sometimes healing can happen without medical intervention, sometimes it needs everything we can throw at it, but surely one of the first things we must do when we are sick is pray?

Viscount Monckton: The triumph of the individual over the hive mind

Viscount Monckton was in Australia and New Zealand recently.  This address given in Melbourne is re-published from Quadrant Online.       Printable version.

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The triumph of the individual over the hive mind

by Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, April 3, 2013


Drab, pietistic uniformity is the curse of the collectivist age. Today, with a fearful and unanimously acquiescent docility, the hive mind tediously hums the Party Line, now rebranded “consensus”. Imagination, initiative, inquiry, inspiration, intuition and invention are not merely discouraged but hated. Individuality in any form is not merely loathed but punished.


It is the solecism of modern government imprudently, expensively and too often cruelly to emphasize the collective at the expense of the individual. Yet, as John Stuart Mill wrote,

“The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it. A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be mere docile instruments in its hands, even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”

Man is at once an island and a universe, an anchorite and a socialite, a lone wolf and a member of the pack. The strength of the West lies in encouraging what Santayana called the “eccentricities, hobbies and humours” of each, not in hindering or punishing individual achievement in the name of all.

In feudal times, the State was everything. The individual, if noticed at all, was recognized solely by his status in the ordained pecking order.

“God blessed the squire and his relations,
And kept us in our proper stations.”

It was only when free-market contract replaced feudal status that the individual, be he never so humble, acquired the right freely to negotiate with his neighbours and, by so doing, to earn advancement by achievement. Social mobility is a feature not of collectivism but of contract and of the cheerful chaos of the free market that it enables. Continue reading

Sermon: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

Sermon for Longview Rest Home, Tawa, Wellington, 31 January 2013.

(Luk 4:14) Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.(Luk 4:15) He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.(Luk 4:16) When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,(Luk 4:17) and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:(Luk 4:18) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,(Luk 4:19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(Luk 4:20) And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.(Luk 4:21) Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

In this reading we hear about Jesus returning to his home town, having been working miracles in the surrounding countryside. Continue reading