A tree and its fruit

Felicity O’Brien St Chad’s Linwood Wednesday 28 June 2017

Matt 7:15-20

In my garden there are some dead-looking twigs, with no leaves, and knobbly little bits on the end. They don’t look like much, but one of them is called a cherry and another one a pear. Why are these twigs, these dead-looking branches called by the name of juicy succulent fruit? It’s because the experience people have of these particular trees is that in the right season they will bear the fruit they are named after. Not every tree is named after its fruit. Some are named for other attributes, such as their wood, or their leaves. Our proverb about good fruit tells us that a tree is known by its fruit, and the extension is that people are known by their fruit. We can see an example of this in such things as the Queen’s Birthday honours list, where people are known for what they have done. Their fruit is what matters, not what family they come from, what race or religion or gender they are, but rather by what they do. So we too as Christians are known for our fruit. And just as one bad apple can spoil a whole barrel, so one Christian who behaves in a way that is not fitting can spoil the reputation of many. We can look at televangelists, for example, and see if they care more about wearing Armani suits and owning boats than about preaching message of love and forgiveness, and humility. Continue reading

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Sermon: Life comes at a cost

Sermon 26 October 2014 St Mary’s Whitby.Rev Felicity O’Brien

1 Thess 2:1-8, Matt 22:34-46

Paul was a man who didn’t hesitate to go the hard yard. He was shipwrecked, beaten, arrested, and in many other ways his life was not easy.But his greatest driving force was to share the gospel with everyone, no matter what the reception.In today’s epistle reading, we hear how Paul has been shamefully treated at Phillipi, but has come on to Thessalonica anyway. He didn’t retreat to lick his wounds, or to take a course and change his career path!

Sometimes we are treated badly, even as we struggle to live out our Christian witness. Do we let it put us off? Some people do. I have spoken to many people who used to go to church, but something happened, there was an offence, and they walked out, hurt, and never came back. They didn’t keep on trying to worship God in fellowship with others, because of some past injury. Now, I am in no way belittling the hurts than can happen in a church community. I know they are very real, because real people both hurt and heal each other. I have often pondered about this – to take an analogy , if you had a mechanic who treated you badly, who was rude, would you stop going to mechanics? Many years ago, when I was a single mum, my Honda shuttle was not very well. I took it to the local mechanic, who told me that it needed a lot of work on it, and I said, bother! I was hoping to go to the tip this afternoon. He said, were you going to leave it there? Now, it does seem funny, especially when the car, let’s face it, was probably heading to the wreckers’ yard, but I relied on that car, it was my sole means of getting to work and all the other things. I felt offended and vulnerable at his comments.But did I stop trying to fix the car? No, I didn’t. I just found another mechanic, and made it clear how important the car was to me. I guarded my heart against its vulnerability, and tried again. 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

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

Essay: Salvation in traditional vs green theology

This essay seeks to examine traditional ideas about salvation/redemption, in particular examining the contribution to theology of Gerhard von Rad, whose ideas centred around the salvific event of the Red sea. It will then examine what happens when green philosophy and conservationism enters the domain of theology, in particular the Earth Bible movement and the work of Thomas Berry. It will then address some of the concerns around the new ‘Eco-theology’, and the ongoing response of some mainstream New Zealand churches in this area. Continue reading

Sermon for Epiphany

The wise men and the star

St Peter’s and St Christopher’s Tawa 6 Jan 2013 Rev. Felicity O’Brien

Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6

Today we celebrate Epiphany. This is one of those complicated words that’s hard to define, but it talks about a sudden revelation, a sudden awakening of understanding. Our reading tells us how the Wise men had this revelation, this understanding of who this baby that they were travelling to see actually was.

The story of the wise men is so familiar, from carols and Christmas cards. Continue reading

Music for Christmas

There is a new feature on our music page – we have put up our carol book, which Kevin and I collected, arranged and published several years ago. Why did we make a carol book? Because the choir I was conducting needed one, and it was hard to find a good collection.

The sort of things we were looking for in our selection were good theology and good music, and we wanted a copyright-free collection. Some of the older carols and hymns of Christianity have wonderful understandings of what it means that God is real! The words resonate through the ages, timeless as God. One of my favourites is “Of the Father’s heart begotten, ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending He. Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.”

This has a special poignancy now, because we used to sing it every year at our school carol services, in the now-derelict Christchurch Cathedral.

Back to the Carol book – feel free to download a copy and use it, and inside the back cover are two versions of a simple carol service. It’s just the story of Jesus’ birth, taken straight from scripture, interspersed with familiar carols. It works very well in rest homes, community groups, with children, and even in churches!