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Job and the Judge

Sermon for St Peter’s and St Christopher’s Tawa 14 October 2012

Rev. Felicity O’Brien all rights reserved.

Job 23:1-9.16-17, Mark 10:17-31

The text from Mark and that from Job have a common thread – they are both about rich men.

The rich young ruler in the Gospel was sad that he would have to give away his wealth to follow God. Maybe Jesus could look deep in his heart, and knew that his wealth held a place that God should hold, that wealth had become an idol for him.

But I’m not going to say much about him – I’m going to talk about the reading from the book of Job today.

Job was also a rich man, with seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants – he would have needed them! Continue reading

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The First Must be Last

Rev. Felicity O’Brien Sermon for St Andrew’s Plimmerton, Thursday September 27 2012, (all rights reserved.)

Mark 9:30-37

Can you imagine walking along with Jesus, and he starts telling you about being betrayed, and dying, and coming back to life. Wouldn’t you be intrigued? Horrified maybe? Captivated? He had already been transfigured while some of them watched, and they had heard God speak out from the cloud. There are several episodes like this in Mark’s Gospel, of Jesus announcing who he is, and the disciples failing to understand.

Here he was teaching them some really serious things about what was going to happen to him. But they weren’t even listening. From our perspective they seem so slow, sometimes I want to shake them and say, wake up! Don’t you see? Continue reading

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All Your Needs

Rev Felicity O’Brien, sermon for youth service 23 September 2012, St Christopher’s Tawa. All rights reserved.

Acts 2:42-47

There’s a neat picture in the book of Acts, about how Christian life can look. Let me read it to you :

Act 2:42  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Act 2:43  Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.

Act 2:44  All who believed were together and had all things in common;

Act 2:45  they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Act 2:46  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,

Act 2:47  praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Now this is right at the beginning of the church, straight after the Holy Spirit had fallen on thousands of people. This is the first generation, Gen A, if you like.There are a couple of things that jump out: All who believed were together and had all things in common. They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Now what does that mean? Any ideas? I think that it means that there was a sort of communal ownership, a sharing of resources. Those who had more shared it with those who went without. Now why is this passage important to us, here in Tawa in the 21st century? Is it a challenge to you, to radically re-think how you do ‘stuff’?

If you’ve grown up with a little brother or sister, you’ll know what it’s like to guard your stuff. When you were little, and you lined up your cars the way you wanted them, the last thing that would have pleased you was little sis coming in and crashing them all. Your stuff was Your Stuff, and no one was allowed to touch it. As you got older, the stuff was different, but in our world, there’s a really strong sense of ownership of what we have, and guarding it.

Compare this to the first century, Gen A Christians. They didn’t hold on to their stuff! Other things were more important than things. Maybe people were more important.There’s a message for all of us here about a radically different way of living the Christian life, a way that values people more than stuff, more than things. The early Christians had a different focus in their life.

Now we know that it was a completely different context. They didn’t even have electricity, let alone Facebook. Technology has moved so fast that even in one generation it has expanded so far scientists couldn’t even dream of it! Now, I’m not completely ancient, in spite of what my son who’s sitting there is about to say. I was a kid in the 70s, and we didn’t have much technology then. We did have TV, but it was black and white, and only had one channel, which only ran for about 6 hours a day. That’s not so long ago, but the change is huge.

But some things never change. People are still people, still have the same emotions, desires and dreams, and can still hurt and need. How can we change our priorities to put each other first? What can we let go of so we can let people in? Maybe social networks are good for keeping in touch with people, but my question is, do they go deep enough? Or are they just ways of sharing information, rather than  deep emotions?

Are there other ways you as the community of the youth of Tawa Anglican can share everything? I know some of you share movies and things you’ve downloaded, and games. Maybe that’s a way of helping each other and sharing resources. I’ve heard about the way you share food at the Lounge – now that’s much closer to what the guys in the Acts church were doing. Bringing in food or money and making a meal together is a beautiful way of sharing your resources to bless each other.

Have a think –are there other ways you can help  each other? First, identify the needs. These can be simple material needs, like borrowing stuff from each other, but how about emotional needs, such as someone who will listen to you when you’re really upset. Or spiritual needs – someone who can talk with you about God and the big questions. There’s a real challenge to you as a Christian community to follow the example from the Bible, and get really deep with each other. Be there for each other, supporting and available. It’s a beautiful way to be.

And this will have results – as you put people ahead of stuff, you will be blessed with deep, meaningful relationships, – and I don’t just mean “couple” stuff, which will start to spill over into how you act in the rest of your life.

When we read the passage from the bible, it seemed like most of their time back in the day was taken up with praising and learning about God, and fellowshipping together, – with church stuff, if you like. These days there are other things that need to be done, like school, and study, and work, and family. But putting people first can spill over from your church life into every aspect of your life. Valuing each person you come in contact with, even if they’re really annoying, or you have a history of tension with them, is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit! You will start to see how following Christ makes a real difference in every aspect of your life – Jesus loves everyone, but he can’t be here in the flesh now, so he has sent his holy spirit to fill all of us who follow him, and our job is to be little Jesuses, treating other people as he would. Love, not mocking. Compassion, not judgment. Caring, not teasing.

Can you see how people like this could transform the world?

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Following Jesus

Rev Felicity O’Brien, 30 August 2012. All rights reserved.

John 6:56-69

Today’s passage from John’s Gospel has the refrain that Jesus is the Bread of Life. This idea occurs many times, each with a different emphasis. This time, the disciples are starting to understand what Jesus means when he says “whoever eats me will live because of me”.

They are starting to see that there will be a cost to discipleship. They complain that it is difficult teaching. Jesus doesn’t reassure them however, he doesn’t say, “there there, it’ll all be alright so long as you stick with me”. He leaves them to make up their own minds where they stand. Perhaps he was waiting to see if his teaching about eternal life had sunk in yet. Are they prepared to accept Jesus as the Son of God? Or are they unsure, not knowing where it will lead? Continue reading

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Water

Felicity O’Brien, Jan 10, 2010. All rights reserved. PDF

Ps 29

Lk 3

Water – it’s weird stuff. Two atoms of Hydrogen, which is a gas, combined with one atom of oxygen, also a gas, and suddenly it’s a liquid! Different combinations of hydrogen and oxygen make entirely different things, like peroxide.

It’s vital to our survival. We are largely composed of it, and can’t survive long without it. Water is mentioned over four hundred times in the Bible. For a people living in the desert, water must have often been on their minds as the first necessity of survival.

Water can also be very powerful and destructive. The Psalm set for today, Psalm 29, reassures us that “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters”. Our reading from Isaiah also offers comfort:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” Continue reading

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Widows

Felicity O’Brien, June 6th,2010 at Longview. All rights reserved. PDF 

1 Kings 17:9-16

Luke 7:12-16

Two of today’s readings feature widows. Some of you may have been widowed, or may have been brought up by a widowed mother. You will know how hard it can be to survive. I have not been a widow but I was separated and had to raise my children on my own for a while, until I met my second husband.

The story about the widow from Zarephath has three main points that jump out for me.

First, she was a Gentile. Zarephath is in Sidon, and this was the territory of Jezebel, Elijah’s enemy. This means that Elijah was the first prophet to bring God’s message to the Gentiles. Continue reading

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Our creator loves us

Felicity O’Brien, May 24, 2010. All rights reserved. PDF

1 John

John 17:6-19

The first reading, from John’s first letter, speaks about whether we believe the word of God or not – if we do believe it, then we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. If we do not accept this, we are saying that God is a liar.

These days, people even say that there is no such thing as God. We can take the example of a testimony, or witness, even further. We just have to look around us to know that God is real. The amazing world he has created, and continues to create, testifies to its creator. How could the clouds get there, or the flowers have such beautiful colours? Some of those colours we can’t even see, but the insects that pollinate them can. Continue reading