Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Blinded from the kingdom

In our gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13 )  we continue to reflect on the two questions that lie at the heart of Mark’s gospel: “With what shall we compare the kingdom of God?” and “who is this man?”
In returning to his home in Nazareth Jesus meets all the preconceptions that prevent people from seeing who he really is. They know him. He had grown up among them. The son of a carpenter…maybe. Son of Mary, yes. Son of Joseph – people are not so sure. They know who he is and where he fits in their community. And this intimate knowledge prevents people seeing who he truly is. They/we were unable to see the new thing happening in him.
Paul had a similar problem. He did not measure up to people’s expectations of what a super apostle should look like. He is not as good a speaker, he is less spectacular with his signs and wonders. So people are not listening to what he has to say. Instead he offers his radical thought – “9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”[1]
The expectations around who the messiah will be and how that messiah would operates prevented even the discipiples  from being able to be part of the kingdom of God. People were clear in their expectations, and Jesus was not ticking many of the boxes. One of the people I read offers these thoughts.
I think this is an incredibly important moment. Here’s my not-quite-developed opinion of the so-called ‘messianic secret’ in Mark. The “messianic secret” attempts to name a motif that certainly is central to Mark’s gospel – the repetitive ‘don’t say anything’ moments right where we don’t expect them.  For me, however, it is not so much a secret as a re-direction. By attempting over and over to make him ‘the Messiah,’ people were missing the point of his message, which was that the Reign of God was present and that they all were invited to participate in it. As long as they had the Messiah to embody the reign, they were missing the participation part. To ‘follow’ is less to point, observe, marvel, or coronate and more about joining along, taking up the message, and doing the deeds. My point is, I don’t think the “messianic secret” is a literary device by Mark, but a theological point, that Mark saw Jesus trying to re-direct his message away from himself and toward the participating followers. The message in Mark’s original ending, “Go to Galilee and there he will meet you” is a way of sending the followers back to this village-based activity-message.”[2]
Today we are redirected away from our deeply held ideas about Jesus and the Kingdom. They are never enough. We are invited to have bigger ideas, and to take part in a bigger kingdom. I wonder how our familiarity blinds us: blinds us to the people around us, blinds us to the work of God around us? How do our preconceptions prevent us from participating in the Kingdom of God? May we continue to let go of all that blinds us and prevents us being in the Kingdom.

[1] 2 Cor 12:9-10

Friday, June 26, 2015

Harvest Festival

Listen to this sermon here

Gate Pa – 28th June 2015, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm:                                     Psalm 130                  
First Reading:                         2 Samuel 1:1,17-27                
Second Reading:         2 Corinthians 8:7-15              
Gospel:                                     Mark 5:21-43                         

What I want to say:
Te explore what harvest festival is about, and to link that with Jesus offering of hope and life to both people in today’s reading.

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on what it is the are giving thanks for, and to be inspired to generously offer more of themselves

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

why have harvest festival?
            interesting thing to do in middle winter
            not much harvest around
            many thoughts being in garden seems little hard in this cold weather
many don’t garden
buy food supermarkets and shops
so why have one?

     2.     Some reasons

Tradition – a lot people grew up with harvest festivals
            important event life their communities
            continue to be important

opportunity to give thanks both joy gardening
            harvest that our labours have reaped
            simple joy in growing things in own land
            being able eat what we have grown
            today we give thanks for that
in doing so also acknowledge that all this is God’s gift to us
            all that is, belongs to God
            who shares with us.
all we have, is a gift – not ours by right
            not just fruit of our labour
            but gift of generous and compassionate God
so on this harvest festival we give thanks to God who is the giver of all this harvest
in light that – we can also give thanks that we live land where most people have more than enough to survive, more than survive, to live reasonably well
easy access to food, medical care – all things too often take granted
            so today we give thanks for all that
same time invited to be mindful of all those for whom access to food is precarious
            for whom life is precarious
            bring to mind and pray for all those for whom this is not the reality
invited to be as generous and as compassionate as God we encounter in our own experience of harvest
            part of today is offer this to Food bank
            provide us opportunity gather significant offering food for foodbank
            to be a sing fo this generoisty
Lastly – our harvest festival comes during Matariki – Maori new year
            number of traditional aspects Matariki that were important for Maori
one of these was that appearance of that vast cluster of stars in dawn sky
            sign that time prepare land for kumara planting
                        so that there might be a harvest
            good harvest doesn’t just happen
relies on good soil and well tended land
this land we live in, and this planet we live on, earth – are central to idea of harvest
Matariki and Harvest Festival give us opportunity to remember
            this land, this planet are God’s greatest gifts to us
            absolutely central to our ongoing ability to live here
            the need for us to care for land
                        not just Matariki
                        all year around
So Harvest festival offers a lot more than just our tradition of having a harvest festival

     3.     Two stories

in all this we are meet God compassionate and generous beyond measure
and we give thanks for this compassionate and generous God for our harvest
            that we have grown
and that we buy
same God meet stories about Jesus
today heard 2 stories shuffled into one
continue answer questions last few weeks
            who is this man?
            with what might we compare the kingdom of God?
normally both people at centre todays stories had very little to do with Jesus
both people means and of honour
            whereas Jesus comes lowly family and small hicktown
                        little or no honour
also seen by many as rabbi
            gives certain amount honour
è someone works very different way than all other itinerant healers and exorcists that wandered that country side
            he does not charge
all he does is free gift
no strings attached
therefore available for everyone
                        not just those who can pay
                        (like the woman)
challenge to economic system based on paying for such healers
            he keeps that up – he will put them out of business
so we have these two
è woman of means who spent all on those offered healing at price
                        is still not better
                        now without hope
                        because of illness ritually unclean
                                    separated her community and God
                        seen by all including herself as judged by God
è man who overwhelmed with grief
                        he watches his daughter die
                        maybe he too has spent money on these healers
                                    charged money
                                    preserved the status quo of ill health
                        only help offered are gathering mourners
                                    there ensure she is farewelled well
both desperate
in their desperation they come to this unusual rabbi
both risk much in doing so
            woman – punishment for being out in public unchaperoned
                                    defiling all those comes contact with
                                    daring to touch garment man to whom she has no family connection
            man risks loss honour and standing from family and community for coming to this man
both are met in their desperation by Jesus’ mercy, generosity, compassion.
            Unlike everyone else they have come to... he cares
            he doesn’t do this because he is being paid
he does it because that is who he is
In that moment of compassion and healing
            they meet God’s mercy, generosity, compassion.
all of which is offered for free
            no strings attached
we are reminded again of our questions
who is this man?
with what might we compare the kingdom of God?
we might even add a question
what then is our place in this kingdom?

     4.     Conclusion

Today we celebrate our harvest
            because harvest festivals are important traditions
offer opportunity to give thanks harvest
reminded God’s generosity in harvest
and reminded God’s provision of this land, this planet
hear again our responsibility to care planet, and this land
more than that
reminded to care for all who live in this land with the same
            compassion and generosity we experience in the harvest
            we meet in Jesus
            in stories like todays
the one who heals the desperate and those they love.

Bring forward the harvest.
offering of thanks Gods goodness
            and as yes to being part of God’s ongoing generous offering of mercy, compassion, healing and life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Harvest Festivals

Since pagan times harvest festivals have been annual celebrations for successful harvests. They featured ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields. The common features were eating, merriment, contests, music and romance. Christians adopted these festivals to give thanks to God our creator for God’s goodness in the harvest. Today we give thanks for the harvest we have grown in our gardens, if we have one, and the harvest we are able to buy each day in the shops. We are reminded again of God’s generosity and we join with all God’s people in continuing to give thanks for God’s provision. We are invited to pray “give us today our daily bread” and to know that for most of us that daily bread is far more than enough.
Harvest festivals also provide a time reflect on our ongoing desire for more. It is an occasion for us to confess that we too often are not satisfied and many in the West in particular are driven to have more. This has resulted in a significant percentage of humanity not having enough, living in constant hunger, debilitating poverty, all so that our avarice in the West might be met. Our greed has done lasting damage to many communities, and to our planet.  Today provides a chance to take stock and work for another way.
Our harvest festival comes during Matariki.  Part of the importance of Matariki for Maori was that it signified that it was time to prepare the land for the kumara planting. It is a time of caring for the earth. We are reminded of our need to care for this planet so that it may continue to provide the food we need to survive. It is God’s gift and needs our care and protection. When we mistreat the earth we mock God and put our survival at risk.
Harvest festivals also provide a chance to join with Creation’s song of praise to God our creator. Some of the great saints, including Francis, saw God’s goodness and love being declared through all creation, and sought to join in that declaration.
In our gospel reading we continue to reflect on the two questions that lie at the heart of Mark’s gospel: “With what shall we compare the kingdom of God?” and “who is this man?” Today Jesus breaks the power of rules and practices that isolated and impoverished the sick woman, healing her and restoring her to the community. He meets the crowds’ disbelief and mocking, and restores the girl who was dead to life, and to her parents. In both acts Jesus reminds us that the Kingdom is built of God’s generosity and mercy, and not on rules that separate and belittle. He invites those present to see the world and each other through new eyes. He invites us to also see the world through new eyes and to join in this kingdom of generosity to all.