Tuesday, April 25, 2006

ANZAC Day

Today I went to an ANZAC day remembrance service. I don't think I have been to an RSA one before. I only went because my daughter, as head girl of the local college was the guest speaker with the head boy.
War for me is largely senseless. Most wars we as New Zealanders have fought in have been stupid, and badly managed. Even Gallipoli which sparked the whole ANZAC thing and gave us the date was run by a bunch of largely incompetent generals who let their men die needlessly.

yet most of those who went did so believing the war was right. And they gave their all. So it is right to go and remember them, and what these wars cost them, and to give thanks I have never had to be in such a situation, and to pray and hope none of my children will ever have to go and fight in a war either.

As I write this I am reminded of those 18 year old Israeli soldiers guarding the checkpoints on the West bank, all the time knowing that a suicide bomber could come and kill them. The hard line attitudes and failure to work for peace, real peace costs so many young people so much.

We will remember them, and work to make sure there are no more.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Some ransom thoughts for Easter

In Memory of God!
Three Questions for Easter
o What image comes to mind when I think of Easter?
o What image of God am I given in the Easter story
o Who am I in the Easter story?
* Introduction:
In western church often think that Easter is just about salvation
And for us that has come to mean having our sins forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross and then rising again
In church of first thousand years, and eastern church today
salvation is process by which we are able to once again “cleave to God” -> Like child snuggles to a mother
We once knew, but we forget.
From this point of view
for us to really be able to cleave to God
Not only need our sins forgiven
need to be retaught about who is God, and about who we are
God does this re-teaching through birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, especially the death and resurrection – Easter.
purpose of Easter is much more than having our sins forgiven
the equally important purpose of Easter is teaching us about God?
Question I asked at the beginning
So what comes to mind when we think of Easter
Becomes really important question
So lets pause
What is God teaching us through those things you think of when think of Easter?

Who is God?
Overwhelming image of God for early church and Eastern Church is one of Love.
God is love
God loves humanity.
Not love we see today
Movie stars saying love audience – means like your adoration, keep adoring me
Or see movies or tv, - I like you, and I like feeling good with you
Kind of love Easter is talking about is
God is deeply committed to us.
God is deeply attached to us
Image of God in Easter is a God who holds us in such high regard that God gave all so that we could be freed from the results of our sin, be reminded of who God is, and be able to once again snuggle into or cleave to God
Easter is not about how bad we are
Easter is all about how important we are to God

Who are we?
At beginning asked you say one important thing about yourself
How many said that they are profoundly and deeply loved by God?
But that is what God is trying to teach us through Jesus and Easter
That we are profoundly and deeply loved by God?
That God holds us in such high regard, as so important, as people of such worth that God would do anything to bring us back
Anything
There is nothing more important in our lives than that.
Not the fact we are sons and daughters, husband and wives, mothers and fathers, that we go to school or work or not,
Easter says that our identity is found only in a God who deeply and profoundly loves us.
The end.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Life: a Radical Adventure

I was asked to preach in the Cathedral in Porto Alegre in Brazil to start their youth month on the theme Life: A Radical Adventure. It is one of the only sermons I have ever written out in full; I needed to so it could be translated properly into Portuguese. It was also written for the first Sunday in Lent. So as we come to the end of lent and the great feast of Good Friday and Easter, I offer these thoughts.
(It also seems a waste to not use all this work at least twice)

Introduction
We are here this morning to launch into a month with the theme, “Life, a radical adventure!”
So what is life?
What do we want out of our lives?
Deep down, if we were honest, if we could have anything at all, what would we want out of our lives?
Take a moment and answer that for yourself. Be honest. There are no right answers. If you want, talk to the person next to you about what it is you want.
So take a moment to honestly answer, what is it you want for your life?
If I spoke Portuguese, I might ask for some responses. But I don’t, so I can’t. So I am going to guess what they might be. And I am guessing that some answers might include things like: to be happy, have a good life, be healthy, be wealthy, be faithful. I am sure there are a lot of other answers as well.
If I am honest, I have a few different answers. One is to be the person who God created me to be (the right answer?).
But another answer that is almost as strong is that I would like to be wealthy. Not really really wealthy. But wealthy enough not to have to worry about money at all.

The Rich Young Man
This morning’s gospel reading is about a man who was wealthy, and you get the impression that he was really really really wealthy!! He comes to see Jesus, to ask him what he needed to do to receive eternal life. I wonder why he comes. In fact I think he just wanted to look good in front of everyone. He thought he was a good man. It appears he kept the laws of Moses as they were taught. And he was rich!! And being wealthy and healthy meant that God had blessed you!! So, I think he already thought he was going to receive eternal life. I think he just asked this question to have Jesus say so in front of everyone, so that everyone could see what a holy man he was, that he was “the man!”
The conversation goes well. In answer to the question “What good things must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus gives him a summary of the law, to which the man is able to say that he does all these things. He is looking good.
But then he blows it. He asks. ”what else must I do?” Jesus has set him up and got him!
How?
Jesus’ summary of the law has something missing! In other places in the bible like, in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke, the law is summarised as:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.”(Luke 10: 27) But there is no mention of God here. None! Didn’t Jesus think that loving God was among the good things you should do to have eternal life? I think he might.
If that young man had been asked what the most important thing for his life was? I think he would have said, “Being rich”!
Being rich gave him status. It gave him power. He looked good. People thought he was blessed by God and treated him very well. Being rich had consumed his life! It consumed his time. It even lay behind this conversation. Because he was rich he could be generous and kind, and, he thought, be guaranteed eternal life. He just wanted Jesus to confirm that. Being rich had become his god!!
And Jesus knew that. So Jesus says to him, “If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow me!” In other words, stop loving money! Loving being rich is NOT what life is about! Loving God is.
People were shocked at Jesus. The man was shocked, and went away sad. He loved being rich too much

Another Rich Young Man
I want to tell a story about another man, who was also very rich, and enjoyed being rich. This story is not found in the Bible. This man lived in Assisi in Italy around 1200. His name was Giovanni Bernadone. But, like a great Brazilian football player, this man is more commonly known by his nickname, Frenchy, or St. Francis.
His father was a rich cloth merchant, and Francis liked living the life of a rich young play boy. He loved to party. He loved all the most popular and trendy music. He loved all the stories of great knights serving great kings and saving young women. He wanted one day to be a great knight for a great king. He tried twice! But it didn’t work out so well.
In fact on one of his attempts to be a great knight, the army of Assisi was crushed, he was captured and imprisoned for a year, until his father ransomed him. In that time he got really sick. Once at home he couldn’t be the play boy, first he had to get better.
He began to sit out in the countryside, and then he started to pray. He saw the falling down churches around the city, so he stared rebuilding them, selling his father’s cloth to buy the materials. He began living at the churches, relying on what others brought him to eat and drink.
Slowly God became the most important thing in his life.
Slowly he became aware of just how much God loved him, and this love became the most important thing in his life.
Slowly he came to realise how much God loved everyone, even lepers
Slowly he realised how much God loved all creation, even the animals that might scare him.
Then on Feb 24, on the feast of Saint Matthias, he heard Jesus’ instructions to the disciples. “Do not take anything with you. Don’t take a walking stick, or a travelling bag or food or money or even a change of clothes.” (Luke 9:3) He heard Jesus say to him, just as Jesus had said to the rich young man in our story, “go, sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me!” But unlike our rich young man, Francis did not go away sad. He rejoiced. He threw away his cloak, his spare clothes and money bag; He was free at last to just follow God and not to worry about anything at all.

Life: a Radical Adventure:
The theme of this month is Life: a radical adventure. As we think about these two young men, who lived the radical adventure?
The rich young man who wanted to be someone, who wanted to be famous, who wanted to be powerful, who loved being rich? Today we do not even know his name.
Or the one who became a beggar, who loved God, who wanted to know how much God loved him, and all creation? He wasn’t anyone special. Just a poor little man who sang about God a lot. Who danced in the snow. Who left footprints of peace where ever he went. This man lived the radical adventure!
Francis’ strange way of life attracted thousands of men and women who flocked to join him. He had to get the Pope’s permission to set up a new model of religious order. His friars did not live inside a monastery, in comfort and relative wealth, but outside among the poor as one of the poor.
He told wolves to stop eating sheep, and to protect them instead (which the wolf did),
He helped warring cities find peace, and warring groups in just one city to make peace.
During a crusade, he visited the Sultan Saladin, Lord of all the hated Muslim armies. He went to tell him how much God loved him. Not only did he live to tell the tale, which surprised everyone including Francis, but he became friends with the Sultan, bringing back a horn to summon his brothers to prayer.
Throughout it all, he was surprised by what was happening. For he knew he was a nobody, just a poor beggar who loved God. Nobody famous. Nobody important.

What about us?
So do we all need to go sell everything we have, give it to the poor, and follow Christ like Francis?? No, I don’t think so. But I think these two stories tell us a lot about this radical adventure called life, and what stops us living it!
To live the radical adventure we have to begin to do three things.
First, we need to begin to know how much God loves us. How much God is willing to give for us to be loved. To be changed by that love! We can never fully know how much God loves us. It is too much. But we have to begin to know. So find a place this month to sit as Francis did, and gaze at creation, to read the gospels, and know that all that is because God loves you!
We also need to begin to know that you don’t have to be anyone special to be loved by God, or to live the radical adventure. The rich young man thought he had to be rich and powerful to live a full life. Francis realised he was no-one special and just got on with living day to day, meeting people, loving God, being loved by God. Simple! And it didn’t matter so much that he often got it wrong, and did not know how much he was loved, or love much in return. It was enough that he tried. So this month celebrate who you are! You probably wont do anything really great, or even become famous. And that is fine. It is enough to begin. It is so much hard work trying to be great for nothing really.
Last, Francis began to see that God loved all the people around him. So he began to love them too. He shared his food. He cared for them when sick. He kept them company when they were lonely. He looked after visitors, just as Christina and Dessordi have looked after us. Look around this room. God is inviting you to love each person here. And every person you meet. This is probably the hardest. It is the one I struggle with the most. But that is ok! It is enough to know that to love God means to love all God’s people, and to try to do that in the small ways I can. So this month, find small ways to begin to love people.
Life, a radical adventure!! To be loved by God. To be happy being you! To love! May this month be a radical adventure for us all!