Thursday, February 28, 2013

Theme for the day - Lent 3

Recently I have talked about how the maps we used to understand what it meant to be church no longer work. I have also said that in this strange new world one of the key things we need to do is remember who we are and whose we are. In other words pay attention to who we experience and understand God to be and how we might see ourselves in light of that. That is what Lent is about, paying attention to how we experience and respond to God, who God is inviting to us to become, and we how might live that out.
This week’s readings are all about whom we understand God to be. This is not just the names we apply to God. This is about the primary image that shapes our relationship with God, including our expectations of God and ourselves, the image on which our understanding of Good Friday and Easter is built on.
For example, I might call God a God of love and still see God primarily as a Judge. So while I might talk about a loving God, it is a God who judges in love. Good Friday and Easter become events that are about God’s judgement, and my or our avoiding the consequences of that judgement. What happens when my primary image is one of love? All of God’s acts become acts of love and invitation to love in return. No judgement involved at all. That puts a whole new spin on Good Friday and Easter.
So what are your primary images of God? And how are you being invited to grow beyond those images this Easter?

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Mark 10: 1-12 is one of those readings preachers hate to get. It is all about Jesus being asked about divorce, and Jesus seemingly taking a really conservative line. It was the reading for the final service at Convocation last year, and I offered to preach. Why? Because I think we need read it in a different way.
The world Jesus lived in was deeply divided. There were the various religious and ethnic groups: Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles. And they hated each other. Within each of those groups were further divisions. It was very important to know who was in and who was out of your group, to know the markers, and to work hard to preserve the boundaries. Being a male really helped in this process. For a woman to have a place in this world she needed a man, either a father or a husband. To not have a man: to be an orphan, a widow or a divorcee placed a woman at risk. She was on the edge of being out: out of her community, out of God’s community, seen as out of God’s love, care and concern.
At the last IPTOC Archbishop Roger Herft spoke about another story, the woman at the well. Another woman pushed to the edge of her society through the divorce or death of her husband. He spoke about growing up in Sri Lanka, a society very like the one Jesus lived in, and what happened to his mother when his father died. He spoke of her ostracism, how she no longer had a place in her community. She became a non-person, no longer seen or heard. And so it was when Jesus lived. This was the woman Jesus met at the well. These were the women Jesus met on his journeys. Women ostracised, silenced, invisible.
In light of all that how might we read this reading from Mark? As we read the gospels as a whole we meet a Jesus who did not defend the traditional boundaries. He came to live out God’s boundless love for all people, particularly for all those his society and his fellow Jews saw as beyond this love. By his healing he restored the sick to God’s community. When he shared table with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes he acted out their place in God’s community. His concern was always to break down the boundaries that excluded people, and to restore them to God’s community. There was no in and out for Jesus. All were in God’s boundless love. As I read this passage I do not see Jesus excluding divorced people. Instead I see him standing in solidarity with all those women who had been excluded by the actions of men. Men paid no price for divorcing a wife. Their honour, their status, their place in the community didn’t suffer one bit. Women paid the price for their husbands’ decision. In his statements about divorce, Jesus wasn’t enforcing a draconian rule; Jesus was protecting women from men who treated them as property they could dispose of without second thought. Jesus stood with those pushed to the edge of his society and said, “enough”. He gave them back their place, their voice, their personhood.
Francis also lived among those on the edge of his society, the poor, the lepers, those excluded, with no voice and who had become non-people. To walk in Francis’ footsteps is to include those others wish to exclude.
How often do we read stories such as these and use them to exclude others? Is that really what Jesus seeks from us? I believe that the more difficult route is to read these stories as Jesus embracing those we would be much happier excluding. Which group of people do we need to re-examine our attitudes to? Are we able to join Jesus and Francis in the much more radical stance of embracing those excluded by our society, by our brother and sister Christians, by us? Are we able to say with Jesus “Enough”. Are we able to give them back their place, their voice, their personhood.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Doctrine commission will examine same-gender blessings

This seems like a really good and positive step forward. I hope the members are able to come from a range of theological points of view, and sit in the same room and work through this, and offer the church a robust and usable piece of work. My prayer is that we can model this for other parts of the church that seem incapable of staying in the same room.

Listening in the wilderness

 Gate Pa – 17th February 2013


Psalm:                         Psalm:  91: 1-2, 9-16              
First Reading:             Deuteronomy 26: 1-11           
Second Reading:         Romans 10: 8b-13   
Gospel:                        Luke 4: 1-13     

What I want to say:

explore Jesus in wilderness
invite people to think about how that connects to their lives
Use john Cassian to invite understanding of repentance as developing life giving habits

What I want to happen:
People to use lent not necessarily as a time as time fasting but time develop one life giving habit

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction: - Jesus in the wilderness

Lent – what is that about? (ask)
reading we just heard - traditional reading at start Lent
Story of Jesus being tempted or tested in wilderness
invites us into our own wilderness of lent
Greek word - tested rather than tempted
not about whether Jesus is moral enough and not eat the icecream
            this is about who he is
about identity
the big overarching question of this and every gospel
who is Jesus
why should I give my loyalty, life, everything to him?
who am I ?
how might I live this out?
as face world where maps no longer work
it is the big question we face
            who is this Jesus
            whose are we
            who are we
            what is ours to do
or as diocese puts it
            who is Jesus and how might we make him known

     2.     Identity

in the story Luke is telling
cool things happened birth
story him staying at temple as boy
baptised by John
            Spirits descends and God says “You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”
ancestry – establishes lineage through David to Adam, Son of God
            all of which gives him huge honour despite lowly status
            establishes that he has necessary honour to do what he is doing
all that is being tested by Devil
            is he really all he is cracked up to be
                        is all the hype justified
not only devil asking this
            listeners are also interested in this question
                        we should be interested in this question
suspect element Jesus testing this out himself
            he is grappling with this big question
                        who am I?
            time for him to own this identity
as we hear story
we invited to ask
            who is he?
            who am I?

     3.     The Story and Us

Spirit led and stays
            imperfect tense
Jesus undergoes three tests
            about food and comfort
wealth and power, ruling known world
prestige, status, honour
They are also things test us
food and comfort
wealth and power
prestige, status, honour
distract me
pull me away from what should be concentrating on
invitation  just as Jesus spent 40 days in wilderness facing these desires
so too lent can be for us time face our own desires

4.     John Cassian

one writers in this I have found helpful – John Cassian
7 deadly sins based on his writing
lived in C4th
lived among desert fathers – people left society as Jesus did
lived lives in desert Middle East and Egypt
            out of which monastic movement comes from
face to face with God
Cassian brought wisdom teaching back to western church
St. Benedict of his teaching used write own rule and develop Benedictine way life
Cassian paid particular attention to our thoughts,
and how these control our actions,
and how if left unchecked, can prevent us hearing voice of God
      or translate that – prevent us knowing Jesus, and making Jesus known
grouped all thoughts under 8 headings – which some Pope Gregory simplified into 7 deadly sins:
soul – motivations – thoughts about thoughts
acedia – weariness of soul
pride – replace God
fit with three tests Jesus faced
suggested three ways dealing with these thoughts:
–ve practice: notice and still our thoughts
+ve practice – fill mind with traditional prayers and texts
Lectio divina – pray scripture, reading it with heart, allowing Christ Word to speak to our hearts.
we can see that this is what Jesus does face testing thoughts
noticed those thoughts
filled his mind with traditional texts – torah
allowed those texts speak to his heart
            action come out of those texts rather testing thoughts

     5.     Irish church:

Many penitential practices traditionally used in west particularly
      come from early Irish church
For Irish, these practices weren’t penitential,
      but about developing new ways of living
Unlike our judicial system today,
      Ancient Irish Justice system was much less about punishment
                  and much more about restorative justice:
Stole something – thief would have to work to replace what they had stolen
Both restore what was lost
Also learn how to live without stealing
Victims loss was taken seriously
As was need for thief to be able to continue to live in and contribute to his community.
Same view point towards Christian life
All sin and sadden God
Rather than do things say sorry, and to be punished – which is what penitential rites are about
God much more interested finding ways learn live as God would have us live,
      live filled with Gods life and hope,
      sharing God’s generosity, love and goodness with all those we meet –
Finding ways as we would say in Waiapu, to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
Lent one times this was given particular attention

     6.     So What?

This lent
pay attention to thoughts that both lead you to God and take you back to yourself
Invite us to ask this question:
how the way I live assists or impedes me knowing who I am in God
                  knowing whose I am
                  know what is ours to do
what is one practices or habits do I could develop this Lent to do that.
Spend time praying about that
Those want talk to their neighbour.
If do, invite you to be aid to each other, to encourage each other as together we become people god would desire us all as this community to be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent 1

On Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) we began the season of Lent.  This is the 40-day period (not counting the six Sundays, you can still eat chocolate and ice cream on Sundays) before Easter. It is traditionally a time for reflecting on what it means to follow Christ, and resolving to live as a follower of Christ in the world. 

We traditionally begin Lent by having an ash cross signed on our forehead; Ash is a biblical sign of repentance (choosing to turn your life around). Traditionally this ash is made from burning last year's Palm Sunday palm branches, symbolising how our plans often end in ashes.

In the early Church this was preparation for being initiated, or re-initiated, into the Christian community at Easter. 

Lent provides a time to ask the big questions: who are we; whose are we; what is ours to do? It is a time we can develop habits and rhythms that allow us to pay attention to these questions, and to give space for the heart of God to touch and shape our hearts. It is a time to repent of all those habits that stop us paying attention to these questions, and that distract us from God’s activity in the world around us. It is a time where we can put aside our plans and hopes which so often led to ash, and place ourselves in God’s profound love.

To be free we must be able

to give up what is old,

and so answer God’s will

today and tomorrow.

It is hard, church of Jesus, to be Christian,

for we always have to fight on two fronts:

against temptation of conforming

to the prevailing patterns of the world

against the temptation of fashioning Jesus

after our own image.

Ernst Kasemann