Thursday, October 31, 2013


Today we gather with Christians all around the world who will light candles and remember loved ones who have died over the last year. We do this because  November 1st, (Friday), has for at least 12 centuries been All Saints Day. This is the day Christians have remembered all those who firstly died as martyrs for the faith, and then all those great people of faith (saints) who the rest of us look up to and are inspired by. From the twelfth or thirteenth centuries All Souls Day was held on November 2 to remember all people of faith. So today we remember all those who have gone before us, who have paved the way for us, and especially those we have loved and who loved us. We honour their memory, and we give thanks for the ways they have blessed us over our life times. As we do this we also take another step in letting them go trusting that they now rest in God, as they have always.
Our gospel reading today reminds us that we are all held by God. When we take the time to remember that we become blessed. The poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are persecuted for their faith, these people Jesus was talking to, these have to let go of all their self sufficiencies in a way the wealthy, full, happy, safe and secure never have to. And that is most of us most of the time. On this day and in this reading we are reminded that we will all die and none of that wealth or self made happiness or security will count for anything. In the end all we can ever count on is that we are held by God in love, just as those we love are held.
So as we remember those who have loved us and we seek to honour them in how we live our lives, I wonder how we understand Jesus "blessing" in this reading? I wonder how you have truly experienced Jesus blessing in your life and where you find yourself in the gospel reading today? Finally what does Jesus offer you this All Saints Day as you remember and give thanks?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Who are God’s Chosen People?

 Gate Pa – 27th October 2013
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Hebrew Scripture:     Joel 2:23-32                
Psalm:                         Psalm: 65                   
Psalm Response: Glory to God – Creator, Word and Spirit         
As God always was, is now, and will be forever. Amen
Epistle:                        2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18          
Gospel:                        Luke 18:1-8    

What I want to say:
We are God’s Chosen People
All are God’s chosen people
We have done and can do nothing to earn that we are all invited to “see” and to respond to that by loving God
To love God we are to love neighbour rather than obey rules and laws.
we do that by praying unceasingly for justice for all God’s people

What I want to happen:
People to pray for justice for all people in a way that God might change them into people of insight and compassion.

The Sermon

      1.      Introduction:

ask - who are God’s chosen people?
-          how would you define or describe them?

      2.      Pharisees

We meet several groups people in Gospels answer that question differently
Sadducees for example say – Hebrew people,
-          in particular those adhered to and practice the Temple rituals
Pharisees – radical group looking renew Jewish life
-          like Sadducees – Hebrew people
-          unlike Sadducees say all those loved God every moment by adhering to Mosaic law
lets note what they and pretty much every religious group do
define selves as people God
            carries with it sense well-being and pride
clear about who that involves and what involves
certainty God will bless, honour, reward and protect them
and everyone who no fit that description is by definition not people God
certainty God will not bless, honour, reward and protect them
            and those who are invariably end up looking down on them with pity, or worse
see that throughout much Christian history
see it in today’s Gospel reading

      3.      Jesus

ask - who did Jesus say were God’s Chosen People?
-          what does one have to do to become GCP?
simple answer is
            particularly poor, hungry, mourning
            people on edge, looked down on, despised
nothing – already are
Jesus like Pharisees was leading a reform movt.
big difference between the two movements
Pharisees loved God through keeping law
Jesus loved God by……? ask
ð  (loving neighbour as yourself)
For Jesus that is point of law
help us realise that loving neighbour is way love God
because all are God’s chosen people.

       4.      Today’s Story

tax collector not been listed in either Pharisees or Sadducees list of GCP
            nothing going for them
Jesus talks about as GCP
unlikely hero of story
important to read story carefully
does nothing to become God’s
already is, always was
prayer is not one of confession to earn God’s forgiveness
it is simply a prayer of recognition
“Have mercy on me. I am that sinner the Pharisee is talking about.”
Jesus says “One of these will go home right with God?
wonder where we are in this story?

      5.      I wonder

we are GCP not because of anything we do
simply because God chooses us
            and chooses all humanity
invited to recognise that and respond
first reading from Joel
            hear promise of hope that all years hardship during exile, and after as they slowly restore life in Judea as GCP
            have amazing passage usually hear Pentecost
“your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,”
we understand prophesy to be about foretelling future
not really what about
about present
seeing and speaking about God’s nearness
about seeing world through God’s eyes
this way seeing reserved for chosen few called “prophets”
in this reading given to all
            male and female
            young and old
            slave and free
what Paul talks about in Galatians
In Gospels Jesus is inviting us to see as Joel promised
to see world through God’s eyes
            like tax collector does
to see all people through God’s eyes
sadly, like tax collector we keep forgetting
forgetting to look
forgetting to pray
forgetting that we cannot earn title GCP
forgotten not build fences
            not see others with pity, sadness and worse
forgetting to love neighbour as ourselves
forgetting to even pray “Have mercy on me. I am that sinner the Pharisee is talking about.”
last week Jesus invited us to pray unceasingly for justice for GCP
I wonder if we did that what would happen
I suspect we would learn to love our neighbour
learn compassion
if we did we would learn to see as God sees
we would learn how to truly love God with our soul and mind, our body and strength

Thursday, October 24, 2013

John Hebenton's Podcast

Actually, turns out this is where you can here my sermons.

Am I a Pharisee?

Last week we heard the story of the insistent widow and were invited to pray unceasingly for justice for God’s chosen ones. The big questions in all that are who is God’s chosen ones and what does justice look like for them?
This week we are confronted with the Pharisee and the tax collector. One is pretty sure he is one of God’s chosen ones. And he thanks God that he is not like those others out there that are clearly not one of God’s chosen ones. It is such an easy thing to think isn’t it, that we are God’s chosen ones. After all, we like the Pharisees, listen to God’s voice, we do our best to obey and live good and holy lives, even if we might not use that language. Every now and then we hear other Christians sounding awfully like this nasty Pharisee, whether it is in relation to gay and lesbian people, or criminals, or a number of other groups. And deep down we give thanks that we are not like them and that we are much more inclusive and broad minded and…. snap! There we are standing with that self-righteous old Pharisee. Only most of the time we are feeling too righteous to notice.
Luke however offers some other groups of people as Gods Chosen Ones. In Luke 6: 20-21 he describes the poor, hungry and those who weep as blessed. In other words these are God’s chosen ones. And we are to pray unceasingly for them, for justice for them. If we do that then we will be changed. And maybe we will take ourselves out of the centre and start to walk away from the Pharisee, and maybe even find ourselves with the tax collector.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

God is getting out of the Box

Hebrew Scripture:     Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7     
Psalm:                         Psalm: 66:1-11
Epistle:                        2 Timothy 2:8-15        
Gospel:                        Luke 17:11-19

What I want to say:
God refuses to be pinned down by our rules
what do we need to let go of

What I want to happen:

The Sermon
      1.     Introduction:
Bonnie – Kate and I have rules for her
            not rules but expectations – based on how behaved and what said in passed
            didn’t like to be so boxed in               
trouble is we do same thing to God
some ways that is good thing
            us to trust God’s faithfulness
            some way need trust God will behave as has in past
boxes God in
when do that place ourselves in charge
leave little room for God to be God
define who God is and how God will act
defining who other people are as well
            and how they should act
blinds us to God’s activity in world around us
that is what all todays readings are about
      2.      Jeremiah
made some comments in pew sheet about events Jeremiah
when Babylonians crushed southern kingdom
took Jerusalem
carted a lot leaders off Babylon
said – everything knew about God and expected of God failed them
Jeremiah forced rethink history and experience God
rethink who God was
who they were as people of God
what was theirs to do in face of new answers
suggested God inviting see God as much bigger than imagined
and as concerned with way more than just tribes Benjamin and Judah (which all left 12 tribes)
through these events they would become vehicle God’s blessings on many peoples.
to fo more htan survive
emabrace situation and thrive

       3.      Luke
also theme of interesting story heard  from Luke
3 stories about Samaritans in Luke
            Samaritan village does not offer hospitality (as would be expected)
            Parable of Good Samaritan – Samaritan loves neighbour – radically new understanding of who is our neighbour
            This story
            Jesus appear walking through border area Galilee and Samaria
                        Galilee Jews descendants tribes Judah and Benjamin
                        Samaria – Samaritans – descendants of 10 “lost tribes” from north mixed with other peoples Assyrians brought to live in Northern region
            hated and animosity between two
enters village are “lepers” – refers to anyone who has skin disease – not Hansen’s disease of today
all lepers (all with skin disease) expelled from communities – treated as if died.
            group of lepers seems be 9 Galileans and 1 Samaritan
Jesus sees them and tells them "Go, show yourselves to the priests."
Off they go – still lepers
According to Mosaic law even if they are healed – only priests can declare them “whole”, alive, restored to former life and can restore them to life (Num. 5:2-3, Leviticus 13:45) after period probation and ritual washings
            true Jews
            true Samaritans – different priests – not ones Jerusalem
Leave – full of hope
on way healed – still not whole, not restored
at that moment little community splits and old boundaries reassert themselves
one who is still outcast among Galileans returns
returns to glorify God
notice what Jesus does here
            he takes place of Samaritan priest
            restores him to his place without obligations laid down in law.
does that because this Samaritan – “foreigner”/outsider
came back praising God
sometimes read this and see other 9 somehow less grateful and not so well behaved –
            other 9 do exactly as Jesus instructs and exactly as Law Moses instructs
            God healed them – happened
            restored to life they need go temple
usually read this as story about being thankful
            point that Jesus makes is not that Samaritan is thankful
            He is praising God!!!
Heres some surporses
-          God heals Samaritan
-          In Luke  - it is two Samaritans who live out summary of Mosaic Law
            this Samaritan praises / loves God (love Lord your God with all your heart and all souls and all mind and all strength
            Good Samaritan lives out second half – love neighbour
heres another way understanding what is going on here
Through lukes record life Jesus – God is saying – stop putting me in the box that I am only interested in Jews who follow the letter of the law.
Because I am interested in all people
much more interested in intent of law.

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