Thursday, November 28, 2013

Watching Out For Peace

This week marks the beginning of Advent, when we begin our journey towards Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation, and we usually understand that to be a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Traditionally in Advent we focus our preparation on the themes of peace, hope, joy and love. Today we begin with the theme of peace.
The gospel reading this morning reminds us that this time of preparation also has a future aspect. Advent is not only about the first Christmas, it is a time of deliberate preparation for the second coming of Christ, however we understand that. It is looking forward to when the reign of Christ is fully establish and all God is working for comes to be.
This morning’s gospel also reminds us that this is not a passive activity where we sit around and wait for God. This is a time of examining how we are involved in living in such a way that we point to the coming reign of Christ. We are, as Matthew says, to watch. Biblical scholar Bill Loader[1] suggests that it is unhelpful to read this passage as “an exhortation not to misbehave in case you get 'caught with your pants down', as they say, when Jesus comes.” Instead he says “It is about developing an awareness of what the God of the future is saying and doing in the present, to take a God perspective on the issues of the day and the future and to let that happen at all levels of our reality, from our personal lives to our international community.”
Last year we set one of our parish goals to be “living incarnationally in the community”. This first Sunday in Advent is a time to ask ourselves where we see God at work bringing peace into our world and our community. More than that, we are invited into active watching, to join in that work of peace making. How do we embody the peace of God in our community? 

Advent is also the time for the Christian World Service Christmas Appeal. This draws our attention to issues facing some of the poorest and most vulnerable people and invites us to take a God perspective on the issues of the day in the international community.
This year’s theme is Share Water, Share Life
Water is one of the most powerful symbols of the Christian faith and a constant throughout the Scriptures.  It is a gift of God that sustains the whole of creation.  But the water is running low and the costs of buying it rising.  The changing climate means that farmers cannot rely on rains or the dry seasons they need to dry food for storage.  Others experience massive floods, tsunami and hurricanes that kill and destroy.  Cities draw much more deeply on underground aquifers or lakes and rivers for growing populations.  Once clear water sources are contaminated with pollution or used for manufacturing and mass food production.  Conflicts over control of water supply are intensifying.  People are dying from disease caused by polluted water or thirst. 
As we reflect on God’s peace, we are reminded that everyone has a stake in the management of the local water supply but who gets to make the decisions?  Will some continue to miss out?  What are we doing with the gift that God gives us to share?   CWS partners are working hard to share water, share life.  Please give generously to the 2013 Christmas Appeal to help them do their work.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Who is Christ the King?

 Gate Pa –Christ the King Sunday, 2013
Hebrew Scripture:                 Jer 23:1-6                        
Psalm:                                     Luke 1:68-79                                       NZPB Page 39
Epistle:                                    Col 1:11-20
Gospel:                                    Luke 23:33-43

What I want to say:
We need to be really careful about how we talk about and live out “Christ the King.” It is too easy to just replicate what the rest of society expects and look no different.
One way we can do that is to approach Christmas as a time of good news for all people, and to prepare in that vein, rather than as a family time

What I want to happen:
I want people to engage in a Fairtrade animal friendly giving kind of Christmas

The Sermon

      1.     Introduction:

 What images, words, phrases come to mind when hear phrase – “Christ the King”?
It is a tricky phrase
comes with a lot cultural and religious baggage
show pictures
resurrected Jesus the Christ
enthroned in heaven
all powerful
Lord of all
so why have we this reading from Luke about crucifixion?

       2.     Luke

purpose of gospels –s answer very basic questions
            who is Jesus?
from our year reading Luke – how is Luke answering that question?
for writers of our lectionary
and for Luke
crucifixion where Christ “kingship” is fully revealed

       3.     Crucifixion

most of us not so keen on whole crucifixion thing
either way too much suffering
and for many we skip past singing happy songs about how Jesus died for our sins
            whatever we mean by that
significant number of scholars and theologians suggest that this is the point of it all.
certainly for Francis – crucifixion with nativity are two pivotal points of gospels
where the one who had broken down boundaries that exclude so many people was himself declared ultimate outcast
death cross brutally painful and utterly demeaning – designed to be
            warning to not cross Rome
            declaration that all stood for was without meaning
            if you believe anything this person has told you – this is where it leads
            this way leads only to death      
            clear statement that truth and certainty was only found in Rome
through resurrection that is all turned on its head
all else is declared meaningless
life is found only in way Jesus
habit of looking to wider world for truth is declared bankrupt
pulled again back into story gospel find out who Jesus is
            and who we are
            and in doing so reminded that we are beloved of God whether we like it or not
invited to live that out
so why is it we then use images and titles from world declared bankrupt in crucifixion to understand kingship of Christ
how we see Jesus as king is some ways shapes how we live our lives
here is an example

       4.     Elizabeth of Hungary

Francis was someone who saw himself as follower of great King
lived his life in service to great king
unlike images of king seen this morning
for him Jesus is king on cross
sought to emulate the king in his own life
            living amongst poorest as one poorest
            breaking down barriers
            honouring and blessing and making visible all he met.
Tuesday remembered one early and great Franciscan third order saints
Elizabeth of Hungary
talked about her two months ago
she is someone who was expected to live like a king with all trappings
but influenced by early Franciscans
sought to follow example of great king
sought to live simply
                       dressed simply
            gave extravagantly
            personally cared for poorest lepers and beggars
            when learnt food served came two sources
-         food grown on property
-         food extorted from poor surrounding area
ð confined eating what she knew came from own property
for her
to live in honour great king was to live in way honoured the claim of poor of the world on her
            sought to live in way – did not add to their poverty
-         alleviated consequences of that poverty
-         addressed some of cause of their poverty
-         central to all this recognising risen Christ in face poor.

       5.     Christmas

WE are about to end the church year and enter season Advent
            time preparation for Christmas
I wonder how understanding of Christ the King shapes was we are preparing for?
in light we take our images of Christ the king into that preparation
how do we prepare for Christmas in a way that does not add to the poverty of others
that does not add to the misery of animals
offers others hope?
to engage in a Fairtrade animal friendly giving kind of Christmas

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Feast of Christ the King

The Feast of Christ the King, or Christ the King or the Reign of Christ Sunday, is a relatively recent addition to the western liturgical calendar. In 1925 Pope Pius XI was worried about the growth of secularism and the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe, and Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders.  In response he instituted The Feast of Christ the King in his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas. Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. These included:
1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33). [1]
By 1970 its observance was adopted by Anglicans, Lutherans, and many other Protestants as well as by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. So this morning we join with Christians all around the world and celebrate the reign of Christ.
However, there will be objections to any Sunday entitled “Christ the King” or the “reign of Christ”. For some the language is too patriarchal, too male.  Others struggle with the language of empire and kingship and the images that evokes: either of sometimes brutal tyrants who were more interested in their own wealth and security than that of their subjects; or of far off figureheads with no real power to influence or change anything. And whether we like it or not, these images colour our understanding of “Christ the King”.
Others object because implicit is this Sunday is the place of the church as the expression of Christ’s reign, and somehow that means for some we should hold a prime place in society. I think in part that was what Pope Pius was reaffirming.
Others object because it implies that we come to “God” only through Christ, and in this pluralistic age and in this pluralistic country that seems a little too imperialistic, a little too exclusive. For some this Sunday seems to be about declaring everyone else to be wrong and “us” right, seems to be about reinforcing the fences we have built that define who God is and who God chooses to call “chosen” or “beloved”.
So, there will be a number of people suggesting (you can find them on the internet for a start, I did) that either we don’t need this Sunday anymore, or that we need a much better name.
Given all that I want to suggest that this Sunday offers us an opportunity to stop and reflect on the year we have had with Luke and the other readings. What does Luke suggest kingship is about?  As we read this gospel what images of God are offered us? How then might we understand the reign of God, the church, and ourselves here at St. Georges? Lastly, as we prepare to end another church year and begin the cycle again with advent, what do we give thanks for and what do we look for in the coming year?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

▶ Tearful Speech By Philippines Man After Super-Typhoon Haiyan - YouTube

I live in a country governed by people who deny climate change. They also deny that poverty exists in this land. They suggest that talking about climate change in relation to the calamity in the Philippines is playing politics, and they are saddened by it. I am sure that our government's representatives stood and applauded this speech. I am also sure that like many who stood and applauded, they will do nothing to help this conference come to any meaningful conclusion.

I feel so impotent in the face of what is happening to our planet. I feel outraged that people of faith would treat this world, which is not our world, but God's world, with such callousness. I feel despair that we seem hell bent on bequeathing our children and their children and planet that will be inhospitable to human life. And we seem stuck by short term greed. God help us all.

And yet, some how believing that the kingdom of God is among us, I am called to hope, and to act as if we can change this situation. Dear God give us strength and courage in this task.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SunLive - Tauranga remembers Armistice Day - The Bay's News First

Here I am again taking services at the RSA. An odd thing for someone who really is a pacifist. As I said at ANZAC Day I do this because I do think it is important to remember and honour all those who have gone to fight, even if most of the time I struggle with what the wars they were fighting in were all about.

There are a lot of myths around about how these wars were for our freedom.  What really surprises me is how much that thinking has shaped the liturgical resources available on line. So many of the prayers give thanks for the freedom and peace we enjoy because of these wars. Lines like "We thank you for the peace and freedom our nation enjoys as a result of their sacrifice" constantly appear. I have to confess I simply could not pray this yesterday and left the line out. Lets be clear. War ends conflict for now. It never brings peace. And these wars were not for freedom.

On Marsland Hill in New Plymouth there is a war memorial for the Anglo-Boer War which gives thanks for those young men who fought for the Motherland and for the Empire. And that is exactly what WW1 was about, and that war led directly to WW11 and laid the ground work for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The decisions made at the end of WW11 laid the groundwork for the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and probably didn't help in the other conflicts we have then fought in. All those decisions were about Empire.

So here we are again giving thanks for the freedom and peace we enjoy on a day that marks the end of a brutal and unnecessary wary that was simply about Empire, and which becuase it was about Empire did nothing to promote peace. Why is it we find it so hard to speak up about this. Why do we perpetuate these myths?

While politicians at the time needed to convince people that it what these wars were about, I find it appalling that we perpetuate these myths, and lay the ground work for politicians to use these hoary old chestnuts in the future to convince more young men and women to go and die for their wars.

So when will we as church start challenging these myths. When will we be clear that war never leads to peace, but sows the seeds for ongoing violence. When will we stand in the gospel of peace and declare that true peace is only found in God, and when we do as Jesus taught, loving God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength (rather than ourselves, our security, our prosperity, our power) and loving all our neighbours as ourselves, even when they are German, or Communist, or Muslim?

Saturday, November 09, 2013


 Gate Pa – November 12 2013
Hebrew Scripture:                 Haggai 1:14-2:9                     
Psalm:                                     145:1-5-17-21
Epistle:                                    2 Thess 2:1-5, 13-1
Gospel:                                    Luke 20:27-38

What I want to say:
            Ask what we remember on remembrance Sunday
            suggest that we remember and honour those who went working prevent any others having to do same
            inspired by example of Te Whiti and Tohu among others in this land
            do that by not getting stuck in what is before us and keeping hold bigger picture of God’s ongoing work
What I want to happen:
People to be inspired to work for peace, in our communities, country and world

The Sermon
      1.      Introduction:
talk about Remembrance day – what are we remembering?
                        courage of those who went
                        folly of war
talk about line in programme for today’s service at Otumoetai
            “Remember those fought wars to establish peace”
irony of that line on this day -  commemorates end WW1 – most historians suggest
            war reparations placed on Germany made WWII almost inevitable
            rather than war to end wars
                        led to over century ongoing conflict especially in middle east.
how might we honour and remember those who have fought?
            war never establishes peace – ending war just brings end to that conflict
            recognise causes of war and conflict in community, country and world
                        huge divide between wealthy and poor –
                        self centeredness – loose any appreciation needs of other
                                    absolute belief rightness of our position
                                    all becomes about us and out desires
                        focussing too much on here and now and losing sight big picture
            work eradicate those causes                

      2.      Scripture
what might scripture have to say about those things?
Ø  pray unceasingly justice for God’s chosen people
Ø  hope that swords will be beaten in ploughshares
Ø  Lukes gospel find Jesus who worked to remove barriers that excluded people from god’s grace and a place in the social community
Ø  todays reading, especially Luke and Haggai – invitation to keep hold of bigger picture
o   God’s ongoing work of restoration and new life
o   join in that work

      3.      Local examples
Wednesday remembered Te Whiti Rongomai
                        in this land have those worked peace against great odds:
                                    and Tohu in Parihaka
                                    Wiremu Tamihana of Matamata

      4.      how do we remember and honour those who have fought, those did come home, and those who came home forever changed????