Friday, January 24, 2014

Called to ???

Hebrew Scripture:          Isa 9:1-4                                              
Psalm:                            Psalm: 27:1, 4-9                                               
Epistle:                            1 Cor 1:10-18                     
Gospel:                            Matt 4:12-23                                     

What I want to say:
Invite us to let go of some more theological assumptions and to explore the nature of call from a fresh perspective
What I want to happen:
People to reflect on their own calling and ministry in light of this story from Matthew

The Sermon

       1.       Introduction:

how do you experience God’s call?
what are we called to?

        2.       Matthew

classic call story heard this morning
comes after John arrested
        Jesus does two things
                        gets out – moves to another place
                        carries on Johns ministry (although to be fair we never hear him preach repentance in all Matthew records)
then starts inviting people join him.
seems have dragnet approach – asking any old person comes across
any notice how that story differed from last week?
Andrew is follower John
not quite so random
Jesus invites Andrew and Peter to come and follow and “I will make you fish for people”
and James and John to leave father and follow
what does it mean to be fishers of people?
what do you think?

        3.       Theological assumptions

One of places theological assumptions that talked about last week play havoc
shapes how understand nature call
                what called to – (i.e. being fishers of people)
                define what church is about
provides series of easy answers which mean never have to really read what happens in gospels
said last week, said again in pew sheet
“Because the gospel writers knew that God is unknowable, but believed that in the life, actions and teaching of Jesus we are offered a way to know God, a picture of who God is. As we come to know Jesus, we come to know the nature of God.”
and in this way come to know ourselves as God sees us, and understand more clearly nature of life invited into

        4.       My call

used to think that God had plan for me – all I had to do was work out what was and obey
                don’t think God has plan like that anymore
                think llife faith more like rock climbing
                                attached by rope to God belayer
                                get to choose route and how high, depending how much willing trust
eg – call to Gate pa
                call to New Westminster

used to think point of it all get people come church –
to be fisher people meant to fish for them and drag them into church
that still lingers in background
my office window looks out over gate pa, not into church
point of it is to live in such a way that honours all people as being made in the image of God
that allows people to recognise they are made in image of God
invites them treat all others as being made in image of God
when I do that
                when we do that
we join risen christ in being fishers for people
                join in emerging Kingdom of God

       5.       Conclusion

how do you experience God’s call?
what are we called to?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Epiphany's gift

Last week I talked about Epiphany being an opportunity to examine our theological assumptions and to put some of them aside so that we can read the gospels afresh. Our theological assumptions act like foggy glasses that blind us to so much of what the gospel writers offer us. It happens to us all. We will never entirely read them without assumption.  But it is important to try. Why? Because the gospel writers knew that God is unknowable, but believed that in the life, actions and teaching of Jesus we are offered a way to know God, a picture of who God is. As we come to know Jesus, we come to know the nature of God. What got Jesus and his early followers in trouble was that this picture was often at odds with what people assumed God was like. Most were looking for an all-powerful God who would vanquish those deemed not of God’s family, and would impose God’s will. Many, including Christians, are still looking for that God today.
We can see this theological struggle in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  The church he had helped found was ripping itself apart fuelled by a picture of God as all-powerful. They sought to emulate that God using a theology of might and glory. The result was personality cults and division. Instead Paul offers a theology based on God’s love which reaches its dramatic climax in the defeat of the cross. For Paul this was the only way to find resurrection life and the only way to think of God’s power. He invited the Corinthians back to basic values, to emulate a God in whom there is only love, and whose power is expressed as love.
So as we finish Epiphany, let us read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who wrote their gospels to offer us Jesus to teach us who God is, who we are, and what the rule of God looks like in our world today.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Letting Go of our Theological Baggage

I am not as organised for Sunday as I would like. Here are my very rough thoughts  on the Gospel reading for Sunday. I hope a sermon emerges out of them.

Epiphany 2, 2014
 Gate Pa –
Hebrew Scripture:                 First Reading:  Isa 49:1-7                   
Psalm:                                     Psalm: 40:1-11                                   
Epistle:                                    1 Cor 1:1-9             
Gospel:                                    John 1:29-42                          

What I want to say:
I want to talk about the theological politics in John’s gospel, and how we play theological politics. I want to suggest that epiphany time us to be reawakened to what Jesus teaches us about nature of God, through life, ministry and teaching. Using “lamb of God” and Jesus is way, truth and life, want to explore how our theological glasses blind us to what Gospels teach us.
What I want to happen:
People to be freed from some theological biases and made more open to what Gospels might teach us about God.

The Sermon
  1. Introduction:
season of epiphany – second half Christmas (two combined make 40 days)
Season centred on theme - theophany – manifestation of God to humanity
manifestation begins with coming magi to infant Jesus – recorded in Matthew
includes baptism of Jesus by John Baptist (last week)
concludes with presentation of Jesus at temple – recorded by Luke
put it another
-          God is revealed in person, life, ministry and teaching of Jesus
this Sunday leave Matthew hear story baptism from John
- not sure why
that’s ok
quite different from other three versions of story
-          what are differences (look up)
theological politics
one authors read describes this passage playing theological politics
no one dispute Jesus and John Baptist are linked
            taken for granted
significant enough group that think that John – elder, first, was the senior and most important
still groups today who think this – Mandeans – ethnoreligous group comes out Iraq state John Baptist is their chief prophet
So John playing theological politics at this point
            establishing divine manifestation comes through Jesus, not Baptist.

our theological baggage
before followers Baptist could get what Jesus was about
first let go of their preconceptions
let go Baptist
be open what Jesus was about
just as true for us today
we all carry theological baggage hinders our full engagement with story Jesus
prevents us receiving divine manifestation contained in life, ministry, teaching
miss big chunks
seems to me one invitations of Epiphany is to ask what theological baggage do we need to let go of to really engage with all offered in life Jesus?
2 examples
1. Lamb of God
in gospel passage heard today Baptist refers Jesus several times as “Lamb of God”
what comes mind when hear that phrase (ask)
            -sacrificial lamb – died sins
                        - thanksgiving offering
                        - Passover lamb – aid remembering God’s great acts liberation in past
            - lamb or ram also symbol of messiah
                        one who would act in strength and power God,
                                    drive out all death, sin, darkness
                                    bring in reign God – marked by God’s peace and justice.
which do you think both Baptist and gospel writer thinking of when use phrase?
trouble is most us in some way carry atonement theology
            whole point of Jesus was that came to die on cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life with God
            two comments about that
            number ways understanding what that phrase means
            not whole point. if ti were, John, Matthew, Mark and Luke wouldn’t have bothered writing Gospels.

2nd example
Jesus is way, truth and life.
normally understood as very exclusive saying
            especially if atonement theology
            eternal life only found in Jesus, and in no-one else.
what happens if I ask this question?
            how would you describe the way of Jesus based on what is said in four gospels? (ask)
                        generous and hospitable
                        ate with outcast
                                    honoured and blessed those regarded as beyond God’s love
                        taught that we are to love all people as ourselves (Good Samaritan story)
                        taught true follower is one who feeds hungry, frees captive, welcomes stranger, (Matthew 25)
            if that is the way, then what truth about God are we taught in all this?
            where are we to find life?
Jesus is way, truth and life,
            but that way, truth and life is way more unsettling and radical than most of us are ready for.
trouble is our neat and tidy theologies usually prevent getting close to that answer.

so what is epiphany about?
taking time let go of our theological baggage that prevents us receiving image of God offered us in Christ
and as our understanding of nature of God and life in god grows
            ask where see God at work in our world today.
            how might we join in that?


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who are we looking for?

In the midst of hearing Matthew we have one Sunday reading from John, just to keep us on our toes. His version of Jesus‘ baptism is different from the other Gospel writers. It is written for a different community, using different sources and dealing with different issues. Can you spot the differences? Why do you think he wrote his version differently from the others?
As I have said before, the gospels were written to help people answer the fundamental question of “who is Jesus?” In part they were answering this question because Jesus wasn’t the kind of person you would normally follow or attach any importance to. As one of the writers I read asks, “Just exactly who is this guy from that dinky, remote, nowheresville hamlet - Nazareth? Is that what it's called? And did you say he was the bastard son of Mary? That Joseph must have been a real loser to hook up with her. No self-respecting man would marry a woman like that. So we don't even know who his real father is?[1] They had a big job to do to overcome all these reasons not to follow.
They also understood that who we understand Jesus to be shapes how we understand God, faith and what Christianity is all about. In today’s story John begins his answer with another question “What are you looking for?” So this Sunday we are invited to ask ourselves what is it that we are looking for? What do we seek in following Jesus?
Epiphany is a time when we are invited to open ourselves to new ways of understanding who Jesus is, to deepen our understanding of what we are looking for, and to discover new ways of finding Jesus in our world. This week we are invited to spend time doing all three.

[1]  David Ewart, <>