Wednesday, July 30, 2014


This week’s gospel reading (Matt 14:13-21) is another well-known story. We might feel awkward that only the men are countered but it is what it is. And we might also have some good ideas about how Jesus did feed so many people. We might also miss the context of this story, the two devastating events that precede this story, and in doing so miss the contrasts that run all the way through. I wonder if you have read the stories between this week and last week.
The story begins with Jesus leaving all in search of a place to be with his grief and anger over the death of his mentor, teacher, even friend. John has been beheaded and Jesus needs time alone. But this huge crowd, bigger than any town except the major urban centres, have gone to find him. Maybe they too are filled with grief and anger and they look for hope in this man. And so Matthew tells us that Jesus meets them. We might be tempted to say he has pity, but pity is too nice a word. This is deep gut wrenching empathy. It is shared grief. The word “sick” can also be translated weak. He meets and heals those weak with all that is happening.
And here the contrasts start. The birthday party which precedes this story is one of depravity and all-consuming self-centeredness. It is symbolic of all that is wrong with Herod, Rome and the Temple leadership. In contrast to their luxury and waste, the poor who gather looking for Jesus live lives marked with hunger and deprivation. That is the way of the Roman Empire.
In contrast to the greed of these groups we are reminded of the biblical tradition where the hungry will be fed, and condemnation is pronounced on those who do not feed their people.
And in contrast to the abuse of power encountered in the Herod’s birthday bash, in this story we are offered a visible reminder of the gracious abundance of God’s power. Despite the impossibility of the story, all these people were fed. Were fed until they no longer wanted, until they were no longer hungry. God’s power is bringing in a new age where all have enough to eat.
This year is an election year. I wonder how this story with its image of compassion, provision, generosity, and God’s justice and care for all, will influence how we vote. What kind of society do we look for? How does this story affect our hopes for Tauranga Moana and for Aotearoa-New Zealand? Which people, which party offers us the best hope of taking a step or two towards it?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Building the Kingdom in the most surprising places

Gate Pa – Social Service Sunday 2014.
Psalm:                                  105:1-11,45b
First Reading:                    Gen 29:15-28                                       
Second Reading:              Rom 8:26-39                              
Gospel:                                Matt 13:31-33, 44-52                                                   
What I want to say:
The Kingdom of Heaven is presented as being like a weed, like a woman hiding yeast in flour, like a tenant farmer finding treasure and somehow buying it, like a merchant selling all his stock to purchase a pearl of great price, like a fishing net dragging ALL in. It is not what is expected, not where it is supposed to be, not doing what it is supposed to be doing. it is just not what we are looking for. So are we the blind ones Jesus keeps talking about? So, we are invited to look for signs on the kingdom in places we normally would not think to look, and on this Social Service Sunday, go there to join in the work of building God’s community
What I want to happen:
People to pay more attention to the unlikely signs of the Kingdom, maybe even rethink what the kingdom of heaven is and what it looks like. maybe even be a mountain biker and look there rather than where they are, and then we might even join in God’s work of building God’s community

The Sermon

     1.       Introduction:

Theme gospel is for third week – Kingdom of Heaven
over centuries – kingdom heaven understood in lots way
                heaven – somewhere else after die
                remember film – Kingdom of Heaven
                                – about crusader kingdom in middle east
                over centuries number empires thought themselves as Kingdom heaven
                                even line thought in America – highest expression Christian democracy – modern kingdom heaven
                some sees church expression
what about you – what you add to those descriptions?

     2.       Kingdom of Heaven

wonder what phrase meant people listening to Jesus
hard tell – they not write
sources those did write
                apocalyptic – end of time
                                either in another place – heaven
                                or in this world
end of Romans – and high priests too I suspect

     3.       Jesus and the Kingdom heaven

with all that in mind let’s hear what Jesus has to say about all this.
3rd week heard Jesus talk about Kingdom heaven
recap – 2 weeks ago – sower and soils –
                Jesus talking about why using parable
                                fulfil Isaiah – hear and not understand
                                                see and not ….
inside comment – we are the ones that see and hear and understand – not like those people out there
                last week – wheat and tares or weeds
this week have these 5 quick snippets
                face of it seem pretty straight forward
                as we listen, remember that we have had 2000 years
                one things take granted when Jesus speaking
                                – nothing is straight forward
                like a weed, which birds nest in –
                is this what those in authority thought of Jesus and what teaching?
                it connects us to the great vision of the kingdom
                                gathering of all people in peace and reconciliation,
                                foreshadowed in the eucharistic feast.
                like a woman hiding yeast in flour,
                like a tenant farmer finding treasure and somehow buying it,
                like a merchant selling all his stock to purchase a pearl of great price,
                like fishing net dragging ALL in.

if I was to describe kingdom Heaven
-          not sure any these would be my list images
-          really – kingdom heaven like weed?
It is not what is expected,
not where it is supposed to be,
not doing what it is supposed to be doing.
it is just not what we are looking for.
if i am honest – there is something going on here and I seem to be missing it?
So are we the blind ones Jesus keeps talking about?

     4.       Social Service Sunday

as said in pew sheet
theme is building community
day reflect on how GTG, Whanau Aroha, Centrepoint build community
give thanks
ask how we can be more involved in these and other things that build community
Today – also invited to look for signs on the kingdom in places we normally would not think to look,
Book – where you look is where you go
                e.g. mountain bike riding – look where going not where are
                                less likely fall off
                big lesson for us in this
not looking where are – looking out what doing and what might involved in
no one ever said easy
none parable about easy
are about looking in unexpected places.

and on this Social Service Sunday, go there to join in the work of building God’s community

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Social Service Sunday

This Sunday is Social Service Sunday, a day set aside to remember, celebrate and pray for the work of Anglican Care and its work in the community. It is easy for us to think that the Salvation Army are the big Christian provider of community work, but it turns out us Anglicans are much much bigger and involved in a lot more communities. We just don’t get the press.
This year the theme is building community. This ties in nicely with the Gospel reading, which has Jesus continuing speech on images for the kingdom of heaven. Our other readings are also helpful in understanding this theme.
The psalm reminds us of the eternal faithfulness of God through retelling the history of the people of God. A God who builds a new people. We are called to that same faithfulness, and to follow the model of our God who remembers. When we build community we are faithful. Paul in his letter to the churches in Rome reminds us that the Spirit of God is yearning for us and within us, yearning for true community for all creation. We are to work with God in giving birth to God’s community, trusting and hoping that even when not a lot seems to be happening that God is at work, the yearning of the Spirit of God will bring all things to good.
Finally, the readings from Genesis and Matthew reminds us that our God is a God of the unexpected, who uses and subverts the established social and political systems, and our expectations of what should be, to create new community, new social and political systems that are built on God’s justice and peace The kingdom of God, the community of God is appearing in unexpected places, among those you would least expect it to appear among, offering new ways of being and living.
We recognise today all who represent social service agencies and all they do in our communities. We especially recognise and celebrate Growing through Grief, Merivale Whānau Aroha Childcare Centre, and Centrepoint. In a very practical sense, by the work they do, they are the heart and soul of our community; however the challenge that is provided today is: that we not just see these people as the heart and soul of our community but as well, ourselves and our church we must show each other the seeds of what Jesus called “The Kingdom of Heaven.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

I’m sorry for being a man: sorry boys, it is all men. | First We Take Manhattan

I've listened to alot of the crap recently about David Cunliffe's apology for being a man. People who really didn't find out much about where he said it, or why he said it. Just jumped on the band wagon. Which of course is where most of our media and most people seem to be.
Which is sad. Because what David Cunliffe said was right. In the context he was speaking, a context of women abused by men, it needed to be said. And until we can be that honest, not much will change really.
Thank you Graham for your thoughtful words on this issue

Being Rooted in God

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm:                                 Psalm: 119:105-112                                                               
First Reading:                    Genesis 25:19-34                               
Second Reading:              Romans 8:1-11                                                                        
Gospel:                                Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23                                                                                

What I want to say:
That today’s readings help us explore being blessed to be a blessing. In the story of the sower we are offered picture of a recklessly generous god who sows seek life wherever. While we can read the soil types as different people, it is also us. We are a mix of soils. And that reckless God keeps on scattering that within us.

What I want to happen:
How do we nurture our good soil and help that seed grow, that we might be a blessing

The Sermon

       1.       Introduction:

Bethel – blessed to be a blessing
trouble is – not sure if blessed
                good enough
                what need to do?
even when might think blessed
                not sure who blessing for
                what are limits of this?
                limits got very narrow
                                Jesus and who is my neighbour
                how to be a blessing
                                what does that mean?
                                what involve?
bible is really all about this
today’s readings are all about this

      2.       Gospel

well known stories
parable of sower
irony is don’t spend a lot time on sower at all
dispute about technique of sower
                some – normal
                others – seen as incredibly wasteful
                                no way poor peasant waste precious seed in this fashion
                                they carefully place it in prepared soil had best chance harvest
                like many Jesus stories – this is shocking picture
This sower scatters seed willy nilly
                where ever
                no care for chance harvest
Use this as picture God scattering seed life
either reckless
                wasteful God or
recklessly generous,      
abundant God
scatters seed life and blessing wherever and everywhere
Go back old Bethel course
God scatters blessing all over place
don’t have do anything receive
there it is
scattered all over us and around us

      3.       Soil

next part reading Jesus explanation about the soil
which some suggest not Jesus at all
but early church trying make sense of this story in light experience
trouble was
despite stories of amazing growth find Acts
reality was
hard work
work among poor attracting attention
not all – positive
weren’t vast numbers
not everyone stuck
persecution making life hard
numbers converts drifting away
kind of like today
                we don’t have persecution as excuse
early followers of the way in Matthew’s community trying make sense of that
this story offers an explanation
                some were paths – seed not grow at all
                some rocky ground – some response
                                but then heat is on – they are out of there
                some have lives full of thorns
                                choke response
at one level –
                all this is helps us understand why mission is so hard
yes God is abundantly, recklessly generous
but soil people’s hearts not always ready

      4.       Problem

There is a problem with this
becomes really tempting for those us seemingly have responded
feel pretty smug about it all
look at us
responding to God’s blessing
we are good soil
leaves us feeling somewhat self-righteous
which unfortunately
can leaves us thinking that blessing is for us
forgetting all about 2nd part that equation
suddenly no longer good soil
join those others out there
only we don’t notice
too busy congratulating ourselves.
sad thing is history littered
                us Christians treating other people really badly on basis that we are righteous
                they are unrighteous
                deserving God’s judgement
                which we have then enacted on God’s behalf.
at point
we stop being good soil
somewhere else in continuum of soils

      5.       Another reading

lead us to another reading of this story
yes – all us here will be good soil
                welcomed seed reckless God scatters
                bearing fruit faith
result – trust in God
                centre our lives in love God
                be blessed
but if we were honest
                other times we will be like path
                or rocky soil
                or thorns that grow and choke
no better than anyone else
which leaves us wondering
                if we are good enough
                if we truly are blessed

      6.       Rebekah and her family

first reading heard this morning heard story about people just like that
                ongoing story Isaac and Rebekah
                                two sons – Esau and Jacob
some ways extraordinary family
ever case having more one wife
                when one wife barren – no children
                                no heirs
                                name, legacy – disappear
Isaac stays true to Rebekah - good soil
but given picture real people in this story
some ways call this dysfunctional family
Jacob and Esau – fighting even before born
parents and sons filled with
these do not seem to be the kind of people we would describe as good soil
not kind people on which God’s promise to all humanity hinges
yet that is exactly who they are
for all humanness
are good soil at times
history changed through them.
history littered followers of the way
despite all their faults
all times they were paths, rocky soil, filled with weeds and thorns
lived lives blessing all those around.

      7.       Good news

all which good news
brothers and sisters
we do not need be good soil all time
if think you are
deluding yourself
by definition aren’t good soil
here is good news
God’s seed planted in us anyway
blessed anyway
God changing world through us
let us give thanks that there is good soil in there somewhere
that seed God is planted within us despite all failings
                panted even in those failing
let us tend good soil
be people who live
blessing for other
How do we nurture our good soil and help that seed grow, that we might be a blessing?