Thursday, October 30, 2014

This week

No theme and sermon notes this week. I am away at a TSSF chapter meeting in Auckland.
Have a grand All Saints/All Souls

How to prevent the extinction of the Church of England - Archbishop Cranmer

A few weeks ago I went to a clergy training day, a gathering of the clergy in the Bay of Plenty, stipendiary, non- stipendiary, and retired. We talked about the statistics presented at our Diocesan Synod a couple of weeks before that by the vicar general, statistics that make grim reading. Numbers of stipendiary priests a fraction of what they were 40 years ago, numbers attending church falling dramatically, age structure aging by the second, finances looking very wobbly.

The ensuing conversation seemed to be all about how to get people to come to church. I find this so frustrating. The point of church is not to get people to join us. The point of church is to be a people who engage with God in mission. Others felt this was irresponsible and that as clergy our role is to ensure that the church carries on. Why would we want that I wonder? One idea was to close a pretty significant 8am service because they will eventually die (true they mostly are older, but so what) and use the building as a music school. I don’t even begin to understand that idea to be honest.

Why do I approach these things differently?  After that clergy day I reflected on that question. As I did so I was reminded how much my years in youth ministry has given me, including a very different perspective on mission and the place of the church in "the Kingdom of God". This is especially true of my 9 years in the national role: attending various conferences, running and speaking at various conferences, and particularly our national youth forums which I ran with a group of young people from around the country. I helped run an event on mission shaped youth ministry. In this I realised that the future of the church was in God’s hands, not mine. And it would ultimately be up to young people to create that future with God. My role was to share the gospel with them, with the riches of our Anglican tradition. I share it as a taonga, a treasure or gift and then watch them make sense of it and create out of that. And our national youth events focussed on mission for the last 5 or 6 years. Which were all about resourcing young people in all of this. And This group of young people came up with that great phrase – missional community.

All of this has been seriously coloured by my Franciscan calling. Reading and praying the principles for the last 20 years has seriously coloured how I understand God's mission and our place in it. Experiencing church around the world with both young ministry and the Franciscans has allowed me to appreciate the riches of what we offer, and that preserving it is not the point. It is the spring board, the tools which God uses to create in us a people focussed not on survival but God’s mission.

A lot of the time I am left feeling on the outside, and at times really frustrated with this church. But also people keep saying to me to keep speaking out, so I guess I have a place. This article is helpful. I feel myself saying “Amen”.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Loving God

Gate Pa
(Pentecost 20, 30th Sunday in Ordinary time)
Psalm: :                       Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17                                                               
First Reading:                          Deuteronomy 34:1-12                  
Second Reading:        1 Thess 2:1-8                                                                
Gospel:                        Matthew 22: 34-46                                                                           

What I want to say:
The yoke of Jesus changes how we understand the Torah – from rules to obey to earn God’s love and forgiveness, to the way we respond to God and love God with all our heart and mind and soul.
What we also often miss is that these two commandments work together. We love God by loving our neighbour.
Love is not emotion; it is not "liking," "getting along with," "desiring," or "feeling warm about." The "love" Jesus is talking about here is trust, loyalty, enduring devotion, being attached to. You may actually hate your neighbour, but you will still love them in the Biblical sense if you continue to act for their well-being, don't tell lies about them, and refuse to cut off your relationship with them.

What I want to happen:
People to grow in love, of God by growing in commitment, loyalty, working for the wellbeing of their neighbour.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

what was the first half gospel reading today –
'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'
well known
so familiar not think about it too often
some believe that this heart of Jesus yoke
            his understanding of and teaching about the Torah
            if you want to know what the good news is, this is it.
if it is heart of his yoke, - then do need pay attention to it.

     2.     Radical

trouble for us
            really familiar
            just seems to make sense
not a lot need think about really.
because of that
miss just how radical reading of Torah – of 10 commandments in particular
how is it radical
seen radical in two ways

     3.     Radical One

how was and still is read by many
Loving God and loving neighbour 2 separate statements
            reading Loving God all important
            loving neighbour came down line importance
big question certainly those confronting Jesus
how do we love God
            obedience to law - some focus of that all about Temple rites,
observing temple rituals and sacrifices
            Pharisees – especially those away Jerusalem – daily living out all laws
not about earning God’s pleasure and love – becoming worthy
responding to God who chose Israel to be God’s people
            gave them this land
when fulfil obligations as set out in Torah
when obedient to law
            were rightly loving God
primary importance
everything else secondary to that
            first radical elevation of loving neighbour as ourselves to equally important.

     4.     Question

others suggest even more radical teaching than that
            suggest that Jesus went even further
question for them– read them as two statements or one?
not only elevated loving neighbour as self to being equal to loving God
became means by which we love God?
not two equal statements
but one – love God by loving neighbour
rest Torah became means by which we are reminded how to love God by loving neighbour, and we are helped to become people who love God by loving neighbour – don’t have to think about it, just live that way.

     5.     What is love?

Love is not emotion; it is not "liking," "getting along with," "desiring," or "feeling warm about."
The "love" Jesus is talking about here is trust, loyalty, enduring devotion, being committed to.
we will love in the Biblical sense if we act for our neighbours well-being,
            not gossiping or tell lies about them, 
            and refuse to cut off your relationship with them
            continue to work for their wellbeing ahead of our own.

     6.     That is hard

sounds so easy
loving God by loving neighbour a lot harder than Jesus response suggests
while very early church renowned support and ministry among least in their society: slaves, poor, widows, orphans, and dispossessed, sick
once church become arm of state under emperor Constantine
two statements separated
increasingly church taught loving God meant adherence teaching Church
            attending church services
            giving to church
            being good and loyal citizen
loving neighbour increasingly separated
            once again became lesser importance –
church taught needed earn God’s love and forgiveness through all sorts of activities including penitential rites, giving alms, giving to church and to things church deemed right, like crusades.

     7.     Reformation Day

today churches, especially Lutheran churches
remember how on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
this time religious, social and political revolution
gave rise protestant reformation
reformed family churches – Lutheran and Presbyterian
bibles and services common language people
through translation bible into German
created common German language among Germanic peoples and states
led creation modern Germany some 300 year later
give thanks Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli and other reformers
time us reflect
how well we hold these statements together
wonder do we love God by other means than loving neighbour
how do we need to be reformed
Wendy and religious life.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reformed Love

Our gospel today, Matthew 22:34-46, is another one of these really familiar readings, so familiar we often miss the point. Here we see Jesus at work offering his new yoke, his “new way” of understanding the Torah. Jesus, the master interpreter of Scripture brings together two texts: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and not only makes them equally important, but the basis and grounding for the whole of Torah (Law). What he does is really interesting. Priests and Pharisees would have understood that loving the Lord their God was done through obedience to the Law and through performance of the temple rites. Loving our neighbour was then a second requirement – with the added questions around who my neighbour might be. But by pulling together these two passages from the Torah, Jesus not only makes them equally important, but makes loving our neighbour the means by which God is loved. The requirements of the law are then understood as the way people become people of compassion and mercy. The law is fulfilled when God is loved through the loving of neighbours. This changed everything. And for many it was too hard. The church has regularly drifted back to separating the two commandments and developing a whole new list of requirements by which we make ourselves worthy of God’s love – all of which is way too hard.
This Sunday is also remembered by some as Reformation Day. Celebrated on the last Sunday in October, Reformation Sunday commemorates the Protestant Reformation as well as Martin Luther, who nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, the eve of All Saints' Day. It is a religious holiday often celebrated alongside All Hallows' Eve (Halloween), particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities. It is a civic holiday in some German states as well as in Slovenia (since the Reformation contributed profoundly to that nation's cultural development), and Chile.
As Anglicans we do not often think of ourselves as part of the reformation movement. And yet on October 16th we were invited to remember two martyr reformers, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, who were burned at the stake on 16 October 1555. (Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake the following day). The reformation is a significant part of our story.
The Reformation can be understood as being all about how we read todays Gospel. The Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s time had separated out these two commandments and developed a whole new system by which people could both earn God’s love and forgiveness and in turn love God. Luther struggled under this burden.  One day he read Paul’s letter to the Romans, and he understood that justification was by faith alone. We cannot earn love. He was reformed, and his consequent questioning of church practice and theology sparked a religious and political revolution that changed history and helped shape the church in England. Today we are invited to reflect on whether we have allowed other things to divide these two commandments, and how we need reformation ourselves?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seeing the back of God

Gate Pa – October 19th, 2014
(Pentecost 19, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Psalm                                    99                                                                                
First Reading:                    Exodus 33:12-23                                 
Second Reading:              1 Thess 1:1-10                                    
Gospel:                                Matthew 22: 15-22                              

What I want to say:
I want to use the Exodus reading to ask, what does the back of God look like? Moses was most concerned about how to be a distinctive people. How does our seeing the back of God help us be distinctive? And using the gospel reading, how to we as people who are shaped by the back of God live in such a way that all creation and all that is in it is honoured and treated as God’s?

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on how our seeing the back of God helps us be distinctive? And how we as people shaped by the back of God live in such a way that all creation and all that is in it is honoured and treated as God’s?

The Sermon

1.       Introduction:

Old Testament and gospel readings are both well known
kind of stories don’t really need listen to or think about
we know what they are about
Story of Moses
                one level beautiful story
                touches some our deepest insecurities, longings
                well, some peoples insecurities/longings
ones I hear as spiritual director
not enough to be known by God
                even in our deepest levels
                that’s what knowing name is all about
                (that can be a little freaky)
want, need to know God
essence of God as encapsulated in name God
want to be certain of God
see, hear God for ourselves
that’s all Moses wanted
                to know God
                the essence of God
                to be certain of God
In this way he thought – Hebrew people could become a distinct people
different from every other people
as their God was different from all other gods.
wonder how many here want that?
                to know God
                the essence of God
                to be certain of God
                we might be a distinctive people
Moses was told that he could not
                know name God more than he did
                I am who I am
                I am who I was
                I am who I will be
tense of verb hard nail
kind of like God really
not see glory God
                -too much
                - God is inherently mystery and uncertainty
                that is what makes God different from all other gods
instead covered in rock as God passed by
he sees back of God
so much debate about what that means
                actual back
                sense presence?
                qualities of God abounding where God has been
what is back of God for us?
We are offered Jesus,
                who was one of us
                yet God Incarnate
reminding us who we are as people made in image of God
reminding us what it means to live as people made in the image of God
abounding with the qualities Jesus lived by.
Jesus is back of God
and as people who live with those qualities
in a way we become the back of God for people of this time?
where do we see the back of God around us?
how are we the back of God?
how does that helps us be distinctive as Moses hoped it would help the Hebrew people be distinctive?

2.       Jesus, the Pharisee and the Herodian.

Jesus was in the temple
He had re-entered Jerusalem the day before and immediately threw out the money changers
He was back,
offering his easy yoke
Temple leadership – chief priests and elders asked by what authority he did these things
                overturning tables and causing chaos and hardship for money changers
                teaching his yoke?
                whose Rabbi’s yoke was it anyway?
Jesus asks them question they refuse to answer
and tells stories of two sons, bad tenants and the absent landowner
and wedding feast where those should know better didn’t attend – to their cost
and those not expect to be invited suddenly were on guest list
all too much
something needed to be done
so some Jerusalem leadership –
normally have nothing to do with each other
these were extraordinary times
Pharisees and Herodians
cooked up really good question
"Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don't pander to your students. 17 So tell us honestly: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
full of false flattery
unanswerable question
kind question never ask –
Some might wonder by whose law are they talking
Roman law is very clear – don’t even think about not paying
But Torah – law of Moses??
is this bound or loosed by the Law
what does your yoke say about this Jesus?
if say no – well Romans will be all over you –
                their Herodian lackeys make sure of that
if say yes
landless populace driven off land because debts accrued paying tax will lose faith in you – Roman puppet
win win for askers
loose loose for Jesus

3.       The Answer

Jesus asks calmly for a coin
who is wealthy enough to be carrying around Roman coins?
wealthy Pharisees and Herodians
people complicit in the oppressive Roman economy
that’s who
and whose image is on it?
Caesar Tiberius
Jesus then says
   "Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is Gods."
sounds so straight forward
over centuries used by Christians and wealthy and leaders say
church stays out state affairs
not place economics
just concerned with spiritual stuff.
Heard those comments by a current minister crown in regard to Anglican churches statements about Treaty Waitangi
on face it – seems fair enough
so what is Caesars and what is Gods?

4.       O Wait

just two tiny problems
and can anyone tell me the first two commandments?
no other God but me?
not make any idols?
if I had a roman coin
                quite dodgy
                what does it say under the image?
"Tiberius, Emperor, son of God."
Where are we? - Temple?

5.       What is Gods?

one other little problem
what happens if I turn Jesus answer around
                give to God what is God’s
                give to Caesar what is Caesars?
what is God’s
and what is Caesars?
as an aside every Jew who heard Jesus answer understood this
no roman would have
so how does that change you answers from before?
how does that change help us be back of God?