Friday, January 30, 2015

Liberation and addiction

This sermon can be heard here

Gate Pa Presentation of our Lord at the Temple
4th Sunday in Epiphany
Psalm                          24                                                                                                       
First Reading:                         Malachi 3:1-5                         
Second Reading:                    Hebrews 2:14-18                    
Gospel:                                    Mark 1:21-28                         

What I want to say:
I want to briefly explore Candlemas, finishing with the importance of Christ the light  - how does light Christ enable us to see ourselves and the world we live in. I then want to use the article The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think by Johann Hari to talk about what it is that Jesus might be liberating those in the story and those hearing the story from

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on what cages Christ is both liberating us from, and what we are being invited into?

The Sermon

1.     Introduction:

today and tomorrow Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and other churches
                        celebrate the Presentation Lord in the Temple
            found in Luke
            fulfilment of Mosaic law
                        Purification Mary – given birth – involves a lot of blood – nephesh or life
                        presentation Jesus, first born male – dedicated to God
            leads – Song Simeon – part night prayer
seen with his own eyes salvation of Lord
Candlemas also when new candles blessed
            thought have healing powers
            Ireland – lit stubs given those dying – light way paradise
not hear gospel this week
chose read Mark
            partly because online resources I use RCL rather
            partly reading heard important Mark
                        introduces two themes that hold Marks gospel together

     2.     Mark

passage heard acts kind introduction in Mark
sets out themes which rest gospel explore and open up
themes – authority
-         liberation
authority already introduced and explored – gospel up to this point
here stated – unlike authority of Pharisees and scribes – collision course is set
crowd amazed – quick observation about the two greek words used
            first time – multi layered – include sense outrage
            second time just – wooah!

     3.     Liberation

theme liberation is then introduced through story of the man possessed by unclean spirit being healed
unlike people – not quite sure about Jesus
            some up for it
            others not so much
Unclean Spirits immediately recognise Jesus authority
            not happy
Forced obey and leave man
sets up Jesus as one who has authority to liberate and heal
unlike other healers and exorcists of his time – Jesus doesn’t charge
hard one many of us
not part life experience
often feel need  to make sense of it in terms of 21st century world view
in doing so miss point Mark making – Jesus has authority to liberate.
            Jesus is presented as one who has authority even to cast out demons

     4.     Our cage

read article last week about addictions – posted Facebook page if interested.
Hari suggests that we have been misled about causes of addiction and that we need new approach
much understanding about addiction comes experiments with rats
            alone in cage
            2 bottles one with heroin
                        one with water
            drank heroin one almost exclusively
led understanding heroin hooks in them
            changes biochemistry brain
                        – need it or addicted to it
                        – until kills us
a lot of our treatment programmes and a lot drug prevention strategies are based on this premise.
1970’s another researcher Professor Alexander felt role cage left too open
set up alternative
            other rats
            big rat park – lots to do
nearly all rats tried heroin – then stuck water
not need heroin
life good
then did second experiment
rat alone in cage 51 days – addicted
returned to rat park – nearly all stopped heavy use and returned to normal life in park
Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge understanding of addiction. Not a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, an adaptation.
            ->It's not you. It's your cage.
not about humans – about rats
human experiments
applied that what happened after Vietnam war
extremely high percentage American servicemen used drugs including heroin
            many addicted
            cope stress situation
            appalling cage
fear was when return home America inundated drug addicts
95% addicted soldiers stopped when returned home
few went rehab
most just stopped
changed cage and need disappeared
Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections.
            It's how we get our satisfaction.
            If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe.
            addiction isn’t about hooks and brain chemistry, but unfulfilled human longing to bond meaningfully with others
Cohen suggests that should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.'
            A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
“It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster's -- "only connect." But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.
We need now to talk about social recovery -- how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

     5.     Social Isolation and Mark

one online commentaries offered this article way understanding Marks gospel in general and this story in particular
liberation offered is
            liberation from cages that isolate us from each other
Jesus not only offering liberation from
also liberation to new way building community
built on God’s mercy and justice
allowed new connections made
over rest year, invite us keep eye out way Jesus challenge all forces that separated and isolated people
            starting with demonic possession
            economic systems trapped people poverty
                                    extraordinary wealth – no less isolated
            religious systems – divided people into who in and who out
                        worked ensure barriers between people were maintained
            social systems – family honour systems made real connection between and within families hard – sought live way maintain families honour
over next few months invite you listen for each of these
invite you reflect
            How Christ light helps us recognise unhealthy cages we live in
                        and are being liberated from
            return to candle stubs given to dying in Ireland
            Where Christ the light inviting us in to
                        what is our paradise now?
                        what new forms of community that will allow us and others to bond well
            to be communities that give life rather than force isolation
what we being invited to see this year?

Finish with Song Simeon

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Authority and Liberation

In the Anglican (and Roman Catholic) calendar today is Candlemas, or the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple. In the northern hemisphere this ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. The Christmas season once lasted for forty days - until the second day of February, and Candlemas marked the end of that season. The name Candlemas comes from the tradition that all the candles that were to be used in the church during the coming year were brought into church and blessed. So it was the Festival Day (or 'mass') of the Candles.
Candles were very important as the main means of providing light. They were also thought to give protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder that Christ is ‘The light of the World' - and candles are lit during church services to remind us of this.
However we are going to follow the more Protestant RCL lectionary readings for the Gospel. You will need to read Luke for yourself at home. We will continue to listen to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Beginnings are important as they set the tone and themes. In today’s passage two of the big themes for Mark are further introduced, the themes of liberation and authority.
Mark’s gospel is all about establishing Jesus’ authority as coming from God, and so being utterly different from the authority of others. And Mark carefully sets out Jesus’ mission to be bringing about God’s liberation for all people. While Mark is clear that this liberation reaches back to and fulfils the ancient hopes of the people of Israel, it also breaks with those hopes and, Mark says, changes everything and affects everyone.
Matt Skinner[1] says, “Mark depicts Jesus as the one uniquely authorized, commissioned, or empowered to declare and institute the reign of God. Through Jesus, then, we glimpse characteristics of this reign. It is intrusive, breaking old boundaries that benefited another kind of rule. It is about liberating people from the powers that afflict them and keep all creation -- including human bodies and human societies -- from flourishing. It is about articulating God’s intentions for the world, defying or reconfiguring some traditions to do so, if need be.” He goes on to ask, “What do these stories mean for those who don’t share the worldviews of the gospels, where it comes to understanding what makes human existence perilous, where illnesses come from, and what it means to acknowledge that some powerful forces -- whether we consider these forces essentially spiritual, sociological, anthropological, habitual, political, biological, climatological, or not even capable of being so neatly divided into such categories -- appear to remain stubbornly beyond our ability to control? At minimum, this passage provokes us to stop assuming that “the way things are” must always equal “the way things have to be.” The reign of God promises more, whether the “more” can be realized now or in a far-off future.
May Christ the Light illuminate our understanding as we continue to explore these two themes as we read the rest of mark over the coming year?

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Friday, January 23, 2015


This sermon can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Epiphany 3 2015
Psalm                         62:5-12                                                
First Reading:             Jonah 3:1-5, 10 
Second Reading:                    1 Cor 7:29-31  
Gospel:                                    Mark 1:14-20 

What I want to say and what I want to happen:
Use the Jonah and Mark readings to reflect on our calls and to ask what we might be invited to this year

What I want to happen:
People to share stories of call, and to reflect on how they are called now.

The Sermon

      1.     Introduction:

theme readings is call – Jonah and Mark
appropriate as begin new year.
chance us take stock
these stories offer us a chance reflect on our own call – individuals
            and as church
ask how called now, what might be invited to this year.

      2.     We Are All Called

We are all called
long time used say clergy called to “the ministry”
lay people would help them in that ministry
            heard clergy say that when young priest
            call was often seen as clergy thing
gifts charismatic renewal rediscovery that all people
rediscovered priesthood of all believers
call first occurs in baptism
we are all called
we all have ministries
I would go so far as to say
            no ministry is more important than others
            (mine is not more important that anyone else’s)
not say all same
wonderful array of ministries
all important
all called by God.
also say not one call
            call is ongoing thing
called into ordained ministry
`           into youth ministry
            out youth ministry
            be Franciscan
            into parish ministry and then to here
could go on
so today as we listen to stories
            offered opportunity to remember our own callings
            as start new year
            reflect on how live those callings out

      3.     Jonah

first reading Jonah
never intended to be history book
no person call Jonah who swallowed by whale
Nineveh was never as big as described
Assyrians never repented
Satirical book that pokes fun at Jewish leadership and others
            narrow thinking around who in and who out
            what their role was as part of in crowd
            and where God fitted in all this.
supposed to be so ridiculous that funny
as people laugh think – “o talking about me”.
God’s truth in story – rather than historical event
so we have this very self righteous and confident man of God
very clear about who deserves offer salvation
Assyrians aren’t on his list
response to his call by God is
“not a chance. God, you got this all wrong”
and he runs in the other direction, removing any possibility of him ever being able to do this wrong thing he is being asked to do
I wonder when we have responded to a call like that
Not me
you got the wrong person
or I don’t even think this should be a thing that happens
reminds me when people first suggested to me think about ordination
not part of my life plan
responded by stopping going to church
that would fix it
like Jonah
didn’t work
here I am today
when have you felt call and turned away
            how has that led to where you are today?

      4.     Story

Then we have the four first disciples.
what is interesting about story is that it comes right at the beginning of the Gospel
One common ways first line Gospel is understood
            The beginning of good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
refers to whole Gospel
story of Jesus is beginning of good news
importance those first disciples is that they then become part of good news
that good news was continuing on to hearers of Gospel
-         were now part of good news
-         we are part good news as well.
It is not about Jesus alone
but all those he invited and gathered into the story

      5.     Yes

we are told
            without delay –say yes
we could speculate on why said yes
            even helpful
not point
point is that they said yes.
seem know deep heart that this was right thing to do
left all that was known to them
and all that was expected of them
when I finally said yes to ordination – it was that kind of moment
training to be teacher
knew that would only be short time
just took long time to get there
as maybe Andrew might taken while get there
at moment said yes
when you said yes – as disciples did
knowing deep heart right thing

      6.     Other times

if I was to tell stories of when called – all be different
some sudden and unexpected
some gradually came over time as I opened myself up to possibility
sometime not get call something thought great at
            end call isn’t about me and what I am good at
            it is – Jonah reminds us – all about God
            what God does through us.

In next few minutes invite you use these stories think about times you felt or heard call
talk neighbours about
maybe talk about how called now  and what that might mean for this new year.