Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fig Trees and AGM’s

This sermon can be heard here

Gate Pa – Lent 3; Year C

Psalm:                                                 Psalm: 63:1-8 
First Reading:                         Isaiah 55:1-9  
Second Reading:                    1 Corinthians 10:1-13                  
Gospel:                                    Luke 13:1-9    

What I want to say:
To invite people to reflect on this parish and their hopes for this parish and then reflect on some of the questions I keep asking in light of that and the gospel reading for the day:
·        Whose are we (who is God)?
·        Who are we
·        What is ours to do?
We are not called to survive or to be successful. We are called to be faithful to who we are in. Ours is to be significant in these communities.
What I want to happen:
People to take these reflections into the meeting and the year ahead.

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

This week is our AGM. So to give us a little bit of context for our meeting I would like to invite you to talk to your neighbours
ð  what is it you like, enjoy about this parish. What keeps you coming here?
û  Plenary
ð  what are your hopes for the future of this parish

     2.      The Questions

Over the last few years a lot of what I have talked about has been centred around three questions:
They are:
  • Whose are we (who is God)?
  • Who are we
  • What is ours to do?
How we answer that first one colours how we answer them all
as I have been saying over the last few weeks
            how we answer that first one shaped by the pattern or lens we apply to it
                        rivalry - God victorious king,
                        compliance -  judge,

     3.      Fig Trees and God

so – just heard gospel reading from Luke of Jesus telling story of Fig Tree that does not bear fruit
             which figure best represents God in this story – talk neighbour for moment
û  Plenary
a comment to start with
-          need to be careful doing this
o   end reading a lot more into a story than was ever intended
really surprised when it suggested to me that figure best represents God in this story is gardener.
            thought either owner
            or not
used God being one who owns everything
but in this story the gardener is the one is not quick to judge
                        who pleads for a second chance
            who feeds and nurtures  the tree
            works so that tree might be all that it can be.
context of this story is discussion about who deserves supposed judgement of God
            those killed by Pilate – blood mixed in sacrifice
            those killed by falling tower in wall
è they must have been great sinners
Jesus message is clear
            we are all great sinners
            no-one is more or less deserving of sudden death

     4.      So What

Who is God – the one who is slow to judge
            gives second chances
            who feeds and nurtures so that all creation can be all that it was created to be
            who give life
            producing fruit
who are we – the ones in need of all those second chances
            the ones who are fed and nurtured
            the ones who receive the gift of life
                        as individuals and as a community here at St. Georges
what is ours to do?

     5.      What is ours to do?

That is the question that should shape our AGM
Not called to survive
            too often churches get side-tracked on discussions around what they need to attract more people to survive
whether we survive or die as a parish
as a diocese
as a church
entirely up to God
nor are we to be successful
            too often is all about numbers sitting in pews
            programmes run
We are to be faithful to God who gives life
who is at work in this community
            giving second chances
            giving life
            feeding and nurturing
our communities

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Being Faithful and Significant

It is AGM time once again. AGMs can feel like a bit of a bore. A must do that we have to get through. But in theory at least they provide us an opportunity to reflect on and give thanks for the past year. For what we have done and more importantly what God has done in and through us. AGMs also give us an opportunity to look ahead a little and wonder what might be ours to do in the year ahead.
It is important in all this to not get side-tracked by things that often side-tracks groups like churches. In these hard times too often we end up talking about how to survive, and if we are really feeling optimistic, how to be successful.  Today’s gospel reading, Luke 13:1-9 has as one of its themes that life is a gift and we are to live that gift to the fullest. For who knows when it will end. So rather than worrying about surviving, maybe we should be faithful to who we are called to be. And rather than be successful, whatever that means, maybe we should be a significant presence in this community. May God grant us imagination as we meet and begin the year ahead.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Blessed… to be a Blessing

This sermon can be heard here

Gate Pa – Lent 2; 2016

Psalm                          Psalm: 27       
First Reading:             Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 
Second Reading:        Phil 3:17-4:1                     
Gospel:                        Luke 13:31-35

What I want to say:
What pattern do we apply to scripture? What is it all about? What does all this God stuff offer us? Demand of us? God tells Abraham that he and Sarah will be blessed to be a blessing (Gen 12). That is the pattern to read scripture and understand our lives of faith by.
What I want to happen:
People to use lent to reflect on how blessed to be a blessing helps them understand our lives of faith and what that might be inviting them into.

The Sermon

     1.      Introduction:

Few weeks ago talked about the patterns that Brian McLaren says we all use to understand the world, life, our lives in God,
they were – rivalry
-          compliance
-          meaningless mechanism
-          love (this last one from life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Word of God)
I wonder which of these we use to understand – as said in pew sheet
-          which of these shapes our answer to why are we on this journey to Good Friday and Easter?
-          shapes what is it we hope to get out of it?
-          shapes our desire in all this?

     2.      Abram and Sarai and God’s promise

We just heard the story of God’s promise with Abram and Sarai – truck loads of descendants
            all seems very improbable with Sarai being as old as she is
            and still nothing
Not first time such conversation happens in Genesis
Nor last time
J  First time is in Genesis 12
Abram and Sarai called leave comfort of being among the rich and powerful in Ur                       – come back to this one
J  repeated after give Lot first choice in Gen 13
J  meets Abrams despair in today’s reading
J  God or angels come for meal in Genesis 17
J  repeated with willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Gen 22.
really important promise

     3.      Blessed to be a blessing

Genesis 12 reads
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
30 years ago Bonnie and I did a bible study course called Bethel
subtitle – based on this reading of Genesis 12
“blessed to be a blessing”
suggested that we should read the whole bible in light of this promise
            and this one line
“blessed to be a blessing”
should understand the whole story of people of God in light of that
“blessed to be a blessing”
should understand our own place in this story in light of that
            we are blessed to be a blessing!

     4.      Bible can be read in light of this

Bible can be read in light of this pattern
Law reminded descendants of Abraham through Isaac that yes they were blessed
            that blessing came with responsibility to be a blessing
Prophets constantly exhorted descendants of Abraham through Isaac
            their blessing came with responsibility to be a blessing
            failure to live that       out carried consequences
story of exile is story of failure of descendants of Abraham through Isaac to be a blessing
story restoration came with responsibility to be a blessing
Jesus lived among us
            living what means to be blessed
            living what it means to be a blessing for all people
è fulfilling the law and the prophets
in doing so confronted all the powers that harmed and destroyed communities by which people were blessed to be a blessing
è political powers – heard today
è religious powers  – high priests
è social and economic powers – rich and powerful – included Herod and high priests
è powers caused illness and demonic possession – led people ostracised from their communities
all these powers destroyed communities
prevented people from being blessed
            and prevented them from beige a blessing
Jesus actions and teachings restored those communities
            and like the law and prophets
            offered ways that those communities could be a blessing to others

     5.      The story and struggle goes on

That story, that struggle  of being a people blessed to be a blessing has continued since
at times we inheritors of this blessing
            have been really keen on the being blessed bit
            whole schools of theology build around that
lot less keen on the “being a blessing” bit
Other stories so many clearly understood they were blessed to be a blessing
that blessing was seen as being a blessing in the here and now
making a difference to lives of people around them
people like St. Francis and Franciscan order
St Elizabeth of Hungary – lived in a way that did not add to poverty peasants those lived around her
            involved in establishment orphanages and feeding poor
so many Celtic monasteries across Great Britain and Europe
and many other monasteries as well
more recent times people like
Janani Luwum Archbishop of Uganda and Martyr (February 17, 1977)
In 1971 General Idi Amin came to power in a military coup. A reign of terror followed, and Luwum and the other bishops became prominent among those protesting Amin’s actions. The bishops wrote to Amin to protest about the many arbitrary deaths and the general reign of terror.
On 16 February 1977, after a meeting with President Amin, the archbishop was driven away, along with two government ministers. Uganda Radio announced that the three of them had been arrested, and the following morning it was stated that they had died in a car accident. It was widely known that they had in fact been shot on the orders of the president.
Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980)[3]
the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture.[4] In 1980, Romero was assassinated while offering Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence.[5]
è you could name your own

     6.      Conclusion

danger with naming these is that see them as special
not like us at all
But to use Brian McLarens ideas
this is the pattern we are to understand everything by
            it is the pattern of God’s love
so we, like them
            are blessed to be a blessing
Invite you this Lent take time reflect
            what ways have we been blessed
            what ways are we a blessing to people Tauranga
            what ways invited join ongoing story people of God
stretches all the way back to Abraham
through coming Christ
and ongoing story the whole church
be "blessed to be a blessing".