Saturday, December 24, 2016

Here we are - Christmas 2016.

This can be listened to here

What is Christmas
at the end of such a year?
Such a year!
endless complicated war in Syria
and the war on ISIS
Hidden wars in Yemen and South Sudan
the dying goes on
and with that the refugees
millions and millions of refugees
looking for hope.
What do we do with so many?
how do we welcome them
care for them
embrace them as our own?
Yet, here we are
a small gathering of hope in the gloom.

The violence goes on
terrorist acts – an easy term
mass shootings
The death goes on
the world seems to have gone mad
we appear to have lost our way
surrendering what we once held dear.
violent storms
earthquakes shuddering our certainty
the earth seems to be groaning in despair
Yet, here we are
a small gathering of hope in the gloom.

And here in this land
Land of promise and opportunity
so many seem to have been left behind
the cost of our comfort laid bare
so many children in poverty
appalling homelessness
Here we are surrounded
families struggling
            with poverty
            with violence
            with hopelessness
Yet, here we are
a small gathering of hope in the gloom.

Hope might seem a distant dream
but we gather in the name of hope
despite all the evidence
we dare to hope
found in a baby
born 2,000 years ago
in a cave
among the animals
laid in the food trough
His parents were not powerful
            not wealthy
            not notable in any way
they would have been lost if not
            for this baby
He was a refugee
dependant on the welcome of others
            dependant on their generosity
            their care
of others not his people
He grew up among the poor
            as one of the poor
            in a small community
            in the hills of a backwater
calling a cave his home
He is our hope

While Rome raised armies
and crucified those who stood in their way
he healed hopelessness
and restored the shunned to their communities
he gave hope
While Herod and the High Priests
The wealthy of Jerusalem
accumulated power and wealth
leaving so many impoverished
He ate with the outcast
honoured the widow
blessed the poor
embraced the sinner
He restored community
he was hope

He is hope
He is God’s first thought
he is the Eternal Word
            and one of us
declaring honour on our humanity
declaring God’s embrace for all.
He is God’s pre-emptive strike
living God’s utter, profound, deep love
of you
of me
of all
all who struggle
all who are lost in the way of greed
            or violence
            or despair
all who are lost in self obsession
            and the need for more
He is our hope
So we gather
a small gathering in the gloom
daring to hope
gathering in hope
becoming hope
the hope made real in this birth.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas has arrived.

Christmas has arrived.  In the midst of all the stress, hustle and bustle, what Christmas does mean for you? The medieval Franciscan theologian, John Dunne Scotus describes Christ as God's first thought. Not a rescue mission; not a response to anything humanity had done; but God’s initiative as part of the ongoing plan for all creation.  Franciscan priest Richard Rohr describes it as God's pre-emptive strike for love.
How then might we describe Christmas? It is the coming of the Eternal Word as one of us, fully divine and yet fully human. It is God’s grand affirmation of creation and of humanity. Christ comes to remind us and all people that we are all deeply, profoundly, utterly loved. In response we are invited to base our identities and our lives on that one truth. At Christmas we are once again reminded that life is not about obtaining: possessions, houses, wealth, prestige, power, security, eternal life, or love; life is living in the love and life freely given and made real in this moment, in this birth we celebrate today.  Life is to be lived in the knowledge that our existence is rooted in God's eternal love for us, shown in this birth of the Christ child.
Richard Rohr writes, “The True Self -- where you and God are one -- does not choose to love as much as it is love itself already (see Colossians 3:3-4). The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it is compassion. Loving from this core of your being is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord (see John 7:38-39). From this more spacious and grounded place, one naturally connects, empathizes, forgives, and loves everything. We were made in love, for love, and unto love. This deep inner ‘yes,’ that is God in me, is already loving God through me. The false self does not really know how to love, in a very deep or broad way. It is too opportunistic. It is too small. It is too self-referential to be compassionate.”[1]
During the next few weeks I invite you to take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God with us has invited you into God’s life and love; and through you brought life and love into the lives of others. I also invite you to reflect on what has led you away from God's eternal love.

[1] “Love Summary for the Year: Week 1,” Center for Action and Contemplation,

Saturday, December 17, 2016

God With Us

The preached version can be listened to here

Gate Pa – 18 December 2016 - Year A  4th Sunday in Advent

Psalm                          Psalm: 80:1-7,17-19                                       
First Reading:             Isa 7:10-16                             
Second Reading:        Romans 1:1-7             
Gospel:                        Matt 1: 18-25 

What I want to say:
explore “God with us” from Isaiah – what did it mean and what does it mean for us

What I want to happen:
This week our theme is love. During this week I invite you to take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God with us has both brought love  into your day; and through you brought love  into the lives of others. I also invite you to reflect on what has led you away from love.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching his wife, who was looking at herself in the mirror. Since her birthday was not far off, he asked what she'd like to have for her birthday.
"I'd like to be eight again..." she replied, still looking in the mirror.
On the morning of her birthday, he woke up early, made her a nice big bowl of Fruit Loops, and then took her to Adventure World. What a day!
He put her on every ride in the park; the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything there was. Five hours later, they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down.
He took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie with popcorn, a soda and her favourite candy, M&M's. What a fabulous adventure!
Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed, exhausted. He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, "Well dear, what was it like being eight again?"
Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. "I meant my dress size, you idiot."
so who thought she was talking about her dress size?

     2.     Matthew’s Christmas story

today we heard all of Mathews Christmas story
story of wise men is next – in Mathew comes a little later
so –    what is same between Luke and Matthew?
û  Mary and Joseph
û  born in Bethlehem
û  grows up in Nazareth
            what is different
û  not start in Nazareth
û  no census
û  no inn
û  not in stable
û  no shepherds
û  no angels
û  is star and wise men
û  after birth they flee to Egypt and not go to Nazareth via the temple in Jerusalem
why the differences?
Mathew – Jesus is new Moses
life mirrors that of people of Israel
            Joseph bar Jacob – dreams (remember first one?)
            led to Egypt
            Jesus life is threatened by fearful tyrant – like Moses
story is constructed to show this

     3.     God with us

central to all this is Matthews quote from Isaiah 7:14
22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
   23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
         and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us." 24
this is where our story comes in
this is where some might here age 8 and some size 8.
what is Mathew meaning when says
this is what Isaiah 7:14ff says
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.’
Statement about trusting in God’s intervention.
people who know this know the story
            Israel and Syria are wiped out
            Assyria arrives in Judah
            Assyria is not victorious
this passage became linked with hoped for messiah
            he too would herald in time of God acting on behalf of people of God
            freed from yoke of foreign rulers and corrupt kings and temple leadership
            true line of David will be restored
Matthew is using this to say
            Jesus is the fulfilment of these hopes
            establishing who he is before he shows how he does it
we here age 8 – all about miraculous virgin births
Matthew is using it as size 8
            prophecy attached story of real events
            come to be attached to huge hopes for people God
            and Mathew says – for all creation

God is intervening
So how is God intervening this Christmas?
How is God intervening in our lives
How is God intervening in our city
How is God intervening in our world?
How is God bringing peace into our lives, our city, our world.
through people like Kai Aroha feeding homeless and others
people like Peter and Tommy at Te Tuinga Whanau creating Tauranga Whare
work of Merrivale Community Centre            
Whanau Aroha, especially the work of Leanne in Whanau room
Centrepoint, in care we offer and money we give
God is intervening through each of these
and God is intervening through us
and the choices we make
actions we take
what we choose to pray for.
this Christmas - through presents we choose to buy
where they come from                                                                            
                        groups we choose to support
advert for CWS.

     4.     Love

This week our theme is Love. During this week I invite you to take time at the end of each day to give thanks for ways God with us has both brought love  into your day; and through you brought love  into the lives of others. I also invite you to reflect on what has led you away from love.