August 7 2022
Is there anyone who doesn’t hope for peace. I don’t know of any nation that doesn’t give at least lip service to the words inscribed on the front of the UN building in New York. ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares.’ Those words have sat there for over half a century, and how many of the nations that send members to sit in UN meetings have known even one decade when their people all sit under their own vines and harvest their own crops? What do they think they’re doing, all those wise men and women who debate the ways forward for the world’s countries – including their own? We might be forgiven for thinking: very little.
We might be forgiven for thinking that, but are we then shifting the responsibility onto someone else’s shoulders. Anybody’s but mine. It’s not my job to work for world peace. Others will do that, somewhere other than the place I sit in. Just let me go on sitting quietly in my own garden and dreaming of peace, but don’t ask me to do anything about it. Is that where we’re at? Continue reading ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’
31 July 2022
Here we are, in your beautiful and beautifully strengthened and renewed church. What next? How will you use your treasure?
Strangely enough, the readings chimed in with these questions. We had Paul insisting on the universality of Christ’s new kingdom, and Luke reminding us about the futility of accumulating possessions, and challenging us to find and hold our real treasures. (As one of my favourite hymns puts it: ‘The pearl of great price and the treasure of heaven’, i e the great love of God.) Continue reading Millennial dilemmas
Sunday 24th July 2022
Text: Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, Luke 5: 17-24
In 3 weeks’ time I am preaching at St Cuthbert’s, the mother church of Edinburgh. It is part of a trip as Moderator to connect with the Church of Scotland as Moderator of the PCANZ. It is also a personal pilgrimage, linking with my own family roots in the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. The day after I preach at St Cuthbert’s, I make my way up to Iona, homage to St Columba and his impact on Celtic Christianity. I hear that some of you did a similar pilgrimage to Scotland in 2016. That on that trip the author of a book on St Ninian told you: “Forget Columba – Ninian was the spring from which the river of Celtic Christianity flowed”
That is, indeed, a claim to fame that you can be a part of. From those beginnings of Celtic Christianity with St Ninian in the 4th and 5th centuries, here we are in 2022 reopening a church that bears his name! Continue reading Maintaining the Chain of Religious Memory
“Learning from Mary and Martha”
July is Bible Month. A time when the Bible Society encourages a focus on the Word of God. As ‘people of the book’, as Presbyterians claim to be, it seemed to me to a chance to share a ‘proper’ sermon, unlike the reflections and such that I have done with you previously.
The readings today have been read and preached on for centuries, especially the story about Mary and Martha. In fact I am tempted to declare that this is one of the few stories where a tale about women has influenced men as well. The contrast between the service of Martha and the contemplation of Mary became the foundation of difference between the secular life and the ordained. Continue reading Learning from Mary and Martha
Maurice Andrew suggests the idea of Yahweh holding a plumb-line against the people could be referring to dilapidated city walls. However the plumb line might also be a metaphor of assessing the people’s trueness. Are they true, straight and upright in their loyalty to the divine laws and just living?
Amos’ words are not well received and Amaziah tells the king that Amos’ words are too harsh for people to bear and he instructs Amos to desist.
Amos notes that he is not a prophet or a prophet’s son which Andrew says probably means that he is not one of the band of professional prophets that can be ordered around by the priest. He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees. The sycamore was a type of fig tree which was inferior to the figs we know but was very popular with the poor because it had three crops a year. A dresser made an incision in the fruit before they were ripe so that the juice ran out and the rest fermented, giving the fruit a sweet taste Continue reading Plumb Line
Luke 9: 51-62. June 2022
Today’s Gospel is a real challenge! What on earth does Jesus mean? What does he call his followers to do? Is he really saying, it’s OK – it’s more than OK, it’s the right thing to do – to take off suddenly into the blue, leaving family, responsibilities, friends, work, and everything that makes up a life in community. And don’t even stop for a few moments to tell them where you’re going or why? We’ve all heard stories about missing persons in our society, and the heartache they leave behind. We wouldn’t dream of calling this responsible behaviour, if one of our friends or relations just took off. We’d be calling in the police and putting advertisements in papers and on line and going out and looking ourselves. What are we to make of this gospel reading? Continue reading STEP OFF YOUR WORLD
12 June 22
One of the incessant commercials we endure currently has a man interrupted while painting his fence and told about the tiny cable under his feet. He is then teleported into a massive tunnel under the berm where small streaks of pulsing light flow down the middle. ‘You said it was a tiny cable he protests’. ‘It is, this is a metaphor.’ voice-over replies.
A metaphor that tells us that the tiny tube carelessly stapled to my fence can carry far more data than its size might indicate. Trinity is a bit like that.
The Rev Dr. Robin Meyers recently argued on Facebook that the doctrine of Trinity is a metaphor that evolved as a way to try and understand God. Continue reading Trinity
05 June 2022 Pentecost 2022 St Ninians.
Do you ever stop and think about something you just said, and wonder, now just exactly what did I mean by that? We have our routines of greeting and parting. ‘How are you?’ we say? ‘How’s life?’ Do we really want to know – in detail? How about supermarket staff with their: ‘How’s your day been?’, or: ‘Have a good day’ when we know perfectly well they don’t want to know.
And we also do things without thinking what we’re doing – even in church. We often begin worship by affirming the presence of God’s Spirit. Whenever we celebrate communion, we tell the story and we invoke the Holy Spirit – we call on God’s Spirit, using a prayer of transformation. Do we really know what we’re doing when we call on the Holy Spirit? How would we respond if God’s Spirit was made known in a truly dramatic way? Continue reading Winds of God
Acts 16:6-15, John 14:23-29
‘As one door closes, another door opens…’
To most of us, I imagine that’s a pretty well-known phrase.
Although it’s usually meant to reassure, for me this little proverb raises a number of difficult questions, such as:
Just who is it that is opening and closing those doors?
Are the main points of entry and exit in our lives controlled entirely by ourselves and other human beings?
Do they function randomly?
Or are they under the remote control of a supreme being;
Are our doors indirectly opened and closed for us by God?
Does God have ‘a plan’ just for people of faith, or for every human being,
And where is God when everything seems to be going wrong?
I’m aware that last question sounds more than a bit melodramatic,
And I can’t help recalling ‘ Where there’s life, there’s hope’ – another helpful proverb I learned at some point in my distant past.
Continue reading As One Door Closes …
Readings: Acts 11: 1-18
This section of Acts is significant because the early followers of Jesus saw ‘the way’ as a reform of Judaism and all their cultural conditioning would encourage them to keep it within Judaism. ‘Luke’, says William Barclay ‘sees this incident as a notable mile-stone on the road along which the Church was groping its way to the conception of a world for Christ’.
It seems to be a strong group building practise to limit diet, dress or behaviour as a distinguishing mark that encourages our ‘in group’, ‘out group’ instincts. But the early church seems to have overcome that tendency even though later sections introduced new sanctions.
John 13: 31-35
This passage begins immediately after Judas has left and is the beginning of Jesus’ farewell speech which repeats the theme of love several times, intensifying the love commitment each time. Raymond Brown writes that Jesus gives the disciples a command that, if obeyed, will keep the spirit of Jesus alive among them.
Love is more than a commandment; it is a gift from God.
Continue reading Inclusive Christianity
Introduction to the readings
This is clearly a reflection of Jesus raising Lazarus and the leader of the synagogue’s daughter. In his commentary on the passage William Barclay includes the previous section about Peter’s healing of a paralysed man. In that passage Peter says ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.’ Although we are not told what words Peter used in his prayer in the raising of Tabitha it is fair to assume, as Barclay does, that both healings were carried out by Peter ‘in the name of Jesus Christ so Peter is shown allowing Christ to work through him and not through any special power of Peter’s.
The passage follows a series of sheep and gate parables, and Raymond Brown writes that, in this place in John’s narrative, the demand that Jesus say plainly whether or not he is the messiah makes perfect sense. He has referred to himself as a shepherd, a metaphor which traditionally has been used of the Davidic kings and of the expected messiah. However, Jesus is always anxious to qualify what messiahship might mean because it had strong nationalistic and militaristic overtones. Jesus’ concept was entirely different, and he answers by giving examples of what he is doing, in his ‘fathers name.’ and in verse 30 that is summed up, as is common in John’s Gospel, in a theological statement ‘The Father and I are one’.
Jesus is the good shepherd but only his sheep recognise that, he is not going to force that recognition on others as a military messiah might be expected to do.  Continue reading Mission Now but Mission How
Our Gospel reading is challenging. First of all, it almost looks like an appendix – an afterthought. If you look at the ending of Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel it says: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Now that sounds like a final ending to me. So Chapter 21 is almost as if when the author – or maybe some other author –read out what was written to his community, someone said, “Oh, but you’ve left out a really important bit. You’ve simply got to put it in. Everyone needs to hear it”. So, if the writer agreed that it was important, let’s think about it a little.
The companions of Jesus found themselves in a totally new place of living. They reacted as we almost always react at first to dramatic change. They wanted to blank it out – to go back to what they were used to. Just as we do in these days of lockdowns and mandates and sudden changes in the way we communicate with our families and communities. The apostles probably wanted to be with family and friends in the place they had called ‘home’ for most of their lives. They wanted to find themselves doing familiar things. Possibly they may even have decided that before they made any radical changes, they needed to think things over; to weigh the risks. Also, of course, they wanted to remove themselves from a volatile danger zone. Back home in a small village was much safer than in Jerusalem. But – and this is always the result of change – they found that the challenge wasn’t going to let them alone. Jesus wasn’t going to let them alone. The changes followed them home. What had happened was going to change the landscape.
Continue reading Crossing the Line
We’ve heard a lot about resilience lately. Christchurch people are ‘resilient’. We were ‘resilient’ after the earthquakes – although as years go by and repairs are not finished and gathering spaces are not restored, that resilience has got a little frayed. We heard it after the mosque massacres. We were resilient. We moved in to help and support. We shared the love. Now we have the pandemic. Here we go again. Be resilient! But what, precisely do people mean when they say this? I think we’re expected to take it as a commendation – a pat on the back for being strong characters with good coping skills. I treat that understanding with a good deal of scepticism. I suspect it’s much more a way for those in power to paper over the cracks and find reasons to delay putting in much-needed resources. After the earthquakes our ‘resilience’ meant, for example, that no, we didn’t need any extra help for the mental health services. We were all right. We just got on with it. By now there’s more recognition of the need for mental health support after disasters, and for the length of time it will be needed. But it’s still not in place.
Coping skills don’t necessarily kick in automatically whenever there’s stress. Not everybody has the same skill in managing in difficult times. We know now that some of our emotional health depends on what happens in our early years. It is true – or so I learned once at a lecture given by Ken Strongman, Emeritus Professor of Psychology – that older persons often react less strongly to emotional stress – we’ve learnt from experience over the years. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel stress!
Continue reading Questions are OK!
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 are a mixture of motives.
What is important is that the Psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus. As with so many instances the gospel writer is using tradition to express meaning about Jesus rather than give historical detail as we might expect.
Continue reading Palm Sunday
Introduction to Bible Readings
I invite you to connect with the resurrection reading using your imagination. Take a few moments to imagine how that morning might have engaged your senses of smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing.
- What sounds might you have heard that morning?
- What scents and aromas would have been in the air?
- What taste might have been in your mouth?
- What might you have touched that morning?
- What sights would you have seen at the tomb?
Prayer of Illumination
Kia inoi tatou, Let us pray;
Jesus, we do not always find it easy to recognise you, especially when we do not expect you.
Help us to understand you now in the scripture.
Set our heavy hearts on fire with love for you, and send us on our way rejoicing.
In your name.
Continue reading ‘Jesus has gone! ?’
(You are invited to look at your hands)
As we look at our hands, we can see some of our life’s story etched on them: cared for, pampered, blemished, scarred, or out of shape, they tell some of our history. We also use hands as an image of ourselves, our actions, and attitudes, what we take and how we trust. Hands are part of this Good Friday story. May God’s Spirit touch our hands, our heads, and our hearts as we share this story again.
Reading 1: John 18:28–32
Jesus before Pilate
28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.[a] It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters,[b] so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Reflection 1: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day worked hard to keep their laws and sometimes used it as excuse not to help people. Trying to keep their hands clean meant not getting involved.
We look at our own hands: clean from our morning shower, perhaps, or maybe there are still marks on them and dirt under our nails. We give thanks for our working days, the daily tasks we do to earn our living and run our homes; we are grateful to those who give us a hand, and we acknowledge that we live in community and often work with others.
Continue reading Hands- Good Friday 2022
Today we’ve heard two versions of another story that’s familiar to many of us – the story of a woman who anointed Jesus. And I have to say that it’s a story that’s often mis-read, misinterpreted, and mis-remembered. We can be so much influenced by familiarity, or by what we thought we learned in Sunday School or Bible Class, that we can miss deeper and richer meanings.
How many of you remember best the version that says the woman was a sinner? How many of you have heard the story interpreted in a way that goes so far as to label the woman as a prostitute? How many of you have heard versions – or seen paintings – where the woman is indentified as Mary of Magdala – Mary Magdalene? I could answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions. And some of those interpretations can lead us down some very strange paths. Continue reading The woman with the alabaster jar.
A sermon on the Prodigal Son, Luke 15: 11-32 Lent 4 2022
Most of us know and love the story of the prodigal son. – it’s one of those stories that stick in the mind –that’s the mark of a really good story. Perhaps we’re too familiar with it. If we heard it first at Sunday School, we learned that it’s a parable about God’s enduring love, even for the lost and straying. And, of course, it is! But it’s also a great deal more than this.
We’ve lost the dramatic impact it had in its first telling. Continue reading Coming Home – Sunday 27th March 2022
You may have recently seen the photos of the Russian President Putin meeting visiting heads of state at a massive table. He is at one end and the visitor is some considerable distance away at the other. It was rightly seen as a power play by political commentators long before the more obvious events in Ukraine. For despite the roundness of the table, usually a nod to the equality of participants, here these photos demonstrate that Putin is clearly the one in charge. “Yes, I have invited you to join me at the table, but I am the one with the power,” it says. But that is totally the opposite message the passage from Isaiah wants to give. With its references to journey and invitation it is clearly stating that coming to God’s table is coming home, that this is a table where everyone is equal. Continue reading An Open Invitation
A lot has been said about freedom as people block streets and camp in the grounds of parliament and Cranmer Square, thereby restricting the freedom of others. A colleague of mine suggested that a better term to define the overall goals of the protesters would be ‘personal sovereignty’
However, having had an overload of David Attenborough on summer television I doubt that any primates have such a thing as ‘personal sovereignty.’ Certainly, we have seen aging alpha males defeated and sent to forage for a lonely subsistence in a hostile environment, excluded rather than free. Continue reading Freedom or Personal Sovereignty
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and Luke 4: 1-13. Lent 1C 2022
We’re at the beginning of Lent: a season which, I have to say, we don’t really know what to do with. Oh, we have special Bible studies (sometimes), some of us change the colours in our churches, and we have a few extra possible services that we may or may not use. Given the attendance at some of these, they are treated as optional extras. And we have a set of readings that take us through the 40 days – and with some of these we struggle to find our way into them for our time and place. Today’s readings, at first hearing, don’t seem to be related. One is a defining narrative for the understanding of the covenant between God and Israel. It’s the climax of the Exodus story. The other is familiar to anyone who has grown up in the Christian faith. So – where to start? At the beginning! Continue reading REMEMBERING JOURNEYS
The Transfiguration, by Raphael
We’ve had some tricky readings lately and of course, I’ve no idea what you’ve made of them here, so who knows how my take on today’s gospel will sit with your last few weeks! Luke’s Gospel has taken us on a bumpy ride, and we are living through a chaotic time here and now, what with pandemic, climate change, and warmongering leaders. What, in the midst of all this, can we make of the Transfiguration story, which, on the face of it, was a transforming – and peaceful! – experience? Continue reading Mountain or plain? 27 February 2022
Genesis 45: 3-11, 15; Luke 6: 27-38; Geoff King
It’s been a month since New Zealand moved to the highest ‘red light’ level of the latest COVID-19 response plan, and by now I imagine we are all getting well and truly used to scanning in everywhere we go, having our vaccine passes at the ready and dutifully wearing our masks.
But whilst I’m becoming accustomed to being masked up for most of my working week, I’m finding that other people wearing their masks has made parts of my job as a counsellor considerably more challenging, particularly when meeting people for the very first time. Continue reading Epiphany 7 – Sunday 20 February 2022
If a person is humble dose that make them meek or are they meek if they are poor and oppressed. Certainly, their oppressors expect them to be humble.
Years ago, I asked a Samoan woman if she would serve on the Assembly Business Committee. Her response was indeed humble. She just said: ‘Thank you.’
I was therefore delighted to read that after 14 years of service to Counties Manukau Health, with the last three-and-a-half as CEO, Margie Apa has been appointed Chief Executive of Health New Zealand. Continue reading The Beatitudes – Sunday 13 February 2022
JANUARY 09 2022
Isaiah 43: 1-7
The context of this section of Isaiah deals with the return from exile in Babylon to Judah. Verses 3and 4 refer to the parts of Africa that had been conquered by the Persians and verses 5 and 7 describe a return from all directions.  We know that people were taken into exile in Babylon, but they would have undoubtedly spread to all parts of the Babylonian empire. So Isaiah is predicting a return of Jews from all parts of the empire, just as Jews returned to Israel after World War Two and in doing so displaced the Palestinian people. Continue reading Sunday Sermon – January 09 2022
Sunday 12 December 2021
Zephaniah 3: 14-20
We read from the end of the book of Zephaniah which is a song of rejoicing for a liberated Jerusalem. In this poem we discover that dealing with oppressors means saving the lame and gathering the outcasts. Liberation is about ensuring the people have appropriate esteem among all people.
Maurice Andrew says ‘worship is the means of expression for such a character of hope as is given in Zephaniah’. . Continue reading The most Unlikely child
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
The lectionary gives us snippets of a growing and continuing power struggle within the royal household and within the nation which is not uncommon among feudal monarchies, wealthy families and corporations and indeed democracies although the violence is more subtle or hidden in the contemporary world. The consequences of David’s lifestyle began to work themselves out and violence erupts among the king’s children, Absalom conspires to kill his brother Amnon because he raped their sister and eventually Absalom is led into open revolt against his father David. The carnage of the resulting civil war eventually puts Bathsheba’s son nearer to the throne. Continue reading Contrast: The Kingdoms of this word and the Kingdom of God
Bread of life; bread for all.
What stories do you have to tell about ‘not having enough food’? I have several memories of events where there wasn’t enough for all present, and I’m sure you do too. There was the time when Durham St Church had a weekend of celebration for the 125th anniversary of the building, and a gala dinner was held on Saturday night. Those were the days when we had a semi-commercial cafeteria in the Aldersgate building, and the catering staff insisted that they were the ones who would do the catering. My friend who taught catering at Polytech was distraught when she got the details about the menu and the orders sent out. Not nearly enough she said, but they knew best – they said. Well there wasn’t enough. When 2/3 of the guests had gone through the buffet there was nothing left on the tables except a few lettuce leaves, and the caterers were frantically out buying icecream so that those who missed out on the first course could be first in the dessert queue. They said afterwards: “We thought that because so many of the guests were elderly, they wouldn’t eat as much as younger people.” Wrong! Continue reading Bread of life, bread for all
2 August 2021
Jesus told the crowd who followed him round the lake: “You’re only hunting me down to see what you can get from me. You ate your fill of the food I provided round on the other shore, and now you’re waiting to see what next.” (Or words to that effect.) These are harsh words from the one we say came into the world to love and serve all whom he met. What’s going on here?
Let me tell you another story. Way back in 1971 I went to Poland to visit my friends Halina and Andreij who lived in Warsaw. On Sunday, Halina and I went to Mass in her local church, and the church was full. A few days later we were in Krakow, and the cathedral was full of people coming and going and lighting candles at the shrines in the side chapels. A party of schoolchildren were throwing red poppies onto the tombstone of the man who was President of Poland between the two world wars. Then in 2001 I went back to see my friends. Halina and I went to Mass on Sunday, and the church was three-quarters empty. Halina said to me: “Now on a fine Sunday, people go for picnics in the forest.” Before the Berlin Wall came down, showing yourself as a Catholic was to make a political statement. After the wall fell it was no longer necessary. You could make choices as to how you spent your free time. The other significant thing that happened for the Polish Church before the falloff the Soviet Union was the appointment of the first Polish Pope. Like Jesus, the Pope drew great crowds of people when he visited Poland. Continue reading What’s in it for me?
(Exodus 19: 1-6 & Mark 4: 21-23)
I don’t know about you but as I get older I find it harder and harder to remember what happened yesterday let alone last week. As an example I phoned my mother on Monday she asked me how my weekend was – I made my usual rather vague reply. “Oh yes, you know, just a weekend.” She makes allowances for this characteristic of mine, so said, “and you all had a good dinner out?” at which point I suddenly remembered my brother and his wife had stayed and we’d gone out to dinner with my nephews. Continue reading The Lighthouse of You