Category Archives: Presbyterian

STEP OFF YOUR WORLD

What if the world was one country? A psychologist on why we need to think beyond borders

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

Trinity

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

Winds of God

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

As One Door Closes …

Easter 6

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 …

Inclusive Christianity

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’.[1]

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.

Sermon

Continue reading Inclusive Christianity

Mission Now but Mission How

Introduction to the readings

Acts 9:36-43

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. [1] Continue reading Mission Now but Mission How

Crossing the Line

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

Questions are OK!

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!

Palm Sunday

Readings

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.[1]

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

‘Jesus has gone! ?’

Resurrection 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.

Amine/Amen

  Continue reading ‘Jesus has gone! ?’

Hands- Good Friday 2022

 

(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.

CLEAN HANDS

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

The woman with the alabaster jar.

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.

Coming Home – Sunday 27th March 2022

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

An Open Invitation

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

Freedom or Personal Sovereignty

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

REMEMBERING JOURNEYS

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

Mountain or plain? 27 February 2022

 

 

 

 

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

Epiphany 7 – Sunday 20 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

The Beatitudes – Sunday 13 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

Sunday Sermon – January 09 2022

JANUARY 09 2022

Readings

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. [1]  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

All People are our People

Sunday 12 December 2021 Rev Hugh Perry

The theme for the third Sunday in Advent is joy but we may well ask if there can be any joy under the threat of Covid.

But even in such times our Zephaniah reading is a call for God’s people to rejoice because they have been restored and forgiven, and God now lives among them, bringing them restoration, joy and healing, and including all the marginalised and oppressed ones.

Furthermore, Maurice Andrew says that dealing with oppressors means saving the lame and gathering the outcasts which fits our covid context.

Zephaniah is about the liberation of Jerusalem, and he is concerned that the Israelites are held in esteem by the neighbouring people.  It is a feeling we can identify with after the T20 world cup and the All Blacks and the Black Ferns suffered significant loses in the Northern Hemisphere. Continue reading All People are our People

The Little Apocalypse

Sermon 14 November 2021

1 Samuel 1: 4-20

We read the beginning of the book of Samuel which describes the significant details of Samuel’s birth. Hannah is the favourite wife of her husband but expresses inadequacy, and indeed is tormented by Elkanah’s other wife because she has not had any children.  Her husband suggests that he loves her more than ten sons.  That is an echo from the book of Ruth where the women of Bethlehem assure Naomi that Ruth is more than seven sons.  It is worth remembering from the book of Ruth that without sons Ruth and Naomi were destitute and that would be Hanna’s fate if her husband died, especially as there seems to be rivalry with the other wife in the household.

In praying for a son Hanna promises that he will be a Nazirite, leading a life set apart and apprenticed to the priest Eli.

Mark 13: 1-8

Today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel begins as they leave the Temple and one of Jesus’ disciples comments on the large stones and the large buildings.  Jesus then predicts the destruction of the buildings which could have been the whole city or, as other gospel writers have interpreted, the Temple.  Morna Hooker suggests that, as this event is referenced in other context then, it is likely to be an authentic saying of Jesus.[1]  Some of the Jesus seminar scholars agree with her although not enough to give it a most likely, or definitely the words of Jesus, rating.

In their Five Gospels translation the Jesus Seminar tell us ‘the temple was the centre, not only of the sacrificial cult, but also of the banking system, the meat industry, and the seat of political power in Jesus’ time.’ Therefore, it is likely to have been commented on by Jesus because of his concern for the poor.[2] Continue reading The Little Apocalypse

The Paradox of Power

21 November 2021

Rev 1: 4b-8 and John 18: 33-37 YearB 2021

This is the last Sunday of the Church’s year – the day when we celebrate Christ the King, or, as the Lectionary puts it, the Reign of Christ. The whole concept of the festival of Christ the King is paradoxical. It’s not the end of the calendar year – the church calendar is out of step with the secular calendar. That, in itself, makes a statement about the nature of our faith. We like to use the word ‘countercultural’. We don’t always stop and think what we mean by it, but it’s about moving to a different drumbeat; taking to heart a set of different values. It’s about having a different agenda – that word so much overused these days, but a word that simply means our goal as followers of Christ doesn’t often (or ever) match the goal of the secular world, and the way we go about achieving that goal needs to be very different. Continue reading The Paradox of Power

The most Unlikely child

Sunday 12 December 2021

 Readings

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’. [1]. Continue reading The most Unlikely child

People use Religion to Justify Violence

 The United Nations designates a day in August as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.  The victims of this violence may have been targeted because of their religious beliefs or may have been targeted because of the religious beliefs of the perpetrators of the crime.  The Christchurch Muslims who were massacred at Friday prayers by a white supremacist two years ago were targeted because of their beliefs.  The Muslims jihadists who flew planes into the twin towers in New York City were motivated by their religious beliefs.  In both instances innocent people died.

We recall that the United States of America and its allies invaded Afghanistan to eliminate the terrorist group that perpetrated the attacks against the twin towers and the Pentagon.  Now, twenty years later, the western alliance is hastily withdrawing from Afghanistan,  leaving many Afghanis desperate to leave their own land in order to escape the brutality of the Taliban, whose version of Islam is an aberration of the faith of the majority of Muslim people.  Worse still is ISIS, whose suicide bombings at Kabul airport show them to be even more abhorrent than the Taliban. Continue reading People use Religion to Justify Violence

Contrast: The Kingdoms of this word and the Kingdom of God

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

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

What’s in it for me?

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?

Impossible Things

 Trinity Sunday. May 2021

‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice. ‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again. Draw a long breath and shut your eyes.’ Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ (Through the Looking-Glass

Those of you who, like me, grew up knowing our ‘Alice,’ might remember that conversation. Well, today is Trinity Sunday – God is one and God is three. Sometimes our faith asks us to believe impossible things. But Trinity is part of our story, and it’s a part we often put into the too-hard basket. I’m inviting you to come with me on an exploration of the contents of that too-hard basket. I think it’s too important to be ignored. Continue reading Impossible Things

To be First, be last

Acts 4: 5-12

Peter was preaching to crowds of people and we are told that while Peter and John were still speaking the priests, the captain of the temple and Sadducees, were very annoyed because Peter and John were teaching people that, in Jesus, there is resurrection of the dead.  The Sadducees were a very traditional religious party that believed there was no life after death and were often arguing with Jesus who seemed to support the later opposite view that developed during the Maccabean revolt. Continue reading To be First, be last