Sunday, 25 December 2011

Occupy the Earth - Grace and Truth in the flesh

Christmas Day year B Sermon John 1:1-14
God speaks… and the universe is created…
galaxies and giant nebula come into being
black holes…cosmic gases…suns and stars…
all the elements that make for life

God speaks and… an un touched…. Hebrew girl
conceives a child

and this child… will become a light for all nations
the light that shines in the darkness promised by the prophets.  

God has spoken…………..and God’s very Word…

Words fade on
become grace and truth in the flesh …Jesus is born. [pause]

In our gospel reading set down for Christmas day
John the theologian…helps us… to understand…
that the anointed one…the holy one… who enters our humanity in Jesus … is the very same Word …with a
capital W… the word…through whom
the whole universe… was spoken into being.  

Blank slide
and because of this incarnation… this enfleshment
of God’s Word in a child born in Bethlehem
…a relationship of intimacy  is made possible…
between God and all humanity.
slide words
to all who received him…who believed in his name,
he gave the ability to become… the children of God.

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God’s purposes…are to be made clear
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Where people have walked in darkness and misunderstandingnow
there’s a walking… talking…human expression…
of God’s Word for humanity

this child… born in a manger…
would show us by his life… and by his death
just how God’s purpose of Shalom
of peace with justice for all people…would be achieved

Slide words
Love your enemies…do good to those who hate you…
pray for those who persecute you…make peace
show mercy…be humble…

Slide words
travel light…share what you have to feed the hungry
care for the sick…let the oppressed go free… [pause]

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men and women… living in the deadly darkness of fear and exploitation…abuse and slavery…can now see by the light of Jesus’ life and teaching…
that their wellbeing  is what God desires

Men and women… who live in the toxic gloom of pride … and greed and envy …who live in the wasteland of cynicism or the exile of perpetual resentment…

can now see by Jesus’ light…
there’s another way to the fullness of life…

And those who believed in his name…would do what he did
they’d become children of God…as he was a child of God.

Jesus would announce…not the occupation of Wall Street or Aotea Square or Wanaka…but love’s occupation…
of the earth

Word slide occupy the earth
Jesus would demonstrate…
and call his followers to demonstrate
that the purposes of God will not be defeated
by the worst humankind can do. [pause]

Over the season of Advent… our congregation’s been reflecting on some key life questions
for those who follow Jesus

Like ‘How well do we wait for God?’…how well do we prepare for the coming of God’s future?…how well do we make room… for Jesus in our lives?… and how well do we carry… his saving message into the world.

Dare we ask this Christmas Day…
how well… we occupy the earth…in Jesus name…

how well we shine the light of God’s love
into the dark places of our families and our community
and the world…    [Pause]

Baby slide
The revelation of God… arrived in a human baby… tiny… vulnerable… without protection… food or shelter …
except what his parents could provide.

An infant citizen… of a nation…
occupied by force and by fear…

This child would grow to understand his calling
to do what Israel failed to do
to shine the light of God’s justice and peace …….
God’s mercy and forgiveness………………
even to their enemies and oppressors…

This child would die speaking forgiveness
rather than retaliate… [pause]

but that was not the end
by the power of God’s Spirit…the Word made flesh would be raised… and he would call his followers to take the light of God’s love… to the ends of the earth… [pause]

God’s Word became flesh…. and dwelt among us…
full of grace and truth…and to everyone
who believed in his name… he gave the power to be called …the children of God

May the Christ child be born in you today
and may your life be full of grace and truth.

And as we journey together in to God’s promised future … let us pray that grace and truth…
will one day
occupy the earth…

Sunday, 18 December 2011

How well do we carry the Christ into the world?

Advent 4 year B Sermon 11
Title slide
Mary gives her consent to carry the Messiah
within her very body… to bear him into the world
to name him …to take on the cost of loving him …
whatever joy and suffering … are to come

As we travel through the season of Advent… mindful of the breaking in of God’s future
we’ve asked ourselves how well… we wait and prepare and make room…
for Jesus in our lives.

Today on this fourth Sunday of Advent… with Mary the mother of Jesus… we ask how well
do we carry the Christ into the world.

Blank slide
According to our story teller Luke…did you notice…
Mary doesn’t bargain with the Angel…
who brings God’s request…………nor is she angry

and though she’s truly mystified…as to the bio/spiritual complexities…Mary agrees… [pause]

Slide words
I am the Lord’s servant let it be to me as you have said…

Mary isn’t promised… nor does she request
a future without suffering and pain.  And consistent with what we know of God’s love
there’s no hint that Mary would be forced to comply
were she to turn down the mission.
Blank slide
Mary accepts… without knowing exactly how the future
will unfold…

because she believes herself to be a servant of God
and as such…Mary is prepared to carry
the Messiah into the world…no matter what the cost

This young Hebrew woman is clearly familiar
with the promises of God…
spoken for generations through the prophets

Mary and Elizabeth slide
This is evident… as she greets her cousin Elizabeth
with a joyful rendition…of an ancient song of thanksgiving …first sung…
a thousand years before…by the prophet Hannah… at the birth of her son, Samuel
Hannah was the first to prophesy… the future Messiah would be a king
just as the angel had told Mary.

Mary sings

Word slide
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he’s looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Word slide
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He’s shown strength with his arm;
and scattered the proud. He’s brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Blank slide
And Mary adds her own ending to the song …
predicting the fulfilment of God’s covenant with Israel.

Word slide
God has helped his servant Israel…in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Blank slide
Mary…a servant of God… entrusted with a
sacred role in bringing about the coming of God’s future

In the story of Mary’s calling… to carry the Christ into the world… we discover the magnificent pattern…
of the call of God… revealed again and again
in the Gospels and in the stories of the early church
a pattern we must note carefully… if we are to fulfil
our mission to carry the Christ into the world.

First …Mary is not to be afraid to bear the prince of peace


because she’s found favour with God.

And what does God’s favour mean for Mary?
Well…God asks her  to carry the Christ into the world.
And how on earth will this be accomplished? …
By the power of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t fear ….for you’ve found favour with God
so you can bring the Messiah into the world…
with the help of the Holy Spirit. [pause]

Jesus slide
Thirty three years later
on the night before Mary would carry the true cost
of obedience…to her mission

As he breaks bread with his friends
Mary’s son tells those who found favour with him...
not to fear…when he’s gone…
And what does their favour with him mean
well… they’re to carry on his work when he’s gone
and how on earth will this be accomplished? …
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Like Mary… the disciples in the Upper Room are
startled and confused…and as the angel does with Mary …Jesus wants to calm their fears

slide words
Don’t let your hearts be troubledI don’t speak on my own authority. It’s the Father, living in me who’s doing his work.  

When you believe in me…you’ve got a mission…
you’ll carry on the work I’ve been doing,
even greater things.
Blank slide
And there… around that shared meal…
like his mother Mary…Jesus friends
simply can’t comprehend how this will be accomplished.

And just as the angel did… Jesus explains…
It will be accomplished… by the power of the Holy Spirit…

Slide words
the Spirit of truth. The world can’t accept this…
But you know… because the Holy Spirit lives with you
and will be in you…The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name….will teach you all things
and remind you of everything I’ve said to you.

Slide words
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I don’t give to you as the world gives.
Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid.

blank slide
As God’s servant…Mary surrenders her reputation...
even control of her life… to carry the Christ into the world
she is able to do this… not in her own strength…
but through the power of the Holy Spirit

As servants of the Christ…those who sat down to supper with him… the night he was betrayed…
would eventually carry the Christ into the world
not in their own strength…
but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And like Mary they would gladly bear the cost

In a few moments we will once again gather around that table at the invitation of the Christ

earth slide
in the power of the Holy Spirit… we will be fed…
and strengthened to carry the Christ into the world…

My prayer… is that you will receive the good news of your favour with God…and that you without fear…
will consent to his life in you…
that you might be vessels of his gospel
of mercy and forgiveness, bearers of his justice and his peace into the world.

For the one we carry is the Messiah
and of his kingdom… there will be no end.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

How well do we make room for Jesus?

Advent 3 year B Sermon
Title slide
On this third Sunday of Advent…we ask ourselves the question … how well do we make room for Jesus?
In this season we already asked ‘how well do we wait?’ …
and ‘how well do we prepare?’ for the coming of God’s future into our lives

And at Christmas time…the question…
how well do we make room for Jesus…
hangs over everything we do…

and if you grew up…. listening to the Christmas story…
It’s likely the question is embedded…
deep within your heart and mind

Joseph and Mary slide
along with the image of… an exhausted Mary
heavily pregnant on a donkey…with Joseph at her side …looking for any place to rest … a place for Jesus to be born.

That census year in Bethlehem…with thousands crowding into every available bed and hostel… it wasn’t personal…
there just wasn’t any room

As children we felt sorry for them…
and for the baby about to be born in a stable
but didn’t we also experience… the awe and wonder
as angels sang… and shepherds watched in amazement
while tidings of great joy… poured into this unlikely scene

So over and over… the story ask us this question…
how well do we… make room for Jesus…and his saving message of wellbeing for all people…
in our lives and in our world…especially as Christmas approaches.

Clutter slide
A few weeks ago I discovered a website…
where a few people share their prayers…
as they struggle with this question.
One man’s prayer went like this…

God... time management’s become my ultimate stress.
My workload and weight of responsibilities
are just impossible for me to handle. When my palms sweat and my heart pounds…I get panicked…because everything in life seems like such an emergency.

I can't even sleep. My mind races with what I haven’t done
and what need to do tomorrow.

God once I enjoyed my time with You… and came away from Your presence completely refreshed. You were my reservoir of strength and peace. You showed me mercy every day.

Now even You…would have to schedule an appointment
with me! My life is out of control! I'm feeling crazy!
I am in such a hurry all the time…from the moment my eyes open in the morning till they close at night.

I just don't seem to have enough time…it’s such a precious
and scarce commodity. Jesus… I need my time with You again. Not in a rush, or a haze of activity, but in silence.
How can I find room for you, dear Jesus? Help me.

Another woman prayed something very similar:
God, my days are so busy I practically have to schedule
my next breath!

I wish things were different, but they aren't right now.
At least You know I enjoy our time together. And there's no denying I can't make it…without Your strength each day…
I depend on Your love and your guidance to get me through

But Jesus…with the time crunch I'm under… I do feel disappointed sometimes… when I approach You for an answer  … only to be met with silence. It's not like I'm checking my watch whenever we're together. Okay I admit it maybe I am.

Open door slide
Like the town of Bethlehem…our lives get crowded and there’s no room to open the door to anything more…
and it’s always worse at Christmas… [pause]

but making room for God isn’t just something we do
when we have all the time in the world. Our ancestors in the faith… called this a rule of life
this making room for God…

when they practiced a rule of life …every day was shaped around the rhythm of

Slide words
spoken prayer…around silence in the presence of God… and listening for God’s word
through the reading of scripture

With these spiritual disciplines…
our mothers and fathers in the faith…made room in their lives even as they worked hard… in their fields and gardens
and their kitchens…to keep the community fed and clothed

Sometimes this rule of life… was practised in the company of other Christians…and sometimes it was a solitary thing…
but it was always practised every day…day in and day out …which is why they called it…discipline.

And there’s a sense in which…these times of prayer and silence and reading…were times of fasting…from the busyness of life.

Stressed man slide
I know many Christians…who wear their stress and exhaustion like a badge of honour…they never seem to be at peace… they’ve made room for everything… but God in their lives.

And there are others who are busy…not with work
but negative emotions
people whose lives are so full of resentment and anger… there’s no room for God

Others are oppressed by financial worries…obsessed with
dark thoughts about the future…some are prisoners of their own social calendar…

Some feel condemned to live in grief or with a broken heart.
Some feel exploited and taken for granted…or judged unfairly … by the demands and expectations of others

they thirst for comfort and recompense.
But make no room for God.

And some remain captive their whole lives…to past mistakes
Many feel robbed of joy or health or love…
or the energy to praise God… [pause]

If your life is crammed full of any of these burdens
and you have no interest or motivation to change…
to deliberately make room for Jesus…

Scroll slide
Then listen once again… to the promises made
when Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue…
as he ushered in the Messianic Age…
and maybe you’ll reconsider making room for him.

Word slide
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because God anointed me…sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to comfort all who mourn

And the gifts God promises with all this

Slide words
to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Slide words
They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
…all who see them shall acknowledge they’re a people whom the LORD has blessed.

Slide words
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

It’s a covenant…a promise…a vow God has made
if we will only make room for it!

Earth slide with words
And this promise… is as true for whole communities
and nations… as it is for you and I as individuals where
no room is made for Jesus and his message of healing and wholeness

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In our world…entire communities remain enslaved and oppressed…by the demands of the marketplace or the military…people are imprisoned in a world of consumption…
or slaves to a religious cycle of revenge.

As individuals how are we to open
the gifts of God at Christmas or any other time…
if we don’t make room for God in our lives

God may not be bound by time and space…but we are
and so we have to make room…we have to make space

because in love…God’s given us the freedom…
to ignore…to devalue and even to reject
the comfort…and release…which are God’s saving gifts.. [pause]

How can the world enjoy the year of the Lord's favour
when we won’t give God the time of day?  How can we receive the gifts of God… when we never sit down long enough
to unwrap them.
How can we welcome Jesus…into the crowded chaos
of our lives…when we’ve made no room to receive him?

So what are we to do about this…

well we set aside this hour…don’t we…
in community with God’s people…and that’s certainly a start
but can we make turn this hour of worship together …
into one of listening for God’s word to us…
in the songs and the scriptures and the sermon…
even in the sharing of our friends over a cup of tea.

And what about the other six days a week…

Open heart slide
Well the next step in making room for Jesus
is to make a decision of the heart…to set aside for God
a sacred time and a sacred place… every single day
maybe even more than once a day…

and to practise the spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith…
to read and pray and listen in silence…
for God’s wisdom and peace. To schedule a regular time
where there’s nothing…but room for Jesus. [pause]

You could look on this… as a spiritual investment
or a sacred sacrifice…a time to fast…from the demands
of the world. A time to open yourself…to whatever God
wants to do with you….

And…once you’ve adopted a rule of life like this…
Well there remains only one thing


because we’re all tempted to let things slide aren’t we…
to allow the demands of the world to crowd out the blessings of God once again.

So we make ourselves accountable to someone else …
a prayer partner or spiritual director…or maybe…
just a good friend who understands just how important your spiritual practise is to you

Christian accountability…
is a kind of insurance policy against spiritual burnout
so there’ll always be room in your life…
to savour the presence of God. [Pause]

Earth slide
And in a world which can’t hear the Christmas story
over the noise of other things…

maybe with practise… and spiritual discipline
you and I can become
walking… talking…five star accommodation…
for the indwelling of God…
wherever we are in the world.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

How well do we prepare?

Advent 2 year B Sermon 11 How well do we prepare?
Title slide
Today on this second Sunday of AdventPeter reminds us … once more… what we began to understand last week …
that God’s promised future is coming toward us…that’s what advent means…the breaking in of God’s future

And today in his letter to the persecuted Christians in the
first century… desperately longing for that
promised future…Peter tells us…how to prepare for God’s coming …how to live now…in faith for that future [pause]

Peter slide
Simon Peter …the rock…
on whom Jesus would build his church
first bishop of Antioch and Rome…shepherd to the early Christiansthis Peter wants us to prepare for God’s coming
first and foremost by changing our minds

Peter wants everyone to change their minds…[pause]
about time…………about the meaning of salvation
about who salvation is for…and what the coming of God’s future will mean… for the earth.

We know Peter wants us to change our mind about things because the word he uses in the letter…is one we often
translate as repentance…but in reality…
the Greek word Peter uses… means to change your mind
or your way of thinking and living

Slide words
the word is  metanoian

Peter’s weary people are asking
How long do we have to wait for relief… how long are we to be food for lionsentertainment for the emperors
why can’t God get his act together?

And in concern and compassion for these Christians
who are fearful of the future…Peter first urges them to alter their perspective on time…‘beloved…he says to them gentlydon’t ignore the fact that …with the Lord…

slide words
one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years
are like one day.

Blank slide
And this same Peter… the former fisherman
who as a young disciple… walked three years with Jesus…
then betrayed himthis same Peter… the sinner…
wants them to change their minds…. about salvation

The Lord is patient with youhe tells them…

slide words
regard the patience of our Lord as salvation

not what happens when we die…not heaven
not sitting on a cloud… relaxing with a harp!
But right now…God’s graciousness and patience toward us?

And while you’re at it…Peter says…change your minds about who salvation’s for

Slide words
‘the Lord doesn’t want anyone to perish…but wants all to come to repentance…
God wants everyone to change their minds! Everyone…  [pause]

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Wow Peter the pastor and the sinner…covers a lot of theological territory here… God and time
the shape and the scope of salvation and …
one more thing we need to change our minds about

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…oh yeah…the end of the world! The day of the Lord…

This Peter …who actually  broke bread with the risen Christalso wants us to change our minds
about the end of the world!

Guess what… he says salvation isn’t what happens
at the end of the world… ‘cause the world isn’t going to end!
in God’s future… the world is going to be made new!

and in accordance with God’s promise

slide words
we wait for… new heavens and a new earth… [pause]

ladies and gentlemenright there in the Bible!

Sure Peter says…we’ve heard

Slide words
the day of the Lord will come like a thief

and the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire…and the earth ….
and everything that’s done on it…. Will… be…disclosed.

But, all this Peter says…is about making things new
slide words
creating a world where righteousness is at home.

And here the word Peter uses for righteousness
means justice. A world where justice is at home

Blank slide
And while we wait for all this renewal to happen…
while we wait for everything to be made new…
…what constitutes holy and godly waiting?

Well…Peter says…it certainly isn’t waiting impatiently
There’s no place for impatience
because God is outside of time…
and God wants everyone to be safe
and change their minds about time…and salvation
and what they think will be the end of the world. [pause]

And so beloved…says the concerned patriarch…
of a worried and fearful people

Slide words
while you wait for everything to be made new,
strive to be found by God blameless and at peace…
and regard the patience of our Lord… as your salvation.

blank slide
For repentance read…change your minds
For righteousness…read justice and peace
For the end of the world …read renewal[pause]

But like the Israelites and the first Christians
oh how we’ve twisted and distorted the meaning of these words….so they’ll conform to our our misunderstandings

Thank heavens…the God of Abraham and Sarah
the God of Mary and Joseph…stands outside
our understanding of time and space
thank heavens… God’s promises can’t be undermined by human misapprehension

Thank heavens…the renewal and healing
of the earth and all that’s in it…
is about the God’s future …not our past. [pause]

Perhaps Peter remembers the night he betrayed Jesus…
the night he balked at letting Jesus wash his feet
Maybe Peter is thinking of Jesus’ gentle reassurance

Slide words
“You don’t realize now what I’m doing,
but later you will understand.”

And that same night…
Peter hadn’t understood when Jesus said…

slide words
In a little while you’ll see me no more,
and then after a little while… you’ll see me

Blank slide
Jesus the servant King…was washing off the dirt
making Peter the sinful fisherman clean…
to renew him…to renew them…to renew us.

And in a way they could never imagine
Jesus body would be renewed in the resurrection…

but Jesus disciples didn’t understand …
and neither did the early church…
their concepts of time and space and salvation
needed to change for them to prepare the way in faith

And maybe ours do too… as we prepare the way…
as we wait… to be made new…over and over again…by the story of the birth of Christ…by our gracious and patient God…
as we look forward to
a new heaven and a new earth

You know there’s a sense in which… discipleship
is all about preparing the way for God’s future…about how we live now…about striving to be at peace with ourselves
and one another …
about shaping a world where justice is at home.

And with this in mind… we can go out from here with a new and refreshing confidence about the future…
a confidence which comes from trust in God.
Remembering Peters words…God is patient with you

Slide words
so strive to be found by God …blameless and at peace