30th August 2020 

21st Ordinary 

The Collect 

Eternal and everliving God, our beginning and our end,

You give us strength in the face of suffering and death.

Set our minds on divine not worldly things

Give us courage to take up our cross and follow you. 

Help us to trust and live in the power of the resurrection of Christ. 

Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Readings

Romans 12: 9-21

Matthew 16: 21-28

Homily 

Last week in Romans at the beginning of chapter 12, Paul appealed to them to present their bodies as living sacrifices – holy and acceptable to God, as spiritual worship.  He encouraged them further, by saying ‘do not conform to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they may know the will of God. 

In today’s reading, Paul is directly teaching the way to achieve this change.  In verses 9 – 21 he is basically instructing them, starting in verse 9, to live a life of genuine love and to hate what is evil and to hold onto what is good, as is in verse 21, also ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome with good’.  The first and last verses then, are elliptical, in bringing it all back together.  In the middle verses 10 - 18, Paul takes this theme and points out in more detail how to achieve this, as you can see for yourselves as you reread the passage. 

Paul carries on in verses 17 – 21 to express and to stress that God is the final authority on human relationships and the final judge on human actions.  We therefore do not need to judge others, so can be set free from this, and be able to work together towards living in harmony instead.  Our security needs to come from knowing God is the one who distinguishes wrong-doing and promises judgement.  If we do not concentrate on that, we become arrogant and hard.  If we recognise that judgement is God’s concern we can live generously and kindly toward others and therefore ‘live peaceably with all’ as Paul instructs.

Verse 20 can cause some concern and misunderstanding (read).  Paul is actually referring to an ancient Egyptian rite of penitence, which was to walk around with a container of burning coals carried on the head to symbolise repentance and of a change and purified mind. So Paul is saying here that treating our enemies with genuine love will bring them to a place of repentance - possibly by feeling some humiliation in receiving love rather than retaliation or revenge.  We need only act in love, God will do the rest!  Sometimes it would be easier to go for retribution rather than love: to take the human path rather than the divine: to let it be our will rather than God’s will.   Yet Paul knows and exhorts us to do as God wants us to do. 

We see this same message, today, as Jesus talked to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel. 

Peter the Rock of last week becomes Jesus’s stumbling block.  Jesus as I said last week, chose his time to talk with his disciples well.  He chose to check with them as to who they thought he was.  Peter was the one to know that Jesus is the Messiah.  Now this was established.

 Jesus then went on to explain, as we read today, how he was soon to be judged, tried and crucified.  This was too much for Peter.   He could not let his Lord; go through such a terrible situation and death.  He called Jesus aside and argued that this must not happen.  It was too awful for a human to endure.  Here we see Peter so quickly after his declaration of Jesus as the Messiah, in 4 verses, revert to thinking in human terms and of Jesus as human. 

Interestingly though Jesus, didn’t just chastise him, but retaliated with the strong words of ‘Get thee behind me Satan’.  He saw in Peter’s argument, a temptation.  He reacts as he did in the wilderness, during his time of temptation.  For a split second, did Jesus think the same thing?  Then that would be why he spoke so severely to Peter, and why he saw him as a stumbling block.  ‘you are setting your mind on human things not divine’.  Oops!  Poor Peter, one minute on the ball, having ‘known from my Father in heaven’, to ‘Get thee behind me Satan’. A fall of great proportions.   Peter, who confessed, Jesus to be the Messiah, now forgot the divinity of Christ.  Yet I do understand where Peter was coming from.  I think I may have responded in exactly the same way, in my loving concern for the man I admire and have grown to love. Peter’s human viewpoint wanted to exclude Jesus from being vulnerable, to keep him from the distasteful and to see Jesus through to a successful Messiahship, as was expected by all.   This dramatic shift in Peter’s outlook makes a powerful impact on us the readers.  Peter who was the recipient of divine revelation, failed to grasp the reality and need of Jesus’ suffering and death.  Many throughout the ages, have been like Peter: religious people who genuinely give the right answers but who find a crucified Christ difficult to understand.  Jesus shows us here, through Peter’s reaction, how quickly we can switch our thoughts, from the spiritual back to looking through human eyes again.  This is how closely we live with evil, and how closely we need to be to Jesus, to be able to continue our discipleship and to continue our life journey of becoming more like Jesus, selfless and obedient.  Jesus showed his disciples this, in this very scenario.  No matter how he might have felt as a human, even in  that moment, he showed his selflessness and obedience by ordering Satan to go, and for him to continue the route God, his Father wanted for him.

That’s why Jesus went on further to talk to the disciples about their lives.  He challenged them to deny themselves and to take up their cross, the same as he was too, so they could continue to follow him.  He wanted them to make that final decision, to take that step of faith in complete belief in him. He wants them to choose to let go their old ways, and humanness, to follow in his footsteps, of obedience and selflessness.  He talks of losing life to gain it.  Just as he was going to, as we well know.  Jesus is trying to help them understand that to leave the life they have been living, and to choose the life of Christ, of following in his ways, is to gain life, eternal life.  A life which is so much more than a worldly life without Jesus.  And so he wants this for us today too. 

The two final verses close the whole message of Jesus, into an eschatological context.  He, the Son of Man, turns out to be both the judge who calls to account God’s people and the instigator of God’s sovereign rule.  So what the disciples think and do are of great concern to Jesus.  Jesus who resisted the tempter in Peter, and continued in the way God wanted, his Passion in Jerusalem, wants the disciples to walk the same way.  He wants them to resist the temptation of the worldly life and to take up the cross of following him, and do God’s will.  He wants them to renew their minds and to discern God’s will for, not only Jesus’s journey soon to be completed, but for their own as well. 

So it is for us today.  May we too take up our cross, by renewing our minds once again, and discern God’s will for us in this world.  May we know that in doing this we are truly his disciples.  May we be able to know what God wants for each of us, individually, as a church, and within the community we live in.

Prayer   May the fierce breath of God blow through our lives and set us ablaze.  May the brilliance of God’s presence kindle courage in us for every wilderness and trial.  May the fervour of God’s calling continually disturb us and draw us forth.  May God’s fiery faith in us be the spark that takes hold in us and teaching us to do the same.     Amen.

19th Ordinary 

The Collect 

Merciful God, hearten us, so that like Peter we may have faith even when we fail.

Grant that any recognition we receive brings worship not to ourselves but to you.

Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Readings 

Gen 37:1-4,12-28

Ps 105:1-6,16-22, 45b

Rom 10:5-15

Matt 14:22-33 

Homily

Jesus always looked for faith in people. With faith everything is possible. Faith and trust in God’s love for us. When a relationship with someone is good and we spend a lot of time with them, trust builds.

Jesus longed for it in his disciples.  And we see it in Peter.  Yet again he rushes in sure of his faith in his leader, his teacher, Jesus.  I love Peter for his impetuous faith.    He realises it is Jesus and wants to prove it.  ‘Command me’ Peter says ‘to come to you’.  He desperately wants to prove himself to Jesus.  And so he steps out of the boat on Jesus command and walks on the water.  He did it!  – until the wind and waves got up and then he looked away from Jesus and faltered.  He really meant it I think, but then life took over, or in his case - the storm.  Then when he faltered he cried out ‘Lord save me’.

What did Jesus do then.   He held out his hand and lifted him up.  Jesus was still there for Peter. 

This is the same for us today.  We all want to know that our faith is strong and that we will not falter.  Yet sure enough, when things get tough it is hard to stay strong in our faith.  We look at our life waves pulling us away from Jesus and we falter.  It is a very human way to be.  We do get caught up with issues in life, as we live in it. 

I think the main thing we can learn from this story of Peter is that we rise up again with Jesus’ help.  We turn back our thoughts to Jesus, and we take his hand once more so we can build up our faith once more.  As I have heard before – he is a God of second chances.

It is like using the word seasons.  We often use this as talking about a set time of something happening and stopping.   For example, there is a season for work, a season for groups, a season for where we stay.  Then that season finishes and leads us into a new one.  One that will take us on in our lives and encourage us to grow. 

This brings me to let you know that my season is changing and because of that I am sorry to tell you that I have to leave this position.  It became clear to me in lock-down but the circumstances were not right. 

Now things are a bit more settled here again, I have to stop.  I so wanted to get to the end of the year, but I do not have enough energy left. 

So because I need to jump out of the boat, it is as if I am forcing you to face turbulence too.   For different reasons we are looking at stepping out onto the sea with faith, yet again.  I have tussled with this and God for a while now, and the answer is that even though I am not making it through, and I put you in a shaky position once again, you are strong in your faith.  You all stepped out of the boat nearly two years ago and look at you now. 

In my tussle I just look at you all and praise God for you.  I praise God for you commitment, your faith and your perseverance.   I give thanks for your willingness to say ‘yes’ to Jesus – even in the storms and ups and downs in life.  The split of this parish has helped you to be strong.  

It is a different kind of strong.  It is a very deep and internal strong based on your relationship and faith in Jesus.  I pray that this continues to grow in each of you.  It has nothing to do with feeling tired, feeling let down, feeling overcome by the circumstances within your life.  It is so much more than that.  This strong is what takes you through so much.  Thanks be to God, for his love of us, his filling us with the Holy Spirit to give us this strength. 

It is times like these I am in awe of God.  I am in awe that God calls us, just like Jesus did to Peter and the disciples.  We step out and say yes and we are carried.  We have his hand to clasp when things get tough. 

Jesus is always there waiting to help us.  To say ‘do not be afraid’. 

He is there when we are fine too, enjoying watching us when we are strong. 

So my friends it is with deep regret that I came to this decision and have to tell you that it has been arranged with Bishop Peter that I will leave at the end of this month of August.  He says he will have something in place by then.  I was desperately hoping that he would have got back to me so I could tell you more.   I will as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, even when the future looks uncertain and rocky remember Peter and his joy in Jesus.   May you all have that joy too.  So much so he got out of the boat.  Yes he faltered, but he is genuine in his love and desire to follow Jesus.  That’s all we need to be held by Jesus, to be led by Jesus, to be saved by Jesus. 

May we all be strong through these next few months as we look at season changes.  I am please that weather wise it is from winter into spring and new growth.  I am presuming that it will be the same for the parish. 

I believe that this parish needs to move into spring – to new growth, and I know in my head that I am not the one to lead you into that.   My heart may say differently!!!   My deepest prayer is that God has the right next person.  He has had so far.  Hilary was perfect for your first six months, and then I came for this while.  God in your wisdom send the next right person. 

Most of all I give thanks and praise for each of your faith and commitment, may these continue to grow and strengthen in Christ. 

18th Ordinary 

The Collect 

Generous God,

your love is overflowing

enable us to trust in the abundance of your love

help us to multiply the blessings you give 

for you are the one that fulfills all our needs

through Jesus Christ our Liberator,

who is alive and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit 

on God, now and forever.

The Readings

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14: 13-21

Homily

Jesus feeds the five thousand

Have you ever been caught out?  Have you had visitors arrive near tea-time, and you welcome them at the same time as thinking ‘what on earth have I got to make a meal.  The one I had planned is too small.  What can I find?  What can I do?  Prepare xtra veg?  Make a big dessert? Ice cream?’  Yet somehow we can whip up something that suffices our hospitality or whipping up a storm as I have heard said.  Is that a Kiwi saying? 

Anyway the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is such a well-known one, the story of whipping up a storm!!  Rather than calming the storm.  Firstly we can acknowledge that this story is the only one that is shared in all four gospels.  This in itself makes the feeding of the five thousand very significant, in Jesus’ life and ministry.

In the synoptic gospels the crowd had been with Jesus and the disciples for some time, slightly different to the story in John’s gospel.  We read that the crowd had followed Jesus even when he was trying to have space for himself. 

We were commenting on that last weekend.  Jesus went away to take time – to retreat.  It is a good example to follow.  I watch the Lord work and release and feed each individual as they draw away for the weekend.  God is good! 

Yet this time when he did, the crowds were waiting for him.  It must have been so frustrating for him! Yet when Jesus saw them he had compassion for them, put his needs aside and healed the sick and spent all day with them.   

Here’s a wee story!

The late Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken) was on an airplane when an infant screamed and would not stop even though the mother and flight attendants tried every trick they could think of. Finally the Colonel asked if he could hold the baby. He gently rocked it to sleep. Later a passenger said, “We all appreciate what you did for us.”

Colonel Sanders replied, “I didn’t do it for us, I did it for the baby.”

The late Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken) was on an airplane when an infant screamed and would not stop even though the mother and flight attendants tried every trick they could think of. Finally the Colonel asked if he could hold the baby. He gently rocked it to sleep. Later a passenger said, “We all appreciate what you did for us.”

Colonel Sanders replied, “I didn’t do it for us, I did it for the baby.”

Before going into the story further, we can look back in time, and look forward in time.  Looking back takes us into the life of one of the old prophets Elisha where he performed a miracle of feeding people with very little.  We see God providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, at Moses request.  We look at this story itself of Jesus, a prophet who performed a miracle and fed the crowd with very little.  All acts of mercy and God’s miracles. 

Then we can look forward by reading the description of Jesus taking the bread, giving thanks and distributing or breaking it and giving it to the people which reminds us of another meal a couple of years later, close to Passover where Jesus took bread and gave thanks and broke it and gave it to his disciples. 

So we can see that through these different stories they teach us much more, even by implication.   In other words there is a double meaning in these stories. 

So when Jesus saw the crowd coming once again to him for their physical needs to be met, Jesus showed mercy.    He stayed with them all day healing and being with them.  Then the disciples came to him and warned him that the crowd should go home and eat.  Very practical. 

Do you think Jesus gets annoyed with the disciples for their lack of compassion – yet they are thinking of Jesus’ welfare – or are they?   Is it that they are really practical – that is there is no food nearby and the end of the day. 

So instead of agreeing with them, Jesus asked or challenged the disciples about providing food for them. He said this to test them for he himself knew what he was going to do.  In some ways it worked, as the crowd were physically nurtured, and with much being left over, the people had to realise that Jesus must be a prophet, and likely to be the one they had been waiting for.  The one that could be the next king – the one to save them and lead them to victory.  The implication here is that they thought since Moses had led them out of slavery in Egypt, then this new man like Moses would lead them against the Roman occupation.  But Jesus was a new Moses in a different way because he came to earth to give them a different kind of manna – one that we know but they could not understand at that point. 

Jesus knows that they still do not understand, that they realise from this miracle he is a different kind of prophet than any others around.  What they don’t realise is that what Jesus is offering is to save them spiritually as well, not only by physical means – feeding and healing.

We can, as we read this gospel, hear with our ears so much more than they were able to.  We can see with our eyes so much more, and understand with our hearts so much more.  We can look forward and understand the depth of this message in the breaking of bread and giving thanks, in that we have an example of the Last Supper, the Eucharist which is the foundation of our worship.  We have the whole basis of our belief and the whole joy of our faith.  

God of the past, in the Old Testament provided bread beyond their very need.  Jesus, God’s Son in the New Testament provided bread beyond their very need. 

How about this for us today?  Does God provide beyond our needs? 

Sometimes we say.  Not always what we want – but certainly if we look beyond the situation we see God’s generosity.  These people were physically fed – the obvious.  Yet we know what Jesus was offering was so much more.  It was himself -both on that day and the days to come.  He offered himself for our salvation. 

God of the present, the risen Christ, the bread of life, through his death and resurrection, has saved us and given us life eternal. 

Through this we realise this one hope –that we can be one with God and Father of all, who is above all, through all and in all forever. 

 

Prayers

Loving God, we are amazed at your generosity and compassion.   

We give you deep thanks for all you do and give to each of us.  

Lord God, in your Son Jesus you show us the way to be compassionate to others.

Help us to show his compassion to others.  

Almighty God, we offer up our prayers for all those who are suffering from the effects of Covid; 

whether it is through being ill by it, losing a loved one by it or losing work by it.  We pray that they 

may know your comfort and compassion in their time of distress. 

Lord Jesus we pray for our own country, we ask that we as a people will not become complacent and will be wise in our vidulence.  

We give thanks for the smart decisions made early so that we may be cleared of such contamination and death. 

Help and support and strengthen all those in leadership.

We pray to for our up coming elections, and our upcoming Synod.   May all be wise in their decision making for this country.  

 

Heavenly God, we give you thanks for this wonderful land, our towns and our neighbours.  Help us to care for thses and be open to change for the care of our future together.  

Thank you Lord.

Amen  

Sea Sunday

 

The Readings

Ps 106: 23-32, 33:1-12

Acts 27" 27-32,39-64

Mark 4: 35-41

The Homily

There is a bit of a comparison here today in the readings on this Sea Sunday.  These two passages are about sailing in boats.  The first is when Jesus suggests to his disciples to go across to the other side.  The disciples agree and off they go. Then a storm breaks out, - how strange none of them saw any signs or were forewarned of it.  Even more strange to the disciples is that Jesus is so tired he sleeps through it on a cushion, unaware of the event.  The disciples are perturbed.

Did they expect an easy sail when accompanied by Jesus?  Did they sense he had powers that would keep them safe from any harm?  When they tried to wake him with, ‘Don’t you care if we die?’ were they just angry that he could sleep through it and not help them? 

How many of us have watched or listened to our partner, or even our siblings sleep through whatever is going on – the child crying, the high winds or even aftershocks!!!!   Yes it is annoying – it seems so unfair that they are blissfully asleep and we cannot!  Is this what bothered the disciples or was it more? 

Whichever they wake him with their peevish question.  Don’t you care?  Teacher they call him.  They did accept him as one more learned than they.  What did they expect him to do?  Know how to steer or manage the boat in some new way?  Yet some of these disciples were experienced fishermen and sailors.  Surely their knowledge of sailing would have been greater than Jesus.  Yet here they were looking to the sleeping Jesus!

Fear!  It does change our perspective and there was a certain amount of fear and panic going on with the disciples as we pick up in their question to Jesus.  Jesus stood up and rebuked the wind – told it off – reprimanded or scolded.  And said to the sea ‘peace – be still’.  And it all happened.  The wind stopped and the sea was calm.  These sailors were fearful of the great storm regardless of their experience.  They looked to another for help. 

Let’s look at the story in Acts in which there were sailors, soldiers, prisoners and Paul all journeying on a ship.  They had, earlier in the chapter, hit a storm and thrown over the ships tackle and cargo and let themselves drift. 

The sailors tried to leave the ship but Paul spoke out and counteracted their action by saying to the soldiers and centurion in charge, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship you cannot be saved. 

The story we heard goes on to tell how they decided to let the ship run ashore when they saw land and they could get off.  But the ship struck a reef and the boat started to break up.  The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners for safety but the centurion wanted to save Paul and stopped that.  So all were brought safely to land. 

Why was the centurion keen to help Paul – one of the prisoners.  He knew Paul was an apostle – he also knew that Paul had had a visit from an angel the night before telling him to have courage as no one would die – only the ship would run aground.  Found in verses 21-26.  Paul was already offering leadership courage and calm.  In the other missed-out verses of 33-38 Paul urges them to eat as they had not done so for many days to help them survive ‘for none of you will lose a hair from your heads’.  From there he took bread, gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and broke it.  A sense of the Eucharist here, and they were all brought safely to land. 

In this story we also see fear – the fear of losing their lives at sea – just as the disciples felt.  And later when the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners before they went ashore, so that they would feel safe on the island. 

Yet Paul was calm.  He knew that they were going to be ok.  He, through his knowledge and faith in God, took over the situation of fear and disturbance.  He shared a Eucharist meal with them, sustained by God to withstand the future, and all was well. 

Paul’s faith gave him wisdom and courage through Christ to be able to take command and save all the people – just as he had told them at the beginning ‘unless these men stay on the ship you cannot be saved’. 

Going back to the disciples and their fear and sense of desperation as they turn to their sleeping leader; their wise and courageous one: when they wake him he stands up and does exactly they wanted – but more than they expected. Jesus spoke to the wind and the sea.  That was not what they imagined at all.  AND the storm stopped immediately.  Jesus showed them that he was in control not only of their situation but of the natural world as well as the spiritual world.  They could not help but see this of him.  Jesus could sleep through a horrendous storm, yet on waking could command the natural elements to cease their turmoil.  They could hear the authority in his voice and see it in his stature. 

This was like a miracle – yet it was more.  It was also a reminder and a connection to the Old Testament when God’s power could control the sea and wind, as in the story of creation and of the parting of the Red Sea.  It is in the Psalm for today 107:23-32.  No wonder then the disciples were filled with awe!.  ‘Who then is this?’

So in these two rather different but yet both sea stories we see in both men who were experienced seafarers being frightened and facing their presumed death.  We also see in both situations a man who is calm and filled with peace.  Two men who rise above the panic and discord.  Both men stand firm by faith.  Jesus does because he is the Son of God.  Paul does because he is a firm believer of the Son of God. 

Both were attune to God.  Jesus, because he was God in human form, and Paul, because he had been visited the night before by an angel with a word from God.  With God within each of them; the seafaring situations – the storm, the shipwreck, were overcome and each person on the boats were saved. 

How about in life today?  Today particularly, we acknowledge on this Sea Sunday the people of the sea and pray for their lives and safety as they continue their work. 

We, who are disciples, when our boats meet a storm, are able to deal with it head on like Paul – with courage and calm, with peace and faith.  

Or are we sometimes more like the disciples?  ‘Don’t you care if we die?’ 

Jesus answer to that very question is

‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 

How frustrating for him.  Jesus had just spent much time sharing his parables about the gospel message the very last being the one of the sower of seeds on different soils.  Yet still the disciples were fumbling around in their faith and understanding of Jesus, and of God, and of the promise of salvation and everlasting life.  They marvelled at his command of the wind and sea, and yet didn’t really get it.  

When we are in a difficult situation will we cry out to Jesus too – most likely!

Will Jesus ask you and me ‘why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?’

More questions turned round back onto us.  How do we answer?

It is God who is all power and glory, as in the Old Testament.  It is God who is all power and glory in Jesus his Son in the New Testament.  It is God who is all power and glory in today’s world through the Holy Spirit in us and our faith. 

That is what we take away today.  God is the centre of all – both creation and us.  God is within each of us, each of our lives, as long as we have faith –as we believe.  He is there as Jesus, with the disciples in our storms and our troubles.  All we need to have is our belief in God’s love of us.  So much so that he sent Jesus to die for us. 

Just as Paul was converted by Jesus, and knew and was strong, courageous and calm. 

We do not die in our circumstances when we keep our faith strong.  We may wobble like the disciples, but we come through in faith.  Just as you all here at South Christchurch.  It has been stormy, sometimes scary yet with your faith and trust you are here today.  Now we are in a place of looking at Jesus, giving thanks for the calming of the storm and looking constantly to him to keep on and hoping for the future.  Even now some of our decisions will seem unsure, but we have to trust our future in Christ. 

When we do in fact trust completely way beyond our own understanding or logic, we receive that peace and joy deep within, by the Holy Spirit, and a knowing that God is with us in all things and that we are with him forever in eternal life. 

Thanks be to our Almighty God. 

 

 

Pentecost Sunday

Collect

Holy Spirit of God, blowing through creation,

no door can keep you out; unlock our hearts, breathe on us anew, 

that we may speak God's words of life with the Father and the Son

you live and reign one God now and forever.  Amen

Homily

Each year we come to celebrate Pentecost.  
Yet each year is different because we are experiencing different circumstances, both individually as a church.  We come with different things to give thanksgivings, or others with challenges to face.  
Death, loss, brokenness, anxiety, weariness. And perhaps a sense of what now?  Where from here?  How?  For our futures?.  Personally, work-wise or our church life?
Pentecost was fifty days after the Passover and the followers of Jesus were gathered together.  Just as we are today – believers yet wondering what is to come!  What does the future hold?  There were, in Jerusalem, many people from so many different places, different types of people gathering together just as the Church throughout the world gathers on a Sunday.  
The disciples were together, waiting, knowing that this promise of Jesus of the Holy Spirit, or the Advocate, was still to come to fruition.  Were they questioning the likelihood of it happening?  Were they weary of waiting?  
Then we read in Acts - whoosh!  A violent wind and something that looked like tongues of fire divided and landing on each of them.  
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.  It all happened.  They were suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and were ready to go out to all the lands to speak the gospel of Christ – the good news of Jesus the Saviour of all.  They would go out and spread the glory of God throughout.  This is still God’s desire today, and our mission as believers today.  
Back to the first believers in Acts, for many began speaking in foreign languages and were so filled with joy.  The crowd watched, amazed; with some, of course, disbelieving and scoffing saying that they were drunk.  
So Peter rose up.  Peter the rock on which the church was to be founded.  
He raised his voice.   
He said ‘Let this be known to you.’
‘Listen to me’.  
These are strong and solemn commands to convey to the people around him the seriousness and truth of what he was about to tell them.  These people are for real he said to the crowd.
As Peter explained he used scripture from Joel, about the Holy Spirit coming upon all people, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh’ ‘your sons and daughters shall prophesy’, ‘your young will see visions and your old shall dream dreams’.
He was helping the crowd to understand that the Holy Spirit was to be given to all people.  Up to this point in history the Spirit of God had always been known to come to a certain person at a certain time for a certain purpose.  As in Noah, Moses, Samuel and many more of the prophets.  
Jesus has taught his disciples that this Spirit will come to each one of them to sustain them and help them always.  That not only is the Holy Spirit a substitute for Jesus’ human presence but that the relationship of the Spirit and Jesus, extends into a relationship with each individual disciple and therefore with each one of us today.  
Last week we read that Jesus had been instructing the disciples about God’s glory and how he was to be glorified after he ascended into heaven.  Now it is another big day of God’s glory - this great and glorious day of Pentecost.  This is the day of the beginnings of the whole church, or the birth of the church as is said.  
In John’s gospel we go back to when the disciples were hiding away for fear of being killed.  Jesus came to them.  Peace be with you were his first words.  He understood.  
A second time, ‘Peace be with you as the Father sent me so I send you.’  And then he breathed on them.  
‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ he said.  
So for us here today as a community of church, Jesus stands here with us.  Close your eyes and imagine him here with us.  Feel his breathing on you – warm, strong and alive.  
Receive the Holy Spirit.  Come Holy Spirit.                        Pause in silence. 
This is a world filled with Jesus, a world of God’s kingdom, so being filled with the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of new place, living in the way of Jesus, with a sense of transformation; we are newly alive and we know for sure what our hope is – we know it is having eternal life.
It is like the story of the old clarinet.  It had been lying around the house for a long time, un-played and becoming tarnished.  Occasionally someone would take it out and struggle to play a tune.  It was decided that it was not a good instrument anymore and should be got rid of.  
It was mentioned to a friend when he came to dinner one night.  He asked if he might be able to handle it and play it.  One of them dusted it down before they gave it to him, even though they knew it wouldn’t work.  Somehow it looked special as soon as he had it in his hands.  Once he started to play the family was amazed at the beautiful sounds and music.  
This was a wonderful instrument after all, and responded beautifully in the master’s hand.  It had just been waiting for the right touch.
So it was for the first disciples.  So it is for many of us.  
We are waiting for that right touch – the Holy Spirit.  
This Spirit, in whom Christ made alive after his death and resurrection, comes to each of us believers.  This Spirit is the one whom Jesus talked to his disciples about several times in the gospel of John.   The Advocate, the Paraclete, which is within us to sustain us, to guide us and to strengthen us.  It empowers and moves us to go out, be bold and courageous and ready to proclaim the gospel.  
We hear in Acts of the tongues of fire and the rushing wind.  These are signs of God, often used to depict him in the Old Testament.  The wind is the invisible presence of God.  Ruach is the Greek word use here meaning breath or wind.  The breath of God invisible- gentle – strong uplifting – buffeting yet always within us.  
Fire is the visible presence of God, as it was for the Israelites when they were in the wilderness.  The Lord went ahead of them as a pillar of fire.  As for Moses meeting God in the burning bush.  The fire of God, warm and glowing – enlightening.  
It all came to the disciples of Jesus on Pentecost, because they believed and Jesus had promised them that he would not leave them orphaned John 14 18 and God had promised ‘You will receive Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’ Acts1:8.  
There are three relational parts to this gift of the Spirit.  There is the personal one – where it is the indwelling of the Spirit in each person to sustain, counsel, lead and where it teaches the truth – the way of Jesus.  
The way of Jesus is a three dimensional relationship.
 Jesus tells them I am in the Father – Jesus and God
                              You are in me            Jesus and us
                              I am in you                 Holy Spirit and us
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit abides in you.  
And so there is this amazing relationship of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit who all are interrelated as one but they all interrelate with each of us as one.  
This is so amazing and so exciting.  It is good to be reminded of it.  I sometimes think the longer we have our faith, we get a bit used to it all.  It is good to look again and acknowledge the absolute immensity of this relationship that each one of us have with God through his Son, by the Holy Spirit.  
Thanks be to God.
Thanks be to Jesus our Saviour.
Thanks be to the Holy Spirit within us – our Sustainer.
May we all be renewed, refreshed and filled yet again with the Holy Spirit and the love of God as we draw back together from our isolation this year.   May we receive anew this gift of the Holy Spirit, knowing that Jesus came on earth to be our Saviour and Redeemer.   May we be excited in our spirits to start out once more to be church and to touch the world around us and spread God’s love to all.    Amen.  

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Collect
Holy God, you have not left us alone but promised your abiding protection.                                                                                                                      In all we face, grant us such a knowledge of your presence, and abiding care,                                                                                                                      that nothing can destroy our trust. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator,                                                                                                                                  who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen


Readings

Acts 1:6-14 
Ps 68:1-10,32-35 
1 Pet 4:12-14; 5:6-11
 John 17:1-11 

Homily

Last Thursday was Ascension Day: the day when we particularly pay attention to Jesus’ ascension from the world he came into as a baby to save all peoples, to leaving to join his Father, God, once again in his kingdom of eternal life. 
Met with his disciples several times since his resurrection and the very last time with his disciples was on the mountain top ready for his ascension.  All through the previous weeks the disciples were opening and growing their understanding that Jesus was with them wherever they were, whatever they were doing.  
At this last meeting, Jesus at the end blessed them perhaps different to other times, and entered a cloud and was gone.  The cloud represents the hidden presence and glory of God.   This act of ascension was his returning into that presence, that glory.  He was returning to his Father,  to the divine where he had come from.  Jesus left their sight – but not them.   
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus’ last words were ‘And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age’.
In Mark’s gospel 15:19,20   ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.  So the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they, the disciples, went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it’.  
This final meeting with Jesus was very different from when they watched him die, which was when he left them before.  They had been desolate and scared; shocked and confused.  This time as Jesus left them, and because of all they had understood in those last weeks, they instead worshipped him when he ascended into the cloud.  They knew they were not left alone – rather that as promised, Jesus was always going to be with them through the Holy Spirit.  They returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  
Jesus risen!  Jesus ascended!  Jesus glorified!


So we come back to today’s reading when Jesus was praying for his disciples before he left.  He knew that he was close to his death and wanted to commit them to God.   He prayed to God, ‘Father the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.’   Here again is that word glorify.  Jesus used this several times in this prayer.   We are only reading a part of it today.   
He goes on to talk of giving eternal life to those who follow him.  Or in his words ‘to all whom you have given him (the Son).   We know through the scriptures, through Jesus teachings that we are chosen by God, and called to be with him as disciples.   Jesus goes on to say that eternal life is to know God, the only true God and to know Jesus Christ whom God had sent.  This is eternal life.  It is not about waiting to die and going to heaven at the end of life.   It is about our living faith, our living relationship with God, the Father whom we know through knowing and believing in Jesus, and continue through the gift of the Holy Spirit.   
‘The only true God.’   ‘And Jesus Christ whom you sent.’  This is our eternal life – our knowing and believing and being in living relationship with them both through the Holy Spirit.  When we have these in our life here on earth then when we physically die our transition is natural, a bit like Jesus’ ascension.  
The next point in this passage is Jesus acknowledging to God, in verse 4 that while on earth he glorified God by completing the work he was sent to do.  The work being what God ascribed to him and which Jesus completed to the very end – the gospel of forgiveness and eternal life.   He continued to pray that God through his completion of his death and resurrection would glorify himself, Jesus, the Christ.  
His next sentence is interesting ‘So now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.’   Jesus existed before the beginning of creation.   If anyone doubted it - it is there for us to read and digest.   Jesus, Son of God was there from the beginning just as was the Holy Spirit with God.  
Glorify – what does this mean really – ‘resplendent majesty and magnificence; bliss and splendour of heaven; state of exaltation’ taken from and old Oxford dictionary.  This is the dynamic between Father and Son, the inter-relationship between God and Jesus.  It is presented in glory.  
Then Jesus goes on in his prayer to the disciples, describing them as those God gave to him to instruct on the oneness of God and Jesus.   He said that they have learnt that he was sent by God to the world, and that they know the truth.  These first disciples had begun to understand that Jesus was of God and God of Jesus.  Jesus was offering this prayer for these very disciples particularly.   Not the whole world – rather those that followed and believed in him.   
The crux of his prayer was to ask God to protect them and keep them faithful to this intimate relationship in him.  
And as we are a part of this body, God’s holy people of today, it is our task to remember whatever word he teaches; what Jesus commissions, commanded, exhorted of his disciples.   It is so for us today. 
May we as we continue in our faith, firstly know and delight in our relationship with Jesus, and secondly look outward to those around us and share that love of Christ.    
Thanks be to God.  


Prayers
Lord God, help us to know you, yet glorify you in all yours ways.   Help us to share our love of you with others, and to give you thanksgiving and praise for your Son, Jesus Christ.   
Loving God we [ray for all those who are suffering.  We especially pray for those who have been affected by this virus, both physically, mentally, financially and work-wise.  May they find comfort and support in those around them, may they through that find you.  
We pray to for all the churches around the world may they reach out, may people feel drawn to them for support at this time, may people seek you.  
Lord God, we pray for those who have died, may they rest in peace; we uplift those who mourn, comfort them in their time of loss.  
Help us to readjust once again to the world around us as we venture out in Level 2.  For some this is a delight – for others it is a challenge.  May we all be gentle with one another.  
Thank you Lord for our government and the load they have carried through this time of Covid 19; for their decisions and their care of the country.  May the people continue to listen and adhere to their instructions.   Thank you O God.  
With all our prayers, we offer them through the name of your dear Son Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

SIxth Sunday of Easter 
Collect 
God who speaks in silence;
help us wait in quietness. 
When you seem absent,
grant us the faith that knows you are there, 
bringing to fulfilment all you have started. 
Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, 
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen 

Readings 
Acts 17:22-31 
Ps 66:8-20 
1 Pet 3:13-22 
John 14:15-21

Homily


We are coming to end of the Easter season and soon we will celebrate Pentecost. Bishop Peter has suggested that our prayers be that we can be back in our churches to celebrate Pentecost Sunday, 31st May.  Amen to that!
This coming Thursday is Ascension Day, when we remember Jesus’ ascension into heaven finally after his resurrection: his rejoining God, his Father in heaven where he sits at his right hand.   There will be no more meetings of his risen self with his disciples.  He really will be gone physically and visually from them.  
Last Sunday we looked at the famous reading and well known words of ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God, believe also in me.’  Today we hear more from Jesus as he continued speaking to his disciples; explaining more for them to understand in preparation for his leaving them..  Jesus told them about the one to come, the Advocate, or the Holy Spirit. He explained to them how the Holy Spirit will come to them after he is gone, to teach and remind them of Jesus’ own words. They will not be alone. ‘I will not leave you orphaned’, he promised them.    ‘The Holy Spirit will come to all of them, Jesus told them; and tells all of us, as we will remember and celebrate on Pentecost Sunday.  
An advocate is someone who stands by you – an intercessor and a defender as it says in my dictionary.  How amazing to have this gift.  The Holy Spirit, this Spirit of truth, is given so that we can be in constant relationship with God, the Three in One.   So we read of Jesus telling them that he is not to be with them much longer: hence this reading ties in just before our celebration of his Ascension, and as we prepare for Pentecost.

Jesus is offering this gift, the Holy Spirit so that they, the disciples, can be encouraged as they face the thought of losing him again.  They probably were wondering how life would go on after his final departure; his Ascension.   Interestingly, he offers them this gift, with a proviso- ‘if you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate’.    IF!   How often do we not hear that?  Sometimes it is more comfortable not to hear that ‘if’.   Yet this is what Jesus expects of us.  We need to love Jesus and his commandments – we need to show we follow him, and then we receive the Holy Spirit. 
 
We are going through some rough times!  Different tough times than the disciples then, but still a place of anxiety, a sense of the unknown and the challenge of more change.  The world is going through some rough times!  We continue to pray for world’s healing and victory over this Covid 19.    We pray for protection against any further outbreaks as we move forward into a more open way of living in Level 2 here in New Zealand.   We continue to pray for wise decisions by all nations leaders.  
Our world can be in turmoil yet our hearts can be at peace by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Our own personal life can be in turmoil yet our hearts can be at peace by the gift of the Holy Spirit within us.  
This gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus is telling his disciples about is the coming of the presence of God and his Son, into the lives of believers by the work of God.  It is by God’s grace and love that we receive the Holy Spirit.   This divine inward fire – this Spirit of Truth is given to all believers, and was given to the disciples to support, lead and encourage them on, after losing Jesus, their leader.    ‘You know him, because he abides in you, and he will be in you’ verse 17.  Jesus wants the disciples to know that they do not face life alone.  Jesus wants us to know that we do not face life alone.   
‘Two Pastors wives were visiting and sewing their husband’s pants. One wife said: My husband is just beside himself, he does not know what to do anymore and he is so tired and depressed he said he is ready to just give up and resign.
      
The other wife said: I am sorry to hear that because my husband has never been happier. Our membership is growing and we are out of our financial burden, we have such a large and loving congregation. Life could not be any better than it is right now.
     
One woman was mending the seat of her husband’s pants, the other was mending the knees.’

That says it all!!  It is only through our relationship and dependency on God that we live and succeed.  Rather, the supreme power of God is given to us in the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  It is through our living relationship with God and Jesus we too can receive the Holy Spirit.  

Even though Jesus is to depart from the disciples on earth, he explains that through the gift of the Holy Spirit he lives on in them.   ‘Because I live, you also will live.’ Verse 18. 
As we read this passage, it is wonderful to hear and see and know the interconnection between God, the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and us.  We are all within this wide loving relationship and it within us.   
Thanks indeed to God, our Father and to his Son, our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate.    Alleluia Amen!
 

Prayers


Loving and all seeing God, we thank you and we praise you for your love of us.   We thank you for your Son Jesus Christ who lived and died for us, and we thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us to draw us into life in You.
Lord God, we pray now for all the world as they continue in this fight against Covid 19.  We pray that all people go forward carefully, and with a sense of hope and courage as the weeks continue by.  We pray for those who are sick, from the virus and are returning to health.  We pray for those who have died and those who mourn the loss of a loved one.
We also lift up all those we know who are sick, or who are grieving may they know the touch of your healing love and comfort.  
Please help those who are struggling from the repercussions of this epidemic, with loss of jobs, loss of finance and continuing anxiety about their future.   Loving God, may they find comfort and help, encouragement and hope by those around them.   Continue to lead and protect the government and Jacinda in all they do and decide for us.  
May we never lose sight of your wonderful creation, may we give you thanks for all your bounty in this beautiful land, Aotearoa, New Zealand.   Help us to be committed to caring wisely for it.   Thank you too Lord for bringing us through this far with such glorious weather, thank you that so many were able to enjoy the land as they took exercise. 
Be with everyone, especially the children as they return school and work.  Help them be brave, and patient with this new transition.  
Lord we offer up all these prayers in the name of your dear Son Jesus Christ,   Amen.  

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Collect

God of truth, hidden force of all creation, you long to set us free.                                                                                           

Confront us with your tenderness, fire us with your justice;  that, at your coming,

we too may set the world alight.                                                                                       

Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, 

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

Readings

Acts 7:55-60

Ps 31:1-5,15-16

John 14:1-14

 

Homily

There is so much in this passage it is difficult to cover it all.  I will pick up mainly on one aspect of Jesus’ message to his disciples. 

So we start with that wonderful phrase – Do not let your hearts be troubled –

Imagine Jesus sitting with you where you are at this moment, and hear him saying to you “Do not let your heart be troubled”. There may be things in your life that are troubling you now: can you allow these consoling words of Jesus to touch your heart like balm? Look at Jesus as he says these words to you. What expression do you see on his face as he looks at you, as he looks into your heart?

This in itself could be enough to take away for the whole week.  How encouraging is this for us all and how much we need to remember these words, as we go about our week.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.           Isn’t it wonderful to realise that if we really hold on to this promise, life is much easier to handle in these strange times of world pandemic and continuing change as we transition between Levels.   The numbers of time I have heard someone say – I only get by with my faith.  

Then Jesus goes on to say to his disciples that he is going away somewhere else and preparing a room for each of them (and us too of course).   He adds that he will come back and take them to this place with him. This has a real sense of the eschatological times or end times here - a sense that we have to wait till then.  It seems very future orientated.  The Father’s house is somewhere else far off – likely for many to think of as heaven.  Jesus is talking of his future return.  We need to remember that though Jesus was talking to his disciples and trying to help them understand his life and ministry and what was about to happen, it was before his death.  Then he comes back to them five days later. 

What is this place that is being prepared for us then?  What are these rooms? Is it then the kingdom of God in which we do have a place when we believe in the risen Christ.  Of course the disciples could only find out and believe when they saw Jesus again, resurrected and risen!

Dear Thomas, one who is strong enough to speak up, needs to know more and understand better what Jesus is meaning.  That explanation wasn’t enough for him to get his head around.  How many of us are like him?  I know I am.  He pretty well says to Jesus ‘I don’t get it Lord’.   This leads into one of Jesus most important sayings.   ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the life’.  Yes Jesus is the way to that place he is talking about.  And Phillip chimes in with his bemusement and says ‘show us the Father’.   Then I can see Jesus shaking his head.  Do they still not get it?  If they see Jesus they see the Father in him.  ‘Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me’.  Straight and to the point. 

Jesus is the way. 

A place in God’s kingdom, Jesus explains to his disciples that it is only through him that they can know and be with the Father – the place. Jesus is the way there.  The way to relationship with God is first having a relationship with Jesus, then we can reach the place he has prepared for us, a place with God, even now – even in the present.   God is present for us and with us, here in our worshipping church and with us as a body of believers. 

This passage is emphasising not only, the interrelationship of God and Jesus, his son.  I am in him and he is in me – says Jesus, but goes on to explain to the the disciples and us, that we can have the same relationship.   We too can be interrelated with God through us having a living relationship with Christ. 

Thomas asked ‘how do we know?     

Phillip asked ‘ who do we know?        

And Jesus is saying

You know me – I am the Way – so you know the Father.  I am the truth so you can believe.  I am the Life – so you may live and have eternal life in the place that is prepared for you. 

What a promise, what a gift, what a relationship for each of us. 

In the Acts reading, we see Stephen, a believer that he understood.  Stephen, whom the writer depicts as filled with the Holy Spirit, stood strong waiting to be stoned, waiting to die a difficult death.  As he was dying from the stoning, he spoke directly to Jesus ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’. 

We can see then that it is only through Christ, that we are free – that we can enter this kingdom and have that place that Jesus prepared for us  in God’s ‘house’; God’s kingdom.  We are dependent on God, the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.

It is only through our belief and our dependency on God, that we can stand up, go out and be disciples in this world today.

We can keep on with our lives as they are today remembering

‘do not let your hearts be troubled’

Alleluia – Jesus is risen!

Prayers

Almighty God, you sent your Son to be the Way, the Truth and the Life for each of us.  We give you thanks and praise for your amazing love of us, for your desire for us to be in your mansion - your kingdom.  Help us to release our fears, and to constantly walk in your Way.  Help us to draw closer to you. 

Lord Jesus, we bring to you now the world-wide Church with all its differences and yet with the same direction, You.  Be with us all as we read your word, as we live our lives in you and for you.  Be with us in our own churches; give us wisdom as we move forward.   Give us grace to love one another and our differences.  Be with Bishop Peter as he leads us through this time – keep him healthy and wise. 

Loving God, we offer up our prayers for healing for all those we know who are struggling with physical health, with mental health may you give them peace and courage and hope.   Help all those who have lost jobs and income due to this pandemic.  May they receive comfort, help and new beginnings as they face their new reality.  Up lift all those who stand in queues for aid – financial and food. 

As we look around may we give thanks to you with grateful hearts for the wonderful weather and the beautiful country that we live in.   Your generosity abounds.  Thank you O God.   May we remember to take care of all around us.

We remember those who have died, and those families who have had to grieve in isolation.  Somehow Lord, may they have felt your presence and your love and comfort in their time of deep distress. 

Thank you Lord God, for all those who have been constant carers and workers for us all through this time.  May they be protected and kept free of illness; may they know our gratefulness.

Be with us Lord as we move into next week with this big question mark as to the next step.  Help us to accept whatever the outcome and to continue to be careful and mindful to others. 

We offer these our prayers, in the name of the Risen Christ   Amen. 


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