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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sermon for Trinity Sunday


And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

I remember in the earliest days of my conversion,
everything all floaty and light,
when the promise of God’s life bought purpose, understanding, and clarity to everything.

Wonderful.

I remember even after that initial excitement realising “All this AND eternal life!”

It was a joyous discovery, to know that God had somehow found me in all my mess and uselessness. And further to that, I was going to be able to be with him forever.

In this time, I was devouring the scriptures.
I read John several times, I slowly read through Luke, and Mark was like a flash and a rush.

And then there was Matthew.
Somewhere along the line, I had picked up a prejudice against Matthew’s gospel.
It was the church’s gospel.
It struck me as the most boring and ordinary.
I avoided it.

When I did eventually read Matthew, all my prejudices were confirmed.
It did seem dull compared with Luke or John.
Until the last line.
Yes, there were bits that were awesome, but the last line.

And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world

There, all the promise I had felt was spoken by Jesus to all who ever have believed in him,
who ever guided by the Holy Spirit have been able to proclaim Jesus is Lord!

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

I knew then I would never be alone.

The words were true.
I could hear Jesus speak them to the disciples. .
I could hear him speak them to me.
The words bypass our brain and go directly to our spirit, they enliven us with hope and life.
They are the truth.

And they are quite a promise.

I am with you always, to the end of the age.

No one else can say this and it be truth.

I love my wife, but the best I can say to her is I will be with most of the time,
but there will be times when I am not around.
Like when I am at the shop and you are at home.
Like when I am at church and you are the market.

And as Jesus says to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
And I can’t say I will be with you to the end of the age.
I can say I will be with you until I die, or I’ll be with until you die,
but other than that I can’t say anything.

So I can’t say this. I might want to, I might think it, but I can’t say it and it be true.
Only Jesus can say this:
I am with you always, to the end of the age.
He is the only person who ever has or will exist that can say this.
He said it to the disciples before he ascended, and those words are spoken to us.

Think of what that means.

It is the promise that God will always be with us.
And not just us here today.
He will be here with those who come after us.

It is to all those who will ever follow him.

There is great comfort in this.

We should all feel reassured and safe by this promise.

And in feeling such a way, we need not worry.

We need not fret over the future of the church.
Jesus tells us he will be with us to the end of the age.
The church will continue.

Again, we need not be afraid.

We need to take Jesus at his word.

We have the people and the gifts we need for the work of this parish.
What that work is, and how our parish will look is not for us to worry about.

It is up to us to release ourselves from what was, and enter into what will be.
This means letting go.

It means entering into a period of time where we don’t know what is going to happen,
when we aren’t in control of what is going to happen,
Where we can’t guarantee we will even agree with what is going to happen.

But knowing that Jesus will be with us.
Knowing he will continue to be here with those who come after us.
Knowing the Holy Spirit will be inspiring those for God’s glory.

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

After the prayers, there will be a time for the laying on of hands and anointing with oil. Everyone is welcome to come forward to receive healing.
If you would rather not, that is fine too.
I ask that while this happens,
we all pray for the healing of our parish, our relationships, our bodies and our minds.

Know that you can be healed, and that Jesus is with us, now and forever.
Amen.




Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sermon for the Day of Pentecost



Two stories of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit.

One which is more familiar, tongues of fire landing on their heads, a great whooshing sound.
The other, Jesus coming to them and breathing on them.

Both involve the disciples being together inside together.

A bunch of people, who believe that Jesus is the messiah together, inside. Sounds very familiar.

In the gospel version of events, John tells us that
the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.

They are inside, doors locked, because they are scared of those who might harm them, who might even kill them.

They lock the doors. They are safe. They are together.

Yet what can they do?

The outside world can’t get at them, but they can’t go and be with the world.

Fear has stopped them from being with others.

Again, sounds familiar.

We become stuck inside, and look at ourselves, and pray and do our stuff, but if we are honest, we are a bit scared of interacting with the world when it comes to the gospel.
Fear has us locking our doors and gates, for fear of those outside.

What would happen if they came in?
What would they think of us?
What would they do to us?
What would happen if they decided to stay with us?
What would that do to our time together?

We can hold on to what we are, who we are, or we can let go, and as happens to the disciples, receive the Holy Spirit.

Of course, we have received the Holy Spirit, as the reading from Acts tells us, no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is Lord.

So it isn’t a matter of us receiving the Holy Spirit, he is already with us.
Rather, it is a matter of us recognising his presence with us, waking up and letting go.

To let go and be guided, inspired and given life by the Holy Spirit is where we are up to.
To let go, to see, feel, smell, taste, to know, where he is working within us,
as a church, as a parish, as a congregation, as one of God’s children.

All of us have been given gifts
Paul tells us:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

To each is given a manifestation of the spirit for the common good.
Each one of us has been given a gift which is the Holy Spirit working within us.
A gift for the common good of the mission of the church.
Some of you may know what yours is.
Some of you may still be unsure.
I don’t think it is a static thing.

You may have the gift of public speaking, but it may only be for a time.
A time when what you were able to say and the way you were able to say was important.
Then it may be gone.
Like the disciples in Acts.
They were given the gift of being able to speak in all languages, as that was what was needed at that time.

I believe as a parish we have the people we need with the gifts they have for the common good of our mission.
I believe what we need for our work is already here.
It is up to us to release ourselves from what was, and enter into what will be.

Letting go is not easy.
It means entering into a period of time where we don’t know what is going to happen, when we aren’t in control of what is going to happen,
Where we can’t guarantee we will even agree with what is going to happen.

Jesus says to the disciples:
Receive the Holy Spirit.
The Greek which is translated to receive is not quite that passive. It is more like take.

The inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not something that we receive passively,
rather it is something that we meet with personal effort.
That effort will be in a prayer life together, and as individuals.
It will be by being aware that we can receive the inspiration.
It will be by being aware that we will know that we will know we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Those moments when an idea appears.

That is waking up.

Then comes letting go.
Being open to where that takes us.

Letting go and letting the Holy Spirit be our guide and comforter,
to let him be the one that gives us courage, strength and life for what lies ahead is where are now.

Come Holy Spirit.
Be our guide, be our strength, be our comfort, be our peace.
Come Holy Spirit, Come.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sermon for The Ascension


 ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 

It is very natural for the disciples to ask this question at this time.
They know that Jesus is leaving.
He has told them that the Holy Spirit is coming soon.

It is only fair they ask whether this will be the time when all things are fixed up.

But if we look at what they are asking about,
it becomes clear that they are looking in the wrong place.

The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is no small thing,
but things have just gotten a lot bigger,
and things are about to get even bigger.

The Son of God has walked the earth,
has taught, healed, been crucified and rose from the dead.
Things have changed.
His message is not just about Israel, it is about all the nations.
His teaching, his being is for the whole world, not just one race.

So things have expanded a lot.

Even more so, the Holy Spirit will come soon,
and that will change things even more.
They are to be empowered to make disciples,
to teach Jesus’ message of eternal life and love for all who hear.

Israel must seem small when compared with the eternal God.
Israel must seem like years ago when compared with eternity that stands in front of them.

Think that these men and women had followed Jesus and been with him,
seen and heard and felt all that he had done and been.
Their vision still reverted to the smaller things, to the normal.
The restoration of Israel was something that they did not need to worry about.

Their focus needed to be on Jesus, he who was about to ascend.

Things haven’t changed in many ways.

We do the same thing.

The worldwide church is brilliant at looking at other issues instead of the greater purpose.
Whether or not women can be priests.
Whether or not Anglican orders are valid.
We argue about justification by works.
Issues of human sexuality take up thousands of blog pages and hours and hours of peoples time.

Is it right to wear robes?
Is it wrong to bow to the altar?
Is it an altar or the Lord’s Table?

These things are small.

The church argues within itself about things that really don’t matter.
All the time it is focussed on these issues, it ignores the greater the greater purpose.

The greater purpose is Jesus Christ.

The disciples who ask about Israel were witnesses to his life, death, resurrection,
and now his ascension.

There was the focus.

As a part of the Church universal, we suffer the same issues, but on a smaller scale.

We worry about lawns, vacuuming, flowers.
We worry about the budget.
Are we going to be able to keep going?
We worry about whether enough people are coming to church.

I feel that we are so worried about surviving and keeping going
that we may have forgotten what we are surviving and keeping going for.

Like the disciples, we look at small issues in the grand scheme of things.

The focus needs to be Jesus.

We need to be here to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

And the good news is that we do not need to rely on ourselves to be able to do it.

‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

As the first disciples received the Holy Spirit,
so too are we given life to be able to go and be witnesses to Jesus where we are.

If we think about longing, and waking up, then there is letting go.

By letting go of what we think we need to be in control of,
we make room for God.

We make room for guidance from the Holy Spirit.
We are open to see the bigger picture.
We are to see Jesus in all we meet, in all we do, in all we desire.

By letting go of what used to be,
what we think we need to be,
who we think we need to be,
we make room for who God needs us to be:
as individuals, as a community, as a church.

This can be very uncomfortable.
It can be unsettling.
It can also be comforting and restful.

When we let go, we hear where God is working.
We let go of expectation
and let the spirit guide, inspire, and take us where we need to be.

It is by Jesus ascension that this is at all possible:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 

And it is not only the ends of the earth, but the end of time:
 ‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Letting go may be a bit scarey,
but remember it is not being alone,
it is in fact being more together.

It is about unifying our hearts together as one, and joining with God on where he wants to take us.

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter



I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 

Last week we spoke about longing, inconsolable longing.

This longing is a longing for God.
It is given to us by God, it is a gift.
It is given to us by God out of his longing for us.
It is his way of letting us know he longs for us.

Everyone experiences this.
Whether they believe or not, it is experienced.

We have a choice.
We can either wake up and realise this is what this sense is, or we can ignore it.
It is not going to go away.

Philip said ‘Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.’
It is only God that can satisfy us, it is only God that can console that longing.

It is when we recognise that the longing within us is from God and is indeed the same longing God has for us, that we can begin the journey.

The moment of recognition is when we respond to God.

Then it is time to wake up.

Jesus said: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

That is the first step in waking up, recognising God, and responding to God.
Knowing that longing is Gods love, and responding by following his way.
Following his commandments.
These aren’t a proscriptive list: they are more general.

Love God.
Love your neighbour.
Love your self
Love one another as I have loved you.
These are the first responses to waking up, the first responses to God’s love for us.

Is it that we do them to obey God, to be obedient,
or is it rather that we are only able to do them because we love God?

We wake up.

Thomas Merton said “We become contemplatives when God discovers himself in us”

It pays to think about waking up.
The actual thing that happens everyday.
How was it this morning?
Was it an alarm clock, one that violently pulled you out of sleep?
Was it a gentle process, with no hurry?
Was it you woke up before your alarm?
Did you wake up because you had somewhere to be?

Think.

You were asleep.
Then you were awake.

It is the same for the spiritual awakening.

Think that moment, where it seems to be between the two states.
Sometimes there can be confusion.
You become alert, you become aware of where you are, what is going on, and what you need to do.

When we are asleep, our brain waves are slower, perception is dulled.
We are not completely out of it, we are still conscious.
We dream, we can hear.

Waking up is moving from a lower to a higher level of awareness or consciousness.

If waking up is something we all do, so too is waking our spiritual selves.
We don’t learn how to wake up from sleep.
We just do it.
So it is with spiritual awakening.

Spiritual awakening came seem like a sudden experience, and sometimes it is.
It can be a shock.

It can happen after years of searching.
It can happen after years of not even thinking about it.

Waking up can be sudden like with an alarm, or it can be a gentle experience.
But the thing it is a response.

Spiritual awakening is a response to that longing.

It is the moment you recognise that longing as being a gift from God.
It is Gods longing for you within you.

The moment you recognise that is the moment you begin your journey of spiritual awakening.

Jesus tells his disciples that
the world will no longer see him, but they will see him; 

He says that to us, and he says:
because I live, you also will live. 

We live because Jesus Lives.

Then he says:
I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 

This is expressed in a different way in the first letter of John:
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
If you think about where we started:
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

A first response in waking up is love.
It is knowing that God loves you.
It is knowing that you love God.
It is knowing that in that feeling of love, God is present.

When Jesus says: I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
He is speaking of his own divinity,
and he is speaking of his love for us and our response to that.
The inconsolable longing is recognised as a yearning to abide in God,
not just see as Philip asked,
but to abide.




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Easter



Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

This is one of the more famous passages from John’s gospel. You only have to have been to a funeral to have heard it. It is often chosen because it gives great comfort.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Look at the question that gets Jesus to say this.
It is from Thomas,
he who will doubt,
he who will suggest that they all go and die with Jesus.

‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’

How can we know the way?
What is the way?
Is this the way?
Being here, praying, receiving communion,?
Is this the way?

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, 

Like last week where Jesus referred to himself as a gate,
here he is also a means of getting somewhere.
He is the way.
He was the gate, a means of getting in or going out, now he is the way.

He is the journey.

Jesus said to him ‘I am the way, and the truth’

Not a truth, but the truth.
The perfect correlation of thought and reality, of flesh and deity.
The truth,
not a system of propositions,
not a series of experiments that end up with a definite conclusion,
not a good story,
not a good idea
but the truth.
If you want to get more full on about it, there is nothing truer than Jesus Christ.
It is the truth we hold.
It is a universal truth and a personal truth.

Jesus said to him ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’

The life that enlivens all life. The wellspring of all that lives.
Our lives are lived in him, and he lives in us.
He is life as we are to live it and he is the life in us so that we can live.

As the 1st Letter of John says:
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus continues:
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my Father also.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’

Well, Philip, you are looking at him. Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the father.
Are you satisfied.

I believe Philip’s question is the key to the way, the truth , the life.
If we can see the father, we will be satisfied.

This last part, we will be satisfied when we see the father is very true.
There is nothing else that can actually satisfy us.
WE all know that longing.

The Germans have a word for this: sehnsucht.
It can’t really be translated, but the best would “inconsolable longing.”
We all know this, we all experience it, we all avoid it, and we all try to smother it.

You know what I am talking about.
It is very hard to describe, but it is real.
It kind of hurts, there is often a physical sensation.
It can make your heart skip.
It can make you breathe differently.
It can come at odd times.

Music can make it happen.
A chord change or a twist in a melody can send a shiver through your body.
A song can take you back to a place and time, and there is the longing.

A longing that things could have stayed the same, or they could have changed.
A longing that you wish you were still there.

Seeing old photographs of places you have been is the same.
But what about the longing we have for places and people we have never met?
Where do you think the dream of time travel comes from?
It is an attempt to fulfil a longing that cannot be satisfied.
We play with the idea,
knowing it cannot be reality,
knowing it cannot happen, yet we continue you dream it.
We have that sense of inconsolable longing.

It’s like we like the feeling.

It’s like we are supposed to have it.

CS Lewis puts it like this: “This sweet desire cuts across our ordinary distinctions between wanting and having. To have it is, by definition, to want: to want it, we find, is to have it.”

Here is the point:

This longing is a longing for God.
It is given to us by God, it is a gift.
It is given to us by God out of his longing for us.
It is his way of letting us know he longs for us.

Everyone experiences this.
Whether they believe or not, it is experienced.

We have a choice.
We can either wake up and realise this is what this sense is, or we can ignore it.
It is not going to go away.
WE can try and interpret it as something as else, as need to create.
It can be misinterpreted as a sensual desire.

We can try to dull it by drinking, by drugs, by television, by sex, by gambling, or by buying things, all hoping that this longing will be satisfied.

But it never is.
It never can be.
It isn’t supposed to be.
That is where Philip’s thoughts are so interesting: He is right on the money:
Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.

It is when we recognise that the longing within us is from God and is indeed the same longing God has for us, that we can begin the journey.

The moment of recognition is when we respond to God.
Then it is time to wake up.








Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter



I am the gate. 
Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 

Jesus has two goes and explaining himself here.

In the first, he uses an image that all would have been able to understand,
or so he hoped.

The sheepfold he refers to was a courtyard in front of a house where the sheep were bought in for the night. It was not for just one flock, but several.
Each shepherd would bring their flock in for the night,
and it would be looked after by the gatekeeper.
There was no need to worry about who was getting whose sheep,
because the  shepherd would only have to speak,
and his sheep would recognise his voice.
The other sheep would not follow, nor would they follow another shepherd.

The gatekeeper would only open the gate for the shepherds that had left their sheep in the sheepfold.

The only other way in was by climbing over the fence.
The only person who would do this is the one who has no business there.
Their only purpose would be to steal.

The people don’t understand Jesus when he uses this parable.
He is being to obtuse.
They aren’t relating the shepherd, the sheep, the thieves, the gate to their life situation.

He goes in for another attempt.

I am the Gate.

What does a gate do?
A gate keeps people in and it keeps people out.
We can see a gate as protection.
Or we can see it as a means of access.
It depends where you are.
It depends what side of the gate you are on.

He isn’t saying he is the sheep, or the shepherd (yet) or even the gatekeeper.
He is the gate.
He is the means of going in and out of the sheepfold.
He isn’t the one who opens the door, he is the door.

He is the door by which the sheep and the shepherd go in and out.

So, the sheep are believers.
The sheepfold is the church.

The only way onto the church is through the door, Christ.
No other way in to the church.
You can’t come to church for prestige, status, respectability,
because someone makes you,
a need to protect it,
a desire to control it,
or to check on who is or isn’t there,
or what the priest is doing to your church.
The only way in to the church is through belief and trust in Jesus Christ.
That is the way in.
He is the door.

Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is primarily talking about himself as the entry not as a means of keeping people out.
He is the way into the church.
It makes sense then that he is also the way out of the church.
Out to find pasture.
Jesus doesn’t mean that we just enter and stay.
He means we are go into the world and be. We go out through him.
We are to go and be with people where they are.

How do we enter into other peoples lives? Through him.
The only way we an be with other people is through him.
We can’t be carrying on about some other stuff, other things we are doing, what services we offer,
but only Jesus Christ.
All we do, all our outreach can only work if it is done through Christ.
He is the way in and the way out.

So, if the sheepfold is the church,
and Jesus is the gate, and we are the sheep,
who are the thieves and bandits?

They are the things that take our hearts, minds, and time away from Christ.
They climb over the walls of the church and take over from Jesus.
If it is not the Gospel, it will only destroy the church.
We need to be careful of what it is when we say we are doing the work of the church.
Is it through Christ, or is it through our own ego?
Is it to do Christ’s work, or is it to keep myself busy.

It all has to be through Christ.

He is the gate.
It is through him that we can find pasture outside.
It is through him that we can be the church.

It is only through him that we can have life.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter


Jesus himself came near and went with them, 
but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 

How often is that we don’t recognise the presence of Christ in our lives?
Is that our eyes are kept from recognising him,
like it is something out of our control?
Or is that we allow other things to keep our eyes from seeing him?

What are the things that get in the way of seeing Christ?

It can be over familiarity with the story.
It can be over familiarity with the liturgy.
It can be over familiarity with the church.
It can be over familiarity with yourself and your way of being a follower of Jesus.

More often than not,
it is mistaking something else for Christ and placing importance on that rather than the gospel.

A door, a tree, a hymn, who does what, who hasn’t done what.
All those things are not the gospel.

It is hanging on to something from the past that stops us from seeing Jesus in the present.
What has happened is gone.
Holding on to the past is like being on the road to Emmaus and standing still while Jesus walks on past,
never recognising who it was.

But we can work within the present.
Our eyes can be opened to see Christ in our presence.
In the breaking of the bread Jesus is present to us.
We need to be in the present to recognise him.
But sometimes the past won’t allow us to be present.

The past can be healed with forgiveness.
Knowing the forgiveness of God, and the ability to forgive others.
Holding on to past hurts blocks forgiveness,
and creates a distorted image of God,
where his forgiveness becomes twisted and conditional on our ideas of right and wrong.

Repentance. Forgiveness. Healing.

All allow us to have our eyes opened to the presence of Christ.

When I first started going to church, the third mass I went to was a Healing Mass.
I thought it was odd, and didn’t really pay much attention to what was happening.

The next year, we moved to Sydney,
and the church I attended and worked in had a Healing Mass every Wednesday.
I went, but never asked for the laying on of hands.

At Singleton it was Wednesday night,
but it was very rare that anyone would ask for the laying on of hands or anointing.

So, the Healing ministry was not something I was aware of, but it wasn’t my calling.

Until I came here.
Within a few months of being here, I became very aware of a need for healing.

The closing of St Mary’s. The selling of Trinity House.
These are painful things for a parish.
They also carry with them elements of blame and division.
To stay with them is to stop walking on the road to Emmaus.
The parish needs healing.
There are relationships that need healing.
Wounds that aren’t healed get infected and cause more damage, damage to parts that were ok.
It is time for healing.

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him

After the prayers, there will be a time for the laying on of hands and anointing with oil.
Everyone is welcome to come forward to receive healing.
If you would rather not, that is fine too.
I ask that while this happens,
we all pray for the healing of our parish, our relationships, our bodies and our minds.
I ask that you pray that all our eyes may be opened,
and that we recognise Jesus in all our lives,
in the breaking of the bread and in the knowledge of his healing and forgiving love.