Sermons 2010

  • Today we celebrate what is known as the Feast of Holy Innocents, which is a rather sanitary name for the remembrance of Herod’s decision to kill all children who could have been Jesus.  It may seem a little strange that the day after Christmas we commemorate one of the horror stories of the New Testament.  But it is important that we remember that amidst the joy of the Christmas story is the story of infanticide. Today I’m going to suggest two different approaches more»
  • If reality television has proven anything, it is that we humans love to overcomplicate things!  It was a stroke of genius the day someone realised that by placing a group of people in a room together and filming them for days on end, we could see all the drama we would ever want to.  Plus it comes without the problems of paying actors or scriptwriters. From Survivor to Kendra to the Jersey Shore, you can watch hours of people creating chaos out of nothing.  And we call it more»
  • We all know people who for better or worse, have shaped us into the people we are today.  Parents, mentors, friends and partners, all these relationships and more besides are what characterise our lives and help us to grow.  Earlier this year one of my mentors, a person who influenced me for the better, passed away.  I am speaking of the Reverend Jenny Harrison.  Some of you knew Jenny, and I think most of us would agree that she was a very special woman and an amazing more»
  • Slowly but surely we are moving towards Christmas.  As you can see today our Christmas tree has appeared even if it is in need of further decorations.  Like many of you I always have a real tree at Christmas.  I love having that pine smell filling our home.  Interestingly particular smells can trigger memories.  For me the pine tree smell is the smell of Christmas.  It puts me in a good mood because it reminds me of all the expectations and excitement that more»
  • One of the realities of being a church that bears the name of St Andrew is that our patronal festival always falls on the first Sunday of Advent.  I have no doubt that across the world there are vicars of churches named St Andrew who lament the fact that Advent is always a week shorter due to the importance of celebrating their Patron Saint.  I’m not one of them.  This is because I think that beginning Advent by celebrating the life of St Andrew is a great way to more»
  • Bishop Ross preached at the Patronal Festival of St Andrew’s Epsom on Sunday 28 November 2010. There were baptisms and confirmations during the service. The readings were Isaiah 52:7-10, Romans 10:12-18, and Matthew 4:18-22. There has only been one thing on people’s minds and lips this past week or so and that of course has been the unfolding tragedy at Pike River Mine. We gather in worship very conscious of that event and the thousands of lives affected by it. A more»
  • On November 25th 1881 a peasant family in rural Italy welcomed their first son into the world.  They already had three girls and would eventually go on to have twelve children in all.  The boy was named Angelo and from these very humble beginnings he would go on to change the world.   When Angelo was eight years old his father Giovanni took him to see a parade.  When the boy wasn’t able to see anything his father lifted him up onto his shoulders.  Years more»
  • Last week our Gospel reading raised the question of the nature of the resurrection.  This week another related question emerges from the text.  Why did Jesus die?  There are of course many theological answers to that question, phrases such as he died for our sins often leaps to mind even when we haven’t thought particularly deeply about what such a statement might actually mean. But I am not asking a theological question.  When I ask why Jesus died I am not more»
  • What is resurrection?  This mornings Gospel reading shows us that in the time of Jesus there was clearly a lot of debate on this topic.  The passage began with the statement that a group of Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection asked Jesus a question.  Clearly they thought that by drawing Jesus out on the question of the resurrection they would not only expose Jesus in some way, but also point out that belief in the resurrection was fanciful at best.  more»
  • In the Nicene Creed, an ancient Christian statement of belief, there is a line that reads, “I believe in the Communion of Saints.”  As a child I though that meant that somewhere in heaven there is a gathering of all the Holy people who have ever lived, people like St Mary, St Andrew and St Francis, continually sharing the meal of communion with each other.  It’s a nice idea, but not one that seemed terribly important. Of course I hadn’t quite grasped more»
  • If you are an avid reader of the East and Bays Courier, the local weekly free newspaper that I get in Meadowbank, you may have noticed some recent correspondence about St. Heliers.  It all began when irate of St Heliers wrote a letter complaining that he had been receiving some mail addressed to him in ‘Saint Heliers’ – he was keen to point out that St Heliers was in fact not Saint Heliers but St Heliers, and named after the island Jersey town bearing the same more»
  • Not all of the parables of Jesus are easily understood.  This morning’s parable of the dishonest manager is certainly one that can leave us scratching our heads.  Why would the rich man praise a manager who has just reduced the amount of money owed to him?  And why would Jesus suggest that we follow the example of a dishonest man? In the time of Jesus those who heard this story would have understood it more easily.  They would have known of the rules of commerce more»
  • Nothing is more annoying than people attributing a natural disaster to God’s wrath.  Sure enough within hours of the Christchurch earthquake numerous blogs appeared on the Internet claiming everything from the quake being foretold by the book of Isaiah, to how the quake is further proof that Armageddon has already begun.  It is unfortunate that often our knee jerk reaction to a natural disaster is to wrongly attribute responsibility for it to God.   I remember the more»
  • Today I wish to take a moment to tell you of the power of facebook.  My relationship with facebook began some years ago and was primarily a way to waste time.  In those years I have been very successful at wasting time on facebook.  I can now boast of having close to 400 friends (which I assure you, feels like an extremely inflated number).  Of those 400 friends about 50 are people I went to primary school with.  Of that 50, 15 have had some involvement with the more»
  • In the field of psychology no figure is more divisive than that of Sigmund Freud.  I can recall sitting in a lecture where one of my professors began with the words, “Freud was a charlatan and in the next 60 minutes I will prove it.”  Another professor was more compassionate in her treatment of Freud, stating that Freud is often criticised for his bad ideas, while we fail to acknowledge his many helpful ideas that have proven beneficial to humanity. What we more»
  • In 1994 a 73-year-old man named Alvin received the news that his brother, who he hadn’t spoken to in several years, had had a stroke.  Realising that his brother was soon to die he made the decision to visit him in order to make peace with him.  Having no other way to travel the 390 kilometres to reach his brother, Alvin set out on his journey on the only vehicle he owned: a John Deere ride-on lawn mower.  With a top speed of only 6 kilometres per hour the trip took more»
  • Next weekend at St Andrew’s I will be baptising my baby nephew.  This is the first time I will have done something like this for a member of my family, and it’s fair to say that I’m quietly excited about it.  It will be a unique Sunday where my family and my parish family will come together to welcome a child into the body of Christ. In preparing for next weekend I became aware of just how many family members would be staying at the St Andrew’s more»
  • One of the marks of Anglicanism is our rich tradition of hymn singing.  Love them or hate them, hymns are part of the fabric of our denomination.  From Hymns Ancient and Modern, to contemporary collections such as Alleluia Aotearoa, we have a vast inheritance of good and some not so good music. One major contributor to the Anglican repertoire was Charles Wesley.  The Wesleyan hymns are still sung by Anglican and Methodist congregations across the word with alarming more»
  • This morning’s Gospel reading has a great sense of urgency about it.  Be ready, for you don’t know when the master of the house will return.  When I was younger I typically read this passage as having apocalyptic overtones.  The idea that Jesus was speaking about re-entering history in human form.  At this point in time I am convinced that this was not what Jesus was suggesting at all.  The simple message of this passage can be summarised in the two words of more»
  • This morning’s Gospel reading is a great example of how the Gospel writers married together very different recollections of the life of Jesus, and in doing so brought out an altogether different meaning.  The passage began with Jesus teaching the disciples to pray.  It contained those familiar words that we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer.  The reading then shifted to a parable.  The story of the visitor in the middle of the night who persists until their more»
  • Today is a busy day, at the end of a busy week, in the middle of a busy month, only halfway through what has been a very busy year.  How many of you have caught yourselves saying, I can’t believe we’re halfway through the year?  It’s almost August!  Or words to that effect?   Modern life is busy and as a result there are many challenges that arise from such a lifestyle.  There are many families that depend on two incomes.  Some people need more»
  • When writing this sermon I was at a loss as to how to begin.  This was because I was all too aware of the reading from the second book of Kings that told us of Elijah being carried up into heaven.  Of all this mornings readings, this one is the Elephant in the room.  What is this passage trying to tell us? Prophets such as Elijah were people who had a clear vision for their society.  One theme of the book of Kings concerns the ongoing failure of leadership experienced more»
  • Earlier in the year I preached about the pitfalls of personifying evil.  The idea that personally vindictive demonic forces have the capacity to besiege human beings has been a very unhelpful concept for many people.  Such a worldview promotes the idea that humans are little more than pawns in a divine competition between good and evil.  This in turn can become a very convenient way for us to divorce ourselves from our responsibility for the evil we bring into the more»
  • This past week a veteran white house reporter was forced into retirement following a number of comments that the American media universally labelled as anti-Semitic.  Helen Thomas made comments to the effect that Palestine was an occupied country and that Israelis should return to countries such as Germany, Poland and America.                           It was more»
  • In a place called Indostan there were six blind men who wanted to know what an elephant was like.  The first blind man went up to the elephant and feeling the elephant’s side declared that elephants were like great big walls.  The second blind man touched the elephants tusk and rebutting the first man said that no, the elephant was long and sharp like a spear.  The third man touched the trunk and to him it seemed that the elephant was like a snake.  The forth touched more»
  • Today is the day of Pentecost, a day when we remember how the disciples came to recognise the presence of God through a new experience of God.  It is easy for us to listen to the account from the book of Acts and to become caught up in the idea of wild and exciting religious experience.  Certainly within branches of Christianity that describe themselves as Pentecostal a heavy emphasis is placed upon the centrality of such experience.   While I believe that experiences more»
  • Last Sunday afternoon during Junior Youth Group there was an interesting discussion regarding this list of words. Happiness, Wealth, Family, EducationFriends, Peace, Power, HumilitySuccess, Fame, Health, RespectTechnology, Satisfaction, Authority Three teams were given $100 each and then had to bid on these words in a pretend auction.  Happiness, Family and Friends were among the most hotly contested items.  Items such as Power, Success and Respect were bought up for only a more»
  • What is a prophet?  I begin with this question today because it seems to me that there is some confusion about just what a prophet is.  Within our culture sports people can be praised for their prophetic leadership.   For better or worse many artists, politicians and even religious leaders have been named as prophets.  Within both religious and popular culture the title of prophet carries certain connotations of respect and admiration. While this positive attitude more»
  • I begin this morning’s sermon with a small amount of trepidation.  When preaching I do my best to avoid using too much jargon.  Technical words can often be a barrier to hearing a useful message.  That said when preparing for this morning I found that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to touch on the importance of hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the study of interpretation.  There are huge differences in how each of us relates to and interprets the world more»
  • We are very fortunate to live in this country at this time.  Without wanting to get overly patriotic I do believe that New Zealand is a very special place and we are truly blessed.  Not only is New Zealand a beautiful country, we have stable government, low levels of corruption and a high degree of personal autonomy.  We are not a perfect society, there are many areas of life where things could be better, but the basic freedoms we have ensure that we can look to our future more»
  • One of my favourite biblical passages is found in the book of Lamentations.  In chapter three of that book it states that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are made new every morning.”  One of the great joys of this life is that we get second chances.   This is great because making mistakes is an inevitable part of life.  I have heard this point made in many ways: that we should be gentle with more»
  • Seeing is believing!  I cannot begin to count the times I have used that expression.  Typically it is used as a cynical expression communicating a deeply held scepticism.  It would seem that this is the sort of scepticism expressed by Thomas in today’s gospel reading.  “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands…and put my hand in his side.” But let’s not be too hard on Thomas.  If there was an article in the newspaper more»
  • It is always hard when a loved one dies.  It does not matter what the circumstances are.  When someone or something we love ceases to be, it is inevitable that we will experience grief.  To love anything in this life is to risk the pain of separation.   When put that bluntly a question does come to mind. Perhaps life would be easier if we avoided become attached to things?  Maybe we would not experience the pain of grief if we all retreated into hermit-like more»
  • One of the more creative assignments I was given when studying psychology involved breaking a social norm.  All students in this course were required to identify a behaviour that was widely considered normal and then do something that subverted that behaviour.  The resulting experiments included singing in public, talking through concerts and may have included small incidents of public nudity. For my experiment I sat in one of the university cafes and had a female friend more»
  • Ministry 2009 was a very busy year.  Looking back through my diary of the last 12 months it is clear that we have done a lot as a community.  7 Baptisms, 12 Weddings and 17 Funerals is but the tip of the iceberg.  So without further preamble I will do my best to summarise 2009 as I saw it.  Sunday School When I arrived in the parish there was a team of people in the process of searching for a new Sunday School teacher.  After the initial appointment fell more»
  • When considering the Passion of Christ many of us find that Pontius Pilate is something of a sympathetic character.  The Gospel portrayal of the man often suggests that he was someone out of his depth and was unable to stand up against the demands of an angry mob.  The version of the passion in Matthew that includes Pilate’s wife warning him not to condemn Jesus seems to emphasise the idea that he was an unwitting accomplice in the plans of the Sanhedrin. Outside of more»
  • This month our book group is reading a book by Marcus Borg titled Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.  The title itself raises the question, how can you meet anyone again for the first time, which is quite intentional on the part of the author.  In the first chapter of the book Borg talks about his faith journey.  He talks about how he grew up in a Christian environment, how he went on to a Lutheran college and then on to seminary.  He tells us that while this journey more»
  • There are a lot of challenges that can face someone who is preparing a sermon.  This week I was presented with the problem of preaching on Luke’s statement that the poor are blessed and the rich are cursed in the same week that our government announced major changes to our taxation system.  It is a brave and possibly foolhardy preacher who is willing to address politics from the pulpit. With that in mind I do not wish to begin a debate about tax cuts or tax increases more»
  • One of the great on screen movie parings of the 20th century was that of Robert Redford and Paul Newman.  Together they made only two films, The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  The second of these two films is one of my favourites.  I was about 10 years old when I saw it for the first time and it made a tremendous impression on me. There is one scene that is particularly memorable.  Having been chased across the country by bounty hunters Butch and more»
  • When I first read today’s Gospel reading and began preparing my sermon I was somewhat eager to examine the apparent case of tall poppy syndrome that Jesus experienced in that synagogue in Nazareth.  I began thinking of the way we New Zealanders tend to look down upon people who might be thinking just a bit too much of themselves.  I also thought about the downside to cutting down the tall poppies; the loss of self-esteem, the opportunities for encouragement that we miss, more»
  • One of the more colourful personalities of the early church was a man named Marcion.  Marcion was a catalyst, a person whose questioning of the divine would shape the beliefs we now describe as orthodoxy.  Marcion was one of the first theologians to gather together writings into a cannon that were then used a basis for belief.  His collection of scripture included 10 letters of Paul and one Gospel.  The Hebrew scriptures were notably absent. Marcion rejected the Hebrew more»
  • As a teenager I certainly had something of a rebellious streak.  One of my more successful rebellions against my parents was to occasionally attend a Baptist church on the other side of town.  My father in particular hated the idea that I might be heading towards fundamentalism, in fact he would have preferred it if I was to become an atheist.   One day I had great success in pressing my parents buttons by announcing that I wanted to be re-baptised.  I justified my more»
  • In reading the Gospel there is a clear tension regarding who Jesus was sent to.  Was Jesus sent to restore the house of Israel or was there a greater purpose?  We often gloss over these tensions because when we look down the well of history we think the answer is clear.  But it was not so clear for the Gospel writers.             A close reading of the Gospel of Matthew does raise a number of questions regarding more»