Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Years Prayer (thanksgiving and confession)

Loving God maker of heaven and earth

We join together this morning to praise you

We enter your gates with thanksgiving

And into your courts with praise


You are eternal with no beginning or end

You made us, and you are working your purposes out in our world and our lives

Know that the Lord is God


We praise you in this New Year

We praise you that what ever the future holds we know that it is held in your hands.

The LORD is God he made us and we are his


We look back at this past year

We see that you have been with us, provided for us and lead us in your ways

We are your people and the flock for which you provide


We praise you for Jesus Christ

 We have celebrated at Christmas that you became one of us, you pitched your tent in our neighborhood

That you live amongst us and showed us your great love and mercy, that you gave your life for ours paying the price for all we have done wrong,

and in being raised to life again have given us fresh beginnings and new life in you

For the Lord is Good



We look forwards this New Year

Unable to see beyond the next bend or over the horizon

Yet we prepared to follow you our times are in your hands

The steadfast love of the lord endures forever

His faithfulness to all generations

We confess our sins to you

We have done what we should not do and left undone what We should do

We have either thought too highly of ourselves and not cared enough for others

We have thought too little of ourselves and allowed ourselves to be written off as worthless

Forgive us LORD


As we have confessed our sins God is faithful and just and has forgiven us our sins and cleansed us from all unrighteousness

We give thanks and bless your name


Thank you that you send your spirit upon us to lead us into all truth and to empower us to live and witness to you.

May we be filled a fresh this new year to follow you more closely and share your love with the world around us

We worship the Lord with gladness

Father, sSn and Holy Spirit

Friday, December 28, 2012

All Peopled Out... First Week of Holiday Blues...

I have three weeks off after Christmas puts me in an interesting dilemma. It's a very social time of the year. My family have all had time off before Christmas to rest and recuperate from school, university and holiday jobs.... they are rearing to go and wanting to socialise with my wife's family, catch up with their cousins and all that sort of stuff.

Meanwhile I simply want to head for my cave and sleep for a week. I'm all peopled out by this time of year. Really the only company I want are Tom Clancy and his crew... Jack Ryan and Jack junior, Ding and John Clark and another round of saving the world and Micheal Connolly and his mate Harry Bosch and yet another round of solving the crime.

It's been quite a year a change of job, saying goodbye to what I had hoped would be a successful church plant at a university to doing suburban ministry. My arteries had all blocked up and I've had to have a couple of stents put in. At least I can go for a walk know without wondering if that sudden attack of tiredness and no energy is really the beginning of a heart attack.

I love my family very much and they deserve to have me with them while we do holiday stuff... but hopefully we can compromise and I can just relax disappear into he background read a book and sleep. see you in a few days guys.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Significance of Christmas Through The Lens Of Four Significant Images Of Our Time.

We do tend to have this idyllic view of the Nativity. We’ve somehow managed to turn the coming of Christ into the world into a  Disney like fantasy  or a Hall mark moment: The star, the shepherd’s and angels, the mysterious men from the east, with their exotic presents. I don’t know about you but I found myself disconnecting these images and the significance of Christ’s coming from the reality of the world we live in. So a few years ago  I wondered how the story of Jesus birth from Matthew and Luke’s gospel might connect with some of the significant  images in our world today. I picked some of the most important photos of the last century and asked what does the Christmas story have to say into this reality.


 I shared one with you a couple of weeks ago. When we looked at the picture taken from the voyager space probe which showed our planet looking like a speck of dust caught in a beam of light. The photo is called the pale blue dot.  It had prompted astronomer Carl Sagan to say we were alone in a dark Universe.  There was no hope of help coming from anywhere. Yet as we have heard from our reading in Isaiah, that’s not the case Christmas tells us another story. Those who live in darkness have seen a great light, for unto us a child is born, the one who made the vastness of it all, became one of us… stepped into our world…

 It’s over a decade from 9/11 and the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. An incident that changed the world and we still live in its shadow as the death of New Zealand Soldiers in Afghanistan this year bought home. 

The picture of terrorists crashing a plane into the twin towers is still a hard image to look at. It leaves a gaping wound in ones soul. And I find myself asking the question where is God in the midst of the terror? Let’s face it weren’t the people on the planes doing this in the name of Allah; in the name of God?

For me Christmas goes a long way to answer that question. In Jesus, Christians believe God became one of us. It was not to luxury, riches, safety and security that this Christ child came it was into an occupied country where freedom was brutally oppressed. Luke’s narrative tells us Joseph and Mary were forced to go to Bethlehem to register in a Census. Matthew’s account of the Christmas narrative tells of a wholesale massacre sparked by Jesus’ coming. When three wise men just about ended ruining  everything, because as Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn sings, when that paranoid dictator Herod , is told there is ‘one born king of the Jews’ he sends death squads to kill all male babies under two. Jesus early childhood resounds to the wail of many mothers grieving for their murdered children and he spends his childhood as a refugee hiding in a foreign land.

Where is God in the midst of terror? He came and dwelt in its midst. We see that in Jesus God identifies with the lowly, the poor and those who suffer. Jesus gospel teaching in Matthew will start blessed are the poor of spirit. Jesus suffers and is killed by the worst of human violence and political expediency. Yet in return we do not find heavenly armies invading with overwhelming force rather his words on the cross are “Father forgive them they know not what they do’. His response is an offer for all to come to him to receive forgiveness, then sends them out again “Not to repay evil with evil,” but as St Paul said to the Romans, “ to overcome evil with good”.

The Chinese army rolled into Tiananmen Square to brutally put down a pro-democracy rally. The world watched as one man stepped out in front of the tanks. He tries to persuade his comrades not to obey their orders. He is brushed aside and Tiananmen Square turns into a bloodbath. Despite his defeat the man inspires many to think that just maybe one person can make a difference. The coming Of Christ at Christmas also shows how one person can make a difference and inspires us to stand up and do the same.

Like the man facing the tanks at Tiananmen Square it encourages us that we can make a difference for good. As a Christian I believe that Jesus presence with us gives all who believe the strength to do this.

 This is perhaps the most famous photo of the last century. It has come to encapsulate the horror of war and the civilian price of our conflicts. June 8 1972 and the United States and South Vietnamese forces drop napalm on the village of Trang Bang. Nick Ut took the photo of six-year-old Kim Phuc running from her burning village her back and arm badly burned.

Kim Phuc’s life is radically changed by this moment. She goes through years of pain and suffering. The communist government use her as a propaganda tool. In the midst of all this she hears the good news of Jesus Christ and it changes everything.

In 1996 Kim Phuc, then living in Canada, was invited to speak at the Vietnam War Memorial.
“ Dear friends” she says…
… as you know, I am the little girl who was running to escape from the napalm fire. I do not want to talk about the war because I cannot change history. I only want you to remember the tragedy of war in order to do things to stop fighting and killing around the world. I have suffered a lot from both physical and emotional pain. Sometimes I thought I could not live, but God saved me and gave me faith and hope. Even if I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs I would tell him we cannot change history but we should try to do good things for the present and for the future to promote peace…’
(Denise Chong: The Girl In The Picture, 1999. pp362)

In the Crowd was John Plummer who was involved in planning the raid on Trang Bang. They meet that day. He explained who he was and he cried, “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…” Kim Phuc embraced him and said, “I forgive, I forgive”.

 She now works for UNESCO as an ambassador for forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Her life gives us hope of the change that the Christmas message can bring even in the face of our worst inhumanity. This is the other famous Photo of Kim Phuc taken by the same photographer. It is almost Madonna and child like and speak volumes as to the healing of Kim's life.

“It was fire that burned my body, it was the skill of doctors that mended my skin but it took the power of God to heal my heart.”

So this christmas I hope you might encounter Christ amidst the reality of your life in a way that will bring transformation for you and through you. a light shining in the darkness.

Christmas Morning prayer of thanksgiving

Loving God we come to you this morning full of joy and thanks for the amazing God you are and all that you have done

We thank you for the wonder of your creation,

The warm sun and the cool wind and Yes even the rain that makes our land so green

For beach and lake bush and hill vista and quite still spot

For food and drink and  festive fun 

We praise you for those we love and surround us with love. 

For the glee of children on Christmas morning

For the embrace and memories shared with relatives from both near and afar

For the people who give up their family time at Christmas to sit with the hurting and alone

Most of all we give you thanks because of Christmas

We remember your son Jesus coming to live amongst us, bringing your truth and light into the world.

We praise you for his love and his message of hope

For showing  us what you are like and how to live in a new way

For  demonstrating your love by dying on the cross

In the midst of the worst act of human violence we have seen your mercy and grace and we have come to know you forgiveness.

We thank you for the abundant and eternal life that we have because  you raised Jesus from the dead.

We praise you that Jesus is seated at your right hand and will come to set all thing right.

We celebrate your coming Lord Jesus and we look forward to your second coming.


When we think of what you have done for us Lord we are aware of our own sin and our need for your forgiveness.

Forgive us Lord us for the things we have done wrong and the good that we have left undone

That we have not loved as you have loved

That we have preferred our darkness to your light
That we have not shared the bounty you have given us with those who have the least.

Forgive us we pray O Lord

Fill us with your spirit afresh this Christmas that Christ might reign in our lives that we might live for and proclaim your kingdom come.

To the glory of God, father son and holy spirit amen.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Prayer of Thanks Giving ...Christmas eve

Loving and righteous God

In the stillness of this night we come together to praise you for all that you are and all that you have done.

We come to give your praise for the wonderful gift of your son Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate. In whose life we have found hope.


We praise you that you are light and that you have chosen to shine your light into our darkness.

We thank you for the distant light of stars, that have guided people through the ages, that declared the birth of Jesus to those who were far off.

WE thank you for the wondrous light of home, welcoming us and providing warmth and security.

For family and friends who form such an important  part of this festive season.

We thank you for the light your people have shown into the darkest places of our world this year. For people of compassion,
people of peace,
people of justice
and people of mercy that reflects your own.

We thank you mostly for your son Jesus Christ

Born of the Virgin Mary He lived amongst us, was acquainted with our grief and sorrow , joined his voice in our celebrations and knew our joy

He healed the sick and forgave the sinner welcomed the outcast and cared for the poor and told us of your love

Dying on the cross he paid the price for athat we had done wrong

Being raised to life again he has made a way for us to come to know abundant and eternal life with you as our heavenly father

We praise you that he is now at your right hand and will come again to bring peace and justice.


When we remember what you have done for us we pray that you would forgive us for the things we have done wrong and the good that we have left undone

That we have not loved as you have loved

That we have preferred our darkness to your light

Forgive us we pray O Lord


Fill us afresh with your spirit this Christmas

That we might know your son in a new way

That we may show the love you have for us to those around us

That we might know the truth, and live as you told us to.

To the glory of God Father Son and Holy Spirit Amen

A Christmas Message From Simion and Anna...Luke 2:21-38

Simeon and Anna are the forgotten people of the Christmas story.  They remind me of when I was young. We had distant elderly relatives who lived in exotic places like Canada and  lower Hutt who we never saw  but ever Christmas we would receive a Christmas card and a letter that kept us up to date and was enough for my parents to renew that family bond.

Maybe we don’t link Simion and Anna with Christmas because they didn’t make the trek to Bethlehem and they didn’t worship Jesus round the back at that stable. They didn’t encounter armies of angels to tell them of this miracle birth. They didn’t follow a star and bring kingly gifts. They are like many in our society because of their age and circumstances they don’t get around much. Their world revolved around the temple.


Maybe we don’t think of them because they seem a bit eccentric, an old man who had the assurance that he would not die before he saw the lord’s promised messiah and an old women who had been a widow longer than most people had been alive and whose words rang uncomfortably with God’s truth.


Maybe we don’t think of them because what Simeon has to say isn’t as comfortable as the other messages related to Christmas. He’s not all peace and goodwill. Simeon is the person in Luke’s account of the Christmas narrative whom the Holy Spirit uses to link Christmas with Easter, there is a tinge of sadness and sorrow in his words. He says that not only has Jesus come to be a light for the world and a sign from God that Jesus will bring salvation, but he tells us that Jesus will also bring destruction and that he will be spoken against by many, revealing the secrets of their heart.  They are things that just don’t seem to fit with the tinsel and star twinkle of Christmas. He also points beyond that to God’s love for the whole world that in Jesus there is a light for all people.  Jew and Gentile have a light to reveal God’s will to them.  Matthew’s gospel tells the same story and sometimes we miss it, because in Matthew’s account the ones who seem to recognise the significance of Christ’s birth for all people are the wise men who come from the east.



Maybe we don’t think of them because Anna gives a political aspect to Jesus birth, even beyond what we see with Herod in Matthew’s gospel. She tells all those who long for Jerusalem to be free from roman rule that the promised messiah has come. The Christmas story has that element in it that the present world order be it a paranoid dictator like Herod or a globalising force like the roman army or the western materialistic consumer society that we live in has a rival. That with the coming of the Christ child there is new way to live. In Jesus the kingdom of God is being ushered into the realms of humanity. Jesus came so that in the lives of people who put their trust in him that the reign of God’s mercy and justice might begin in the entire world, at a personal level and at a systemic level. In the way we treat each other, love one another as I have loved you, and on a world stage how we deal with issues like poverty and how the powerless and least amongst us are treated; blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God, as you have done it for the least of these my brothers and sister you have done it for me. In the restoration of relationship, with God… AS John starts his gospel by saying.. to all who believed in him he gave the right to become sons and daughters of the most high, with one another, In Christ the apostle Paul will tell a church in multi-cultural city of Ephesus, there is neither jew nor gentile, Greek and barbarian, male or female, slave or free person, the boundaries that separate us are broken down as we become citizen’s of God’s kingdom and brothers and sisters in Christ.  And also with the whole of creation.


Mary however listened to them and told Luke about their amazing words; Luke writes the Christmas narrative from Mary’s perspective as he tells us in Luke 2:19 that Mary remembered all these things and though about them deeply. Maybe Simeon’s word’s about a sword piecing her heart’ came to mind as she stood all those years later in Jerusalem watching her son, this time as he was being brutally killed and in those words she would have seen a glimmer of hope that even this was part of God’s plan from before the beginning.

Maybe we to need to hear them today. If they wrote a Christmas letter to us they would tell us to rejoice because of this child. Rejoice because of what his life and his death have done for us. Rejoice because we don’t need to go off to the little town of Bethlehem but like Simeon and Anna we can meet Jesus in the midst of our everyday lives. Jesus who is the light of the world, who is a stumbling block for some, but for those who know him and believe is a source of salvation: forgiveness, wholeness, purpose and a new way to live.

Jesus came for us lived amongst us, called us to follow him  taught us of his Kingdom, died for us and rose again.

So Merry Christmas from me, Merry Christmas from Simion and Anna, and I don’t think I’m being presumptuous here but along with Anna and Simion can I say that I hope  in the midst of your celebrations and festivities, your rituals and traditions  that  you encounter in a fresh and life giving way,  Jesus born of Mary.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Immanuel -God with us... A Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession for the Sunday before Christmas.

Loving and righteous God

We come together today to celebrate in song and word

Your great gift of love,

We remember at Christmas that you sent your son into the world

To become one of us and to save us

Immanuel –God with us


Creator of all that is

God with out beginning and end

In a mystery so deep

You became a child in the womb

You were born into our world

Not to riches and privilege and palace

But in a stable to ordinary folk

So wonderfully blessed

Immanuel- God with us


Jesus Christ, prince of peace

Child born at Bethlehem

We praise God for you

As a man

You showed us God’s love

You healed the sick

cared for the poor

Welcomed the outcast

Invited us to come to You

Immanuel –God with us


Jesus Christ, Saviour and friend

In your death on the cross

You made it possible for us to be forgiven

To know God and be adopted as beloved sons and daughters

In your being raised from the dead you gave us the new life

Immanuel- God with us

By your spirit you dwell with us still

In the midst of our everyday life there is the presence of the eternal

You light our way

Lead us into truth

You comfort us and strengthen us to live for you

Immanuel- God with us


God today because of this great love and mercy

We turn to you and ask that you may forgive us for the things we have done wrong


Forgive us

we have thought it all revolved around us and our wants and ways

We have not keep your word or followed your ways

We do not always love as you have loved us

We are not as gracious to all as you have been gracious to us

We have done what we should not do and left undone much of the good you call us to.

Forgive us O lord


Hear again the assurance from Immanuel -God with us


That if we confess our sins God is faithful and just and forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness

You are forgiven


Fill us again with you spirit O God

Enable us to know the love that came at Christmas

Empower us to show the love that came at Christmas

To family and friend,

Stranger outcast and even foe

To bring your good news to all

Immanuel – God with us

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Olivet discouse (Matthew 24-25) an Index of the sermon series 'Until the End of the World.

Over the past few month's I been preaching through a series of sermons on the Olivet discourse in Matthew's gospel.

The series was called 'Until the End of the World' part of the timing for the series was Advent: watching and waiting for the coming of the king, Part of it was following on from a longer series on Jesus Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5-7). The third reason was that it seemed to fit with the whole 'end of the world' Mayan calendar December 21st 2012 thing. Just maybe there were people who were talkn' about the end of the world and they may be interested in what Jesus had to say. But also because it is  important to be challenged about what it means to follow Jesus in the present with a future hope.

If you are looking for material on the Olivet discourse and what Jesus has to say about the end of the age. Then here is my humble contribution.

Lots of Signs But no Definite Times (Matthew 24:1-44)

The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51)

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-12)

The Parable of the Bags of Gold (aka The Talents) (Matthew 25:13-30)

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

The Parable of the Sheep and The Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)... Until the end of the world (part 5)

There is a scene in ‘the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ where the watchers and protectors of middle earth gather in Rivendell to discuss the rising trouble and disquiet in the east. Elven Lord’s and wizard’s grand wrestle with the rising darkness that will soon mark the end of that age…the great epic swirl of events that unfurl  in Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. After the gathering Gandalf and lady Galadriel, the greatest of elven women, meet for a private conversation. Gandalf speaks his mind and says “Saruman” the white, the head of Gandalf’s order, believes that you can only overcome great evil with great power,   but Gandalf believes that you overcome evil with simple acts of kindness and mercy.’ Of course as the story unfolds in the two towers … That is not really a spoiler as that movie has been round for a while now… Saruman is corrupted by power and the small courageous acts of kindness shown by the small and powerless ordinary folk have profound impacts at the most important of times.

As I sat in the theatre and watched that scene in Peter Jackson’s masterful telling of Tolkien’s story I couldn’t help but think of the passage we had read out to us today, the parable that Jesus chooses to finish his teaching on the end of the age in the Olivet Discourse and the last piece of teaching Jesus gives in Matthew’s teaching filled gospel. Somehow as Jesus had taught on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, his coming as king and the end of the age, judgment day… it comes down to small acts of kindness and mercy. A glass of water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, comfort to the prisoner, hospitality to the stranger. In the great turmoil and upheaval of history’s great current, in the judging of nations and the coming of Christ as King, Jesus somehow brings it all down to what we have done for the least of these his brothers and sisters.


One of the reasons I wanted to look at Jesus teaching on the end of the age was because as you are probably aware many people are talkn’ bout the end of the world, the whole Mayan calendar thing has got people thinking about it, some seriously and others maybe just a bit curious, wondering about things like earthquakes and tornadoes. I’ve had a few people out of the blue mention it in conversation this week. Maybe it’s not a major concern as Beth said her friends at school were talking about it one minute and the next were planning what they were going to do for Christmas and the holidays. It is a bit like Jesus said it would be… there would be earthquakes and wars and rumours of wars …great events happening, and people simply carrying on as they always have, no one will know the hour or the day, but you and I are to watch and wait.


Jesus talks of the time when he comes as king. And being seated on the throne and bringing all the nations together before him in judgement.  Maybe it’s like the last scene in an epic movie, a highpoint. But in typical Jesus fashion, he expresses it in the everyday and ordinary. Maybe as he sat with his disciples on the Mount of Olives at the end of a long day he was using the very things he saw round him as a visual aid. It will be he says like the end of the day in any rural setting where a shepherd will bring his flock together and separate out the sheep and the goats. In the Middle East even today, shepherds let sheep and goats graze together during the day, but need to separate them at night, Goats are less hardy than sheep and need to be looked after more in the cold. Our imagination is formed mostly by our own rural setting here but in the middle east of Jesus day sheep and goats were hard to tell apart. The only visible difference being that goat’s tails go up while sheep go down. The sheep were more valuable of the two and so were placed at his right hand, the goats to his left.


The king then says to those on his right that they are blessed and welcomes them into his Kingdom, the reason given is that when they saw Jesus in need they showed mercy and met that need. A simple glass of water, food , clothing, shelter, a welcome, a visit.


The righteous are surprised by what the King says, they are shocked to think that the king had ever been in those situations let alone that they had cared for him. The king Jesus says responses by saying as you have done it for the least of these my brothers and sister you have done it for me.  We shouldn’t be surprised by this as Jesus was the one who came to serve not to be served and  in the end it’s not the songs and the festivities and all this religious stuff that is close to Jesus heart it’s the reflection of the mercy and grace that Christ had come to give to those in need  that counts.


The second group is sent away to a place which is described in terms we equate with fire and brimstone preaching. A place that was not intended for them, but it seems their actions are seen as having led to it. Again the judgement is almost word for word the opposite to what the king had said to the people on his right. Again the people to the left seem totally surprised, when had they ever seen the king in need and not helped. The response is,  as you have not done it for these the least of my brothers and sister you have not done it for me.


Jesus finishes his teaching in Matthew’s gospel by saying… then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  It seems to be totally consistent with what comes next. WE Jesus demonstrates that mercy for those in need by giving up his life, that we might have life, making a way for people to be forgiven and reconciled to God.  But I don’t know about you but it feels a bit like a top gear moment where they say at the end of each show…’ and on that bomb shell we say Good Night”.  We need to put it into its context to fully understand it.


Firstly, in the context of the Jewish understanding of things. There is a real sense that Israel’s expectation was that when the Messiah came and sorted things out that the nations would be judged by how they had treated Israel. The prophet Amos uses this understanding  to great effect in the beginning of his book as he pronounces judgement on Israel’s enemies and their neighbours, the crowd would have pricked up their ears and started to nod their heads, that is what they would have expected from their God, but he uses that in the end to show the people of the northern kingdom that they were in line for the same kind of judgement because their treatment of the poor, their record in terms of justice was just as bad as everyone else’s. Jesus turns Israel’s idea on its head , the focus is now on how the least of my brothers and sisters are treated. The poor, the hungry, the naked, the oppressed, the refugee. Some have seen the reference to brothers and sisters meaning Jesus followers, but it seems this is the very group that Jesus had come to call into his kingdom.

Secondly, we need to see it in the context of the whole of Jesus teaching.  Teaching which in Matthew’s gospel is book ended beginning and end by what Philip Yancy calls a Revolution of Grace. If you don’t mind a visual pun in anchors all Jesus says in grace. His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount starts with the beatitudes; blessed are the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the meek; who will not be side-tracked from the common good, the peacemakers the merciful: This wonderful invitation to come to God, in our brokenness and our poverty. That we would have our hearts and lived renewed and transformed by this great mercy and live in the Kingdom of heaven. Now we see that in the end those who are blessed are those who allow that revolution of grace to do that and change how they see the world. To impact how they act… that the grace and mercy they have received is poured out.  That revolution of grace has shaped how they respond to those in need around them. They have received mercy they give mercy.  The thing about a revolution is that it revolutionises everything, everything changes, and this is what the King is looking for.  


In the context of theological discussion this passage is often seen in terms of the question about salvation by grace or by works. Yet when you read it there is no sense that people earn a reward here. Both groups of people seem oblivious to what they are and are not doing. Their actions come from their heart attitudes, and their relationship to king is reflected in how they respond and react.


What does it have to say to us?


Mark Woodley views this passage through the lens of Chaos Theory.  That is advanced mathematical theory that tries and quantify and understand how complex systems work… I don’t understand it either. One of the Mathematician most associated with this branch of maths Edward Lorenz helped everybody by using a metaphor. He said he was trying to answer the question what effect does the flap of the butterfly wing in Brazil have on tornadoes in Texas?’ … it’s still OK I don’t get it either. But here Jesus talks about a butterfly effect as well. While people may look for the Kingdom of heaven in the great moment and movements of history, in climactic endings, the reality is that is that the Kingdom of heaven comes now and will be assessed in small acts of mercy. The kingdom of heaven presences itself in this world in this neighbourhood in our lives as in response to the love of God we find ourselves caring for and loving the least. Yes Jesus will Commission his  followers to go and make disciples in all nations baptising them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit and teach them to obey all I have commanded them. But even the success of that will be shown in how that revolution of grace impacts on the world in small ways. In the sort of size pieces that you and I can comprehend and do.


A story from our families history is a great illustration of this. Granville Sharpe one of my mother’s whakapapa is known as the father of the movement for the abolition of slavery in England. His involvement started when he came across a runaway slave who had been beaten and left for dead by his owner in a London alley. In a good Samaritan way, Sharpe, took him to his brother, who just happened to be a consulting physician to the king, a helpful contact to make. Later Sharpe would teach himself the law and fight legal battles to see that Strong when he recovered could not be whisked off to the Caribbean and back to slavery.  He gathered others together to form a group to outlaw slavery, and well the rest is history. A butterfly effect.


Sadly, there is a reverse butterfly effect, as Mark Woodley puts it. Those who miss Jesus in this life, who do not respond to those in need with mercy, will miss Jesus in eternity. 

Lastly, It’s important to see this parable in the context of advent and Christmas. Jesus revolution of grace calls us to an incarnation. Mercy does not stand off and speculate, the Kingdom of heaven is not a spectator sport, if it is we may just miss the central character… Jesus. It does not call us to stand on the street corner with a sign that says the end is near.  It calls us to follow Christ into the everyday life of the least about us… It calls us to be ordinary everyday revolutionaries where there is a lack of mercy and grace in the world in which we live. To live expecting the end whether it happens this week or… well…it  calls us to be present in the present, not lost in the future, not longing for the past… but present  alongside the least.. Because ultimately and it’s where we started our journey together way back at the beginning of this year… to follow Jesus calls us to be where Jesus is.  To be fishers of men calls us to be enmeshed with Jesus mercy in the lives of people.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Prayer of Thanksgiving.. A word picture of the Season and the Reason to Rejoice and Again I Say Rejoice.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday in Advent. In the candle lighting liturgy I am using (I Know it sounds very high church) the bible verses that focus us on the Joy that comes from Christ's coming are Isaiah 12:5 and Philippians 4:4-7. I wanted to pick up some of the themes of both Isaiah 12 and the refrain from Philippians 4:4-7 in our prayers of thanksgiving this week.

Also I am finishing off a series on the Olivet discourse and preaching on the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. So I have wanted to include some of that into this prayer of thanksgiving.

As I sat down to write this prayer I looked out my office window and saw a group of people walking down the road in Santa hats all trimmed with tinsel... obviously there is a Office Christmas event happening down the road. It for me epitomised  the way people rejoice this festive season. I also noticed (sadly for the first time) a Pohutukawa tree in the corner of the church car park all decked out in its crimson bloom. The Pohutukawa Tree is our native Christmas tree, it blossoms in our southern summer Christmas. It usually grows on the coast and in New Zealand Christmas usually revolves round summer holidays... in fact if I may make a really bad joke the closest most Kiwi's get to acknowledging the incarnation is when almost the whole nation jumps in our cars and heads off to the beach. That is if the weather doesn't pack it in. Those things remind me of the rejoicing in God's creation... Yes I am aware of a cyclone hitting Samoa at the moment and we will pray for those effected in our prayers of intercession. Nature by itself cannot tell us God is good.

Then of course we move into rejoicing because of Christ. His birth long promised, his kingdom proclaimed and what they means, his death and Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit... and the joy that comes from seeing Jesus revolution of grace shared to the least in simple acts of kindness and mercy.

This prayer is my attempt at painting a word picture of all those things... not wanting to simply engage peoples logical mind but inviting them to envisage what those things mean in their own lives.. almost a guided meditation and in that to rejoice before God.

Santa hats and tinsel trims

Office shouts

Mince pies and Christmas cake

Cards from far away friends

School year ends

Finding gifts that say we care

The festive season has begun


Rejoice, rejoice again I say rejoice


Pohutukawa blooms

Clear blue skies (hope they stay)

Twinkling seas

Ocean breeze

Cool leafy shade

Cicada chirp

 Beaches beckon


Rejoice, rejoice again I say rejoice


Not the wrath of an angry God

Rather we behold  his mercy and grace

A promise fulfilled

A child is given

A light in the dark

Glory to God in Highest heaven

Peace on earth on all whom his favour rests.


Rejoice, rejoice again I say rejoice


A new kingdom come

Good news for the poor

Liberty for the captive

Sight for the blind

The oppressed go free

A time of jubilee

God sets all things right


Rejoice, rejoice again I say rejoice


Died and rose again

Sins forgiven

The slate whipped clean

Restored and made whole

New life in abundance

Spirit given

God dwells within


Rejoice, rejoice and again I say Rejoice


In response mercy shown

A glass of water given

The hungry feed

The stranger welcomed in

The naked clothed

The sick tended

The prisoner included


Rejoice, rejoice again I say rejoice