theunfamiliarname

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Homily for Easter 5C (Fair Trade Fortnight)

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 at 9:00 am

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

The words of Gerald Manley Hopkins.

“Trade” is as old as human history.
Ever since people had more of one thing than was useful
and a need for something else, trade happens.

Fairly or unfairly,
between equals or at the point of a sword, trade happens.

Trade is the basis for civilisation,
and on general principles, I don’t think God has a problem with trade.

Again and again, though, we read in Scripture
that God does take issue with exploitation and economic injustice.

Such behaviour is a form of violence,
and violence has never been the way of Jesus,
who comes to “bring good news to the poor
and liberty for those who are oppressed”.

Jesus this morning gives us a summary and a completion of God’s law,
the new commandment,
“that you love one another as I have loved you”.

That we care for others as God cares for us.
That we offer the bounty of God’s grace,
grace we cannot earn or work for,
to one another.
And perhaps not just to those of our family, or our faith,
or our economic circle.

Should we not look with the eyes of God
on those whom we might never see face to face,
who make our clothes, who grow our food, who produce our tea and coffee?

Trade is about relationship,
and so is the command that we “love one another”.
And if hard-nosed commerce and consumerism,
the kind of mindset
that demands the lowest price whatever the cost to people and the planet,
if that is in opposition to that command,
then we have to change.

And we do have choices we can make in the marketplace.
What we buy and from whom.
What we value.
Whose “smudge and smell”, whose toil and soil we associate ourselves with.

To be true to the gospel, we need to relate with integrity and equity.
We need, simply put, to be “fair” in our dealings one with another.

As we are at present,
Fair Trade is not the dominant model for our relating to each other,
and large chunks of our economic lives
are built on a house of cards that compromises others and ourselves.

Rich countries offer subsidies to produce goods
which smother local industries.
Poor nations are forced to restructure their economies,
to farm cash crops on boom-and-bust cycles,
and to alienate land to global corporate interests.
Drugs that might keep millions living with AIDS alive
are patented to protect huge profits.
Scandalously overworked and undervalued workers
produce daily hundreds of big-name shoes or shirts,
garments they could never dream of affording with the pittance they receive.

The rules of international trade, and the conspiracy of the powerful
work to keep the poor just that, poor.
Trapped …in vulnerability, hardship and hopelessness.

That is not the story of the stone rolled away
from the front of an empty tomb,
the Easter story at the heart of our faith.

That story is about releasing all of us,
the world’s poor, the comfortable, the selfish,
everyone entombed in the hollow house of consumerism.

The resurrection story proclaims our liberation
from the things that bind and dehumanise us.
God in Jesus speaks, in life, in death, in life beyond death,
about a fullness, an abundance of life.
Not existence … by mere subsistence.
But life in all its grandeur and its glory.

On this day when we give thanks for the bounty of God’s good earth,
perhaps we might dare to invite God to open our eyes,
that we should see the generosity and interconnectedness
hard-wired into the very nature of Nature.

Let us pray:  O Lord Christ, who became poor that we might be rich,
deliver us from a comfortable conscience if we believe or intend
that others should be poor that we might be rich;
for in God’s economy, no one is expendable.
Grant us instead the riches of love. AMEN.

Homily for Easter 4C (ANZAC Day)

In Uncategorized on April 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

They may seem like quite different strands we are trying to hold together,
these Easter days and this ANZAC Day.
But in all honesty, I don’t think they are.

We, this Easter community,
are this day looking at the sacrifices and horrors of the world’s Good Fridays,
be they on Galipoli’s beaches or in Africa or Italy or Vietnam, the Pacific or Iraq,
but viewing them
from beyond the empty tomb of Easter morning.

We do not grieve as those who have no hope.
We are not to live in the darkness of past hurt.
We know that those who have made sacrifice, even to death,
are not forgotten or abandoned or unhonoured by our God.
We are a different kind of people
because of our encounter with the Christ who conquers death.

Like Saul last week upon that road to Damascus,
full of zeal and violence,
we are this day confronted with the Prince of Peace,
and the demands upon our war-torn world.

In the dream-like language of that reading from Revelation,
we are invited to the heavenly vision of eternal peace and praise,
of those who have been through the great ordeal,
who rest and reign with the Lamb that was sacrificed.

In words eerily reminiscent of the famous poem we use on this day,
“They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor  any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide  them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their  eyes.”

The image of God as shepherd, of Jesus as Shepherd,
provides us with comfort,
but also tells us something that might not immediately resonate
with the pictures of shepherds we have in our minds.

Middle Eastern flocks were and are smaller than ours.
Sheep well-known.
And not herded with dogs and a well-paced “get in behind”.
Not a Swandhri in sight…
There it is the sheep’s instinct to follow that is used.
The shepherd walks before the flock.
The sheep aren’t asked to go anywhere the shepherd hasn’t walked before.
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”

That’s the metaphor.
That’s the Easter image.
Jesus the shepherd, cast in the Book of Revelation as the Lamb.
God in Jesus has travelled the road of the abattoir, of the Cross,
of the trenches and senseless loss and pain.
And still says emphatically of those who follow him,
“no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

In the words of St Paul and of the funeral service:
“nothing in life or death, in the world as is it or in the world as it shall be,
nothing in all creation can separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do we believe that?  Do we feel we belong?  Do we hear and know that?
Will we re-member that, for ourselves and others?

To we who this ANZAC Day “remember”,
God give recognition, reconciliation and renewed desire
to bring our future to the fullness of God’s just and peaceable Kingdom.  Amen.

Homily for ANZAC Day (2005)

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

Delivered at St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, 2005

Ninety years ago today
soldiers from the Australia New Zealand Army Corp
landed on an obscure peninsula in modern-day Turkey.

It was to be the thrust that outflanked the Central Powers,
lost them an ally
and shortened the War.

It became
the crucible in which our two nations’ sense of distinct identity was forged,
amidst the carnage and the courage of Gallipoli.

That is the myth of the ANZAC landings,
and like all myths, it is not without a degree of ultimate truth.

The experience of that first ANZAC Day
and the weeks and months that followed
have left an indelible imprint upon the national psyche,
and there is probably not a town in New Zealand with a pub and a church
that doesn’t have its memorial, its monument
to those who served, and fell, in the Great War, 1914-1918.

The language of the age was that of sacrifice and service.
Language that was the Church’s also.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The experience of modern warfare though
was also a profound challenge to notions of leadership, loyalty and justice,
both secular and sacred,
as young men died in unparalleled number:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row…” …on row, on row…
Another poet, Donald Bain, wrote,
“It may be that our later selves or else our unborn sons
will search for meaning in the dust of long deserted guns…”

And this is part of the ANZAC legacy:
The further removed we are in time from the events themselves,
the more we seek to make meaning of this commemoration.

I am privileged to be one of a generation that has not known major conflict.
That I owe in some very real sense
to those who bodies lie or whose lives were forever changed
on the beaches of Gallipoli, the fields of Flanders, of El Alamein, of Cassino…

But I and we all know that “The war to end all war”
was not to bring about that aim:

90 years ago New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli.
60 years ago on ANZAC Day,
New Zealand forces crossed the River Po in Northern Italy.
30 years ago, there were still New Zealand military and civilian personal
providing humanitarian and diplomatic support
during the last days of the Vietnam conflict.

War has a habit of impinging upon our present,
particularly if we neither know our history
nor actively work to prevent it.

The church has always struggled with war,
how to respond to it, whether it can be justified, how it is to be conducted.
We all struggle when our ideal is set alongside our reality.
I think most people of faith are conflicted
when it comes to war.
Is a ‘just war’ to be denied when faced with an unjust peace?
Yet, conflicted though we may be, we live in a critical time,
when some of the rules of engagement, ideologically and practically,
are in effect being reshaped.
Today we face the global challenges of terrorism, imperialism,
intercultural and interfaith dialogue,
…and New Zealand forces are still on the ground, involved,
keeping and making peace.

In such a setting, we have a right and a responsibility to ensure
that the political and personal whims
of the world’s leaders – and those narrow groups they often represent –
in their brief tenure do not diminish or distract
from the lessons learned and freedoms gained
in past sacrifice and service.

Lest we forget…  That war itself ultimately represents failure.

A failure of imagination.

A profound failure of will and of recognition
of our common humanity and need.
Which is not to deny that wars have been fought in the name of justice,
and in honour, and in hope, and with morality and heroism.
But the failure of the world’s leaders and societies
to find a different way to resolve differences,
or indeed the emergence of the kind of evil that is seen in those cruel acts
that lead us to war – that draw us in in defence of ourselves or others –
this is human failure.

If we are to honour those whom we remember today,
we must become active in the cause of peace,
as have many who did not bear arms,
but in their own way, and at great cost, risked and endured much.
Peace is not secured alone
by the sacrifice and service of those who have given much,
even all, of themselves in struggle and solidarity.

Peace relies upon our commitment to remember
the price that has been paid for our present.

It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
…Not the paranoia that looks on all the outside world as a threat,
but a willingness to hold a light up to ourselves and our friends,
and even sometimes our own history.

Peace relies on our willingness
to speak and to work in the cause of justice,
and it takes root where our women and men in uniform
put themselves on the line as keepers of peace.

Peace means we look towards and we live
in a way that does not deprive others,
does not conspire to draw us into violence,
whether that be actual, economic, environmental, ideological…

Deep down we know that a peace which is merely the absence of war
is a peace waiting to be interrupted.
…Is no peace at all, …merely a lull in hostilities.

That is not the peace to honour our Fallen or those who served.
Not the peace to honour the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, fiances
whose lives were ever altered.
Not the peace to honour our national experience and identity.
Not the peace to honour our God.
Not the peace to honour our humanity.

The vision of heaven we heard from the Book of Revelation
looks to a world without conflict, tears or pain,
a world where we can take our humanity as a sharing in divinity,
recognising that God chooses to be found in our midst,
witness to our courage and our compassion:
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

The world is, as it were,
open to the possibility that we might bring to it:
old enmities and current stand-offs can be ended,
justice can take root,
we can move beyond the former things,
towards a vision of a common, co-existent and rich human life
that builds upon those foundations,
and all that we celebrate this day.

That will need from us, sacrifice and service.

May we be ready to respond to such an invitation.  Amen.

Colossians 3 Easter Hymn

In Hymns, Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Tune:  Bethany

If you have been risen with Christ
seek the things above;
not entombed upon the earth,
throned with him who in rebirth
conquers over death in love.

Set your mind on heaven’s hopes,
freed from narrow sight;
we in Christ have also died,
held no more by greed and pride,
hidden within God’s new life.

When the Lord will be revealed,
there will be our life;
in his glory is our own,
there as God’s incarnate throne
we live in the Risen Christ!

Homily for Easter 3C

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2010 at 8:53 am

Fishermen have a tendency to tell stories.
Not to be inaccurate, mind you – but to embellish the truth.

There’s bound to be a story to tell, even when there’s a distinct lack of fish.

Today we have a gospel fishing story.

We have a story of the Risen Christ
which at first sight appears to have been added as an afterthought.

The Gospel of John should have ended last week.
The Risen Christ standing among his disciples,
overcoming Thomas’ doubt, breathing on them the Holy Spirit,
a final word spelling out the purpose of John’s Gospel.
Perfect.  A story with the climax at its end.

Instead, what we get is an epilogue.
And 153 fish.

Why, of all things fishy, 153?

I told you on Easter Day that John doesn’t include such details by accident.
Someone else told me that my predecessor would start sermons with a joke.

Speaking of numbers, could anyone tell me what’s this for/4?

(A large figure 4 is discovered)

Awful puns aside,
some say that 153 was the number perceived of all the fish species.

Some think you need to bear in mind these were fishermen,
and allow for a certain amount of exaggeration…
it might have been more like six fish and just grown in the re-telling.

Could it all be merely a red herring?

Some see it as seven times 20 plus 13, … significant numbers in biblical terms.
Could it be some sort of Da Vinci Cod?
Back to the story.
We find ourselves with seven of the disciples back in Galilee, fishing.
Here are these people who would never be the same again, … erm … fishing.
Fishermen, whom Jesus called,
fishermen who will be apostles,
somehow called back to Galilee, where it all began, fishing.

As the day breaks on the disciples after a long night’s futile effort,
as the waves break on the lake shore,
so too does the Risen Christ.

Just like Mary in the Garden, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus,
the disciples do not recognise the Lord.
It is only when they follow his directions, lower the net
and discover the miraculous abundance that’s eluded them all night,
only then that Peter and the Beloved Disciple sense who it is who is before them.
And Peter, eager as always to demonstrate his love for the Lord,
leaps overboard and heads for the shore.

Peter, so ready to declare his loyalty to Jesus on Maundy Thursday.
Quick to leap into the water this morning.
But Peter’s denial is part of the story of Holy Week, and the Easter story too.

Simon Peter, symbol of the disciples’ fear and failure,
brave, tenacious Peter who denied his Lord three times that dark, dark night,
is three times taken to the point where he must question
whether he is able to become whom Jesus has invited him to be.

Him and us.
We’re taken and we’re shaken,
we’re invited to turn our destruction of trust and of relationship
into a building up, a nurturing, a leading of God’s people:
“Feed my lambs.”     “Tend my sheep”.    “Feed my sheep”

And in all of this the recognition that the passion and tenacity of youth,
will in this after-Easter world
be shaped into a sacrifice born of the love Peter professes:
“when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will fasten a belt around you
and take you where you do not wish to go.”

God knows life and love will do that for us.  Some of us sooner than later.

“Follow me” says Jesus, and the story comes full circle:
The disciples here, beside the lake, nets full of fish,
being asked to follow.

To suffer and to work in a world that is the same one
where they first heard Jesus’ voice,
but which will never be the same because of what they have experienced,
and what they have believed.

The image of fishing is one of the mission of the Church.
The disciples are commissioned to be fishers of people, apostles.
To take hold of what they have experienced, have received,
to really hear the good news of Christ, and to proclaim that,
to invite all people into that.

The final words of Jesus in John’s Gospel being the ones we heard this morning: “Follow me”.
The first and last words a disciple hears, and maybe, needs to hear.

In neither case the end of a story at all.
Alleluia.

Colossians Christ Hymn

In Hymns on April 16, 2010 at 10:30 am

Music

Al—le-lu-i-a–!
Al—le-lu-i-a–!

Image of the only God
beyond human sight and word;
glimpse of God invisible,
firstborn of all that exists.
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
For in him in heav’n and earth
all things came to be, they were,
things we see and things unseen,
thrones, dominions, rulers, pow’rs.
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
All things came to be through him,
all things came to be for him.
Before all things he is, and
in him all things hold as one.
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
Head of body, of the Church;
who in the beginning was,
firstborn one raised from the dead,
so that he should here be first.
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
For in him the fullness dwelt,
all of God was pleased to tent,
and through him to reconcile
to God all things, was God’s will –
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
– whether on earth or in heav’n,
by the peace made through his blood;
Christ, who took the Cross claims all.
Raised from death, to die no more!
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
Al—le-lu-i-a–!
Al—le-lu-i-a–!

Homily for Easter 2C

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 at 8:51 am

The biggest movie of the last year – by some huge distance –
has been Avatar.
Unkindly dubbed “Dances with Smurfs”
in reference to its familiar plotline and blue aliens,
whatever else it might be
it’s astounding for its creation of an entirely artificial world.
A whole planet and an alien civilisation has been plausibly manufactured
by clever people working at powerful computers.
Gripping, yet entirely made up.

During my studies in Fiji,
I made a good friend from Kiribati, a series of tiny atolls in Micronesia.
He was out of his country – as was I – for the first time,
and for the first time he was confronted with television and film,
and the question I remember him asking me often,
during the tv news as much as anything,
was “is it real?”

“Is it real?”

Here we are, a week after the early morning discovery of the empty tomb,
with part two of John’s gospel account that we began last week,
and that’s the question Thomas forces us to grapple with:
“is it real?”

Not just are we different because of the Easter story
– although heaven knows
that’s not a bad question to be pondering one week on –
but Thomas wants to know if tangibly, absolutely, honestly,
he can believe
what others think they have experienced.
And ultimately, isn’t that what it comes down to?
For all the evangelism in the world,
faith, the Easter faith we Christians are supposed to be about,
is not really about embracing someone else’s ideas or worldview,
because it appeals at some intellectual or aesthetic level.
Easter faith is literally embraced when we are touched in our experience
by the Risen Christ.

Scholars have asked all sorts of questions about the Resurrection,
“is it real?” being right up there.
But we know that something happened
…something was experienced by those disciples,
something real and tangible and more than just an idea
or some waffly making sense of Jesus somehow living on in them…
Easter, the reality,
was in their experience of Christ risen:
Something more than an idea
has fed people of faith for twenty centuries of Easters.
Easter is in the experience.  Theirs and ours.

One of my favourite movies is Shadowlands,
based loosely on the life of C.S. Lewis,
and his relationship with the poet, Joy Gresham,
who dies during the film of cancer.

Lewis, it always seemed to me,
had come to faith by way of logic and the intellect.
When confronted with the love and pain of losing someone dear,
the intellect was not itself enough.
It was through the hard experience of loving even to death
that his faith and he himself became truly alive.
In the pain and the joyous love of the Easter story,
in the wounds of love which the body of the Risen Christ still carries:
hands, feet, side,
Jesus who stands among the frightened disciples and breathes peace…
in our experience of love and pain and fear and peace,
our dying and coming alive
… is our touching God, our finding faith, our claiming life.

As we travel together this Easter journey,
as we are reminded that we are called to be an Easter people,
how do we respond to the little Thomas, naïve or cynical, within us all
who asks us “is it real?”

Where is the Easter story true for us,
and where is it waiting to be told?

See the disciples locked away, entombed by their own fear and grief…
Where within ourselves
are we waiting for the Risen Christ to appear
and breathe peace and forgiveness?

Can we open ourselves to that experience,
that healing touch,
where pain and death and disbelief
are transfigured?

Where we, in our encounter,
“may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through believing [we] may have life in his name.”

Homily for Easter Day 2010

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

Once upon a time.
Or rather, “in the beginning”.
There was a garden.

So begins the human story in the mythic language and imagery of Genesis.
Eden, the garden where humankind is planted,
together with the tree of life,
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
and every other kind of tree.

It is no coincidence that we find ourselves back in a garden this morning.
John the gospel writer does not tell us this detail by accident.
John’s Gospel is crammed full of significant symbolism.

It is no small detail that we are in the garden
nor that Mary thinks she’s speaking with the gardener.
The Gospel writer chooses this palette very carefully,
painting his picture,
telling us not just what happened,
but what it means.

What might it mean to be in the garden?
What might it mean to call out to the gardener himself?
What might it mean for his reply to speak Mary’s name
and in that single moment be known?

The story of the Resurrection happens at dawn.
The dawn of a new day, the first of a new week.
The dawn of a new creation.
The dawn of a new story.

The Cross, the brutal tree of death,
the tree of knowing and choosing evil,
has become in this garden the tree of life.
We are, if we can make sense of it, “redeemed”.
Bought and brought back
to where we might rediscover the possibility
of our new story being different from the old.

Old habits, old hurts, old hates
can be discarded with the graveclothes if we dare to believe it might be so.
And death and grief and fear shall have no dominion.

That does not mean there will not be Good Friday’s,
and Oamaru has known a very dark Good Friday indeed this year,
but that is not where the story ends.
God always has another word to speak.
Even when humanity turns away,
making decisions inexplicably evil or awful;
when life is lost senselessly or so sadly;
when potential is extinguished…
God in Jesus Christ would speak another word.

A name, tender enough to call us from our grief,
to open our tearful, blurry eyes.
A name, loud enough to call beyond the years that were
and that might have been,
beyond the deep waters of death itself.

The Name, Love, the God who is
and wills that we are.
And would have us live forever
in the undying power of that Love.

Love does not shy away from hurt:
it redeems it.
Light does not succumb to darkness:
it transfigures.

It’s in dark places that we most know and need
the light of this new day,
the alleluia upon our lips,
that speaks to us of a life and love
that cannot be silenced, buried or destroyed.

Because Christ lives, we live also.
And while we claim that in joy today,
we do so in the faith that that will resonate throughout us,
for all our days,
in life, in death, in life beyond death.

Once upon a time,
God saw everything that God had made, and indeed it was very good.
We are this day God’s new Creation, on this first day of the week.

And if a new Creation,
then we are somehow different from the old.
Something has happened in us
that means we are no longer who we were.
Or perhaps more accurately,
we have the potential to be what we were not before.
We are imbued with all the potential that we ever had and more.

How then will we live (in such a brave new world)?

Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!