theunfamiliarname

Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

The Order of St John

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 at 7:40 pm

It’s my privilege to speak, and briefly,

this morning, as the different parts of St John

get together in a way we often don’t,

and at St Luke’s we’re honoured

to share in your company.

 

There are of course,

some who can’t be with us this morning,

because they’re on call, on duty.

 

Operational staff have in my experience,

a good sense of humour.

At times, it can be fairly dark, so I thought I’d begin

with a treatment related joke, but a safe one.

Unless you’ve got a pet duck,

in which case, it may be in poor taste.

 

In the middle of the duck-hunting season,

a bird was shot and brought home.

And this is actually a true story. 2007.

It spent two days in the fridge,

and when it came to cooking it,

the lady of the household found the duck was still alive.

While the duck concerned actually survived,

for the purposes of the joke let’s continue.

Rushed to the vet’s surgery, on arrival,

the duck’s condition was said to be “delicious”.

 

No. On arrival it was found to be dead.

 

The vet passed the sad news on to the woman

who had brought it in, she was adamant: save it at all costs.

The Vet says, “it’s dead. It’s a dead duck.”

“I want a second opinion”

The vet says “It is no more? It’s ceased to be?

It’s expired and gone to meet its Maker!”

“Tests” she says, “I want tests done”.

“OK” says the vet, ‘bring in the dog’.

A black Labrador Retriever is brought in

who looks around and barks loudly…

A cat is invited into the room,

gives a collegial nod to the dog

and looks around intently.

Suddenly there’s a sign of life with the duck.

An old-fashioned photographer rushes in.

“Cheese!” They pose for ages

while black and white photos are prepared.

“My duck?” says the woman.

“What are you doing about my duck?”

The vet says, “Well,

we’ve done the Lab report, we had a cat scan,

and there was a moment of hope

where we tried sepia. AHEM.

There’s no more we could have done.

That’s one dead duck.”

 

Can I remind you of St John’s beginnings?

A thousand years ago

Christian Brothers understood the essence of their call to be:

to care for the stranger and the pilgrim and the sick.

In the Holy City of Jerusalem

they formed a community of care.

We claim that idea in the by-line “first to care”.

 

We claim those words more fully

in this country when our front-line folk

rush to the emergency room

because what was offered by those first brothers

gave us the word “hospital”.

They took the name of St John the Baptist,

and offered “hospitality”.

A bed for the night for the pilgrim.

Care for the sick and infirm.

As followers of Jesus, they had this challenging phrase

“our Lords, the poor and the sick”.

A reminder to us all

of what service in Christ’s name looks like.

Of what service in St John looks like.

 

This is a Christian Order.

St John’s has at its beginning the Gospel.

Good News in Christ Jesus.

Healing and redemption

with the sense that God has come to us,

stood with us, and offered wholeness

in our weakness and our need.

 

That’s been 1000 years in the blood of St John.

St John’s has at its beginning the Gospel.

Its symbol is a cross. It is full of sacrifice and service.

 

And in a very tangible way

it works that Good News out.

 

In loving service. In self-giving.

In community-building. In mindfulness of others.

In giving a damn.

In what we could call in our inexpressive culture, “love”.

 

 

 

“Hospitality” leads from a bed for the night

to “Hospital”, “Hospice”, “Hospitaliers”.

 

And to those who give of themselves every day

in service to us through their willingness

to serve and stand in places most of us would struggle to.

 

And the place of most struggle is probably

back where it all starts for the Order of St John.

 

The place where “hospitality” began.

The place where the Order of St John

still offers welcome and care.

Offers in The St John Eye Hospital

care to Arab and Israeli,

Christian and Muslim,

to Palestinians cut off by Israel’s occupation and Wall

a care that reaches out and that transforms lives.

Offers sight, where darkness and sightlessness reigned.

Profoundly biblical and Christian language,

and signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom.

 

 

We are invited

to pray for and support the Jerusalem Eye Hospital

as a symbol of our common claim of this outreach,

but also as a direct connection.

 

One Nurse at the Hospital, Samia,

has been “adopted” by St John NZ.

Samia wears a St John New Zealand nametag

to link her with us in a unique way.

She lives in Beir Zeit, a village near Ramallah.

She rises at 5am daily

to make her long daily trip to Jerusalem.

This trip is often delayed at checkpoints

or by road closures and rerouting.

You’ll see something of her story at the door,

where you’re invited to make a donation

towards the Hospital.

 

A picture allegedly tells a thousand words.

 

The St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem:…

SS Peter and Paul

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 at 6:23 pm

There are so many of them,

it would be churlish not to begin with a

St Peter at the Pearly Gates joke:

A man dies and is greeted by St Peter at the gates of Heaven.

“Welcome,” he says. “Rather like earthly immigration,

we operate on a points system. 100 points and you’re in.

What can you tell me about your life and conduct?”

“Well,” says the man, “I was married for 50 years,

and never once even thought about being unfaithful.”

“Excellent,” says St Peter, checking his notes. “3 points.”

“Oh. I was a faithful churchgoer for all my life.”

“Good. 2 points.” said Peter.

“Gosh. I tithed 10% of all my income?”

“I can probably give you a point for that,” Peter replies.

“A point? … I volunteered at the Foodbank,

and started a soup-kitchen, an afterschool programme,

oh yes, and an international charity?”

“Well done,” says Peter, “2 more points.

You’re well on your way.”

“But…,” says the man, “I always tried to be faithful in prayer.”

“Fantastic. 3 points.” says the Saint.

“I’ve got no chance here!” says the man.

“How but by the blinking grace of God Almighty

does anyone ever get in here?!”

“Bingo!” says St Peter, “In you go.”

 

So we have that image of St Peter at the gates of Heaven,

because of this morning’s gospel.

Simon Peter’s declaration of faith

– his recognition of the Messiah –

a wordplay and metaphor around this being the “rock”,

and the gifting of the keys of the Kingdom

to Peter, Cephas in Aramaic.

Peter was without doubt the leader among the Apostles.

Flawed, hot-headed, eager, quick to lay claim to faith,

but able to breathe denial of even knowing Jesus when scared.

Peter is us. He’s the absolute model and example

of who Jesus calls, and who Jesus changes.

After he is restored on the lakeside after Jesus is risen,

he’s given responsibility to care for and to feed the flock, the Church.

He grows into that role, leading the Apostles.

And Jesus also tells him that when he is 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.”

Because Peter will be a witness for Jesus,

literally, a “martyr” under the Roman Emperor Nero.

Today we also commemorate Paul, or in Hebrew, Saul.

As we first meet him, certainly: flawed, hate-filled, calculated, zealous,

and to be blindsided by an encounter with Jesus

on the Damascus road.

The likely winner of “most bigoted zealot”

around AD 35

becomes the leader in the Early Church who

recognises what Peter’s declaration means.

The Messiah, the whole arc of Scripture and history

has been pointing to the proclamation

of good news to the Gentiles.

The man who once could not tolerate that followers of Jesus

existed among his own people,

becomes the messenger, ambassador, Apostle,

who will take Christ’s gospel

to more nations and peoples than anyone else.

He will travel on three extraordinary journeys,

by foot and by boat, at up to 4500km each.

He will contend with initial mistrust by the church,

beatings, shipwrecks, abuse, petty power struggles,

the privations of his travels, imprisonment

and ultimately, like Peter,

martyrdom – and probably at around the same time.

Both Peter and Paul

become something they had not imagined themselves being.

Both open their understanding of Jesus’ identity

and mission to include Gentiles,

those of us once outside the Covenant.

They clash, and while they clearly respect one another,

they disagree at times. And they disagree

about the “them “ and “us” of Jews and Gentiles.

Peter struggled within himself, about how to be a Jewish Christian,

and yet to share with Gentiles.

Paul was committed to the equality of Gentile to Jewish Christians,

but struggled with the communities he had founded or visited

throughout the Mediterranean world

that he tried to keep in communion,

in unity of belief, and in compassionate interrelationship,

especially with the Church at Jerusalem.

I can’t help but feel that’s God’s sense of humour at work,

after our recent conversation within the Parish

that we have Peter and Paul today.

We have a “them” and “us”.

Heaven knows the whole Church is still caught up in that,

as you’ll know if you’ve read a Papal Encyclical lately.

“Them” and “us” looms large.

But we are called, like Saul and Simon, Paul and Peter,

to a place beyond where we are now.

Looking to the future, to the one Body of Christ

that is beyond the “them” and “us”,

towards the unity Christ prays we’ll know.

Not just as a Parish, but as the whole people of God.

We have, can and will hold meetings.

But it is only by the grace of God and by a sharing

in the vision and the purpose God alone will give us,

that we will grasp the transformation of identity

and the good news that Jesus calls us to embody.

When we remember Saints,

we do not do so as some sort of insect-in-amber interesting.

Saints are those who are alive to God,

and in a very real sense alive to us.

And we are invited to think about our timekeeping.

Those who went before us,

who built this magnificent edifice as an act of faith

and really, as an expression of intent,

would not, I’m sure want us to be gazing ever backwards.

Martyred Archbishop of El Salvador Oscar Romero had a pithy phrase.

He said, “we are prophets of a future not our own”.

Maybe we spend far too much time – and I ask myself this too –

facing in the wrong direction. Dealing with the problems

and the work of preservation with which our past encumbers us.

We have a faith, a faith we share with Peter and Paul to pass on.

Our safe arrival at the Pearly Gates is not the end of the story,

and by God’s grace there are those who are not part of the Covenant

who are yet to be welcomed in.

Who will tell them about the good news, if not us?

Homily for Easter 4A

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2014 at 2:02 am

On reflection it struck me

that I’ve been short-changing you on the “jokes” front lately. During the week I found

the self-described

“number one source of sheep related puns on the internet”, so here we go.

 

Now, a shepherd likes a quiet night.

When none of the sheep

need to be ushered back into the paddock.

At night, no ewes is good ewes.

 

If one does escape,

the shepherd will go and bring it back.

When it’s dark, that’s known as re-ewe-nighting.

Being so dark, some have suggested

re-ewe-nighting-lighting,

by using more rural lamb posts.

 

A “lamb post”, of course,

could be thought of in rambassadorial terms,

a sheep sent to the Ewe Ian (UN).

“Ian” is a very unusual name to give to a ewe, but still…

Sheep who have the opportunity to travel,

as North Otago’s history will attest,

prefer to do so by sea.

And of course,

they like to make sure everything is absolutely sheep shape.

 

I’ve got them all here, “The Wolf of Wool St”,

“Sheep of fools”, “woolly jumpers”,

“The Shaun Identity”

they start to get pretty weak after that.

 

You’ve made it this far, no doubt, by shear determination.

 

Well, the fourth Sunday in Easter each year

presents us with sheepy imagery.

This year, we have a glimpse of Jesus as Shepherd,

and by virtue of that,

the ancient image that we are somehow sheep-like.

But also that unique image of Jesus as the Gate.

 

Throughout John’s Gospel,

Jesus makes a series of profound “I am” statements.

The whole “I am” idea itself

points us back to the burning bush,

and Moses being told God’s name, “I am who I am”.

But Jesus chooses to reveal who he is to us

in these statements:

I am the living water

I am the bread of life

I am the Resurrection and the life, and others.

But this morning “I am the gate for the sheep.”

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a gate

doesn’t quite have the same poetry or profundity

as some of the other “I am” statements Jesus makes.

 

We know about gates.

They’re functional.

A bit rusty sometimes.

Some take more effort to shift or to shut

than they rightly deserve.

 

But Jesus isn’t comparing himself

to a farm gate as we know it,

he’s talking to farming people

who know about a different scale of stock to us,

where you know each one of the animals, by name,

and by names more meaningful than “Mint Sauce”.

Where the flock and the shepherd were an odd sort of family.

And the shepherd was, quite literally, the gate.

 

At night, when the flock was gathered up,

it was pastured somewhere safe,

where wolves and thieves couldn’t pick them off.

And the shepherd made his bed across the entrance,

so if you wanted to get out or some sort of predator

wanted to get in, the shepherd would know about it.

That’s the image Jesus uses.

“I am the gate for the sheep”.

 

Protection. Knowledge. Care.      If we’re sheep,

and that’s the image the Bible uses for us, often,

we are offered a place where we can be safe,

and if we stray or if predators come near,

we’re told that Jesus

is in that place of encounter or danger with us.

 

God in Jesus our Shepherd is with us in all these things.

Beside still waters,

in the valley of the shadow of death,

in the presence of our foes,

in Christ Jesus, God is there. The gate.

Making it meaningful, making it bearable, making it holy.

 

Illuminating all of it with resurrection light.

 

Like last week on the road to Emmaus,

Jesus is alongside us.

When all seems dark and done-with,

Jesus opens the gate of glory.

We are an Easter people.

We are standing in resurrection light today,

but in a very real sense

we’re still dealing with the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Jesus the Shepherd, the Gate

is there to make sure nothing fearful interrupts

our going out and our coming in.

 

There’s nothing unreliable or mis-hanging about this gate,

and we can trust for ourselves

and for those we place in God’s hands

that the pathway to God’s eternity

and the gate to God’s glory and light and love

is held open for us by the Saviour who has journeyed through all pain and passion to declare emphatically

that God-is-with-us, Emmanuel,

and that as he lives, we shall too.

 

The sheep of his flock, the people of his pasture.

Life, and in abundance. Today, and into eternity.

Easter 2A

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2014 at 10:41 pm

These things did Thomas count as real:
the warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone,
the last frail twitch of flesh and bone.

The vision of his skeptic mind
was keen enough to make him blind
to any unexpected act
too large for his small world of fact.

His reasoned certainties denied
that one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille
the markings of the spear and nail.

May we, O God, by grace believe
And thus the risen Christ receive,
whose raw, imprinted palms reach out –
and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.

Words by US poet and Professor Thomas Troeger.

 

His namesake – Thomas, Doubting Thomas,

is with us every Low Sunday.

He claims a space for us and those moments

when we wonder if last Sunday really happened.

When it seems just too hard to believe,

to set aside the perverse, reliable, comfort of hurt

or sheer rock solid refusal

to trust what someone else is saying.

Thomas missed the boat last week,

absent when the Risen Lord appeared that evening,

suddenly there in the midst of gathered, frightened disciples,

themselves apparently unconvinced

by Mary Magdalene’s testimony and Easter morning encounter.

Thomas missed that moment, and wasn’t going to have

a bar of this belief in something he could not touch.

Not even willing to engage in any sort of meaning

beyond the tactile, flesh and blood of reality.

Perhaps a bit like the slightly joyless – it seemed to me –

woman I heard interviewed on the radio this week,

who writes books for children

debunking fairytales from a scientific perspective.

Now it’s a week later, for Thomas and for us,

the first day of the week,

and now also the mystical eighth day,

the Lord’s Day, the day of new creation, new life.

Thomas is there this time when Jesus stands in the disciples’ midst. And Jesus takes him at his word.

Touch, he says. See. Reach out.

Do not doubt but believe.

And it turns out Thomas doesn’t need to touch.

Not in a literal sense.

He needs to know.

To know for himself.

To let go of the narrative he’s drawn over Jesus’ last days:

You might remember that he says to the disciples

that in going to Lazarus at Bethany, they will die with him.

 

And now Thomas needs to write a new chapter

to the story of death and darkness,

the fate he was so sure was theirs.

The world as he saw it has indeed died.

And a new life, new possibilities

replace the implacable rock of doubt and death.

 

From this moment of recognition,

of faith and belief reborn,

comes the most profound and complete statement

of trusting faith we have in all the Gospels,

words that from Thomas,

the outsider to news of the Resurrection,

become the testimony of the whole Church:

“My Lord and my God!”

How often do we stand with Thomas,

imagining our story’s stuck?

Our new beginnings over with?

Too hurt, or grief-stricken or tired or intransigent

to let things be different.

To believe Good News.

To change, to let go of the safety of a well-nursed doubt,

or a past slight, or the harsh judgement of self and sin.

 

James K. Baxter writes of his own journey,

Love is the answer to the dark voices

Of the demons that trouble us when youth has gone,

Saying, “You fool, you have had your day

And wasted it.” The spirit of a spring morning

When the wind moves gently over the grass

Is enough to tell us that the stone at the door of the tomb

has been lifted.

 

Alleluia. Adonai.

 

It seems to me that Thomas takes a week

to roll the rock of all of that away

from his understanding of the tomb.

It seems of profound importance too

that Jesus knows Thomas’ need to come to terms

with what has been so wounded and so broken on the cross.

What was such weakness is now glorious victory.

What was shattered is remade and redemptive.

Now transformed, the wounds of love on Jesus’

hands and side are not denied by Jesus’ resurrection.

They are real, and they are what a God

who chooses to be one with us,

to wear our flesh and blood, carries

in Christ risen from the dead

as emblems of that love, its cost, and of its triumph.

 

Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities worldwide

for people with intellectual disabilities, writes:

Jesus invites each one of us, through Thomas,
to touch not only his wounds,
but those wounds in others and in ourselves,
wounds that can make us hate others and ourselves
and can be a sign of separation and division.
These wounds will be transformed into a sign of forgiveness
through the love of Jesus
and will bring people together in love.
These wounds reveal that we need each other.
These wounds become the place of mutual compassion,
of indwelling and of thanksgiving.

We, too, will show our wounds
when we are with him in the kingdom,
revealing our brokenness
and the healing power of Jesus.