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Sermons

  • 22nd October 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 33: 12-23

    Maurice Andrew notes that Moses is still unsure of God’s presence on the journey. [1]

    Perhaps in putting Moses in the cleft in the rock until God has passed by we have a metaphor for the reality that, although we cannot look straight at God, the divine presence with us can be determined in the journey we have travelled. 

    How many times have we felt the ‘glory of God’ in a sunset, the moment that the day passes, or looked back at the difficult decisions we have made to achieve satisfying and enriching results and felt the presence of God in those decisions.

    Matthew 22: 15-22

  • 15th October 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 32: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew puts the impatience of the Hebrew people into our context by saying:

    This is like New Zealanders as they often act in both politics and in ethnic and social relationships, wanting to get on with things, making quick decisions.  We think that not mucking about is realistic, when all along we have not admitted what the true foundations and goals are.  Quick decisions favouring immediate goals cause time-consuming problems. [1]

    The story of the golden calf is grounded in our previous readings where difficulty causes the people to see security in past slavery and fear the freedom they are journeying towards.  The golden calf is not their god but a tangible image they can enslave themselves to. 

  • 8th October 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20

    Writing of today’s reading Maurice Andrew notes that contemporary New Zealanders still see the Decalogue as manageable and concise without apprehending the intricate creative framework that surrounds the law’. His most telling comment about contemporary Kiwis suggests people who keep saying, ‘I was poor, but I did this all by myself, and you can too’ are not liberated but even as atheists are worshiping other gods because they are ignoring the real basis of all life in the world. [1]

    That statement recognises our interconnectedness through creation.

    It is also in sympathy with the reality that we are a communal species and that is recognised in a statement by the father of the man who, from time to time, is the richest man in the world.

  • 1st October 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 17: 1-7

    Maurice Andrew tells of the text his grandparents had on the wall which read 'Streams in the desert' (Isaiah 35:6). He says:

    We had all been affected to some extent by the 1930’s Depression, but my grandparents lived by the broadly flowing Waikato, and we by the swift Rangitikei. I doubt whether any of us could have even imagined what a desert was like. So why did they have the text and why do I remember it?

    I think everyone realises they can have something akin to a wilderness experience in their life and that it is the very place where they are most refreshed.  The wilderness may be hostile, but it is there that the relationship with the environment can be renewed, both physically and metaphorically. [1]

  • 24th September 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 16: 2-15

    Maurice Andrew says ‘that creation does not liberate oppressed people but liberated people must be able to live from creation.’ [1]  That was very much the reality of the early migrants to this country, both Polynesian and European.  The early hunter gardener Polynesian migrants would have needed to develop new skills for new species and environment and many of the plants they brought wouldn’t grow in the more temperate climate. 

    Early European migrants came with farm animals and exotic plants from a similar climate and there were established communities of hunter gardeners to trade with.  But the land they came to was covered in forest so they still had to forage for much of their food until their form of agriculture became established.  

  • 17th September 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Exodus 14: 19-31

    In this section the Yahwist writer has God act through the natural forces, the East wind, while the priestly writer stresses Moses stretching out his hand over the sea.  Both writers are driven by their own agenda, the Yahwist see the creator acting through natural events and the priestly writer stresses the intermediary role of the priest, who in this case is Moses, bringing the people’s needs to God and acting on behalf of God to fulfil the divine purpose. 

  • 10th September 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 12: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew notes that this part of the narrative is in the form of regulations for performing the rite of Passover  [1]

    The Passover probably had its origin in seasonal migration with stock in search of grazing and the lamb was killed about the time of the spring equinox, as a means of warding off evil forces when shepherds and flocks set off on potentially dangerous journeys.[2]

  • 3rd September 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 3: 1-15

    As the story opens we find Moses going about his regular shepherding duties for his father-in-law.   There is little hint that all of life is about to change for him. 

    The angel of the LORD appears in a burning bush.  Moses is mystified by what he sees and approaches to satisfy his curiosity.[1]

    The burning bush is both a symbol of theophany, which means an appearance or experience of God, and a symbol of the people oppressed in slavery but not consumed.  When Moses approaches to see why the bush is not consumed God addresses him directly and personally.  God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the past but God who is also aware of the present distress and announcing future liberation.

  • 27th August 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 1: 8-2:10

    We now leave the Abraham saga and begin the Exodus saga.  Joseph came to Egypt as a slave and became the saviour in time of drought.  He not only saved the Egyptians, who he served, but also his own family who come to Egypt as refugees of the famine.  We now move to where the descendants of Joseph face the issue of all migrant minorities, they begin to be seen as a threat and to survive they engage in the occupations none of the first peoples wish to do.  In that way the descendants Joseph and his families return to the slavery that first brought Joseph to Egypt.  But their numbers mean they are still seen as a threat and become victims of the well known political ploy of gaining popular support by demonising a minority. 

    Matthew 16: 13-20

  • 20th August 2017

    Readings

    Geneses 45: 1-15

    We have been following the saga of Abraham’s dysfunctional family. We discovered that Abraham sends one son, Ishmael, and his surrogate mother out into the wilderness to die and then attempts infanticide on Isaac, his son by his wife.  Isaac’s sons struggle in the womb and Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright.  Jacob is exploited by his uncle, wrestles with his past and is reconciled with his brother.

    However, the intergenerational violence continues and Jacob’s sons deceive him and sell their youngest brother into slavery.  If we base our family values on this part of the Bible we are likely to invite state intervention.  But this is a saga about divine intervention restoring humanity despite themselves. Matthew 15: 21-28

  • 13th August 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 

    We now move to the next generation and begin the Joseph story.  We need to remember that Jacob had been renamed Israel at the wrestling incident because both names are used in this reading that begins in the household enterprise of ‘Jacob and Sons.’[1]

  • 6th August 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 32:22-31

    Jacob is approaching Esau who is coming towards him with 400 men.  The confrontation with a stranger, who is clearly Yahweh, rings very true of sleepless nights before major confrontations many of us have experienced. We rise the next morning knocked about by our dreams and fears only to find the expected confrontation turns out to be an enriching experience.  One commentator sees Yahweh in the present text but wonders about other spirits in earlier telling of the story.

    God confronts Jacob not only in human form but as Esau, whom he fears, as a night spirit belonging to a time when his fears are at their sharpest, as a river spirit because he is crossing a perilous boundary into the territory of Israel, and as the embodiment of the deepest hopes and fears of his mind. 

  • 30th July 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 29: 15-28

    Jacob’s journey takes him back to his own relatives but his return to his own land is delayed as Jacob the trickster is tricked by his uncle.  What goes around comes around we might say. Maurice Andrew says this story reminds us that it takes a long time to get back to our own place and delay is often caused by the family. [1]

    This is an interesting story when we remember that one of the stumbling blocks in uniting the two Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand was a change of New Zealand law in 1881 that allowed a widower to marry his deceased wife’s sister.[2]

    The historical background is that pioneer households were isolated enterprises in the same way that Jacob was isolated. 

  • 23rd July - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 28: 10-19a.

    Jacob has stolen his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing and now has to flee from Esau.  His father Isaac also sent him back to Haran to find a wife from their people just he had to.  Seeing that his father does not approve of marrying the locals Esau marries the daughter of his father’s half brother Ishmael.  This keeps the line of both sides of Abraham’s family free from Canaanite blood.

  • 16th July 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 25: 19-34.

    Family dysfunction and ambition now move to the next generation with the birth of the twins Jacob and Esau.

    Maurice Andrew writes that Jacob is a go-getter who is supposed to be subordinate to his brother but puts it over him by trickery and this is a type familiar to other folk stories.  He quotes Maui as also the little one who gets up to tricks and outwits his brothers. 

    Maurice says that the characters of Genesis 25 are more realistic than the modern idea of ‘religious’ people who are supposed to be all the same.   Jacob’s name suggests deviousness because it is associated with grasping the heel while Esau is the Bible’s prototype of the macho male.[1]

  • 9th July 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 24: 34-38, 42-49, 58-67

    Abraham didn’t want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman so he sent his servant back to where he had come from to find a wife for Isaac. 

    The servant did that and met Rebekah at the well, who was the daughter of Abraham’s brother, and he tells her of his mission and she goes back to her mother and her brothers.  Her brother Laban comes and meets Abraham’s brother and we pick up the story as the negotiations begin.

    Chapter 24 is the longest of the stories in this part of the Bible and different because, instead of acting directly, or through angels, God is seen acting though everyday events.[1]

  • 2nd July 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 22: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew makes the point that this is one of the world's great stories and some people ask what kind of God tests people in this way.[1]  Dr Andrew also notes that some have suggested that this story is included as a polemic against the mistaken tradition of sacrificing children.  That has some plausibility in the progress of faith development that Karen Armstrong sees taking place that transforms Yahweh the god of war into the voice in the burning bush who calls slaves to freedom and becomes the God of all creation, the only divine being.[2]

    This story might be seen as a divine adjustment of barbaric religious practices and forbidding the sacrifice of first born sons. 

  • 25th June 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 21: 8-21

    Because Sarah never had any children she arranged for her slave to be a surrogate mother to provide an heir for her husband.  However Sarah subsequently has a son of her own and then wants to ensure the inheritance for him and so the cycle of biblical dysfunctional families begins. 

    Maurice Andrew writes that the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael reintroduces the theme of death into the narrative.  However, in this episode death is transformed to life for this foreign women and her son when an angel calls to Hagar alerting her to the well..[1]  Hagar and Ishmael survive on the resources of the land rather that what is provided by the patriarchal household of Abraham. Abraham therefore becomes the father of two people’s and three religious traditions. 

    Matthew 10: 24-39

  • 18th June 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Genesis 18: 1-15

    The chapter begins by saying that Yahweh appeared to Abraham.  However, Abraham lacks the reader’s insight but his first reaction to the arrival of strangers is to offer hospitality and as a result he finds himself entertaining God.  This finding God in hospitality to strangers is also in Luke’s Emmaus Road incident. Last week we were told that Abraham was seventy-five when he began his journey and age again features in this section. 

    Like Abraham and Sarah it is important for us not to get tangled up in the biological plausibility

    We must but accept the message that there is a reality beyond ourselves that calls us to achievements we easily allow our past to label as impossible.  Allowing God to speak to us through the Bible requires us to focus on the meaning contained in the story rather than question the happenstance of the narrative.

    Matthew 9: 35-10: 8

  • 11th June 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 1: 1-2:4a

    Maurice Andrew says that in this passage the earth is envisaged as being without form or void and yet in that emptiness the spirit of God is moving on the face of the waters and something creative is about to happen.

    God says ‘let there be light’ and light brings day and night and with it the progress of time. ‘what we would call the environment, is a combination of space and time, with all the potential for their interaction.[1]

    Genesis 1 is therefore well grounded in science and happily sits alongside contemporary science as long as we acknowledge the power of myth and story to portray truth. 

    Matthew 28: 16-20

  • 4th June 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 2: 1-21

    This is the classic Pentecost reading where the failed frightened disciples become the transformed and transforming apostles of the Risen Christ. 

    The feast of Pentecost was one of the important Jewish festivals and, in understanding the multi-translating of the apostles’ preaching, it needs to be remembered that most people were bi-lingual and the apostles, like most Jews, probably spoke Aramaic and Greek.[1]

  • 28th May 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 1:6-14

    This passage is a sort of ‘story so far’ that picks up in more detail the action from the close of Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel finishes by saying:

    Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 

    While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)

    Luke’s Gospel is a journey from the countryside of Galilee to Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish world.  In that closing Luke has given a preview of what is to come and returned the disciples to Jerusalem. 

  • 21st May 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 17:22-31

    Our Reading from Acts is Paul’s speech at the Areopagus.  

    William Barclay highlights some of the main points of Paul’s sermon beginning with Paul stressing that, in contrast to images in precious metal and stone, God is not made but the maker.  People like to worship what they have made but the true God has guided history. Furthermore humanity has an instinctive longing for God and as Christians we believe the way to meet with God is Jesus Christ.  The proof of the pre-eminence of Christ is the resurrection.[1]

    John 14: 15-21

    Today’s reading is the part of Jesus’ farewell discourse that promises the disciples will not be left on their own when Jesus has gone because God will send ‘The Spirit of Truth’ or the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, . 

  • 7th May 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 2:42-47

    Barclay writes that ‘In this passage we have a kind of lightning summary of the characteristics of the early church.’[1]  This reading features the companionship of the church and we are reminded that community is an important part of church life as is the prayer of the community.

    John 10: 1-10

    This is the first of Jesus’ sheep, shepherd and sheepfold metaphors which are a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees from the preceding chapter.  In confirmation of that we can read that, after he has spoken about the sheep gate and the shepherd, his audience recalls the example of the blind man while others suggest he is demon possessed. 

  • 30th April 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 2:14a, 36-41

    As with last week’s reading we begin with the first part of verse 14 which explains that Peter is with the 11 surviving disciples and that he raises his voice and addresses the crowd.  Having worked through his proof texts Peter then concludes his sermon beginning at verse 36 and the reading moves on to the crowd’s reaction.  The chance of a new beginning seems to be a popular message because many are added to the group.

    Peter called for repentance, which was what John the Baptist called for, so in this sermon of Peter we see a continuation of the mission begun by John, defined through action by Jesus and now passed on by the apostles. 

    Luke 24:13-35

  • 16th April 2017 Easter - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 31: 1-6

    The opening verses of our reading from Jeremiah promise grace in the wilderness for those who survived the sword and that has continued to inspire people.  After a lost court case, Te Kooti based his encouragement to his people on that verse and promised that they too would find grace in the wilderness.[1] In many ways it truly is the resurrection message that new life springs from disaster and blossoms in the most unlikely places.

    Matthew 28: 1-10

    Each gospel writer describes a slightly different resurrection event and we need to refrain from being historical detectives that try and judge which story is the most plausible or endeavour to discern the historical thread that might be woven through each of them. 

  • 9th April 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

    This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 contain a mixture of motives.[1]

    What is important is that the psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus.  Bishop Spong uses that possibility to suggest that it was Tabernacles rather than Passover that brought Jesus to Jerusalem but such speculation could obscure the Gospels message.

    Matthew 21:1-11 

  • 2nd April 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Ezekiel 37: 1-14

    The divine voice in verse in our reading quotes the people as saying ‘our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely’.  Maurice Andrew says ‘the peoples situation demonstrates that Ezekiel’s vision is not an expression of faith in resurrection from literal death, but something far greater, of life for people who want to die’.[1]

    Ezekiel’s words in this passage suggest that no matter how bad things seem they can always be transformed and we should never assume that things will always stay the same and those who assumed they were beyond hope can receive life. 

    John 11: 1-45

  • 26th March 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1 Samuel 16: 1-13

    Saul had just got himself established when God declares to Samuel that Saul isn’t working out as a king.  Furthermore, God had already chosen a successor. 

    Now in this morning’s reading we meet Jesse’s youngest son whom Samuel anoints as future king.

    Maurice Andrew says that, although it is difficult to agree on the historicity or time of writing of this part of the Old Testament, there is no doubt that these stories are a skilful narrative with many insights into relationships.   Seven of David’s brothers are rejected and the point is made that humans look at outward appearance but God can see into people’s hearts. 

  • March 19th - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 17:1-7

    Writing of this Exodus reading Maurice Andrew suggests that:

    Creation does not of itself liberate an oppressed people, but a liberated people must also be able to live from creation, as we see when, after only three days in the wilderness, they find no water.  After liberation, people become migratory and their wandering is characterised not by the will to go forward for life, but by the desire to return to security.  In the difficult period between liberation and the gaining of land, which the wilderness wandering represents, the limitations of the people are witheringly exposed. [1]   We could call this episode ‘the whinging in the wilderness’ and there is a lot of it about.  

    John 4: 5-42

  • 5th March 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 2: 15-17 3:1-7

    The first two verses from chapter two deal with humanity’s relationship with the environment and introduces the tree of life, then from chapter three we have the description of the fall.  This has traditionally been used as the reason for evil in the world but it really speaks about the difficulty people have in making choices, our desire for more than our share and our in-built quest for power.

  • 26th February 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 24:12-18

    Maurice Andrew says that the role of Chapter 24 in Exodus is the linking of various elements of the Sinai revelation into a composite whole.  Moses goes up to God on the mountain, and receiving the Ten Commandments is described as theophany (appearance of God) on the mountain. 

    Mountain experiences can be awesome experiences of the otherness of God.  In this episode Moses is a human mediator of otherness to the people.

    For New Zealanders Andrew suggests that the recognition of this otherness means that no one individual, group or people can claim to represent God or the whole truth. [1]

    Matthew 17:1-9

    This is Matthew’s version of Mark 9: 2-9 and as we begin our journey to Easter it is read as an affirmation of Jesus’ divinity. 

  • 19th February 20117 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

    In this section of Leviticus holiness has to do with social-religious relations within the community of people.

    In Mark 12:31 Jesus quotes part of Leviticus 19:18 ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ and Maurice Andrew writes.

    When the words about loving your neighbour are quoted today, however, it is assumed that there is no problem in fulfilling them but both the Gospel and Leviticus challenge that assumption.  Mark adds a quotation from Deuteronomy ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart’ before the quotation from Leviticus.

    Leviticus itself follows the words immediately with ‘I am the Lord’. [1]

    Matthew 5: 38-48

  • 12th February 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

    Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy is about restoration, if the people remember the blessings and curses during their exile, then Yahweh will restore their fortunes.  In the passage we read we are told that God has set life and death before the people, blessings and curses. The choice is surely to choose life so the people and their descendants may live.  Maurice Andrew writes that the astounding thing is that the present people had chosen death but it was still possible for them to choose life.  Verse 19 calls appealingly ‘Choose life so that you and your descendants may live’. [1]

    Matthew 5: 21-37

  • 5th February 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 58:1-9a,

    Today’s reading from Isaiah is similar to last week’s reading from Micah in as much as it contrasts human devised worship with the worship that God desires.

    Isaiah’s words are more detailed and have more of a challenge to them.  Micah wanted us to walk humbly with God and Isaiah expects that too but he also wants some action, a rethink of our expectations and lives changed. 

    Maurice Andrew suggests that people want to be given credit for their fasting, but the trouble is they serve their own interest on a fast day, oppressing their workers.  Restoration of buildings and institutions are not satisfactory in themselves unless bread is shared with the hungry and the oppressed are allowed to go free. [1]  Angela will read for us

    Matthew 5:13-20

  • 29th January 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Micah 6: 1-8 

    Maurice Andrew sees a deliberate pattern of judgment and restoration in the Book of Micah and the section we read this morning is in the nature of a legal dispute of Yahweh against the people. 

    The question then is ‘how can they return to being God’s people, will Yahweh be pleased with extravagant worship, sacrifice of thousands of rams, even child sacrifice?

    Not so we discover as the conclusion of the passage gives God’s requirement which is a contrast to the excessive religious practice that humanity might imagine as necessary and a good introduction to our Gospel reading. [1]

    Matthew 5: 1-12

  • 22nd January 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 9:1-4

    Maurice Andrew notes that Isaiah 9 begins with an obscure prose passage that perhaps links this chapter to the gloom of the previous chapter.  The poetry then talks of the people who walked in darkness seeing a great light. 

    Andrew draws attention to a letter written by The Maori Prophet Wiremu Ratana to Moriori Leader Tommy Solomon in 1924 explaining the origin of his vision and asking Solomon to call a meeting and recruit converts. [1]   

    Matthew 4: 12-23

    Warren Carter heads the first section of our reading ‘Jesus, The Light’ Shines in Imperial Darkness’ which refers to Matthew’s use of the quotation from our Isaiah reading. 

  • 1st January 2017 - Hugh Perry

    Isaiah 63:7-9

    Isaiah 63: begins with a section of terrible vengeance which Maurice Andrew calls one of the bloodiest expressions of judgment in the Hebrew Scripture.  He notes that A.K. Grant refers to that passage when he quotes Lord Goddard saying ‘all the fun’s gone out of judging since we stopped hanging people’[1]  The Passage we read follows on from that terror by remembering Yahweh’s gracious deeds of the past so perhaps what we learn is that the Bible contains disaster and terror alongside hope because the Bible addresses life that is real.

    Matthew 2:13-23

  • 25th December 2016 Christmas Morning - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 62: 6-12

    In the section of Isaiah we are about to read the prophet looks to a new restored Jerusalem following a time of exile.  As Jerusalem was the home of the temple and the focus of religious and political life Isaiah’s poetry sees the restoration of God’s people and the restoration of Jerusalem as the same thing.

    After the destruction of the temple the followers of Jesus began to see the Risen Christ filling the role of the temple for the new people of God whose access to God is through the image of God we have in Jesus.

    Luke 2: 8-20

    In the opening of Chapter 2 Luke places the events he is describing in history by naming important officials. In doing so he also draws our attention to his parody of the official biographical myth of Emperor Augustus.  Luke appears to be saying, ‘You call the Emperor Lord and Saviour.  

  • 18th December 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 7:10-16

    God called on King Ahaz to have faith, the positive faith of putting trust in what is reliable rather than clutching at straws.  This proves too hard for the King so now Isaiah gives him a sign. 

    Maurice Andrew stresses that this was a passage written for its time, not a prediction for centuries to come. 

    Furthermore and the word Isaiah uses does not mean ‘virgin’ but young woman and she may just have been standing there while Isaiah and the king were talking.[1]

    Matthew 1: 18-25

    Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy that places Jesus within the family tree of Hebrew leadership as well as within the scriptural tradition through John and Elijah. 

    In so doing Matthew introduces Jesus as someone his culture would recognise as destined for a life that will change history.

  • 11th December 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 35:1-10

    In this section the return of the exiles is expressed in terms of the transformation of the wilderness and the transformation of the environment which coincides, or perhaps is linked, with a transformation in humanity. 

    People transform their environment and are transformed by their environment.

    Maurice Andrew remembers that his grandparents had the text ‘streams in the desert’ on their bedroom wall and he goes on to say that they lived by the Waikato River and he doubts if he could ever have imagined what a desert was like. 

    He thinks they had the text on the wall because everyone realises, whatever their circumstances, there are times when transformation is needed and that even people in their own country may still need to return to their land and find their way back to where they belong. [1]

  • 4th December 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 11:1-10

    This is the third of the great restoration passages found in the first 12 chapters of Isaiah and these all have their own dimensions which can be added to each other. 

    Maurice Andrew wonders if the mention of the ‘stump of Jesse’ indicates some judgement on the Davidic dynasty. [1]

    If Andrew is correct the Stump of Jesse becomes a back to basics metaphor that bypasses the excesses and iniquities of David and his successors and returns to first principles of justice and righteousness of his shepherd background and giant killing attributes.  It also goes back to the family DNA before it was corrupted by foreign queens. 

    Matthew 3: 1-12

    Warren Carter links John the Baptist to the Hebrew Prophets as he writes of this section of Matthew’s Gospel:

  • 27th November 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 2:1-5

    Maurice Andrew notes that it is a feature of Isaiah that passages of judgment are deliberately interspersed with those on restoration and those writers who see the prophets as being only about doom have clearly not read the prophetic books.  

    The passage we read this morning contains what Maurice Andrew claims ‘may be the most appealing words about peace ever written’.  ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks’

    These words are found in front of the United Nations Building in New York and on the front of the international exhibition halls in Moscow there is a sculpture without inscription of a man clearly beating a sword into a ploughshare. [1]

    Matthew 24:36-44

  • 13th November 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 65:17-25

    The passage of Isaiah shifts from fretting about returning from exile to a vision of life in wider terms where good triumphs over evil and the just are vindicated.  Furthermore this vision is not just for Israel but for the entire cosmos, there will be a new heaven and a new earth and things like, being taken into exile, will not be remembered.  Maurice Andrew says that it sounds like there is a party going on but he also points out:

    That although the passage begins and ends with references to the transformation of nature, the central part is firmly grounded in Jerusalem and its population, the transformation of short and distressed lives, rebuilding both homes and agriculture with security for the people who do the work. [1]

  • 6th October 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                           November 6th 2016

    Readings

    Haggai 1: 15b-2:9

  • 23rd October 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joel 2: 23-32

    This reading from the book of Joel speaks of a transformation that has no limits of gender and class.  God will pour out the divine spirit on all flesh and this outpouring is evident in the most unlikely people.  One writer takes from this passage the image of a tornado on a Pacific island where all life seems to end but in fact life is still in the soil waiting for the sun to follow the storm.  It is also interesting that the original name for Te Kooti’s warriors Nga Moreau, ‘the survivors’ came from this passage. [1]

    Luke 18:9-14

  • 16th October 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 31:27-34

    Our reading this morning from Jeremiah moves from impending doom to coming restoration but there is still the prophet’s sting in the message.  The old covenant had been broken so there needed to be a new covenant.  Rather than the law being written on tablets of stone it will be written on the people’s hearts.  The new covenant will become part of the people’s total being. [1]

    Claudia Orange writes that Hone Heke used to speak of the Treaty as the new covenant and Ngapuhi continue to regard the Treaty as a sacred covenant that both unites all Maori tribes and acts as a bond of union between races.[2]

  • 9th October 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

    We read this morning Jeremiah’s message for the exiles which, as usual, is unpopular but realistic.  ‘The exile is going to last a long time, make the best of it’.  They are to build houses for their families and even pray for the city they have been taken to.

    This is a message for all displaced persons and a message of peace.  It is the message about making a positive contribution to a new situation rather than looking back to a past that is lost.  It is the message that has guided the Jews in Diaspora ever since.  Maurice Andrew says that the aims of the Council of Jewish Women in New Zealand are based on verse seven and the command to seek the peace of the city.   It is a message of new beginnings after all sorts of disaster and disruption, even earthquakes.

    Luke 17:11-19

  • 2nd October 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Lamentations 1:1-6

    We read from the opening verses in the book of Lamentations which depicts Jerusalem as a widow.  Its placement following Jeremiah is perhaps because it depicts Israel after the Babylonian conquest and exile that Jeremiah describes.  Maurice Andrew notes that exile can be a significant image for people who have lost but have not literally been exiled and he quotes Canon John Tamahori from an article by Jack Lewis.

    ‘The Maori people are experiencing the Exile.  It is not that they have been forced out of their country – although some have followed the journeying tradition of their tûpuna and have joined in a voluntary Diaspora into other lands. It is rather that there is a sense of something lost, something with great injustice, sometimes by natural circumstances. There is a deep hunger to put down roots again. 

  • 25th September 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

    The setting in today’s reading from Jeremiah is the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in which Jeremiah is imprisoned for saying that the Babylonians will capture the city. 

    Now in today’s reading Jeremiah expresses hope for the future by buying a piece of land and so indicates that this time of siege will pass and, as always, hope will be fulfilled through land. [1]

    It is perhaps also a message of hope for people in Christchurch where there are already signs of rebuilding reminding us that things will return to normal and businesses will continue.  However where land has been torn apart and now needs more expensive foundations the value of land has dropped in proportion, but Jeremiah’s message is that even that land will find a new normal as pressure for sections grows. 

  • 18th September 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

    Our reading from Jeremiah this morning is a lament on behalf of the poor. 

  • 11th September 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28

  • 4th September - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 18, 1-11

    The message in this passage is clearly that Yahweh is able to work with Israel as the potter works with clay.  Maurice Andrew writes that up to this point the book is positive about Israel’s future.  However at chapter 18 verses 7-11 the focus moves from the positive activity of the potter to the clay that has its own capacity to choose what happens to it.  Then suddenly the address is switched to Judah and Yahweh becomes a potter shaping evil against them.  This is intended as a strong warning for them to turn from their evil ways.[1]

    Luke 14:25-33

  • 21st August 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 1, 4-10

    This morning’s reading is about God empowering Jeremiah, God puts the divine words in Jeremiah’s mouth.  This is known as word-event formula and although it is not found in earlier prophets it occurs 30 times in Jeremiah, 50 times in Ezekiel, and 12 times in the Deuteronomistic History.  Maurice Andrew suggests that it indicates that Jeremiah is a prophet to the nations like the servant in Isaiah and he is also a Deuteronomy prophet like Moses.

    Jeremiah is the prophet most identified with doom and this is supported by verse 10 where he is commissioned ‘to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow. ‘

  • 14th August 2016- Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 5, 1-7

    In this passage from Isaiah the people of Jerusalem are provoked into accepting judgement on themselves. The friend has done everything possible to cultivate a vineyard and would expect it to produce grapes.  At that point the people of Jerusalem are called to make a judgement between the friend and the vineyard. 

    Finally the friend is identified as God and the vineyard is the people of Judah.  God expected justice but received bloodshed.[1]

    Luke 12:49-56

    Fred Craddock says that Jesus is the crisis of the world and by that he does not mean an emergency but the moment of truth and decision about life. 

  • 20th July 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                           July 10th 2016

    Readings

    Amos 7:7-17

  • 3rd July 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2nd Kings 5:1-14

    Maurice Andrew notes that the prophets are a disturbing but creative force within the establishment of state religion.  Here we see the influence of a prophet going beyond Israel—even to an enemy as Naaman was the commander of a nation that is a threat to Israel.  Elisha's healing of Naaman was mediated through a woman, this time a captive slave.  The outcome of this disregard of rank, privilege and nation confused the foreigner and he declares that there is indeed' no god but the God of Israel. 

    However in the next section the greed of Elisha's servant sets him apart from the healing power that crosses boundaries of nations and class and the deadly disease is transferred to him[1]

  • 19th June 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 19: 1-4, 8-15a

  • 12th June 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 21: 1-10, 15-21

    From Jezebel’s point of view taking possession of the land was an appropriate response to Naboth’s insubordination.  However just as Ahab rose up and took possession of Naboth’s vineyard so Elijah is called to arise and go and give God’s word to Ahab.  In Hebrew understanding a king’s authority could not override God’s rule and this is perhaps a good message for democracies also.

    Maurice Andrew writes that injustice comes about through the way people ordinarily act and at the beginning Ahab’s desires are really quite reasonable.  Naboth’s vineyard is near and Ahab needs a vegetable garden.  Ahab does not threaten Naboth with force at this stage.  On the contrary, he makes him a reasonable offer: an even better vineyard, or a cash settlement.[1]

  • June 5th 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 17: 8-16

    Maurice Andrew points out that the story we are about to read about the widow follows the same general theme as the one that immediately follows where the son is restored from death.  In fact some of the other Elijah and Elisha stories are very similar.  The theme is that Yahweh has the power over life and death and therefore, unlike Baal, Yahweh is the true God of life.  Andrew goes on to quote Claudia Camp who points out that five of the eight miracle stories involving Elijah and Elisha also include women.  Women represent the groups struggling for survival, and the miracle stories are stories of empowerment.[1]

    Luke 7: 11-17

  • 29th May 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 18: 20 -21, 30-39

    This is the famous story of Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal.  Jezebel is represented as killing the prophets of Yahweh but Maurice Andrew suggests that if that happened there would have been a political, rather than simply a religious, motive.  This is a confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal but the challenge is primarily to the Israelites as shown in verse 21, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions?

  • 15th May 2016 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 11:1-9

  • 24th April 2016

    Readings

    Acts 11: 1-18

    This section of Acts is significant because the early followers of Jesus saw ‘the way’ as a reform of Judaism and all their cultural conditioning would encourage them to keep it within Judaism.  ‘Luke’, says William Barclay ‘sees this incident as a notable mile-stone on the road along which the Church was groping its way to the conception of a world for Christ’.[1]

    It seems to be a strong group building practise to limit diet, dress or behaviour as a distinguishing mark that encourages our ‘in group’, ‘out group’ instincts.  But the early church seems to have overcome that tendency even though later sections introduced new sanctions.  It is about defining rightness by the wrongness of others and avoids the challenge of self reflection and doubt.

  • 10th April 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 9 1-6

    In Acts Chapter 6 verse 8 we are told that Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.  In chapter 7 we read about people getting angry with Stephen and stoning him to death and in 7:58 it says: ‘Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul’.  Chapter 8 then begins: ‘and Saul approved of their killing him’. That introduces Saul and then the action moves off somewhere else.  Now meet Saul again at the beginning of chapter 9. 

  • 3rd April - Hugh perry

    Readings

    Acts 5:27-32.

    This is the time of the church year that we read from the book of Acts, which is Luke’s sequel to his Gospel and tells the story of the emerging Church.  In chapter five we are told that more than ever believers were added to the Lord and the high priest and the Sadducees where filled with jealousy so they arrested the apostles and put them in prison.  However during the night an angel let them out of prison and they went back to the temple the next morning and preached again so they arrested them again and brought them to the high priest. 

  • 27th March 2016 Easter Morning - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 65: 17-25

    As we move into the concluding passages from Isaiah, where everything is to be restored, the new thing in chapter 43 has now become much more specific.  There will be a new heavens and a new earth.  With our scientific world view we could imagine this as a cosmic event, the colliding of galaxies and the birth and death of stars.  However Maurice Andrew brings us to the text and suggests that what the poet is talking about is a shift from the focus on the immediate concerns relating to the return from exile to a vision of a triumph of good over evil and a vindication of the righteous that is brought about by divine intervention.[1]

    There are many times in history and situations when it seems that the only way that justice will prevail and good people will be vindicated is through divine intervention. 

  • 20th March 2016 Palm Sunday - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

    This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 are a mixture of motives.[1]

    What is important is that the psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus.  As with so many instances the gospel writer is using tradition to express meaning about Jesus rather than give historical detail as we might expect.

    Luke 19: 28-40

  • 13th March 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 43: 16-21

    This part of Isaiah is dealing with the return from Babylon and our section begins with a reference to the exodus and the rescue from the Egyptian army.  Rather than looking back this reference points to a new exodus, what God is doing for the people now.  ‘The main thing’ Maurice Andrew says ‘is not even a prediction of what God is going to do but a soaring effort to get the people to recognise that the creative event is what lies immediately before them.’.[1] Verse 19 says ‘I am about to do a new thing; see now it springs forth, do you not perceive it.’

    John 12: 1-8

  • 6th march 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joshua 5: 9-12

    Our reading begins in the new land as the people recovered from the circumcision of those who had been born on the wilderness journey.  Verse 9 makes the point that this ritual makes the removing of all connections with Egypt so the people are free to start afresh in a new place.

    The book of Joshua, according to Maurice Andrew, is not only an account of taking the land but also an acknowledgement that people must give up their fear of freedom and be prepared to start afresh in a strange place..[1]

  • 28th February 2016

    Readings

    Isaiah 55:1-9

    In this chapter the covenant with David is applied to all people.  This is an open offer of food which is good and those who thirst can come to the waters, and people can buy wine and milk without money and presumably without GST.  What is on offer is life for all and the implication of the poetic metaphors is that whatever is offered in this section of Isaiah is there to be accepted and the aim is continuing life for all.

    In a demonstration that it really is people in general this offer is directed at, Yahweh says that he is making an everlasting covenant with them so that the covenant that is promised to David and his descendants is now transferred to the people.  David was a commander of people but in this new covenant nations who do not even know Israel will come into their own.[1]

    Luke 13: 1-9

  • February 21st 2016 - Hugh perry

     Readings

    Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18

    In this section of the Abraham Saga Abram continues childless and Maurice Andrew notes that The Old Testament is realistic about time and God’s promises are not fulfilled immediately.  He goes on to say that delay in fulfilling the promise is a theme that could have been taken up in succeeding periods of Israel’s history.  Some scholars see the background to this passage as a time when ‘possession of the land, and indeed the continuing existence of Israel, could no longer be taken for granted.  Therefore this passage reflects a time of uncertainty and danger and, as a result later times are expressed through earlier times and through trusted figures of the past.  This frequently happens in the Old Testament and is an ancient way of grounding an assurance for the future.[1]

  • 7th February 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 34:29-35

    Exodus 34 introduces the Decalogue or Ten Commandments which is the basis of the covenant that will allow the people to continue their journey and live in the land.  Moses meets with God face to face but the people receive God’s message through Moses.  The fact that Moses met with God was revealed in the glowing of his face and he was affirmed as a walking presence of God because the skin of his face shined after each meeting with God. [1]

    This shining face, caused by the presence of God, is echoed in our reading from Luke as affirmation of the divine presence in Jesus.

    Luke 9, 28-36

  • 31st January 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 1: 4-10

    This reading is Jeremiah’s call and commission and follows what is called a word-event formula. 

     ‘The word of Yahweh came to me saying’ combines both speaking and happening as Yahweh appoints Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations.  Maurice Andrew writes that Jeremiah is the prophet most associated with doom and he often felt that Jeremiah is the journalist’s favourite prophet.  He recalls a TV programme where Hamish Keith spoke of ‘the Jeremiahs of journalism’.

    However although the book of Jeremiah has doom it also has hope and Maurice Andrew would rather say Jeremiah is realistic in saying disaster can happen. [1].

  • 24th January 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10

    According to Maurice Andrew, and the sources he quotes, Nehemiah chapter 8, which we are reading from, once belonged to the book of Ezra.  The place of the reading of the law is at the original Watergate and mention of ‘the book of the law of Moses’ indicates that Ezra had a written collection of Torah. 

    Andrew also notes that the law was read and others explained its meaning so it seems to mark the beginning of the exposition of written scripture which has remained an essential part of Judaism and Christianity. [1]. Raewyn is reading for us

    Luke 4:14-21

    Luke introduces this episode in his home synagogue as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than follow Matthew and Mark who place it later in the narrative 

  • 3rd January 2016 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 60: 1-6

    This section of Isaiah deals with a restored Jerusalem at a time when not everyone has returned and the city is in need of an influx of people.  In verse four the people are encouraged to notice that people really are returning and then the poem goes on to suggest that wealth will also return to the city. 

    The two things that an economy needs is adequate population and investment and the things that Isaiah is promising sounds very much what our government tries to achieve.  It is also relevant to the rebuilding of Christchurch which needs investment beyond the insurance payouts, and an influx of skilled workers.

    But Isaiah speaks across the centuries to also remind us that we need to open our eyes to see both our own people returning and also recognise the contribution of those who have stayed and are making new contributions in this new time.

    Matthew 2: 1-12

  • Christmas Eve 2015

      Readings

    Isaiah 9: 2-7

    The original context of Isaiah’s poem of hope we are about to read talks about release from oppression by the Assyrians.

    However we can also understand how the gospel writers used it to frame their narratives and to give meaning to Jesus, particularly in the birth stories of Matthew and Luke. 

    We also live in a world where people are oppressed, both by military powers and corporate economic power and the message of the gospels is that liberation from such domination is not by opposing force by force but through love that is born among us.

    Luke 2:1-14.

  • Christmas 2015 -- Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 62: 6-12

    In the section of Isaiah we are about to read the prophet looks to a new restored Jerusalem following a time of exile.  As Jerusalem was the home of the temple and the focus of religious and political life Isaiah’s poetry sees the restoration of God’s people and the restoration of Jerusalem as the same thing.

    After the destruction of the temple the followers of Jesus began to see the Risen Christ filling the role of the temple for the new people of God whose access to God is through the image of God we have in Jesus.

    Luke 2: 8-20

  • 27th December 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1 Samuel 2:18-20

    Hanna was childless and her husband’s other wife used to give her a hard time about that.  Possibly because Hanna’ was their husbands favourite wife.  A critical reading of the story shows a family full of domestic tension and patriarchal insensitivity.

    However Hanna prays for a child to Yahweh at Shiloh and in her prayer promises that if she does conceive the child will be to serve God.

    Luke 2:41-52

    When Mary meets Elizabeth she sings the Magnificat which is based on the song that Hannah sings when she leaves the baby Samuel with Eli the priest.  Clearly Luke makes a link between Hannah the mother who leaves her son to be brought up to serve God and Mary whose Son is predestined by God to carry out God’s purpose.  As our reading from 1 Samuel explored Samuel’s development, so Luke gives us a window to the early development of Jesus.

    Sermon

  • 20th December 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Micah 5:2-5a

    Along with Isaiah 9 and 11 this is one of the best known Messianic passages but it also has a rich Hebrew Scripture context.  At the time this was written Jerusalem had been totally destroyed so the point Micah is making is that the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Davidic monarchy does not thwart God’s intentions.  God is able to bring leadership from the least important place and the least important family.[1].

  • 6th December 2015 (Advent 2) Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Malachi 3: 1-4

    The name Malachi means ‘my messenger’ and many scholars think the name of the book is taken from 3:1 ‘see I am sending my messenger’ rather than being the name of an individual prophet called Malachi. Regardless of how the name came about the book is a collection of anonymous texts.

    In Christian context the messenger to prepare the way before me is understood to refer to John the Baptist but Maurice Andrew points out that in its original context this is a message for people who are behaving in a particular way that the prophet disapproves of and he is saying that the messenger will have something to say about that.  Andrew also points out that the assumption that the prophet is referring to John the Baptist assumes the messenger is a human but the Hebrew word messenger also means ‘angel’.[1]

  • 29th November 2015 (Advent 1) - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 33: 14-16

    This passage from Jeremiah follows predictions of a new covenant and Jeremiah buying a field as an expression of hope in the future.  In this small section we read the covenant is seen as restoring the fortunes of both the Davidic rulers and the people.  Maurice Andrew puts this in our context by quoting Claudia Orange recording Hone Heke speaking of the treaty as the new covenant.  As Christ was the New Covenant and as the old Mosaic Law was put aside on conversion to Christianity, so the treaty, with its promise of a new relationship between the Crown and Maori chiefs, could be likened to the new covenant’ [1]

    As Advent reminds us of our Christian covenant we need to look at what new promises are in front of us and what past promises are still relevant and need to be renewed in light of what the future offers.

  • 22nd November 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2 Samuel 23: 1-7

    This poem is labelled the last words of David and portrays David as the mediator of God.  And the relationship between God and David’s household is seen as a covenant which legitimises the Davidic dynasty.

    What is important to note is that the poem is followed by a list of David’s warriors which shows that David and his reign owes a lot to other people and not even confidence in God can allow David to forget the strength and loyalty of those who have supported him.[1]

    Not only is divine providence most apparent in hindsight but it is often worked out through people we encounter and people we depend on.  The challenge is to expect divine providence and to appreciate the contribution others make to our journey.

    John 18: 33-37

  • 15th November 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1Samuel 1: 4-20

    We read the beginning of the book of Samuel which describes the significant details of Samuel’s birth. Hannah is the favourite wife of her husband Elkanah but expresses inadequacy, and indeed is tormented by Elkanah’s other wife because she has not had any children.  Her husband suggests that he loves her more than ten sons.  That has echoes the women of Bethlehem assuring Naomi that Ruth is more than seven sons to her.  What we are also reminded of from that previous book is, that without sons, Ruth and Naomi were destitute and that would be Hannah’s fate if her husband died, especially as there seems to be rivalry with the other wife in the household.

    In praying for a son Hannah promises that he will be a Nazirite, leading a life set apart and apprenticed to the priest Eli. 

    Mark 13: 1-8

  • 1st November 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Ruth 1: 1-18

    The book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible is placed in the third division known as the writings, which is where Maurice Andrew thinks it belongs.  In our Bible it is placed to meet a Christian agenda, after the book of Judges, which closes with the words ‘In those days there was no king in Israel; all people did what was right in their own eyes.’  The next book following is Samuel which introduces David the ideal king which messianic expectations look back to.[1]

    Feminist scholars of course point out that this means the time of chaos in Judges where everyone does what they like is transformed into the time of order under David by the action of two women.

  • 25th October 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Job 42:1-6, 10-17

    This morning we conclude our reading from Job with Job’s admission to God’s questioning that he is just human and does not know everything and the prose ending were all his fortunes are restored.  The lectionary edits out an interesting section where God instructs Job to pray for the friends who gave him all the bad advice.  It seems that they misrepresented God so much that only the righteous Job can pray for their forgiveness.  What they said may well have annoyed God but it was also most hurtful and cruel to Job and yet he does as God asks and prays for their forgiveness. 

    The ending of Job is strange as he is now given double everything that he had at the beginning.  However we might wonder that although twice as many children might return his status surly it cannot negate the grief for the children were lost.

    Maurice Andrew concludes:

  • 11th October 2015

    Readings

    Job 23: 1-9

  • 4th October - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Job 1:1, 2:1-10

    The first verse introduces Job as a blameless, upright and God fearing man.  This book is very much the counter to the prosperity gospel.  Job does everything right and everything bad happens to him.

    Chapter two give us a vision of the heavenly court with Satan as a sort of inquisitor or council of the prosecution whose task is to make sure humanity is behaving itself.  Maurice Andrew notes that this is only one of three times when the Satan or adversary is introduced in the Hebrew Bible the other two being 1 Chronicles 21:1 and Zechariah 3:1.  He is not the originator and incorporation of evil here but a rather realistic challenge to traditional piety.

  • 27th September 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Esther 7: 1-6, 9-10 , 9:20-22

    Esther is one of the women in the Bible who saves the people during a time of exile.  She was the ward of her cousin Mordecai and became queen of Persia and Media by winning a royal beauty contest after queen Vashti is discarded.  Maurice Andrew notes that the men in the opening part of the story are ridiculous and her banishment unjust.  She is silenced for her courage and Maurice presumes that is the reason that a New Zealand feminist paper is called Vashti’s Voices.[1]

    Mark 9: 38-50

    In the first section of this reading the disciples are rebuked for their exclusive attitude and Hooker suggests that it may reflect disputes within the early community where some leaders might have wanted to exercise a monopoly of certain gifts. 

  • 20th September 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Proverbs 31: 10-31

    The reading this morning is from the closing verses of the book of Proverbs.  If you remember last week we read from the beginning where we were introduced to woman wisdom who taught at the city gate and today we find this wisdom as the good wife who does some very male things like property speculation.  Claudia Camp sees a link between the feminisation of wisdom at the beginning and end of the book to form a unity that includes this feminine wisdom throughout the book.  Judith McKinlay however wonders if the strong willed woman wisdom at the beginning of the book has in fact been domesticated into the dutiful wife at the end.[1]

    Mark 9: 30-37

  • 13th September 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Proverbs 1: 20-33

    Maurice Andrew makes the point about our reading from the first chapter of Proverbs that Wisdom is personified as a women. He then adds that Judith McKinlay sees this woman as a strong confrontational woman who invites people in public to listen to her in the same way as the prophets do and she pours out her spirit on redeemed Israel.  In verse 22 Wisdom is presented as a traditional Wisdom teacher, so she is strikingly associated with authoritative figures.  The effect of the personification, Andrew writes, is to make Wisdom something that can be given and is not merely the object of human achievement.  That requires some reflection because in our context we often find it difficult to accept the concept of an existing sense in life that we have not worked for ourselves.[1]

    Mark 8:27-38

  • September 6th 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23

    This is a selection of short proverbs encouraging generosity to the poor and the quest for justice rather than wealth.  Maurice Andrew places this section as straddling the second and third collection of proverbs. The second section is short sentences often using antithetic parallelism (lines of similar length and rhythm but opposite meaning).  The third selection may have been used to educate young men entering service in the royal court and unlike the third person style of the second section the style now moves to direct address of a second person.

    Maurice notes that robbing the poor because they are poor sounds very like revising the finances of a country by reducing the benefits of those with the fewest resources. [1]

  • 23rd August 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 8: 22-30, 41-43

    We skip forward a few chapters to the opening of the temple and discover that Solomon has achieved the building of the temple his father David was unable to build.  In doing so Solomon has made his capital not only the political heart of the nation, but also the spiritual capital as well.  This means the monarchy is aligned with the temple thereby claiming extra authority as a nation and for Solomon, a virtual theocracy where Solomon rules on God’s behalf. 

  • 16th August - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 2: 10-12, 3:3-14

    We avoid the further violence and political manoeuvring to establish Solomon as David’s heir and begin reading with the death of David and his succession by Solomon.   We then skip to the vision of God in a dream where Solomon asks for wisdom and is not only granted that request but his reign is blessed because of the request.

    Maurice Andrew notes that in the ancient world stories of dreams answered political ideological questions about the sort of kingship the monarch would have. [1]  

    The reading also shows Solomon’s worship as extravagant because the writer wants to make the point that he was a great king.

  • 9th August 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

    The lectionary gives us snippets of a growing and continuing power struggle within the royal household and within the nation which is not uncommon among feudal monarchies, wealthy families and corporations and indeed democracies although the violence is more subtle or hidden in the contemporary world.  The consequences of David’s lifestyle began to work themselves out and violence erupts among the king’s children, Absalom conspires to kill his brother Amnon because he raped their sister and eventually Absalom is led into open revolt against his father David.  The carnage of the resulting civil war eventually puts Bathsheba’s son nearer to the throne.  

    John 6:35, 41-51

  • 26th July 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2 Samuel 11:1-15

    In today’s reading we are able to reflect on the unfortunate side of absolute monarchies as David not only commits adultery and conspires to cover up the crime.[1]  David is presented as a great king but also as realistic with human failings and those failings are challenged in chapter 12 which begins ‘But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh’.

    There is a hint of Wesley’s theology of Providence here because although David’s actions here are abominable God still brings ultimate good from David’s reign. 

  • 19th July 2015 - Hugh Perry

     Readings

    2 Samuel 7:1-14

    This reading from 2nd Samuel is a key passage between David establishing himself as king and the further history of Davidic kingship.[1]  David wanted to build a house for God which is something that kings and cities like to do because it announces to the world that God is present in their kingdom or city.  It also infers that God is on their side or even under their control.  David is told by Nathan that God does not need a house because the divine presence is with the people but the temple will be built by David’s son.  God through Nathan goes on to promise that David’s house will last forever.  That is house in terms of an ongoing household or ruling family as in house if Windsor rather than David’s palace.

  • 12th July 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

    This reading from 2nd Samuel records the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem which establishes the city as both a religious and political capital that brings both northern and southern tribes together.  We remember from last week that Jerusalem had been captured from the Jebusites and was therefore on neutral ground having not been part of either the northern or southern kingdoms.

  • 5th July 2015 - Hugh perry

    Readings

    2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

    This reading from 2nd Samuel records the unification of the two kingdoms under David and the establishment of the capital in Jerusalem but avoids the details of the capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites which makes it clear that at that point Jerusalem was not part of Israel.  The anointing by all the elders is a symbol of the unification of Israel under one king but asks questions about Samuel’s anointing of the boy David earlier.  Maurice Andrew answers that question by writing that ‘to say David was anointed by Samuel from the beginning expresses the conviction that David would inevitably and ultimately become king and that this was Yahweh’s will.’ [1]

    Mark 6:1-13

  • 28th June 2015- Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2nd Samuel 1:1, 17-27

    The lectionary now skips to the aftermath of the death of Saul and Jonathan where David prepares to assume the throne and we get a glimpse of David the politician taking over from David the general.  As commander of the victorious army David still has to win the support of the tribes loyal to Saul to have a unified kingdom.

  • 21st June 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1 Samuel 17: 32-49

    This is the classic story of David and Goliath which has become a cultural metaphor for struggles of ordinary people against large organisations, the marginalised against the oppressors.  Maurice Andrew quotes a review by Keith Eunson of David Lange’s book Nuclear Free: The New Zealand Way in which Eunson sees Lange in a David and Goliath encounter with the United States.  He titled the review ‘David’s bitter sling’, presumably, Andrew suggests, because Lange doesn’t just tell the story but makes cutting remarks about various people involved.[1]

  • 14th June 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1 Samuel 15: 34-16:13

    This section begins with the divine acknowledgment that however promising it seemed Saul’s reign is not working out and he must be replaced.  The divine question to Samuel reminds us that no matter how it might be a pity about someone in the past it is always necessary to continue into the future with someone else.[1]

  • June 7th 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1 Samuel 8: 4-11, 16-20

    Maurice Andrew notes the contradiction of both Samuel and Yahweh objecting to a king but also going along with the wish of the people.  He suggests that this might be like people in Aotearoa New Zealand reluctantly agreeing with a new electoral system but pointing out that even if it brings improvements it won’t cure everything.  The passage points out that a king will conscript young men into the army and tax the people.  The passage ends by saying people will cry out because of the king.  Many independence movements follow the same pattern with great support for change but later the people suffer just as much from the corruption of the new rulers as they did from the old.[1]

  • 31st May 2015 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 6: 1-8

    Maurice Andrew says that the reference to the death of Uzziah doesn’t just give a date for an individual’s vision (about 740BCE) but it is also a reference to the end of a time of peace and security.[1]  Large empires were expanding and posing threats to small nations.  Isaiah confesses his inadequacy and the people’s inadequacy.  What the reading tells us is that we can be cleansed from our inadequacies as the seraph brings the cleansing coal to burn clean the unclean lips. 

    For all of us the most challenging sentence in this text is the answer that Isaiah gives to the divine question ‘whom shall I send and who will go for us?’  Isaiah says ‘Send me!’

    John 3: 1-17

  • 4th May Pentecost - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Ezekiel 37: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew comments that Yahweh putting a new spirit within the people in chapter 36 is a preparation for the vision of dry bones in chapter 37.

    The divine voice in verse 11 quotes the people as saying ‘our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely’.  Andrew says suggests that Ezekiel’s vision is not an expression of faith in resurrection from literal death, but something far greater, of life for people who want to die’.[1]

  • 10th May 2015 Mothers and Others - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 10: 44-48

    Chapter 10 begins with a centurion called Cornelius having a vision with instruction to send for Peter.  Like the Ethiopian the description of Cornelius fits those gentiles known as ‘God-fearers’ who found the polytheism of Hellenistic culture unsatisfying and wanted to connect with an ancient, and therefore in the understanding of the time authentic, monotheistic faith.  Judaism fitted the description and had the mythic tradition and religious praxis to supplement what was for these people a logical and head based understanding but it was a race based faith with a complicated and painful entrance ritual.

  • 3rd May 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 8: 26-40

    This Ethiopian in this episode is most likely what was called a ‘God-fearer’.  These were people who found the many gods of the pagan world an unlikely reality and whose spiritual focus was directed toward one God.  They took an active interest in Judaism as a religion of one God and studied the scripture but race and willingness to have the operation limited their full involvement.  It is also significant that Acts specifies this man as a eunuch because a damaged body tended to be regarded as unclean and this would have been a further hindrance to being fully accepted into Judaism.

  • 26th April 2015 'ANZAC Harvest' Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 4: 5-12

    Following Peter’s sermon in last week’s reading we are told in the beginning of this chapter that while Peter and John were still speaking the priests, the captain of the temple and Sadducees, were very annoyed because Peter and John were teaching people that in Jesus there is resurrection of the dead.  The Sadducees were a very traditional religious party that believed there was no life after death and were often arguing with Jesus who seemed to support the later opposite view that developed during the Maccabean revolt of a final judgement and restoration of the just.

    This group arrested Peter and John and our reading begins the next day.

  • 19th April 2015

    Readings

    Acts 3: 12-19

    Looking at the story so far in the book of Acts chapter two describes the events of the festival of Pentecost concluding with Peter’s Sermon.  Chapter three begins ‘One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer’. The reader is told of a man who has been crippled from birth who begs at the temple gate.  Peter has no money for the beggar but heals him instead and we are told all the people ran to Peter, John and the healed man which is where our reading begins.

    Peter’s begins by identifying the God he refers to and claims this God has glorified Jesus.  William Barclay says that this sermon contains three of the dominant points of the early Christian preachers.

  • 29th March 2015 Hugh perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          29th March 2015

    Readings

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

  • 22nd March 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 31: 31-34

    In our reading from Jeremiah the poetry is interrupted by this prose section about a new covenant in a post-exile passage of restoration.  Covenant is not mentioned in Jeremiah’s poetry but in this prose section there is an understanding that Jerusalem was destroyed because the covenant was broken so the return indicated a new covenant and a new relationship between God and people. 

  • 15th March 2015

    Readings

    Numbers 21: 4-9

    This reading opens with a typical whinging in the wilderness prevalent in the Exodus saga and moves into a strange story that, Maurice Andrew says is not to be taken literally but, seeks to explain that the bronze serpent, which was to be found in the temple, was not a forbidden graven image.

    The complaints arise in our reading because the Edomites refused to allow passage through their land so a detour had to be made.[1]

    The significance of this reading for us at this time is the allusion to it in John’s Gospel where the image of the snake on the pole is substituted by the crucified Jesus as the saving symbol for all humanity.

    John 3:14-21

    This reading is part of the theological discourse given to Nicodemus which starts at the beginning of chapter 3 with Nicodemus coming in the night to Jesus.

  • 1st March 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16

    In Genesis 9 the covenant is expressed in terms of permanent stability of the world but now it guarantees the succeeding generations of a people.  This covenant links the promise of land with people through a special relationship with God. 

    Interestingly although Abraham is regarded as the father of a nation the mother of the nation is also specified in Sarah and just as Abraham was renamed so was she.  Abraham’s firstborn son was Ishmael but that was Hagar’s son not Sarah’s so was not part of the covenant of people and land.  However Islam understands Ishmael, the firstborn of Abraham as the significant firstborn.

    Mark 9: 2-9

  • 22nd February 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 9:8-17

    There is a weaving of various strands in this part of the Bible and this reading is from the priestly strand and takes up the covenant strand from 6:18 onwards (6:18:ff).  This promise is for the continuance of all living things.  The symbol of this promise is the rainbow which was adopted in the naming of Greenpeace ship, the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ for its task of protesting to protect the continuance of all living things. Maurice Andrew says of this text:

  • 15th February 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2 Kings 5:1-14

    Maurice Andrew notes that the prophets are a disturbing but creative force within the establishment of state religion. In this episode we see the influence of a prophet going beyond Israel—even to an enemy as Naaman was the commander of a nation that was a threat to Israel.  Elisha's restoration is mediated through a woman, this time a captive slave.  The outcome of this disregard of rank, privilege and nations confused the foreigner and he declares that there is indeed 'no god but the God of Israel’. 

    In the next section the greed of Elisha's servant sets him apart from the healing power that crosses boundaries of nations and class and the deadly disease is transferred to him[1]

  • 8th February 2015

    Readings

    Isaiah 40: 21-31

    Rather than dwell on the devastation of exile in Babylon, this section of Isaiah we are reading from focuses on the joy of returning home.  It talks about Israel’s sentence in exile being completed.  The suggestion was that it was sin that caused the exile but now they are returning home because they have done their time. 

    From an historical perspective they were taken into exile after being conquered by a more powerful and aggressive imperial power. They were allowed to return home because there was a change in the Persian’s colonial policy that saw a better return on investment by having Israel’s leadership gathering revenue for the empire off their own people rather than serving as slaves in Babylon.  

    However from a faith story perspective Yahweh the creator is in control and uses these nations to work out the divine purpose

    Mark 1, 29-39

  • 1st February 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Deuteronomy 18: 15-20

    In Deuteronomy 17 there are instructions for the appointment of a king once they become settled in a new land.  This needs to be one of their own people and, unlike other kings, will not have total authority but be guided by the law. 

    We now read from Deuteronomy where there is a promise of future prophets similar to Moses but the test of their validity is likewise to be the laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

    Mark 1: 21-28

    In describing Jesus’ teaching Mark stresses that Jesus taught with authority and not like the scribes.  The scribes were the experts on the law and their teaching expounded the existing law within the limits our Deuteronomy reading proscribes. 

  • 25th January 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jonah 3:1-5, 10

    Barbara Ewing’s book The Trespass is a novel that carefully weaves together the threads of the British class strata that, for a variety of reasons, drove people to take the risk of a new life in New Zealand.  It was a risk of a four month sea voyage with no turning back, permanently leaving family and journeying to an uncertain future.  Ewing gave as much truth in a way that could be understood and remembered in her fictional story as any of us might glean from hours of research through the references listed in her bibliography.

    It is in such an understanding of the power of story that we should approach Biblical books such as Jonah rather than get tangled up in whether whales swallow people or people can survive inside big fish. 

    Jonah got involved in his fishy adventure because he did not want to go to Nineveh and give them God’s message. 

  • 4th January 2015 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 31: 7-14

    The poem in Chapter 31 of Jeremiah begins at verse 2 with the words ‘Thus says Yahweh: the people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness’.

    We begin at verse 7 which continues the imagery of this passage that shifts from Yahweh, who scattered the sheep becoming the shepherd who gathers them back, and Jeremiah who is known as a prophet of doom, offers hope for new beginnings.  Maurice Andrew quotes Kathleen O’Connor who comments that the transformed society provides a social vision that not only includes everyone in worship, but also at the banquet of material life.[1]  These are encouraging words as we move into a year without our traditional church home and truly hope for grace in the wilderness.  

    John 1:1-18

  • 28th December 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 61:10-62:3

    We begin our Isaiah passage with the conclusion of chapter 61.  This continues the writing of the prophet who is especially designated to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all who mourn and transform mourning into gladness.  A quest that was seen as transferred to the priests of Yahweh in the post-exile period bringing righteousness and praise.

    As we move into chapter 62 Jerusalem’s vindication will shine fourth for all nations to see and the people will be given a new name. 

    A new name implies a total transformation of life and it also allows the gospel writers, who have already related the opening passages of Isaiah 61 to Jesus, to further use this passage to anticipate a new people of God.  Elsa will read for us. 

    Luke 2:22-40

  • 21st December 2014

    Readings

    2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16

    This is one of the important passages that give an example of the place of the prophet as a representation of the divine who mediates the excesses of absolute rulers.  David wanted to build ‘a house for God’ and absolute monarchs who build houses for gods become the rulers of heaven and earth.  But the prophet Nathan restrains David from such excess and introduces the idea of God with the people.  Nathan therefore introduces the concept of religion as a way of setting ultimate authority beyond the realm of human institutions including democracies. 

  • 14th December 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

    Isaiah 61 is one of the best known passages from this part of Isaiah because it was quoted in Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth Verses 1-3 are the self proclamation of the prophet as the offspring of the servant, a prophet who is especially designated to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all who mourn, transforming mourning into gladness.  The result of the ministry of the prophet is a life with strong foundation that enables people to repair the ruined cities.  However by the time of compiling this section of Isaiah this work is seen as speaking to other people in the post-exile period, people building a strong nation on what has gone before through the priests of Yahweh. [1]

    The gospel writers see Jesus as the working out of this continuum in the building up of the people of God or establishing God’s realm.

  • 7th December 2014 Hugh Perry

     Readings

    Isaiah 40:1-11

    The voice that cries out in verse 3 is one from the heavenly council of divine beings mentioned in chapter 6.  Maurice Andrew says it is not a prophetic voice of someone in the wilderness that leads to the Christian application in introducing John the Baptist as ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’.  The wilderness is an allusion to Exodus and in this case is the way back from exile in Babylon.  The valleys being lifted up etc are lyrical metaphors for the way home from exile being made easy. [1]

    Like all the prophetic writing this passage is about events at the time of writing but just as Isaiah makes allusion to the Exodus wilderness the gospel writers make allusion to the voice crying in the wilderness and even though they read new meaning into it that process is part of the genre of Hebrew sacred writing.

  • 30th November 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 64: 1-9

    This section of Isaiah comes from a very judgmental section which Maurice Andrew says is not typical of the whole Old Testament or even Isaiah.[1]  The idea that the people are being judged is an explanation for the misfortune they are suffering today and some people in the United States expressed similar thoughts after the bombing of the twin towers.  However most of them blamed homosexuals and abortion in the United States rather that their nation’s neo-colonial policies and their nation’s corporation’s exploitation of vulnerable populations.

  • 23rd November 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

    God as the shepherd is one of the basic concepts of Christianity and as long as we understand ‘shepherd’ in its Middle Eastern context of one who cares for and leads the sheep it is a better metaphor than God the lawmaker.  Both are metaphors that stress a concern for an authority beyond the individual, the family the tribe, the nation, and indeed the empire in all their multiplicity of forms.  However the shepherd highlights both the care for the flock and the connectedness of the individual members that best illustrates the Christ centred relationship between divinity and the human family.   God the lawmaker on the other hand stresses order through inflexible rules and gives licence to our inclination to bully the less fortunate and look for revenge and retribution. 

    Matthew 25: 31-46

  • 16th November 2014

    Readings

    Judges 4: 1-7

    Coming into the land of promise is all very well but this episode reminds us of the other people living in the land and the tension that creates.  Significant in this passage is the leadership of a woman, a judge and a prophetess.  Maurice Andrew notes that it is significant that it is Deborah who summons Barak and not the spirit of Yahweh although Debora summons him on behalf of Yahweh. [1]

    In the Exodus saga we were presented a vision of one people being led by Moses and later Joshua but now we can discern a confederation of tribes interacting with other peoples and therefore vulnerable to conquest by peoples who have a king ruling over tribes united under that king.  Notice that Deborah has to negotiate to get the fighting force needed.

    Matthew 25: 14-30

  • 9th November 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

    We have looked at the end of the Moses Saga and the succession of Joshua and now this passage moves to the end of the story of Joshua and in particular his second farewell speech.  Joshua gathers all the people together and challenges them to choose their God—Yahweh or the other god they have worshiped in the past.  The people choose Yahweh and Joshua reminds them of the implications of that choice, it is a choice of total commitment without any extra gods for good measure or even extra god’s to keep up past family or tribal traditions.

    Historian Judith Binney writes

  • 2nd November 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joshua 3:7-17

    Moses had divided the sea to allow people to escape into the wilderness and in this reading Joshua divides the Jordan to allow the people to leave the wilderness and move into the Promised Land.

    This is an important marker in salvation history and an important feature in the genre of our religious scripture. Elijah divides the Jordon on leaving Israel to be lifted up to heaven and Elisa parts the Jordan to come back into Israel to begin his prophetic ministry.  The Elijah figure of John the Baptist appears in the Gospels where Elijah left and when Jesus is baptised it is not the water but the heavens that are divided to emphasise the divine relationship because by this time the reader understands that anyone can divide water. 

  • 26th October 2014

    Readings

    Deuteronomy 34:1-12

  • 19th October 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 33: 12-23

    Maurice Andrew notes that Moses is still unsure of God’s presence on the journey and suggests that God’s presence is not something in itself but is connected with the journey. [1]

    Perhaps in putting Moses in the cleft in the rock until God has passed by we have a metaphor for the reality that although we cannot look straight at God the divine presence with us can be determined in the journey we have travelled.  How many times have we felt the ‘glory of God’ in a sunset, the moment that the day passes, or looked back at the difficult decisions we have made to achieve satisfying and enriching results and felt the presence of God in those decisions.

    Matthew 22: 15-22

  • 12th October 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 32: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew puts the impatience of the Hebrew people into our context by saying:

    This is like New Zealanders as they often act in both politics and in ethnic and social relationships, wanting to get on with things, making quick decisions.  We think that not mucking about is realistic, when all along we have not admitted what the true foundations and goals are.  Quick decisions favouring immediate goals cause time-consuming problems. [1]

  • 5th October 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20

    Maurice Andrew wrote that: ‘Pakeha New Zealanders tend to lack both a tradition in which they find common roots, and also the realisation that the law has to do with the details of everyday life; that is why they assume they can be scathing about Old Testament law. 

    They see imposition without apprehending the creative intricate framework that surrounds the law’.

    Maurice also notes that contemporary New Zealanders still see the Decalogue as manageable and concise and he quotes Bob Edlin from the Listener of the 7th of October 1989 as writing of the Crimes Bill, ‘If the ten commandments had been written in the language of the bill, Moses would have humped enough stone tablets down from the mountain to rebuild Mount Eden prison’.  But Maurice’s most telling comment of contemporary Kiwis is the statement that:

  • 28th September 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 17: 1-7

    Maurice Andrew tells of the text his grandparents had on the wall which read 'Streams in the desert' (Isaiah 35:6). He says:

    We had all been affected to some extent by the 1930’s Depression, but my grandparents lived by the broadly flowing Waikato, and we by the swift Rangitikei. I doubt whether any of us could have even imagined what a desert was like. So why did they have the text and why do I remember it? I think because everyone realises they can have something akin to a wilderness experience in their life and that it is the very place where they are most refreshed.  The wilderness may be hostile, but it is there that the relationship with the environment can be renewed, both physically and metaphorically. [1]

  • 21st September 2014 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          September 21st 2014

    Readings

    Exodus 16: 2-15

  • September 14th 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 14: 19-31

  • September 7th 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 12: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew notes that this part of the narrative is in the form of regulations for performing the rite of Passover. and says that it was probably originally an independent institution that was later attached to the exodus.. [1]

    The Passover probably had its origin in seasonal migration with stock in search of grazing and the lamb was killed about the time of the spring equinox, as a means of warding off evil forces when shepherds and flocks set off on potentially dangerous journeys.[2]

  • 31st August 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 3: 1-15

    As the story opens we find Moses going about his regular shepherding duties for his father-in-law.   There is little hint that all of life is about to change for him.  The angel of the Lord, which in Hebrew Scripture is another way of saying the God appears in a burning bush.  Moses is mystified by what he sees and approaches to satisfy his curiosity.[1]

    The burning bush is both a symbol of theophany, which means an appearance or experience of God, and a symbol of the people oppressed in slavery but not consumed.  When Moses approaches to see why the bush is not consumed God addresses him directly and personally.  God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of the past but God who is also aware of the present distress and announcing future liberation.

  • 24th August 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 1: 8-2:10

    Matthew 16: 13-20

    Sermon

    The topic of one of the first essays I had to write when I began my university study was titled ‘Caesarea Philippi is a watershed in Mark’s Gospel.’

    Writing that essay was very much a watershed in my life because my secondary education had convinced me that university study was out of the question as far as I was concerned. 

    Caesarea Philippi was a place of religious significance ranging from, a shrine to Pan the god of flocks and shepherds, to emperor worship.  King Herod built a marble temple there in honour of Augustus and it was also a holiday retreat for Roman officers so it was very much a place of imperial power. 

  • 17th August 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Geneses 45: 1-15

    We have been following the saga of Abraham’s dysfunctional family. We discovered that Abraham sends one son, Ishmael, and his surrogate mother out into the wilderness to die and then attempts infanticide on Isaac, his son by his wife.  Isaac’s sons struggle in the womb and Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright.  Jacob is exploited by his uncle, wrestles with his past and is reconciled with his brother.

    However the intergenerational violence continues and Jacob’s sons deceive him and sell their youngest brother into slavery.  If we base our family values on this part of the Bible we are likely to invite state intervention.  But this is a saga about divine intervention restoring humanity despite themselves.  We conclude the whole saga of family dysfunction with the healing that Joseph brings by forgiving his brothers.

    Matthew 15: 21-28

  • August 3rd 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 32:22-31

    Jacob is approaching Esau who is coming towards him with 400 men.  The confrontation with a stranger, who is clearly Yahweh, rings very true of sleepless nights before major confrontations many of us have experienced. We rise the next morning knocked about by tour dreams and fears only to find the expected confrontation turns out to be an enriching experience.  One commentator sees Yahweh in the present text but wonders about other spirits in earlier telling of the story.

  • 27th July 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 29: 15-28

    Jacob’s journey takes him back to his own relatives but his return to his own land is delayed by his relatives as Jacob the trickster is tricked by his uncle.  What goes around comes around we might say. Maurice Andrew says this story reminds us that it takes a long time to get back to our own place and delay is often caused by the family. [1]

    This is an interesting story when we remember that one of the stumbling blocks in uniting the two Presbyterian Churches in New Zealand was a change of New Zealand law in 1881 that allowed a widower to marry his deceased wife’s sister.[2]

  • 20th July 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 28: 10-19a.

    Jacob has stolen his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing and now has to flee from Esau.  His father Isaac also sent him back to Haran to find a wife from their people just he had to.  Seeing that his father does not approve of marrying the locals Esau marries the daughter of his father’s half brother Ishmael.  This keeps the line of both sides of Abraham’s family free from Canaanite blood although Esau had other wives.

  • 13th July 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 25: 19-34.

    Family dysfunction and ambition now move to the next generation with the birth of the twins Jacob and Esau.

    Maurice Andrew writes that Jacob is a go-getter who is supposed to be subordinate to his brother but puts it over him by trickery and this is a type familiar to other folk stories.  He quotes Maui as also the little one who gets up to tricks and outwits his brothers.  Maurice says that the characters of Genesis 25 are more realistic than the modern idea of ‘religious’ people who are supposed to be all the same.   Jacob’s name suggests deviousness because it is associated with grasping the heel while Esau is the Bible’s prototype of the macho male.[1]

  • 6th July 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 22: 1-14

    Maurice Andrew makes the point that this is one of the world's great stories and some people ask what kind of God tests people in this way but others protest defiantly that God does have the right to command us to sacrifice our children.[1] Maurice also notes that some have suggested that this story is included as a polemic against the mistaken tradition of sacrificing children.  That has some plausibility in the progress of faith development that Karen Armstrong sees taking place that transforms Yahweh the god of war into the voice in the burning bush who calls slaves to freedom and becomes the God of all creation, the only divine being.[2]

  • June 22nd Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                                      June 22nd 2014

    Readings

    Genesis 21: 8-21

  • 15th June 2014 (Trinity) Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 1: 1-2:4a

    Maurice Andrew says that in this passage the earth is envisaged as being without form or void and yet in that emptiness the spirit of God is moving on the face of the waters and something creative is about to happen.

    God says ‘let there be light’ and light brings day and night and with it the progress of time. Thus says Andrew ‘the heavens and the earth, what we would call the environment, is a combination of space and time, with all the potential for their interaction.[1]

    Genesis 1 is therefore well grounded in science and happily sits alongside contemporary science as long as we acknowledge the power of myth and story to portray truth. 

    Matthew 28: 16-20

  • 8th June 2014 Hugh perry

    Readings

    Acts 2: 1-21

    This is the classic Pentecost reading where the failed frightened disciples become the transformed and transforming apostles of the Risen Christ. 

    The feast of Pentecost was one of the important Jewish festivals and in understanding the multi-translating of the apostles preaching it needs to be remembered that most people were bi-lingual and the apostles, like most Jews, probably spoke Aramaic and Greek.[1]

  • 1st June 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 1:6-14

    This passage is a sort of ‘story so far’ that picks up in more detail the action from the close of Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s Gospel finishes by saying:

    Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

  • 25th May 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 17:22-31

    Our Reading from Acts is Paul’s speech at the Areopagus.  

    Barclay highlights some of the main points of Paul’s sermon beginning with Paul stressing that in contrast to images in precious metal and stone God is not made but the maker.  People like to worship what they have made but the true God has guided history and humanity has an instinctive longing for God and as Christians we believe the way to meet with God is Jesus Christ.  The proof of the pre-eminence of Christ is the resurrection.[1]

    John 14: 15-21

    Today’s reading is the part of Jesus’ farewell discourse that promises the disciples will not be left on their own when Jesus has gone because God will send ‘The Spirit of Truth’ or the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. 

  • 18th May 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 7:55-60

    To fully understand this reading we need to read its context and discover that despite the accusations made Stephen was not attacking the temple or the Law.  The problem for Stephen was that the religious leaders did not keep the law.  He also had no problem with the temple but believed its leaders were corrupt.

    We could attribute that to Luke's endeavour to paint the first believers as faithful Jews but it also fits what we know of the historical Jesus and his challenge to the temple authorities.  Continuity is a key theme as the leaders, not faith itself, are called into question with the fairly standard accusation that they were no better than their forebears who rejected the prophets.

    Luke thus depicts the first Christians as in no way setting aside the ancient traditions and this fits Luke's later depiction of Paul as a conservative who remained Law-observant all his days.

  • 27th April 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 2:14a, 22-32

    Following Easter we read from the book of Acts which not only tells of the rise of the early church but also the first reaction to the resurrection by the followers of Jesus.  To fit the Christian year we skip the details of the Pentecost episode and begin with Peter’s Sermon immediately after the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  

    The major thrust of the sermon argues that Jesus fulfils prophesy in Hebrew Scripture which is a feature of the Christian testaments.  William Barclay suggests that ‘to believe in the possibility of prophecy is to believe that God is in control and that God is working out the divine purpose’.[1]

  • 20th April 2014 Easter

    Readings

    Jeremiah 31: 1-6

    The opening verses of our reading from Jeremiah promise grace in the wilderness for those who survived the sword and that has continued to inspire people.  After a lost court case, Te Kooti based his encouragement to his people on that verse and promised that they too would find grace in the wilderness.[1] In many ways it truly is the resurrection message that new life springs from disaster and blossoms in the most unlikely places.

    Matthew 28: 1-10

    Each gospel writer describes a slightly different resurrection event and we need to refrain from being historical detectives that try and judge which story is the most plausible or endeavour to discern the historical thread that might be woven through each of them. 

  • 13th April 2014 Palm Sunday Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

    This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 contain a mixture of motives.[1]

    What is important is that the psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus.  Bishop Spong uses that possibility to suggest that it was Tabernacles rather than Passover that brought Jesus to Jerusalem but I think it is unproductive to try and find historical material in the Gospels.  As with so many instances the gospel writer is using tradition to express meaning about Jesus rather than give historical detail as we might expect.

    Matthew 21:1-11 

  • April 6th 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Ezekiel 37: 1-14

    The divine voice in verse 11 of this reading quotes the people as saying ‘our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely’.  Therefore Maurice Andrew says ‘the peoples situation demonstrates that Ezekiel’s vision is not an expression of faith in resurrection from literal death, but something far greater, of life for people who want to die’.[1]

    Ezekiel’s words in this passage suggest that no matter how bad things seem they can always be transformed and we should never assume that things will always stay the same and those who assumed they were beyond hope can receive life.  Taking such prophets as Ezekiel seriously means we recognise that although doom is a reality of life it is a reality that can be transformed.

  • 30th March 2014

    Readings

    1.Samuel 16: 1-13

    Maurice Andrew says that although it is difficult to agree on the historicity or time of writing of this part of the Old Testament there is no doubt that these stories are skilful narrative with many insights into relationships.  The rejection of Saul seems surprising because he has only just been chosen but, however promising Saul had appeared, Saul’s rule was not proving satisfactory and that needed to be recognised and accepted.  Seven of David’s brothers are rejected and the point is made that humans look at outward appearance but God can see into people’s hearts. [1]

    This is something that is often apparent in our own politics where voters are all too ready to accept a celebrity only to discover that that they lack the patience, discernment and leadership qualities that the position requires. 

  • 23rd March 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 17:1-7

    Maurice Andrew writes about this reading from Exodus:

    Creation does not of itself liberate an oppressed people, but a liberated people must also be able to live from creation, as we see when, after only three days in the wilderness, they find no water.  After liberation, people become migratory and their wandering is characterised not by the will to go forward for life, but by the desire to return to security.  In the difficult period between liberation and the gaining of land, which the wilderness wandering represents, the limitations of the people are witheringly exposed. [1]   We could call this episode ‘the whinging in the wilderness’ and there is a lot of it about.  

    John 4: 5-42

  • 16th March 2014

    Readings

    Genesis 12: 1-4

    This section of Genesis begins with a migration and as it is introduced by one of Yahweh’s direct speeches it is a directed migration. It is also one of the first of three promises which are made to a migratory people.  Maurice Andrew quotes Colin Gibson’s hymn based on the Abraham saga where the God of Abraham sends us on our way.  He also quotes Haare Williams who says ‘My Maori Side is intimately written in stories of canoes’.

    Andrew goes on to say that the families of the earth are not just any peoples, they are God’s peoples and God making promises to one people automatically has implications for other people.  A divine promise cannot be kept for one group and must be shared with all people.[1]

    John 3: 1-17

  • 9th March 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 2: 15-17 3:1-7

    The first two verses from chapter two deal with humanity’s relationship with the environment and introduces the tree of life, then from chapter three we have the description of the fall.  This has traditionally been used as the reason for evil in the world but it really speaks about the difficulty people have in making choices, our desire for more than our share and our in-built quest for power.

  • 2nd March 2014

    Readings

    Exodus 24:12-18

    Maurice Andrew says that the role of Chapter 24 in Exodus is the linking of various elements of the Sinai revelation into a composite whole.  He says that even before the covenant passage at the beginning of chapter 19, Moses goes up to God on the mountain, and the Ten Commandments are most closely enclosed by the description of the theophany (appearance of God) on the mountain. 

  • 23rd February 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18

    In this section of Leviticus holiness has to do with social-religious relations within the community of people.

    In Mark 12:31 Jesus quotes part of Leviticus 19:18 ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ and Maurice Andrew writes.

    When the words about loving your neighbour are quoted today, however, it is assumed that there is no problem in fulfilling them but both the Gospel and Leviticus challenge that assumption.   Mark adds a quotation from Deuteronomy ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart’ before the quotation from Leviticus: and Leviticus itself follows the words immediately with ‘I am the Lord’. [1]

    Matthew 5: 38-48

  • 16th February 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

    Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy is about restoration, if the people remember the blessings and curses during their exile, then Yahweh will restore their fortunes.  In the passage we read we are told that God has set life and death before the people, blessings and curses. The choice is surely to choose life so the people and their descendants may live.  Maurice Andrew writes that the astounding thing is that the present people had chosen death but it was still possible for them to choose life.  Verse 19 calls appealingly ‘Choose life so that you and your descendants may live’. [1]

    Matthew 5: 21-37

  • 9th February 2014 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 58:1-9a,

    Today’s reading from Isaiah is similar to last week’s reading from Micah in as much as it contrasts human devised worship with the worship that God desires.

    Isaiah’s words are more detailed and have more of a challenge to them.  Micah wanted us to walk humbly with God and Isaiah expects that too but he also wants some action, a rethink of our expectations and lives changed. 

    Maurice Andrew suggests that people want to be given credit for their fasting, but the trouble is they serve their own interest on a fast day, oppressing their workers.  Restoration of buildings and institutions are not satisfactory in themselves unless bread is shared with the hungry and the oppressed are allowed to go free. [1] 

    Matthew 5:13-20

  • 2nd February 2014 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          February 2nd 2014

    Readings

    Micah 6: 1-8 

    Maurice Andrew sees a deliberate pattern of judgment and restoration in the Book of Micah and the section we read this morning is in the nature of a legal dispute of Yahweh against the people. 

  • 26th January Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 9:1-4

    Maurice Andrew notes that Isaiah 9 begins with an obscure prose passage that perhaps links this chapter to the gloom of the previous chapter.  The poetry then talks of the people who walked in darkness seeing a great light.  Andrew draws attention to a letter written by The Maori Prophet Wiremu Ratana to Moriori Leader Tommy Solomon in 1924 explaining the origin of his vision and asking Solomon to call a meeting and recruit converts. [1]

    Matthew 4: 12-23

  • 19th January 2014 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          January 19th 2014

    Readings

    Isaiah 49:1-7

    This section of Isaiah is known as the second servant song and the servant claims he was called by Yahweh before he was born.

  • 12 January 2014 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          January 12th 2014

    Readings

    Isaiah 42: 1-9

  • 29th December 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 63:7-9

    Isaiah 63: begins with a section of terrible vengeance which Maurice Andrew calls one of the bloodiest expressions of judgment in the Hebrew Scripture.  He notes that A.K. Grant refers to that passage when he quotes Lord Goddard saying ‘all the funs gone out of judging since we stopped hanging people’[1]  The Passage we read follows on from that terror by remembering Yahweh’s gracious deeds of the past so perhaps what we learn is that the Bible contains disaster and terror alongside hope because the Bible addresses life that is real.

    Matthew 2:13-23

  • 25th December 2013 Christmas Morning Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                       Christmas December 25th 2013

    Readings

    Luke 2: 8-20

  • 22nd December 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 7:10-16

    God has called on King Ahaz to have faith, the positive faith of putting trust in what is reliable rather than clutching at straws.  This proves too hard for the King so now Isaiah gives him a sign. 

    Maurice Andrew stresses that this was a passage written for its time, not a prediction for centuries to come.  Furthermore the word Isaiah uses does not mean ‘virgin’ but young woman and she may just have been standing there while Isaiah and the king were talking.  The question to ask, Andrew writes, is what it means for Isaiah to suggest that her child will be called ‘God with us’.[1]

    Matthew 1: 18-25

  • 15th December 2013 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                          December 15th 2013

    Isaiah 35:1-10

  • 1st December 2013 ( Advent 1) Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 2:1-5

    Maurice Andrew notes that it is a feature of Isaiah that passages of judgment are deliberately interspersed with those on restoration and those writers who see the prophets as being only about doom have clearly not read the prophetic books.  

    The passage we read this morning contains what Maurice Andrew claims ‘ may be the most appealing words about peace ever written’.  ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks’

    These words are found in front of the United Nations Building in New York and on the front of the international exhibition halls in Moscow there is a sculpture without inscription of a man clearly beating a sword into a ploughshare. [1]

    Matthew 24:36-44

  • 24th November 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 23:1-6

  • 17th November Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 65:17-25

    The passage of Isaiah shifts from fretting about returning from exile to a vision of life in wider terms where good triumphs over evil and the just are vindicated.  Furthermore this vision is not just for Israel but for the entire cosmos, there will be a new heaven and a new earth and things like, being taken into exile, will not be remembered.  Maurice Andrew says that it sounds like there is a party going on but he also points out:

    That although the passage begins and ends with references to the transformation of nature, the central part is firmly grounded in Jerusalem and its population, the transformation of short and distressed lives, rebuilding both homes and agriculture with security for the people who do the work. [1]

  • 10th November 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Haggai 1: 15b-2:9

    Our reading from Haggai acknowledges the greatness of Solomon’s temple but points out that, although the rebuilt temple cannot recreate that former glory, God is still with God’s people. [1]

    That is very relevant to Christchurch as churches rebuild after the earthquake and must face the possibility that a building that was purpose built for a past congregation may not suit the mission of the church in the future.   The temple served a civic as well as religious purpose so Haggai might also have something to say about other damaged iconic structures and the need to build a place that enhances people’s lives rather than a theme park for tourists to visit.

    Luke 20: 27-38

  • 27th October 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joel 2: 23-32

    This reading from the book of Joel speaks of a transformation that has no limits of gender and class.  God will pour out the divine spirit on all flesh and this outpouring is evident in the most unlikely people.  One writer takes from this passage the image of a tornado on a Pacific island where all life seems to end but in fact life is still in the soil waiting for the sun to follow the storm.  It is also interesting that the original name for Te Kooti’s warriors Nga Moreau, ‘the survivors’ came from this passage. [1]

    Luke 18:9-14

    This Gospel reading follows straight on from last week’s passage which talked of justice and persistent prayer along with the need for faith for the future.

  • 6th October 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Lamentations 1:1-6

    We read from the opening verses in the book of Lamentations which depicts Jerusalem as a widow.  Its placement following Jeremiah is perhaps because it depicts Israel after the Babylonian conquest and exile that Jeremiah describes.  Maurice Andrew notes that exile can be a significant image for people who have lost but have not literally been exiled and he quotes Canon John Tamahori from an article by Jack Lewis.

  • 29th September 2013 Hugh Perry

    particularlyReadings

    Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

    The setting in today’s reading from Jeremiah is the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in which Jeremiah is imprisoned for saying that the Babylonians will capture the city.  Now in today’s reading Jeremiah expresses hope for the future by buying a piece of land and so indicates that this time of siege will pass and, as always, hope will be fulfilled through land. [1]

    It is perhaps also a message of hope for people in Christchurch where there are already signs of rebuilding reminding us that things will return to normal and businesses will continue.  However where land has been torn apart and now needs more expensive foundations the value of land has dropped in proportion, but Jeremiah’s message is that even that land will find a new normal as pressure for sections grows. 

  • 22nd September 2013 (Hospital Chaplaincy Sunday) Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

    Our reading from Jeremiah this morning is a lament on behalf of the poor. 

  • 15th September 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28

    We read two sections from Jeremiah this morning and the section in-between that is missed out is the section that gives imagery to the Babylonian invasion.  In an interesting twist the blame for the invasion is placed with the invaded rather than the invaders.  This is real social comment stuff where it is understood that bad national policy makes invasion a real possibility.  The second part of this morning’s reading is a lament over the devastation caused by the invasion and Maurice Andrew points especially to the line in the second half of verse 25. ‘And all the birds of the air had fled.’

  • 8th September 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 18, 1-11

    The message in this passage is clearly that Yahweh is able to work with Israel as the potter works with clay.  Maurice Andrew writes that up to this point the book is positive about Israel’s future.  However at chapter 18 verses 7-11 the focus moves from the positive activity of the potter to the clay that has its own capacity to choose what happens to it.  Then suddenly the address is switched to Judah and Yahweh becomes a potter shaping evil against them.  This is intended as a strong warning for them to turn from their evil ways.[1]

    Luke 14:25-33

  • 18th August 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 5, 1-7

    In this passage from Isaiah the people of Jerusalem are provoked into accepting judgement on themselves and Maurice Andrew says it is one of the most skilful poems in the Old Testament.  The friend has done everything possible to cultivate a vineyard and would expect it to produce grapes.  At that point the people of Jerusalem are called to make a judgement between the friend and the vineyard. 

    The first person of the narrating prophet then becomes the first person of the friend and he declares that the vineyard must be laid to waste.

    Finally the friend is identified as God and the vineyard is the people of Judah.  God expected justice but received bloodshed.[1]

    Luke 12:49-56

  • 11th August 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Isaiah 1, 1, 10-20

    The reading begins with the opening verse of the book which introduces the prophet and then skips to the particular passage to focus on.  Isaiah is regarded as a collection of writings rather than the work of one prophet at one time so there are a series of introductions throughout the book and a number of time frames involved.

    Maurice Andrew says that verses 10-15 came from a time when Jerusalem enjoyed prosperity and although it is common to see this reading as a condemnation of sacrificial worship we need to note that the people’s prayer is also condemned.  Therefore it is more likely that the prophet is condemning the lifestyle of the people that makes their worship hypocritical rather than the particular form of the worship.[1]

  • 28th July 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Hosea 1:2-10

    This is undoubtedly a controversial piece of Biblical text and its meaning is still under debate.  Maurice Andrew writes that the book begins with what is probably the most startling symbolic act in any prophetic book with Hosea taking ‘a wife of whoredom’ and having ‘children of whoredom’.  He then goes on to ask ‘what is the meaning of the Hebrew behind the English translation’.  It was widely thought that this was not about real events in the prophet’s life but rather a parable concerning the relation between God and Israel.  He then goes on to say that it is now more common to see the book describing an actual symbolic act.

  • 21st July Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Amos 8:1-12

    The opening verses of our reading from Amos contain a pun which we do not appreciate because we are not reading the original Hebrew.  The Hebrew word for ‘summer fruit’ and the word for ‘end’ sound very similar when spoken.  Therefore when Amos says he sees a basket of summer fruit it sounds like he is seeing the end. 

    Furthermore the basket suggests the gathering of fruit, and harvest had association with judgment so Amos is seeing an end time judgment.[1]

  • 14th July 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Amos 7:7-17

    Maurice Andrew suggests the idea of Yahweh holding a plumb-line against the people could be referring to dilapidated city walls. [1]  However the plumb line might also be a metaphor of assessing the people’s trueness.  Are they a true straight and upright in their loyalty to the divine laws and just living?

    Andrew also offers an explanation through an ambiguity in translation that the word in verse 7 translated as plumb-line could also mean ‘tin’ and a metal wall may signify divine strength.  It was about this time that tin was mixed with copper to make much harder bronze weapons so there may be a warning of conquest by superior weapons.

  • 7th July 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    2nd Kings 5:1-14

    Maurice Andrew notes that the prophets are a disturbing but creative force within the establishment of state religion and here we see the influence of a prophet going beyond Israel—even to an enemy as Naaman was the commander of a nation that is a threat to Israel.  Elisha's restoration is mediated through a woman, this time a captive slave.  The outcome of this disregard of rank, privilege and nation confused the foreigner and he declares that there is indeed' no god but the God of Israel. 

    However in the next section the greed of Elisha's servant sets him apart from the healing power that crosses boundaries of nations and class and the deadly disease is transferred to him[1]

  • 30th June 2013 Hugh perry

                                                                                                                    

    Readings

    2nd Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

  • 23rd June 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 19: 1-4, 8-15a

    In this episode Elijah flees from Jezebel and is challenged by God, lifted out of his depression and commissioned for a new task.  Maurice Andrew notes that in this episode the Hebrew Scripture is reinterpreting itself with Yahweh not being in the wind, earthquake and fire in which God was revealed in Exodus.  The text does not say that God was in the ‘sound of sheer silence’ either and some commentators suggest that the silence merely drew Elijah out of the cave where Yahweh addressed him.  However Andrew notes that the text doesn’t say Yahweh wasn’t in the silence either but it does say Elijah heard the silence which is an awesome experience that causes him to go out.[1]

    Luke 8: 26-39

  • 16th June 2013 Hugh Perry

                                                                                                                   June 16th 2013

    Readings

    1st Kings 21: 1-10, 15-21a

  • 9th June 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 17: 8-16

    Maurice Andrew points out that the story we are about to read about the widow follows the same general theme as the one that immediately following where the son is restored from death.  In fact some of the other Elijah and Elisha stories are very similar.  The theme is that Yahweh has the power over life and death and therefore, unlike Baal, Yahweh is the true God of life.  Andrew goes on to quote Claudia Camp who points out that five of the eight miracle stories involving Elijah and Elisha also include women.  Women represent the groups struggling for survival, and the miracle stories are stories of empowerment.[1]

    Luke 7: 11-17

  • June 2nd 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    1st Kings 18: 20 -21, 30-39

  • 26th May 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31

    This is an alternative vision of creation that is not all that well known and shows a feminine persona as part of the divinity we call God.  Furthermore there are very ancient mythical understandings of the process of creation where God puts limits on the waters of chaos which were believed to exist before creation.

    Interestingly images of ‘the deep’ could be understood in terms of the deep emptiness of contemporary physics just as easily as the deep water of chaos of anciently mythology.

  • 19th May 2010 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Genesis 11:1-9

    Maurice Andrew points out that the purpose of the tower was to make a name for themselves, it was a celebration of their achievements.[1]  That is not an unusual motive for a tower and although Auckland’s Skytower has a communication application it’s primary function is a branding exercise for Auckland.  Similarly office towers certainly house offices but, in continually building them higher than the last one, cities are proclaiming their achievements rather than simply accommodating the administration of those achievements which is why they become targets for terrorism.

    Acts 2: 1-21

  • 12th May 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 1: 1-11

    This is the beginning of the book of Acts and the author, Luke, opens this book as he opened his Gospel by addressing Theophilus and, then, like any good sequel, he recaps the ending of his Gospel.

    Only Luke tells the story of the ascension, both here and in his Gospel, and the way Luke has constructed his Gospel makes the ascension vital to the narrative’s credibility.  At the beginning of the Gospel he promises Theophilus an ordered account so having made certain that we understand that the Risen Christ is not a ghost but a reality that can be touched and eats fish like anyone else Luke has to explain to his readers why Jesus does not pop into visit them for a meal from time to time.  William Barclay notesthat ‘Jesus won an immortality of influence for his effect upon the world’ and then he goes on to say:

  • 5th May 2013 Liz Whitehead

     

    We have two very different readings this week but I believe both have important things to say to us.  Our first reading from Acts 16 continues the story of the development of the early church with today’s episode focussing on the spread of the Gospel into Europe. 

  • 21st April 2013 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                                     April 21st 2013

    Readings

    Acts 9:36-43

  • 14th April 2013 Hugh Perry

     

    Readings

    Acts 9 1-6

    The way the lectionary arranges these incidents does not follow Luke’s careful story line so we need to recap on events so far to fully comprehend this reading.  In Acts Chapter 6 verse 8 we are told that Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.  In chapter 7 we read about people getting angry with Stephen and stoning him to death and the participants laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul’.  Chapter 8 then begins: ‘and Saul approved of their killing him.

  • 7th April 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Acts 5:27-32.

    This is the time of the church year that we read from the book of Acts, which is Luke’s sequel to his Gospel and tells the story of the emerging Church.  In chapter five we are told that more than ever believers were added to the Lord and the high priest and the Sadducees where filled with jealousy so they arrested the apostles and put them in prison.  However during the night an angel let them out of prison and they went back to the temple the next morning and preached again.  So they were arrested again and brought to the high priest. 

  • 31st March 2013 Easter Day Hugh Perry

     

    Readings

    Isaiah 65: 17-25

    As we move into the concluding passages from Isaiah, where everything is to be restored, the new thing in chapter 43 has now become much more specific as new heavens and a new earth.  With our scientific world view we could imagine this as a cosmic event, the colliding of galaxies and the birth and death of stars.  However Maurice Andrew brings us to the text and suggests that what the poet is talking about is a shift from the focus on the immediate concerns relating to the return from exile to a vision of a triumph of good over evil and a vindication of the righteous that is brought about by divine intervention.[1]

  • 24th March Palm Sunday Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

    This psalm belongs to the feast of Tabernacles with verses 1-4 being a thanksgiving of the people while 5-21 are an individual thanksgiving and 22-29 contain a mixture of motives.[1]

    What is important is that the psalm is performed at the temple gate and it is not hard to imagine Jesus joining the procession that was going to the temple for a festival rather than the people specifically cheering for Jesus.  Bishop Spong uses that possibility to suggest that it was Tabernacles rather than Passover that brought Jesus to Jerusalem but I think it is unproductive to try and find historical material in the Gospels.  As with so many instances the gospel writer is using tradition to express meaning about Jesus rather than give historical detail as we might expect.

  • 17th March 2013 Hugh Perry

    Sermon handout                                                                                                         March 17th 2013

    Readings

    Isaiah 43: 16-21

  • 10th March 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Joshua 5: 9-12

    Verses 6-8 of chapter explain that those born on the wilderness journey had not been circumcised so they all went through that ritual before they entered the Promised Land.  We begin our reading at verse 9 which explains that the mass circumcision marks the removing of all connections with Egypt so the people are free to start afresh in a new place.

    The book of Joshua, according to Maurice Andrew, is not only an account of taking the land but also an acknowledgement that people must give up their fear of freedom and be prepared to start afresh in a strange place..[1]

  • 3rd March 2013 Hugh Perry

    Isaiah 55:1-9

    In this chapter the covenant with David is applied to all people.  This is an open offer of food which is good and those who thirst can come to the waters, and people can buy wine and milk without money and presumably without GST.  What is on offer is life for all and the implication of the poetic metaphors is that whatever is offered in this section of Isaiah is there to be accepted and the aim is continuing life for all.

    In demonstration that it really is people in general this offer is directed at, Yahweh says that he is making an everlasting covenant with them so that the covenant that is promised David and his descendants is now transferred to the people.  David was a commander of people but in this new covenant nations who do not even know Israel will come into their own.[1]

    Luke 13: 1-9

  • February 17th Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Deuteronomy 26:1-11

  • 10th February 2013 - Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Exodus 34:29-35

    Exodus 34 introduces the Decalogue or Ten Commandments which is the basis of the covenant that will allow the people to continue their journey and live in the land.  Moses meets with God face to face but the people receive God’s message through Moses.  The fact that Moses can meet with God is revealed in the glowing of his face after each meeting. 

    Moses becomes a kind of walking presence of God because the skin of his face is shining as a result of talking with God.[1]

    This shining face, caused by the presence of God, is echoed in our reading from Luke and is used as an affirmation to three disciples of the divine presence in Jesus.

    Luke 9: 28-36

  • 3rd February 2013 Hugh Perry

    Readings

    Jeremiah 1: 4-10

    This reading is Jeremiah’s call and commission and follows what is called a word-event formula. 

    ‘The word of Yahweh came to me saying’ combines both speaking and happening as Yahweh appoints Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations.  Andrew goes on to say that Jeremiah is the prophet most associated with doom and he often felt that Jeremiah is the journalists favourite prophet.  He recalls a TV programme where Hamish Keith spoke of ‘the Jeremiahs of journalism’.

    However although the book of Jeremiah has doom it also has hope and Maurice Andrew would rather say Jeremiah is realistic in saying disaster can happen.[1].

  • 27th January 2013

    Readings

    Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10

    According to Maurice Andrew, and the sources he quotes, Nehemiah chapter 8, which we are reading from, once belonged to the book of Ezra.  The place of the reading of the law is at the original Watergate and mention of ‘the book of the law of Moses’ indicates that Ezra had a written collection of torah. 

    Andrew also notes that the law was read and others explained its meaning so it seems to mark the beginning of the exposition of written scripture which has remained an essential part of Judaism and Christianity.[1]. Ernie is reading for us

    Luke 4:14-21

  • 20th January 2013

    Readings

    Isaiah 62: 1-5

    Isaiah 62 continues the restoration promised in chapter 61 with the promise that Yahweh will not rest until Jerusalem’s vindication shines forth like the dawn and salvation, like a burning torch.  The poetry then moves on to see the relations between people in their land and Yahweh as a marriage.  The changing of name from ‘Forsaken’ for the people to ‘My Delight Is in Her’ and the land from ‘Desolate’ to ‘Married’ implies a total transformation.

  • 20121225 December 25

    Isaiah 9: 2-7

    The original context of Isaiah’s poem of hope we are about to read talks about release from oppression by the Assyrians.  However we can also understand how the gospel writers used it to frame their narratives and to give meaning to Jesus, particularly in the birth stories of Matthew and Luke. 

    We also live in a world where people are oppressed, both by military powers and corporate economic power and the message of the gospels is that liberation from such domination is not by opposing force by force but through love that is born among us.

    Luke 2:1-14.

  • 20121223 December 23

    Micah 5:2-5a

    Maurice Andrew notes that, along with Isaiah 9and 11, this is one of the best known Messianic passages but it also has a rich Hebrew Scripture context.  The point of the ruler coming from Bethlehem is that the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Davidic monarchy does not thwart God because God is able to bring leadership from the least important place and the least important family.[1].

    Feudalism and an inherited monarchy have an expectation that some families will rule and others serve.  There are similar expectation to be found in modern politics, corporate life and creative endeavours.  However this episode begins the narrative that tells us that is not necessarily the way God orders the world.

    Luke 1: 39-45 

  • 20121216 December 16

    Zephaniah 3: 14-20

    We read from the end of the book of Zephaniah which is a song of rejoicing for a liberated Jerusalem.  In this poem we discover that dealing with oppressors means saving the lame and gathering the outcasts.  Liberation is about ensuring the people have appropriate esteem among all people.

    Maurice Andrew says 'worship is the means of expression for such a character of hope as is given in Zephaniah'.

    In the prophetic books, Andrew writes, we see 'just how much it will still be possible for us to draw from a ministry of worship' is shown by the many dimensions of reversal and transformation that are effected through a combination of lament and praise'[1].

  • 20121209 December 09

    Readings

    Malachi 3: 1-4

    The name Malachi means ‘my messenger’ and many scholars think the name of the book is taken from the first verse of chapter three: ‘see I am sending my messenger’ rather than being the name of a individual prophet called Malachi. Regardless of how the name came about the book is a collection of anonymous texts.

    In Christian context the messenger ‘to prepare the way before me’ is understood to refer to John the Baptist but Maurice Andrew also points out that the suggestion that the prophet is referring to John the Baptist assumes the messenger is a human but the Hebrew word messenger also means ‘angel’.[1]

  • 20121202 2 December 02

    Jeremiah 33: 14-16

    This passage from Jeremiah follows predictions of a new covenant and Jeremiah buying a field as an expression of hope in the future.  In this small section we read the covenant is seen as restoring the fortunes of both the Davidic rulers and the people.  Maurice Andrew puts this in our context by quoting Claudia Orange recording Hone Heke speaking of the treaty as the new covenant.  As Christ was the New Covenant and as the old Mosaic Law was put aside on conversion to Christianity, so the treaty, with its promise of a new relationship between the Crown and Maori chiefs, could be likened to the new covenant’[1]

    Luke 21:25-36

  • 20121018 November 18

    1Samuel 1: 4-20

    We read the beginning of the book of Samuel which describes the significant details of Samuel’s birth. Hannah is the favourite wife of her husband but expresses inadequacy, and indeed is tormented by Elkanah’s other wife because she has not had any children.  Her husband suggests that he loves her more than ten sons which reminds us that in the story of Ruth the women of Bethlehem assure Naomi that Ruth is more than seven sons.  What we are also reminded of from that previous book is that, without sons, Ruth and Naomi were destitute and that would be Hanna’s fate if her husband died, especially as there seems to be rivalry with the other wife in the household.

    In praying for a son Hanna promises that he will be a Nazirite, leading a life set apart and apprenticed to the priest Eli. 

    Mark 13: 1-8

  • 20121011 November 11

    Ruth 3: 1-5, 4 13-17 

    Both Ruth the Moabite and her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi are widows and have returned to Naomi’s homeland from Moab.  However without a direct male relative they are destitute and have survived by Ruth gleaning in a field belonging to their nearest living relative Boaz. But now the harvest time is coming to an end so Naomi thinks of a cunning plan for their ongoing survival.  It might be Naomi’s plan but it is Ruth who has to implement it but she understands their situation so agrees.  It is after all a cunning plan that has been carried out time and time again in cultures where women are completely dependent on men for their survival. 

  • 20120708 July 8

    Readings

    2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

    This reading from 2nd Samuel records the unification of the two kingdoms under David and the establishment of the capital in Jerusalem but avoids the details of the capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites which makes it clear that at that point Jerusalem was not part of Israel. 

    The city was captured by stealth, coming up the water shaft rather than a full on attack so once again we see David the cunning general in action as well as the politician who unites the two kingdoms.[1]

    Mark 6:1-13

  • 20120701 July 1

    Readings

    2nd Samuel 1:1, 17-27
    This reading begins after the death of Saul and Jonathan and we get a glimpse of David the politician. As Saul’s son-in law David is the only surviving successor but he has to win the support of the tribes loyal to Saul to have a unified kingdom.  Therefore he ordered the soldier who killed Saul executed.

    Maurice Andrew cautions against a total pragmatic assumption saying that there are times when people use laudable motives in their own interests but there are also times when people have genuine feelings for others and for the circumstances of the world. [1]

  • 20120624 June 24

    Readings

    1 Samuel 17: 32-49
    We now read the classic story of David and Goliath which has become a cultural metaphor for struggles of ordinary people against large organisations, the marginalised against the oppressors.  Maurice Andrew quotes a review by Keith Eunson of David Lange’s book Nuclear Free: The New Zealand Way in which Eunson sees Lange in a David and Goliath encounter with the United States.  At a time when Rod Dixon had maintained that drugs were widespread among New Zealand sportspeople cartoonist Bob Thaves showed Goliath prostrate but some soldiers saying ‘Bad luck David….the Philistines want to check you for steroids’.[1]

  • 20120617 June 17

    Readings

    1 Samuel 15: 34-16:13
    This section begins with the divine acknowledgment that, however promising it seemed, Saul’s reign is not working out and he must be replaced.  The divine question to Samuel reminds us that although an unfortunate appointment may have been made in the pat it is always necessary to continue into the future with someone else.[1]

    The big psychological and theological question here is how much was David’s destiny sealed by Samuel’s anointing, was God in that anointing, did Samuel simply choose a likely candidate, was David predestined to be king and therefore are we all predestined.  Calvin says we are predestined and Wesley disagrees, yet Wesley came from a rebellious clergy family and was ‘a brand plucked from the fire’.

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