LECTIONARY COMMENTARY

“And they who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of sin within.”

Year A, Pentecost 5


Genesis 24:34-38,42-49,58-67
Psalm 45:10-17
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is a classic Gothic horror story of a kind very popular in the Victorian era. Written by Robert Louis Stevenson, it is the tale of Dr Jekyll, a kind, well-respected scientist who meddles with the darker side of science as he wants to bring out his “second” nature. He does this by using drugs to transform himself into Mr Hyde  – his evil “alter ego” who is his exact opposite in every way; who does not repent or accept responsibility for his evil ways and foul crimes. Jekyll tries to control him, and for a while is successful, but more and more Hyde takes over and finally brings about the death of both.

So, a major theme of this story is the duality of human nature, good vs evil in the soul; something of which most of us have been aware at some time, though it seems, sadly, it is the most conscientious who are the most sensitive to it:

“And they who fain would serve Thee best
Are conscious most of sin within.”

The Apostle Paul was aware of the same duality, as he confesses to the Romans: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It is a mystery to us that, though Christ Himself declared from the Cross that the work of salvation is finished, we must go on fighting the evil within and without at least until the end of this present life. But the Good News is that we no longer have to fight alone. The Holy Spirit is with us, bringing all the power of God to our aid. Remember Paul’s great metaphors – the soldier equipped with the whole armour of God; the athlete putting aside every hindrance and straining every nerve to reach the finish line? Mr Hyde will never win, if we remember that we are already on the winning side.

Kia ora: Bringing worship to life and life to worship

Please Note:- due to a death within the host community, this workshop has been postponed to a date and time yet to be decided.

Kia ora koutou..

My apologies to those not on the Methodist Synod mailing list – this should have gone to Presbytery as well. Please feel welcome to join us!

Just a reminder to those who have already seen the flyer to get your registrations in quickly – there is still time, but please don’t rely on just turning up!

Note also that the registration date has been extended to 24 June. We don’t need to put as many restrictions on meeting spaces now that we are in Level 1, but we are still limiting the numbers to 25.

I hope to receive your registrations very soon and to see you on 27 June!

Ngā mihi mahana.

LECTIONARY COMMENTARY

But Abraham in obedience goes ahead, fearful of what might happen but determined to trust God in it all.

Year A, Pentecost 4


Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Over the last two weeks we have seen some of Abraham’s all too human failings, but today we can only gaze with awe and wonder on the incredible strength of his commitment and depth of his faith as shown in today’s OT reading. In the ancient world the Hebrews were the only people to take a strong and definite stand against human sacrifice, but at this early point of their history Abraham would not have arrived at that point. He would have seen or heard of human sacrifice all around him and probably thought it a legitimate part of worship, though there is no hint that he ever took part in it himself. But now, out of the blue, he is in an impossible dilemma: if he really is as committed to the Lord as he wants to be, ought he not demonstrate it by sacrifice – offering up his dearest possession, his own son whom God had given him so wonderfully in his old age? But then where would be all God’s promises of “a great nation through whom all peoples would be blessed?

Yes, a quandary indeed! But Abraham in obedience goes ahead, fearful of what might happen but determined to trust God in it all. But what of Isaac, the son of promise? Clearly he is no infant – he is strong enough to carry a large bundle of firewood and shrewd enough to ask pertinent questions about the proposed sacrifice; therefore he would have been quite capable of resisting and overpowering his aged father once it became clear that he himself would be the sacrifice. But he didn’t! He allowed himself to be bound and laid on the altar; the faith of the father had been well learned by the son and he is willing like his father to trust God for the outcome.

Then, a moment of brilliant drama! In the very moment of bringing down the knife Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket, and understands at once what God is telling him; “Don’t kill your son, offer the sheep in his place.” I once read in a book of Bible  stories and commentary for children, “God wanted His people, not to sacrifice their children, but to teach them to live by the ways of the Lord.”  And we know how central to worship the sacrificed lamb was for the Hebrew people. Until a day came when the greatest of all Abraham’s descendants did in very truth become The Lamb given for the sins of the world. How has that played out in our experience? Can we too aspire to the faith and commitment of Abraham, in the strength the Holy Spirit brings us?

Prayers of the People

Today, Lord, is a special day for us, but, before we think about ourselves, we give our thoughts and concerns for others…

by Fred McCausland

In these prayers of the people, the response to the words,
“God, in your mercy”, is 
“Hear our prayer”.

Today, Lord, is a special day for us, but, before we think about ourselves, we give our thoughts and concerns for others… God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We hear through radio, television and the daily papers, so much about the dispossessed throughout the world. We are keenly aware of war and civil conflict driving people from their homes to places poorly prepared and unwilling to care for them. Help both us and our country aid these refugees in their distress… God in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

The poor of the world, in particular those here in our own community, needs ring out. The people are caught up in circumstances which, so very often, are not of their own making. May we have the courage to speak out and act on their behalf…. God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

The hungry of the world need food. Those enslaved by addiction need release and therapy. Those imprisoned unfairly need their liberty. The wounded and those suffering from disease need heeling. The lost need to be found and those excluded need gathering back into the community…. God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray, that in our own way, we are doers of the word. That we will care for the earth and all that is in it.

And now loving God we pray for all those who speak and work for justice… for those who care for the environment and all the creatures of the earth. We pray for the church, the Body of Christ. May we be bound together as agents of reconciliation that your work is done as well and as effectively as possible. Lord we pray especially for people, of all denominations, who live in rest-homes in or near the parish. We pray for the continued success and the expansion of church services taken to them. We pray that our congregation is able and willing to continue volunteering, with love, their time supporting the elderly through their declining years … God in your mercy,
Hear our prayer…

Author's suggestion:
My thought is that this format might be more helpful than the content, which is situation specific.
Fred McCausland  

LECTIONARY COMMENTARY

But God does not intend that we should dodge His love forever! Despite our worst, He will always pursue us with His best.

Year A, Pentecost 3


Genesis 21:1-21 or Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 86:1-10,16-17
Romans 6:1-11
Matthew 10:24-39

Last week I mentioned Sarah’s well-meant attempt to provide an heir for Abraham through her slave girl Hagar, an attempt which God rejected out of hand. In today’s first reading we might get some idea why. Read Genesis 16 first, then today’s passage from Ch. 21 to find a classic tale of human frailty and family feuding in which none of the characters come out squeaky clean. When Hagar finds that she has done what her mistress never could and become pregnant to Abraham, she can’t help rubbing it in; Sarah indignantly demands of Abraham that he do something about it; he is unwilling to get caught in a brawl over “women’s business”, so tells her, “She’s your slave, it was your idea, so you sort it!” This Sarah does by treating Hagar so harshly that the girl is forced to run away, but returns when “an angel (=messenger) of the Lord” reassures her that God knows perfectly well what is going on and will stand by to protect and provide for her and her offspring. And so Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.

Then, wonder of wonders, Sarah at ninety-plus becomes pregnant and gives birth to Isaac! By this time, if the biblical time line is anywhere near accurate, Ishmael would be 12-14 years old; quite old enough to understand (and his mother would have made sure that he did!) that with the advent of Isaac any chance of his inheriting from Abraham was well and truly gone. In Ch. 21:9 the NRSV reads “Sarah saw Ishmael playing with Isaac.” The Hebrew more accurately says “mocking” or “tormenting.” Anyway, Sarah is most displeased , and categorically demands that Hagar and her son be ejected from the tribe immediately, even though it might mean death for them in the desert. Abraham, though very unwilling, has to comply, but God keeps His promise to Hagar and they are saved. But no going back to Sarah this time! Ishmael becomes “a wild ass of a man” and skilled with the bow. In time he becomes the ancestor of a number of Arab and other tribes who have come down to us as Palestinians. Some family feuds last for a long, long time!

The Bible never tries to hide the shortcomings of its heroes and heroines; they are painted “warts and all.” In fact, the biblical narrative is one long sorry saga of murder, robbery, rape, adultery, incest and every kind of dirty trick in between. And God’s Chosen People are right up there in the front line with the worst of them! So what does this have to say about the Holy People of a Holy God? How ever did the love of God in Jesus Christ come through as a reality from such a line of thugs!? And before we get too self-righteous let us remember that the Christian Church even in our own generation has not behaved much better!

It comes back to this, that any salvation, any renewal, any victory of Life over death, can only ever be of God and the Son of God. If we get caught up in it, it is only when backs are turned – otherwise we would probably dodge it if we can! But God does not intend that we should dodge His love forever! Despite our worst, He will always pursue us with His best.