Water is Life

The story of the people of Israel traveling through the desert of Sin reminds us of the absolute dependency of human beings on water. Many of the current conflict zones have as one of their roots the lack of water.

For instance, the war in Syria was preceded by 7 years of drought which pushed farmers off the land into the cities, creating tensions in those communities.

Cape Town managed to avert the day zero crisis of taps being turned off, but there were threats of the army being called in if day zero had been reached.

In this passage God tells Moses to strike the rock in a symbolic action. Later we hear that God becomes angry with him for the way in which he strikes the rock. In the Numbers passage Moses strikes the rock in his anger at the ‘rebellious’ people.

“Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20:11-12)

This is a powerful reminder that we are to protect our sources of water, treat them with reverence and not abuse them. Much of Africa (as with the Middle East) is dependent on ground water sources such as aquifers. It is a sin and a crime against future generations if we abuse our water sources because of the urgent demands of people.

A more affluent lifestyle consumes vast quantities of treated water. Drinking quality water gushes into long showers, irrigated gardens and swimming pools, in contrast with the single taps or polluted river water that people in poor communities’ use.

The miracles that are referred to in this passage refer to the wonders of water, how God divided the sea so that the people of Israel could pass through. He split the rocks in the desert to give abundant water. This reminds us of the Exodus passage where the needs of both people and their livestock is met.

Hundreds of feet under the desert of the modern-day Negev lie vast aquifers. The water is brackish, though far less salty than seawater. Throughout the Negev desert there are examples of modern water technology, including huge greenhouses for tomatoes and peppers. The crops from the Negev are timed to provide tomatoes and peppers out of season. And for two weeks each year the majority of tomatoes in Europe come from the Negev desert. This is indeed a miracle. But it is not a renewable miracle. Like seams of coal, once the water is extracted, it is gone forever. There may only be enough to last another 100 years.

Most of the world’s environmental challenges have at the heart the sin of greed. This passage gives the principles for life that could save this planet – be humble as Christ was and look to the interests of others not your own.

It is a desire for status that pushes us to continuously buy the latest gadget, car or TV screen. If we all lived a simpler lifestyle, the planet would have enough for our need, there is not enough for our greed. If we were to put the interests of others first, we would consider the impact on the worker and the environment of the products we buy. There is no such thing as ‘bargain’ clothing. The clothing is cheap because of the exploitative wages paid to workers and the damage done to the environment. As well as a carbon footprint, items have a water footprint It is estimated that a pair of jeans can require up to 20,000 litres of water in the production.

In particular today we are challenged to look at our water usage and wastage and see how we can treasure this miracle from God.

The challenge of our Gospel reading is for us to walk the walk and not just talk the talk! The first son said he would not go to the vineyard and work and yet he did so. The second one said he would go and did not.

Are we willing to actually change our lifestyles?

Many people make resolutions or pledges to change their lifestyles and yet when it comes down to it, they have made no change.

(2:5-7)‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’

Jesus, the son of God, chose the form of a slave, even to the point of suffering the form of execution often used against troublesome slaves: ‘death on a cross’ (2:8).

Jesus was not captured or sold as a slave; he chose this status. His approach was to consciously put aside his status of godhead, to become a slave, to put the needs of others first so much so that he was even willing to die for them.

As we reflect on how we can have the same mind of Christ, the first thing to note is that these verses do not only refer to our individual lives, because Paul also tells us that God ‘gives him the name above every name (2:9) – Jesus chooses slavery and yet is the Lord and Master of the whole of heaven and earth : to whom every knee bows – both humans and all those who make up the great web of life.

So as we worship the Lord of Creation – together with the rest of creation – both humans and non-human beings, we must take on a Jesus mind set and Jesus life style that is a humble one, putting the needs of others first.

This will put us in conflict with many of the values and aspirations of the culture and society in which we live. Our society has exalted the needs of humans above the rest of creation. We have exalted the needs of a small percentage of those humans over the needs of the vast majority. We are using far more than our fair share of water.

There is a saying that “until you have carried water you do not understand its value”. Across the continent many people live in water poverty – defined as less than 20 litres of water per day. In solidarity with those who have not got access to water, let us voluntarily reduce our water consumption and protect this precious resource.

The Philippians passage draws together two key concepts: firstly, Jesus is the Lord of All Creation. The whole web of life bends the knee to worship him. We are part of a great web of life, it is not only humans who worship the Lord. Water as part of Creation has a value and sacredness, and we are called to treasure and protect it.

Secondly, we are called to live a Jesus- life style, choosing to reduce our status and to consider the needs of others over our own.

We have no right to “Lord it over” creation for it is Jesus who is the Lord of all creation.

If Jesus was willing to give up his status as God in order to become a slave, then we are called to live lives of service to others and to take up the call to a simpler lifestyle.

Are you willing to reduce your use of water, to simplify your lifestyle?

To consciously use water as if each drop were precious?

Let us remember that water is a gift of God. Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible and yet how often do we actually preach about it? As Christians we became part of the family of God through the waters of baptism and yet we do not treat it as our sacred element.

We all know that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan.

But do we know our Jordan River?

We think that the water used in our church for baptism came from a tap, but from which river was it drawn to get there?

Can we adopt and protect that river as our Jordan?

What would a simpler lifestyle look like in practice? We live in a water scarce country and the impact of climate change as well as population growth will lead to increasing water shortages in the years to come.

What can we do? Here are a few examples:

Water: we can all have shorter showers and put a bucket in the shower to use in the toilet or in the garden. Wash clothes less frequently and make sure the machine is full. Purchase water tanks for the church and home, and make sure our gardens are water wise.

Food choices: our food choices all have different water footprints. To produce a hamburger requires the same amount of water as a 60-minute shower and the water needed to produce a mouthful of steak could run your dishwasher 22 times. One teaspoon of milk is equivalent to one flush of a dual-flush toilet and the average bathtub could be filled six times for the production of one litre of milk.

A family of four could save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water by swapping one meal of beef per week with lentils. Cattle are fed mostly by grazing veld and rain-fed dry land, which means they have a greater green water footprint.

Plastic. Much of the plastic litter that we produce ends up in streams and eventually in the sea. One of the ways to protect the precious gift of water is to become involved in clean ups and to put pressure on companies to stop using single use plastic items.

Water is a precious gift from God, let us protect it.

Rev Dr Rachel Mash (Green Anglicans) (Adapted from Word and Worship)

Additional tips for Toti residents.

Fix leaking taps and make sure that the sewer and storm water drains are separate on your home. Storm water running into the sewer system is a major cause of blockages and causes problems at the Waste Water Treatment Plants.

Report faults to or WhatsApp eThekwini Faults 073 148 3477. Provide details such as your name and contact details, time fault identified, exact location, indicate whether it is sewer or fresh water. If you are not sure contact Fr Andrew for assistance. If you are not responded to or unhappy with the service contact Fr Andrew.

Together we can call make a difference to address the water crisis in our country.



Season of Creation – 6 September

Homily by Bishop Geoff Davies
Narrated by Fr. Andrew Manning

How do the Scriptures, written two to three thousand years ago, relate to life in our current challenges? COVID-19 has turned our country, our communities and our churches upside down. We don’t know exactly where it came from, but it seems that it probably came from a pangolin, jumped to a bat and at a “wet market” – where sick animals and raw meat were lying together, jumped to humans.
More and more diseases are jumping from animals to humans, as we continue to destroy eco-systems.

Ebola, SARS, swine flu, avian flu, were all wake up calls, but we didn’t listen.
COVID-19 has taught us that the whole world is interconnected, as it has moved across the globe. We have also been made aware of the plight of our neighbours, the homeless, the hungry, the sick and bereaved, and even as the church buildings have been shut down, the church has been at work, being church in the world.

What does Scripture say about our relationship with the rest of the web of life, our relationship with people from other countries, and our relationship with those who are vulnerable in our own context? Who is our neighbour?

Exodus 12:1-14 The Passover, is a key event in the salvation of God’s people. God had a plan for the Israelites, apart from liberating them,
which was to set up a new society based on ethical principles.

During the Israelites’ time in the Wilderness God gave us the Ten Commandments to guide our behaviour and show us the way to living in peace and harmony with God and our neighbour. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. We are called to worship God alone, but we have turned instead to worship ‘mammon’ (money) and we idolise our consumer goods, be they the latest car, cell phone or jewellery or fashion clothes. The remaining six commandments provide essential principles for our behaviour towards our neighbour, and we know how devastating and disrupting to our social and personal well-being transgressions of any of those six Commandments can be. We continue to steal; corruption occurs on a massive scale in our contemporary world, and we are also stealing from future generations. We continue to kill, failing to recognise the sanctity of life, violence including gender-based violence is rampant in society. On a global scale we still threaten others with weapons of mass destruction. We don’t speak the truth; we bear false witness, particularly in politics. The tenth commandment; thou shalt not covet, might seem to be the most innocuous, yet our present economic system encourages and drives us to covet, increasing inequalities in our world.

Psalm 149: The last three Psalms in the Psalter are all praise Psalms to God. Praise for God’s Universal Glory (Psalm 148); Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel (Psalm 149) and Praise for God’s Surpassing Greatness (Psalm 150).

It is good to read Psalm 149 in conjunction with Psalm 148 where we hear not only people but all of Creation praising God. Praise comes to God from the highest heavens, from the Sun and Moon, from the Earth and the deeps of the sea, from the mountains and hills, from fruit trees and Cedars, from wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds, kings of the earth and all peoples. Psalm 149 continues the praise, now from Israel and the children of Zion. As humans we praise God with our human neighbours, but also in the company of our neighbours from the great web of life.

Romans 13: 8-14: In the opening verses of Chapter 13, Paul tells us that every person should “be subject to the governing authorities”. These verses were notoriously used and quoted by the Apartheid government of South Africa and continue to be used by authoritarian and undemocratic governments to justify their unjust and often corrupt rule. It was the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town at the time, Bill Burnett, who stated that we could not be subject to the governing authorities if these authorities were not being obedient to God.

The principle of civil disobedience has been followed by many Christians fighting unjust laws. Globally we are now seeing the younger generation rising up in protest and civil disobedience, such as the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests, speaking out about climate change.

Paul quotes four of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and concludes that all the commandments are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself……..Love is the fulfilling of the law”. (v 8-12) .
In our modern society we need to ask ourselves – who is my neighbour?

Our neighbours are the people who live downstream of our waste. Our neighbours are those who are impacted by climate change because of our choices of energy or investment income. Our neighbours are the generations to come who will live on a bleak and barren world because of our consumerist society. Our neighbours are also the many living creatures who make up the web of life on which we depend, and which God has called us to safeguard.

Might we be called to civil disobedience on behalf of our neighbour?

Matthew 18: 15 – 20 This passage explains how we should react if a brother or sister, a member of the Christian Church sins. This shows the early church community, who were Jewish converts, grappling with the issue of how the community could save a brother or sister and restore them to the flock or family of the church. If they do not listen, they would be excluded from the church in the way tax collectors and Gentiles were excluded from the synagogue. There should be discipline and disciplinary action by the faith community. We are faced with a new theological question for our time – how do we respond to Church members who are sinning against God’s Creation? For a long time, the Church has focussed on individual sins, particularly sexual sins. And yet our lifestyle is destroying the web of life and hurting the most vulnerable of society. The Patriarch of the Orthodox church says this “We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air ; all of these are sins.” The question is deep, how do we challenge our brothers and sisters in Christ to stop sinning against Creation and the generations to come?

Living the word:
How do we love our neighbour in the current ecological crisis? We know that we must feed the hungry – but the question today is “how do we stop people from becoming hungry?” How do we establish justice and equity for people and all of life? There is enough on this planet for our needs, but not enough for our greed. The destruction of planetary life is not God’s will. This must be loudly proclaimed from every pulpit and Bible study around the world. Environmental care must become a priority. We are commanded to love our neighbour, the vulnerable, the future generations and the whole web of life. To do so, we must consciously seek to live in harmony with God, one another, and the natural world. And we must be an example to all of humanity that we must stop being so selfish in the way we treat nature and our fellow human beings. Encourage your worshipping community to get involved in caring for creation, keep informed about social and environmental issues, and develop a voice to encourage political authorities, locally and nationally, to recognise their environmental responsibilities and to take appropriate action. By establishing Eco-Justice, that is ecological and economic justice, we shall overcome the huge inequality and poverty existing in our world today.

(Bishop Geoff gave some examples of what we can do; but I have replaced that with what we are doing):

  • Develop energy saving practices in our homes and church buildings,
  • Grow vegetables,
  • Address plastic pollution and littering / illegal dumping: see Inkwazi isu website
  • Reuse, reduce and recycle and repurpose.
  • Plant trees and remove alien invasive,
  • Care for our rivers: follow our daily updates to see what is being done in this regard. (CMF/KZN MARINE WASTE NETWORK SOUTH COAST, TOTI CONSERVANCY).
  • Change our behaviour to “live lightly on the earth” and be an “Earth Keeper.”

“Resolving the ecological crisis of our planet is no longer a problem we can leave to the scientists. Just as we are all part of the problem, so we are all also part of the solution. We all need to come to terms with the forces that have created this crisis and the resources within our traditions that can motivate us to resolve the crisis. One of those traditions is our biblical heritage” . Bishop concludes with a quote from Archbishop Tutu who In the words of Pope Francis said.

“ let us hear the “Cry of the poor and the Cry of the Earth’ and commit to loving our neighbour.”


Bishop Geoff Davies (Adapted from Word and Worship)


THE WAY OF THE CROSS – Sermon by Revd Peta May

We are challenged by the text this morning to become people of light. God’s transforming spirit is a blazing fire which consumes evil but, radiates and beams the brilliance of God’s glory.

Moses encounters God in a burning bush in the middle of the desert. I am sure that Moses was really puzzled about what he was seeing, the flames were coming out of the bush but the bush was not being consumed by the fire. Then God spoke to Moses from the bush, God said take off your shoes you are standing on holy ground.

God told Moses that he was going to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses told God that he needed to know God’s name so when the Israelites ask Moses who had sent him he was able to tell them , the God of our ancestors Yahweh, he is called “I AM”

The actual holiness of the place was due to the fact that the holy God was there. Wherever God is, is a holy place and we are reminded to live and act bearing this in mind. We are in a similar situation today we are worshiping God from the comfort of our own homes but like Moses we are on holy ground because God is with us.

The message to Moses underlines the point that the God who revealed himself to Moses and who is calling Moses to serve him – is not just any God. He is the same God who called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is the one who will have a relationship with us and our families from generation to generation.

When God calls us to participate in God’s work, he will always be with us. God sent Aaron to go with Moses to see Pharaoh and this would make all the difference. God’s presence would enable Moses to fulfil the task that God had given him to do.

The Exodus that Moses would lead would become the most significant act of God in the lives of the Israelites and would establish them as God’s people, when they completed their journey and eventually arrived back at Horeb.

God has found a way across the barriers of time and space to enter our lives and allow us to recognize that deliverance is nothing else but the presence of God.

St Paul in our reading from Romans takes our relationship with God one step further and reminds us that our relationship is a covenant relationship. In chapters 9-11 at the beginning of the letter to the Romans, Paul reflects on the Covenant relationship established by God with the people at Horeb when they came out of Egypt. Paul is adamant that God has not forgotten the covenant God made with his people. Those who have found faith in God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should never lose sight of God’s promise to the Jews.

Paul in this chapter looks at what a new life in Christ will mean and gives us some guidelines for living this faith. In verses 9-21 Paul outlines what the basic goal of all Christian relationships should be. A relationship based on love.  We should not judge.

Love must be shown to the believer and to the non-believer. To live a true Christian life, we are reminded to hate what is evil and love what is good. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us what the cost of our relationship with him is going to be. It is not going to be an easy ride. In our commitment to follow Jesus Christ we are required to take up our own cross and follow him.

Jesus prepares his disciples for his approaching ordeal in Jerusalem.

The disciples had grasped the fact that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, but they still do not understand what this means. They were still thinking in terms of a conquering Messiah, a warrior king, who would sweep the Romans from Palestine and lead Israel to power. That is why Jesus commanded them to be silent. If they had gone out to the people and preached their own ideas, all they would have succeeded in doing would have been to raise a tragic rebellion.

Peter has been brought up on the idea of a Messiah of power, glory and conquest.

To him the idea of a Messiah that must suffer and die on the cross, was just too difficult to understand. So, when Jesus told his disciples they were bewildered and horrified.

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it Lord! This must never happen to you. “   And then came the great rebuke which makes us catch our breath”

Get behind me, Satan! “

Before they could preach that Jesus was the Messiah, they had to learn what that meant.

In point of fact, Peter’s reaction shows just how far the disciples were from realizing just what Jesus meant when he claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God.

So, Jesus began to show them that there was no other way for him, but the way of the Cross. He said that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the” elders and chief priests and scribes.” These three groups of men were in fact the three groups of which the Sanhedrin was made up. The elders were the respected men of the people; the chief priests were predominantly Sadducees; and the scribes were Pharisees. In effect, Jesus is saying that he must suffer at the hands of the orthodox religious leaders of the country.

Peter was presenting Jesus with that way to escape the Cross.  That is why Peter’s ideas were not God’s but man’s. Any force which tries to deflect us from the way of God, is of Satan. Any influence which makes us turn back from the challenging way that God has set before us, is of Satan; Any power which tries to make our human desires more important than the will of God, is of Satan.

What made the temptation more painful for Jesus was the fact that it came from someone he loved him. Peter spoke as he did only because he loved Jesus so much that he could not bear to think of him treading that dreadful path and dying that awful death. What really wounded Jesus’ heart and what really made him speak as he did, was that Satan had spoken to him that day through the loyal but mistaken love of Peter.  Peter the disciple Jesus had earlier praised and called a rock, had now become a stumbling stone.

In the gospel of Luke, Luke sees far into the heart of the Jesus. At the end of the temptation story, Luke writes: “ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4: 13). Again, and again Satan launched this attack. No one wants a cross; no one wants to die in agony; even in the Garden that same temptation came to Jesus, the temptation to take another way. THE GREAT CHALLENGE  16: 24-26

Then Jesus said to his disciples: and that obviously includes us, “If anyone wishes to become my follower, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

Again Jesus confronts us with the challenge of our Christian way of life.

(i) We must deny ourselves. Jesus does not mean giving up luxuries in order to contribute to some good cause. What Jesus means is for us to make obeying God the ruling principle, and passion, of our lives.

(ii) We must take up his cross. As Christians we must be prepared to embark on a life of sacrificial service. Which calls on us to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ.

Luke, with a flash of sheer insight, adds one word to this command of Jesus: “ Let him take up his cross daily.” The really important thing is not the great moments of sacrifice, but a life lived in the constant hourly awareness of the demands of God and the need of others.

(iii) We must follow Jesus Christ. That is to say, we must give to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience. The Christian life is a constant following of our leader, a constant obedience in thought and word and action to Jesus Christ. The Christian walks in the footsteps of Christ, wherever he may lead.


Then Jesus goes on to say that there is a difference between existing and living.

To exist we simply have our lungs breathing and our heart beating.

To live; is to be alive to the world where everything is worthwhile,  where there is peace in our soul and joy in our hearts.  Where Jesus the essence of our lives.

Then Jesus says, ‘whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.’ Then he puts a direct question to those of us who think that perhaps we are better off making money,

‘for in what way will it benefit if they gain the entire world and lose their life?’

(in other words what is the point in worldly wealth if we lose our souls)

Jesus warns us that if we are not careful it is possible to gain all the things that we have set our hearts on and the wake up one morning and find that we have missed the most important thing of all, a relationship with Jesus Christ and find that it is too late to turn back –  for we will have lost the opportunity to live a Christ centred life.

The fact is that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father, with his angles; and he will judge each of us in accordance with our performance. For nothing else matters than living according to Gods will.

Many New Age Christian Churches preach a gospel only of healing and miracles. They promise their follower that faith will solve all their financial and family problems. They teach an easy religion that promises wealth and prosperity. These teachings are not Bible centred.

Do we hear Jesus when he says take up your cross and follow me. There is a distinct difference between a burden and the cross.  Burdens in our daily lives are unavoidable problems that come up and have to be dealt with. The cross on the other hand is our voluntary self-denial for Christs sake. As such we take up the cross of our own free will and we should be ready and willing to bear the consequences of our journey on the Via Dolorosa.

To repay evil for evil is to be overcome by it. To repay good for evil is to overcome evil with good. This is the way of the cross. Such is the masterpiece of love.

Using your gifts for God

12th Sunday after Pentecost. A sermon by Revd Andrew Manning. The video and the text is below. God bless you abundantly.

On Alpha Last weekend we did the Holy Spirit Weekend It is very different doing it online without the normal physical bond that is present on such a weekend. The talks for the weekend are:

• Who is the Holy Spirit?
• What does the Holy Spirit Do, and
• How do I receive the Holy Spirit.

And in essence it is about understanding that God gives us Gifts so that we can be his servants – God equips us for what he has called us to – through the Holy Spirit.
In Egypt Pharaoh stopped providing straw to make bricks, but expected the bricks, in contrast God gives us every good gift so that we can live up to the life that he has called us to.

If you haven’t done Alpha or last did it 5 years ago I suggest that you sign up for the next one, it is an amazing journey and it works really well online.

Now, this morning we pray “Accept us as a living Sacrifice and transform us by your Spirit so that we will offer our gifts in Christs service.” The prayer implies that our sacrifice is to offer the gifts that God gives us back to God for him to use. This is one of the most important things to understand about the salvation that we receive, it is a basic principal handed down through Abraham.

Remember Abraham was given the gift of Isaac – he was old Sarah was barren and God gave them a son – Isaac was a gift and Abraham had to offer his son who was, the gift, the promise, the hope for the future, he had to offer this back to God but not to death as the Canaanite Cults did when they sacrificed their children to Molech; but to life, when we offer ourselves to God when we sacrifice ourselves to God it is to resurrection, that we give ourselves.

In Offering ourselves as a sacrifice we offer ourselves to participate in Christ who dies and rises again for us and leads us into new-life. So, it is not after we die and go to heaven that we enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the NOW life, the life that we receive in CHRIST when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices and accept that Jesus has paid the price of sin on calvary and that we now have life in him and through him and with him. (Christianity 101. in one minute).

In our Old Testament reading we have Moses’, Mother placing Moses in an ARK, a wicker basket, and placing him in the water and saying here is my son, God I sacrifice, I give him up to you in faith; and the result is that her offering Moses as a living sacrifice is that Moses is given a life of ministry for God! And Moses lives and the Descendants of Abraham – the one who offered up all of his Descendants to God in offering up Isaac; they, we, all receive life.

In our New Testament St Paul takes the Abrahamic and the Mosaic experience and calls all Christians to do the same:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 1,2)

Like Isaac and Moses and Samuel and David and every Prophet, God has called you by name and you are his, and God has given you the Holy Spirit to empower you to live life for Him.

God gives us life as He gave Moses and Isaac, and we share the resurrection.
God puts His Spirit in us as he did with Moses and Israel and the Prophets.
But you have to lay down your life! in order to take it up again.

I think we all have an understanding of Christianity as the “GIVING UP religion” if I become a Christian, I’ll have to give up things like FUN. There is an impression that the sacrifices we make are the enjoyable things.

If you a Christian, then you must give up on your old life. Yes true, but it goes deeper than that.

What Moses and Abraham and Joseph and Samuel and Sampson and Jesus and St Paul teach us is that we must lay down the life that God has given us, we must give back to God the new life that he has given us, not just the old!

God doesn’t want the life that he saved you from he wants the life that he saved you for!
Being a Living Sacrifice does not mean sacrificing your sinful nature and putting it to death! No, being a living sacrifice is offering your saved self, your restored self, your anointed self. To do what God has set you aside to do!

The sacrifice that we are called to make as our true worship is to accept the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT that God has given us and use them.
In our Gospel this morning Jesus makes it clear that we do not come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah, on our own or through what others say, we come to that conclusion when we interact with the Spirit of God for ourselves.

In the infancy of our relationship with God, and many people live their whole lives in this infancy, we live on what others have said God is, what others have said Jesus is, and the Holy Spirit is. We live lives of faith (that is what we call it) that though we ourselves have not experienced God for ourselves, we believe what others say.

As we mature we begin to experience the HOLY SPIRIT at work in us, and we can say; “IT IS TRUE Jesus is the resurrected Lord of My life and he has appeared to me, he is real to me and I accept Him as Lord of my life.”

And many people stay there, for them they believe in salvation for them. This is the Christian life acknowledgement that Jesus is the Son of God our redeemer, and it is even possible for us to go to Church every Sunday and sing songs about him and receive his sustaining sacrament and listen to the Word being read and expounded….

But we are called to more. We are given more and more is expected.
“But be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, is good, pleasing and perfect will.( Romans 12:2)

St Paul goes on
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Give your gift back to God He gave it to you for it to be used as your act of worship! (Romans 12:6ff)

Give God your life so that you can live it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Offer your gifts as active living offerings in response to God’s grace and power and mercy.

We as a church have made a great mistake, from the beginning in referring to some people being in full time ministry. We make that distinction don’t we, the clergy are in full time ministry: well that implies that the laity are in part time ministry, and of course that is not true, we are all living sacrifices devoted to the service of God, all the time. Everyday, every hour, in every way.

Being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your career and join a monastery. It means you have recognise your GIFT and use it for God, right where you are!

If you are an accountant glorify God by the way you manage the money you are a steward of,
If you are a teacher – disciple your pupils in the way of God: the way St Francis taught us when he said – preach always and use words if necessary.
If you are a nurse – then use the gift of mercy that has been bestowed upon you.
Your place of employment is your mission field, your position provides you with a circle of influence, and there you are to use your gift.
There you are to be the light of Christ, be a witness to the hope of salvation, be a reminder that God is forgiving and that if he loves you as deficient as you are that he can love others as deficient as they are.

Oh if your gift is being perfect then you are welcome to show others that, but if you are like the rest of us and the GIFT of God is forgiveness then that is what you should bear witness to, Bear witness to being a forgiven sinner.

If you have not worked out any of your other gifts yet and we need to work them out,
But at least use the gift that you do know you have received – God’s forgiveness. Act forgiven not holier than thou.

Act forgiven not judged.
Act forgiven so that others will forgive you as you forgive them
Bring your forgiven life and lay it on the altar and say – “Here I am Lord, you are the Christ! My Lord! My God! My King! and I am your servant , a living sacrifice.
My parting Shot – Jesus said not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah – this was either his great sense of humour or reverse Psychology –

But if you offer yourself as a living sacrifice – you won’t have to say anything! they’ll know, because they’ll see in you the light of world.

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, and the blessing of God be upon you always.


Revd Andrew Manning


Ruffling Feathers

Homily based on Matthew 15: 21-28

“We need to talk.”

These four words are a call to attention and have the potential to immediately strike fear in the ears of the listener. It is the classic introduction to a break-up conversation, or bad news is going to be delivered. It indicates that something big is happening and a tough conversation is coming.

A woman presents with an urgent plea, shouting for Jesus to help her daughter, and what follows is perhaps one of the toughest conversations recorded in our gospels. And it almost does not happen. The response from Jesus and the disciples initially is silence, ignoring her cries. And when Jesus does respond? It is not pretty. In fact, it almost does not sound like Jesus at all.

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It is at best a brush-off, a sending away of this woman who does not merit his time or attention. Such a statement is counter to our most basic understanding of Jesus.

Where is the Jesus who says, “let the little children come to me” and who seemed to pause at every bend in the road to speak to people, much to the disciples’ dismay. Where is the Jesus who stops when a woman who is bleeding touches the hem of his coat, taking time to respond to her needs and offer healing? The one who does not send the crowds away, but instead tells the disciples to give them something to eat?

I would like that Jesus, please. Because what we have seems far from it. Then, he makes it worse, not just insinuating, but flat out calling the woman a “little doggie,” a diminutive, derogative term, not worthy of what is given to the privileged children at the table. This is not the Jesus we learned about.

In fact, it is a presentation of Jesus that will get under our skin and make us frustrated and exasperated. It seems callous, mean, and cold-hearted. These are not usually words we put with our Lord and Saviour.

Perhaps we can find out what is going on by turning our attention to the woman, who is not given a name, but is described by her ethnic identity. In the version of this story that we find in Mark’s gospel, she is labelled as a gentile, specifically a Syrophoenician (see Mark 7:24-30), identifying her as an outsider.

But Matthew’s gospel takes it one step further, identifying her differently, with the label of Canaanite. Such a marker is significant and would have been especially so to those in the 1st century. You see, it is a biblical reference. There were no Canaanites living in the first century, so:

The label evokes historical conflicts and thus defines the woman in terms of age-old prejudices a first-century Jewish audience would understand.

Such tension was inherent to the cultural context of the day, and it reveals a very sobering mirror to those listening, including us. We like to think of Jesus as above all of this, but here we see him at his most fully human. And in this picture of Jesus, we might see ourselves and our own prejudices revealed. We certainly feel the tension that comes in difficult conversations with those with whom we would prefer not to associate.

The writer of the gospel of Matthew places this encounter in a strategic place in the gospel that sets the stage for the woman to enter. After all, Jesus has just finished telling the scribes and Pharisees that it isn’t a strict adherence to purity laws or dietary regulations that makes one part of the covenant; it is the interplay between what is in the heart and the words that come from it. The Canaanite woman’s plea becomes an illustration of this instruction, without losing the inherent tension. It is not meant to be an easy application. It is supposed to catch the readers off guard and ruffle their feathers.

Matthew doubtless framed the story he had borrowed from Mark in a way that would help his readers grapple with the tension between those members of his community who understood the gospel of Jesus to be the way for Jews to be faithful Jews and those members who believed that the gospel was intended by God for the whole world. That Jesus effectively articulates both perspectives in this passage served to name the tension and to recognize the truth inherent in both viewpoints.

The struggle in this story, then, is necessary for it to be powerful, because it sets the stage for a new narrative to happen that changes understandings, for both Jesus and the disciples, and the listeners to the good news.

The woman persists. When things are difficult, when disparaging remarks are made, when attempts are there to silence her voice, when the harsh realities of the world are spoken in plain language, the woman does not shy away from the tough conversations that need to happen next. She addresses her need once again, engaging in a sharp and provocative response to Jesus that pushes against all that stands between her and the grace and mercy she seeks. She kneels at his feet and speaks again. Even the dogs get the crumbs. These words, spoken truth to power, along with her faith, enact real and meaningful change. Now we see the Jesus we have come to expect: “Great is your faith!” and healing for her daughter seal the moment.

This story “wakes us up from our biblical slumbers” and puts us outside of our comfort zones. We need to see the Canaanite woman not as an annoyance, but what is called a “divine disruption” meant to teach us something.

Disciples of Jesus learn and grow when they brush up against people whose lives, needs, dreams, and struggles are different from their own. The effect of such a relationship is like the effect of sandpaper on a piece of rough wood. It smoothes out the undisciplined edges of life and makes Christ followers serviceable for some new purpose.

For the first century believers, this story reveals a very rough spot in their understanding of what it means to live as disciples of Jesus Christ, particularly in contemplating who could or could not be a part of the salvation offered by the Messiah. And Matthew gives them a tough conversation to help illustrate his point and open them to new possibilities. The totality of these verses would have been sandpaper to those who heard it, and it should be the same for us today.

Brothers and sisters, “we need to talk”

There are countless things happening and going on in the world that prompt us to have conversation with one another. But often, we are silent or dismissive of those things that disrupt our lives and beckon our attention. The issues that have been raised in the wake of Covid-19 and lockdown, is simply the most recent instance of violence, abuse, corruption etc.

Many tough conversations had already been happening, but the pandemic sparked an opportunity for more people to become a part of sustained conversation about what had brought the Church, community and the Country to this breaking point, and what could be done going forward.

We need to be less dismissive of the issues in our community, and instead listen for what God might be trying to tell us. Maybe we can embark on these tough conversations before it becomes another headline in the news.

Friends, it does not take much for us to be put in positions where we might have some tough conversations. Look around you in this community. We are, by my account, what you would call a “purple church.” The political, cultural, and ideological positions of those who sit in our pews cover virtually the entire spectrum. And that makes it hard, particularly when tensions escalate around us and even within us. Frankly, it is easier when those around you share your viewpoints. Purple is more than a blend of red and blue, a right-left political hybrid with no colour of its own.

Purple is an ancient Christian symbol. Christian purple – the colour of repentance and humility – represents the kingdom birthed in the martyred church, unified around a crucified saviour, and formed by the spiritual authority of being baptized in a community of forgiveness. For Christians, purple is more than a blending of political, cultural, and ideological extremes, a mushy middle. Purple is about power that comes through loving service, laying down one’s life for others, and following Jesus’ path.

Purple, it seems, might have something to do with the vision set forth by the Psalmist in Psalm 133, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” It is a psalm that expresses the deep longing and hope for reunification of the Northern and Southern kingdoms. It is something that has not yet happened but is yearned for with all of the psalmist’s being. And I believe it is something we yearn for as well. The only way we can possibly get there is to talk to each other about it. Even if that is tough.

Tough conversations take many forms, it comes in the way of establishing friendships and simply listening. That is a great place to begin. In fact, you do not even necessarily have to talk about those “hot button” issues with each other at first. Just get to know each other’s story. Then, as the friendship develops, you can delve into those deeper waters.

In the case of the Canaanite woman, tough conversations come by stripping away pretence and naming difficult realities that push boundaries and place the woman at risk. It is the proverbial “speaking truth to power,” and is a type of honest engagement that can bring about lasting change. Both are different methods, but both faithful ways of embodying a faith that allows us to be fully present with each other.

Our work right now is not in the easy. It is in the difficult, heart-breaking, soul-searching, seemingly impossible work of having tough conversations with each other.

Today’s text reminds us that we are called to engage in the tensions and difficult conversations of our time. As people of faith, I would encourage us to try to make these tough conversations ones that are theological. The issues we wrestle with in the world, particularly those of equality and justice and gender-based violence, need the theology and love of Jesus Christ infused into them.

That is the model of the Canaanite woman and Jesus. The woman evokes theological terms like “Lord” and “Son of David.” The tough conversation she brings was not just a hot-button issue; it was a crisis of theology. Her begging was not just to have her daughter healed; her begging was a persistent insistence on being included in the love and grace and mercy offered by Jesus Christ. That must be the root of all our approaches as well.

The work of faith is hard. Tough conversations are all around us. May we not be silent.

“We need to talk”

Let us pray:

Lord God, Give us resolute courage I pray, to stand fast in this day and endow us with boldness and sufficient strength, that only comes from You, so that we may have the courage to engage in the tensions and difficult conversations of our time. For the courage to take on the issues we wrestle with in the world, particularly those of equality and justice and gender-based violence.

Keep us I pray, from being lulled into a spiritual slumber, awaken us in the power of the Holy Spirit, to be compassionate towards others, to listen to the issues, to speak up when others remain silent.

In the name of Christ.


Vanda Chittenden