What on earth do you mean by ‘heaven’?

Signpost for Sunday, July 27th, 2014; Gen 29: 15-28; Ps 105: 1-11, 45b; Rom 8; 26-39; Matt 13: 31-33, 44-52

There is a wealth of preachable material in our readings.

Genesis 29 is a combination of true love and patriarchal manipulation; women loved and owned by men! Is God male?

Psalm 105 is a strongly nationalistic declaration of faith and the basis of a wonderful meditation by Lesley Brandt, but at the same time it is the grounds of the theft of land from the local Palestinians by England and France, given to the down-trodden Jews of Europe. Injustice upon injustice!

Romans 8 has wonderful words of hope, which we mostly use in a funeral situation. That is especially relevant but difficult for me this week when I have to conduct the Memorial Service for my older brother.

But I used to prefer preaching from the Gospel. This week’s selection is a whole group of verbal images of the kingdom of heaven. If you want difficulties even there, you can work out what on earth you mean by “heaven”, or why we cling to outmoded ideas of kingdom, when our monarch is an absentee with no powers whatsoever.

So I would probably ignore all the problems and preach on the mustard seed, or the yeast, the hidden treasure or the pearl, but probably not on the net and the fire. Is that a bit cowardly? Are our preachers over-protective? Of themselves or of their hearers?

I have been brief so far because Paul (and Brye) requested a mini bio; so here it is to make up the space.

Who am I? The same month that Brye became an Anglican Lay Reader in 1958, I became a Methodist Local Preacher. We celebrated the anniversary together in 2008.

I was baptised in the Church of England (St Chad’s, Kirkby), confirmed in the Methodist Church of England (Claremount Road, Wallasey) and ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand in 1967. My “intake year” at the Theological Hall, Knox College, was the largest there ever. Over thirty ex-students and spouses recently celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of our starting there. Three of the Hall staff from our time also attended.

I was minister of Ahuriri-Putorino (Hawkes Bay), St Mark’s, Tokoroa (Waikato), St Andrew’s, Balclutha (Clutha) and Epsom (Auckland). I retired to Hikurangi and became a Sacramantal Minister in the Kamo Hikurangi Local Shared Ministry Team until we (Marjorie and I) removed to Dunedin at the end of 2011. We did this because all our grandchildren were living here, and they still are!

I was cured of my early biblical literalism by the good sense of my minister (Colin Clark, a Methodist) when we came from Merseyside in 1952 and settled in Christchurch. I learned at Knox (thanks, Jack Somerville) the importance of exegesis. I was liberated by Lloyd’s Old Testament teaching and Frank Nichol’s gentle Theology.

I wrote contributions for Kamo Hikurangi Sunday newsletters from 1995 to 2011.

Andrew Brown

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