Love one another… Love one another as I have loved you! I wonder how obedient we are, on a day-to-day basis, to this command of Jesus? It is certainly easy to be obedient to this call with people who share our views, our faith and our culture. And it isn’t too hard to love those who differ from us yet respect our rights and customs. It is easy to love those whom we consider to be “nice” and “good” people … and even the most difficult of our neighbours can be loved at a distance.
But loving one another as Jesus has loved us means loving sacrificially, means loving way beyond our comfort zone. On Wednesday evening one young parishioner raised the issue of the so-called Christian attitude to homosexuals, resulting in vilification and physical abuse. How can this be of Christ? Similarly, the recent Boston bombings have resulted in a resurgence of fear mongering with Christian groups rallying against Moslems – because of the actions of 2 young men.
But, hang on, Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, he healed Jew and gentile alike, spent time with corrupt tax collectors and reviled Samaritans and, on the cross, he promised a thief “this day you will be with me in paradise!”
Jesus commandment seems beautiful, comfortable and non-threatening and yet, followed according to His call, it is guaranteed to shake us up, spin us around and turn our world upside down.
I am an avid reader. I recently read a series of books (the Tomorrow series) written for young adults by Australian Author, John Marsden.
The series depicts and Australia which is infiltrated and taken over by soldiers from another country… on the grounds that they (the “others”) have little space or resources… while we have much which is poorly managed and unfairly distributed. Ellie, the young hero, struggles to come to terms with what is right and wrong in this situation.
It got me thinking about the way we (here in Australia) are viewed by others and the way in which we use … or misuse … the resources of this wonderful country.
In Words For Worship I read, this week – The abundance of what we need that is portrayed in Psalm 23 is echoed in Revelation 7. Given that this is the world that God wants for all creation, and given that the Church is, in some sense, that new world to come, lived out here and now, how do we reflect God’s desire for a world with enough for all? This question is particularly pertinent for Christians in the West who, since the 1970s and particularly in the last decade, have lived in a society where the gap between the poorest in our communities and the richest is rapidly widening. The post-war dream of housing and jobs and consumer goods for all, which, in turn meant participation by all in the community, is for many, turning into a nightmare. What do these two truths mean for the way we as the Church organize ourselves?
It is God’s desire that there should be none left hungry, thirsty, homeless or in any other need so what is our response as individuals and as a parish? God delights in congregations whose actions parallel their words and teachings on love… who let their light shine out. I wonder (continuing on from last weeks sermon) are we plugged in and switched on? And does our light shine beyond the confines of our timber doors?
I have been continuing to reflect on last week’s gospel about Thomas who needed to see the evidence of the risen Christ for himself. How I love his honesty! As one young adult put it this week – “Why wouldn’t you doubt? Would you believe it if I told you that someone who had died a violent death had returned to life?”
Truth be told there are probably moments of doubt for the majority of believers, at some time or other. I found this poem, which was given as the response of a believer some time ago and found its way into a newspaper in response to an atheist’s diatribe against Christianity. I thought it was worth sharing.
Oh you who could not put one star in motion,
Who could not build one mountain out of the earth,
Or trace the pattern of a single snowflake,
Or understand the miracle of birth.
Presumptuous mortal who cannot alter the universe in any way,
Or fashion one small bud, release one raindrop,
Or toss one cloud into a sunny day.
Oh earthling who could not paint a sunset
Or cause one dawn to shine,
Oh puny man who cannot create a single miracle
How dare you doubt the Only One Who can?
Love and Blessings
In the movie, The Mission, one of the leading characters is converted from being a slave-trader of Brazilian Indians to a Jesuit priest. But he insists on doing penance, dragging a heavy bundle through the jungle back to the Indians he used to enslave. Once back, in a dramatic, cliff-side scene, where the bundle threatened to make him fall, the Indians cut away the bundle. The people he had formerly enslaved forgave him and set him free. We have the power to do that for each other.
I do need to point out that forgiving sins does not mean ignoring them. If a child runs onto a road (and survives) you will forgive (and rejoice that he or she is okay) BUT there is no doubt that there will be a need to explain and teach the child that running onto the road is wrong. Unloving behaviors can be forgiven but sometimes there is a need for teaching and explaining. When King David had his affair with Bathsheba and sent her husband into the front line so as to ensure his death… David needed to know he was in the wrong and suffered the consequences of his actions but there is no doubt that he was forgiven and continued to be beloved by God.
21Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
As Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, we are a priesthood of believers who are to be priests for one another, forgiving one another as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. We do have the power to forgive as God’s sons and daughters. Or as Jesus said even centuries earlier, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
This is an incredible responsibility but it is the responsibility of all believers, not just those in leadership roles. By our willing ability to forgive others and set them free, we point to Christ and become positive ambassadors for the Church and the Kingdom of God.
Love and blessings
It is said an apostle is one who bears witness to the risen Jesus. Much is made (by recent scholars) of the fact that, as it was the women who first discovered the empty tomb and concluded that Jesus had risen… the women in Luke’s gospel are the church’s first apostles. At times of grief we are all caught off guard and react in different ways. Some huddle in quiet corners trying to come to terms with events, while others are moved to take action… preparing food for the bereaved, making funeral arrangements, feeling the need to prepare the body for final burial or drawn back to the graveside or perhaps the place of death. The same is true today as then.
Further, Luke reports that the others receive the words of the women as an “idle tale.” Was this because they suspected the credibility of women? Or is it because of the incredible nature of the news? As a woman I am glad that it seems some women were the first to “see” and understand that Jesus had risen but I believe that this isn’t about the gender of those involved, so much as about our own individual perceptions and reactions. Every gospel writer records disbelief in the wake of Easter. It is an incredible story!
Every year we retell the Easter story, going over the facts from various points of view, not to remember old details, but to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. . It is still a challenge to look death in the face and trust “Jesus is risen”… and take hold of that truth for ourselves, once again. We place ourselves in the story and experience the grief, disbelief and wonder anew.
As Susan McCaslin, Arousing the Spirit: Provocative Writings, writes;
“Let the hinges of our hearts swing open
To things we can’t explain –
…Help us experience daily
the astonishing in the apparently ordinary”
Easter Blessings on you all.
There is something to be said about the importance of being welcomed at the end of a journey… to see a familiar face in the crowd rather than strangers … the face/s of people who are glad or excited to see you. I am sure that there was an element of joy in Jesus heart as he entered Jerusalem, welcomed by the supportive crowd rather than the hostility of the authorities. This was the Son of God, being welcomed into the Holy City, the center of the religious faith of the Jews. Surely this was one place Jesus would find a welcome?
I was thinking of this on Thursday as Maurie and I attended the funeral of our good friend Tim Lyne. There were occasions when Tim and his family saw us off on our journeys or collected us from the airport…. They were the familiar, welcoming faces, glad to see us, looking for signs that the holiday had refreshed us, and waiting to hear of our adventures.
What a difference family and friends make in our lives, what an incredible difference to our sense of “belonging” and “home”!
The people on Tamborine Mountain seem to have been following the same study book that we have been using – Homeward Bound by Bishop Doug Stevens. Father Jim Stonier spoke about Tim’s faith and the certainty of him being welcomed Home … having “saved the best till last.”
We are all on a journey. Although we sojourn at various “homes” on the way, the destination is the same. We journey home to our heavenly Father, there to be welcomed with open arms and a loving embrace.
Love and Blessings