8 March 2021
Today Philip and Rebekah and Frank and Helen bring their children to be baptised . I note that today we have the grandchildren of two active elders , Alofa and Rod being baptised - that's really neat.
But what are we doing to these children? What is this way of Jesus that we ask God to point them in? And what sort of community do they find in this church and in the church Catholic?
Following Jesus is not about finding a community which suits us, a group of people we can get on with and where our own needs are met, it is about being found by God.. The church is not a club where we choose who will belong, and where we only stay if our particular group of friends is there that day, but a community called into being by Jesus . We have a common purpose and are gathered together into God's life by Jesus to be and to live within God's will. To love and serve in God's name. It is God's church, not ours, its is God whom we serve in serving others not ourselves.
This is not an easy way, as your children grow in faith they will find themselves put in a position where there is conflict between what is good and true and what is evil and destructive, not just for themselves and their families but for others some of whom may even be hostile towards them. They will need to choose which path to walk. . Those decisions sound easy, who would want to do things which are destructive to themselves of others unless they are covered in the sugar of being fun, or making us feel good, or appealing to our greed. And most dangerous of all being done to achieve a good end ? One of the major chilling debates at present is what power governments can claim to protect its citizens from a greater evil. I answered a survey the other day where one of the questions was do terrorists have any rights.? The implication is that if you are a terrorist then you have no rights This actually defines a terrorist as not being human. Human rights, like at least having some proof of terrorist activity, are able to be completely disregarded. The action in the Northern Territory in Australia supposedly for Aboriginal families is also very dangerous as it takes away their humanity. If you are ?????Ö[.fill in the gap] - you can be ignored. Our children inherit a world where human life is cheap. If our children learn and know that their humanity is based in God, and God's love and so is that of any other human, then the means will become as important as the ends, and that will shape how they value even enemies.
But is the subtle decisions which are a problem. The ones where both paths look good and can be justified so easily to ourselves. It is often so subtle that a whole community, or part of a community , usually a close knit one, can pretend that something basically dehumanising is the norm.. I guess the Pitcairn Islanders know this. When excuses become good reasons they are hard to counter, because the reasons become part of the mythology of a community - this is our culture - these are our customs - and are even woven into the sacred stories and religious beliefs.. Those who question the norm suddenly find they are in conflict, and are called trouble makers, rockers of the boat. Little Kimora-Lee and Ryan need to know the depth of God's love for them and for this world, They will find that following Jesus can be costly and painful if they speak against the flow or the accepted customs for justice or honesty or to warn against corruption.
We have an enormous capacity for self interest, and the choices are made in our hearts and minds, it is in the ambushes within ourselves, in the struggles shaped by what we have learned from the world around us and the struggles against our own self interest , where we will choose how to act.
We can be so good at making excuses for our actions or non action we can even fool ourselves.
Insurance companies hear them all.
As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision.
I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.
The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.
The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.
The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
I have often been surprised when someone has been asked why something has happened they have an explanation and expect that to be the end of it, but there is a further question to ask is it true?
Its horrifying that some how a crime of killing ones relative - usually female - in some cultures can be justified by the excuse that is an honour killing.. The whole system which produces the killing and condones it which needs challenging but also the specific actions of the perpetrator. Jesus challenged systems and named evil. .
When we do decide to challenge long held customs and excuses there is always the possibility of conflict. How do we deal with demand for discipleship against our desire to avoid conflict? There is no easy answer.
In the story today from Luke we find Jesus and his followers heading to Jeruslaem, through Samaria. He had to travel through territory hostile to Jews going to worship in Jerusalem. He did not avoid travelling there , but they were not welcome at the first village. How to deal with them. James and John call on the old story of Elijah who in the same place called down fire on his enemies and ask Jesus to repeat the dose. Letís stamp out racism! Letís hate those who hate us! Jesus will have none of it. And they went on to another village. WE have a clear message the old way of Elijah - that to return hostility with hostility is not the way of Jesus. This was the Samaritan's land and Jesus respected that but he still made the journey.he did not avoid going there. .
And as he went toward Jerusalem and his eventual death. A brave person says he want to follow with Jesus. Jesus replies this is not the soft option. There is no guaranteed shelter for those who travel with Jesus - you can end up anywhere, in any place.
Then there is the person who says yes I want to follow you but , Here comes the excuse and itís a goodie, let me first bury my father, lets wait till my parents live our their long lives, and then I'll be able to come. When? Would that be? Lets wait until is a wonderful excuse and it is so good of him to want to look after his elderly parents, it is in fact a duty. . Jesus is running out of time, he tells the man leave the dead to bury their dead, your task is to live to bring life. in other words, today is the time now is the time to proclaim the kingdom of God.
"We'll wait until our children are old enough to make a decision for themselves," say parents who send their kids to school, who have rules and regulations in their homes, who take their children to music and ballet and soccer and swimming? Who provide them with a television screen which pours out anything with no critique of what is valuable and what is not. When will the time to learn about life and loving and living be? and how will those children know what the decisions for their lives are unless they have been part of a community where the stories of Jesus are absorbed and the faith is caught. Now is the time, and noone is too young to come or too old to learn.
I will follow you but let me say good bye to those at home. I wonder what was meant by this good bye. Maybe a getting permission to go?
None who puts their hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God , says Jesus, No- one who drives looking the rear vision mirror is going to get anywhere. To go into the future we need to be forward looking.
This is good news, because this means that cycles can be broken, the past need not drive the present, the future is new and hopeful.
And that at the end is what we pray for all of us. That we know that God gives us a future, it might not be easy, it will have difficulties but there is a future. We must be prepared to face conflict, to not always be comfortable, there may be times when we are misunderstood and times when we question and find ourselves reverting to old patterns but following Jesus is the way of life for us and for all those around us. Today , in faith, we place ourselves and Kimora-Lee and Ryan in this journey of life in Jesus.
And we pray this community is one which reflects the life of the Spirit.
"By contrast the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided be the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another or envying one another."
May God give us the grace to be able to look to the vine which produces this fruit, Jesus himself.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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