The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r005.htm
s005g12 Christmass 25/12/2012
Do not be afraid .. Luke 2.10
I guess if I were visited by angels I would also be
afraid. Much is expected of those who have been given
much - and I count myself as one who has been given much.
But other folk - I could well imagine them thinking - when was I
last in worship? - how much did I put into the
collection? If I were an illiterate shepherd, unable to
even read scripture, have I got to be someone else entirely? - have
I missed the boat?
And the angel comes and says: 'do not be afraid'.
Many religious people wander about making people afraid -
afraid of being themselves,
afraid of transgressing,
afraid of the sins of youthful emotion,
afraid that the divine might see through my 'keeping up
afraid because of a choice to use contraception,
afraid of the enjoyment of intimacy,
afraid of speaking my mind, indeed ..
afraid of speaking at all,
afraid of what might be asked of me.
And the angel comes and says: 'do not be afraid'.
A while ago I wrote about avoiding those who proclaim: 'I am
he'. The opposite of this is to embrace the one who
says: 'You are you' - the one who says: 'do not be afraid' - of who
you are, of being yourselves, of your thoughts, dreams and emotions,
of intimacy, of innovation, of ordinariness ..
In some ways this statement for me encapsulates what Christmass and
Christianity is all about. Time and again I hear good
people wanting to put Christ back into Christmass, but I wonder if
we actually need to protect Christmass from becoming too spiritual,
too other worldly. In some ways I want to reclaim
Christmass for the ordinary folk of the world - those who live
ordinary lives, those who don't have earth-shattering jobs, those
who are not the movers and shakers for the next millennium, those
who have enough to worry about providing for themselves and those
whom they love without having others pass comment on what they may
or may not be able to put into the collection plate or how often
they come to church. In some ways I want to reclaim
Christmass and Christianity for the ordinary folk of the world, not
the theological movers and shakers who can quote chapter and verse
and know just who and who is not going to hell! I want
to reclaim Christmass and Christianity for those who struggle to
read, let alone understand the 17th century English of the KJV so
beloved of some 'christians'.
I remind myself that my home country of Australia was invaded by
poor convicts from Britain, transported to the other side of the
world for the crime of theft from the rich and the religious to
provide for themselves and those they loved - sentenced by good
Church of England magistrates, to steal a country from the
indigenous people for the Crown!
In recent times I have found myself in groups convened precisely to
be a safe place for people to express themselves. Indeed
I am attending one the very night I am typing these words, though by
the time this is read it will have happened. The
'subject' that forms the lead off for our discussions is provided by
Brian, who writes: 'WE HAVEN'T FALLEN!
'Orthodox Christianity teaches that God "created" (past tense) the
world, that "sin" entered the world through humans behaviour, and
that the only way to obtain God's forgiveness is by the shedding of
'We now know that all three of these premises are incorrect.
'Creation is not completed. It is still in progress and
we may in fact still be near its beginning. Stars are
still being born.
'Sin did not enter the world at the Fall. Aggression,
predation, competition, and other forms of cruelty were here long
before humans appeared, and indeed are the very mechanisms that
drive natural selection and evolution. Without these
forces we would not even be here.
'And redemptive violence where God is seen to love the smell of
blood and require the sacrifice of sons, animals, or his own son in
order to forgive, is a cruel and primitive tribal concept unworthy
of the creator of the galaxies, black holes, and dark matter.'
My real concern is that the church itself is NOT a safe place to say
these things and we have to find other communities where these can
be expressed. The church is NOT a safe place where we
can be ourselves, where truth cannot be explored but only received
and accepted. One of the other leaders of this group
posted this sign obviously found somewhere, on his 'Facebook' page:
'You're entering a CHURCH. You must be decently dressed and
remain silent Thank you for your comprehension' . Thanks
Rob! I suspect that +++Rowan will be able to be himself
once he has retired from his office, able to express what he
actually believes without being constrained by the church.
Christians argue about the most important thing in the building -
the architecture gives it away. For Catholics and high church
Anglicans the Altar is front and centre. In St Andrews
Anglican Cathedral in Sydney 'God's board' is on castors, wheeled in
when necessary. For others the important thing is the
pulpit, the bible, the cross, the tabernacle / aumbry, the elements
of the Mass / Communion, the font, the organ; some deluded people
even think it is the minister :-) But, of course, the
most sacred thing in the building, is the people who are there -
whatever they believe or not, understand or not, whatever their
abilities or their inabilities, whatever they are able to give in
the collection or not - it doesn't matter. This is the message
I have recently realised that I am a bit of an artist when it comes
to scripture, God and faith. I do this each week,
because as I read, interact with those around me, and express my
conclusions, my own perceptions change. I would
therefore be the last to suggest that any of my weekly creations,
for all I believe them to be ‘inspired’, are the last word on any
subject. For all I might be inspired and capture a
snap-shot of the truth, it is not the whole truth and there is ever
more to perceive and express and hence to grow. And I
think of the biblical authors, and how they would be horrified to
think that their words were being used to set the expression of
faith in concrete. They would be horrified to think that their
words were being used to make others afraid of their own perceptions
and creativity. They would be horrified to realise that
their words were being used to define inspiration and restrict it to
their's alone. They would be horrified that their words
were being used to dismiss further inspiration of God as irrelevant,
impious or heretical.
And artists live to create. What musician doesn't want
an audience? What painter hides their creation away so
that no one else can appreciate it, albeit in an incomplete
Christmass is our permission to be ourselves, our permission to
create, to express, to grow, to love and to be loved. It
is only in an appreciation of this permission that Christmass is
potentially joyful, not just for me but for all.