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s008e07 First Sunday after Christmass 30/12/07

'all have one Father' Heb 2.11

I confess I have great difficulties with our gospel reading for today. Three times we are told that things happened to 'fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through his prophet'. This occurs right at the beginning of the first of the gospels, and of course this year we are reading it twice in quick succession, once for the feast of the Holy Innocents last Friday and now again today.

This might seems innocuous, but the fact that this is linked to the massacre of the innocents, presents us with the possibility that God is more concerned about scripture being fulfilled than God cares for the lives of young people. That is not the sort of God I worship and it is not the God I would commend to anyone else.

However we might argue that these things happened long ago, so perhaps it doesn't matter. Yet I know 'christians' for whom faithfulness to the inerrancy of the Bible take precedence over everything else, including with whom they are in communion. These sorts of people marginalise women and alienate gay people.

A large part of the Church makes much of the story of the massacre of the infants as a parallel to the prevalence of abortion in modern western society. Yet their prohibition of any form of birth control causes more poverty, suffering, abuse and premature death for millions, than any number of suicide bombers.

However we close our eyes to suffering it is still not God's will; though no doubt some 'christians' will use this passage as justification for their disregard for others.

We might use the text of scripture, the text of various pronouncements of church tradition or I guess a number of other things. Each lies at the heart of terrorism that doctrine and purity are more important than people. We 'christians' can use our 'faith' as inspiration to terrorism just as easily as any other group of people.

My text: 'all have one Father' is a rather happier passage. All of us have one Father. There are not even six degrees of separation between any of us. We are brothers and sisters to all people, not just those who worship like us, believe in the same terms as we do, or live in the manner to which we have become accustomed and expect of all. Others cannot be marginalised, alienated, kept in poverty, subject to suffering, abuse and premature death, without us being concerned. Our concern for the well-being of others must always be visible as paramount in our minds and actions. Our relationship with others should always be evident rather than our differences from other people.

This is, of course the complete antithesis of faithfulness to the Bible or tradition, because people are more important than these things.

And we have to choose between using our faith to try to eliminate others or to embrace others, just as certainly as other faith groups have to choose between using their faith to try to eliminate others or to embrace others. There is no point in pointing the finger at Moslem extremists when we know of Anglican ones.

There can however be no doubt about the consequences if we use our faith to try to eliminate others, we will get only more of the same. Peace only becomes a possibility if we use our faith to embrace others. God cannot save us from the consequences of the former, God can only encourage us to live the life of the later.

In this sense God chooses to be impotent in the world, which is actually the precise opposite of the sentiments that lie behind the words that things happened to 'fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through his prophet'. This view is that God is behind everything that happens. How easy it is for this sort of predestination to be used as an excuse for our lack of charity towards all others? Again we are using our faith as an excuse for terrorism in the name of 'god'??! How convenient it is to be able to blame 'god' for our lack of charity?

If our aim is to convert people of other faiths to 'christianity', to get others to come to Church, or to 'cure' gay and lesbians so that they become straight, then we are terrorists towards others, albeit perhaps a closet one, just keeping our opinions to ourself.

Each of us has to choose to live the life of a terrorist, albeit a 'closet' one perhaps, or to choose to live the life of a disciple of Jesus who associated with others.

If we fail to see the seeds of terrorism in our own perceptions of the faith, then we will continue to fail to appreciate why many people choose not to be people of faith. They are reacting, not to faith but to the ease of which faith can turn into terrorism. We will always be fighting a loosing battle if we try to convert these people, for everything we do will only reinforce their perception that as far as our faith is concerned, they are less important than faith itself.

The only way to reach anyone else is to affirm that we all have one Father and that we are all brothers and sisters. In this sense we cannot be closet 'christians' for Jesus bids us relate to others, as Joseph was told to become one with Mary, and as Jesus was incarnated into the real world, not an exclusive subset thereof.

Jesus clearly warns some 'christians': 'Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.' (Matthew 7.21) However he can still say of those outside the circle of the disciples: 'Whoever is not against us is for us.' (Mark 9.40) Thanks be to God that there are people outside the church who have realized the importance of people and relationships above scripture and doctrines; the opposite of which is always a temptation for people of 'faith'.

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