The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.   (Fr Jim Cotter 

s028g11 Fifth Sunday of Easter 22/5/2011


'no one comes to the Father except through me'   John 14.6


I have made the observation before that countless 'christians' down the centuries and across the denominations have all quoted this verse of scripture in justification for claiming that everyone has to become like them.   They have used Jesus' words to make Jesus effectively say that 'no one comes to the Father but by my interpretation of who Jesus is' – which is little different from: 'no one comes to the Father but by me' (= Jesus).  


Now the empirical evidence is that there are a multitude of interpretations of who Jesus is, even within scripture itself.   So we are left in the dark as to which interpretation is right, and humanity is left to fight it out over who is right, and the only logical conclusion is that this is what our human existence is supposed to be like – continual fighting over the real nature of God – and that God doesn't care about anyone who is hurt in the process.   Such a 'god' is a demon in disguise.   No wonder anyone with a bit of common sense shuns the church or metaphorically crosses their fingers behind their backs when certain things are said.


I am trying to think of the person who said that the ultimate madness is to spend our lives always doing the same things, over and over again, desperately thinking that one day the outcome will be different.   Aussie males have a habit of avoiding going to a doctor and all they do is condemn themselves to more pain and disability.   But before we condemn this, does not the church do the same?   Does not the church go blindly on, doing the same things over and over again, desperately thinking that one day God will act, the outcome will be different and their version of reality will triumph!  All we do is condemn ourselves and the world in which we live to more of the same, division, delusion and devastation.   And we can quote: 'no one comes to the Father but by me' thinking that by doing so we absolve ourselves of any responsibility for the divisions in the world; but we are doing nothing to change it.   Let me assure you, the God I worship does care.


God cares about the millions in the third world countries who live lives of fear, poverty, illness and premature death because of someone else's ruling on the use of condoms.   God cares about the poor who are killed in religious conflicts.   God cares about the millions of people who church-folk challenge, marginalise, and alienate in God's name – like people other than 'christians' of my particular flavour, women, and gay and lesbian persons.


'Do not let your hearts be troubled' is a word, not especially to 'christians' of my particular brand, but a word to all of humanity.   Believing in Jesus means believing that no one should be troubled, that no one should be dis-eased.   'Do not let your hearts be troubled' is not a word to 'christians' that they shouldn't be concerned when others suffer as a result of the prejudices of 'christians'.   'Do not let your hearts be troubled' is not a license to condemn others who do not think like us, believe like us, worship like us and live in a manner of which we approve, to eternal damnation


Recently I attended a clergy conference and post-earthquake everyone is, not un-naturally, wishing things would return to ‘normal’.   Houses, churches and halls have been rendered unusable.   Parishioners have been scattered.   But the desire to return to what was, while natural, is impossible.   Churches will be rebuilt, but they will be rebuilt with safety being the first consideration, rather than being rebuilt to replicate what was.   And, in time, the faith will be restored, but again with an eye to the safety of people.


I made the comment earlier that some men avoid going to doctors becaue it is a sign of weakness.   Continuing discomfort and pain comes while we remain independent.   So health comes when we renounce our independence and embrace the professionalism of others.   Similarly the church needs to stop avoiding the expertise of modern scientific discoveries, and open ourselves to the insights of others.


We, those of us who claim to be ‘christians’, need to take a lead in this.   If we avoid the path to health, to other professionals, we deny the possibility of health to others as they too emulate our independence. as if this were God’s will.


How much of what we call faith would be so much healthier if we took heed of the insights of psychology, just as our faith is so much richer with the insights of other scientific discoveries, made through telescopes and microscopes.   Psychology can alert us to unhealthy pictures of 'god' that we have inherited from our imperfect parents – like those who believed that children are to be seen and not heard.


Time and again in the gospels Jesus does indeed talk about our relationship with himself – like the words: 'I am the vine, you are the branches' in John, so we do have to be clear just how Jesus means this.   Time and again I have to say that Jesus was killed because he associated with people other than the religious, the devout and the orthodox.   The concept that Jesus was killed because he claimed a special status for himself is to believe the excuse of those who had him killed – and why on earth would we do this?   And by believing this excuse we are led into destructive rather than affirming ways – and these are surely not of God.


Yes, we are to believe in Jesus, but the real Jesus, the one that associated with people other than the religious.   We are to believe in the resurrection because the efforts of the religious to stop Jesus associating with people other than them was, and is, futile.   We are to believe in Jesus, not because we will personally benefit from doing so, but because we, and others, find health in an egalitarian community.   We are to believe in the resurrection, not because we gain brownie points for believing the unbelievable, but because our belief puts us into an egalitarian relationship with all other people.   No longer do we have to pretend we are somehow special, superior and not needing help from others.   We are able to be ourselves with others, to gain from their insights and expertise as they might gain from our insights and expertise.


And in moving from isolation to community we also move from madness to sanity, from a life condemned to more of the same dis-ease, to a life of health and wholeness in that household of God, which has 'many dwelling-places'.

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