readings on which this sermon is
be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r040.htm
s040g11 Sunday 7 20/2/2011
‘what reward do you have?’ Matthew 5.46
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
It is, of course, easy to personalise this gospel, and make it an
impossible goal for OTHERS to achieve. It is more
fundamental to put
these ideals against the corporate church and ask, does the church live
up to this ideal? In our relationships with others who do
like us, believe like us and live like us, does the church embody these
ideals? Not in the slightest. We only greet
brothers and sisters, and in doing so what more are we doing than
The church avoids the impact of this by glossing over the words: ‘he
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the
righteous and on the unrighteous’ thinking that they alone escape being
lumped into the mass of ordinary humanity.
And what reward is there anyway? To be: ‘children of your
heaven’? Well the words about the righteous and the
treated equally immediately follow, so even if there were some who were
not like us, they would be treated the same. So there is no
reward! The suggestion that ‘christians’ go to a
heaven where others
are excluded must be illusory if God treats all children
there is a heaven it includes all, except those who exclude themselves
because others are included. And people in this category
likely to be the religious and the devout, like those who had Jesus
killed so long ago.
And time and again, scripture teaches us that there is no
essence of the book of Job is that a charitable and devout life didn’t
necessarily lead to a blessed life where nothing bad ever happened to
the person. The whole history of the ancient people of God
their unmerited faith was no guarantee against invasion, occupation and
exile. Even Jesus’ ‘sinless’ life was no guarantee that he
‘happily ever after’.
For personal reward and personal blessedness imply personal power and
personal precedence over others, and no matter how much we call upon
the name of the Lord, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we will never be given
such power over others. The reason we are not given personal
precedence over others is that this is essentially selfish.
who measured his or her own self-worth by the number and enthusiasm of
divine devotees has some serious personality issues and needs to see a
good psychiatrist! We will not be given power over others
are called to be like others, we are called to be incarnated into
humanity, we are called to love others.
And the directions to ‘not resist an evildoer’, to ‘turn the other’
cheek, ‘give your cloak’, ‘go also the second mile’ and to not ‘refuse
anyone who wants to borrow from you’ shows us how unselfish we are
called to be. The essence of our religion is spiritual
not spiritual selfishness. We are called to share, not just
our material well-being, but our spiritual hope, which implies that our
faith includes hope for people other than ‘christians’.
A perfect father or mother doesn’t have favourites among their
children. There is nothing any of their children can do to
change. It doesn’t matter how much a child is devoted to
parents, or how much they go their own way in the world - the perfect
parent still loves the child. God doesn’t just love those
God in return!
So if God does this perfectly, our devotion to God is entirely
immaterial to God’s love for us and for all. Whatever name
God, or choose not to, but live lives of charity and integrity, God
loves all equally.
But what then comes of coming to Church? Well, to thank God
God really is, rather than the idol we make ‘god’ into. And
think that the church is languishing, then it is probably because our
theology has meant that others do not find ‘their’ God
will not come and worship a ‘god’ who doesn’t love them unhesitatingly,
indiscriminately and without expectation. If the ‘god’ we
our own actions) doesn’t accept others unhesitatingly, indiscriminately
and without expectations, then they know enough of scripture and they
know enough of God to reject this counterfeit.
But, of course, there is a reward, that of knowing that the world is a
more caring place because of our care - that people, and more
importantly, churches, are beginning to accept others without
hesitation, without discrimination, and without
reward is that the world is a more loving place, a happier place, a
place where the resources of this earth are shared rather than
hoarded. A place were spiritual resources are shared rather
I have been reflecting recently how the ‘goal-posts’ have
times past the goal was to have a self sufficient parish where there
was sufficient for an appropriate stipend for the minister and his (as
it usually was) associated costs. Then the building and
to be fully paid for, with money over for annual
there was money to give to the wider church and the needs of the
community. Interestingly, the Anglican system we inherited
England, the churches were ancient and the ministry costs came from the
church commissioners. Parishes in the colonies have had a
trying to measure up to the perceived standards of the ‘father / mother
land’. Behind all this was the weekly communion
movement. The ‘high
church’ version of this began in the Oxford Movement (c 1840) which
encouraged Anglicans to receive the holy communion
1905 Pope Pius X urged Catholics likewise. (Was it a case
‘Anything you can do I can do better’?) However
Wikipedia tells me
‘the movement could not be regarded as a movement until the collection
of essays entitled "The Parish Communion" (which) was published in
1937. .. Even though the movement is held to have
the wars, it only lost its Anglo-catholic connotations and started to
gain popular momentum in the sixties.’
All this, of course, necessitated a priest and a church
emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy meant that inter-communion with other
christians was ruled out. But it all proved too hard.
In the face of this difficulty, the goal posts moved. The
movement (from 1910) was born out of necessity. But another
was the ordination of local ministers who would work voluntarily,
celebrating the sacraments and pastoring the congregation.
meant that something of what counted as distinctively ‘Anglican’ was
lost. The second resulted in a loss of formal theological
and Anglican formation. But at least the second was able to
worship to that contained in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ (or it’s local
incarnation.) Neither of these have found much traction and
services began - in the charismatic movement and things like ‘messy
church’. Again the goal posts have moved and now we are content
have people worshipping however which way. Some people who
studied hard to be locally ordained clergy and some who have studied
hard to be diocesan clergy have found themselves sidelined.
The goal still seems to get people to come to church, and I begin to
wonder if we now should consider accepting that the goal posts were in
the wrong position right from the beginning. I wonder if
goal should be that our churches are noted for accepting others without
hesitation, without discrimination, and without
the emphasis of our mission needs to shift from getting people into the
pews to acknowledging the spirituality of others elsewhere.
If our spirituality is define and restrict who are considered our
brothers and sisters - good, straight, white Angloceltic males who are
baptised, communicant and tithing Anglicans - then Jesus words are
surely directed towards us who consider ourselves his disciples - it
you greet only these ‘what more are you doing than others’!
are the words of Jesus, not some long-haired hippy radical communist :-)
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