The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s042g08 Sunday 9 1/6/2008
'the tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.' Matthew 7.19
When one actually thinks about it, the heavenly prospects are pretty bleak! Either we bear good fruit that is consumed by others or we bear bad fruit and the tree is destroyed.
The false prophets are obviously paralleled with the bad tree that produces nothing edible for others. True prophets produce sweet fruit, a delight to eat. The message of the false prophets is all about diminishing those around them. True prophets 'feed' the 'sheep'.
So if we (or anyone else) are diminished by a teaching, it is likely to be false. If someone is raised to their feet and encouraged to think for themselves, then this is likely to be the result of true prophesy.
Recently we have been bewildered and angered that the leadership in Burma has resisted the efforts of the world community to provide aid for the victims of the cyclone. The attempt to hold on to power has caused the prolonging of suffering and death of so many. But instead of pointing the finger at others, it is more profitable to look closer to home and consider where around us that the holding on to positions of power might similarly be to the detriment of others, for we are more likely to be able to make changes here.
When I grew up a common saying (among good 'Christians' and 'Anglicans') was: 'children are to be seen but not heard' which is, when one thinks about it, a form of abuse. These were not the 'good old days'! Why should one honour one's parents when they held this view?
It is only in the recent past that our government has apologised to the indigenous community for actions based on paternalism that have exacerbated the suffering of so many. We can thank God that they have relinquished their hold on power to do this.
But still today some church leaders speak against gay and lesbian people as if they were aliens and cause them further suffering.
Let's give the world to the young people who have no positions of power to maintain perhaps they will make a more equitable and kind world for all to live in.
How does this all relate to our faith and relationship to God? Well for me these words of Jesus seem to be saying the same thing: 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' Matthew 25.45
It is fascinating to me that the saying about the foundations on which the house is laid is, for me, paralleled with either relying on positions of power or on the powerless youth. In the end the world and the future belong to the young and powerless. Regimes based on power will disappear eventually. True they may well be replaced by similarly based regimes, but eventually they too will pass. A world based on kindness and equity is the only one likely to survive, so that while it seems it might be a world built on shaky foundations, it is in fact the most stable. But to do this we need faith. Faith in God, yes. But also faith in young people. Faith in young people, and our encouragement and support.
Recently I have been enjoying watching the BBC series: 'Yes, Minister' by Anthony Jay and Jonathon Lynn. In particular the one entitled 'The Right To Know' where the Minister's daughter decides to save a colony of badgers (by picketing naked :-), shows the difficulty young people have being heard by those in positions of power and authority, even in places other than Burma! It is very clever.
It is important to note that Jesus knows that there will be some who, at the end of time, will claim their status as 'christians' and the deeds of power that they have done as their entitlement to enter the kingdom of heaven. They are met with the reply: 'I never knew you; go away from me you evil-doers'. So, by implication, there are Christians as well as non-christians who do 'the will of (the) Father in heaven'. We can rest assured God will not be hoodwinked, particularly by those who call him 'Lord!'
As I said the heavenly prospects are indeed bleak, for none of us will escape death. Whether there be something beyond, and what that might be is ever a matter of speculation - we are bidden to be good trees and produce fruit to be eaten by others. Our task is in the here and now, and we can let that which might be in the future sort itself out.
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