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

s055e05 Sunday 22 28/8/05

"you will heap burning coals on their heads" Romans 12.20

I confess I find it difficult to reconcile the injunction to make sure our love is genuine with these words about the burning coals. There seems to be a not so small element of self interest creeping in, making our love less than 100%. The thought of heaping burning coals on the heads of my enemies is very delicious.

Yet what a wonderful world this would be if all people lived by the precepts in this passage. Just think, if no one repaid evil for evil, or avenged the wrong done to them, if people gave food and drink to their enemies instead of shooting them or barricading themselves from others, if all tried to live peaceably with everyone else, and in harmony with all. How easy it is to think of the trouble spots in this world and think if only THEY lived by these precepts ..

How lucky we are in Australia. People used to pay most of their life savings to unscrupulous people traffickers to travel in unseaworthy ships to come to an alien country to an uncertain welcome (to put it mildly) simply to have a share of the blessings we enjoy.

I recall when the massacres were taking place in Rwanda, thinking (briefly) about adopting an orphan and bringing the child to Australia. I guess I was not the only one --for there was soon a statement that the authorities didn't want children to be removed from their cultural roots. I had to wonder what is most important -- a life or retaining one's cultural identity? Yet sentiments similar to my own lay behind the rationale of taking aboriginal children from their parents and the seeds of the "stolen generation", and the very real hurt that caused so many people.

If the "boat people" actually are our enemies then we are bidden to provide them with the necessities of life. I'm not sure that detention centres quite fulfil this injunction, when the stated aim of the government is to use these centres to deter future arrivals.

One way that we can avoid the import of this text is by saying that this is a political statement. It seems that there are a multitude of things we can use to dismiss the relevance of the bible or the faith to us when it might actually be suggesting that we might be called to do something ourselves.

I don't know about anyone else, but I can trace my ancestry in South Australia back to 1847, so I suppose I have as much claim as anyone else who is not of aboriginal heritage to be as South Australian as one can get -- yet this is not my land to the exclusion of anyone else. Each and every one of us has to make the most of what we are given. We can't really make things easier for our children by providing a substantial inheritance for them. By the time they get to receive it, it will have lost most of its worth anyway. Do we not trust God to provide for our children as much as God has provided for us?

True goodness and unselfishness does provoke anger from people. One has only to look at the ministry of Jesus, who came to be a servant of all, and how this heaped burning coals on the heads of those who thought that he should naturally defer to them.

The call of a Christian is not a call to live a blessed life where everything goes OUR way. Even if we were to succeed in living a true Christian existence then we can be certain that someone else would take offence. I was reflecting recently that no one "has it all" so there is little point in wishing it were so, as if we were so special.

The essence of the Christian life is what we do for others. Arguing about the faith, which faith, what others should or shouldn't do is no substitute for 'living in harmony with one another' and the obligation that this implies impacts on everyone, not just on everyone else.

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