s056e^96 Somerton Park & homepage 8/9/96 Sunday 23 Pentecost 15
"Owe no one anything, except to love one another" Rom 13.8
No one likes to feel they are in debt to anyone else, and here in Australia the word "bludger" has often been one of the worst descriptions of a person possible. The Australian myth of the lone drover, through the "self made" man, has found its final fruit in the concept of self sufficiency. The whole ethos of the 1/4 acre block, upon which no one may trespass is very deeply ingrained into our psyche. The distress that is engendered when the Mabo decision is discussed is I suspect because it cuts across these very bastions of our personal sense of security.
Some time back I noticed that these words - "Owe no one anything" were in fact the very first words of scripture read in Church each new liturgical year. In the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 they are the opening words of the Epistle for the First Sunday in Advent. So perhaps the Church can share a little of the blame for the emphasis on "owe no one anything". I have always been intrigued, one of the personalised number plates on the cars I often see in my travels reads IOU-NIL. I wonder if they realise they are part of the Bible?
We yearn to be independent. We laugh at the Lotteries Commission advert which implies one of the greatest opportunities a lotteries win would bring is to be able to say in rather spectacular ways to one's boss: "I quit", yet really would this be the case? One of the greatest difficulties the unemployed have is not starvation but loss of self esteem because they feel they have no ministry that others appreciate.
The reality is that no one is an island. We live in a world where so much is provided that we take it for granted. When we switch on a switch, on comes the light. We only need to put our rubbish into a suitable container on the footpath on the appropriate day for someone to actually come and take it away.
How frequently do we complain about this and that and something else - that the State doesn't seem to be going ahead, that there are so many unemployed young people within our community, or that the federal budget means that some people might be a little worse off rather than better? People would kill to live in South Australia. People get on vessels which could not even be dignified by being called a ship or a boat - and risking life, limb and pirates attempt to sail to Australia.
Other than some passion-fruit and a few mulberries in season, I eat little that I have actually grown myself. Everything else I buy, and in doing so that involves a multitude of people from producers and packers, marketers, distributors, retailers, as well as advertisers, government regulatory bodies, those involved in transporting the goods around the country, unionists, developers - all sorts of people. If we are what we eat, there would be few that can say that they are a self-made person. And of course this same number of people lies behind every amenity we enjoy and product we buy.
In the striving to be independent, we fail to see how interdependent we all are. Independence is an unattainable myth. Life would indeed be short and hard if in fact that was ever achieved by anyone.
Just as we as individuals need the products and services which others provide, so those very same providers need the customers, who we are.
There is, in the end, no more or less important person or role in society. We all have an equally important role to play. There will always be those in life for whom their chief role is to accept the assistance of others. But we should remember how we ourselves shy away from ever accepting help from someone else, how will another person feel having to spend a life time accepting help? Not very pleasant at all.
There is no point is saying that someone else should do things differently, that others should take control of their lives, budget properly, and buy nourishing food, rather than snacks, cigarettes and alcohol. I have no doubt that their lives would be immeasurably richer for so doing, but people will need help to do these things.
In the end we have no choice but to accept and deal with people for who they are and what they are, and not try to make them behave as we might think they should.
In the end we have no choice but to accept and deal with ourselves as who and what we are, and not be forever striving to make ourselves behave as we think we should, or how others might direct us.
And surely this is the essence of love, that the full quotation "Owe no one anything, except to love one another" commends to us all. Accepting and working with others as they are, not as we think they should be, and accepting ourselves, our strengths and our limitations and working within the parameters set us by God, not as we think God should have made us.
All love is costly, for it makes us vulnerable. Jesus on the Cross knew ever so intimately the pain of rejected love, which no one can go through life escaping. But it is not just the Cross which speaks of vulnerability and love.
The nine fruit of the Spirit St Paul lists in Galatians 5.22 can be grouped in terms of three lots of three.
Love, joy, peace all speak of our relationship with God.
Patience, kindness and goodness speak of our relationship with our neighbours.
Then faithfulness, gentleness and self control speak of our relationship with ourselves.
So the Spirit of God is all about relationships, and again the Cross is all about relationships. So the Spirit comes to make effective in our lives the grace of the Cross as we seek to relate to God, to those around us, and to our own selves.
Time and again recently I have spoken how the hallmark of Jesus own ministry was to travel the land, totally empty-handed, seeking out one and all and accepting such hospitality as they offered. There was no compulsion involved. I have no doubt what so ever that none of his hosts ever thought Jesus was indebted to them for their hospitality - though Simon the Pharisee was upset that Jesus also accepted the ministrations of the woman who was a sinner who came to his house while Jesus was dining at his table.
It is totally remarkable that Jesus did this. He captures the essential essence of what love is all about - seeking out and accepting what other people have to contribute to us. My mind is drawn to that passage of scripture: (Luke 10.24) "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." It is totally miraculous.
I, as much as anyone else, find myself wanting to be an island; but just as irresistibly drawn to this Jesus who did not have to prove to anyone just how good or right or better he was. He was more than just being himself. More than just being prepared to let others be themselves. He actually encouraged people to bring their gifts to him, whoever they were, and what ever the gift.
In doing so he encourages us to be who we are and to bring our gift, that he might accept, bless and use it for the extension of his kingdom.