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

s105g12   Second Sunday of Easter  15/4/2012

'Blessed are those who have not seen'  John 20.29

Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who have not seen and yet believe .. and I wonder what we are called to believe in.   It is easy to say: to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead .. yet this makes a cardinal virtue of blind acceptance.   I am not sure how God is glorified, or the mass of humanity is helped, by our blind acceptance.   I can understand that those who are only concerned with their own personal salvation make a virtue of blind acceptance, but it seems to me to suggest that God blesses the uncritical, the unthinking, the deliberately immature.   Does God bless the gullible?   And if so who does this help?   Certainly not anyone but (supposedly) the gullible, him or her self.   They don't have to analyse, think, or grow up.   Of course it does help the leaders of the gullible as well!

I understand only too well the feeling of envy and inadequacy those who haven't experienced the kosher conversion that pertains to their strand of christendom.   Those who haven't had their 'damascus road' amongst everyone else who has, or who haven't spoken in tongues amongst everyone else who does, or who can't point to a day and hour many years ago when they 'accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour' like everyone else around them.   And, of course, those who have had their kosher experience do feel sorry for those who have missed out ..???   The need to 'do unto others' seems to not apply to these kosher 'christians'!

It is interesting that this post-resurrection beatitude echoes those earlier ones, beginning with 'blessed are the poor'.   There is something inherently blessed about those who haven't seen but who get on with life and living and doing 'unto others', whether they be 'christians' of their particular flavour or not, people of faith or not, straight or gay.   Most often the kosher 'christians' above wouldn't consider these 'christians' at all, yet really does it matter, if the risen Jesus has already blessed them?   

I have been thinking that really what people in the church want others to do is to recognise the depth of spirituality that exists in a congregation.   I was at a 'renewal of ordination vows' service in Holy Week and I reflected on the accumulated wisdom of the clergy there.  As is the custom, the deacons were asked to stand and reaffirm their vows first - the bishop casually remarked that they were a select few.   Then the priests were asked to stand and reaffirm their vows.   Perhaps few noticed that one of the deacons, an elderly gentleman, didn't sit down.   He was of the old school who remembered he was still a deacon even though he had been ordained a priest as well, and he was happy to reaffirm both his ordination vows.   Perhaps not especially significant, but this indicated to me the wealth of accumulated, if diverse, wisdom there.

But if we want others to recognise this depth of wisdom and experience, Jesus calls us to 'do unto others', so we are called to recognise the depth of wisdom and experience in others.   And for me it is belief in the blessedness of doing unto others that is paramount, whether we have seen something extraordinary, unique to ourselves, something that supposedly marks us off as different from others, or not.  

What do we believe?   That we as 'christians' are special, or that we as 'christians' believe that others are equally as special as us, and it is only in this perception that any specialness may just pertain to us.   We are only special when we are not involved in ritual, scriptural, theological or sacred selfishness and arrogance.   We are blessed when, and only when, we are a blessing to others.

For who on earth would worship a 'god' who sanctifies selfishness and arrogance in one person (because they call that 'god' by his, or her, correct name, are white, straight anglo-saxon males who love the language of the King James Version of the bible and believe in its inerrancy) and condemns the billions of others who do not fit into all these categories?   Is this the sort of 'god' worth worshipping?   Well, not in my book, and I can't see Jesus commending such!

Blessed are we who believe in a God who says we will be judged by the words: 'Do unto others' rather than by how often we are on our knees, what name we use for God, whether we read the bible or not, recite the Nicene Creed thinking we understand it, tithe, or whatever.   Blessed are we who believe in a God who says that we will be judged by the words: 'Do unto others' rather than whether we are baptised, confirmed, and communicants of a particular church.   Blessed are we who believe in a God who says that we will be judged by the words: 'Do unto others' and do so not just to our natural and spiritual families, but to those who aren't - people of other faiths and none, people who may be gay rather than straight.   For it will not just be we who are blessed but others, and society in general, who will be blessed as well.

If our baptism and incorporation into the church leads us away from society then we are cursed not blessed and a source of cursing rather than a source of blessing for others.   We will be a curse to the society, because we will condemn society to a continuation of the divisions and hatreds of the past.   If we are simply concerned with the continuation of a particular congregation, parish, diocese or communion then it is really only sacred selfishness and arrogance, writ small or writ large; we will be seen by the world to be continuing division by not addressing our own selfishness and arrogance, and the world will rightly despise us for this.

Christ is risen, because God will never allow the divine to be appropriated by the selfish and arrogant.

Blessed are those who have not seen the risen Christ, yet see the divine in others, in the unselfish, the humble, the marginalised, the condemned and the alienated, be they 'christians' or not, people of faith or not, straight or gay, for this is what the risen Christ sends us to do.

And if our world doesn't seem an any more humane place after this Easter as it was before Good Friday, I have to ask what has our belief and worship really achieved?   If it has just given us a good feeling inside, and has not included others, then I am not sure that our belief is really in Jesus, and our worship has been to an idol.

For the risen life is not something that God bestows on individuals, congregations, dioceses or on communions, it comes when we, as individuals, congregations, dioceses or communions are incarnated into society in the flesh.

A 'Google' search easily led me to this statement I'm sure we've all heard: 'In a Sunday morning sermon many years ago, I heard the preacher ask, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” While many laughed nervously in response, I distinctly remember the feeling of guilt that overwhelmed me as I considered the unmistakable implications of his question: What are you doing to prove you are a Christian?'   Forget the guilt and the manipulation; I believe the prior question is if we don't see real evidence that the church is a force in society for acceptance without hesitation, without discrimination, and without expectation why should we think that society should applaud us for our sanctified selfishness and arrogance?  Blessed are those who see this selfishness and arrogance for what it is, shun 'christianity' and get back into the world into which the risen Christ is continuing to bless their efforts to make this world a more accepting and humane place.

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