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

s109g12 Sixth Sunday of Easter  13/5/2012

'abide in my love'  John 15.9

This whole passage is about our response to the love of Jesus.   We have to abide in it, so as I said last week, the possibility is that Jesus may love us, but we don't actually respond.   We are not just to be loved, we have to keep Jesus' commandments.   And that commandment is not to love Jesus, but to love one another, to lay down one's life for others.   Indeed we are chosen and appointed not to stay in a holy huddle, but to go, to go elsewhere, and to love those others we meet.   And this implies for me, not just going elsewhere, to other nations, cultures, and races and love these others - it implies going to the religiously different, those who call God by a different name than we, who worship God in a different manner, to those who don't believe at all, and loving these others.   It implies going to those who are not straight like us and loving these others.

For it is only this fruit that will last.   If there are any boundaries to our love then a sectarian divide in the name of the idol we make in our own image that we call 'god' will continue and this 'god' and we will be the cause of continuing conflict, rather than love.   We have no option if we want something better for this world.   If we don't particularly want anything better for the world, well, we can carry on reading our bibles, praying and going to church ..

Sometimes I fear that I have only one message and that it really must be boring to hear just another take on it.   Yet the importance lies as parts of the church to which I belong make a virtue of their separateness:   So recently the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) met at St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, in London, and the ‘Church Times’ reported: ‘The Primates also announced plans for a second meeting of GAFCON, which will take place in May next year, at a venue that is as yet unspecified.   A statement from the FCA said that the meeting would be “a dynamic force for restating the gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of revisionist attempts to change basic doctrines, and turn Christianity merely into a movement for social betterment”’.  ‘Merely into a movement for social betterment’???   This seems to me to be code for: Jesus Christ has made us so special and our job is to get everyone else to acknowledge this.   Is this the same Jesus who commands us to love others?   Is getting everyone else to acknowledge our specialness ‘laying down one’s life’ for others.   And if we actually did this to those who call God by a different name than we, who worship God in a different manner, to those who don't believe at all, those who are not straight like us, I think we would be astonished just how many 'friends' we would have!   Is what I say a ‘revisionist attempt’ to change the gospel?   Do they not perceive their essential selfishness, arrogance and inertia?   Do they justify this selfishness, arrogance and inertia in the name of the God I worship?

It is not just that the world finds such sanctified selfishness, arrogance and inertia irrelevant; the world is beginning to perceive that this deserves condemnation, precisely because it only promises and promotes a continuation of divisions and hatred – which is hardly ‘abiding in’ the love of Jesus.   The world for whom our Lord died rightly despises the ‘church’ for her abandonment of the God of love.

Writing about clerical sexual abuse, Michael Mullins in Eureka Street says: 'History is important because much of the abuse occurred at a time when social and religious mores were very different, even though it may have been only two or three decades ago.   Irish Jesuit Father Gerry O'Hanlon describes it as 'trying to understand how a truth that seems so blindingly obvious now [but] was, at another but quite recent period, so opaque'.'   For me there is an exact parallel between clerical abuse of young people (as frequent in the Anglican Church as any other) and a theology of sanctified selfishness, arrogance and inertia; which certainly needs revision, and how some people seem not to see things that are so blindingly obvious to others, often others who don't consider themselves part of the church.
To return to the conference of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the Church Times reported: 'A spokesman for the FCA said that dele­gates from about 30 countries were at­tending the conference, representing about 55 million “of all churchgoing Anglicans”'   and 'It seems that the Church of England is not carrying along everybody in the Communion, and that is why you can see there is a crisis; if we will solve the problem, we have to change the system.'   There is a problem and the problem is (according to these highly qualified Anglicans) the presence of gay and lesbian persons and those who sympathize with them, in their(?) church.   And while I wasn't around at the time, Hitler gained enormous popularity when he wanted to change the system.   His problem was the presence of Jews, gipsies and the physically and mentally disabled in their midst.   His solution was to get rid of them by burning them.   Well the FCA Archbishops, including the Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, are not intending to burn gays, lesbians and their supporters - just condemn them to the fires of eternal damnation!   In January 1933 there were some 523,000 Jews in Germany, representing less than 1 percent of the country's total population.   If gay and lesbian persons make up 10% of the population, not including supporters, we see the scale of their grandiose delusion - much more than Nazism.   And these are Anglican Primates - the leading Archbishops in the various countries around the world!    

I am grateful to have had my attention drawn to this quotation, via 'Facebook' recently: 'The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.' -- John Kenneth Galbraith

I came to the realization some years ago that everyone in the Anglican church knows and agrees that we have to change to survive, and they are happy with this.   The other thing that they all agree on, is that it is someone else who has to do the changing.   Their own particular inertia is so sacred that it alone escapes the imperative!   And I have to ask: how is the world being helped by our inertia?  

We are called to follow our crucified and risen Lord, we are called to abide in his love, and surely this implies that we abide in the love he has for all the world, and to allow ourselves to be incarnated into the real world of tax-collectors, prostitutes and sinners, to the religiously different, those who call God by a different name than we, to those who worship God in a different manner, to those who don't believe at all, to those who are not straight like us.   Otherwise the 'love' we say we have could easily be mistaken for pretense!   For Jesus hardly calls us to condemn others to eternal damnation like some 'evangelicals', and not just to have loving thoughts about others, or to give money to overseas missions.  No, we are called to 'abide in' the society in which we have been placed, and in doing so be incarnated in Jesus' love as Jesus was incarnated into the society in which he was placed.

And it strikes me that this was inevitably a 'male' thing, simply because in Jesus' time those of the female gender in that society simply didn't count.   So it is Jesus imperative to males to consider females as equals, to make their existence count.   And as always, Jesus did this by actions and not just words, and bids us do likewise.

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