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

s126g12   Sunday 14   8/7/2012   St Chad's Linwood.

'He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two .. and .. they cast out many demons'   Mark 6.7,13

When I look at the church it most often seems to hide behind the walls of buildings, respectability, and orthodoxy.   If it is ever political, the church has most often criticised what the duly elected politicians were trying to do.  The current fight the Catholic Bishops are having with the White House is but one example of this.   It is hardly helpful.   I am reminded of the lovely series of books by Giovannino Guareschi 'Don Camillo', describing the post war activities of the parish priest fighting Peppone, the communist mayor of the town.   We have learned our lessons very well and it seems repeating them endlessly!  

Jesus sent the twelve out into the society and sent them out to bless others.   Sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia were not the mark of following Jesus, and this could only be achieved by doing it, by going out and blessing others.   They were not to go out to get others to join in their 'holy huddle', for a holy huddle is no less selfishness for the size to which it grows or the power it amasses.   The twelve went out to bless others, that those others might also live their lives blessing even more others.  

So often we look to God to bring healing, to ourselves and to others, and sometimes it seems as if we think that God needs to be cajoled into healing.  Sometimes we are tempted to think that God's lost control of creation and we have to remind God to wake up, to keep the divine eye on his or her people and that illness hurts and hurts a lot.   I have a good deal of sympathy for this.   When a doctor or dentist asks me if I'm allergic to anything, I mostly reply: 'pain - particularly mine!' - with a smile of course.   We can be seduced into thinking that actually we are more concerned about other people’s health than God is and that we are more merciful than God.   Of course this is blasphemous!

But if we are honest, why should God heal anyone if we are simply going to continue in our own prejudices and the little hurts we inflict on others?   And if this is true on the personal level, it surely must apply on the corporate level.   If a church doesn't consider that 'every human being has infinite worth and a unique value as a child of God' whether they believe like the church does, worship with that one true church, and with whom they choose to share intimacy, then why would God bless that church?   We are sent out of the church - to others.

So exorcism and healing comes in community, for us as individuals and for the church as a corporate entity.   Exorcising the demon of fear of sanctified selfishness, arrogance, inertia and blindness is a healing in itself.

It may be that God might heal a person's illness, but surely God wants healing for the whole of creation, for all of society.   Any personal healing is surely but a sign of the healing God would want for all.   And this is the importance of being sent out, for as we are sent out, liberated from sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia, we are freeing creation and society of these things done in the name of our 'god'.  

Having attended a lovely baptism recently, I recall the words of the church Catechism, that in baptism we are made members of Christ, children of God and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.   All good solid theology, except that it is assumed that the child isn't these things before baptism and it is by entering the church that they become these things.   This is in precisely the opposite direction of where God would have us go.   In recent years the church has had a push for more 'lay participation' which has often meant laity taking more active roles in liturgy and worship.   Again this is precisely the opposite of where God would have us go.   We have to go out to bless, otherwise we are only perpetuating a holy huddle of sanctified selfishness, arrogance, blindness and inertia, and this is hardly what God wants or needs.   There is the old joke about how to get rid of bats in the church - get the bishop to confirm them and you'll never see them again!   But of course this is precisely what young people should do - go out into the world and make their contribution, blessing others and being blessed by others.   It will be when we acknowledge this that we will touch their lives as they really are, and they will find some point to praising God.

We aren’t saved from the sanctified selfishness of others by having a more sanctified selfishness conferred on us by the risen Christ!   We are saved from sanctified selfishness by going out, and we just may possibly save society from sanctified selfishness by doing so.   At least we won’t contribute more selfishness to society by doing so.

Our mission is to follow Christ, in Christ's full incarnation into humanity as it is, not as we might pretend to be.  

And if we are to take the words of Jesus seriously: 'Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house' we can expect that this message will be welcomed by those outside the church rather than those inside.   Incarnation is actually welcomed by those outside the church, not gratuitous advise or demands on pain of marginalization, alienation or condemnation.   If the church's message is not being welcomed by those outside it, then it's a fair indication that it is not good news.

So in fact the mission is not a hardship but a joy as we are welcomed into people's lives.   And speaking quite personally, as I 'loiter with intent' in my hospital chaplaincy, I am constantly surprised and encouraged by those who welcome me to their bedside and their lives, even when they haven't indicated they wished to see the chaplain.   Indeed I often feel drawn into conversations and relationships, rather than trying to manufacture them.

So when the disciples 'went out and proclaimed that all should repent' it is important to see that it is precisely this movement of the disciples, their incarnation into society, that inspires others to move, to be incarnated into society as well.   So if we are to repent of something it is surely from sanctified selfishness, and this is something that the devout and orthodox find the hardest to do.

To end with an example of this, recently I read Tim Kroenert's review of the film: 'Where Do We Go Now?' in Eureka Street, entitled: 'Women heroes of Muslim-Christian unity'.   'In the end it's clear that for peace to be more than a delusion, division needs to be neutralised at its source, and god conceived as a matron of togetherness, rather than a mannish mascot for mutual massacre.'

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