The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s130g09 Sunday 18 2/8/2009
'Whoever comes to me will never be hungry' John 6.35
I must admit I'm a supporter of globalisation. It is fairly obvious that there is no real reason that the world cannot feed everyone. One of the main obstacles to this is the man-made boundaries between people for they are indeed MAN-made. We can't blame those of the female gender for these boundaries. Indeed, of course, many of the present difficulties between peoples have been caused by white anglo-saxon males drawing arbitrary boundaries to delineate who belongs to them and who doesn't; irrespective of the wishes of the various peoples who actually lived there, people who were never consulted. Now with the end to colonialism these boundaries attempt to hold together different ethnic groups, resulting in political machinations to gain the upper hand, following the example of those white anglo-saxon males. The resultant social dislocation means that food production is inevitably disrupted, if not halted altogether.
We fear globalisation because we fear being left without, yet we don't trust our Lord's saying that we will never be hungry or thirsty when we come to him, which is when we break down the barriers between us and others.
In large parts of the western world many people are suffering from obesity, and from my listening, this is due to the diet we have of plain sugar which tricks our body into not telling us that we've eaten enough. But there are still so many parts of the world where famine rules. We look askance at the pirates based in Somalia, yet surely if there was not social unrest and the resultant poverty and hunger there, the piracy there would not exist also. Our country of Australia was originally settled by convicts, prisoners transported here for stealing often trivial things in order to keep body and soul together. They were sentenced to transportation by the ruling class, who no doubt piously repeated the eighth commandment: 'Thou shalt not steal' when they went to Church and when passing sentence on the poor.
It is wonderful to read that Malawi has turned their economy around and are now feeding their population and exporting food to others.
If we look at my text for today the other way around, if we remain spiritually unsatisfied, it may well be because our 'communion' is really defined by who can't be admitted. If we are still hungry or thirsty, perhaps it is because we haven't actually come to Jesus, but to some idol of the very same name? Did not even Jesus mention something about saying "Lord, Lord!' to him?
For our belief actually involves effort work. It is not something primarily intellectual or philosophical; it has practical outcomes in how we live our lives. We are not saved by ourselves, we are saved by the community into which our communion with Jesus brings us. And the Spirit of God is not given to us to be successful in cajoling others into joining us, the Spirit of God is surely given to us for us to be able to learn the languages of others, to see beauty and grace in other peoples' lives.
We will not hunger or thirst, because we do not rely on our self sufficiency but on the community of faith. And so we have a vested interest in making sure that the community of faith is as inclusive as possible, for it is only in this way that we can be assured that all can be provided for including ourselves.
Of course, we are fortunate in the western world to be so affluent, so when we talk about not being hungry and thirsty, we do not primarily mean our physical needs. We really mean our sense of self worth which is a function of having good relationships with those around us, of feeling that we have a contribution to make to society, of being valued and loved. When we offer these same things to others, we do not thereby diminish our own stocks of self-esteem. When we do our best to maintain good relationships, when we value the contribution others make, we don't diminish ourselves in the slightest.
However, when the 'church' teaches us to belittle others who don't believe like us, worship like us, or live in the same manner as we do, condemning them to eternal damnation unless they repent, then others will be hungry and thirsty indeed. Thrice the risen Jesus says to Peter: 'feed my sheep' - not dismiss others if they don't measure up to some mythical self-determined standard.
Malnutrition is also deliberately caused by conservative Christians using their political clout. In an 'Opinion' piece in 'The Daily Telegraph' 8/7/2007 Sue Dunlevy states: 'To court the vote of a conservative Christian senator .. In 1993 the Keating (Labor) government froze the $130 million we formerly spent on family planning programs (and) In 1996 the Howard (Liberal) Government banned aid workers from providing many contraceptives or from giving women advice on unsafe abortions. .. Aid agencies from the World Health Organization to the UN now recognise that birth control is one of the primary solutions to world poverty.' http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21866969-5007146,00.html
Again, our faith involves work, on our part. I am not suggesting that christians have to open their pockets even wider, I'm suggesting that we need to open our minds, and again this will not cost us a cent! Few children in Australia face malnutrition and sadly those that do are most likely to be indigenous. I would not begrudge anyone children for 'happy is the (person) that hath his quiver full of them' (Psalm 127:5 KJV modified), but it seems the wealthy are dictating that others, and in particular the poor, are denied any choice.
We will not make the poor into Christians by enforcing a morality on them; they rightly will be antagonized. They will dismiss Christianity as something for others, for affluent people, and who would blame them. How different this is from the example of Jesus who was killed for associating with the poor!
This is year B, when we concentrate on Mark's gospel account, but its very brevity means that this section from John chapter 6 is included. I suspect that preachers in the main focus on the promises of Jesus; of the abundance of the grace of God. However it is given to us not just to welcome the assurance but to make it a reality in the lives of all people.
If people are really important to us, and not just as they become 'christian' like ourselves, then we must acknowledge that all people have a right to share in the advances of technology that the more affluent do.
It might be argued that I am mixing politics and religion in this sermon. But I am really arguing that real Christianity encompasses plain and simple humanity to all other people.
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