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s130g12   Sunday 18   5/8/2012

'the work of God .. believe in him whom he has sent'  John 6.29

We do not believe in a philosophical proposition or a long past event in history.   If we believe in the resurrection it follows that we do not believe in Jesus as a historical figure, but as a present reality.

It is clear that those who had Jesus killed, the orthodox and the devout, did not believe in Jesus who was sent, because he came not to them alone but to all people.   So Jesus came, not to confirm the sanctified selfishness of the orthodox and the devout of his day, as the devout and the orthodox expected, so the divine continues to come to oppose sanctified selfishness in every form and in every age.   Killing Jesus showed sanctified selfishness for the bullying that it is, but it could not and cannot negate the essence of God.

The work of God is ever to oppose sanctified selfishness, this is why Jesus was sent, and why Jesus continues to be sent.

The problem is that when some 'christians' hear the word to 'believe in him whom he has sent' it becomes translated that 'others should believe and come to church like us'.   I point out that those who had Jesus killed would have defined belief in precisely the same way - that others had to believe and become devout like them.

The bread of God 'gives life to the world' not life to christians alone, not to those who call God by the correct name alone, not to those who believe a whole lot of metaphysical propositions alone, not those who believe in the inerrant words of the bible alone, and not just to those who are intimate when and with whom people the ‘church’ approves.   Indeed God 'gives life to the world' not just to those who do no work on the Sabbath, whatever day may be designated thus, for Jesus, and God, continue to work on the Sabbath.

The bread of life gives life to the world because it negates all sanctified selfishness.   No one can be excluded in the name of God, Jesus, YHWH, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, or by whatever name one cares to call the divine.   Everyone is included, and included in the most intimate way, as guests at a common table, as partakers of a common cup.  

So belief in the one who was and is sent implies communion in the most intimate of ways with all people, at a common table sharing a common cup, where no one is excluded.   Doing the work of God is not something that benefits the divine, but benefits humanity at large, because all are included, because no one is marginalized, alienated, challenged, or condemned.   There is no point in intellectually assenting to this proposition; we have a part to play in our own acceptance of others.   For it doesn't help others to know that they are included by God if we or others exclude others.   It doesn't make the lives of others easier if we or others admit that God might love them, but we treat them with distain.   And again, no matter what you or I do to accept others, it is but a drop in the ocean if the church as a corporate institution marginalizes, alienates, challenges and condemns others.   We will simply not be believed, and we will be pretending that we are more accepting than are the church and God - blasphemy indeed!

Belief in the one who was and is sent implies communion in the most intimate of ways with all people, implies that to make this a reality, we have to include ourselves, here and now.

Jesus says: 'If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’    (Luke 11.13)   So the church exists to bring life to the world, not just to her spiritual children, and it brings life to the world by renouncing sanctified selfishness, which Jesus labels evil. 

So the sort of belief that does the work of God is the belief that Jesus is not about me and my salvation, but it is primarily about my attitude to others, that all others are included in the embrace of God.

I am not particularly a fan of the creeds, yet one of the lovely sentiments is 'I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church'.   We, as the church, follow God united in our being sent to others, sent to embrace all, which is the root meaning of the word 'catholic': 'all-embracing'

Scripture is littered with examples of sacred selfishness.   One that immediately comes to mind is in Genesis: 'Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.   Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s (Canaanite) wife (Tamar) and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.’   But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother.   What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.'   (Genesis 38.7-10)   It would have cost Onan nothing to do as Judah asked, it was done out of spite and selfishness, perpetrated, he thought with impunity, because he was a male and the sole surviving son of the head of the tribe whereas she was a woman and a foreigner.

The work of God is the work against all forms of sacred selfishness.   Our faith is not that God exists, but that God exists for the benefit of all, never just for my benefit or the benefit of any subset of humanity however defined.   ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working’ (John 5.17) and 'my Father .. removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.'  (John 15:1,2)   I think we need to hear those words 'in me' for they imply not a criticism of others who do not come to church, but 'christians' and more significantly 'churches' who bear no fruit - christians and churches that exist for the vine and not for others.  

I can well imagine that there are many people for whom the existence of God is problematic, but who model their lives on being a blessing to others and to society in general, knowing that if there is a God, this is what God would want.   Matthew 25:31- 46 tells us that as such they will receive the blessing of God.   For so often the picture of God that others have from the church is one that blesses that particular church's variation of sanctified selfishness, and this is precisely the sort of 'god' no thinking person would believe in, and rightly so.   Indeed the work of God is to break this down.

Which is, of course, the whole reason for the incarnation .. and the resurrection which guarantees the continuance of the incarnation .. which is why it is necessary to believe .. though it is interesting that secular humanists sometimes have a more accurate conviction of an all-embracing deity than some religious folk.

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