The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r141.htm
 

s141g12    Sunday 29    21/10/2012

'going up to Jerusalem'   Mark 10.32

We are now at the other end of the journey which began after Jesus met the Syro-Phoenecian alpha-female with the sick daughter and turned his face back towards Jerusalem and orthodoxy.   And Jesus speaks about his coming death while the disciples discuss who is the greatest.

I have pondered before what these crowds of people thought they were achieving.   What were they doing?   Following Jesus?   Jesus didn't need any of the disciples in Jerusalem for what he was going to achieve.    Were they along for the spectacle?   The final confrontation?   

Jesus was in no doubt what would happen when he got to Jerusalem, yet when he told his disciples they clearly had their minds on other things, like the order of precedence in the kingdom.   The disciples' focus was on others, but on others who were in competition to themselves.

I suspect that Jesus would have been happier for these crowds to be focussed on one another rather than on the end of the journey.   Their focus on a tantalising future was going to be sorely disappointed.   They really needed one another, then and in the future.   The disciples needed one another, not an order of superiority.

Which leads me on to the thought that in the end, if the aims of the secular humanist are any different from the aims of God - the betterment of society - then not only the existence, but also the character of God is questionable indeed.   If they are any different we (who believe) have no option than to conclude that God has a massive inferiority complex and needs therapy urgently.   The suggestion that we as the totality of humanity exist only to assuage God's feelings of inferiority by our worship is of course laughable, yet we must at least agree that the secular humanist could quite reasonably come to this conclusion.   Why else would this 'god' insist that our first duty is to worship the deity, using the correct name and form of worship or else he or she will be outraged enough to condemn the recalcitrants to eternal damnation?   And what is our answer?

We are left with a world designed to run as well by kind hearted individuals without any reference to God, as with.   But before we dismiss this suggestion too quickly, if God designed it any other way, to what would God be implicitly condemning the majority of humanity?   The origin of poverty, illness, war and strife would be squarely with the divine.   Not my God, thank you very much!

I start to appreciate the issues that Jesus took with him as he went up to Jerusalem, the centre of devotion and orthodoxy, the place where the answers to such questions were supposedly to be had.

And I begin to appreciate the questions that Jesus brings when he comes to us, the centre of devotion and orthodoxy, the place where we claim the answers to such questions are supposedly to be had.

We are bidden by Jesus to live for today and to be kind to those around us.   We are also bidden by common sense to live for today and to be kind to those around us.   For my money it is worth worshipping a god who commends what is common sense.   It is not worth worshipping a 'god' who demands obedience and punishes people for using their brains.

And this begs the question, if God doesn't have a massive inferiority complex, perhaps it is us that suffer diminished self esteem, and most particularly the orthodox and the devout, myself as much as anyone else?

I am grateful to a reader for drawing my attention to the many traditional hymns which serve to diminish the human existence.   Thank you, Doris, for this line: 'until we can change the culture of music we can’t change the culture of evangelism'.   We, myself included, have learned our lessons too well!   We need each other to free us from such self-destructive theology lurking in often favourite phrases learned in Sunday School and hymnody of the last century.   We need people of faith, people of other faiths and people of no faith to keep us grounded, caring and loving.

I find myself over the years increasingly distancing myself from last century's theology.   It does not stand up to any form of intellectual examination, which implies that intellectual examination is inimical for the god of the last century - and if this were so why on earth would God have given us brains?  

And again, as I often say, we recognise on a personal level the undesirability of debates over an order of precedence, as if this is going to make a scrap of difference in the global picture.   When will the various churches and denominations decide to stop trying to rate themselves in an ecclesiastical order of preference?   'Our' denomination is, of course, at the head of the preferential list, for we call on 'god' using the correct name, we believe in creation, the infallibility of pope or scripture, we don't admit gays and lesbians (or, more likely any who would dare admit to being one of these), we don't have women in positions of authority.   We regard this order as sacrosanct as is the order of archangels, angels, pope, bishops, priests, deacons, monks, nuns, missionaries, subdeacons, acolytes, thurifers, servers, vergers, sides persons, those who tithe and church attenders.   As for those who don't believe in our terms and worship with us and especially those who have the temerity to question the existence of the divine - well they're just going to hell in a hand basket and it damn well serves them right!!!   We can see how easy it is to be part of a sanctified order of precedence by divine osmosis :-)   As St Paul once commented: 'who sees anything different in you?'  (1 Cor 4.7)  

'Going up to Jerusalem' seems a metaphor for corporate sanctified preference.   And as I look at that order of precedence I note that the first eight, from archangels to nuns, are supposedly all eternally celibate.   Do we really believe in an incarnation that includes sexual intimacy, or in a pretend one?   The suggestion that we as the totality of humanity exist only to assuage God's feelings of revulsion for sexual intimacy by our abstinence is of course laughable as well.   Perhaps it is us that suffer diminished self esteem from intimacy, not God?

We are bidden by Jesus as churches and denominations, to live for today and to be kind to those churches and denominations around us.   We are also bidden by common sense to live for today and to be kind to those around us who believe in different terms, who call the divine by a different name, who question the existence of the divine or who are intimate with someone we don't expect.   For my money it is worth worshipping a god who commends this sort of common sense.   It is not worth worshipping a 'god' who demands obedience and punishes people for using their brains, indeed if god were really like this we would be better without any divine being and so would the world.

If we care to see what happened to Jesus when he went up to Jerusalem and choose to take notice, we are saved from going up to Jerusalem ourselves, from ecclesiastical point scoring, abstinence, and death - by (and for) intimacy, incarnation and life - by (and for) Jesus.