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

s142g15   Sunday 30  25/10/2015

‘Call him here’  Mark 10:49

I have often reflected that the way that people feel comfortable about coming to church is when they know they don’t have to!   This is not the perversity of the human heart, it is that need we all have to feel that we are not being manipulated.   So Jesus dismisses this cured man; he doesn’t need another minion; he is not in the business of amassing followers, like people who pay money to get others to follow them on Twitter.  I see one advertised rate is 300 for only $1,1000 for $3, 2000 for $6, but the best bargain is 3000 for only $9 (no password required :-) (1)

It is the same as when Jesus was content to see the rich young man leave, despite his obvious earnestness.   Jesus is interested in people following him in their relationships with others.   So I find myself completely at odds with the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, who in his recent Presidential Address to the Synod ‘spoke of the challenge to acquire land and build churches in the rapidly expanding western areas of Sydney.   Next year Greater Sydney’s population will pass the 5 million mark.’  (2)

And the blind man becomes a follower of Jesus when he does the opposite to the crowd who ‘sternly ordered him to be quiet’.   Just as Jesus doesn’t need a personal retinue, nor does he need to be protected from others.   Jesus’ intention is ever and always to be incarnated into society and if our following Jesus is a means to avoid incarnation into society, then we haven’t got the message at all.

So again, I am at odds with the Archbishop who goes on to talk about ‘same-sex marriage’:
“The antagonism of the world to the Word of God is perhaps seen nowhere more acutely than in the virulent challenge to the definition of marriage which pervades conversations in the media, the workplace and even in our places of leisure .. It is time that all Christians, especially Anglicans, should enter the discussion and graciously and sensitively explain the reasons why our good Creator has made marriage the way he has.  We need to be courageous in our discussions both in private and in public, yet we also need to be sensitive and loving in our defence of biblical truth.” 

He fails to perceive his own antagonism to the world, a world made up of people of widely diverse opinions, beliefs and modes of life.  His only real love is for that infinitesimal percentage of people who believe, worship and live according to his own personal predilections.   Some words of Jesus immediately spring to mind, like ‘if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?   Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?   And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?   Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’ (3) and ‘the measure you give will be the measure you get back .. Can a blind person guide a blind person?   Will not both fall into a pit?’ (4)

It needs to be said that the Anglican Diocese of Sydney is reputed to be the wealthiest in the world-wide Anglican Church (5) - through historic endowments of stolen ‘terra nullius’ land and, through the former Archbishop, Peter Jensen, the driving force behind GAFCON and their puritanical doctrines.   It seems perverse that such a wealthy diocese is seeking to amass more as a justification for and a restatement of their divisive doctrines.

Jesus tells the crowds who had been ‘sternly (ordering the blind man) to be quiet’ to ‘Call him here’.  

Recently I read these words: ‘Its princes .. have devoured human lives .. Its priests have done violence to my teaching and have profaned my holy things .. Its officials within it are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood .. Its prophets have smeared whitewash on their behalf, seeing false visions and divining lies for them ..  The people of the land have practised extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the alien without redress.’  (6)   God cares for the alien, the blind unbeliever (for who would believe in a God whose followers sternly orders others to be quiet?), cares for the marginalised 50% of the population who happen to be female, those alienated by their choice of intimate partner, those condemned by the circumstances of their well-meaning but misguided religious upbringing.

Jesus calls the church to give dignity to people other than themselves, saying: ’Call (them) here’!

Yet, again, just as he doesn’t seek to recruit the rich young man into his retinue, he doesn’t call this formerly blind man to do so either.   Jesus doesn’t use people, he wants us to relate to others because that is what makes for peace and justice and love for all.

As I reflect on those words of Ezekiel, I realise that what the pseudo-orthodox say and do is fairly irrelevant, for they are a minuscule proportion of the population, but when their followers are radicalised to extort others without redress, it must make the pseudo-orthodox feel pretty powerful and successful!

And I feel a bit like that blind man who suddenly was able to see.   What do I myself do, to follow this person who welcomes all, or do I return from whence I came to welcome others?   And, put this way, I realise it actually doesn’t matter!   It is my choice.

If I do as this blind man does and physically follow Jesus, I will find out what happens to those who tell the pseudo-religious to stop ordering others to be quiet but rather to welcome them - they get crucified.   Or I can be incarnate into society and accept those around me without hesitation, without discrimination and without expectation, and find the blessings that come as I so do.

Just the other day I met a lovely lady whose testimony to me was the blessings she experienced in a group of women of different nationalities, of different faiths and none!   It was heartwarming to see how her heart burned in telling me!

But I think, well I suppose someone’s got to say something and I have been put in this very privileged position to have both the biblical background (I am ‘not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel’ 7) and the gift of a little bit of insight and encouragement from others to see beyond the hype.   If the meaning of life is to give your gift away (8) I cannot be silent.

And I am not on my own.  So the Archbishop of Canterbury said recently: ‘that over the last 10 years there has been “a development in all the major global faith traditions of a stream within them of radicalised violence.” and the mainstreams of all faiths must “challenge and subvert” radicalisation and religiously-motivated violence within their traditions.’   (9)  He clearly does not exclude Christianity and Anglicanism in this assessment.  Before we criticise the stridency of terrorists belonging to other faiths and the stridency of atheists like Richard Dawkins we do well to evaluate whether our version of the faith neglects the legitimate concerns of others - wether we have been telling others to be quiet, or welcomed them.

3.  Matthew 5:46-47
4.  Luke 6:38-39
5. and
6.  Ezekiel 22:25-29
7.  Ezekiel 3:5