The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r146.htm
s146e03 Lockleys 23/11/2003 Sunday 34 Christ the King
"to him .. who made us to be a kingdom .." Revelation 1.6
Today is the feast of Christ the King, and again one of the things about this picture of Christianity is that it is a corporate one. The important thing is that we are part of a community, not that we are individuals with a special relationship with the divine, separated from others.
And again it is only a matter of scale as to whether we consider the *individual* we are talking about is us as persons, us as a congregation, us as a denomination or us as people of faith.
Our community is all of humanity for God is God of the whole earth.
Quite some time ago, I visited a neighbouring church and the preacher likened our relationship to God to that of flees to the dog on which they lived. He made the useful assertion that for one flee to claim a special relationship to the dog, denied the other flees, was as useful or real as one human claiming a special relationship to God denied others. The most useful thing the flees could do is learn to get on with one another and likewise with us. (the Rev'd Lloyd Irving - Rector Parish of Grange).
Knowing this priest as I do, I am sure he wasn't implying that "we are not worthy even as flees on a dog - only worthy to be scratched" J It is simply a matter of scale. Sometimes when you hear some preaching, one could come to the conclusion that humanity is really only a constant irritation to God J
God loves each and every one of us and has made us into a kingdom - it is up to us not to destroy the kingdom that God has built. Sometimes I have heard people talking about building community and I *know* that this is meant kindly and helpfully, but the reality is that God has already built the community around us and it is up to us to maintain it and to not destroy it.
It might be easy if the Israelis or the Palestinians did not have to share the Promised Land with the other, but it seems God has put the other there. It may have been easy for the aristocracy in Britain to send all her undesirables to colonise Australia, so they could continue to uphold the sanctity of the eighth commandment and remain uncharitable themselves. I could well imagine that some of the people in our southern suburbs wish that those who spread the graffiti in their community were locked up and the keys were thrown away - and I have a good deal of sympathy with this thought - but we have to live with others, not put others somewhere else where they can't disturb our "peace". It may be easy if the efforts of our government to discourage the "boat-people" were effective, and our affluent lifestyle remain undiminished, but I suspect that God has other plans for us.
Whenever we get a bit downcast, may I suggest we look around us to the community in which God has placed us? I recall, many years ago, a Bishop who had retired writing in our then national Anglican newspaper, "Church Scene" that he had suddenly discovered the reality that people came and took away his garbage once a week. While he *knew* this happened all the time, it was only when he had stopped doing all the wonderful things he had done for God in his life, that he began to appreciate what God had been doing for him all along.
When I was typing these words, I have been reflecting how easy my life had been. I am sometimes critical of the Church, yet the Church has been extraordinarily kind to me. I went through theological college at a time when the Diocese was able to pay all the fees for my residency and tuition. Sadly, that no longer happens and the students of today have to fund much of their own studies and living expenses. I suppose I could have earned far more if I'd carried on with the vocation I trained for at University, and I don't think that I've been too much of a drain on the diocese since then. But my life has been easy in comparison to those training now.
As we look at our church community, what a wonderful mix of people we are! We have people from many "corners" of our world and how our community is enriched by this diversity.
We have people who have gifts of prayer, gifts of music, gifts of organisation, gifts of fund raising, gifts of teaching, gifts of leadership.
Each of us too have our ministry in the world as we care for those in our families, as we relate to those amongst whom we work and play, as we exercise our gifs of neighbourliness and community service, as we take our role in the political processes, I mean really the list is endless.
As some of us become more *age challenged*, we start to think that *others* ought to take up the reins where we leave off. Our personal circumstances mean that we cannot continue to do what we have done in the past and that is entirely fair enough. It would be quite unreasonable of me to expect everyone to continue to do what they have always done. But I wonder how often we consider other people's personal circumstances. The word has changed. In Australia in how many families are both partners working - often to pay the fees for church run private school education? And who could criticise such people. They are thinking of others and they are supporting the ethics of the Church. Many young parents are literally "between a rock and a hard place" - it is the Church which (it seems) holds the keys to financial and social success for their children through education - yet the Church can seem critical that parents are not more involved in parish activities? I wonder how often we ask the question of ourselves as the Church - why some people are resentful of the Church?
I have a proper pastoral relationship with everyone. I know that people face issues other than just keeping a parish functioning *as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen*.
And again, in many ways it is not that we have to establish new things, but it is to recognise and cherish what is already here. It is not that we have to change the world into becoming "Christian" - but to accept what is given, forgiving others their differences, and allowing that God is working through others as well as through us.
It is all very well to be a capitalist and an entrepreneur, and we certainly need such people but such activities can be undertaken in a spirit that is little more than the survival of the fittest, which is the rule of the animal kingdom. We do well to be human, to think of others and of how heavy a footprint we place on this earth. When we have the technology and expertise to make a huge mark, we might realise that actually, it is the smaller which is the better.
God has made us into a kingdom, so no one enters this Church by his or her own volition. In the words of the tenth (of the 39) articles: "... we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God preventing us ..." So everyone here has an equal right to be here, because it is God who has called each and everyone of us to this place. If God has called each and everyone of us to this place, no one has the right to question anyone else's presence here. No one is more important or less important.
In the words of the "Desiderata" (actually it was not found in Old St Paul's Church Baltimore; dated 1692 as my copy asserts :-) "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. " Each and every one of us is, no less than the trees and the stars, a child of the universe. Each and every one of us has a right to be here - and not just as a child, to be seen but not heard. Each are here to make and have their contribution recognised and acknowledged.
For it is only this sort of church that I am prepared to give of myself. I am not here to perpetuate some mythological *Tradition of St Richard of Lockleys* however that is conceived, but particularly where that actually means that the contributions others make are thought of as *inappropriate* or *eternally inadequate*. That would make our wedding festivals into funeral rites.
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