The readings on which this
sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r158.htm
s158e13 Palm Sunday 24/3/2013
'being born in human likeness' Phil 2.7
The clear thrust of all of today's readings is not that God is
human, but that Jesus is humble with the clear implication and
expectation that this is what we should also be.
Isaiah speaks of a God who enables him to 'know how to sustain
the weary with a word'.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians speaks about Jesus coming
in the form of a slave.
Luke describes Jesus' entry into Jerusalem not with guns but on
Yet I continue to be faced with a church that wants to give
others unsolicited advice on how to live their lives, and
continue to live in their 'holy huddles' expecting people to
want to come in and condemning those who don't.
And I begin to wonder about my own place in such a
church. Why should I be affirming and inclusive when
the church finds any real consideration of these too difficult?
Why should it be necessary for the Queen to officially sign a
charter against discrimination? I am certainly glad
she has, of course. (1) And the real question is
will the Church of England, of which she is the Supreme
Governor, actually take any notice when it comes to the
ordination of women to the episcopate and marriage equality?
I am grateful (indeed often grateful) to the Melbourne Jesuit
magazine "Eureka Street' where recently Luke Williams argues
that: 'Religious schools discriminate (against the
vulnerable)'. (2) It actually doesn't matter
whom a 'christian' organisation discriminates against - it is
still discrimination and can't be following that Jesus who told
the parable of the Good Samaritan. One commentator,
Eugene, 04 Mar 2013 wisely remarked: 'Yet another example, of
many one could list at the moment, of where the Church needs to
learn tolerance, humility and common sense from the "secular"
world.' Another commentator Michael B Kelly 04 Mar
2013 adds: 'I am surprised that in all the commentary, it has
not been noted that these schools are run with government money
- these days well over 80% of church schools' funding comes from
the public purse.' Why should government money be
used to discriminate between people? The Church (of
course Anglican as much as Catholic) has to be transparent about
this - not quoting bible and catechism. I’m not sure
it is helpful to quote the Catechism as Joan Seymour 04 Mar 2013
does: "they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and
sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their
regard should be avoided" - if there remains a ‘just’
discrimination which is ‘unavoidable’, perhaps even mandated.
Palm Sunday calls us to be human, for we can best be helpful to
others when we are ourselves and not dressed up in our
‘Sunday-best’, nor cassock, surplice, scarf and hood - or alb,
amice, girdle, stole and chasuble - or cope and
mitre. I have had occasion to think that some in the
church hierarchy want parishioners to be affirming and inclusive
so that they can continue to be discriminating as to who they
accept and to rule the roost with an ever larger
flock. There is surely some self delusion here!
Perhaps the Church is fated to be ever thus, for in 300 CE odd
Constantine hoped to use the Church to unify the empire, while
the bishops were content to argue over whether Jesus was
homousion with the Father, and discriminating against those who
did or did not affirm this. The message of St Paul’s
words in his letter to the Philippians is that Jesus would decry
any such title, especially if that justified discrimination
between people and division amongst humanity - in his name.
Again, in its recent front page article, AnglicansOnline says
what we all know: ‘There's no way to disguise the ugly truth
that church participation in the so-called 'mainline
denominations' has been decreasing (if slowly) for half a
century .. This situation is what it is, and we aren't going to
try to change it, although we wish we could.’ (3)
The reality is that the advent of literacy, freedom of
expression and the ease of communication mean that modern people
now know that they have a choice and if they choose a God, that
God must not be discriminatory. Until the church and
churches take this truth to heart, for all the re-arranging of
the seats on the Titanic, for all the ‘Fresh Expressions’ and
‘Messy Church’s’ the bulk of humanity will see these things for
the window dressing they are – avoidance mechanisms to the
change that scripture, tradition and reason – have been subtly
yet irresistibly confronting us.
On Wednesday evening 13/3/2013, the New Zealand parliament had
their second reading debate on a bill to ensure marriage
equality - same gender civil unions have been sanctioned for
some time, and, PTL, the bill passed. One of the
reasons I am much happier to live in NZ rather than going back
to Australia, even taking into account the two years of seismic
activity. Often NZ has taken the lead in progressive
social legislation, including female suffrage. Much
credit is due to the parliamentary committee which held public
consultations on the issue, particularly the chair, the Hon.
Ruth Dyson. A couple of days later the local press
had this article on same gender couples excited to be planning
their weddings (4). Inevitably some heterosexuals
want to proclaim the special sanctity of their relationship and
thereby dismiss other's relationships as lesser and inhuman.
On the morning I was typing these words we read the passage from
John 10:1,10: ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter
the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a
thief and a bandit. .. The thief comes only to steal and kill
and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it
The discriminatory church steals people’s primal dignity when
they don’t measure up in terms of compliance or belief, they
kill that unique soul by condemnation and they destroy community
and society by such division. By contrast Jesus comes to
restore people’s dignity, to resurrect the unique soul of each
and every person and so recreate community and society by
affirming and including all people. This is life in
all it’s fullness – and not just selfishly for me or for all
‘christians’, but for all people.
If this Lent we have become more religious, more devout, more
subservient, and hence more critical of those who have not, then
I think we’ve got Lent entirely wrong. Sadly, of
course, the forces of sanctified selfishness in the Anglican
Church will probably prevent clergy from officiate at
same-gender weddings for as long as possible. Again
to use the words of Eugene above, this Lent if we haven't learn
tolerance, humility and common sense from the "secular" world'
it has been a waste of 40 days.