The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s181g07 Sunday 14 8/7/07
'hidden .. from the wise and intelligent' Luke 10.21
As I read about proposals for an alternative Lambeth Conference next year http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=41259 I confess to surmising that this puts paid to any idea that all Bishops and Archbishops have 'got it all right'. If Bishops and Archbishops can so disagree on such a fundamental an issue as acceptance of the other that they set up opposing camps, perhaps we cannot look (definitively) to 'the Church' to teach us anything of divine truth! How far we seem to have come from this sending out of the seventy, to go and accept the hospitality of any, and all, who would welcome them. Indeed it makes one wonder if some in the church, so vocal about their adherence to scriptural truth, have got this message about acceptance of the other at all.
The mission of the seventy was to go and accept the hospitality of others. They were not sent out as rich or gifted emissaries to a select few, to be respected and entertained. Their status was not to elicit hospitality. They were sent out as paupers to all and sundry - they had nothing to offer their hosts. The 'message' of salvation they took to others was actually encompassed in the acceptance by those they met. Simply meeting a fellow traveller on the road is occasion enough to offer hospitality. 'Whoever listens to you, listens to me, whoever rejects you rejects me, and .. rejects the one who sent me.' (v16) I see this as the reason for not greeting people on the road. It is about acceptance and hospitality, not chance encounters and fleeting acquaintances ships passing in the night.
Jesus told the disciples: 'eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there'. What a curious conjunction! Is healing the way for the disciples to 'sing for their supper'? Surely not! Again I reflect that hospitals are places for healing and the root activity of hospitals is hospitality. The healing Jesus brings is healing between disparate persons. It is perhaps a 'global' healing not primarily a personal healing. Healing comes as two or three gather, simply by the act of gathering.
Abraham's nephew Lot and his family were alien residents in the town of Sodom. (Gen 19) Somehow they had come to an accommodation with the residents who took any opportunity to show everyone else who were the bosses in this town. Only those who accepted their authority were allowed to remain. So when Lot offers hospitality to strangers one night, Lot and his guests have to be taught who is in charge. It has nothing to do with people of the same gender expressing their intimate affections, one for another. It is all about bullying and lack of hospitality who is boss.
It is us who do the will of God when we accept others and when we do it is us who have got the message hidden from some who hold high ecclesiastical office and debate the direction of the church amongst themselves as if this were the way the kingdom of God will be advanced.
Jesus tells us that 'many prophets and kings desired to see what you see' (v24) so this vision surely is for peace amongst different peoples a world without bosses and bullies - not a world where everyone believes and worships identically.
We, you and I, cannot look to Bishops and Archbishops for guidance, we must look to ourselves and our relationship with others. One can prove any point of view from sacred scripture. Again this means that we have to think, not simply to draw a 'proof text' out of our repository. God calls us to think, not to comply, either with scripture or Episcopal pronouncements. God reveals things to infants so that they might mature, not to remain subservient not subservient to the wise and intelligent - nor even subservient to the being who is the source of all wisdom and intelligence. God reveals things to infants so that they might grow not that they remain as they are!
But Bishops and Archbishops are also preparing to gather next year in Lambeth. So something significant ought to happen there. But simply gathering is not sufficient the Hitler rallies gathered people together, but few would now argue that their aim was of God. It is easy to gather people to use others as scapegoats, as the Nazis used the Jewish people as scapegoats for their problems and as some Anglicans seem to want to use gay people as scapegoats for the churches problems.
Jesus said to the disciples: 'Whoever listens to you, listens to me'. It is not the importance of the message the disciples carry, as it is not the gifts of healing they have been given, but to elicit a willingness to listen to the other than this mission involves. Others listening and accepting the testimony of the disciples - the disciples listening to and accepting the testimony of the hearers. If one wants a New Testament scriptural 'proof text' of this - one has only to read what is surely a pivotal encounter of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 9.32 10.18 which led to his support for the decisions of the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 the final time Peter is seen to contribute to the leading of the Church.
This encounter the acceptance that God works through others as much as God works through the official channels of the church to jointly forward the kingdom of God must be our paradigm.
So considering what might be the decisions of the wise and the intelligent in Lambeth next year, whatever they are. Will we use them as a justification for continuing marginalisation of women and alienation of gay persons, just as, assuredly, passages from sacred scripture can be similarly used?
God calls us as the Church to accept and rejoice to be a part of the incredibly and infinitely diverse world that God has created. Some (so-called) wise and intelligent persons want us to try and turn this world into a monochrome reflection of themselves but this is hardly of God.
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