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

s190g10  Sunday 23  5/9/2010  Akaroa Parish

In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.   (Fr Jim Cotter

ask 'for the terms of peace'  Luke 14.32

We have just had three consecutive readings from Luke's gospel, bracketed by Jesus being the cause of division, settling with your opponent and the need for repentance (Lk 12.46 – 13.5) and ending with hating one's family, suing for terms of peace, and Jesus definition of repentance in chapter 15.   Within these brackets we have the healing of the bent woman in the synagogue, the healing of the man with congestive cardiac failure in the house of the leader of the Pharisees, and today's opening is about hating our natural families, which I suggest is about hating either our natural or our spiritual families when they confine our attention to just them.

Sometimes it seems some 'christians' imply that we have to 'go it alone' in a hostile environment.  Yet the second of these examples pictures a king setting out with 10,000 to oppose someone with 20,000.   Even we as the church cannot conquer the world, especially since we are called to love the world.   We are supposed to sue for peace.   Where religion divides people something is wrong, 'christianity' included!  

If we 'go it alone' we cannot succeed for there is no success by ourselves.   This is as true in a personal way as well as a corporate way for the essence of the gospel is inclusion for all.   There is no way the Anglican Church, of which I am a part, is ever going to become everyone's faith, unless and until the Anglican Church is inclusive of all.

As I thought about the king setting out with the 10,000, I thought about Saul, setting out on that road to Damascus, determined to round up those pesky Christians and put them in gaol, if not worse.   And I think about those moral crusaders who today continue to rally a posse of like-minded individuals setting out to rid the world of morally depraved persons, like those who choose to express their intimate affections with someone THEY do not approve of.   The task is ludicrous; we should be seeking terms of peace, for God wants peace, not just for us, but for all people, whatever name they call God, and with whomsoever they choose to express their love.

I have been reflecting that the gospel of Luke is a very anti-establishment gospel.  In recent weeks we have had the story of the man who didn't want himself or his children in bed disturbed by the needs of others, the story of the bent woman who was healed in the synagogue on the Sabbath, the story of the healing of the man with dropsy in the house of the leader of the synagogue, and now the injunction to 'hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself'.   You can't get more radical than this.   As I say, he is against anything that maintains the status quo over and above including and valuing others, including synagogue, church, and family ties.

Recently I met a charming person from overseas, a 'christian minister', who was asking about the Anglican Church in Australia and New Zealand.   His church, overseas, is very alive, and one of its marks is that it adheres to 'biblical principles'.   And I wonder just what 'biblical principles' he means, other than to love others, but I rather suspect he actually means marginalising women and alienating gay persons.   This 'christian minister' wants to define himself by who he is obliged not to love, rather than who he should love.   Of course this man is charming.   Wolves do need to dress up in sheep's clothing, otherwise they will be recognised for who they really are.

But it is not just biblical excuses that are used to marginalise and alienate, so George Weigel (Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. says: The former Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Dr. Runcie’s attempt to explain why the Church of England believed it could proceed to the ordination of women demonstrated that Anglicanism and Catholicism were living in two distinct universes of discourse, one theological, the other sociological.'

We are called to be born again – into society – not out of it.   We are to be incarnated into the world, fully as Jesus was – not into a holy huddle.  We are to repent, to rejoice that others are found, that others are included – not challenged, marginalised and alienated.   A theology, whether it be biblical or traditional that removes us from the masses of people with whom Jesus associated has gone seriously awry.   I suggest that Jesus was killed precisely because he was social not theological.

Today is the last Sunday I will be with you in Akaroa.   Next week your more permanent locum will be with you, until a new Vicar is appointed.   May I invite you to reflect on these words next week as you read the gospel from Luke 15.1-10.   In fact all of Luke chapter 15 is a trilogy on what Jesus means by repentance, they are the well-known parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons.   I invite you to note that Jesus addresses these parables, not to outsiders, but to the scribes and the Pharisees, those who adhered most strictly to 'biblical principles', and who were so well versed in theological discourse that they counted themselves far superior to those with whom Jesus associated.   Jesus didn't call the irreligious to repent, he called the devout to repent!

My text is: Ask for terms of peace, and I would contrast peace with the sort of activism that an alive church might engender.   If being alive means having a nucleus of a biblical or spiritual revolution to be imposed on others, then I suggest that, like Saul, might meet Jesus along the way who will ask us: 'Why do you persecute me?'   Why do you challenge, marginalise and alienate others?

The gospel is a gospel of peace for all people – not a gospel of peace for those who knuckle under my teachings; but peace for all, because all have a place and a contribution to make.

I note that 'large crowds were travelling with Jesus' and Jesus doesn't seem pleased.   He doesn't want large crowds to follow him in a sort of hero worship, a great crowd of people so focused on him as leader that they are oblivious to those around them.  My mind goes to the newsreels of the Hitler rallies in Germany.   What were these people travelling with Jesus expecting to accomplish?   Were they on their way to 'storm the Bastille?'   He wants the crowds to love others, those who were travelling with them, and as a corporate group, those who were not travelling the same road.   For it is only this that will make for peace; peace for the world, and hopefully peace for individuals would result.

Peace is not something that OTHERS need to practice, it is something that the church is initiated to instigate.

The saying that we must take up 'our Cross' to follow Jesus has often been interpreted that we ought to take up Jesus' cross – THE Cross.   But, no, I suspect that it is our own cross that we have to carry.   We have to take along our humanness, our frailties, our frustrations, our ordinariness – to be with other humans, with their frailties, frustrations and ordinariness.   We are called to be a part of humanity, not a heroic vanguard leading everyone else out of humanity.

Finally, the saying about salt.   The real value of salt is that it brings out the flavours in the food on which it is sprinkled.   No one in their right mind would eat a plate full of salt and no 'christian minister' in their right mind wants a homogenous world full of salt.   We as Christians are to bring out the flavour of other people, so that they are magnified, acknowledged, included, in full measure as they are.   If we have lost that talent to magnify, acknowledge and include others, then we too are 'fit neither for the soil nor for the manure'; we might as well be thrown away.

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