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

s196g13nz  Sunday 29 nz  Hororata

'I have .. no respect for anyone'.  Luke 18.4
and this actually means: 'I have .. no respect for anyone else'.

This is not a straightforward parable!   It seems as if I am destined to tackle this conundrum!   The Australian version of the RCL has this followed by the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector worshipping and this is so much easier to preach about!   Because I haven't actually sorted the occasional times when Australian Anglicans differ from the RCL (more accurately followed in NZ) I've been able to avoid preaching on these words.   However when Jenni asked me to help out it was just the kick in the backside I needed to tackle them.

Jesus' story about the unjust judge is already subject to Luke's interpretation of Jesus' words.   It is a reasonable assumption that the words: 'about their need to pray always and not to lose heart' are Luke's words rather than Jesus'.   It is a story that Luke alone records, so we do not have the benefit of any explanation other than his.

We are left with a picture of the divine as self-centred, uncaring, even disinterested in the affairs of humanity.   And I want to sit with this for a while, because for many people this IS how they see God.   For most of us, who don't have to battle the disapprobation of society each and every day - people on the margins of life - the poor, the battlers, those who have had to turn to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of living - we may not understand that they see God as self-centred, uncaring, even disinterested.   The millions in third world countries who live lives of poverty, illness and premature death because of a church ban on effective contraception are fully justified in believing God is self-centred, uncaring, and disinterested.   Those who have to turn to crime and to selling their bodies just to provide for themselves and those they love are fully justified in believing God is self-centred, uncaring, and disinterested.

When we good Anglicans proclaim a God who loves each and every individual intimately, we may just be showing to others just how privileged a life we have led.   Unfortunately life soon shows us how fragile that peace and security can be, when a series of earthquakes hits, winds uproot trees and cut power - again, or we are diagnosed with cancer or a loved one dies ..

I want to suggest that there is a key to the interpretation of this passage, and it is the trick question asked of Jesus by the Pharisees and Herodians: 'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth.   Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?'  (1)   The trick is that the religious movers and shakers assert that for Jesus and for God their proper primary concern was only for truth and orthodoxy.   It doesn't matter who is hurt in the process. 

Now we do not worship such a god - really an idol made in the image of the religious movers and shakers.   We believe in a God who shows deference to ALL, and who wills that no-one be hurt, especially that no one is hurt by 'religious' people using the name of the divine.   This is what so riled the devout and the orthodox, for it put their pretensions to religious superiority and entitlement where they belong.

Over the past few years I know that you people in Hororata have not just been praying.   There is little point in praying to God or to the diocese to come and rescue St John's Church and restore her to her former glory.   We are meant, despite what Luke says, to do more things than pray.   We are called to get up off our butts and do some things; for the injustices in this world - the gap between rich and poor, the healthy and the ill, the religious and the secular - are not divinely ordained to last for all eternity - as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.   They are there for us to respond.

Jesus is God's answer to the world, that God does care for ALL, and that we are to care for all also.   He ends by saying: 'when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?' - not a whole lot of people praying 'day and night' - for that seems to be eternally assured while injustice remains and good Anglicans continually to dutifully recite the Nicene Creed each Sunday assuring God of our worthiness and orthodoxy to receive the Holy Communion.   No, will the Son of Man find people seeking to rid this world of divisions, especially divisions on religious grounds?

Our task is not to pray but to hear the prayers of the poor and the outcast, the religiously marginalised and alienated, like God does, and do as God would want us, to hear and respond, for that is what the incarnation of Jesus is all about.   It is what the Holy Spirit is given for us to do.

I have sometimes thought that the Anglican Church is a bit like a ship, steaming ahead, unsure of the actual direction she should be taking.   Everyone is enlisted to keep the ship afloat and running, when it would actually be a lot more energising to be clear on the destination.

The world is not going to be helped when everyone recognises 'their need to pray always and not to lose heart' and God doesn't need to have his / her enormous inferiority complex assuaged by these prayers, fearing he / she might go out of existence or relevance if he / she answered them all straight away.

And this is not an academic exercise.   Within 'our own' Anglican Communion we see the picture of a self-centred, uncaring, even disinterested god in making the world a less divided place being proclaimed and perpetuated this coming week, by lots of people, many of them men wearing pointy hats.   The Second Global Anglican Future Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, begins tomorrow, and runs from the 21st - 26th October 2013.  The theme is ‘Making Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.’    Where have I heard these words before??   What it is really about is perpetuating the subordination of women and the alienation of gay and lesbian persons, dressed up, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, devouring all who are enticed.  And I am told, half the attendees from New Zealand are Anglicans from this diocese!

The God I worship has enormous respect for Pope Francis when he says: "Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy' and 'Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.   We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.' (2)  He is incredibly courageous to say that the Church is 'too obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception' (3) and “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics.   Everyone.   ‘Father, the atheists?’   Even the atheists.   Everyone!” (4)  God has respect for Pope Francis because he refuses to condemn others - he insists on treating others with respect.

And it makes me wonder why God has allowed less charitable views of others to reign for so long?  I wonder why God continues to allow 'good Anglicans' to condemn anyone who doesn't hold precisely their version of the faith and live a lifestyle of which they approve, for condemnation of others seems the ultimate expression of disrespect for others?

(1) Mk 12.14 // Matt 22.16 // Lk 20.21