Matthew 13:44-50 & Luke 17:20-21
Today’s Message – Modelling Jesus’ Example for a Fracturing World Part 2
Last week in our sermon time, we started off by observing that the times are changing rapidly and not necessarily for the better. We see fracturing of our communities, anger on the rise, division and war running rampant or so it seems.
Perceived or real, it doesn’t matter, for Christ has given us examples through the scriptures, his example and through the Spirit’s leading, of what he wants from us to begin the transformation to a new Heaven on earth.
First, the transformation has to begin within us as the Lukan reading alludes. Then we are commanded and indeed compelled to share our hope and joy, to serve others and to witness to the Good News.
Bullying, prejudice, hatred, greed, independence and racism are not of God. Indeed all of these ideologies declare an absence of God.
We cannot change the world either by absenting God from the equation and simply offering the best version of ourselves, times 10, and expecting to be godlike – no we follow not our example but God’s example and there are plenty of clues to help us obey his goal.
Again I acknowledge a blog by Rick Warren on Pastors.com called ‘loving like Jesus in a fractured world’.
The first thing we need to do is to affirm the dignity of all people.
In Psalm 8:5 God says – God made humankind a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned them with glory and honour. While John 3:16 says – for God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That is, God created every person for glory and honour. An even though we’ve all gone astray – our God of ‘second chances’ redeems, renews and restores our glory and honour through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God created dignity for us – and we are all given the same dignity. It comes from God – you cannot give it to someone, you can only affirm or deny it in others. In 2 Peter 2:17 we read ‘show proper respect for everyone – love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the King.’
Affirming dignity is not simply a process of Live and Let Live. Affirming dignity is about being proactive and going into bat for those who are denied dignity, like refugees, people without a voice in society, sometimes it is members of the LBGTIQ community and increasingly it is about going in to bat those with a faith background.
On an Australian government website that promotes the current practices of border security we read words that don’t necessarily follow up with the practices it espouses,
‘We understand that Australian society values respect for freedom and dignity of individuals, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance and fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good. Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion and ethnic background’
The second thing we need to model – linked to the first point – is a society/community that allows for diversity. God created everyone equal and different. Warren reminds us that we are not one in a million, we are one in seven billion. All are different. If you have a problem with difference, Warren says you have a problem with God.
Holding onto prejudice, bigotry, racist and elitist values is like telling God – You got it all wrong for not making everyone like me!
We are blessed by difference not uniformity. Think of what we read in 1 Corinthians 12 – about the many different parts that make us one body, especially – the body of the Church – known as the body of Christ – or think back to the Uniting Church’s own credos and theologies which laud ‘Unity in Diversity’.
Warren even says – If you don’t like diversity – you’re not going to like Heaven. (If time allows tell of the Uniting person in Heaven).
The third thing, we as Christians, need to model in our world is that of community. Diverse, honouring, inclusive communities with each other makes us better and even stronger.
It was the Philosopher Aristotle, thousands of years ago, who realised that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is transformation that often occurs when we are together – particularly in Church – we hear the words – ‘when two or more are gathered in my name, I am there’ (Matthew 18:20) and in Ephesians 3:6 ‘This mystery is that through the Gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with the Jews, members together in one body and sharers together in the promise in Jesus Christ.’
In 2018, let’s focus, for instance on the things that bring us together – not keep us apart – when we think of other churches and Christian denominations. God did not intend any one of us to walk this life alone. We simply need to think of the family of the Trinity or how God walked with Adam in the Garden, and created Eve to be a companion for Adam.
I think Sir Frank Walker got it right when he said – ‘I live in a community – not an economy’ – it’s about flesh and blood, not numbers.
Church as we know is not a building, it’s a community in unity modelling the love of Christ for the world. It is not a club for us. Indeed it is the only organisation around that exists for those who are not yet part of it.
We think of that type of community when we think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son.
Warren reminds us of the importance of the Church community, the CWA, the Lions, the RFS will not be carried through to Heaven – only the church will carry on through eternity.
The fourth point is Love. Warren asserts that were all put on this earth to learn to love – to learn to love God and his creation. Again he says, if we don’t learn that then we’ve missed the whole purpose of being on this planet. Love is what we need to learn before going to Heaven. But it also means being an agent of love, and a giver or love as well as a receiver of it.
In John 13:34-35, we read ‘a new commandment I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this shall all know that you are my disciple, if you love one another.’
Fifthly is Reconciliation. Agape love is reconciliation at its utmost.
Blaming, finger pointing and un-forgiveness is not of God – if it were we’d be in a lot of trouble for killing the Son of God.
Equally, if we are not helping people reconcile, we are not church for as Matthew 5:9 reminds us ‘Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called sons of God’.
So finally, we come to the last two elements (again integrally linked to the others) of Christ-like living in a fracturing world.
They are generosity and hospitality – towards friends and strangers alike. How can we truly love without generosity? How can we be a diverse, honouring community without hospitality? How can we be reconciled without the hospitality and generosity of the type of that shown by the Good Samaritan?
When we try to exhibit all these commands, we are truly transformed and can shout for joy, the words that we find in Galatians 2: It’s no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.