Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Christ of Saint John of the Cross
Salvador Dali

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division!

Jesus the Prince of Peace.
The one who says the way of the kingdom is the way of forgiveness.
The one who showed us that God’s love is for everyone.

Yet here he is saying he didn’t come to bring peace to world, but division.

Does this make the angels at his birth liars?
 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
In his farewell speech, Jesus says:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
My peace, not the peace of the world, but the peace of God.

What is the difference?

We need to see how peace occurred in Jesus time.
There was a ritual called the scapegoat.
In this ritual, all the wrongs, all the evils, sins, bad stuff was prayed onto a goat,
and the goat was sent off and ran away.
In this ritual, the community was cleansed of all their wrongs.
All was put onto the goat.
The goat was a sacrifice for the community, so they could all get along.
Any animosity between people was put onto the goat, and went away.
This system worked.

If you think about it, we still do this.
We place all our anxieties onto people, or a group of people.
We put all our anger and resentment onto a group, and we release all those feelings onto that group.
We are bound together by our mutual dislike of them.
Peace prevails because all the negative feelings are placed onto someone or a group of people.
They become the problem.

Think about football. Think about how everyone hates Manly in the NRL.
In Rugby Union, think about how all New Zealanders are bound in the mutual hatred of Quade Cooper.
You see this happen.
People are joined together in their mutual dislike of something.
Peace prevails among them, but at the cost of the other.
The scapegoat.

That is how the world gets peace.
A constant move of putting someone of the outer.

Think about Hitler and the Jewish people. All Germany’s woes were because of the Jews.
What about our own time and place.
For us it is asylum seekers. They are the people put on the outer.
Australia’s worries will cease if we get rid of the asylum seekers.
Or it is Muslims, or teenagers, or Asians, or mining companies, or greenies, or feminists, or faceless men.
Old people, teenagers, baby boomers…
Any group can become the one that is the one on the outer, that becomes the bonding agent for everyone else because of everyone hating them.

Jesus’ way of peace is not this way.

He gave himself up as the scapegoat, he allowed himself to be crucified in order to reveal the innocence of all who have been victims of this behaviour.
By doing so, he takes away our way of disowning our own violence and hatred.
He takes away our option of placing all that onto the other.
With his sacrificial death, he became the scapegoat to end all scapegoats.

But this is where the division comes in.

Our way of peace is sin which the Lamb of God comes to take away.
So what happens in between the taking away of our peace and our embracing of God's peace? Division.

By depriving people of the main way they have to disown violence and hatred by putting it onto to others, doesn’t mean it goes away. It ends up coming out much closer to home:

From now on five in one household will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
they will be divided:
father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

The violence is out in the open. And we have to choose.

The way of peace in the world is the way of blaming someone else,
making a group the cause of all issues.
Society is glued together by this.
The scapegoat takes it all everyone is happy.
Until the peace dissapates and another scapegoat is needed. And so on.

The peace of God is different.
There is no other. Everyone is in.
There is no one to blame because we are all in it together.
The peace that Jesus gives is unlike peace in our time.
It is true.
It is real.
It passes all understanding.

By Jesus allowing himself to be crucified, he was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

And that sin is not loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division! 

That division will continue as long as we don’t love our neighbour, as long as we keep people out, as long as we keep trying to attain peace the way the world does, not as God does.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
My peace, not the peace of the world, but the peace of God.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

The Queen of Hearts
Miki de Goodaboom

 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure?
What is your treasure?

If we think about what we really value in our lives,
we quickly start to see that it is not a physical object or a thing that we really value.

That is not the treasure at all.
Often it will be a memory attached to it, or who it was who gave it to us.

I recently received a gift in the mail from a very dear friend.
It was something he knew I would love.
It was something that we both love,
and have spoken about for twenty or so years.
A bond we have in common, shared in this physical object.
I put the item on my shelf.
It sits there, a beautiful thing in itself.
But it itself is not the treasure.
The treasure is the fact that my friend thought to send it to me.
I look at it  and I see the item, but I feel my friend.
It makes me happy, not because of itself,
but rather because of the friendship and love it shows.
I look at it and I feel twenty or so years of friendship.
That is the treasure.
The item could be destroyed or lost,
but the fact that my friend sent it to me does not get destroyed or lost.
The treasure is in here, not in the item.

This is kind of what Jesus is getting at.
But he takes it to a much more cosmic scale.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Maybe if we look at this another way.

For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.

Our heart is the inner core of our being.

It is the part of us that really determines who we are.
Our actions, attitudes, and behaviours all come from our heart,
or as we heard last week from the Rich Fool, he addressed his own soul.
Our attitudes towards others, our actions in dealing with those we love, or those we find difficult to love, come from our very being.

Now if our heart is one with God, is anchored in Him, then all our attitudes, actions and behaviours will reflect Him.
Moreover, if we are secure in our relationship with God,
if we know of his great love for us, we are free.
We are free to share the treasures of our hearts with all we come in contact with.
We become free to share the Kingdom with all.

We are free to give.
When we give of ourselves and of our goods we are free.
Giving to those who need is good for those who receive.
But it is also good for the giver.
By giving, the heart is freed from holding onto goods.
You see, we can’t buy Kingdom of heaven with money or possessions.
But our attitudes toward our possessions can keep the Kingdom distant from us.
By giving to those in need, freely, what could become a hindrance actually becomes a help.
By giving, we help those in need,
and we help ourselves to free of attachment to our goods.

By being attached to physical items we allow them to become like thieves.
By being attached to them, we allow them to rob us of the treasures in our heart.
Jesus said The Kingdom of God is within you.
What he meant was that it is in our hearts.
It is in our very being.

The treasures of heart, the treasures of heaven what St Paul refers to as the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Those are the qualities of the Kingdom. And if you look, at them, they are the way God is with us. That is the way we are to be with others.

You’ll notice that all these treasures are ones which involve someone else. They are gems that shine and glimmer only when presented to someone else.

Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The treasure of hearts is the same as the unfailing treasure in heaven. Items can be stolen or destroyed, but the memory attached to them, the feelings attached to them cannot be.

For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.
In our hearts is where the fruits of the Spirit live and come from:(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). These are the treasures that we store up in heaven.
We say they are stored up in heaven, because when they are part of our being, we are drawn heavenward.
The Kingdom of heaven is within you.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions 

There are two tv programs I really enjoy.

One is Antiques Roadshow.
To see these amazing things that people have found or have had handed down to them being appraised by experts is fascinating.

To see the reactions to the valuations is even more fascinating.
It is there you see either joy or disappointment.
This thing they value is sometimes worth a lot, or is worthless.

Collecting things isn’t bad or wrong. It is something we do as humans.

Sarah collects Teasmades. You’ll have to ask her to explain them to you.
I collect books and cds. I get pleasure from reading and listening to music.

Collecting things isn’t bad, it is when collecting takes over our lives that we end up in trouble.

The other tv program I like is Hoarders.

It shows you someone’s house that is packed with stuff.
Often, they can’t move around, or there are rooms that have become oversized cupboards.
We look at the house and the people involved with pity.
We are thankful we are not like that.

But then we see the process of letting go of things.
We see the pain and anguish that that often involves.

Then we see the final result.
We are happy that the person’s house is now liveable.

But there is an emotional reaction.
We can see that the person has now gotten their life back.
They are now no longer a prisoner to their possessions.
It is an emotional experience, for the now ex-hoarder, and the viewer.

Collecting things is not bad. It is when collecting takes over our lives, and we are no longer ourselves free to be who we are, or free to be with God that collecting becomes a problem.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

Earlier this week, a friend of mine on Facebook posted an image that said the following:

If a man has a house stacked to the ceiling with newspapers,
we call him crazy.
If a woman has a trailer house full of cats,
we call her nuts.
When people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish others,
we put them on the cover of fortune magazine and pretend they are role models.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

Greed is a monstrous thing.
Think of the hoarders.
Their inability to let go things means they imprison themselves, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

Think too of millionaires and billionaires.
We hear how they are wealth creators, but often it is at the cost of others.
It is often at cutting costs, wages, finding tax loopholes that their wealth is created.

Think of the banks.
They announce record profits, yet at the first sign of the government putting on a levy of %0.05, they say they have to increase fees.
Billions of dollars of profit a year still won’t cushion them from a small levy apparently.
They have a duty to their shareholders, thereby shouldering the blame on to others.
And the people that are CEOs of the banks are held up as leaders and paragons of society.

It is not right.
Yet, the hoarding of money is an acceptable and even admirable behaviour in our society.

But to Jesus, it was not.
To Christians it should not be.

Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; 

See, it is not the possessions, or the money that is the problem.
It is greed.
The word Luke uses is literally, ‘the desire of gaining more and more.’
This is the problem.

Like the hoarder who gathers so many things that they can’t move in their house, if we desire more and more things, we become trapped in our desire.

Like the man in the parable.
He is so concerned about his security, that he neglects other areas of his life: other people, and God.

His desire to store more crops is so significant to him that he speaks to his soul, his very being.
And I will say to my soul,
‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years;
relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

Jesus warned about this:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”

But his storage of his goods does not really supply him the security he is after. His wealth provides no security in the sense that his life may be very short.
If he were to die tomorrow, what use would his stored crops be?

‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.
And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 

The need to acquire goods, the need to hold on to things, the need to increase wealth, these behaviours are the most destructive in our relationships with each other, and even more so in our relationship with God.

The need to acquire more and more comes from fear,
and that fear has nothing to do with God. A real relationship with God casts out fear, and in such a relationship, fear of not having enough money or possessions does not exist.

One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions

We know this to be true, for the life we have in Jesus is worth far more than our bank accounts, or piles of books, or cds.
Our life in Jesus is the pearl of great price, there is nothing of greater value. Our life is worth so much,
not because of what we own or possess or have stored away,
but because of the love God has for us.
That is how valuable we are.

The creator of all things, of all time, loves us.
That is worth more than our bank accounts, libraries, or knick knacks.