We pray: May your word for us today speak into our hearts, minds and souls that we may truly live as your people, loving God, one in Christ who makes all things new. Amen.
A new heaven and a new earth, a new way of being, a new hope for our world, a commandment to love through which we will show the world what it means to be known as the disciples of Christ.
Just as Simon Peter struggled with what that might mean in real life so too do we today.
Just as he had to do away with embedded concepts such as; them and us, clean and unclean, our way or no way, so too do we.
Just as Simon Peter’s eyes were blinded to translating the way of Jesus into the practical situations he found himself faced with so too are ours.
It’s a constant that links Peter and us and all in between – how is it that, as a disciple of Christ, living in the image of God, we can truly embrace the very heart of what that means in our worship, our living, our relationships, our choices and responses in this messy mucky world. And how often do we get derailed, hindering God by our misunderstandings?
To begin our thinking, to consider perhaps how we are doing, let’s reflect on these words from Iona
(Our image of Jesus from Present on Earth by Wild Goose Worship Group p37)
It is of supreme importance that we get our image of Jesus RIGHT.
For there are too many blithering idiots, well meaning people,
religious schismatics, church leaders,
liberals, right wingers,
anarchists, establishment figures, WHO ARE LEADING PEOPLE ASTRAY.
So listen carefully.... Jesus as we all know
came from a model family his mother was pregnant when she got married
and lived in a secure home they were refugees for goodness sake
as the old hymn says ‘Throughout his wondrous childhood’.. about which we know next to nothing....
‘he was mild and obedient’.... he did a bunk when he was twelve.
Jesus was the model working man he became redundant when he was thirty
encouraging entrepreneurship in others he told Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew to give up their jobs.
He kept good company, dining out with beggars and prostitutes
he had a good word for everybody vipers, blind guides, hypocrites
his conversation was about the finer things in life, dough, sheep, pig farming, wise virgin, demons
he never dabbled in controversy he just claimed to be the son of God!
Jesus never upset anyone by his language except priests, Pharisees, pigeon sellers, executioners and wealthy young men
he was respected in religious circles they wanted to lynch him after his first sermon
Jesus was a man among men and women
he was a man of God he was the Son of God
in his majesty we see God at work in his humility we meet God in person.
That’s why he was worshipped that’s why he was crucified
Jesus isn’t here now he rose again on the third day
so we have to get on with it ourselves he sent his Holy Spirit to guide us
We have to build the kingdom we have to celebrate his presence among us
we have to give a lead we are to follow where he calls
stand up and be counted humbly
like soldiers as servants
we are a mighty army we are the body of Christ
It is of supreme importance That we get our image of Jesus RIGHT.
To live as the body of Christ, not hindering but making way for the new Jerusalem, requires us to remove the blinders from our eyes and see life as it really is, right here and now. Franklin Reid in his book ‘Living in New Jerusalem’ says ‘To truly be church is to be New Jerusalem in the world: to be a place where God and God’s Lamb reign in justice and abundance for all people.’
To truly be church is to live in the image of God – to be deeply accepting this new way of servanthood, humility, love and justice. Yet we constantly struggle with the desire to live in the image of us. To live with: them and us, clean and unclean, our way or no way, chasing status and money, divide and conquer.
It seems a good time to think about what it is we do that we need to wrest back from human imaginings and give again to God.
Always start with the gnarly one – money! I look on with horror as I see the bank notes swirling around in places like Destiny Church – where people do without because they are told generous giving is the gateway to heaven – or perhaps we should say the gateway to the bishop’s mansion. Yet equally there is another horror – that of stinginess. And I am part of the horror – on Saturday I was putting a note into the Hospice appeal and the fervent thanks I got made me realise how I so often dispatch the loose change and save the notes for coffee.
And here as this church, are we giving with generous hearts the best we can – or are we still in the loose change way of thinking? What is our attitude to giving, is it in any way conditional, reluctant, piecemeal – and please remember, let it always be within our means.
Talking of generosity - last night Mike and I attended the farewell at First Church for the Rev Anne Thompson who is finishing after 10 years there as Associate Minister. I was prepared for the generosity of food – but the sight of Anne and Ian sitting there as quilt after cover after quilt was laid over their knees. It was an incredibly emotional moment – basically each woman had made something filled with love and given it to express their appreciation of who she was to them. It was extravagant generosity for all the right reasons.
Do we still hold a ‘them and us’ mentality? It could be in protecting our ‘brand’ of Christianity, in our belief that we are in some way superior, in our fear of those who are not like us. Has the shock of March 15 permanently removed our barriers or are they starting to slowly creep back up?
Do we feel safer when we can put down others ways, do we find ourselves speaking with disdain of other faiths, cultures, ways of living to shore up our own? There are those who believe they will be contaminated if they speak or engage with those of another faith – and so they argue agin them from the safety of their uninformed prejudice. Should we not instead be engaging, growing, sharing, sure of our God and willing to converse with the other.
What are our examples of condemning another for eating with the uncircumcised? What is holding us back from eagerly embracing those whom we once held unclean, unworthy?
There is the relationship between Catholic and Protestant, where one considers the other unholy. There are different ways of doing church, when one considers the other irreverent, disrespectful to God.
There is the insisting that the true measure of our Christian faith is found in a particular brand of sexuality. What was that Peter said: ‘If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?
In whose image are these behaviours based – not in God’s image, not in the image of the one who came, taught, loved, died and brought us to new life, that is for sure.
Peter’s image of the new heaven and the new earth needed some shaking up – the vision left him in no doubt that he was wrong and that, in Jesus, things truly were different, the old ways had gone and the new ways were with us. May we too see the obstacles that hold us back from being one people in the name of God and may we challenge those ways that hinder the gift of God for all people.
May Christ and Christ alone be our vision, our best thought, our wisdom, our inheritance, our joy, first in our heart, now and forever. Amen.