Sermon for Epiphany 3 Year A 26th January 2014
First I thank you for the precious gift of being asked by John to Minster the services while he is away, and appreciate your acceptance. With that said, may I interpret the two readings this week, a little differently to usual.
As I reflected on the two Chapters during the week, a few things came to mind. I’ve had a season of quiet, and just as quickly as it was really really quiet, you know, my kids have moved out of home, my best friend passed away, it quickly did the 180 degree full on cargo ship at sea turn around and has been pretty much been the other extreme this week.
Discussing boundaries, it was with great humility I watched the documentary Utopia last week. This documentary by John Pilger takes us through the disgraceful way our nation has disrespected the Indigenous people of this land. How gracefully and humbly they have turned the other cheek for so long and in doing so in some ways abusing themselves for being abused. In a way losing hope. But I also saw a group of people of all nations, here in Sydney, rising above together, to sit together at the block in Redfern and witness the appalling conditions we as a group of people and the corporate world have instilled upon the Aboriginal population due to what seems like the never ending abyss of excess, greed and fear. The lack of understanding, in regard to genocide is not new. And this is where on this compass, I hold it, toward the Middle East, directing it toward, Syria, the Holy Land, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Dubai, you name it. All blaming God or using God in some way as though He is on their side, rather than all people He created with Love and equality. I turn the compass again Europe, to the past, again watching the abused become the abusers, to the faction fighting, to the Ukraine, to the United States and its financial war with South America, to the extremes in climate change, to the killing off of our wildlife, our environment, the homeless, the addict, women being raped by men in there extended family in India as a form of ‘punishment’ for sleeping with a man in the next village, for Buddhists killing Muslims, for Chinese killing Buddhists, to see the mentally ill go misunderstood, sometimes abandoned, not just in third world countries but here. In Sydney. For the voice of the voiceless, whose boundaries are not heard or respected. For those who overload people of goodwill, ever increasing their load and again, not respecting their boundaries.
Yes, I could be deeply overwhelmed by it all. I really could, and sometimes, as I’m human, I do.
It’s pretty full on, and in these moments, I pray.
…and so let’s just do that for a moment, be still and pray silent prayers.
Do you feel it? That deep overwhelming sense of peace? If I shouted PEACE in the middle of that prayer, and I was going to, to make a point, but thought better against it, to save you from the shock. Because if I were to shout for peace, it’s lost.
Yet, hand these issues over to Jesus, because I know, that through these teachings today, that Paul and Matthew clearly state, that He came here to heal and He doesn’t take sides. He just wants you to feel the joy and peace that only He can bring. And that’s not to say that He does not respect everyone in all of their situations, their cultures, belief systems, their sexualities. No, it just means, He loves you, and wants you to feel peace and joy. Because we can all search for happiness, I read a good quote this week, happiness, happen-ness is external, it happens, but joy comes from a deep belief within the soul. They are two very similar but intrinsically different things. And I think we get confused. Like the people of Corinth, like the people of today in Southern Californian, like some here in Bondi, we search for happiness externally. Paul is saying here, it’s not an external thing. This Joy of Spirit. You will be deeply lost if you think it is. And there are many people lost, in all its forms in all of our civilisations. So here Paul is saying don’t look for it from him or the guy down the road, but from within, from Christ within. And again, that’s where the consciousness of this planet rises, when we do, and we all pray together for the greater collective good.
In Matthew we hear of Jesus’ journey to Galilee. I don’t know how many of you have been there, but I must say in my experience, it was one of the most sublime places I have ever been. Juxtaposed between the wars, being fought on all sides, there is a deep sense of calm residing in this place.
I once asked a religious teacher of mine, how Jesus knew to choose the disciples in Galilee. She replied, ‘He created them, He knew them’. I had an epiphany in that moment, ‘Of Course’!
So even that God has given us free will, I believe He made these people with a strong sense of purpose that they clearly heard, when they saw Jesus for the first time, a deep calling within the soul. You know the deal. You meet someone for the first time and, bam! You feel like you’ve known them forever.
So in one sense it seems unusual that these men would lay down their lives for someone they had just met, but on another, and this is where the supernatural Holy Spirit that dwells within us resides, it was the moment they had all been waiting for.
I travelled up to Capernaum. I stood by the Synagogues that Jesus taught. I walked along the beaches where he conversed with His Apostles. These were places of teaching. And if you know the size of the Holy Land you will know it’s not that large. I believe God plans the subtext of this Bible with the physicality of a Land. Because He can. Because He needed a template on which to paint His canvas, to portray in this Book, 3000 years later, for us.
So I travel where Christ travelled, I followed where he healed. I saw the soldiers and fighter jets scream between the chicken wired fence of the Holy Land and Syria as though it were a peaceful winter meadow, between the relics, the snow and the red rich and brown soil. I floated over the peaceful water where Christ had walked, the water which represented sin that Jesus died for, for us, for the Love He has for us.
…It’s all about choice, where we put our energy right?
So coming back up to this week, yes a few hundred years between then and now I know, but let me show you how they relate.
I gather a lot of us here are water people. We live by the water, the beaches, and this ocean.
I received a great blessing this week. I went sailing on Wednesday having joined a sailing crew for those with disabilities. Now before you judge, what I have you cannot see, but it’s there, and it’s very painful. So, I am allowed to be a part of this amazing team.
I walked down to Rushcutters Bay at twilight, nervous with anticipation but also feeling extremely grateful for this opportunity. You see being on the water is one of my deepest passions. That is something I KNOW was knitted within me before birth and God has given me many life experiences around it vast majority of the earth.
I headed up through the mooring footpath, looking at the yachts as I walked by. Some large, some small, some well cared for, some people owned with obvious money, some a little neglected for whatever reasons. But, they were all moored alongside one another. I think you’re getting where I’m going.
I came to our Yacht, a beauty, and light blue hull, well maintained. I called out to the skipper. ‘Hey!’ He welcomed me on board. I went to shake his hand, but parts of it were missing. It didn’t matter, he had an all encompassing smile. I went to put my bag down below and oops! One of the crew was getting changed and that was a little embarrassing! I was thinking, I’m going to have to sail on the yacht tonight, with this guy! When the crew member walked up to the top of the yacht, He was very well spoken and extremely well dressed. He put an ease over the situation and welcomed me too. He had a withered arm that was strapped to his chest, with a seat belt kind of device, so it would not fly about.
Next I met the cabin boy, he had issues. I made friends with him, but didn’t delve into his history. And then the next, a crippled body, a hunch back, another, with social stigma. And there was me. They immediately welcomed me on board. I felt instantly accepted and non-judged. In fact, I felt like I was going to have some major fun!
We all had tasks to do, I had the least, as I was new, but I got to watch this very well honed team as they worked. And they worked, hard. We listened, we co-operated. We gave each other respect. We had boundaries and we understood them. And there were regular check-ins to make sure each was doing fine. We were also forewarned of all dangers beforehand.
We got the race course outline and sailed our way out to the starting line. The winds seemed flat, it was over cast and started to rain. All of the yachts about to race hovered around one another like cats at feeding time, and then the gun went off, and we went for it. Each team member given a section of the boat to watch, to work. The skipper steering the ship, some of us sitting to the back of him, some to the side, and some to the front. When he shouted TAC, we got the sails set up to swing that boom across, to move that jib, and MOVE across as quickly as possible. The speed was exhilarating. Hanging our feet over the side of the yacht to stop it from tipping was EXHILARATING! This ride was EXHILARATING. And looking around me at the wind direction, at the other yachts, no matter what their handicap, what the danger we were all having an AMAZING TIME!
No matter, where we came from, what we looked like, what country we originated, what we believed, whether Americas Cup winners, disabled, what sexual persuasion we were or chose, how much money we earned, what physical, mental or spiritual pain we were in. NONE OF THAT MATTERED. What mattered was that we were sailing on this mighty ocean together and loving it. Some of us might win that particular race, but we were all doing our personal best. Handicap or no handicap. We were all heading in the same direction.
And isn’t that what Paul is clearly saying here? Stop arguing. Start co-operating. Look for the Joy and message that Christ brings, not Paul, or Cephas or Apollos, they are like the ones in the yachts, they’re all heading the same way, these people who are following, focus on one thing.
No matter how the factions are based, focus on Christ for your Joy, for your purpose and your direction.
So it’s what we call Australia Day here today. I call it National Sorry Day, because I still believe we have a long way to go in reconciling with the Indigenous people of this chunk of land. But honestly, I say it with sincerity that we are all going to get to the same place, if at some stage down the track, we start following the journey, walking this journey, this moment in time, together, side by side. In our own way, our own style, our own whatever. We will heal and be healed if we follow Christ, His love, His teachings, accept His forgiveness, because man do we all need it in bucket loads.
And isn’t that to love thy neighbour as thyself is about?
Paul says 1 Corinthians 1:18 for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I pray that you are able to hear the word, and become discerning in your choices.
Matthew states in the passage we heard earlier, that Jesus, went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching and healing di-ease and sickness among the people.
Why? Because God loves us, so much, that He sent His only Son, to die on the cross, for our sins, so that we may have eternal life. We need Him, to get through this very very challenging world and life, and because honestly we can’t nor do we have to walk this place alone.
I believe we are all given free will while we’re here. It’s up to us to make the right choices, and to be patient with ourselves if we make mistakes along the way. It is up to us to inform, to be educated to educate, to feed to be fed, to bring about justice. To care and to Love. I also believe, that the power of prayer is never ever to be underestimated, especially in large numbers, because it really will change the world. It really will lift the collective consciousness.
And with this, I ask that we all pray….for healing across the planet, and across our Divine Creators Universe.