Wednesday, 9 November 2016

John 20v21

John 20v21 "Peace be with you"  Remembering/ war/peace/ Love

This is a month of remembering. Remembering the dead at Halloween, remembering that someone tried to blow up Parliament on Guy Fawkes Night and remembering the destruction and devastation of two world wars and more since and the impact on our families. War leaves deep scars on our families and our nations as we can see in Syria at the present time. Sometimes we are called to defend our selves. Sometimes we are called to bring peace. 

I learnt this week that the ur-text is what is behind a text. 
Behind our text today in John is Micah 5v4 but also many other texts in the Old Testament and the New about peace. In the midst of war we have peace. We are the peacemakers called by God to fulfil that role. 

Life is fragile. If you've ever been with someone who dies in front of you you know this. But life is more fragile if you live in a war zone, particularly Aleppo at the current time. Death is more certain at these times especially if you are a doctor or a nurse or a soldier. How do we manage to deal with the fragility of life? What anchors us? From what do we draw strength? 

We are frightened of terrorism ( but we are more likely statistically to die crossing the road).   Was Jesus a peacemaker?! It's an interesting question. He never took arms but his words were often far from peaceful and he often did not keep the peace. But he gave us peace, shalom, healing. He was a man of justice. Sharing, not hoarding, was part of his nature. And so sharing should be at the heart of our theology, our ideology, our lives. Like the rich fool we can gather and garner but this is not what life is about, as followers of Jesus. Fellowship, sharing food is central to who we are especially at hard times. When we have nothing, food and shelter are our basic needs for life's fragility. 

Our baptism calls us to live a life that gives life to others, is life giving. Sometimes being peacemakers means we have to travel a long journey to move people from a No to a Yes. Change doesn't happen quickly necessarily. How do we nurture those who are peacemakers? Jesus says they are the children of God in Matthew.  How do we nurture people who are prepared to go against the grain, against what is expected to be peacemakers? Last week a Syrian refugee mother brought large pots of food to feed the other refugees and asylum seekers. She carried the pots on her head round the police cordon. Her English is almost non existent but she wanted to show kindness to others. 

We live in a world of lies but we are the people of truth. Sometimes we need to be very wise in this world of lies. How do we live fruitfully in a world of lies? Sometimes to speak the truth is very dangerous and upsets more than the status quo. But we as Christians are on a journey following the example of someone who was crucified because he spoke truth into a world of lies. We are not called to be hatemongerers when we say we are Christians are we? In a world of racism, xenophobia, islamaphobia does Jesus want us to hate our neighbours, to shun them and their children? But sometimes to get over our prejudices it takes time.

The cross has something very important to say to us about absorbing all of us in Christ's redemption, especially those who are different from us or who we don't like (Miroslav Volf explains this well in his book Exclusion and Embrace). How are we peacemakers when in our community someone is gunned down in our street or children are killed in a house fire? Aren't we all feeling fragile and afraid to go out? Doesn't it speak to our common humanity to join hands against such seemingly meaningless acts? Who as in Mark is the strong man we have to bind in ourselves and our communities in order to have peace? 

Jesus says he has left us with his peace. We need this peace in ourselves, in our families, in our community and in our nation more than ever. Amen 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Matthew 5v43-48 Loving Your Enemies based on Martin Luther Kings Sermon

Matthew 5 v43-45 reads;   “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your  enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for them that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.”
The first thing Martin Luther King says we have to do is examine ourselves. People dislike us for all sorts of illogical reasons, but have we actually done something in the past to encourage their dislike of us? That is why we have to begin with ourselves. Examine ourselves.
Our actions individually and collectively, as a nation can stir up hatred.
Jesus said: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us by looking at ourselves.
The second thing that King advises us to do we is to discover the good in our enemy, and everytime we begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points.
There is a civil war going on within us. Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we recognise this, we take a different attitude toward others. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates us most has some good in it; even the race that hates us most has some good in it. And when we can look into the face of anyone and see deep down within them  “the image of God,” we begin to love them in spite of their hate. 
Another way King encourages us to love our enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for us to pay them back, that is the time which we must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates us, the person who has gossiped about us, the person who has spread false rumors about us, there will come a time when we will 
have an opportunity to get back at them But we musnt pay them back because if we do we just perpetuate the wrong in the world.  We rise above them because we are better than this. 
This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can pay back don’t do it.
Hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil and inject within the universe the power of love. (Mozzam Begg)
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts us. You cant see straight when you hate. Hate is a cancer that gnaws away at us. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason that King says we should do what Jesus says, and that is because love is a redemptive power. Its is a power that transforms people. Keep loving your enemies even though theyre mistreating you. Just keep loving them, and they cant stand it for too long. They react. They react with bitterness because theyre angry because you love them and sometimes theyll hate you more, but just keep loving them. Thats love is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (Policeman in Bristol)
Long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.”
When we love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and do good to those that hate us, and prayed for those who use us, we have graduated into heavenly realms!
Oh God, help us in our lives and our attitudes, to work out that we can solve every problem that we confront in our lives. Let us join together in listening to these words of Jesus. In the name and spirit of Christ, we pray. Amen.


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