Sunday, 19 June 2016

Acceptance of difference

One of the most quoted parts of Paul's letter to the Galatians (3.28) makes a complete statement to us, particularly today.  Not only does it speak to us as Christians, indeed as baptised Christians, but also as members of the human species who seek a greater good in the world free from violence and prejudice.  In light of events in the world in this past week this passage speaks to our humanity and our faith.  The passage cannot be put aside as a response to the secular society of the day but must and should be taken up as part of our ongoing view of ourselves as followers of Christ.

Parents and godparents are asked to bring their children up within the Christian faith.  Their faith journey is one that starts at baptism and continues through their lives.  It is not a simple thing and we place much on the parents and godparents in this secular age as we ask them to supply the initial foundations of a life that is lived in accord with Christ.  In asking them to take up this burden we the Body of Christ are asking them to show the human side of Christ to the child.  We are asking them to guide the child into a life that is lived in accordance with the commandments that have been given to us through the covenant relationship with God and Christ's words.  These commandments have lost their appeal to us in the secular world because we see the enactment of secular law as being our religious fulfillment.

Just as the covenant laws guided the community of the Israelites in their day to day life so to are our lives guided by not things of the spirit but secular pronouncements found in the legislative volumes of state and country. The control and power over society has moved from faith based injunctions to civil authority leaving our faith understandings isolated and worthless within our societies.  Even so such control of life is a spiritual and ethical dead end that binds us into an ordered form which can only be seen as hierarchical anthills.  Such anthills also enhance, within its many runs and passages where life is carried out, the seeds that grow into festering hate, ingratitude, anger and violence against those not belonging to the anthill.  The seeds that allow ourselves to be content with our own lives and seek only that which enhances our own well being.  The consequence of this festering sore that grows within our society leads to division and dissonance within said society.  The secular nature of the law that now guides our society, in much the same way as religious law can stultify society, removes the human calling of relationship and love.

We are all one in Christ - when will we recognise that? (

In the Gospel passage from Luke (8.26-39) we see Christ reaching out to the socially dispossessed and bringing him into society much to the horror of those who should have been caring for him.  Those who should have cared for him and loved him, his family, friends and neighbours looked to themselves and their lives rather than to his needs.  In undertaking this act of compassion and understanding Christ re-positioned the man in such away that he became an ambassador for God's love. In denying his wish to follow Christ, Christ showed him how to bring God's love and respect for each other back into a possessed community.  The town's folk's 'hate' / lack of love ostracised the man from the community but Christ's love brought him back into the community.

Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered British MP, rightly said this week  "Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous", something that has been brought to the fore by not only the murder of his wife but also the mass shooting in Orlando.  Even the shooting's aftermath has shown how bigotry and hatred fill the lives of those who class themselves as 'Christians' with the local Baptist Church planning demonstrations at the funerals of Gay people. At what point will those who are Christian make a stand for justice for all people, not just the religiously 'pure',  Paul in his Galatians' passage uses the example of those who are on the periphery to state that they are all part of the human body of Christ.  We are all made in the image of God irrespective of our beliefs, our race, our gender (perceived/real) or our sexual orientation.  In pointing a finger at someone in hatred we are pointing three fingers at ourselves and it is only when we come to the self realisation that God encompasses all who are made in God's image will we find God's peace.

Elijah did not seek out God in power and authority rather he found God in the silence and the whisper of sound (1 Kings 17.12-13).  This silence begins once we realise that it is not in knowledge, as we know knowledge, that wisdom is found.  It is when we begin to question our own place in the world, our own relationship to others, rather than listening to a noisy and loud, oft misinterpreted, knowledge of the past and our current practices based on that past.  This questioning starts with baptism as our parents begin to bring us onto the faith path through what can be termed as an initiation.  Parents and godparents must teach their children as their children will come to teach them, to overcome the barriers of society's prejudices and our own reserves of disunity / disharmony / prejudice which fuel society's fires.

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