Sunday, 11 September 2016

Commitment to passion

Luke's 15th chapter cannot and should not be taken in isolation but rather should be viewed as a whole.  Yet, we tend to split the stories told here up into two, first the shepherd and the woman and then the Prodigal.  This Sunday is typical of that pattern as we look solely at the first two of the stories in isolation to the climactic final story.  However we look at these stories we need to keep one thing in mind and that is the commitment that the various main characters of the stories have.

Just coming away from the stories in Luke for a moment we need to look around the world today and see if we cannot understand something of what is going on with these characters and how it works out in reality.  It is when we look at those things that stir passion in the lives of people that we start to see the outcome of this commitment.  There are two news stories that are worth bringing to our attention as we look at this.  In the United States there is a big push with regards to a major infra structure proposal.  The Indians in Dakota have come out very strongly against the placement of a light crude oil pipeline through their territory.  The pipeline is intended to take crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in the South, as far as I understand the situation.  The residents and owners of tribal land have come out in droves against the proposal.  The integrity and passion with which the views are held has managed to bring together the other First Nations people in united council for the first time in almost 150 years.

In this country in recent and not so recent times we have seen a public up swelling of opinion against the confinement of refugees in off shore detention centres.  This has drawn out an enormously disparate number of groups all wanting the same thing.  We have the Grandmothers against detention of refugee children; Rural Australians for Refugees; Doctors, etc, etc.  Groups who only have one thing in common and for that one thing they are passionate.  It increases pressure on policy makers and those involved in the whole of the immigration issue and in some respects has forced the PNG government to re-look at the various options and close the detention facility in PNG.

Only the committed win the race.

Although not on quite a grand a scale as perhaps some of the examples cited the characters in the stories from Luke's gospel display the same characteristics as all of these more modern folk.  The major characteristic that is stamped on their actions is two fold; that of passion and commitment.  It takes a committed and passionate person to take on the responsibility of looking for a sheep in a desolated and dangerous, terrain wise, part of the country.  It would not be a good idea if the person hired to look after our livestock was of any less worth than the shepherd.  If that were to be the case it is likely that we would not have much in the way of livestock left.  In the same manner the passion of a person who is struggling and has to scrimp and save for every penny in the household to maintain that household is as equal, if not more so than, an impassioned shepherd / manager.  They will go to extremes to ensure that every penny is spent wisely and not lost in the nooks and crannies of life.

Today, the Parish is not the community that it was originally designed to be in terms of its geographical isolation.  In England it was a unit of secular as well as Ecclesial authority and every person had an absolute understanding of their contribution to the well fare and well being of the community (secular = ecclesial).  The Parish of today is created around another understanding that has implications for members of such a community.  We are gathered today more around our faith and almost exclusively around our faith that the matters of secular community are effected elsewhere rather than through the Church.  To a greater extent this means that our passion may well be divided which means that our commitment has turned inward as we commit our lives to our faith, while focusing our time, expertise on the passions of the secular society and our comforts.

However, if we are to be committed to our faith journey we also need to remind ourselves that Christ sacrificed for ourselves and need to be as passionate and committed to our public faith expressions which can no longer be divorced from the needs of society.  The Good shepherd and the woman in Luke's story both committed themselves to a sacrifice over and beyond what was totally required because of their passion and commitment.  In the parish having reconciled ourselves to a new stage of our journey together we need to bring that same sense of passion and commitment in service, ministry and finance to the plans that we embark on.  This needs to be undertaken in a prayer filled and prayerful manner that trusts in God in an absolute manner, just as Paul entrusts Timothy, knowing that our other needs will be cared for in return.

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