The Gospel For Today

27 May 2010

The Gospel for today, which being ‘evangelion’ is not necessarily ‘good news’ for all the people, all the time.

 A Circuit Steward, full of concern, approached Jesus.

 “Teacher,” he asked, “What must we do to save the Church?  We are not having the impact we once had.  The Anglicans are rent asunder and the Catholics are led by Ratzinger.”

 Jesus answered, “What does Church Policy state?”

 The Circuit Steward had read his Methodist Recorder, had been on the Methodist Web site and had attended District Synod, so he was able to quote in its entirety Our Calling, adopted by the Methodist Conference and which defines what the church exists to do and establishes priorities for the Methodist church.

“You are right,” Jesus replied, “Do this and the church will be effective again.”

 But the Circuit Steward wanted a sound bite and asked, “But what does it all boil down to?”

 Jesus smiled and responded, “Embrace the different.”

 “But who is different?” asked the Circuit Steward.  “We only get white middle class people at our church.”

 Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was on his way to heaven, but he didn’t quite know it.  Because of his uncertainty he popped into a church.  When he arrived the door steward was busy chatting to her friend who had been away with the family.  So the young man waited patiently in the doorway.  Eventually the door steward noticed him, gave him an order of service and soon he was searching for a seat that didn’t make him look conspicuous.  Some already present in their pews stared and one nodded and mouthed hello.  She thought she’d seen him before, perhaps at Christmas, or was it the jumble, or had he been attending the last few years?  She wasn’t sure, anyway she smiled.

 After some weeks the minister was down to take a service at the church and spotted that the man was new, so he shook his hand on the way out.  But the minister was a bit busy that week visiting the housebound and attending meetings so he couldn’t spare the time to meet up with the man and understandably didn’t enquire as to who he was.

 One day the man found himself on a park bench staring at the ducks.  Someone sat beside him and asked if he wanted some bread to feed them with.  The ‘someone’ then introduced himself by his first name. 

 The man returned the greeting and before long was pouring out his life and soul to the one who’d sat next to him.

 His wife had left him.  It had all begun to go wrong when he lost his job.  He couldn’t make sense of life anymore.  He had come close to getting other jobs but on each occasion had been turned down.  He had turned to drink, but the hangover and the reality were there the next day.

 Finally he had remembered his Sunday School Teacher and how she had said that Jesus had wanted him for a sunbeam.  He also remembered the minister from those not so distant days who’d said that that not only little children were welcomed by Jesus, but everyone, whoever they were and wherever they came from.

 So the man explained how he had gone to a church but didn’t really get anywhere.  He had been welcomed after a while, in fact he had been given a place on the Church Family Committee, but it didn’t work out.  The lyrics of the hymns were complicated and unreal.  The social groups were geared for another age.  And when he suggested that they set up a table promoting the church at the local football ground all the proverbial broke loose.

 The one seated next to him, sat and listened.  In fact he listened an awful lot.

 Later that day the man found himself on the tenth floor of a block of flats.  Many of the windows along the balcony were boarded up.  The stench of urine from the stairs he had climbed still lingered in his nostrils.  Kids with a football were screaming and cheering in the car park way below.  The ball hit a car but it didn’t matter, it was burnt out anyway.

 The door opened and there stood a burkah presumably containing a woman; two tiny tots clinging to the cloth.

 Jamal introduced the guest to his wife and two children.  ‘I found him on the park bench,’ he said.  ‘My new friend,’ he emphasised.

 And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these four embraced the different?”

 The Circuit Steward answered, “The one who listened.”

 Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”

Fenced in

16 May 2010

Fenced In, Hestercombe Gardens, Taunton
Fenced In, Hestercombe Gardens, Taunton

So much of our captivity is of our own making. 

Like those who in ancient times sold themselves into slavery to pay off their debts so we give up our values and compromise our principles for a so called peaceful life or for a life of power and influence.

Liberation can only be ours when we say no to short term gain and yes to long term sacrifice.

The wire cutters are in our hands……once used the fence is broken and the way ahead clear.
God of purpose and peace,
whose desire is that all should live in liberty,
shield us from that which would hold us captive
and free us from those things that damage our sense of well being:
the marketing that leads us to think we are incomplete until we buy the product,
the media that seeks to control our perspectives and opinions,
the technologies that take up our time,
the tensions that limit our potential.
In freedom we shall walk, dance and sing to our heart’s content.

We are at a precipice.  Our nation and world could easily fall into a financial abyss.

It is said that we campaign in poetry and govern in prose; now is the time for the latter. 

The election result has shown that no single party or leader has a mandate to govern alone.  Pride, politics and principles have to be put to one side for the sake of the future.  The lessons of history teach us that if this nettle is not grasped the weak, vulnerable, sick and poor will be the ones who suffer first and most, with the marginalised in our midst becoming the scapegoat.  Even in a time of austerity the priviliged and powerful still find greater purpose and prosperity than the less fortunate. 

This is a time for wise leadership to prevail, for tribal hostility to cease, to acknowledge where there has been failure and accept where there has been success.

Jesus would never have won this beauty contest masquerading as a general election.

The only opinion poll he faced ended with the electorate crying ‘Barabbas’. 

The media would have focussed on his ‘dubious relationships’, questioning his sexuality, his friendship with sanctuary seekers (‘bogus asylum seekers’ to certain newspaper editors), his willingness to call a spade a spade no matter who was listening and how far the so called ‘gaffe’ would spread.  
Rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s would have upset those millionaires who avoid paying taxes.  

He wouldn’t have scrubbed up well for a TV debate, not a spin doctor would be in sight and his policies would not have been devised to tempt the viewers to believe that they themselves would govern because their views were more important than the wisdom and insight of a real leader. 

His words about casting the first stone would have fallen on deaf ears and those whom the media choose to elevate will be the next scapegoat.

So why do I bother with Jesus?

I bother because I believe that the justice of God is more important than being popular with the people.

I bother because I believe that the equality of the races, genders and those with different sexualities to my own are even more important than fairness, even more than meritocracy and hereditary privilege.

I bother because I believe that in the Kingdom of God no one has special place; that all, whoever they are, wherever they are from ,whatever their standing in society, are welcome at the banquet.

I bother because I believe that as well as rights we have responsibilities.

I bother because I believe that a society is judged by it’s care of the weak and vulnerable, the very young and the very old, the sick and the frail, the stranger in our midst.

None of this is new, it’s just that we occasionally forget that it’s true and we need to be reminded of it once in a while.