This has been a difficult week thinking about what I will preach about this Sunday.
What can one say as a terrible violence erupts in Palestine, the home of Jesus, a person of love and peace, of reconciliation and healing?
How does our hearing of one of his obscure parables about the kingdom of heaven relate to this kingdom of hell destroying bodies and lives, tearing families and communities apart and spilling blood and spewing out bodies?
How do I prepare to preach when a simple recognition of our aboriginal and islander sisters and brothers has been hijacked by so much misinformation, confusion, ignorance and racist rhetoric?
As I prepare my reflection, I realise that whatever the outcome of the referendum on giving our first nations sisters and brothers recognition in the Australian constitution, or whether peace or continued violence occurs in Palestine; we as followers of Jesus must go deeper into soul to find strength and life, faith and hope and love; and from these deep wells of salvation share the water of life with our neighbours.
No matter how much violence and hatred, no matter how much racism masquerading as truth and facts, no matter how many disappointments and betrayals occur in the world or impact our lives, we have to respond with love. For out of the slim and weak efforts to love, faith and hope will eventually return and blossom. The kingdom life is
all around us, hidden like God but near. St. Paul
reminds us in Philippians 4:4,5 Rejoice in the Lord
always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness
be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
God open our eyes to see it.
God open our minds to perceive it.
God open our hearts to live it with love.
God strengthen us to walk in your kingdom.
The people wandering in the desert slowly towards the promised land made a golden calf. They wanted a god they could see. They wanted a god who was with them, to whom they could go when in trouble. But it was a god they had made themselves with their own hands. We have our gods today too, gods in which we can trust, gods we can see: our weapons of war, we trust in them to find our way, to be victorious over our enemies, to confirm to ourselves that our god is bigger than their god. Today it is easier to listen to the principalities and powers, as they peddle their fear, misquotes and twisted truth through social media and media owned by people who make billions from untruth, than it is to wait and seek and trust a God of grace and love.
Perhaps the words of Paul in today's lectionary reading will help us focus our faith, hope and love in the coming days. Philippians 4:8,9 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
As I prepare this reflection, without knowing the referendum result, I focus on these words knowing that in many ways the world is not getting better, the principalities and powers of this world have such a hold on us, even on the church. So, we turn again to whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, things of excellence, things worthy of praise, good things, kind things, soulful things and we look to God unseen, mysterious, wise. We look beyond all our human made gods, seeking God beyond all our human constructions and ideas of God, seeking God higher, lower, wider, deeper; leaving behind and putting aside our prejudices (at least growing aware of our prejudices) ever seeking the love that flowed through Jesus' life; hoping, praying that abundant life might be found on earth by all, after all; the life Jesus speaks about in the perplexing parables Jesus tells about a kingdom of love.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation