Does everything seem to be falling apart – from Peter Murnane’s blog:
If it seems that way to us, we need to dig down to the basic truths of Christian faith. In this letter to the people of Colossae, Paul – or probably one of his disciples – makes the amazing claim that God will “..reconcile all things to [God]”. The same statement is in the Letter to the Ephesians (1:10) which says that God intends “…to gather up everything under Christ, as head”. And Jesus promised: “…when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself” (John 12:32)
This promise fits with the nature of God, who must be absolutely one. Could there be more than one Infinite? And if it is true that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), what an amazing future we can look forward to! Which is what Jesus and Paul – or whoever – was trying to tell us.
Yet these astonishing statements seem to conflict with the idea that most of us accept at some level, and have even been taught in Christian churches, that The Holy One is above the earth, remote and divided from us. This might be a reasonable assumption if we look only at terrifying natural phenomena that are totally beyond our control: the current floods; recent bushfires, tsunamis, earthquakes. And how remote – we feel – must be the Being who made the immense universe of a trillion galaxies, each containing a hundred billion stars… or more.
But the amazing truth on which that our Christian faith is based is that God came among us as a helpless new-born child, and as a young man struggled for justice on behalf of the weakest humans. For his stand, he was tortured and murdered by the divisive powers of religion and empire. But after passing through death, God-among-us gave the gift of God’s own self, to dwell permanently in each of us. We are invited to discover that God is our intimate friend.
It is a sinister fact that because we are free to choose, some people seek to gain power by dividing others, driving them apart. This is the ploy of the villain in classic story-telling; of the deceiver, the adulterer, the dictator. We recognise their technique in their catch-phrase: “divide and conquer”. What deep unhappiness and anguish the divisive invasion of The Ukraine is causing just now! And every quarrel we get caught up in, does the same.
It is tragic that the Christian church has not always clearly taught this truth that God is bringing us all into unity. Religion is often used to enhance the position of an upper class or caste, who claim superior powers and authority. It is in their interest to make people dependent on them for access to the Holy One. They claim the right to administer a Holy Place, the “sanctuary” – remember the altar-rails? – forgetting that the Incarnation made every one of us a temple of God.
Jesus taught that the most important thing for us to do is recognise and worship the mysterious Holy One. He illustrated the “second commandment” with today’s gospel story of the bashed-up traveller, showing that we need to see God in every other person we come across. The religious characters in the story walked past their suffering neighbour, because their rules and religious life-styles divided them from him. Jesus’ point is that we are all neighbours, and that love compels us not to walk away.
We won’t find happiness or become “holy” unless we discover this truth. In the end it is not how much we possess or whom we can boss around that will make us happy, but only finding that we belong to the same family, which is not divided by skin-colour, language or the imaginary construct we call “race”. We are made for love. This morning a little two-year-old Tongan taught this to me in a new way. For the entire length of the church service, she delighted to be in her loving father’s arms, being cuddled and sharing biscuits with him. She knew.
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