Wembley Downs Uniting Church
The enduring summons of Jesus (Terry Quinn) 22.6.2008
Reading: Matthew 10:24-39
Robert Frost ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. I like to think that by now I have reached a certain state of composure at this stage of my life. Through many wrong turns and mistakes, by means of a good measure of arrogance and injury to others and owning-up to this, I seem to have arrived at some kind of equilibrium in my life, what others may call steadiness. Mind you this measure of self-possession has been a hard-won trophy. Still my fundamental life choices have borne some fruit and I have come to a certain place of inner peace. But then, I think of my choice for Christ and I read the Gospels once again. I read that Christ wants me to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5, 13), the light of the world (Matt 5, 14). He said that if I love my father or my mother, my son or daughter more than him I am not worthy of him (Matt 10, 37). Christ says that my choice for the Reign of God is a greater value than any other value I can think of (Matt 13, 44) but, be warned, the Reign of God suffers violence and the violent take it away by force (Matt 11, 12). Christ said that the greatest person in the Reign of God is the most humble person, like a small child (Matt 18, 4). Christ ordered me never to lord it over others, he said, Whoever has a mind to be first among you must be your slave (Matt 20, 27). I read that Christ says if I have ears then I have to listen (Matt 11, 15); he says that I must be born from above (John 3, 3); that if I am not with him, I am against him (Luke 11, 23); he called me blessed if I take no offence from what he has to say to me (Matt 11, 6); he assured me that I would be blessed if people excluded me on account of my connection to him (Luke 6, 22); he told me to stop judging others (Matt 7, 1) that if I love God with all my strength and loved my neighbour with all the care I give myself then I am not far from the Reign of God (Mark 12, 34). Jesus told me to forgive everyone everything (Matt 6, 14) to give to everyone who asks of me (Matt 5, 42); he told me that whatever I do to the most insignificant human being I do to him (Matt 25, 40). Jesus invites me to get out of my safe boat and walk on water (Matt 14, 25); he tells me not to be afraid (Matt 14, 27); he said that if I have faith nothing will be impossible for me (Matt 17, 20); he guaranteed that whatever I ask for in prayer with faith, I will receive (Matt 21, 22). Christ chose me to go out and bear much fruit so that whatever I ask for in his name, God will give me; he asked me – no - he commanded me to love others (John 15, 16-17). He told me that I cannot be his disciple if I do not renounce my possessions (Luke 14, 33); he told me not to worry about what to eat, what to wear, life is more important that food or clothing (Matt 6, 25); rather, he said, search out the Reign of God and I’ll have all I want (Matt 6, 33). Jesus told me to let my Yes mean Yes and my No mean No (Matt 5, 37). He lets me know that my evil thoughts, my envy, my arrogance, my unchastity, my greed comes from within, not from without; not from others but from me (Mark 7, 15 ff). Jesus says to me that it is very likely that prostitutes will experience the Reign of God before people like me will (Matt 21, 31); that many sins are forgive all kinds of unlikely people because of their great love (Luke 7, 47). And finally, I read that Jesus loved me and he loved me to the end (John 13, 1). So dear friends in Christ, this seems to be what the choice for Christ is all about! I ask myself, am I not entitled to a little peace? I’m a pretty responsible person, dutiful and law abiding. I’m religious too, within reason. Yet if I do claim to follow Jesus, and I think about my world today, my equilibrium is upturned, my peace is rocked. I think of the Beatitudes of Jesus, and how they have been sowing lasting seeds of human liberty and community for two-thousand years. I think that when Christ taught us to pray, in just two words, Our Father, he undermined all forms of totalitarianism. I sense that when we Christians call the Holy Spirit, Father of the Poor, we hold out, for all time, the hope of social participation and political solidarity for all human beings without exception. When Jesus said, Render to Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s he strikes down in one sentence every political mystique and all religious theocracy. Jesus denies any divine right to all political systems and every domineering religious corporation. In fact on the contrary, Jesus summoned the poor of the earth to constitute, in a privileged way, the Reign of God. And this is how I understand Matthew’s phrase ‘poor in spirit’: I have to work on becoming poor in spirit if I want a share in the Reign of God. And so the following of Jesus demands both immeasurable personal and profound social outcomes. Jesus mission is my mission. Jesus was not a politician yet he is a liberator. Jesus was not a church minister yet he ministers healing and freedom. Jesus was not a Zealot yet he remains much more threatening to oppressive power than any revolutionary. Jesus was not an Essene yet he criticised Temple practice and sought intimate prayer with his Father, day and night. I contemplate Jesus and Barabbas before Governor Pilate and I wonder: who do I really think was the more dangerous? I find it much more profitable for my faith if I put aside for a moment thoughts of Armageddon, apocalyptic last times and the final Reign of God in heaven to consider rather the temporal consequences to-date of the Reign that Christ announced. That way gives me some idea from history as to how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go. No, I’m afraid my so called well-earned peace, my composure and security will have to be submitted to the enduring summons of Jesus. My task of becoming poor in spirit with the poor of the earth, what I like to think of as my teamwork with grace, is still a work in progress: The woods are lovely dark and deep But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
130 Calais Road, (crnr of Minibah Street)
Wembley Downs, Western Australia.
Phone 08 9245 2882
Ten kilometres northwest of Perth city centre,
set amongst the suburbs of City Beach, Churchlands, Scarborough, Wembley Downs and Woodlands