Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pentecost 2 A



Anyone ever see or read the Cider House Rules?

It is an interesting movie to be sure, The gist of it is this: Rules are often made to keep things in order; they are rarely made to make it easier for the person involved.

There are two parallel stories as it unfolds, that of a New England abortion doctor who is genuinely trying to help people despite the rules; and at the same time we watch migrant farmers who have come north to pick apples and are supposedly subject to the artificial rules of the farm owners.

Through violence and upset and overturning of moral norms we come to learn something – hospitality, the simple rule of loving the other person as we would hope to be loved, changes everything.


So… the story of Abraham and his son is a pretty strange story of following the rules… If God says it you have to do it is what I first got out of this story in Sunday School… but the story is actually about something else, it is about testing the rules and how that changes us.

Consider this – Abraham is not the one who changes in the story; God is. Let’s for a moment assume that God has had a rough time with this whole creation thing, it is almost never working out how it was expected to – there was that whole flood episode for example.

The story presents God as skeptical, as uncertain what will happen if he actually pushed us. SO God demands the sacrifice of Isaac… a Child Abraham waited 90 years to have. And Abraham shrugs his shoulders and says OK.

It is Abraham that actually ups the ante. Abraham tells Isaac that God is going to solve the problem. God stops short… what… Abraham trusts me more than I trust myself; I better step up… and the ram gets caught in the thicket.

So today I want you to think about how the things we do affect not only the person we do them for, but us as well. All of life is a two way street and any given thing we do changes everything. There is something to be said for responding with love, and taking hospitality to the next level of trusting everything will be all right.

Let’s take a moment and think about that while we listen to some music.

Forgetting the Wages of Sin

What do you think sin is?

The week I was on study leave was quite incredible. It was all on prayer and how we relate to God. In my mind the most impressive speaker was Michael Morwood, who was a Catholic Priest in Australia until he wrote a book about God in which he said God is not out there anywhere, God is in here, in our hearts.

He was promptly censured and defrocked… which is strange because what he said has been being said for thousands of years – especially in poetry which expresses things like the fact that God is a close to us as our next drawn breath.

SO what is Sin? Michael Morwood says that sin is the intentional failure to recognize the Divine in the people around us… or in ourselves… If I treat someone else like they are different than me, or like they could not possibly be loved by God, or part of God’s creation, then I have sinned.

In India the traditional greetings is “Namaste” which people say as they meet and when they are leaving each other – Namaste means: “I honour the place in you where the entire universe resides; I honour the place in you of love, of light, of truth, of peace. I honour the place within you where if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us...”

Pretty complex sentence – but essentially you look at someone and say, “I see God in you.” And they look back and say, “I also see God in you.” And that being true, we have to treat each other differently.

So sin is death – and grace is life. That is what Paul wrote to the Romans. If we fail to see God in ourselves or in others life becomes not worth living – but to be truly alive and empowered is to see God in everything and embrace it all fully.

Welcome Me, Welcome You

In 1993, mountaineer Greg Mortenson attempted to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain and located in the Karakoram range of northern Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as a way of honouring the memory of his deceased sister, Christa.

As a memorial, he had planned to lay her amber necklace on the summit of K2. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers had their ascent interrupted by the need to complete a 75-hour life-saving rescue of a fifth climber.

After getting lost during his descent, alone, he became weak and exhausted. Instead of arriving in Askole, where his porters awaited, he came across Korphe, a small village built on a shelf jutting out from a canyon. He was greeted and taken in by the chief elder, Haji Ali of Korphe.

To repay the remote community for their hospitality, Mortenson promised to build a school for the village.

That is the plot line of the book, “Three Cups of Tea” which is named because of a Balti Proverb:
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honoured guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family..."

Mortenson became co-founder of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), a non-profit group that, as of 2010, reports it has overseen the building over 171 schools. CAI reports that these schools provide education to over 64,000 children, including 54,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before in the remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

See, all of our readings are about the power of the encounter… the way that our interactions change people.

Jesus once said in answering a question, if you have fed the hungry, helped the widow, clothed the orphan or even offered a little sip of water to the thirsty, you have seen me…

When you help the other person because you believe in them, because you see them as holy, you have lived as Jesus taught.

“If you welcome me, you welcome God. “ Jesus said, and then he broadened it out to the fact that welcoming everyone is welcoming God…. Jesus seemed to know about this Hindi Greeting, Namaste.


So I think we can turn the world around with simple things. Let’s start by working on hospitality.

In every opportunity try to look beyond what you see in front of you – the tired, lonely, hurting people we encounter every day are only part of the picture… the other part of them is God, it is holy, it is worth honouring… and if we can manage to connect even a little to that, we can change the world.

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