No Monopoly on Love 30 September, 2018
Reading: Mark 9:38-50
Open the meaning of the Bible to us in a fresh and exciting way.
In Jesus name. Amen
On the December 21st 2016 in Kenya’s northwest, a busload of people were travelling from Nairobi, the nation’s capital, to the town of Mandera. The bus was full of men women and children. Suddenly a group of Islamic gunmen ambushed the bus. The terrorists ordered everyone off the bus at gunpoint, demanding them to split into two groups – Christians and Muslims. It was a simple request but the intention was deadly. The Christians would be shot, and the Muslims spared. Quickly the Muslim people on the bus began distributing items of Muslim clothing. “Put these on,” they said in hushed tones. On exiting the bus one Muslim said, “You will have to kill us all together or leave us alone.” It was too much for one passenger who attempted to run and was shot instantly. The passengers together refused to be split.
Terrified the people stood together. Eventually the terrorists just went away, frustrated at not being able to separate them.
Later one of the Muslims explained why they endangered their lives to shield and protect the Christians. “We are brothers and sisters,” she said, “they have no right to separate us.”
Today in our gospel, the disciples are concerned that some people who have nothing to do with them are doing good. John comes running up to Jesus. Reading from the Message version of the Bible: “Teacher we saw a man expelling demons in your name and we stopped him because he isn’t part of our group.” Jesus wasn’t pleased, “Don’t stop him. No one can do something good and powerful and in the next breath cut me down. If a person is not an enemy, he’s an ally, why just giving a cup of water in my name is enough.”
The disciples feel they are the only ones who have thought to own Jesus mission. They feel as if they have a monopoly on love. Mark is making the point that Jesus’ grace and love is present beyond his closest disciples. Jesus gives them a helpful guideline for the future, whoever is not against us is for us.’
Jesus uses the example of giving a cup of water. This is something so simple, but done with love it is enough.
In other words, what those Muslims did on that bus that day in Kenya is no less loving, no less generous, no less the action of gracious human beings because it is done by people who aren’t Christian.
This last week Rosemary and I did something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.
It is a condition of a priest’s employment that each year we make a retreat. A retreat is a time of intentionally drawing aside in prayer.
It’s not unthinkable that we had a retreat. Anglicans have been doing that for centuries. What was unthinkable was how we did it. We went to the Home of Compassion in Island Bay in Wellington. The Home of Compassion is a Roman Catholic Nunnery which was first established by Suzanne Aubert, a missionary from France who arrived in New Zealand in the early nineteenth century.
We joined in with thirteen people from other Christian denominations. We were welcomed at the table for communion every day. In fact, because we were in silence, I couldn’t tell you what Christians traditions the other people where from. I just know it was wonderful and renewing.
I can remember my grandfather saying all sorts of unkind things about Roman Catholics. I can remember the big boys from Sacred Heart trying to beat me up. I did what any self respecting Anglican would do when they came to beat me up. I ran. Not much of a street fighter, I have always had long legs.
We sometimes imagine that we are in competition with other churches or denominations. We sometimes think that for them to thrive, we must diminish. There is more than enough need in the world for all of us to do our share of loving.
Jesus’ love knew no bounds. He reinforced his boundary breaking actions by telling stories that made the boundary keepers very uncomfortable. Our being petty or possessive will never serve God’s kingdom.
Many of Christchurch’s great organisations have been started by Christians. In fact from the city’s earliest days Christians, unlike the people around them, had a concern for the poor and a focus on education and medicine. So Bishop Julius, the second bishop, gave up his home and half his pay to establish a hostel so women could get a university education. This became the Bishop Julius Hostel. The Sisters of the Community of the Sacred Name, concerned that the poor didn’t have access to medical treatment, established St George’s Hospital.
Now St Georges hospital is a very fine hospital. I thought my sister was there giving birth to her first born. So, trying to be a good brother, I got some flowers and rang them up. “Do you have a Jane Fuller who has just given birth?” “Yes we do.” So off I went. I went to the bed of Jane Fuller. Wrong Jane Fuller. At this point the matron came through, “Are you the father?” she said, “I want to talk to you.” So I did what any self respecting 17 year old would – I dumped the flowers and ran like the wind. While St George’s is a fine hospital, poor people today can’t get within 200 meters of the place. The problem is that over time, if we do not name who it is we do these things for, the original mission gets lost. That’s why its so important that our new preschool be the St Peter’s Anglican Preschool.
Wherever and by whomever an act of grace is done, Christ is present. On a crowded bus, in a hospital, at a student hostel. The message of Jesus Gospel today frees us from feeling that we have to do it all. That we are the only ones who represent God’s love in the world. God’s love is much greater than we are.
But we bring an even greater gift to the community, we can can name the true source of peace and love and joy and hope and compassion in our world, and that name is Jesus Christ.