Monday, 3 April 2017

Together, we can work for good, or for evil.

What if your cow falls down the well on a Sabbath?
Luckily this cow survived!

I do not hold with much Evangelical teaching. I believe it is focussed too much on referring to a book, reverently known as "The Word of God"  and much too little on the teachings and examples of the Christ, referred to by John the Evangelist as "The Word of God".

I have been advised against "hardening ones heart against the Word of God".i.e. the Bible, and in particular the Old Testament.  By this the writer of the advice was expressing doubt in my faith 

As Christians, we don't need to waste our time asking God to unravel all the apparent contradictions of the Old Testament. Once we free ourselves from the notion that God himself dictated it, then the contradictions don't seem very important. Neither do we need to suffer confusion over the many things that Paul wrote that do not tie up with what Jesus said and the examples that he set us.
The bottom line is, be an apostle of Jesus, not an apostle of Paul.

The reason WHY we do not need to unravel all this stuff is that JESUS unravelled it in one simple explanation.
The scholars who knew the Hebrew Scriptures backwards-forwards tried to trap him many times.
The key moment is when they asked "What is the most important Commandment?"
They were expecting him to select one from the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus, which everyone present would have known by heart
But he did NOT. He quoted from Deuteronomy, the verse that was so beloved by the scribes themselves that they wore it at all times:
"Love God with all your heart and mind and strength!"

The scribes and Pharisees might not have been expecting this answer, but EVERYONE would have been satisfied with it.

But wait a bit! Jesus is not finished! "There is another commandment JUST AS IMPORTANT!"
And at THIS point they start to wonder what he will say next!
"Love your neighbour as yourself!"

And while they are still wondering, he puts even more weight on the fact that these are EQUALLY important.
"On these TWO hang all the law and the teachings of the prophets!"

OK. These are the two things that MATTER. Nothing else really does.

Jesus elaborated on the fact that you shouldn't sweat the small stuff. He made it clear that anything that doesn't comply with kindness and common sense really doesn't count for much in the sight of God.
Praying loudly doesn't impress God. Eating Kosher food doesn't impress God. Keeping the Sabbath in a ritual manner doesn't impress God. Treating women in a lesser way than men doesn't impress God. You cannot buy bonus points, with God.

BUT, God is a loving father, and like any good parent, he has expectations.
Are his expectations about holiness and righteousness, about how many times you pray or whether you go to church? No they are not!
God's expectations are that you feed the hungry, tend the sick, be hospitable to strangers, remember to keep contact with people who are in gaol or who have fallen into disgrace of some sort, visit the dying. etc.

In today's world, your attitude towards refugees, homeless people, people with addictions, and people with mental health issues  are all covered by God's broad expectations.

Basically, Jesus cut through the crap.
One of the lines that I really enjoy is the bit where the disciples are accused of working on the Sabbath, and Jesus says something totally OUTRAGEOUS- God gave one day off in seven for the benefit of mankind. Mankind doesn't exist for the benefit of keeping one day a week Holy! Hey, he is talking like a member of the labour movement!

And.... "So, what if your cow falls down the well on the Sabbath?"
Imagine this scene. If they leave the cow there, it will die. The man will loose his valuable asset and the well will be poisoned.
So all the neighbours run to get ropes and crowbars and planks of wood and shovels. They all fight about how it should be done. There is yelling and swearing and loud bellowing from the cow, and things going wrong.
When the cow is finally out, they all flop around and drink every bit of wine in the man's house. And the neighbouring women run with all the food they prepared for the Sabbath, and it turns into one big neighbourhood party.  Very few things could be more noisy or neighbourly, or harder work,  than pulling a cow out of a well.

Today, I am grieving over an incident that happened yesterday in Croydon, London.
A young migrant teenager was set on by a group of young men and women. Some of them beat him to the ground and together they kicked him until they had fractured his skull, severely injured his face and caused a clot to his brain. Some of the young people, between ten and twenty of them, were spectators, while eight to ten others were responsible for the attack. They only stopped and ran away when they heard police sirens.
The terrible act is being treated as a "hate crime", but we do not know yet why that poor lad was the victim of hate. Was it because he was Kurdish, or Muslim, or Iranian, or a refugee, or foreign, or was it because he looked like an easy target? Like the men pulling a cow out of the well, this was an unprepared event, where the participants co-ordinated themselves for a joint action with remarkable speed. And like the men in the hypothetical cow situation, they probably would have celebrated when it was over, if they were not fearing that they would be arrested.

So far, ten young people have been questioned, and one released. They may be charged with "attempted murder". My prayer for these young people is that somehow God will find a way to touch their hearts and turn their lives around.  

Think how much Good these young people could do, if they made a co-ordinated attempt to welcome  new refuge neighbours into the community!

What could ten energetic young people achieve, if they were to prepare a house for an incoming refugee family?

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