I Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

Readings for Proper 16 (21) Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

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Proper 16B/Ordinary 21B/Pentecost 27 August, 2006 Textweek

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I have said many times that scripture is like a mirror that reflects life, so as we look into it, so we have an opportunity to glimpse for ourselves life and our place in life. Scripture is not a book of rules, nor is it a text of absolute truth; scripture and faith provides us with a window into relative truth: truth relative each other, truth relative to the divine. Refugee Sunday is an opportunity for us to reflect on where we are and where we are at home in relation to others. The survey that we fill out is an opportunity to engage the process of reflection, to take time to stay with the question of how we see ourselves, and perhaps to discover where we are in relation to the wider church.

So what do we see when we look into the mirror of today’s scripture readings? And as I said earlier there are almost some dot points as I look into the mirror of the readings. First of all, Solomon is not an Australian; secondly, I discovered the location and value of the original street directory; thirdly, I discovered the weakness of military power; fourth, I see the ill effects of wearing thongs; fifth, I find and discover who George Bush’s dresser is not, and sixth, confirmation that the Australian immigration policy is not given by God. Those are the sort of points that I saw in the mirror when I first looked in. One at a time then.

Solomon is not an Australian. If we look at the reading from Kings, and probably if you want to look at the reading a bit further read the verses that precede the ones that we’ve got as the text for today - gives a little more context. Solomon has just built the temple – this is the dwelling place of God on earth and just prior to the readings that we’ve just had this morning, the Ark of the Covenant has been placed in the Holiest of Holies in the temple and a cloud now fills that space. The dwelling place of God on earth – this is an Old Testament telling of what we probably know as the Christmas narrative; this is the story of Emmanuel, God with us. In today’s mirror Solomon acknowledges the divine presence, he acknowledges the covenant relationship between the divine and the chosen people: verse 23: ‘O Lord, God of Israel’. But further on and furthermore, in verse 41 says this, ‘likewise, when a foreigner who is not of your place, Israel, comes from a distant land ….’ And if you follow what goes on from there, we discover that Solomon acknowledges the same, the exact same covenant relationship. Solomon is not an Australian, because he does not seek to exclude, he does not fear the foreigner, he does not create an ‘us’ and ‘them’. For those that find that a little disturbing, if I was preaching this morning in Paris I would say that Solomon is not a Frenchman either.

Next we’ve got the location and value of the original street directory. This can be found in Psalm 84, verse 5: ‘Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion’. We tend, from our cultural paradigm we tend to look outside for directions; we seek paths through life that are marked by external signposts. The psalmist calls us to look within, to find in our hearts an orientation towards the divine, for there and therein lies the road map and the signposts to life’s fullness.

The third point was the weakness of military power. The beginning of the reading from Ephesians says, ‘Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power’. ‘Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his power’. What on earth can that mean? And also, what is it say about the investment of $309,397,169,615 in a war? Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Paul witnesses what was and what is revealed in Christ: there is a strength and power beyond that which is the primary investment for security of our Western culture. We may be investing primarily in one source and outworking of power; Paul in seeing Christ, has seen another place of greater strength.
So to the ill effects of wearing thongs, which might be a little bit quirky but if we look a bit further in that same reading – Ephesians chapter 6, verse 15: ‘As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace’. Imelda Marcos could never quite grasp this text. But for us perhaps it asks of us to reflect on what we need to put on in order to move in a direction that is of itself a proclamation of peace? What is it that we need to put on so that we might move, quite deliberately, in a direction that of itself is a proclamation of peace?

The fifth point was George Bush’s dresser – who he’s not, and you just need to scan the reading from Ephesians – because the dresser mentioned there is the one who puts on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes that will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, etc etc. Clearly not the clothing that’s worn by our leaders.

And so to the sixth and final dot point: confirmation that the Australian immigration policy is not God-given. John 6: 65: ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father’. Jesus says, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father’. Well in regard to those coming to these shores, we’ve certainly got the ‘no one can come to me’ bit of that text. But what are we saying, what is it that we say to those who come to these shores? Is it that we have a God-given right to be here and that no one else does have that right? Or is it that we think we are like God and that only those who satisfy our agenda can come here and be made welcome? Simon Peter’s response in the reading today is that of humanity enlightened. He says, ‘where can we, where can we go?’ and we might add to that also where can we, where can we live?

The ‘we’ in both those acknowledges that all have a place, the place of common humanity in relation to the divine. Always and forever, the pathway to the divine the dwelling place of the divine is a place of ‘we’.

 

The Lord be with you.
Peter Humphris