Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sermon: Love one another ...

This is what I preached today. It went down well with many people, but explosively badly with at least one other. It's in this awful bullet-pointed format because that's what I use - there is no ordinary joined-up copy of it on my computer. It's here for the people who don't use Facebook.

• Do you ever think about your tribe?
• What tribe you belong to?
• I want you to think about that now.
• Because you can be sure that your politicians, the people who want you to vote for them this week, have their eyes on you as members of a tribe.
• And they give the tribes names – names you may not even have heard of. Strivers – the aspiring middle classes who want more, better, who are prepared to work all hours to get it.
• Boomers – that’s people like me, all hitting pensionable age, though in our heads we may still be hippies or rockers
• Youth vote – not many of them around, eh?
• Digerati – sounds like an obscure tribe fighting against ancient Rome, but actually first time voters, organizing and being contacted online
• And then of course there’s our tiny tribe of Scottish Piskies
• And larger ones tied to political parties
• And national ones – Scots, English, French, Hungarian …
• And by and large, unless there’s an election on, we tend to mix pretty amicably and not make much of a fuss about our tribes … don’t we?
• And I’ll come back to that idea. Hold on to it.
• The Jewish believers in the reading from Acts were critical of Peter’s actions in eating with uncircumcised men.
• Both circumcision and the dietary laws of the Jews may have begun as common sense for hygiene in a hot country
• But at the time of the Exile in Babylon these laws were extended and firmed up to preserve the unity and the purity of the Jewish people
• So by the first century the Jews felt defined by the laws which the first followers of Christ took on with them into their new faith
• They wanted to maintain their “specialness” – their unique identity
• And here was Peter apparently throwing this uniqueness to the winds, sharing the new faith with all sorts of unsuitable people.
• And Peter tells them his dream.
• Look at how he first answers the voice which has told him “kill and eat”
• “By no means, Lord, for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth”
• Can you hear the tone of voice? Try emphasizing the word “my” – how exclusive, how self-satisfied does that sound?
• Think about how exclusive we can all feel at times … eg -
• Piskies – much better than Presbyterians
• Or think about the fact that there are people, like us, that we never even meet –
• For I found myself saying the other day that these Strivers, these men who spend their lives driving up and down the motorway from Milton Keynes, who hardly see their wives and the families they work so hard to support, who work all hours and make and spend far more than I ever thought of earning –
• I said that I didn’t know anyone like that.
• They are another tribe.
• I was talking then about voting patterns and the electorate
• But I could have been just like the circumcised Christians, couldn’t I? (meaning?)
• So – what is God’s answer to this exclusive behaviour? This exclusive mindset?
• Maybe the answer’s in the second reading:
• A new heaven and a new earth?
• But we have to look at the Gospel for the way to achieve this new earth.
• God has shown the way through the person of Jesus
• God has been glorified in the person of Jesus
• And in turn Jesus is glorified in himself
• And Jesus, glorified by God, with all the authority of God, tells us what to do in this short passage from his last supper with the disciples.
• We cannot follow Jesus on his final journey, we cannot be Jesus
• But we can do this new thing he tells us
• We have to love one another.
• We have to love one another in the way that Jesus loved his disciples.
• Now – remember what I said to hold on to?
• ..that in our own lives we tend to mix amicably and not care too much about the different tribes we belong to?
• The readings today all call us to go further.
• They call us not to the very British politeness that marks our electoral Leaders’ debates
• Not merely to the absence of confrontation – for it is a very British thing to avoid outright confrontation with people we disagree with –
• Not just to be polite to people who are different from us in some way – even if we say what we really think the moment we get away from them (GB)
• Jesus’ words call us not to turn our backs on people who do things differently or have a different lifestyle or background from us
• And right now, Jesus’ words call us not to condone the way our political parties smear their opponents
• Not to condone the way the press smears just about everyone in turn
• Not to let people get on with their own affairs without ever wondering if they need help
• None of these easy options – and I haven’t even mentioned the more extreme “not-to”s like going to war or using Trident missiles or punching people on the face –
• None of these things are what we are called to do.
• No
• We are called to love people
• How much love was there, do you think, in that incident last week?
• When GB described that woman as a bigot and was pilloried for it?
• How much love did the woman show in her complaints?
• How much love did the Sky reporter show for the woman when she tracked her down, told her what Brown had said – on camera?
• How much love did any of us show when we watched Brown’s face fall when he realized what he’d done?
• When we mocked his apology?
• Gosh, we all had fun there, didn’t we – but there wasn’t a lot of love around.
• But we are called to love everyone …
• We are called to love people in such a way that we don’t notice any difference between them and ourselves
• To love them in such a way that we strive to do the best for them in whatever area of need we find them
• To be honest and open in our love, to share not only what we have but also what other people offer us
• To regard nothing as alien or liable to contaminate us
• For God has created us all
• And it is out of that knowledge that we must live, and act – and yes, even vote – even if Christianity is no longer a part of our politicians’ lives
• - even if the Christian message is derided by those who seek power
• We have to live in the way Christ commanded
• We have to love one another
• And in that living, that loving, we shall find ourselves in God’s new creation.
• Amen.


  1. It's fab, Chris.....I'm at a loss to see what anyone could take exception to, beyond the fact that you dared to bring the political into your preaching (where of course it needs to be, alot of the time)...It was good to feel, as I launched into my homily this morning, that there were many others engaged in the same process, using the gift of those readings to help to suggest a "more excellent way".

  2. Thank you. Both the Peter story and the 'Love one another' have always been staples for me. Good to be re-challenged by them. Like how you linked the 3 texts. I shall email the link to the online folk in our sermonless flock!

  3. Chris -- thank you for this -- you ROCK,entirely -- followed your comment on Good in Parts to find your blog.
    I took a wee bit different line -- rooted it in the Psalm -- that all we do, refrain from doing, repent of in service of deepening and extending the capacity of the creation, including our neighbours, to praise God.

  4. Sounds a splendid sermon to me. Maybe the cap fits the Annoyed One and they don't like it ;)

  5. I like your sermon, it is beefy.
    For some reason people have to believe that their way is better but it dosen't have to be better and someone else's way doesn't have to be worse.

  6. There is no higher calling than that we love one another. I think your sermon is terrific, and if one finds it offensive...well...We must remember that Jesus preached some very pointed teachings that were conducive to self-"inspection"! I am sure many went away feeling broken-hearted because they could not receive His words in their hearts.

    Many times, when we feel discomfort, it means we must change something within ourselves...not others!