We live in a world that to all intents and purposed doesn’t work in the way that it should. We only have to look at the news sources to see new ways that humans find to damage others. Most often it is the poor and weak who are taken advantage of, sometimes sold into slavery, often victims of ideological conflict in one shape or another.
How then can we preach the Good News, in the face of illness, of poverty, of hatred, of fear, of dishonesty?
We see this incongruity in Psalm 82, where the psalmist calls out to God, “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?” The psalmist continues to berate God, reminding him of his responsibilities to give justice to the weak, to look after the orphan, to rescue the weak and needy. As usual with the psalms, it is an open and frank relationship enjoyed with God. The closing lines can be seen as an affirmation of God’s lordship over all the earth, whilst conversely, the psalmist may be seen imploring God to rise up and show he is judge for “all the nations belong to the Lord”.
In truth, Psalm 82 probably sits as part 1of 2 with psalm 83 being the part 2 which ends with a clear encouragement of the Lord to take to task the forces conspiring against the chosen people. It is a psalm of desperation, a call of a people who are at there breaking point, calling out for a saviour.
In contrast, our call to worship this morning highlights a call to the people to follow a righteous path, to walk with God reminding them that if they do this they will grow whereas if they reject God they will be as worthless as the chaff blown away by the wind.
Psalm 1 should not be construed as evidence for a gospel of prosperity, rather it highlights life against death. Those who walk with God enjoy the fruits of life, where those apart from God cannot go on living, and in the end will wither and die.
James’, Jesus brother and latterly leader of the Church in Jerusalem, asks his audience “whom among you is wise?” He then urges them and his latter readership, us, to reflect on the fruits of their actions. The point is made that it is the emotional root of our actions that will have a direct impact on whether those actions point towards harmony or discord. James points to wisdom (often portrayed in the classics as feminine) as being pure and gentle when its origin is from God. However, if wisdom stems from our own creation, so often it is defensive and seeks to justify our status and inevitably leads to conflict and dispute (male attributes) – leading to something that looks suspiciously like the world around us today. James’ focus on the importance of the root cause of our actions is reminiscent of his brother’s teaching in Mark 7 about what makes us clean or unclean. It is not what we do or what we fail to do, it is how we think and how we feel that leads us into actions that makes us unclean. This is why in the sermon on the mount Jesus talks of who we think and feel as being as important as what we do.
Genesis gives us a picture of gender equality in the very fist chapter when man and woman were created in the image of God. The author Tom Wright, sometimes better known as N.T. Wright, suggests that the union of male and female in Genesis provides a mirror to the way creation is meant to be with Heaven and Earth unites as complementary part of creation. A creation where each part is accessible to the other. A place where God can walk with humans in a relationship that is free of secrets. This is what the naked bit was all about in Genesis, it is no hiding, being vulnerable with each other and with God. With the breach in this relationship as described in Genesis, we see the fall out and the true effects of sin. God becomes unreachable and mysterious, Heaven becomes perceived as a distant place, only reachable by death, the union point becomes the focus of intense religious observance open only to a few chosen individuals, and men have used scripture to overpower women for thousands of years. Is this how it is really meant to be?
Proverbs clearly suggests that this is not necessarily so. There is a whole section in praise of the role of women, making it clear that women and men are complementary and should be seen as subject and accountable to one another. Note v23, “Her husband is known in the city gates”, and V 31, “ …and let her works praise her in the city gates” The writer makes clear that there may be different aspects to gender, but the different aspects are of equal value and importance. Discord happens when one is out of balance with the other. When we over play the role of the spiritual, we miss the point of Christianity that calls for a practical intervention in the world, of looking after the needy, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. When we overdo the physical, we miss the presence of God, of the breath of the Spirit, of the word of God that gives life, breathes life into the earth and into humanity.
As long as we promote the fallacy of games like “the battle of the sexes”, we are merely preserving a way of thinking and behaving that seeks to separate male from female, God from human, heaven from earth. Let us rather, move beyond this childishness and live according to the laws of heaven and earth as opposed to the laws of our own creation, a stilted form of the true creation that God envisaged.
What would the world look like if we really did follow the laws of the new creation, of the new covenant made in Jesus’ blood, the one he announced and brought forth with his death and resurrection?
We get a picture in the Gospels of a place without judgement, without malice, without hunger, a place where no-one is left out in the cold, where there is feasting and joy. In effect a clear reflection of Genesis when God liked at his creation and saw that it was Good.
How can we help make the kingdom real now? The first step is to follow Jesus and to become a true disciple. Follow the way of peace, be prepared to offer the other cheek when hit or belittled, to walk the extra mile, to take up our cross. Use wisdom from heaven that is pure and gentle. Love each other as God loves you. Be yourself, the true self , an image of God. If you do this, you will think and you will act such that you will sow good seeds and lay strong foundations for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven.
Go forth therefore and become beacons of light in the world
Sow the seeds of the kingdom with every word you speak, every action you do, every breath you take.
In Jesus name