Following Jesus across the line

Acts 11:1-18
Just before I start speaking with you about the Acts passage I did want to let you know that we received news this week that the Banner “Regeneration” is being removed and will be being taken to its new home within the next few weeks.

Apparently quite a while back there was a Norwegian visitor who came here and really liked it, and noticed that while it was just here on the wall it wasn’t being actively used by anyone. Under Norwegian Property claims ordinance 1854/52 he was entitled to stake a claim for its ownership – which he did.

We weren’t aware of the claim, as the register was kept in Oslo. Under the claim, the property rights over the banner passed to the claimee in 2001 and they were classed as indistinguishable in 2006 .The Norwegian gentleman died last year, leaving the banner to his son who sold it earlier this year, to recover losses he had sustained in the GFC.

The new owner has a place for it in his collection in Oslo. My understanding is that it is likely to be gone by the end of May. We understand that there may be some strong feelings regarding this, so it might be good to pause just for a moment, to take a breath.

My guess is that most of you picked up the unreality of the situation relatively quickly I mean – imagine someone from another country being able to make a claim over property – especially over property which is very dear to some people here –  Imagine that the claim could be made that didn’t pay any attention to the existing understanding of law where we are. Imagine that it would all be determined by the laws of a county far away with no cultural or legal connection to our own? Pretty crazy isn’t it.

But imagine how we would try to react if it wasn’t crazy
I wonder what we would do.
Would we write letters of protest?
Would we contact the media about the injustice?
Would we make the effort of locking the doors really securely and ensuring that the Norwegians couldn’t come in to take it?
Would we try to make a human barrier around it to stop them getting to it?
I wonder how we would feel if a Norwegian visitor came in to worship next Sunday

Welcome to the context of the new Preamble to the Uniting Church constitution which Jill referred to last week as part of the reporting back from Synod.

The New Preamble is one of the ways of trying to say that we want to do the God thinking and the Jesus  following from the other side of the line.

Acts 11 takes us to see one place where the line that had been drawn got crossed and how to see God from the other side of the line.

Probably, we know the background to the story :
that there was a whole long list of foods that couldn’t be eaten by Jews; it is that pile of foods that was in Peter’s vision
And it is then that Peter’s understanding of God’s way of operating widens to include the non-Jewish, or Gentiles           
Like History, however, Theology is too often told from the view of the “winners”
And even with the telling of this story,  it is from the perspective of a Gentile, male church leader: Luke.  And now me. Both “power” people, by education, class, position and status.

I’ve never been in the group of people suspended in the sheet of Peter’s vision. But I hope I am sensitive to the importance – and the confronting nature –  of the call that comes to hear from the other side of the line.

For those of us who haven’t been told we are unacceptable
For those of us who haven’t been told to wait outside because we aren’t OK
For those of us who haven’t been told we cannot be part of the church or involved in a decision
For those of us who haven’t been told that our property is no longer ours
For those of us who haven’t been told that we cannot see our children
For those of us who haven’t been told that our spirituality isn’t good enough
For those of us who haven’t been on the wrong side of the boundary line

then I wonder if we can hear the power of this sort of passage and I wonder if we can pick up the importance of things like the Preamble change as being more than “playing with words” or “mucking around with our history”

Chis Budden has written a book that is trying to help us come to grips with the reality of this setting:
Following Jesus in Invaded Space
It would be a good beginning of conversation for small groups.  So too would the theological and biblical reflections on the new preamble that are available at the back

It is a reminder that as followers of Jesus, we have an obligation cross over the line and listen and learn rather than to impose.

It may be confronting at times, but it is the way of Christ.

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