The Old Testament reading today (which we didn’t read) is a reference back to the famous request of Solomon when he as becoming King. He wanted to be known for his wisdom.
A later story in Solomon’s life is of one of the ways that he displayed that wisdom it was the story of the two women who were both claiming that a baby was hers And Solomon offered the great compromise – give half to each.
It was a high point in Solomon’s life, though unfortunately for much of the later parts of Solomon’s life and reign he was probably better known for the way that he tried to fit in with powers and become strong – modelled on the way of the world around him.
There is a pretty strong contrast with the gospel reading today The way that Jesus was talking wasn’t aimed at fitting in at all.
Imagine how you would hear this if you didn’t have a history with communion. Imagine how you would hear this if you didn’t have a background with the church Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
It isn’t the way that you may encourage someone to speak to stay on the safe side of communication.
In fact in the reading we will be looking at next week John tells us that Jesus’s words were considered so hard to follow, to accept that some of his disciples left him.
Jesus knew that the way of God was a tough one and that it wasn’t about trying to please and stay popular. It’s one of the reasons why the attendance at congregational worship is never a satisfactory measure of the health of a church. It’s too easy to be popular and pitch for numbers
In Mississippi a month ago, a pastor in a local church tried to go the popular route He is in a church where there had never been black people get married And so when a black couple asked to be married there, and there was some negative reaction from some people in his congregation he suggested to the couple that he could marry them in a different building. That way everybody could be happy.
He has since acknowledged that it actually wasn’t keeping everyone happy and it wasn’t something that was in keeping with the way of Jesus. And it is very easy for us in Australia to look at those sorts of actions and consider that it would never happen here. But the sad reality is that it is likely to.
It is too easy to fit into the mould of the later life of Solomon rather than the awkward mould of Jesus.
And it is also easy to become the perpetual “angry young man” (with his working class ties and his radical plans) who is grumpy and opposes whatever he can.
Not so with Jesus. What he gives us is grace and compassion and justice always woven together And sometimes that is the most pleasing thing and sometimes it is anything but a win-win all round.
Sometimes what is said and done brings warmth and smiles to people Something everyone can stand and cheer about.
But, there are those moments when the truth is hard. And, to some, offensive.
It may be as simple as saying This is God’s church, not the church of the people who built it so all people are welcome here. Though we may not find that all that offensive.
The UCA hasn’t been doing its best this week to play it safe and to fit in with the compromise of the times Let me quote from our President, Andrew Dutney: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The reasons for the dismay of the Uniting Church over the outcome of the Houston Panel report are not mysterious or complicated. Jesus said it. We try to do it…
And we are deeply unhappy when the governments who represent us adopt policies that punish rather than welcome the stranger in need….
Australia remains the only country in the world with the inhumane policy of reducing its offshore refugee intake for every person accepted as a refugee onshore …
A nation that is so determined to turn strangers away – to oppose the God whose mission begins with the stranger, the disadvantaged and the unwanted – cannot prosper in any way that matters.
Now, speaking the truth might just mean that some won’t like us anymore, they’ll stop coming on Sundays. They’ll reduce their offering contribution. And maybe we’ll get nailed to a cross and left to die.
But, the truth also has this remarkable quality: it sets you free. And, it brings us life in communion with God.