I mentioned a couple of weeks back my first ever concert – a U2 experience in 1984.
A few years before that I was in my first band
(I had done solo things here and there, but this was the big step)
And as teenage bands are wont to do, we decided that our first song would be a classic.
Nothing like starting with a simple blues or a harmonic Beatles song or something
Our first performance was Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. All 8 minutes of it.
It was an interesting choice for a group that was comprised of
a singer, a pianist, a drummer, a guitarist and a trumpeter
All of the members were school friends,
and so we rehearsed in the main hall of the school at lunch times –
it had the best piano.
And when it got time to start doing sound checks we decided to turn the sound system on.
We didn’t have a Joel with us, so all we could work out how to do was turn the switch ON
In fact, we worked out how to turn all the various switches ON.
Sadly, one of the switches was the outside speaker system,
and so we managed to send the sound feed of our singer
throughout every classroom and every part of the school grounds
And had around 1000 students subject to a pretty amateur version
of Stairway to Heaven.
Our singer was no Evan Kirby.
That band didn’t last long
There are a lot of people in Les Mis who are trying to buy a stairway to heaven.
The Thernardiers have the view that God is long dead and heaven is here
and their way of buying it is just to get what they can
Enjolras and the students also have a sense that heaven is here,
but their way of buying it is with revolution – the classic liberation theologians
Jean Valjean is an interesting character, whose life has been changed by grace
but who is driven by his own guilt at the death of Fantine.
He is buying his stairway to heaven
by trying to make up for what he has done wrong
And Javert, whose song we heard this morning is sure he knows where heaven is
and how to get there – “Honest work and just reward”.
4 examples of how a perspective about God
and a perspective about whatever “heaven” might be
can make a who stack of difference to the way people think, feel and act.
We had an unfortunate time again for people of faith earlier this week in Australia
when on QandA, a Christian pastor
asked a question of the (now outgoing) Prime Minister
and as part of the conversation he said to Mr Rudd
regarding his position re same sex marriage
“how can you believe this if you call yourself a Christian”
That statement, that accusation “If you call yourself a Christian”
has some Javert-ness to it – it is filled with certainty
It’s a sad state when people of faith are just so sure
that they are right and all others arent
Life is too complex to be able to divide it into goodies and baddies
(or for that matter baddies and baddies).
There is no doubt we are meant to feel uncomfortable about Javert
but maybe we best do it as a way of looking at ourselves
and being honest about our motivations.
Javert knows the way that the world is supposed to work.
He knows the way that God works.
It is predictable. It is set. It is concrete. God is predictable as the stars.
Javert’s probably has a bumper sticker on the back of his horse along the lines of
God says it. I know it. Just do it.
Javert knows the God who sets things in order
but struggles with the God chooses to pay the same amount to labourers
even though they haven’t done the same amount of work.
Javert knows the God who has set up the world with its laws and its rights
and demands a punishment for things being wrong.
Javert knows the God
that says that Jesus needs to be killed because the world has sinned,
the traditional, mechanistic, angry God that is spoken of too often
as it says that God needs revenge for laws being broken
Javert knows the argument of the “slippery slope”:
if we allow this one exception, then where could things lead.
But then again, so do I, and I guess, so do you.
We know that god and we are probably likely to invoke that god
and use that argument at times.
There is something that becomes comforting at times about being a bit Javert-ish
There is something in us that cringes
when we hear the parable of the of the labourers in the vineyard.
It’s economically irresponsible.
There is something in us that warms to electoral campaigns about law and order
or about cutting down on the slackers in society.
But the other story from scripture today is a very non-Javert reading.
The woman who pushes her way through to Jesus is very much a Les Miserable.
She is outcast, she is in poverty, she is dirty, she is disreputable.
She is in the wrong place. She has the wrong type of faith
But Jesus simply doesn’t care
Jesus simply doesn’t care.
It’s really hard to get our minds around that – Jesus simply doesn’t care.
Because what he cares about is her.
Ultimately, Javert is a very fear-filled character.
Fearful of what the world would be like
if it lost its order, its predictability, its right-ness.
Fear drives us into the most painful responses.
We’ve seen plenty of that recently. Parties know it is a vote winner.
But as we prepare to be nourished by the presence of God in a simple meal
and as we remember the life agony of Javert
I invite you simply to remember the wisdom of the prophet Leunig
There are only two feelings – Love and fear.
There are only two languages – Love and Fear
There are only two activities – Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results:
Love and fear. Love and fear.