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  • Gosford Anglican Blog

Keeping Faith in God’s Bigger World

Luke 11:42-46 is our midweek Gospel reading. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; … ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.’ Three thoughts arise for me from this reading. First, Christian history is littered with millions of Jewish deaths as a result of passages like this being read tribally and with prejudice, and with no real ear to the Word of God, or the voice of the Spirit in the life of the church. Second, the passage reflects a common criticism about religious people and religion generally: failure is easily seen as hypocrisy. This is a common problem with being ‘religious.’ Faith can easily become a series of moral or ethical or spiritual hurdles to be traversed, or lists of do’s and don’ts, shoulds and oughts. It’s why religious people are often depicted as hypocrites, do-gooders, self-servers on television or in the movies. But I do I like watching the British TV Series, about the Vicar of Grantchester. Rev. Sydney Chambers is a good man, but increasingly has a troubled state of mind. He is, though also very human, it is what redeems him, with his distractions from parish ministry as he helps Police Officer Geordie! Finally, Sydney is honest with himself and leaves parish ministry. He falls in love with a black woman involved in the American Civil Rights Movement and plans to emigrate. Religion can bind us into a way of being, even into a sense of vocation, that is not ultimately healthy for us or others around us. This is why Jesus wanted to free us from burdensome religion. My third thought, is not just about the religious leaders and lawyers, but about the way we often collude with leaders so we can keep our comfortable distance, not have to take responsibility for our faith, ‘and neglect justice and the love of God’ because, well that is the Rector’s job! We can readily buy into waiting to be told, what and how to believe. Its suits us to collude because we do not have to do the hard work of reflection, the work of knowing ourselves, or others who are different and from another tribe or group. This kind of religion (or politics) always discourages my own learning, discounts my own experiences and negates me because it seduces me into looking to others as the measure of who I am, and keeps inviting me to look to ‘the expert’ or to those in authority, so I can relax and stay with my own (narrow) tribal views. Such false or self-serving religion will always draw me in to emulate those patterns and attitudes that please others or help me remain with what and who I already know. But in the end, it does not draw me to be born again into the person God has made me to be, does not draw me into deeper relationship with others, and especially keeps me from those who dwell on the margins. In the end this kind of religious attitude ruins human community, it keeps those who are different on the outer, and me, with my blinkered world view, comfy. Jesus ‘woes’ might seem trite and familiar. But his opposition to religious faith that ‘neglects justice and the love of God’ and instead ‘loads people with burdens hard to bear’ is for good reason. Such attitudes and practices translate into the broader human community and lead toward something other than a flourishing human community. Instead, let’s keep faith in God’s bigger world. Fr Don

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