‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.
The first Dimension of this short passage of Scripture is that Jesus had set his face to Jerusalem. In other words Jesus agenda would not be dictated by Herod. No, Jesus had a deep grounding in the Father and his calling preach Good News to the poor, which would inevitable create conflict with the people of power.
We too are called to set our faces individually, as couples and as a Christian Community to the “New Jerusalem”. The New Jerusalem is not the Old Jerusalem dusted off and made all shiny and new. Nor is the New Jerusalem a heavenly place that we go to after death. It is the place where God’s peace abides.
We are on a journey to the place where as Isaiah says there is plenty to drink and plenty to eat. All are welcome. All are cherished and know that they are loved. Hopefully as the psalmist says our souls will thirst for this place of blessing.
So, just as Jesus was deeply grounded in the Father, unwilling to be pushed around by Herod, we too are called to be grounded in God, working towards the Kingdom. In a moment we will think about what all that looks like.
The other dimension to Jesus journey to Jerusalem is that the journey is important. Jesus says he wants to gather the people of Jerusalem under his wings the same way a hen gathers her chicks. The Journey to Jerusalem becomes meaningless if compassion for the people is not present. The way Luke narrates the story, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem in chapter 9 and it is not till chapter 19 that Jesus gets there. Along the way he is healing people, preaching the Kingdom and helping people to see the glory of God. Arrival at the destination becomes meaningless if along the way people were not able to see something of the breath, depth, height and width of the love of God.
We too are called to have both the strong sense of direction as well as the depth that gives meaning in our lives.
So what does that look like in day to day life?
What does it look like individually?
I heard of a young man aged 25 who was disappointed because he hadn’t reached his goal of $500 000 in the bank by that age. I thought, how sad is that. He has a sense of direction but it seemed to be all about him and wealth. His vision did not seem to ask about how his life would impact on other people, not what impact he would have on the earth.
One of the reasons we like to run the Alpha course is because the underlying question is, can Christian Faith bring meaning and direction to my life? And then the assumption is, yes, if you come to know Jesus your whole life will be transformed. It won’t be just about me, but knowing others to be your brothers and sisters, life will be about being a blessing to others. So, if you know folk whose lives seem directionless and meaningless, they are just the people we want to invite to Alpha.
Of course, being a blessing to others will take on different facets depending on one’s gifts and passions and where we are in our journey of life. If we are youngish and energetic it may include doing things like helping Naomi with the Youth Ministry in the Parish or coaching the local foot ball team. Sometimes mentoring young people in a secular role can be just as powerful as running a youth group.
As we get older our work becomes often the main thing that occupies our days. So, it is great if we can find work that is more than a means to pay the bills. The Christian movement, Youth With A Mission, YWAM, developed a university particularly to help young people to enter into careers that would bless others. They chose about 8 main fields, things like health, education, banking and finance and politics. I can’t remember them all. There vision was to help young people become leaven in the bread doe of our society.
As we get older in our careers our work includes nurturing others as they come up through the ranks. Then in retirement we have freedom while we have good health to do a whole range of things with less constraints. Bush Church Aid realised the capacity of Grey Nomads to settle for a week or more in a community. The grey nomads volunteer to paint Churches or cater for Parish Camps. There do all sorts of little jobs. It is a huge blessing to those small communities.
Once we get into the latter part of our life capacity often diminishes significantly. People need to learn the simple blessings: faithful prayer, words of encouragement, generous financial support.
What does it look like for a couple?
The book of proverbs has a few sayings about the value and strength that comes from a good relationship. I don’t just mean a marriage, a good partnership in business or between to friends is beneficial for each other as well as for others. In a marriage perhaps, the greatest blessing we can give to our children and grandchildren is showing warm abiding love for each other. We model good communication, conflict resolution, sacrificial love and a whole range of other things. Good friends and good business partners can have similar dynamics rippling out to those they encounter.
Another thing that happens in good relationships is that we inevitable have to do some growing up. When children come along, or we take out a mortgage we must step up and become responsible. If we already have a strong sense of direction and meaning growth happens more naturally. It becomes important to learn humility, patients, kindness, and self-control. The fruits of the Spirit are cultivated more rapidly in a good relationship.
What does that look like for a Church: Our Parish Vision Building a Christian Community: Loving God, Practising Compassion, Encouraging Faith, Pursuing Justice, Embracing the Earth
A Christian Community like a good marriage works through the difficult times causing us to grow up along the way. Growing includes the gifts of the Spirit and it also includes allowing the Spirit to heal our wounds through forgiveness and grace. Christian Communities like other groups have cycles. If a community is healthy it moves from superficial community through the chaos of conflict, to deeper respect in spite of different perspectives. Then finally it becomes a deep community. This cycle needs to cycle around again as a new group of people arrive. Bit by bit we go deeper, although the temptation is always to revert back to superficial community.
The phrase loving God, means both that we love God and that we believe in a loving God. Knowing that we are loved by God, being grounded in God, gives us the courage and the strength to move through the times pf conflict and hurt in a church community. We still have to choose to do the work of grounding ourselves in God and saying no to the King Herods in our Church.
We can then begin the work of compassion more readily if we are centred and have said no to the bullies. It often seems easier to be compassionate to people we don’t know but it is even more important with people we do know especially who have hurt us at some stage.
Encouraging Faith includes both nurturing our children and grandchildren in the faith and bringing others to faith. The opportunities coming up with Easter, Back to Church Sunday and Alpha are ideal for inviting people to come and join us at worship.
The phrase pursuing Justice starts within the Church and moves out seeing all people as our brothers and sisters. We don’t want to see people in Zimbabwe and Mozambique killed by cyclone and flooding anymore than we do want to see people in the Northern Territory killed.
Last but not least our sense of direction and meaning includes caring for the earth. If you have a work of fine art at home you look after it and care for it. The earth is an extraordinary work of art but we abuse it as if it is the magic pudding that will always repair itself.
Let’s join Jesus, setting our face toward the New Jerusalem and building up the Kingdom of God. As we go on that journey let’s remember that without love and compassion we will never arrive.