Sunday, 29 April 2007

The fruit of the harvest is Shalom

Easter 4 year C Sermon Harvest Celebration
I’ve just invented a new sin: ‘self-sufficient mindless unrepentant gloating’. Or SMUG for short.

Actually I didn’t invent it – the serpent in the Garden of Eden invented it... only back then it was called pride. But probably today... we recognise it as smug or smugness.

You remember how pride... tripped up Adam and Eve. They thought they were self sufficient and smart enough to be just like God.

Yup. self-sufficient mindless unrepentant gloating.

Oh I can be a very smug sinner I can. Whenever I go to Queenstown... I commit the sin of smugness that I live in Wanaka. Have any of you ever committed that sin. Hmmm.

And I’m particularly good at accusing other people... of the sin of smugness. Especially those who are thinner than I am.

Today as we sit here as the people of God in this place as we look out across this glorious vineyard... toward our beautiful lake... and beyond to our majestic mountains... we look around... and see smiling healthy.... mostly very happy people.

And it seems to me we have two choices at a time like this; we can indulge in the sin of smugness... over how great we are for choosing this place to live...
or we can allow ourselves to be overcome with gratitude... at the grace of God.

We can kick back and shine the spotlight on our own accomplishments... or we can fall to our knees before the Lord of the Harvest... overwhelmed by how much God has blessed us... in spite of all our mistakes... in spite of the pain we’ve inflicted on ourselves and others by our choices.

Overwhelmed with awe and gratitude that...
God loves us anyway... gob smacked... that over and over... we are forgiven... and over and over and over...Jesus still calls be workers in the be bearers of grace for others. [pause]

When and if we choose to shine the spotlight on ourselves and indulge in smugness... in that moment we forget whose garden we’re in. We forget who owns the vineyard. We forget the vine.

Severed from the vine we wither. And even though we are beautiful and golden...we dry up and flutter to the ground like frost touched grape leaves disconnected from the sap of the vine. I think that’s why Jesus reminds his friends that he is the vine and we are the branches and apart from him we can do nothing. We are not self-sufficient.

And any hint of smugness... threatens the progress of the kingdom of creating the illusion that the work of the kingdom has already been completed.

Smug people are deaf to Jesus carry on his work... and blind to the oppression and suffering that continues in our community and in our world.

Smug people believe... that because they’re comfortable... what needs to be done... to bring about the restoration of all things to God... has already been done.

In Jesus day the Pharisees had a very bad case of smugness. If you were suffering from some terrible skin condition... or a withered hand...or were a pagan and a gentile...then clearly you were unclean. The Pharisees were certain that their status in the synagogues... their power and their religious authority ...came from their adherence to the letter of the law.

They didn’t understand grace. They didn’t understand... that Jesus good news was for everyone...pagan gentiles... tax collectors and sinners. Were they sitting with us on this hillside at harvest time they’d be looking pretty smug I think.

And they were there... amongst the crowd... on that hillside...where Jesus chose... to preach his most famous sermon...A sermon that expresses...
everything we need to know... about what the harvest will look like... Everything we need to know about following the Lord of the Harvest.

In Jesus sermon on the mount we find the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer and the commands to "resist not evil" and "turn the other cheek", as well as Jesus' reminder of basis for all human rights – the Golden Rule
do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And the absolute anti-smugness commandment of all time: "judge not, lest ye be judged." Every thing it means to be a Christian... a follower of Jesus – the Lord of the harvest. [pause]

You know it’s dangerous to use the word Christian as an adjective... to describe people or music or actions as Christian. The word Christian is a noun...a person is a Christian a follower of Jesus Christ...
the who entered our dimension of time and space...the one annointed to reveal God’s way to human kind.

When we take Jesus teaching on that hillside into our hearts and minds and lives... we we choose to be the branches of his vine...and any time we’re tempted toward the sin of smugness we will remember his words describing the citizens of the kingdom of God.

"Blessed are those who are not smug for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who weep, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are those who don’t think they’re God almighty for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. And blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.
Jesus began the work of restoring all of broken and fallen creation to God…and Jesus is trying to tell us. You see what the harvest looks like…What its fruit looks like…it looks like Shalom. Its citizens bear the fruit of the harvest it’s citizens bring Shalom…And Shalom isn’t simply peace…Shalom is the conditions that create peace and wholeness for every person every creature in God’s creation… justice, health, well being, security…and until these conditions prevail in all the world… the work of Jesus is not yet done.

Our ability to bring about this kind of radical transformation of the conditions of life...our ability to accomplish anything of this kind is rooted in our relationship with Jesus. In his words it is the metaphor of the branches drawing life from the true vine. [pause]

A few days after his death when his friends were cowering in fear behind locked doors... Jesus appeared and stood among them and said these words to them in the Aramaic language – Shalom , minokhoon… "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. His friends were overjoyed Again Jesus said, Shalom , minokhoon… May Shalom be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [Pause]

There in that room behind locked doors and on that sunny hillside Jesus showed us how to live and how to pray... to bring about the God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. His Shalom must go with us if we are to be his followers – we are the ones who must bring justice and healing and wholeness – not condemnation and death – to our communities and to the world.

There is no fudging this. No room no time for smugness. No time to convert other people to smugness There is work to be done and Jesus has sent us to do it.

Empowered by the Spirit... let us commit to the work Jesus calls us to do the work of bringing well-being; and harmony where to our families our community and the world. The fruit of this will be the shalom of God. Why? Because those who go out to give it and those who receive it sit at the same table, and eat the same food.

Those who are sent and those who receive
all participate in the harvest. And that’s how the kingdom of God progresses until God is all in all.

So let us pray together not in smugness but in deep deep gratitude for our sacred commission... let us each pray way as is our own custom... the prayer Jesus taught his followers to pray so long ago on another hillside.