I bumped into Mary Porter the other day at
Mary, along with several others of the Legislative Assembly,
is a friend of this congregation
and so we were chatting for a while about how things were going
and about the Community Garden,
which is partly funded through her initiative.
We got to talking about a few other things
including the measurement of effectiveness
in the hospital emergency department system.
Mary then made what I thought
was a very astute theological observation
She said "It is like in the Church, Gordon.
Just because someone gets lots of people to turn up to their church
doesn't mean that they are doing the right thing
or being effective as a minister."
How right she is.
She could have been reflecting on the gospel reading for today.
Have a look at this ad
By the way, it is unlikely that we are going to be drastically changing
the elements for communion here in the near future
But there are doritos available for the congregational lunch today
If we ever thought that it was a new, modern and materialistic thing
for people connecting with a church, or faith,
just to get what they wanted
then have a look at today's reading,
which is just after the feeding of the 5000
As it says in the Laughingbird paraphrase:
If the truth be known, you're not looking for me
because you saw signs of God in what I did,
but simply because you got a free meal out of me
For people who are concerned
that materialism and consumerism has meant
that people are only looking for superficial thing out of the church
then the biblical message seems to be that this isn't anything new at all.
In this society, we are bombarded with advertising all sorts of things
that try to convince us that we will not be happy
until we have (fill in whatever!)
In other parts of the world,
there is the phenomenon of what what Indian theologian
calls "bowl of rice Christians" - people who convert
because they have been induced to by being given food
Here at Kippax we will always, I hope, be extremely cautious
about ever using stories of changes in life,
or practical assistance through UnitingCare
as some perverse motivation (or manipulation)
for people to join this congregation
or give more money to ensure that the services keep going.
We are greatly enriched as a congregation
when there are new friends who join with us
and we certainly need for increases in finances
to ensure that God's work continues here
but I hope we will maintain the integrity of Jesus (or as close as we can)
in not motivating people through the equivalent
of a demand for signs and wonders
Jesus is not magic and neither is Jesus some form of insurance
Rather, Jesus points to something that is deeply satisfying for life
In the midst of emptiness and marketing
in the potential slide towards Doritos and Pepsi Max
Jesus talks about offering the source of life for what truly sustains us
It is said that there was once a wise holy man
who rested beneath a tree at the outskirts of a city.
One day he was interrupted by a man who ran to him saying,
"The stone! The stone! Please give me the stone!"
He told how in a dream
an angel had spoken to him of a man outside the city
who would give him a stone and make him rich forever.
The holy man reached into his pocket and pulled out a large diamond.
"Here," he said, "the angel probably spoke of this.
I found it on my journey here.
If you want it, you may have it."
The diamond was as big as his fist and perfect in every way.
The man marveled at its beauty, clutched it eagerly,
and walked away from the holy man.
But that night he could not sleep,
and before dawn he woke the holy man saying,
"The wealth! The wealth!
Give me the wealth that lets you so easily give away the diamond."
Can I invite you to spend some time with a song,
written by Michael Kelly Blanchard
and sung by the UCA Prez, Andrew Dutney
And in this time of prayer,
can I simply invite you to consider what it is
that truly sustains you in life
In the midst of our human journey, our confusion,
our grumbling and discontentment,
God provides for our needs