Saturday, 27 May 2017

Sermon 28th May: All Gods Children

All God’s Children
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29)

What a week we have had!
Last Sunday as I left here, I set off to Edinburgh, to meet up with friends, to begin a week of observing the Assembly, and joining with many friends from all over the country to ponder what we were hearing and what that might mean for us.
The presentations have been wide reaching and careful; the opinions were wide ranging – it is clear that, on many subjects the church has a variety of views – however, and for me, this is the most hopeful sign of all, even though people disagree there was a spirit of harmony; a genuine desire to find ways to work together, with each other, even when we do not always agree.
There was hope, and there was encouragement.
The Balfour Declaration is an historic document, which, in 1917, indicated a desire to establish within Palestine a national home for Jewish people; it took another 30 years, and two world wars for this to come to fruition, but this was the beginning. Lord Balfour wrote in his original document that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”
The World Mission Council and the Church and Society Council together, presented a report which highlighted the  delicacy with which any celebrations might be held; and that in all things, to “use principles of justice, equality, dignity, equal access to resources and freedom of opportunity for all.”
I know that some of you will have heard Tom’s impassioned talk on his return from visiting Palestine/ Israel a couple of weeks ago; and how he had witnessed great inhumanity to the Palestinians in particular.
The debate that followed reflected all that Tom witnessed, but with dignity and inclusion; with a desire to allow all voices to be heard; all lives valued; all people honoured.
It was a privilege to witness. And that was only Monday!
Of course, Tuesday morning brought with it horror and tragedy. Manchester is the place I was born in; it is in the green belt surrounding Manchester that I grew up. To know that terror had struck in a place where young children – mostly girls and a few boys were enjoying music and performance; a place that should have been exempt from any hint of such atrocities struck to the core. The Assembly had a sombre atmosphere that day; and, as the news filtered through, we stopped and prayed for those injured, missing and dead, and those who were desperately searching for loved ones.

Divisions exist.
There is no denying it. all around us – there are those who will disagree; those who would deny rights to specific groups of society.
As we work through the letter to the Galatians, we reach a point where Paul is really chastising them for their foolish ways. Those who were born Jewish are continuing to find reasons not to include others. They see the Gentiles as different; not acceptable; they want them to conform to their rules, their laws; simply believing in Jesus is not enough for them – and so we hear this accusation: “You foolish Galatians!” (3:3)
It is a continuation of the same arguments we witnessed last week; from adhering to food laws; to keeping each law; to following a set of rules laid down by humans, not God, the Galatians seem determined to confound the Gentiles’ attempts to follow Jesus.
So, Paul brings it back to something really simple.
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (3:27-28)

That has not changed
Cannot change
Will not change
We are all one in Christ Jesus

And really, we do not have to jump through hoops – we simply need to believe who Jesus was, and is. “In Christ (you) we are all children of God.” (v.26)
What a promise!!
What a joy!
What hope that brings!

Attending the General Assembly is a great privilege – we see the church at work; we see people of passion; people who under Jesus Christ are all one – all in God’s family. And in that family, there will be disagreement; there will be differing opinions; there will even be the odd falling out but, because of Jesus, even when we disagree, there is grace and dignity, there is hope and a genuine desire to continue together, even in those different outlooks, and that gives me hope for the future.

We are all in this together; we are all members of God’s family.

Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the General Assembly offers prayers for Manchester

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