To be rejected is not the end of the world. Afterall, our Lord faced the ultimate rejection but then perhaps on reflection we all know ‘ultimate rejections’ many times over in our lives.
The historical reality of the early church and the insight of the church in this age is that we will always be rejected by the populous. It is the nature of what happens when we proclaim or try to live out a gospel which asks us to conform to that which we learn about, but don’t really want to do – because it disrupts our human selfishness.
So, in turn these communities of faith are enjoyed by many at a distance because close up and personal it’s too much, too disruptive an idea to Sunday morning telly and half an hour in the offer aisle at Sainsburys.
Some of what we proclaim when ‘we get it right’ of course falls on deaf ears or worse is unheard because we cannot make ourselves audible over the noisy clamour of those who will not and cannot listen or engage in the conversation. Yet, I am not saying that we are always right as the inheritors of faith and our identity as disciples of Christ does not make us infallible. But neither are we always wrong (those of us who are daily adherers to the scriptures, to prayer and Christian fellowship).
The truths we inherit in scripture are only part of the story of a lively and relationship based faith in Jesus. St Paul speaks the truth when he says of human culture, “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Yet, he must know the irony of this statement which he makes to the community of faith who are to devour Christ and be consumed by Christ. This is our purpose is it not?
So perhaps the warning is – do not turn each other into God’s for there is idolatry and death!
Paul speaks also of the idealistic truth about the dangers of the works of the flesh – yet, I implore you – show me one person who has never embraced the works of the flesh and I will show a liar and hypocrite and one who has a secret life! Even if they are a Bishop or the person sitting next to you!
Most importantly Paul speaks the Godly truth about the fruits of the Spirit which we are to embrace and ponder, consume and be consumed by, to contemplate and rejoice in. The fruits of the Spirit given to us to accept at our baptism are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He writes, ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’ (well that’s a little idealistic even for the most pious of us). Yet, if we seek to live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit and look to relate to each other through the prism of those fruits.
And if you think this is twaddle – then its ok, you reject the church and it’s practice and the faith of Christ, but that doesn’t mean fire will rain down on you from heaven, or that you don’t belong here. Just be clear as to why you are here in your own understanding and we will be patient with you.
Our scripture readings today are in their simplest forms about receiving and rejecting but not about the abandoning of us by God. The scriptures are about the rejection of that which is not good. Mindful also that good will be rejected in the economy of our world.
Our scriptures remind us that we ought to know what to hope for which is good – and like Solomon, we seek the Wisdom of God… Like Elisha, that he inherit a double portion of Elijah’s spirit… his Godliness – or that we at least like every other baptised Christian seek a single portion of God’s Holy Spirit that we might be known by the fruits of the Spirit of God.
How delightful to be despised and rejected by the world for being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. How delightful that in innocence we are known as a people who might be indiscriminately kind, and hospitable, patient and generous to a fault.
When the works of Jesus, even his presence is rejected – he doesn’t rain down fire upon those who reject him.. he simply moves on, knowing that the invitation of his Kingdom will come round again and tomorrow is a new day, where he might be accepted and his teaching might be welcome.
So, let’s not be rebuked by God for moaning about those who are not in a place to welcome or accept the possibilities of his Kingdom. Let us be in a place where our own house is in order before we start rebuilding other people’s houses and let us, like our Saviour be open to not being bound by one thing or another – but to the kingdom.
Foxes know where they belong – they have holes, Birds have a nest which gives them what they need. But the Son of Man will not have a place which binds him to being what the trappings of this world shape us to be.
People of St John’s some of you own houses, some of you own many houses… and a couple of you own too many houses! But let this house be the place which shapes you and which frames your life and which is a place of focus for the Christian community. A place of prayer and fellowship, friendship and where we can practice the fruits of the Spirit with each other. The World outside can continue about it’s business, but in here.. let us be consumed by the business of God, and of this house of prayer and service. Put your hand to the plough.. let us look ahead and in feeding the poor, the refugees and tending to the mission and ministry of this house of prayer, and of God’s kingdom, let us express our love for God in our fellowship with one another and the world. Amen