Culture, Christ and Refugees

Can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Pentecost 15, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Psalm                          Psalm 125
First Reading:             Prov 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23                      
Second Reading:        James 2:1-10, 11-13, 14-17   
Gospel:                        Mark 7:24-37                                     

What I want to say:
That as Christians we are to be both within our culture, and outside it so that we can offer a vision of another way. And this is not easy, as we can see from all our readings. The pull back is strong, and often “The Church” is shaped by the values, fears, prejudices of our surrounding culture the same as every other institution.
What I want to happen:
To ask as a case in point – how do we respond to the refugee crisis?

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

8 years ago lucky enough to be one our churches representatives at IALC
actually doesn’t sound that lucky
one presentations on World Lutheran Churches work on relationship between culture and worship
What Lutherans said was that worship engages with culture in four distinct ways. It is transcultural, contextual, counter-cultural and cross-cultural
-         talked about before number occasions
while that was about worship
I think applies generally to understanding of and expression of our faith
one ways understand history Christianity
is tension between how faith engages with culture
many sad examples throughout our history when church has operated out of the same values, fears, prejudices as our surrounding culture the same as every other institution.
worse – when Christianity has become main support of some of those values, fears and prejudices
            church one last institutions stand against William Wilberforce in work outlaw slavery
            churches USA and South Africa supported apartheid and racial segregation
            closer to home – here silence of Anglican church 1950’s at decision by to burn of Orakei Marae in  – so that new queen not have to see “eyesore” village as drove along Tamaki Drive
today debate around living wage reveals tensions with Christianity around our relationship with values and world view inherent in our cultures. –
the tension remains
too easily we adopt the stand point and ideology surrounding culture
            much harder take counter cultural line – like Wilberforce able to

     2.     Readings

we can see that tension in each readings heard this morning
writer Proverbs suggesting that good name far better then wealth
            his context – fitted with dominant culture
                        clearly number wealthier people pushing focus wealth
James – writing church once known focus on poor
            now slowly giving way to norms of the day
                        wealthy treated preferentially
                                    seated first
                                    fed first
                                    as was common
                        had once stood apart from wider society
                                    way all welcome - might call that radical hospitality
                                    way rich not treated any differently
                                    way early followers of Christ worked meet needs of poor
                        now slowly being shaped by same attitudes poor as everyone else

     3.     Gospel reading

Where did James and his church get these crazy ideas from?
– from Jesus
-         from stories like heard today
actually todays story really interesting story
many ways deeply disturbing story
Jesus – as heard last week
            had intense conversation with Pharisees about eating rules
            not mosaic law
            cultural rules around washing
                        favoured rich – afford it all
contrast to prophets and reading from proverbs for example
            come see wealthy as favoured
            developed practices continued to favour rich
                        discriminated against everyone else
                                    especially poor
            Jesus offers a counter cultural response
                        is that not what goes onto person – culture said
                        makes one unclean
                        but what already there on inside…
affirms what poor forced to do – due lack of resources
            in doing so offers alternative to predominant cultural practice - wealthy
รจ not about food and washing
can describe Jesus being counter cultural
that counter cultural activity continues with him entering part world gentile
                        Greek descent
next couple chapters involve Jesus being very counter-cultural
            mixing with people not supposed to
            finishing with second feeding story
                        this time 400 gentiles
not start well
Jesus confronted with Syrophoenician woman
Jesus shows all prejudice you expect Jew of his time
we are confronted with him humanity
with his bigotry
hard for us to know what to do with it?
how to make sense of his lack appreciation of the global nature of what he is doing here

     4.     Refugees

A lot in news over last weeks about refugees
            espeicaly over last week picture of dead Syrian baby in Turkey
Duncan Garner and Heather Du Plessis Allan among many others
            have both been writing and talking raising issue of Syrian refugees
            suggesting raising our quota
reaction been very mixed to their articles on line mixed (at best)
actually – a lot reaction shown same bigotry as Jesus showed
to the suggestion that we need to take Syrian refugees.
No we don't, we a finite amount of resources and there are an infinite amount of people wanting to come here... why bother with immigration points....let the Muslim countries take them...we don't want them
Let's call it as it is: Refugees of Islamic faith are potential source of social unrest. If not them, then probably second generation. Look at France, Belgium, Sweden, and the UK.
this slightly positive one - How about we help them where they are now like other countries like UAE, KSA, and Qatar do? build schools and clinics instead of uprooting them and introduce them to a foreign culture that their religion is incompatible with?

to be honest really hard find comment in support
pretty sure number those posting these comments were good church going people
caught up in the same fears and prejudice as everyone else

     5.     The Story continues

what happens in todays story
Jesus says food for children not be given to dogs
            attitude to “others” see many comments about refugees
but woman confronts Jesus with his own words
            shows up all his bigotry
                        all his cultures bigotry
                        all his religious bigotry
she becomes the voice of God in this story
            not Jesus
            in fact she is voice God to Jesus
outside voice calling Jesus out boundaries cultural understanding
for me raises really big question
why did Mark include this story
-         does not fit how his or our culture thinks things like this work
o   Jesus is one with the answers
-         not here
-         he is the one being called to account.
-         let go cultural assumptions and prejudice
            important for Mark and Marks community that this story was told
also raises big question for us
whose voices on outside calling us to account today
whose voices highlight how we
            like Jesus
            captured by prevailing fears and prejudice of our day
            in what way have we become pillars supporting our cultures values, prejudices and fears that allow people to be seen and treated as dogs?

     6.     Take home questions                        

History Christianity is one of struggle between
            being shaped by our culture
            all its prejudice and fear
and being voice outside that culture – like the woman in this story
            offering alternative way seeing world as James and Mark offer us
                        seeing people live in that world
                        knowing how to respond
we are caught in that same tension
            that same dilemma
Syrian refugee issue offers us a chance to reflect
            how response to that shaped by common fears and cultural prejudice
  • that our jobs might be taken
  • that our nation might change
  • that our community might look different
  • that resources will be spread more thinly
  • that we will no longer be part of a demographic majority
  • that Christians will no longer be a majority.
Invites us offer another view
            based on Jesus compassion and generosity
            based on Jesus radical hospitality
            offering example set by people like James and Wilberforce
what voice are we listening to today
            whose voice are we being invited to listen to
            what cultural assumptons are we being invited to let go of
            what new ways might we embrace


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