Sep
11
to Nov 6

11 September 2016

Luke 15 vs 1 to 10

Sermon by Sue Waldron

Today’s readings present us with the bigger picture, about who God is, who Jesus is and who we are. There are different perspectives, and if we weave them together, we come up with a kind of tapestry of our own identity, of what we believe and how we got there. Embedded firmly in it are the issues of sin, repentance, forgiveness and gratitude and joy.

Jeremiah’s perspective, his image of God is that God is severe and judgmental who punishes sinners by destruction or turning his back on them. This is how the Pharisees and scribes saw God too and maybe this has been or is, part of our own experience at times.

Paul’s experience of Jesus and God is one of overwhelming gratitude and humility – of wonderment that he, foremost among sinners (as he says) should be treated with such mercy and love. And he gives all honour and praise to the Creator God, King of all Ages. Some of us may have been confronted suddenly by Jesus, as Paul was or else may have realized one day that we had been walking with him all our lives… and then when we finally understood what he had done for us, our desire was that he would use us in his service.

In the gospel reading we hear how Jesus is faced with the Pharisees and scribes who apparently believe that those whom they judge to be sinners should be avoided/ignored and are past redemption. And so he tells them 2 parables (3 actually) about the nature of a God who stops at nothing to seek out, find and reconcile with any of God’s children who are lost… and many of us have taken comfort in these images as we have turned to God in distress.

And so the readings evoke different ways that God is imagined – as a severe figure, harsh, punitive and unforgiving – or as a gracious savior, a faithful shepherd, a determined attentive maternal figure and an unconditionally forgiving Father figure.

I’d like to focus on Paul’s perspective/experience. We all know how as the Pharisee Saul, he persecuted Christians and sought to destroy Jesus’ followers before he met Christ on the road to Damascus. The shame and regret he felt regarding his actions must have been what caused him to describe himself as ‘foremost among sinners’ Yet this penitent and forgiven sinner went on to become one of Jesus’ foremost evangelists, taking his gospel far and wide, to the ends of the earth. By the power of God’s forgiveness he was truly empowered for service. And so let’s consider the power of God’s forgiveness.

God’s forgiveness is transformative – it unblocks the limits we place on ourselves. It allows us/me to envision the person we truly are, as God sees us – as Thomas Moore says, forgiveness allows life to resume its flow. And of course God’s forgiveness gives us the capacity to forgive others. We pray every day, Forgive us our sins as we forgive …..’ this is not always easy to do though – the breezy rhetoric of forgive and forget doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. It’s one thing forgiving someone who pushed in front of you in traffic – another when they have stolen something that had precious memories – and yet another to forgive someone who was responsible for the death of a loved one.

But the need for forgiveness is probably more central to human existence than we’ve thought. We thirst for it because without it, our lives are superficial/empty, we feel we are unconnected with other lives on any deep meaningful level. The psychological and physical effects of forgiveness and lack of forgiveness have been researched and recorded – our blood pressure remains elevated, breathing is faster and shallower tension is held in the body when we cannot forgive – our relationships are affected because trust and goodwill are compromised. So there really are hidden costs to unforgiveness.

All the great religions of the world place emphasis on it. Muslims pray for forgiveness from all wrong-doings 5x a day. Jews keep Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement as the holiest day of the year. They feel closest to God on this day as they focus on repentance and forgiveness of one another and they look forward to the forgiveness of God bestowed on them, with blessings for the year ahead. And Christians pray the Lord’s prayer ‘forgive us our sins as … most probably at least once a day. So this may all make forgiveness seem straightforward and easy … but it’s not. What about the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the people who disappeared during the years of the apartheid struggle? Are the families (mothers, fathers, children) able to forgive the soldiers involved in the on-going killings in Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia? Certainly the depth and magnitude of pain caused and the evil inflicted makes the question of forgiveness complicated … and if there is no justice and the perpetrators don’t show any remorse or regret, it’s difficult. There’s a story told by a man called Everitt (Ev) about his and his family’s experience in this regard. On Christmas Eve a few years ago, some men broke into his elderly mother’s home with the intention of stealing some goods. But when she resisted them, the attempted robbery turned to brutal murder. The police did catch the criminals, but due to a technicality they were not jailed or held to account … so there was no justice. Ev and his siblings anguished and angered over this, but then came to the decision that they would forgive the perpetrators. He said they did this for their mother and themselves, because in that way they were able to honour the values she had instilled in them.

In a similar vein, Thomas Moore says that often, before forgiveness is possible some aspects of our imagination may have to shift – perhaps it is in the remembering of a situation or a person, that we reconstruct the memories with fresh eyes … see things we didn’t notice before. This is hard work – emotional and spiritual work, but you may find that in this effort towards healing, it’s as though a valve is opened which allows life begin flowing again … and you can believe then, that forgiveness is at hand. 

It doesn’t mean that the circumstances or people are forgotten, but that the pain and hurt is reframed – it is handed over and doesn’t overwhelm or control your life. Memories are important – they are part of who we are. Alexandra Asseily is a lady who has made an important contribution to the conversation about memories and forgiveness. She is Russian-born, raised in England, married a Lebanese businessman, and raised her children in London and Beirut. She is fluent in English, Arabic and French and is equally at home in Christian and Muslim Arabic worlds. While living in Beirut, she became increasingly aware of the effect that the memories of parents and grandparents have on us. These are passed down from generation to generation through conversations, experiences and through what is observed … and the effect so often is that emotional and psychic pain is experienced and perpetuated in the next generation. Alexandra could see the role that painful memories of Lebanon’s violent history of oppression and conflict, still play out in the present day. And so she has become involved in overseeing the construction of a Garden of Forgiveness in the middle of Beirut city. It is on a site where there is historical layer upon layer of ruins from the various invasions and conquests suffered by the Lebanese through the centuries. It is close to the war-time green line which separated the Christian and Muslim parts of the city, and it is surrounded/overlooked by 3 Christian cathedrals, and 3 Mosques. It is a garden where there is grass, trees, water and some structures – lots of different areas to walk, sit, pray or talk. She says she wants it to be a place where “people can confront ancestral memories and rid them of pain through the act of forgiveness”. So if we can forgive, we can let go of the pain in the memory, and pass on only the memories to future generations without being overwhelmed and controlled by it and without being ‘puppets of the past”.

The building of the Garden of Forgiveness is something that has caught the imagination of many people around the world. 3 women who lost family members in the 9/11 tragedy, travelled to Beirut to see it. They planted an olive tree there, putting photos of their loved ones in the ground beneath it. They found great relief in the act of planting the tree because all 3 were unable to recover the bodies of these loved ones to bury them. And this ritual helped them, in some measure, to forgive – to forgive those responsible for the bombings and also to forgive themselves for the resentment that they continued to feel.

 So sometimes when forgiveness just seems impossible, it helps to do something – to plant, nurture, draw, paint, or even burn (something like a letter/prayer or a poem, not a building or a person!) 

Today I set out to consider the power of God’s forgiveness as experienced by St Paul who was thus empowered to face the opposition, endure imprisonment and risk death several times as he went out and took the gospel of Jesus to places far and wide. He was strengthened and sustained by the belief that God had chosen him and forgiven his sin because he had acted in ignorance. God’s forgiveness is freely and generously given, and when we can accept it, we praise and thank God, for we understand that it is transformative. It opens us up to the freedom to be as we were created … and allows us the grace and the capacity to forgive others. In the world we live in today, this is not easy – although it is probably not any more difficult than it was in Paul’s time. Perhaps though we can draw more on our community to help us when we are struggling.  

  

 

View Event →
Sep
4
to Oct 16

4 September 2016

Women’s month – Summary of Feminism
Sermon by Rev. Karen Uitzinger

August is women’s month, and as most of you know, our liturgical focus has been on the honouring of women.  Our youth have been leading these services, and Mo our Youth Pastor, has asked me on this last Sunday in the series to sum up the topic of Christian feminism - which Yvette and Margie have both touched on in the previous two Sundays.

I’d like to begin by saying that I am empathetic and aware, that some men feel unfairly targeted by feminism.  They have shared with me that they hold feminism responsible for family breakdowns. And therefore they oppose feminism, and would even support something like the “Mighty Men campaign” that Angus Buchan runs in KZN, to help them take back the power and control they feel they’ve lost. Perhaps they see feminism as being nothing more than a role-reversed patriarchy in which women are now seeking domination over men. (but let me assure you, that’s not Christian feminism).

Christian feminists are not opposed to men having power (or women having power)
But this needs to be power that has its source in the egalitarian spirit of God.   It’s the kind of power that Jesus operated in and through.

It expresses itself in equal partnership in marriage, and complete equality in society,  and this is certainly not power that is weak and lacking,  .it’s the strongest power of all - because it wins people over through dignity, respect, and freedom rather than control.
And my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what Kingdom living is all about!

Then there are also some women who feel opposed to feminism because perhaps they’ve been acculturated to accept (that for them,) their rightful place in society is to be subordinate to men.
Perhaps they are the product of a society that is so stuck in a patriarchal mind-set that they have no idea the world could exist above one group dominating another,  and that relationships that are domination-free….. are actually a blessing, and a feature of the kingdom of God

Christian feminism is not about man-hating at all- it’s about taking down a toxic system that works against women and other minority  groups in society (such as for example, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters).

The other day I came across an article entitled, 6 Things that Feminists hate - that aren’t men. The writer confirmed that feminists are really so tired of defending themselves against the accusation that they hate men. “Feminism, said the writer, is about seeking equality and justice on the basis of gender, sexuality, and race.  It’s ridiculous that this is still something we have to defend ourselves over. It is true that we regularly critique some concepts that are related to men, but our goal is to analyse how these concepts are hurting everyone- and in the process of doing this, we are able to prove that it’s not men that we hate at all, in fact, dismantling these concepts can only help men.”

Let’s take a brief look now, at the 6 things this article found problematic for feminists.

The first is: Toxic Masculinity.
This refers to all of the negative aspects of our culture’s definition of masculinity, and of course this doesn’t mean that every man is brought up in this negative way. But basically for those who are, toxic masculinity asserts that for men to be considered men, they have to be dominant, aggressive, violent and never cry or show emotions.  It also assumes women often invite and ask for abusive treatment by men, and that all real men are to be condemnatory of homosexuals and other gender minorities, and this is bad for everyone.
It’s bad for women, and other gender minorities who are often the victims of toxic-masculinity fuelled violence.
It’s bad for rape survivors, who are blamed for what has happened to them.
And it’s harmful for men because it limits who they are allowed to be(It limits them from living out the values of the Kingdom of God.)
The highly acclaimed theologian and feminist Elizabeth Johnson (whose work I am studying in my doctorate) confirms that toxic masculinity is still rife in many cultures across the world including Africa.
Another example Johnson gives us is of the Hispanic culture with its so-called “machismo” element (which is where we get the word “macho” from). Here, a woman’s place is to live a life of self-sacrifice in order to please men.
Some of the 10 commandments for women in this culture are: do not be independent-minded; do not forget a woman’s place; do not forget that sex is for making babies not for pleasure; do not ever be unhappy with your man; do not ever criticize him for infidelity or verbal or physical abuse which is his right.
Sadly, toxic masculinity forms a large part of our own local cultures too. (Latest stats show that 3 women are battered and killed by their partners in SA every day).

The second concept that feminists oppose is…… patriarchy.

And of course this is a big scary word that is always associated with feminism. In its simplest form, Patriarchy is a social system where men hold the most power. In our societies that’s obvious in a number of ways: the majority of elected officials are men; the majority of presidents are men; most big CEO’s are men etc etc…
When feminists talk about dismantling or destroying patriarchy, they aren’t talking about destroying men: they’re talking about achieving equality through justice. Since patriarchy is a system where men are held as superior, surely we all should want to destroy it?
Jesus strove to destroy it.  In our Gospel reading this morning- (Jesus asks us all to be humble and respectful of each other, rather than to rate ourselves as being superior over the another)
Fighting patriarchy isn’t about fighting men.   It’s fighting inequality, and wanting to live on an equal playing field.

The third concept that feminists oppose is…. gender roles.

And this is a concept that we see clearly laid out for us, in most toy shops.
Blue is for boys …….pink is for girls.
Guns, tanks, and cars are for boys; dolls, flowers and make-up are for girls.
To begin with these distinctions at their core, are for feminists quite illogical - because, for example, did you know blue once used to be a girls’ colour and pink a boys?
But what alarms feminists even more here, is their awareness that gender roles go beyond simply determining material possessions.  Gender roles tell us how to act and behave – and in that way they’re closely linked with toxic masculinity.
Men are supposed to be dominant, and women are supposed to be submissive.
Men are supposed to work a “real” job, while women are supposed to stay at home and take care of the kids.
And yet this all has the incredibly detrimental effect of putting people into boxes and we know that men and women are far more diverse than that.
When feminists say they want to dissolve gender roles, it doesn’t mean that they want to stop a man from “being a man.” Or a woman from “being a woman.”, or that they want to prevent you from engaging in traditional gender roles if that’s what works best for you. What they are saying is: People should feel free to do whatever they want. (and of course their choices in whatever they do need to be godly and responsible)
Feminists just want men to be able to decide what being a man is for them - and women to be able to decide what being a woman is for them.
In the Mary and Martha gospel story, Jesus broke gender stereotypes when he refrained from rebuking Mary for sitting at his feet (because traditionally this was a place reserved only for trainee male rabbis) 
And yet Jesus was ok with it….and he even affirmed Mary in her alternative role.

The 4th concept that feminists oppose is…….. sexism.

And Sexism in a nutshell …………. is institutionalized discrimination-  Its discrimination that is built into the very fabric of our societal systems.
It’s baked into everything we do
And of course both sexes can be a potential target for sexism.
But as far as women are concerned, some examples here would be: the greater likelihood of women being cat-called and harassed in public; less pay for women for doing the same work; men being preferred for top jobs; men being singled out for leadership positions; women having to work twice as hard to gain the respect of their male colleagues, etc, etc
When feminists say they oppose sexism, they mean they despise how discrimination so negatively affects both men and women.
This doesn’t mean that feminists despise all men and that all men are sexist; it just means that feminists are opposed to the discriminatory acts against them.
One of the most compelling cases for Jesus as a feminist is found in the story of the woman with the haemorrhage.  In this story, the Mosaic Law declared this woman to be doubly unclean because of her gender and her untouchable condition. And yet in an act that directly defies the law and its discriminatory social practice, Jesus accepts the woman and the fact that she touched his robe. And he tells her that her faith has healed her.

The 5th concept that feminists oppose is……... Male Privilege.

This goes hand in hand with sexism.   And this is not to say that all men have it better than everyone because class, race and ability also play a role here. But there’s no doubt that male privilege is a global societal reality.
One such example would be that: if a man is assertive and demanding, he’s far more likely to be classed as “strong” rather than “bossy.”
A second example would be that: in the relationship game, it is often the woman who far more easily gains the label of being loose.
Having male privilege doesn’t necessarily make men bad people, and feminists don’t hate men for having it. But men do need to be able to recognise it.

Finally the 6th concept that feminists oppose is…… misogyny.

And this in a nutshell- is hatred of women.  It’s similar to sexism… but it has more anger behind it.           
Feminist theologian r rad tells us that although the “battered wife” syndrome is now being taken seriously in many parts of the world- it is still a massive problem of epidemic proportions in many cultures.
In many cultures she says, there is still an ongoing assumption that men have the right not only to beat their wives, but also to:
*gang-rape women who are found alone, or
*or who are unprotected by a male, or
*or who are out of their place and role as far as acceptable women’s activities are concerned.

In some of our local communities, I know that a number of lesbian women have been raped for this very reason.
By hating misogyny, feminists are literally hating the hatred of women- which is something that we all need to get behind.
I hope it’s clear now that feminists don’t hate men. Saying that we do avoids addressing our real arguments. And that’s sad because our lord Jesus Christ has shown us all how to live in ways that go beyond

I want to end off now by thanking all the wonderful men out there in our church, community and world, who do indeed strive to make the world the wonderful egalitarian place that our Lord strove to bring about in his earthly life - and now in the spirit

As Margie said in her sermon last week, we have come a long way in addressing women’s issues.    But we still have a long way to go.

Amen.

View Event →
Aug
28
to Oct 9

28 August 2016

Women’s month – Summary of Feminism as requested by Youth.

Sermon by Karen Uitzinger

August is women’s month.
And as most of you know our liturgical focus has been on the honouring of women.
Our youth have been leading these services,  and Mo has asked me on this last Sunday in the series to sum up the topic of Christian feminism - which Yvette and Margie have both touched on in the previous two Sundays.
I’d like to begin by saying that I am empathetic and aware, that some men feel unfairly targeted by feminism.  They have shared with me that they hold feminism responsible for family breakdowns.
And therefore they oppose feminism, and would even support something like the “mighty men campaign” that Angus Buchan runs in KZN, to help them take back the power and control they feel they’ve lost.  Perhaps they see feminism as being nothing more than a role-reversed patriarchy in which women are now seeking domination over men. (but let me assure you, that’s not Christian feminism).  Christian feminists are not opposed to men having power (or women having power)   But this needs to be power that has its source in the egalitarian spirit of God.  It’s the kind of power that Jesus operated in and through.   It expresses itself in equal partnership in marriage, and complete equality in society.  And this is certainly not power that is weak and lacking ….it’s the strongest power of all because it wins people over through dignity, respect, and freedom rather than control.  And my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what Kingdom living is all about!

Then there are also some women who feel opposed to feminism because perhaps they’ve been acculturated to accept (that for them,) their rightful place in society is to be subordinate to men. Perhaps they are the product of a society that is so stuck in a patriarchal mind-set that they have no idea the world could exist above one group dominating another.  And that relationships that are domination-free….. are actually a blessing, and a feature of the kingdom of God.

Christian feminism is not about man-hating at all- it’s about taking down a toxic system that works against women and other minority  groups in society (such as for example, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters).

The other day I came across an article entitled, 6 Things that Feminists hate - that aren’t men.
The writer confirmed that feminists are really so tired of defending themselves against the accusation that they hate men.  “Feminism, said the writer, is about seeking equality and justice on the basis of gender, sexuality, and race.  It’s ridiculous that this is still something we have to defend ourselves over.   It is true that we regularly critique some concepts that are related to men.  But our goal is to analyse how these concepts are hurting everyone- And in the process of doing this, we are able to prove that it’s not men that we hate at all.  In fact, dismantling these concepts can only help men.”

Let’s take a brief look now, at the 6 things this article found problematic for feminists.
The first is: Toxic Masculinity.
This refers to all of the negative aspects of our culture’s definition of masculinity.  And of course this doesn’t mean that every man is brought up in this negative way.  But basically for those who are, toxic masculinity asserts that for men to be considered men, they have to be dominant, aggressive, violent and never cry or show emotions.  It also assumes women often invite and ask for abusive treatment by men, and that all real men are to be condemnatory of homosexuals and other gender minorities.  And this is bad for everyone.  It’s bad for women, and other gender minorities who are often the victims of toxic-masculinity fuelled violence.  It’s bad for rape survivors, who are blamed for what has happened to them.  And it’s harmful for men because it limits who they are allowed to be-  It limits them from living out the values of the Kingdom of God.)
The highly acclaimed theologian and feminist Elizabeth Johnson (whose work I am studying in my doctorate) confirms that toxic masculinity is still rife in many cultures across the world including Africa.
Another example Johnson gives us is of the Hispanic culture with its so-called “machismo” element (which is where we get the word “macho” from).  Here, a woman’s place is to live a life of self-sacrifice in order to please men.
Some of the 10 commandments for women in this culture are: do not be independent-minded; do not forget a woman’s place; do not forget that sex is for making babies not for pleasure; do not ever be unhappy with your man; do not ever criticize him for infidelity or verbal or physical abuse which is his right.  Sadly, toxic masculinity forms a large part of our own local cultures too. (Latest stats show that 3 women are battered and killed by their partners in sa every day).

The second concept that feminists oppose is…… patriarchy.
And of course this is a big scary word that is always associated with feminism.  In its simplest form, Patriarchy is a social system where men hold the most power.  In our societies that’s obvious in a number of ways: the majority of elected officials are men; the majority of presidents are men; most big CEO’s are men etc etc…
When feminists talk about dismantling or destroying patriarchy, they aren’t talking about destroying men: they’re talking about achieving equality through justice.
Since patriarchy is a system where men are held as superior, surely we all should want to destroy it? Jesus strove to destroy it.  In our Gospel reading this morning- Jesus asks us all to be humble and respectful of each other, rather than to rate ourselves as being superior over the another
Fighting patriarchy isn’t about fighting men.  It’s fighting inequality, and wanting to live on an equal playing field.

The third concept that feminists oppose is…. gender roles.
And this is a concept that we see clearly laid out for us, in most toy shops.
Blue is for boys …….pink is for girls.
Guns, tanks, and cars are for boys; dolls, flowers and make-up are for girls.
To begin with these distinctions at their core, are for feminists quite illogical- ecause, for example, did you know blue once used to be a girls’ colour and pink a boys?
But what alarms feminists even more here, is their awareness that gender roles go beyond simply determining material possessions.  Gender roles tell us how to act and behave – and in that way they’re closely linked with toxic masculinity.  Men are supposed to be dominant, and women are supposed to be submissive. Men are supposed to work a “real” job, while women are supposed to stay at home and take care of the kids.  And yet this all has the incredibly detrimental effect of putting people into boxes-and we know that men and women are far more diverse than that.
So when feminists say they want to dissolve gender roles it doesn’t mean that they want to stop a man from “being a man.” Or a woman from “being a woman.”  Or that they want to prevent you from engaging in traditional gender roles if that’s what works best for you.   What they are saying is:  People should feel free to do whatever they want. (and of course their choices in whatever they do need to be godly and responsible)  Feminists just want men to be able to decide what being a man is for them-And women to be able to decide what being a woman is for them.
In the Mary and Martha gospel story Jesus broke gender stereotypes when he refrained from rebuking Mary for sitting at his feet-because traditionally this was a place reserved only for trainee male rabbis)  And yet Jesus was ok with it….and he even affirmed Mary in her alternative role.

The 4th concept that feminists oppose is…….. sexism.
And Sexism in a nutshell is institutionalized discrimination- its discrimination that is built into the very fabric of our societal systems.  It’s baked into everything we doAnd of course both sexes can be a potential target for sexism.  But as far as women are concerned, some examples here would be: the greater likelihood of women being cat-called and harassed in public; less pay for women for doing the same work; men being preferred for top jobs; men being singled out for leadership positions; women having to work twice as hard to gain the respect of their male colleagues, etc, etc
When feminists say they oppose sexism, they mean they despise how discrimination so negatively affects both men and women.
This doesn’t mean that feminists despise all men and that all men are sexist; it just means that feminists are opposed to the discriminatory acts against them.
One of the most compelling cases for Jesus as a feminist is found in the story of the woman with the haemorrhage.  In this story, the Mosaic Law declared this woman to be doubly unclean because of her gender and her untouchable condition.  And yet in an act that directly defies the law and its discriminatory social practice, Jesus accepts the woman and the fact that she touched his robe. And he tells her that her faith has healed her.

The 5th concept that feminists oppose is……... Male Privilege.
This goes hand in hand with sexism.
And this is not to say that all men have it better than everyone because class, race and ability also play a role here.  But there’s no doubt that male privilege is a global societal reality.  One such example would be that: if a man is assertive and demanding, he’s far more likely to be classed as “strong” rather than “bossy.”
A second example would be that: in the relationship game, it is often the woman who far more easily gains the label of being loose.
Having male privilege doesn’t necessarily make men bad people, and feminists don’t hate men for having it.   But men do need to be able to recognise it.

Finally the 6th concept that feminists oppose is…… misogyny
And this in a nutshell- is hatred of women.  It’s similar to sexism… but it has more anger behind it.  Feminist theologian r rad tells us that although the “battered wife” syndrome is now being taken seriously in many parts of the world- it is still a massive problem of epidemic proportions in many cultures.
In many cultures she says, there is still an ongoing assumption that men have the right not only to beat their wives, but also to: gang-rape women who are found alone, or *or who are unprotected by a male, or *or who are out of their place and role as far as acceptable women’s activities are concerned.
In some of our local communities, I know that a number of lesbian women have been raped for this very reason.
By hating misogyny, feminists are literally hating the hatred of women-which is something that we all need to get behind.
I hope it’s clear now that feminists don’t hate men.
Saying that we do avoids addressing our real arguments.  And that’s sad because our lord Jesus Christ has shown us all how to live in ways that go beyond

I want to end off now by thanking all the wonderful men out there in our church, community and world, who do indeed strive to make the world the wonderful egalitarian place that our Lord strove to bring about in his earthly life - and now in the spirit

As Margie said in her sermon last week, we have come a long way in addressing women’s issues.    But we still have a long way to go.

Amen.

View Event →
Aug
23
to Oct 2

23 August 2016

Matt 23:23-26

Sermon by Sue Waldron

In this morning’s gospel we hear Jesus speaking to the people – the crowds and his disciples about priorities….. about what is most important, and about seeing/discerning the bigger picture.    At the beginning of the chapter he says (v2) that Teachers of the Law and Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of the Law, and the people should listen to what they say but they should not imitate their actions because they don’t practice what they preach.

A harsh judgement but this is a familiar theme for us – Jesus has given this sort of warning before, and we are not surprised or shocked. But how do you think the original listeners would have taken it? Remember the culture and context of the times – a patriarchal society – men are seen as having all the power, knowledge or wisdom – used to being respected, obeyed and not questioned or challenged. Jewish men and women would have held this sort of attitude towards the important leaders in the temple – and in fact the men would have stuck together to maintain the status quo. So it must have come as a shock to the Pharisees and other Teachers that the rabbi Jesus was trying to upset the comfortable balance – calling into question their way of living and serving God.

In the end though, it seems that most of them didn’t listen to what he was saying – his words and attitude did not lead to any public realignment of their attitude, and they didn’t change their ways. 

There’s some interesting detail in this morning’s passage – Jesus tells them – you give a tenth even of mint, dill and cumin but neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law such as justice, mercy and honesty. Of course obeying the laws on tithing, was something probably all Jews did, to a degree. In the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus it is said that all tithes from the land, whether seeds or fruits – everything that is edible and has nourishment from the soil, belongs to the Lord. This was specially to be given to the Levites who did the material work in the Temple. So tithing the main crops of food was common practice, but the herbs grown in the kitchen gardens for flavouring food or healing, were produced in such small amounts that not many bothered with them – but the Pharisees would take a tenth even of what was produced by one plant – so meticulous were they in the detail of what they did. However as Jesus pointed out, when it came to other matters involving people who may have been mistreated, neglected or cheated by others – people who were suffering – they were not so meticulous in their attention to the help that needed to be given. In fact they could be hard, arrogant, turning a blind eye to the misery around them or even making promises and pledges that they never intended to keep.

It’s easy for us to condemn them, imagining that we have got our priorities sorted out – we are kind to others and try to help the needy … but how often do we get caught up in paying more attention to appearances than what’s really important? We like people to know we have helped this one and that, we pass judgement on someone else’s clothes or makeup – or if someone seems to be a bit grumpy, we turn away rather than looking beyond their demeanour at what might be going on within/inside.

The Pharisees and teachers that Jesus was talking about were so concerned about keeping themselves pure and righteous that they didn’t engage with the ordinary people on any deep level, and they didn’t seem to understand that in fact, the root of all the Law was love and compassion for one another. Because the Law did reveal the nature of God, their creator – but that was love not punitive judgement.

This seems to paint a rather grim picture of what the Temple leaders and teachers were like in Jesus’ time, but it’s not really fair to lump them all in one box. There are examples, even in Scripture of those who were not in it for their own glorification – those who were willing and able to rethink and examine their attitudes and priorities. There was Saul/Paul a Pharisee who worked zealously for his God, but was forced into a complete turnabout when he saw the light – a rude awakening for him, which left him out in the cold for a bit because people didn’t trust him at first – they remembered how violently he had opposed the Jesus movement. There was also Gamaliel whom we read of in Acts – a Pharisee, possibly from the party of Sadducees. He comes into the picture when Peter, John and the other apostles came up against opposition from the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem were not convinced of Jesus’ resurrection or the other claims the apostles made about him, and they were envious of the growing following that the apostles had drawn in to them. So they warned them not to preach in the city. But Peter and John defied them – they were thrown into jail as a result, but they escaped with the help of an angel …. Things came to a head and the Council at Jerusalem wanted to kill them. But Gamaliel, who was part of the Council, a Pharisee and well-respected expert in the law, spoke up. He pointed out that time would tell whether the teaching regarding Jesus and his resurrection was in fact from God or whether it was simply human error. There had been so-called prophets in the past who had attracted large followings, but after their deaths, the movements had died out. And so Gamaliel was keeping an open mind and advised the council not to act hastily.

And as we know the message of Jesus, the good news about who he was … and is, continues to be preached 2000 years after that, and his followers still grow in number.

This month has become known as Women’s month in SA, and the Sunday sermons have reflected this in the personal sharing and the topics chosen. The experience of women in society - the challenges faced, the hurts endured, the difficult decisions that many had to make, were things that were shared by some of our young women. And we hear that has in fact got many men thinking …. questioning and discussing. The ground has been laid for open and honest    communication between women and men in this parish and maybe even beyond! And I think that this was what Jesus was trying to encourage – of course in that society there were no forums of debate for men and women. Women were not consulted or heard, and you’ll remember the opposition that flared up when Mary dared to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning from him. But Jesus deliberately pushed the boundaries and challenged preconceived ideas and judgements. Women were not inferior to men and we can tell this was his attitude by the relationships and friendships he kept.

And so in a sense Yvette Angoma was right when she said that Jesus was a feminist! This term has unfortunately become laden with negative connotations and some people think feminists are bra-burning, bitter, aggressive women who believe men should be treated as second-class citizens. But this is far from the truth. I think being a feminist means being committed to upholding women’s rights to do, think and say whatever is true for them – affirming their worth, ability and value in society. For a feminist theologian this means believing that we can be instrumental in bringing about that new reality where women are active in promoting the justice and healing in society as a whole and for women in particular. And so it means doing something to help women who are on the margins of society, stopping gender violence, educating all our children and teaching our sons and daughters how precious human life is. It means being a positive, encouraging influence, perhaps mentoring some of the younger women and men in this parish.

And so when it comes to prioritizing the things in our lives, our actions, our groups of friends – we should be aware of the choices we make …because those choices say a lot about our underlying values and beliefs. Are we in fact practicing what we preach?
Amen.

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Aug
21
to Sep 30

21 August 2016

21 August 2016 Womens month

Sermon by Margie Visser

 Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman GOSPEL Luke 13:10-17

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.’ 15 But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, to be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’ 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

 May these words be spoken through the love of God our creator Jesus our saviour and the Holy Spirit our counsellor Amen.

 As you can see by our pew leaflet we are doing a preaching series focused around women. Mo has asked me to share about some of my experiences as a woman, a wife and a mother and also what I’ve learned through my experiences as a counsellor of children, teens and adults especially in terms of relationships.
The purpose of Women’s month is really to bring about a greater understanding and awareness of the system within society referred to as patriarchy or the rule of the fathers that keeps certain people- especially women ‘bent over’ and prevented from standing up straight and reaching
their full potential in life- a picture similar to the woman Jesus healed and helped to straighten up in today’s gospel story. Last week Yvette explained to you what feminism is- a movement that desires to bring about gender equality.

Jesus was and is a feminist- a leader who shows us how to live without bias, stereotypes and selfish agendas. The kingdom is all about equality and covenant relationships- a covenant relationship is a loving relationship that has both parties best interests at heart.
We are also mindful that today is theological education Sunday- a day which certainly involves reminding ourselves of the values that Jesus stood for and wants us as his church to stand for. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige and possessions and how they have the potential to ruin loving covenant relationships. The love of power, prestige and possessions – these are often at the core of relational breakdown and at the root of abusive behaviour. It is these issues that often prevent people from becoming all that God created them to be.
So today I will be speaking about contemporary or current forms of these issues that continue to affect the lives of women mainly- issues within the home, the workplace and the church which have the potential to emotionally and psychologically cripple women and hold them back from living lives using their full God- gifting potential. But before I go there I’d like to praise and thank all those people who do help those who have been hurt by the legacy of patriarchy and sexism and those who believe in and practise gender equality. Thank God for you.
Theological education- where do we first hear or learn about God? Probably in the home- perhaps from our grandparents or parents. They as our first authority figures – are representatives of what we imagine God to be like. If the voices of our role models –particularly the male- authority figures in our homes- are harsh and hard we tend to imagine Gods voice to be like that too. The words, the tone, the kind of voice with which we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. 

As parents or grandparents it is often our personal relationship with God that influences the children in our families- it is their window into their first understanding of God. Our beliefs, words, actions and attitudes pass on a legacy. If we as women were treated badly we often carry hurts and baggage. This reality can make us defensive depressed even angry. Often our children and spouses get the brunt of this - the anger and frustration is sometimes taken out on those around us.

 Verbal or emotional abuse- like name calling and negative put downs can damage self-esteem, it can cause people to doubt themselves and their worth. Sometimes this is not visible on the outside but rather in the mind and heart of the person affected. It causes them to become bent over, held back psychologically. Jesus sees this- It is not a secret that can be forever hidden. We are all doing our best but if we find ourselves taking out our issues on our children we need to get some help to find other ways of coping with our stress levels.
The home should be the safest place to be, a place where we find comfort, support and affirmation but very often home is not like this at all. It is common knowledge that domestic violence is rife within our society. Often the person who earns the most is the one who calls the shots in the home. Power is linked to earning ability. However, oppressive power attitudes can cause emotional and psychological damage to those we live with.

How can this be changed? The best rules for a happy home are love, respect and responsibility- all the house rules boil down to that in essence. If you did not grow up in a home that modelled these values for you and you find yourself oppressed or oppressing others at home remember you as the adult are responsible for your actions- don’t blame others – seek change.
What is happening to women economically in the workplace? How do we prepare our children for what they’ll find there?

Do we give our daughters less pocket money than our sons to prepare them for the reality they’ll probably face one day in terms of pay gaps between males and females fulfilling the same job description? You wouldn’t dream of giving your daughter less pocket money than your son – yet that is precisely what happens in many workplace environments.                                         

Many women now hold top job positions yet when they return home they are expected to cope with all the household chores and sometimes even be a subservient wife to their husband. Im delighted to say that this patriarchal ‘gendered roles in the home’ idea is shifting. The majority of couples receiving pre marriage counselling are now expressing egalitarian views- that is sharing of roles, chores and responsibilities within the home with full consideration for each others well-being.
What about the reality of human trafficking in today’s global world and how does this affect women?

Human trafficking is real and Africa has one of the highest incidences of human trafficking worldwide. Carte blanche aired a programme a few weeks ago about human trafficking- it is rife! People actually making money from marketing another person. It is inhumane and brutal. 80% of human trafficking involves girls and women from the age of 5-15 and it is most prevalent in Africa because of poverty that makes girls desperate so they get trapped into this cycle with less than 1% getting out of this way of life. Most of them die from drug use, suicide or infection. NGO’s are trying to help rehabilitate a few of these people- most never get help but remained 0ppressed and bent over like that woman in the gospel. they are abused because of someone’s greed and someone else’s lust.
Now- I wonder if Jesus would want us to be mindful and aware of the ways in which society keeps women bent over and in bondage in his church.

The church is a place where one would expect to find equality seeing as that is what Jesus preached. Yet I’ve personally experienced prejudice and spiritual abuse because of my gender in churches I’ve attended previous to the Anglican Church. I was denied ordination because I was a woman- a married woman. I was told my role was to be a helpmate for my husband and to be a homemaker. But God didn’t change the calling preordained for me and God directed me along another path. It cost me time, emotional and psychological heartache yet I’m happier here where things are more balanced in terms of gender equality and people are more open-minded theologically. In terms of that quote- my version would read more like- ‘a strong woman looks a challenge in the eye- cries a lot chooses a persevering attitude-develops resilience, decides to trust God and eventually gives the challenge a wink…!’ Just like I’m sure all of you have stories to share- I had challenges in the home I grew up in, I had challenges in the workplace- I worked in hospitals and clinics as a diagnostic radiographer- I continue to have challenges as a wife and a mother of three sons…We all have days when we feel bent out of shape but the circumstances around us.

So this bent woman referred to today could be symbolic of all people who are stunted and distorted whether by patriarchal ideas, ignorance, prejudice, anger or indifference.
Bent over people can only see only the dirt at their feet, the bad side of things. They are unable to look up and see the possibilities before them. They don’t have hope. Their situation can impact on those around them too. But the good thing is that today we can remember that Jesus cares and hears the cries of those who are oppressed by systems beyond their control. Just like Jesus heard my cries and changed my path, so Jesus can help you- if you reach out and you’re willing to embrace change.

Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant- the healer of minds that are full of sad oppressive memories that keep us bent over in pain. We have to make the effort to change and renew our thoughts – to clean up our mindsets… it’s a journey towards healing and equality..SO…
Let us speak out boldly against injustices. May God help us as individuals to do our part in bringing about the kingdom Jesus spoke of- one that has equality, love and respect for all people- rich and poor, young and old, healthy and disabled. A kingdom that cannot be shaken where no one is considered a second class citizen. Where no one is used for the pleasure of someone else without regard for person themselves. People are God’s treasure- do we see them and treat them as such? SO the Challenge is to consider and examine ourselves in terms of our words and behaviour that may be causing people to be bent over in our homes or the workplace or the church?

Let us consider the ways in which we view and treat others in our homes, in our places of work, in our community, in our church- are we able to freely give words of praise to those around us or do we battle to do that because we have never been given those words ourselves? Are we able to notice and comment when others shine and are we able to affirm them without feeling resentful? We all need to be people who help others to stand up straighter after an encounter with us. If this is not something you can identify with, then perhaps take the time today to ask God to heal you and affirm you. Reach out for help so that you can make some changes that will benefit your outlook on life. Instead of living from a bent over position ask God to help you live from an upstanding position. Make a decision today to start learning how to be more affirming and supportive of others who need encouragement to fulfil their potential and walk upright in the fullness of all that Jesus has purposed for them… Amen.

 

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