Messages of Hope

Learning to practice love in the world

President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Prof Rev Andrew Dutney reflects on the New Testament lesson set for next Sunday (Romans 12:9-21) He writes . . .

When I reflected on the text, I remembered a short sermon that I’d preached on it recently. The theme had been exercising my mind anyway, in the context of the terrible violence being reported from the Middle East and the suspicion and mistrust being directed at the Muslim community here in Australia.

Love one another. And while you’re at it, love your neighbour as yourself – Muslim, Jew, Sikh, atheist, whatever.

Anyway, this is the sermon:

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A little known fact about the New Testament is that it’s mostly about love. Not romantic, sentimental love – the kind that the media force feeds us. The New Testament’s about the love that Christians had to learn to practice just to cope with the new reality they were living.

Because, the big new thing that followed the death and resurrection of Jesus was the collapse of the social, economic and racial walls that always kept people apart. As St Paul put it, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.” (Galatians 3:28)

But there were no habits or rules to guide people who’d spent their whole lives being separated from each other on how they should go about being together in one community. Suspicion, resentment, jealousy, competition, fear – they knew how to do all that. How were they suddenly supposed to be this one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12)?

That’s where love comes in – practical, achievable, measurable, daily love. The practice of the new world.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

“…extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:13-18)

“…the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”” (Galatians 4:14)

The New Testament’s mostly about love, because the Gospel is mostly about the reconciliation in Christ of all who have been strangers and enemies to God and each other.

It’s not really all that different from the same practical, achievable, measurable, daily love that we practice (at our best) in our own homes, families and marriages. Where we practice it, it’s a sign of the new world. (That’s why the church is in the marrying business. We didn’t invent marriage. But from the beginning of the church we saw in the kind of commitment to practical love that people make when they marry a sign of the new world of reconciliation and peace that God intends for the whole creation.)

The NT’s mostly about love, because the Gospel is mostly about the reconciliation in Christ of all who have been strangers and enemies to God and each other.

The Joint Commission on Church Union saw that. In their Second Report, they said:

“The Church in one region, in fellowship with other regional churches, has been regarded from the beginning as embodying the fullness of the church’s life (1 Cor. 1:2). A congregation gathered by God in one place and living by his Word and sacraments in godly discipline, was and ever has been the characteristic expression of the life of the Church. …Here is the relationship of believers in which men, women and children alike are called to recognise each other as loved creatures, and to allow God in Christ to break down every barrier that divides, so that they may participate in, and show to the world, the unity of their life in the family of God.”

In a report to the Education for Ministry Working Group meeting, The Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry Working Group estimated that “that current membership of the UCA is around 30% culturally and linguistically diverse, with language-usage other than English (CALD).” They predicted that, “This is likely to be over 50% within the next decade.” They observed that, “Already over half of the UCA Ministry Candidates nationally are from CALD backgrounds.”

At the Northern Synod several weeks ago I had the privilege once again of witnessing First Peoples and Second Peoples working through difficult business together with respect, understanding, patience and humility. That is, with love. It is a sign and foretaste of the new world.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

The New Testament’s mostly about love, because the Gospel is mostly about the reconciliation in Christ of all who have been strangers and enemies to God and each other. So:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another…” (Romans 12:9)

In Christ, this is our gift and our vocation.



Source: The President's Blog

posted 28 Aug 2014 by Sandy



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