Acts 16:16-34 Psalm 97 Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 John 17:20-26
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The action in Acts takes place in Philippi in Macedonia where Paul, Silas, Timothy and perhaps Luke too had just landed. They started off with a good experience meeting Lydia and her group of Jewish believers. Then life quickly got real. They were in a pagan Roman city and the culture and morals were quite different. What might have been ok in Israel wasn’t in Philippi in Macedonia, and vice versa. The disciples had cast out demons and Jesus, of course, too and had had no trouble except the time when Legion’s demons went into the pigs and were destroyed.
There are two common threads between the girl with the spirit of divination’s, or fortune telling’s, healing and Legion’s healing. The first is that they were both done in Roman dominated territory. Rome had no restrictions on religion, it was an empire of many gods, the only requirement was that you had to worship the Emperor as a god, and that got a lot of Christians into deep trouble, as you know. Curiously Jews were exempted from this rule. The people who worshipped Jesus though had no special privileges and like everyone else they had to respect all others’ livelihoods, so miracle working had to fit in with the day-to-day of Rome. The second common thread was that they both had bad economic impacts on the locals. Livelihoods were lost. You get peoples’ attention quickly when you hit them in the pocket book.
There is a lesson there for us, a lesson we should apply to our own actions, to others and particularly to our governments when they set their platforms and budgets. So we need to apply that lesson when we vote. This is an election year so I ask if you vote for a party irrespective of its platform think about it a little differently when the elections roll around. When we vote we ought to be guided by our religious beliefs. For us that includes setting aside our own welfare for the welfare of others who do not have our advantages. It’s a practical application of love your neighbour. Our personal budgets should be about the welfare of our family. Church budgets about the welfare of the Church. Municipal, provincial and federal budgets should be about the welfare of those in each of those jurisdictions. Ideology should not govern in any, but good Christian ethics should. Yes there is separation of Church and State but there should not be a separation between you and the Church, meaning ‘Jesus’. And by welfare I don’t mean welfare in the sense of handouts but in the sense of wellbeing.
Just one example, and I am not going to cast a judgement on this but ask you to discern what is right. Should we allow large multinational corporations to extract water by the millions of litres daily from one aquifer and put that water into single-use plastic bottles, which will likely not be recycled. If they are stopped there will be about three hundred local jobs lost. This is not the freely gifted ‘water of life’ we are talking about. But we do know how precious natural water is. We know how it is essential to life and that we should drink it regularly, so portable potable convenient water is important. We know how much of a problem plastics have become. We know how important those three hundred jobs are. What do we do ? What would Jesus do ?
Perhaps to help, if something is basically wrong should it continue ? Now you could say wasting water is wrong or using un-recycled plastics is wrong or losing jobs is wrong. And you would be right in each opinion. What would you do ? What would Jesus do ? It’s not easy being a Christian in Philippi or in Oxford or Brant Counties.
One thing is certain Jesus wants us to be like Him and do what He would do. He did not care much for the economics of a situation because economics is a matter of inputs and outputs of equations and math. But the principle behind the economics is what concerns Him; pollution, child labour, unhealthy working conditions, blood diamonds and the like.
In today’s reading Jesus prays that we and all other Christians will have His mindset. You see He knows that economics is a transitory thing and that principle is all important. He died for that very reason. And if we live as He wants then those who lose jobs will be tided over by us until other opportunities come along; love thy neighbour.
What Jesus is asking of God in His prayer is that we be made holy. Now that is a huge thing but what does it mean to be holy ? Have you ever known anyone you would describe as holy ? I hope so. But let’s answer the question. Perhaps first it is to be one with Christ as He is one with the Father. It’s not merely having a moral character either. Morals are set by society. Slavery was moral in Philippi. Cannibalism was moral in some primitive societies. The death penalty used to be moral here. Homosexuality was immoral, abortion still is to many and society hasn’t decided ! Morality is arbitrary to say the least.
To be holy does not mean going around with hands in prayer, frowning at fun, pontificating on everything. We get our first dose of holiness at baptism, when we become temples of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully we remember that we are throughout our lives although we will never be fully holy in this life. For us to be holy means trying to be like God, loving, caring, forgiving, sharing and as Paul says always striving towards perfection; and on the journey being humble about it. Amen.