Summary: The theme couldn’t be more basic - ’love one aother’. I’ll leave you to be the judge.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you ... love one another."
I think it was Mark Twain that I first saw quoted, saying that it was not the things in the Bible that he didn’t understand that bothered him, but the things that he did understand. If it wasn’t Mark Twain, it should have been, and whether he said it or not, certainly a lot of us have felt exactly that, whether we have explicitly articulated it or not.
It’s not the things that we don’t grasp in the Bible that are the problem, though sometimes we would like to make out that they are the problem.
Sometimes we would like to pretend that the real issue is that we haven’t adequately grasped the full significance of Jesus’ words to us, and so it only makes sense to hold off doing anything too radical until the final word is in regarding the authorship of the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas!
But the truth is that such things don’t really matter. Where the problem lies is not in what we don’t understand but in what we do - most plainly the problem lies in this fundamental command - love one another!
It struck me recently that the church (at least the church in this country) might never have really grasped this command!
That’s funny, isn’t it, because Jesus said it so often. ‘Love one another. Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another’. ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another’, etc., etc.
Maybe that’s why Jesus said it so often, because he knew we’d have trouble absorbing it - ‘love one another’?
It struck me with all this kafuffle that’s being made about The Da Vinci Code movie at the moment.
In case you missed it, our Diocese has poured an enormous amount of effort recently into putting together a website and a truckload of printed material designed to help stave off the misleading falsehoods propagated by this book and movie.
I’ve left a few of the promotional postcards for the website that they sent me scattered around the back of the church, but I was also sent a form through which I could order, not only more postcards, but great books and banners and a whole variety of material all designed to address the challenge that has been put to the church by this new movie. I didn’t put in an order.
‘Why not?’, you may ask. ‘Because I don’t believe that this is the problem’.
Now, I could be wrong, but it seems to me that implicit in this ‘stand up against the onslaught of the Da Vinci Code movie campaign’ is the belief that this movie is taking people away from the Christian faith, or at the very least, blocking people from coming to faith. I don’t think this is the problem.
Our Diocese has set a missionary goal of getting 10% of this city into church within the next few years, and the general assumption seems to be that what is blocking that from happening is that people are not convinced about the truth of the Christian message. It is seen as an intellectual problem.
Hence the problem we have with The Da Vinci Code. ’Hey, if it hadn’t been for The Da Vinci Code, who knows how many extra people we might have had in church with us this morning?’ I don’t think that’s the problem.
A generation or so ago we thought it was science that was the problem. All these modern evolutionary theories and so-called scientific notions that seem to contradict the Scriptures - that’s why we can’t get people into church!
And so the church prayed that the people of this country would see through the limitations of science and start hungering for something of spiritual substance, and so (as an answer to prayer perhaps) ‘new age’ spirituality was born, and now a lot of those prayerful people wish they were back doing battle with the scientists!
Science was not the problem. The Da Vinci Code is not the problem. New Age spirituality is not the problem.
A number of us spent last Saturday evening at the Sly Fox Hotel, fraternising with people who are not members of this church. Indeed, despite that fact that, between them, those people shelled out the best part of $5000 for us, most of those persons were probably not members of any church.
Why do you think that is? Do you think it might be a scientific problem that they are struggling with? Could it be the crystals of new age that keep them away? Is it that The Da Vinci Code has shattered their fledgling faith?