The Tribe: A tribe wandering across a plain came to a broad, deep valley bounded by very high cliffs on the East and West. It looked lush and they found paths leading into the valley. As they followed the paths away from the plain, they found food, water and materials to provide for their needs. Some parts were easier and some were more difficult. Occasionally they came to a fork where they felt a call to go a way which looked difficult or dangerous, and they would resist the call and go what seemed to be an easier or safer way. Eventually they reached the end of the valley and found a path that led along the face of the cliff. As they followed this path, they climbed high enough to see all the places they had gone. They discovered that their decisions to resist the call to go one way resulted in them missing out on some wonderful opportunities, and they were sorry.
Taking up Your Cross 2013 02 24 Phil 3:17–4:1
Harry decided he would do something nice for his wife. He bought her a kitchen machine that did everything. When she started to make supper, he insisted on her putting the machine to work. It chopped her vegetables in less than a minute, but it took her 20 minutes to clean it up afterward.
All animals, including people, most of the time, look for the easy and safe ways of doing most of the necessary tasks, and save as much energy as they can for play. This is how we end up with the stereotypical 25-ytear-old male living in their parents’ basement playing videogames and working for minimum wage.
The tribe missed out because they chose to go easier ways. When we get to see our lives from God’s perspective, we will see times our choices to go the easy way deprived us of opportunities. Even now, most of us can think of times when we lived to regret our decision to say “No.”
Jesus, when warned that Herod was out to kill him, just laughed and said that he had too much to do to worry about Herod. And, besides, it was only fitting for a prophet to die in Jerusalem. He did not look for the easy way: He looked for the way that led to his destination.
Paul’s letter today warned his readers to take the path he laid out for them. His warning about those who hate the cross, and seek an easy street echoes the warm, fuzzy theology of the 70s and 80s. It focused on a warm, fuzzy Jesus, with pictures of a smiling Jesus holding a lamb or with children playing around his feet.
When life was good in North America, with rising real income for most working people, and with an upward road with only a few bumps in the economy, people chose warm fuzzy churches. They helped people in need while ignoring the changes that were being made as a whole. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the people with wealth and power advanced a coup to take back the privileges held by the wealthy generations earlier before unions and cooperatives succeeded in achieving a fairer society. Changes in tax policies, trade laws, and labour laws, often passed with little notice, shifted the balance in favour of the wealthy and corporations. I still remember my surprise in 2000 when I learned the Alberta government had changed the labour law so employers did not have to pay holiday pay for holidays that fell on Saturdays or Sundays as happened to New Year’s Day and Canada Day that year.
Our New Creed claims that as the Church, we are called to seek justice and resist evil. This is what Jesus did, and he died for doing what is right. This is one cross we are called to carry. Jesus took time to understand how evil operated in his society, and we need to as well. The Calgary Association of Life Long Learners sponsored, along with the Petroleum History Society, a series of presentations on the Oilsands. I believe the last presentation is this coming Tuesday at noon in the Glenbow Theatre. There is a great deal of conflict over the oilsands, and I believe it is important for us to be well informed about all aspects of their development. There is misinformation on both sides of the debate and we need to learn enough to take a helpful position. As resisters of evil, we are called to be prepared to confront injustice, open our eyes and ears to what is happening in the world, and to give up our own participation in injustice. We need to know what questions to ask. For example, some people are pushing for an end to regulated marketing of dairy and poultry products while ignoring the huge subsidies paid to American and European producers.
Subsidized American and European agricultural production has had devastating impacts on the economies of most other countries. Subsidies and regulations favouring biofuels are having a terrible impact on the environment in tropical areas being used for palm oil and sugar cane production, as well as increasing the cost of food, and wasting taxpayer money.
As seekers of justice, we are called to learn and we are called to build real relationships with those who are oppressed. Along with providing Christmas hampers we need to dare to get to know those in need as real people, and to be willing to walk with them as they struggle for the justice they need. The Christmas hampers help but we also need to hear their stories.
And we need to be willing to learn from them. I find it ironic that people who spend $60/person on a single meal will expect someone else to eat for a week for less than $60, and dare to criticize them for not using money well. The stories of the poor might help us find ways to heal ourselves spiritually and socially.
Social justice is one cross before us. A more immediate cross is the mission God has for us at this time in this place. Our reading from Philippians finished with, “Don’t waver. Stay on track, steady in God.” We need to discern the mission God has now for this congregation, and to dare to serve that mission, even if it means giving up things that are dear to us, or to take on risks we feel too old or tired to take. And we need to be prepared to stay on that track.
May God help us see or hear the mission that is right for us now, and to have the courage to pick that up as our cross. Amen.