Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Short Homily on Jesus Being the Foundation Other Than That Which No Other Can Be Laid

With reference to Leviticus 19.1-2, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 3.10-12, 16-23; Matthew 5.38-48; the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

Jesus is the foundation other than that which no other can be laid (1 Cor 3.23). Jesus only (Mk 9.8). “Let’s not have any truck with bland theology,” Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, once wrote, “that Jesus is just one option among many. Dialogue with other faiths is very important, but I can respect another faith and a believer of that faith by saying I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Do with that truth what you may, but my job is to say that to you.”

Jesus, he also wrote, “is the the scandal of particularity with which we must live. Christians cannot yield this un-negotiable element in their faith. We believe that the God of the universe longs to reveal Himself and He does so in many different ways and forms, through religion, through reason, art and human intelligence, but each and every one of these ways is limited. Only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can God be fully known, worshipped and obeyed.” Jesus only.

There can be no foundation laid other than Jesus Christ, no matter how skilled or gifted or creative or resourceful the builder, or speaker, or teacher, or churchwarden, or parish councillor, or incumbent, or bishop—no matter how filled with the latest wisdom and craftiness (1 Cor 3.19) of the age. The foundation, my foundation, our foundation, must always and in all ways be Jesus Christ because we as individuals and as his church belong to him, pure and simple (1 Cor 3.23).

If I, even with the best of intentions, try to add to, or modify, to improve on the foundation that is Jesus, I am deceiving myself (1 Cor 3.18) and those around me. So are you. And if that is what I’m trying to do, most likely I am suggesting such “improvements” out of the “wisdom” of my age (1 Cor 3.18). Some examples from the age in which we live and move and have our being have to do with our possessions, money, stewardship and tithing; with the need to be, and worship, in our Church community every week; and with matters of sexuality and marriage, both hetero and homo—the wisdom of our age has compromised them all, and more, by permissive relaxing of Biblical teaching. I believe that Jesus is referring to such so called wisdom and misguided permissiveness when he says, “You have heard that it was said,”—three times last Sunday and twice this morning (Mt 5.38, 43).

“But I say to you,” (Mt 5.39, 44) Jesus continues and what he says is not permissive. It doesn’t let us off. Jesus does not relax the Bible’s teaching. He sharpens it. He demands more. Don’t even resist an evildoer let alone teach him or her a lesson. So much for the wisdom of our age. Don’t defeat and destroy your enemies, love them, and pray for those who persecute you,” (Mt 5.39, 44)—be prepared to look like losers according to the wisdom of the age—to become fools so we can become truly wise (1 Cor 3.18) with a wisdom based on the sure foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ, our Master and owner.

He speaks to us in the same vein through Moses in Leviticus, too. Be generous, leave lots of left-overs for the poor (Lev 19.9-10). Don’t steal, deal falsely, lie, misuse His Name, defraud your neighbour (Lev 19.11-13)—the list goes on. I am fascinated that there is even a reference to treating those with special needs well—no reviling them or trying to trip them up (Lev 19.14 ).

This morning's foundational message from Jesus can be summed up in two simple statements. Be holy (Lev 19.2). Be perfect (Mt 5.48). Nothing permissive about that. Jesus, the foundation other than that which no other can be laid (1 Cor 3.23) calling us to be more than we think we can be, calling us to attempt the impossible, to go beyond the world’s mere common sense. Sometimes it feels like Jesus is calling me to step out on something like one of those glass walk-ways over the Grand Canyon. The wisdom of the age in me is screaming, “There’s nothing there! Don’t be so foolish! You’re going to plummet to your death!” In one sense it’s true. There is nothing there—except Jesus who is everything. The surest foundation. Structurally sound. Absolutely trustworthy. Holy. Perfect. Only Jesus.