Saturday, September 27, 2014

A, Post-Pentecost 16 Proper 21 - Philippians 2:1-5 "True Belief"

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It might be very easy in these days to be carried away by fear and terror like Henny Penny running around in a mad panic as if the sky was falling in on us.  It seems the media would encourage us to do this so they can exercise control over us for the benefit of their ratings and advertising sales.
Just as easy is becoming complacent over the events going on around us.  Every picture and sound coming from the media revolves around and around, media feeding off media, making us so sick of hearing the same thing over and over again, on the hour, every hour.
Things are certainly hectic in our times.  Terrorism is a threat, apathy too just as big a problem and making sense of it all might leave one a bit bewildered.
 Connecting these events in your own lives might be difficult.  You may be wondering why the world is going mad these days.  And sitting down in this place might seem to be so disjointed from the reality of our world and the strife going on, let alone the hassles you face personally from day to day.
You might reason a million and one things from the happenings around you and how they affect you personally.  Everything that happens tends to cause us to form different beliefs so we place our trust in things we can understand.  These beliefs entrench themselves into our being and cause us to interact with others in prescribed ways.
On hearing the news of beheadings and terrorist activities, the USA and others bombing Islamic State strongholds, politicians making pronouncements at the United Nations, what happens in you?  How are your beliefs shaken, tested, attacked, or justified and edified?
A couple weeks ago, before the beheadings began to be aired in the media, a journalist was interviewed on the radio about his work in the Middle East.  This Australia reporter had been taken captive and circumstances led him to nearly be beheaded before being freed at the eleventh hour.  As he recounted the events of his capture and release he commented, “True belief has caused more trouble in the world than anything else.”  On reflection I believe he is spot on.
I imagine most terrorist operate from a “true belief” modus operandi.  To commit terror and lose your life one must operate out of true belief in something.  Or else they wouldn’t go through with their suicidal actions in the first place.  Others might believe they’re wrong but the individual or group acting will fully believe what they’re doing is for their greater good.
When we hear and see these barbaric things happening, our belief systems are put into action.  Do you know what your belief system is?  Have you studied how and why you react the way you do in response to what goes on around you?
Being honest with myself, looking into the deepest recesses of my being, I see a belief system full of presumptions and prejudices.  I might display a certain belief system to keep up appearances with others, but within, the way I think, the way I react, and the way I feel is a completely different story.  In fact inconsistencies run rife within my internal belief system.  There’s a mix of cowardice and confusion, which holds me back from saying and doing as I truly believe.  Doubts call into question, “just how true is this belief I call my own?”
It seems to me my apprehension, my gutlessness, and the terrors I hold within see me sin against the true belief of who I am.  Some of my actions seem so spineless and apathetic compared to the terrorists taking on world, putting their lives out there for the sake of the cause.  My pride sees me campaigning acts of terror in my mind, against those who offend my sense of self righteousness. And yet the very same pride sees me cower within myself.  I sin against my own mind’s terrorist activity, not even able to remain faithful to my own sinfulness and self righteousness!
Stopping and having a good hard look at ourselves, reveals some interesting stuff.  The true belief of the terrorist raises the response of true belief within us, and other individuals, and even governments of our world.  We might loath what others do, some have the fortitude to fight and retaliate with revenge crimes, and our governments rally their armed forces to strike back.
Being a Christian, in these times brings true belief in Jesus Christ face to face, toe to toe, into conflict with the true belief of our inner selves.  All of us make presumptions, and rationalise our true beliefs which conflicts with those Jesus Christ calls us to have.  In fact, it’s been like this from the moment Jesus began his ministry of bringing the true belief and self righteousness of human hearts to repentance. 
It began at Jesus’ baptism into a ministry of true faithfulness and righteousness that led him to the cross.  This was a ministry John the Baptist even recoiled over saying to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. Matthew 3:14–15 (ESV)
Ever since this day, Christ has been calling you and me to have our terrors dealt with.  It matters not whether they are terrors of Roman crucifixions on crosses, or terrors from Muslims, or any other people.  These terrors tempt us to carry all sorts of terrors within and in turn lead humanity into heaping sin upon sin.
Terrorist activities and threats against Christians and Jews have lead to presumptuous activities just as offensive and terrorising in the name of true belief.  We Christians can hang our heads in shame over what Christians have done in the name of Christianity throughout history right up to now, and so too the Jews for what they are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza in these days.
Saint Paul speaks relevantly when he addresses the Philippians in their times and us today as we face the reality of our world, but also the world within our hearts too!  We do well to see how our true belief empties the cross of its power, and siphons glory away from God the Father as we react to protect the motives driving the core of our true beliefs.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus... Philippians 2:1–5 (ESV)
The key word here is encouragement!  Pauls starts off, if there is any encouragement in Christ...!  Encouragement here means to be invited, called alongside, literally — a side listening.  Picture a ship as it pulls alongside the dock and then anchors itself with ropes stopping it from being whipped around by whatever the weather or tides might do to it if it were not held fast and kept safe.
In the same way, you have been called and continue to receive encouragement.  We are invited to be held fast in faith by Jesus Christ, to come alongside Jesus’ word and deeds.  He faithfully seeks to lash himself to you and bring your true belief in line with his.  Safe and sound through the humility and humanity of his death and resurrection!  To have the mind of Christ among us has us believing we need God’s help, believing our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth, who took up humanity in humility counting us more significant than himself.
Rather than presuming our true belief is what sets us right let’s assume our humanity needs the services of Jesus Christ, not just once, but continually through the Holy Spirit winning out over our spirits so he might continually place true righteous through his crucifixion and our baptism into it in us. 
Saint Paul continues on after calling us to receive encouragement, to receive comfort from love.  This is the most pure of blood soaked crucifixion love, not to terrorise us with a Roman terrorism tool, but for us to see and know we are loved by God.  Then he calls us to participation in the Holy Spirit, affection, sympathy, and joy having the same mind as Jesus.  We can only do this if we allow the Holy Spirit access into our hearts where he can turn our self spirited so-called “true belief” back to a sole belief in Jesus Christ.
So rather than running around like a chook with its head cut off!  Rather than revenge or apathy against terrorists who threaten to behead, kill or endanger.  You might allow the Holy Spirit to use you to do the greater work of Jesus Christ with the terrorist, the ill-tempered neighbour, those you’re not naturally attracted towards, or those your presumptions, prejudices, or pride might not allow you to mix with in the hustle and bustle of life. This is the greatest humanitarian work where in humility we bow our heads in prayer. 
Therefore, let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we believe, save each of us from our unbelief!  Send the Holy Spirit into our hearts so we seek to hear your word, so we love and want to hear your word more and more.  And with your word, infill our prayers for those whom we might deem as our enemies in our lives!  We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.