22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

A Hidden Wholeness

21 August, 2016 Luke 13:10-17 Pentecost 14 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

 

Introduction:
I had a conversation this week with someone who wanted to understand the difference between “salvation” and “wholeness". If you have listened to my sermons in the last few years then you will know that I talk a lot about “being whole.” It is a very complex idea… well for me at least. It is not about perfection, because I think, strange as it may seem, imperfection is deeply woven into our desire and understanding of wholeness. It is quite obvious to most that without imperfection, failure, disappointment, sadness, sorrow, loss…. we can never experience what I am calling wholeness.

The story this morning draws us into two very different ways of being. First the way of the compassionate Christ and the second the way of the safe religionist.

Isn’t this one of the great lessons of life? I remember my own children when they first got a crayon in their hand and they held it tightly and scribbled all over the page, completely disregarding the lines on the page that someone else had put there. Jean Piaget, the great child development expert, would call that the “egocentric” stage or the Pre-Operational Stage. Of course as for us parents, we delight in saying, “Well done; that is fantastic. One day you will be a great artist.” While we secretly think, “One day I hope she works out that she is supposed to keep within the lines.” The “religionist” at work.

Then comes the day when a child will try hard to stay within the lines, carefully tracing the outline of the drawing, and become frustrated when they cross the boundary and draw outside the lines on the paper. They have reached Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage. They are no longer happy to scribble all over the page in an unformed way. They want their drawing to be right! The way it should be. The way they have seen others do it. To follow what is on the page. So they are frustrated when they cross the boundary which has been placed in front of them. And we say, “Don’t worry, it’s OK. Just keep trying, you are doing your best and that is what really counts.” But secretly wondering if they will learn to keep within the lines; or questioning whether or not it is important to keep within the lines anyway...

Keeping within the Lines:
Not wanting to push the metaphor too far, but there are other places where one must keep within the lines. When I was in the USA there was an International Athletics Championship. I don’t recall where it was but I heard on the news one of the commentators say that the American relay team was disqualified in the finals because one of the runners did not keep in his lane; he crossed the line into a competitor’s lane and so they didn’t get the gold medal. Not staying within the lines can be very costly.

As children grow they want the skills to be able to draw within the lines. Without lanes and lines to keep within for an athletics team running a relay on a track, or, say, competitors swimming in an Olympic pool, the experience would become meaningless. However, there are many places in our lives where we need the courage to take a risk, and colour outside the lines. And most often it means shedding a constricting conformity or jettisoning the constraints and structures of what has gone before us. This with a blaze of colour, creating our lives in a new and dynamic way.

Discernment and wisdom are necessary for us to know when to keep within the lines and when to cross them and often the guiding principle is love and compassion for others and finding a hidden wholeness within us:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day when a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years appeared. She was bent over, unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." Then he laid his hands on her and immediately she stood up straight, and began giving thanks to God.

Who could ever be critical of such an act? This woman who had suffered for eighteen years was free now from this painful condition. She was liberated to live her life with freedom and dignity. Surely there is no one who could be displeased with this outcome; no one who would want her to be put back again into her suffering. However, Jesus is drawing outside the lines. There is a template of how healing and freedom should be dispensed in this world - the world in which Jesus lived - and he was not following it.

…the leader of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had cured this woman on the Sabbath day. He said to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done. You can come on those days and be cured, but not on the Sabbath day."

I suspect all religions have a kind of default system that calls its followers back to drawing within the lines and resisting the Hidden Wholeness within each of us. Of course in this situation Jesus wasn’t following the rules. He was in fact following a higher rule and that was the rule, the law of love and compassion. It takes both imagination and discernment to know which rules to break and which rules to keep. A child may need to break some of the rules a parent has set for them, so that they can create their own lives and grasp the freedom they need to live fully. Well, that’s easy for me to say because all my children are in their mid 30s! But we do know it is true. Yet on the other hand there are rules and lines that should not be crossed; those that history, tradition and wisdom have shown us to have great value and importance in the lives of those who embrace them.

In the 1970s I was introduced to the American linguist and later political activist Noam Chomsky, who is also known as an advocate of non-violent civil protest. In an article in the New York Times the story is told by a journalist who had been invited to have lunch with Chomsky that as they were walking to the restaurant they came to a street crossing. The light to cross was red. So the journalist looked both ways and seeing no cars coming walked quickly across the road. Arriving on the other side of the road he looked back and saw Chomsky waiting for the light to change to green. When they were both on the other side of the road the journalist said to Chomsky, “Sorry, I thought you were following me.” To which Chomsky replied, “Well, there are some laws that it is always best to follow.” There are many times when it is best to stay within the lines. But that must be based on the understanding that there are other times when life, God, love and compassion call us to cross the line.

If we look at this passage carefully, I think we see that Jesus is saying we all need to cross this imaginary line between what is and what could be; between rules that are life-denying and the promise of freedom… and the list goes on. And most importantly, we don’t judge others by standards that we do not keep ourselves:

… then Jesus answered the religious gathering and said, "You know, you are all hypocrites! Doesn’t every one of you on the Sabbath day untie your ox or your donkey and lead it away to give it water? So surely this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham and has been bound by the evil one for eighteen long years, shouldn’t she be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?"

That’s good rule-breaking. That’s creativity and drawing outside the lines. Jesus challenged the religious leaders and the crowd to think about the way they projected their own hypocrisies, their own inconsistences on to others. In fact, that’s how those things in our lives that are no longer life-giving are challenged, confronted and changed.

When Jesus said this, his opponents felt ashamed; and the crowd rejoiced at all the wonderful things that Jesus had been doing.

Great works of art, literature, architecture and science happen when someone has the courage to draw outside the lines and discover their own hidden wholeness. Yes, they do build on the experience of having learned how to stay within the tradition or the received wisdom. But there comes a time when inspiration or compassion calls all of us beyond our predetermined pathways and beckons us to cross the line, perhaps into uncharted waters. I think this is the great message of the gospel. Not that we should be shackled or bounded by a line drawn on a page, but that we should have the courage to draw outside the lines and encounter something that takes us into a new and life-giving way of being in this world.

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