Aren’t you one of them?
Luke 22: 54-62.
We have been looking at children for the last couple of weeks.
Two weeks ago we looked at the passage of when Jesus was a child was left in the Temple.
Last week we looked at the passage when parents tried to bring their children to Jesus to be blessed.
And this week concludes our study of children.
Though you may be asking, ‘What has this to do with children?’
Well it is more than likely that the servant girl was literally a servant girl.
Up at night, because if the masters were awake, then they had to have their slaves awake to look after whatever they needed; food, water, feeding the fires, taking messages to anyone that needed them.
A sudden kangaroo court being set up to prosecute Jesus would have been pandemonium. The high priest, the Sanhedrin in session, their servants with them to make sure it was safe for them to be out at night. A lot of people about and a lot needing to be done.
And in the middle of all this a young girl asks the question, ‘Aren’t you one of them?’
So that is the theme of today's sermon.
What do you do when the younger generation look at us and say, ‘Aren’t you one of them?’
What are you supposed to say to that?
And in this world we are not the powerful ones any more.
It used to be that the church was important.
Way back the schools of the parish were run by the church.
The local legal system of the land was effectively the Kirk Session.
In my lifetime it used to be that when the General Assembly was on people felt it was the closest thing to a parliament that we had. Every day there was television coverage of the proceedings. Now we get a couple of half hour programmes at the end of the week and so late on at night that most of the people that come to church are already in bed.
Now instead of deference to the church the attitude of society is often aggressive.
Nurses get into trouble because they offer to pray with a patient.
Air stewards get into trouble for wearing a crucifix.
And when people do ask us about the faith it is never about something that we can be proud of.
You never hear anyone asking us about our faith when something good has happened.
A group of people at a street corner are talking about this couple who have helped an old woman who had fallen in the street. And the crowd are nodding their head in approval of the couples help, and then they turn round and say to you, ‘Hi those really nice people, aren’t you one of them too?’
Or what about those adverts for the Children's Lottery. What bugs me about them is that they claim that they did the lottery for the children. Ha!
Lets’ imagine that a Christian won it, won £25,000 and on the advert the guy said, ‘I did it for the children, that’s why I am giving the whole £25,000 to a Children's’ Hospice’. And the whole of the Co Op are talking about it, and as you go in then they turn round and say, ‘Aren’t you one of those people?’
It is never anything positive like that.
It is usually when someone has made a mess of things.
There is some demonstration outside an abortion clinic in America where they are frightening poor girls that are way out of their depth, calling them murderers and telling them they are going to hell. Then they look at us and say, ‘Aren’t you one of them?’
Or some gay bashing thing where a crowd is telling others that Christians hate them just because of what they are. They don’t know them, they don’t know their background or whatever they have to face in life, but they hate them.
And then they look at us and say, ‘Aren’t you one of them?’
If I was to turn to you and say, ‘Do you believe that the world was created in six days even though the scientific evidence says it took a lot longer?’
What would you say?
It seems that there is no right answer.
If you say that you believe the scientists then they tell you that you can’t be a true Christian because you don't believe the truth of your own Bible, you can’t pick and choose what bits you believe.
If you say that you believe the world was created in six days then they tell you that you are an ignorant fundamentalist and they can’t trust someone who believes blindly without question. Do you also believe in slavery and that women caught in adultery should be stoned? Do you believe in genocide and that women have no rights, because that’s what the Bible says?
If you say that there is a nuance there and that the Bible isn’t a scientific book, that the first chapter of the Bible is a hymn of praise and holds a spiritual truth about the creator of the world and the purpose of the world. That the Bible answers the ‘WHY the world was created’ question rather than the ‘HOW the world was created question’, then they tell you that you’re like a politician that isn't giving a straight answer. The Bible is black and white and you’re trying to make it all grey and fuzzy.
The world is challenging us, and often we don't know what to say when they challenge us.
Last week the pope was in the Republic of Ireland.
40 years ago one and a half million people went to the mass.
Last week less than 200,000 people went.
That country was run by the chapel, schools and hospitals and social work were all effectively run by the church...now the church is looked on suspiciously.
And to be honest maybe we deserve a lot of the criticism we get.
We can’t on one hand tell people that we believe in a God of love and then spend our time condemning others.
We can’t on the one hand tell people that we believe in a God who forgives us and then spend our time judging others.
We can’t on the one hand tell people that we believe in a God that celebrates life then spend all our time telling people that what they are doing is wrong.
The church has in the past spent too much time trying to tell people what they shouldn't be doing;
They shouldn't be dancing.
They shouldn't be drinking.
They shouldn’t be going to the cinema.
They shouldn't be taking drugs.
They shouldn’t be having relationships with ‘whoever’.
Maybe it is time that the church started to talk to itself and tell itself what we should be doing...
We should be more compassionate.
We should be more understanding.
We should be more helpful.
We should be more loving.
We should be more giving.
The next generations are asking us the question, ‘Are you not one of them?’
And one way or another we will give them an answer.
And it may be that whatever we say isn't good enough.
But if what we say isn’t going to be good enough anyway then we can be honest about what we are.
As an old ministerial friend once told me, ‘If you are going to be crucified for what you do anyway, then you might as well be crucified for what you believe.’
So what do we say when they ask us, ‘Are you not one of them?’
Here’s what I say,
and it doesn't matter what part of the Bible they are talking about,
and it doesn't matter what scandal they are accusing all Christians of covering up,
it doesn't matter what natural disaster or humanly created catastrophe God should or shouldn't have created..
It is my own answer created by being fed up not knowing what to say when people accost me in the middle of the street with stuff that doesn't really matter but they want to attack someone of faith for something someone has done on TV,
or maybe they are just unsure about their own life and wonder what I might want to say about it,
or maybe they are frightened about something that has happened in their own life or the life of someone they love,
or maybe they are just drunk at a party and for some reason this big theological question has come into their mind because they have seen the local minister.
Let me assure you, when people ask you about faith you are never prepared.
So this is what I have come up with...it might not answer their question. But it is what I believe, and if I am going to be crucified anyway, then I might as well be crucified for what I believe.
I believe God created the world. Don’t know exactly how he did it but neither do the scientists, they are still working it out so it is ok for me to still be working it out.
I believe that God wants to help me be the best me that I can be. That God has a plan for me and that sometimes I follow it and sometimes I don’t. When I follow God’s plan I am a blessing for others, when I don't I am a selfish git. The good news is that God cares enough for me that he is trying to help me be the me I should be.
I love my children a lot. That means I care less about what they are doing and more about what they are becoming. I can forgive what they are doing if it helps them become something better.
I believe God loves me more than I love my children. So he cares less about what I am doing and more about what I am becoming.
Do I know all the answers...No.
Do I understand all the Bible...No.
Am I a work in progress...Yes.
And each day I ask myself, ‘What does God want me to do today to show his love?’
Now I’ll be honest.
It isn't the best answer to give to others.
It isn't the cleverest.
But it dawns on me that the thing Peter didn't understand when he was asked that question, is sometimes the same thing we fail to understand when we are asked that question.
Peter was looking for an answer, when what he should have been looking for was a relationship.
Because Peter was looking for answer, he was looking for an answer that would get him out of trouble, or would make him feel safe.
But the truth was what he needed was a relationship.
And he wept.
Not because he had given the wrong answer, but because he realised that he had let the relationship down.
If someone asks us, ‘Are you not one of them?’
They don't need to hear an answer, they need to see our relationship.