Our Gospel Reading tells us we find our authority not in what we say but in what we do.
And the agenda for our doing - for us who dare to stand so proudly and impertinently in the centre of the city is ‘people’:
those who sleep out in the Domain
those who live in tower block apartments with decks overlooking the sea
those who wander the streets looking for a porch that’s warm enough to sleep in,
the transsexual prostitutes up on K Road,
the new born babies at the Hospital,
the gamblers in the Casino who can’t leave the tables even to go to the toilet,
the children in our primary schools excited and eager to discover how to understand things.
We are here on this hill for a purpose - a gospel purpose - to stand beside these people and to proclaim about another way - and not just proclaim, but also to challenge and live the simple, difficult, God given impossible life of Christ
Anything else is a travesty of the love of God.
(We can as a community settle for easy answers if we want to like the simplistic biblical fundamentalism that seems so attractive these days - that demands that we deny our intellect in the cause of comfortable, self-congratulating, naïve conformity.
Or like the warm, cotton-wool Christianity made up of little more than hymns and anthems, stained glass windows and a pietistic glow in the pit of our stomachs.
Or like our desperate attempt to cling to those old fashioned values that get muddled up for Gospel-truth and seek to keep the status quo safe and secure -
How easy it is to mistake the old fashioned for the eternal.)
I want to look then today at the tools we have to enable us to live the Gospel - to face the questions people pose for us.
When we have to choose what being a Christian community is all about, what have we got to help us?
First of all we have the Christian tradition - 2,000 years of the Christian church struggling to express and live the faith that is in us.
This tradition we find in scripture
in our creeds and liturgies
in our buildings and music
in the lives of the saints
in the stories our grannies and granddads told us
And part of that is also us - our history - our story - ordinary people in every century struggling with God and each other over the washing up - ordinary people, praying, and telling their stories.
We are as much part of that same dynamic yearning as were those early Christians - some saints, some martyrs, some just ordinary 4th century, 19th century, 21st century men and women.
So when we look at issues of war and peace, justice and injustice, love and sexuality, family and community, taxation and community care, the Treaty of Waitangi and inclusiveness we have a great resource here.
And much more than 2000 year of Christian history. We are part of that much larger tradition that contains the strivings and the vision of the many faiths - a common searching after God told in so many languages and dialects and cultures and dreams, be they Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or the many other religious traditions that fill our world.
So the first tool we have is the history of generations of believing people attempting to walk with God and trying to talk about this journey as honestly as possible.
And it’s messy and chaotic and troublesome and there are many contradictions in the many truths that make up our tradition.
The second tool we have - our second resource - is the world around us.
Make no mistake, God speaks through our world - through science and politics, through sociology, psychology and anthropology - through the desire for and the work of people of peace and integrity, through education, and the search for justice and health - through art and poetry, drama and literature.
I often find a deeper grasp of theology and theological questions expressed in secular poetry and drama than in theological lectures.
If we are frightened of a real engagement with the world’s struggles we will miss an enormous quantity of God’s many truths available for us if we are not too blind or scared to see. But it too is full of contradiction. Full of disagreement and debate, argument and rows.
Our third resource is here and now
it is us
this band of friends
God is revealed in the story of this place and in the stories that we bring to this place and live out here - in each other’s praying or lack of praying, with our successes and failures, hurts and joys. In the hard work of being church.
This is how it is - we might wish it other - we may have nothing in common other than our desire to be church but this is how it is - as we are called to be church and make church - to be Christ and make Christ. Here is the hard work of being community - hard work in the face of each other’s idiosyncrasies and peculiarities.
And finally our fourth resource - it is us as individuals.
If we look as honestly as we can at how we are and what we are actually doing as feeling, hurting, hoping, loving individuals, then I believe we can create and identify the agenda we have as individuals for our journey here. This too is full of unease and difficult, contradictory truths.
I believe that it is in the debate and conflict, the argument and struggle, the delight and the moments of togetherness that fill our traditions, our world, our community and ourselves that we are able to discover the real reason we are here - not the acceptable reasons we kid ourselves about - the respectable Sunday reasons of disciples - but the hidden heady reasons of needy, difficulty, glorious, friends.