(Ps. 107:1-3, 17-22 – Hesed – The Unfailing Mercy of God, Ephesians 2:1-10 – Hesed Continues- Saved by Grace not Entitlement. But we Can’t Complain, John 3:14-21- Look Up and Be Lifted Up)
Our modern world is one of entitlement, blame and complain. It is never my fault or my responsibility, it is someone else – them – (whoever them is) who is responsible for the situation I want to complain about. Because I am entitled to better, more, respect, recognition etc. And our society feels entitled to and complains about everything! Not enough money, roads, school, medical support, decisions others make, the that’s not how we do it complaints, the I don’t want to change complaints, the it won’t ever be right no matter what you do complaints.
A man in Canada sued a restaurant because when he bowed his head to say grace the sizzling hot plate of food he ordered, sizzled and burnt his face! So he blamed and complained.
A couple of years ago a Kenyan Baptist minister spoke to our year 11 & 12 students. He told the story of his church, his people and the lack of opportunity they faced. Almost one in two Kenyans are unemployed
. 70% of all unemployed are young people.
It is suggest that only one in 6 of those who attend primary school go onto high school. These figures vary greatly from region to region. The Baptist Minister explained that is because of the cost. Uniforms and fees equal about $300 Australian Dollars for a high school year, an amount only about a third of the ipad, iphone, surfboard or dress for the year 10 formal. A fee that would cover less than 30% of a years school fees for those listening
It was interesting to watch the reaction of the young people. They went from complaining about the small stuff to putting it in perspective. What they felt entitled to, a new pair of shoes, the latest iphone, a new surfboard etc seemed of less import to the situation faced by their peers in Kenyan. In one hour we raised $1,000 from what was obviously the students own resources, enough to educate 3 students for one year.
Entitlement, blame and complain seems to hardwired into our human existence. Ask anyone who attempts any kind of change in companies, institutions or even in family relationships. Change is threatening, the process unnerving, the outcomes uncertain. At the first sign of difficulty people begin to blame and complain. Now take the Hebrews in the desert, or maybe you would think twice about taking them into the desert, if Moses’ experience is anything to go by. They were slaves in Egypt. Exiles and outcasts, fodder the economic development of that country and without a country of their own. They managed to remain in tact as a people without a place. Moses comes along and, as instructed by God begins the process of setting them free from their captivity. They are ecstatic. This is what they were entitled to. They are going home. Wait a minute – out there – into the desert – what are we going to eat – where do we get water – how long are we going to be here – we were better off in Egypt – it’s all your fault Moses – Now why did God bring us out here to die – it’s all his fault.
Now we know they finally made it to the promised land, not all of them, not even Moses and anyway at 120 years of age and having spent 40 years with that lot in the desert I am not sure he wanted to. Yet make it they did. But they stilled blamed and complained over and over, against God, against others, against the situation they found themselves in.
You see the good news that found embodiment in Jesus Christ speaks not of entitlement but of grace. It is the Hebraic concept of Hesed, the unfailing goodness and mercy of God, which formed part of the Old Covenant reimagined through the life and death of Jesus. Through that experience we have the opportunity to reimagine our own lives in a way that reflects the values of God – compassion in action. Paul in Ephesians suggests that it is not anything we do but it is the initiative of God’s grace, hesed that means we have the capacity to live in a new and life giving way. You don’t get there because you are entitled to because of your good works good works are the outcome of grace. The definition of good works means taking sacrificial responsibility for self and others. Grace is given free but it has a cost – the relinquishing of the passions and desires we are enticed into by our nature and our culture.
If our nature is to complain and find fault or to always point the finger at someone else then we are called to let go of such a nature. If our nature is to want our way at all costs to those we share the world with, then we are called to let go. If our nature is to hold onto old hurts and faults, then we are called to let go. If it is our nature to think none of this applies to me but I can those it does apply to, then we are called to let go in response to God’s unfailing, unending goodness to us. We cannot simply say this is the way I am and you are going to have to deal with it.
John at the end of Jesus conversation with Nicodemus, a Torah Jew who was unable to accept the message he had heard, connects Jesus directly to Moses and the serpent. The people complained and poisonous snakes afflicted them. God instructs Moses to place a snake on a pole and to hold it up and healing was possible. Not simply physical healing but the wholeness that comes when you see something for the first time. It not only was to heal the snake bite but also the sense of entitlement, blame and complain that was preventing them moving forward into the promised land.
The death of Jesus acts in the same way. The Moses story is a type of the Jesus story. In the death of Jesus we do not concentrate on who to blame but on the example of hesed – the unending goodness of God which Jesus never ceased to offer to the world. The law apportioned the blame but only a new vision of the world provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus heals the blame.
In his resurrection we see the possibility of living out this unending goodness everyday. Not only do we see it as a possibility, but we recognise it as our responsibility to do so and to do it to the world, not just those we like but those we don’t like; not just those the same as us, but those who are very differentOh and we are to do it within the worshipping community of St Oswald’s too. The challenge for us this Easter is to give up any sense we may have of entitlement, any inclination we have to blame others and any tendency to complain about the way things are and come together with the Good News present in others, wherever we might met them on a daily basis, in away that ushers in the new way of living, the realm of God!