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Sun, Aug 26, 2018

God and Human Rights

Human Rights are rooted in God
Series:July - December 2018
Duration:12 mins 25 secs
Homily    Sunday 26 August, 2018

Lessons             1 Kings 8: 1 – 6, 10 – 11, 27 – 30                      St John 6: 56 – 69
 
The priests carried the ark of the Covenant into the temple.   Newly constructed at the command of King Solomon, the Holy Temple was dedicated to YHWH, the God of Israel.   At the heart of the temple was an inner room, Kodesh Hakodashim, the Holy of Holies, the resting place of the ark.   A wooden chest covered in gold, the ark contained a pot of manna, Aaron’s budded stave and the tablets of Sinai inscribed with the Ten Commandments.   For the Hebrew people, this was the most sacred place on Earth, the dwelling-place of the Eternal.   Once the priests had placed the ark and withdrawn, a cloud filled the house of the LORD.   The cloud is a perfect image of the elusive God: 
present but impenetrable to the naked eye.   
 
The cloud or cloud of glory is a symbol of the Presence of God; in Hebrew, the Shekinah.   Shekinah is used to describe the abiding, dwelling or habitation of God.   In Hebrew, Shekinah is a feminine noun.   It was the Shekinah which Moses encountered on Mount Sinai, when a cloud enveloped the mountain.   In the wilderness, Moses entered the Tent of the LORD’s Presence, the Tent of Meeting to speak to God:  the cloud or Shekinah filled the tent or tabernacle.   During their forty years in the wilderness, the Hebrew slaves were led by the Pillar of Cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night.   The fire by night was like the fire Moses found in the Burning Bush:  it was the presence of God; the Shekinah.   In the First Book of Kings, in a moment of mystical meditation, God said to Solomon, ‘I will dwell among the people of Israel’.   Centuries later, when Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the conquering Babylonians, it was said that the Shekinah hovered over the temple ruins for three days before moving to the mountain to the east of the city.    
 
Jesus lived during the period of the second temple.   Rebuilt after the return of the Hebrew people from exile in Babylon, the Shekinah once again dwelt in the Holy of Holies.   Once again the ark with the tablets of stone rested in Jerusalem, the Holy City.   The Presence of God, the dwelling-place of the Shekinah, was a central piece of theology for Jesus’ own people.   They had a comforting sense of God’s companionship.   Solomon and every Jew understood that the creator of the universe, the maker of heaven and Earth, could not be contained in a temple, an inner sanctuary, a box, golden or otherwise, but, nevertheless, crucially, they believed in their hearts that they were embraced by God, held by God:  the Mystery which they could not define was with them, present among them.   The Shekinah was at home among the people.
 
At the death of Jesus, in the midst of the drama of crucifixion, we are told that the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom, that there was an earthquake and that rocks were rent.   This is imaginative language of mythology to say that the Shekinah has finally left the temple, never to return.   Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught His disciples, ‘The Father and I are one.   I am in the
Father and the Father is in Me.   I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.’   That evocative imagery of flesh and blood spoken by Jesus means the very same thing:  ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them’.   We are spiritually to feed on Jesus and let His life, teaching, death and the mystery of resurrection nourish our souls.   The Shekinah is in us. 
 
Why has this theology been historically important?   Why is it important today?   How does the theology of the Shekinah manifest itself in human societal development, in the evolution of ideas?   God dwelling among us, God at home within us, within every human being, within every individual endows the individual with status, worth, responsibilities and rights which might not otherwise be there.   We are made in the image of God.   In the Book of Genesis, it is the breath of the Eternal within us that gives us life, making us the conscious, rational and morally discerning creatures that we are.   From the Judeo- Christian tradition, we are repeatedly told to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love our enemies, to treat others as we would ourselves want to be treated.   In the Old and New Testaments, on the lips of Moses, the prophets, Jesus and Paul, we are to have regard for human rights:  an explicit concern for widows, the poor, and the sick.   
 
In the Song of Hannah and the Song of Mary, the women sing of God bringing down the proud and the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the humble and meek; God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away.   In one of his many reflections of BBC Scotland’s Thought for the Day, Bill McDonald said that, ‘A caring society or community doesn’t become so simply by saying it is’.   He said, “It was Jesus who said to nice people like you and me, ‘Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers [and sisters], you have done it – or failed to do it – to me’.”
 
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, in a challenge to both atheistic communism and the far right political parties of Spain, Italy and Germany, the encyclicals and messages of successive popes explicitly brought together human dignity and human rights.   The historian Samuel Moyn said, ‘the human person became a key figure in thought at the United Nations, thanks to Christians who were impressed by papal language and who injected it into founding documents’.   The institutional Church has on many, many occasions failed to be the
Body of Christ, failed to live as Jesus lived, but, in the 20th century, 100 million people were murdered not by popes but by people of no faith or creed:  Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Chairman Mao.
 
In developing his theme of hospitality, of God’s hospitality, the

Scottish theologian George Newlands, writes:
 
Jesus is found ministering to ‘outsiders’ of every sort –  the Gerasene demoniac and the woman suffering from  chronic bleeding, the child of Syro-Phoenician woman,  the centurion’s servant, the ten lepers, the blind beggar.  Jesus turns to the untouchables, those beyond the pale,   flouting many of the sacrosanct moral, religious and   social taboos of the time.   The leper in Jesus’ day was  the archetypal outsider, forced to live outside the community, living the life of the damned, rejected by God as well as [humanity].   Jesus touches the  untouchable in all embracing love and grace, challenging the excluding mindset.   Touching the leper, the living damned, is precisely the touchstone of God’s own  hospitality.
  
Jesus believed that the leper was made in the image of God and had the right, the God-given right to be human, to live as an equal in the community.   The institutional churches have been far from perfect but, at their best, they understand why every human being is supremely valued:  the Shekinah is within us.   
 
Amen.
 
 
 
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MYSTICISM & THE ABRAHAMIC FAITHS - LECTURE

Mayfield Salisbury Church Memorials 1914-1918

Photos
Memorials

Including every individual name.
  • Because God is both knowable and unknowable the tension of the symbol, the multilayers of the myth and the openness of the poetic are all vital to our desire to celebrate the Mystery to whom we relate and in whom we have our being.
    Mark Oakley

  • You must love him as he is: neither God, nor spirit, nor image; even more, the One without commingling, pure, luminous ...

    Meister Eckhart

  • The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.
    Oscar Romero

  • Faith may justify bigotry or fanaticism, as Church history tragically witnesses. It needs a safeguard. If it is not animated as it were by the greatest of the theological virtues (love), faith can become defective.
    Thomas Norris

  • Dry not, dry not, your tears of love eternal! Only to eyes that fail to weep does this world seem so dull and dead. Dry not, dry not, those long, sad tears of love.
    Johann von Goette

  • The post modern paradigm manifests itself as a unity which preserves diversity and diversity which strives after unity.
    David Bosch

  • There is only one assertion that requires no evidence. Children are a sacred trust...Unless we care properly for our children, we shall never build a better world.
    'A Good Childhood’ The Children’s Society

  • These are only hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses; and the rest is prayer.
    'The Dry Salvages' T.S.Eliot

  • According to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured.
    Origen

  • Myth is a story about the way things never were, but always are.
    Thomas Mann

  • In the darkness ...The child of your love - and now become as the most hated one - the one You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved ..... The darkness is so dark .... I have no faith.
    Mother Teresa

  • I love the Bible. I owe my faith and my life to the Bible and its liberating message. It is in the Bible that I first met Jesus ... I too am included in God's embrace.
    Gene Robinson

  • It is this great absence that is like a presence, that compels me to address it without hope of a reply ....
    R.S. Thomas

  • Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.
    Mark Oakley

  • Any religion which does not say that God is hidden is not true.
    Blaise Pascal

  • The contemporary Church is losing aspects of its wide and generous memory and therefore condemning itself to become a 'swimming pool Church' - one that has all the noise coming from the shallow end.
    Mark Oakley

  • For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox.
    Mark Oakley

  • The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.
    St Gregory of Nyssa

  • Death, death be hanged, the Lord has promised me that I shall live. This I believe!
    Martin Luther

  • We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have not been put to rest.
    Wittgenstein

  • Religion is the flight of the alone to the Alone.
    Plotinus

  • Stupid clergymen appeal quite directly to a Bible passage directly understood ....
    Soren Kirkegaard

  • What is the point of the arts of reading and criticism as long as the ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible, Protestant as well as Catholic, is cultivated as ever?
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A figure like Ecclesiast, rugged and luminous, chants in the dark a text that is the answer, although obscure.
    Wallace Stevens

  • Myth is the poetry of the soul.
    Sara Maitland

  • Our loss of the ability to think mythically, poetically, allegorically, creatively, theologically, and artfully is a greater threat to our religious experience than anything good scientists have to report ...
    Sara Maitland

  • In general, Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.
    Douglas Hofstadter

  • 'God' is a one word poem
    Rowan Williams

  • What is today? Today is eternity.
    Meister Eckhart

  • Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
    Meister Eckhart

  • The most powerful hunger we have, mostly suppressed and misdirected, is the hunger for God.
    Miroslav Volf

  • We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.
    Thomas a Kempis

  • Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  • God is the beyond in our midst.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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