Recognising the Truth!

Today I have a sermon from a friend of mine, Richard Smith, an incredible scientist, activist, and person of faith, who works diligently for those marginalised in our society.  So you could call him my guest blogger.

In this sermon he reveals some home truths, about justice, or the lack of it, and about science and how evidence is manipulated or hidden from us. It is food for thought!

Scripture Readings  Galatians 3:23-29,  Luke 8:26-39

Exactly 6 years ago I preached here at WDUC on these same two Lectionary readings. Does anyone remember that sermon?

Much has happened in the last 6 years, therefore I decided I should explore these readings in the context of Paul’s Gospel for creating a better world. A process summarized at the Reformation from his letter to the Galatians and Romans as Justification through Grace by Faith. A collective understanding rather than the later emphasis on individual salvation.

In ordinary language:

Justification – Is the process of creating a Just World, a world that works for all people. Through Grace– is accepting that the world and life we inherit is a free and generous gift. And by Faith, that is trusting in the essential goodness of humankind and the truth revealed in the Bible and Science.

One of Paul’s most profound statements of faith from our Galatians reading today was:“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”(Gal 3:28). This vision threatened the ethnic and Torah based religious identity of the Jews. It also challenged the economic foundations of the Roman Empire, with laws largely constructed so the elite 5% could extract wealth from the rest of the population. Some 40% of the population were slaves and women were second class citizens.

Does that not sound like much of the world today?

Currently we suffer from a major misunderstanding about Justice. We have a State Dept of Justice in a magnificent 31 story building in the City, concerned with managing retribution against those who fail to follow the law. Not with the primary biblical meaning of Justice as distributive, that is whatever is to be shared is to be shared equitably – or in the vernacular “A Fair Go for All”.

The biblical warrant for this meaning of Justice is that all humankind are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). Retributive Justice is a subsidiary part of Distributive Justice, in that punishment should be fairly distributed.

The term Social Justice has an ambiguity which can mean either distributive or retributive Justice depending on the context. This is the ambiguity of our State Government Department of Justice’s concern with courts and prisons and not the distributive injustices filling our prisons to overflowing. For example, while only 3% of West Australia’s population are indigenous they form 30% our prison population because of distributive injustice issues.

In our Gospel reading today we read a parable told by Luke about Jesus and an impoverished man possessed by demons named“Legion”. Legion was the name of the 2600 strong cohort of the Roman Military that enforced the imperial domination system through retributive violence, torture and crucifixion which had had the demonic effect on the man’s mind and behaviour.  We see the impact of the modern equivalents of such institutionalised violence and torture on soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, inter-generation impact on Aboriginal children in remote communities and on asylum seekers who are detained indefinitely.

On being healed, the demons left the man, going into a large herd of swine, which rushed into the lake and drowned. Although the man was healed his fellow Gerasenes did not understand how Jesus’ Gospel of non-violence and compassion could have such a dramatic healing effect. In fear they asked Jesus to leave and he returned across the sea of Galilee .

The man who was set free of his demons did not rest: “he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him”using his new found freedom to create a better world among his people.

Today, many like the Gerasene’s are fearful of confronting the domination systems of our world, becoming complicit in the destruction of indigenous cultures, the earth and its climate, before our very eyes.

How do we recognise today’s demons in our domination system?

  1. Our Aboriginal people were first demonised and put in chains (Slide 1), now we use the chains of financial and physical poverty to drive them from their communitarian life style and belief that the land owns them and not we the land. We seek to drive them into our individualistic and materialistic lifestyle.
  2. Another example are the demons of fake news and anti-science that get implanted in minds; keeping people in the chains of ignorance about indigenous people, climate change and their contribution to solving it.
  3. These subtle anti-science demons are best illustrated by our nightly ABC weather reports.
    1. An important context for our weather is the climate – but we are only presented with the weather without the context of Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick (Slide 2)or Keeling’s Curve of rising CO2which is causing long term changes in weather (Slide 3).Such Text without context becomes the pretext for climate denial and inaction.
    2. In contrast as we move to the Financial News, we are given the historical context through extensive graphs over many years of exchange rates, share market indexes and levels of debt, unemployment rates etc. (Slide 4).
    3. We are numbed to the fact that the continued increase in Jobs and Growth is a suicide economy that in a finite world is destroying the very basis of human life itself.

Do not lose hope for Pope Francis in his “Care for our Common Home” encyclical said:

“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. No systems can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

I sincerely believe that God – to me the force of Goodness and Truth that permeates our world will help us bring about new sustainable ways of life for future generations. Surely this is the mission for which the Church was born.     Amen

I have included the slides he refers to here. They can be downloaded.


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