Readings : Jeremiah 2.4-13 Psalm 139 and Luke 14.25-33
I wonder what you would think was the most famous photograph of the 20th Century?
Some of you may be thinking it came from the various outbreaks of war? Or when peace was declared? A building A coronation? A film star? A mountain, waterfall or valley? An animal – elephant, whale or lion? Innocent, happy children? None of
The photo is, I think, our home from a distance?
It has had a powerful, even spiritual effect on the astronauts who have seen it home from space. Some wrote prayers and one Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian elder did what we are going to do later in this service. He shared the bread and wine of communion on the first moon landing trip to profoundly connect the astronauts with their Creator and the whole Christian family.
They saw it was a small beautiful orb in the incredible vastness that is space – blue and green and white. It has no obvious boundaries, a unique place for human beings to exist in harmony together with other species. I wonder when you first saw that image and what is says to you today?
A popular song captures some of the key thoughts of seeing from a distance.
“From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow capped mountains white
From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed
From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fightings for”
Moving on ‘To pursue worthless things is to make yourselves worthless’, says God, in our reading from Jeremiah. He uses the image of pouring good water into a cracked tank or cistern. Isn’t it simply wastefulness personified.
It might take a while before the foolishness of pouring scarce water into a cracked tank would become apparent. Maybe that is where the world (and the human race) is now, with much damage done, yet with some possibility of changing course before the rivers run altogether dry.
In the crowd-funded film ‘Age of Stupid’, a post-apocalyptic archivist of the future looks back at the climate disaster recorded and documented in detail. “We wouldn’t be the first life-form to wipe ourselves out. But what would be unique about us, is that we did it knowingly. Why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance? Is the answer because… we didn’t think we were worth saving?”
The actor Morgan Freeman made a little film with the UN a few years ago.
Now hospitality is surely the most primal of all human virtues. In each moment of life, we are guests: from the warm dark hospitality of the womb onwards… Rich God given hospitality will be celebrated at Communion later in this service.
Today’s parable from Luke reminds us to consider all of God’s people, not just those in our caste, or income stream.
The wisdom of hospitality goes deeper than ‘nice’. It is vital to our place on earth, in partnership with all life. If you can’t see the benefit of biodiversity,
you’re not looking, but please don’t let it be reduced to an idea which is ornamental or quaint.
The vision of Jeremiah rightly associates hospitality with false gods. Indeed, Jeremiah encounters the injured astonishment of God at the inhospitable nature of the people God thought God knew. God, the Creator, source of goodness and wisdom, is aghast at how the Jewish community preferred to seek out those who have declared themselves enemies, and put energy into projects with no future. Just like pouring water into tanks that simply leak.
The benefits of mutual care cannot be assessed or limited to any single occasion. The God-given right of a species to exist cannot be reduced to marketable value. It is madness to ‘marketise’ the visit of a midwife or the work of a conservation ranger in units of care. Hospitality also belongs with humility: no one only gives – everyone also always receives, from the air we breathe, gifted by the work of the trees, to the water of life that we share as it becomes part of our bodies, then passes on: a gift from the dawn of the universe, from the eternal hospitality of God the Creator.
At Communion we connect in a most profound way with the one who holds the whole world in his hands. But one thing more. Today, as a species, terrifyingly we have positioned ourselves at the level of a god with power to build or destroy. We literally have the whole world in our hands, how are we going to manage that better? I ask you to consider this as we approach our Lord’s table to receive his body into our hands today. Thanks be to God. Amen.