Rev Tammy Hollands
On Thursday I had an ecumenical lunch and it is the first time back to a restaurant since the Covid-19 lockdown. It was lovely to have a menu put in front of me and I could pick what I wanted and have it served up to me on a plate. As I looked through the menu so many of the options looked good and it was hard to decide what I would like to have. I could blame the fact I had not been to a restaurant or café for a few months but the truth is I am that person who is still deciding what to have when everyone else is ordering. I finally make a decision and commit to something when everyone else has ordered and I have to choose. It is not that I am fussy, in fact the opposite, there is always so much that looks good.
In the Gospel reading Jesus wants the disciples to following him. They will get to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” And they get to do all of that without payment in return. You might think it would be wise for Jesus to stop there but he goes no to say not only will they not be paid but they will be betrayed by family, there will be threats against their life and they may even be killed. They cannot expect better treatment than the treatment that Jesus himself received and we know how his story goes. Jesus gives an interesting pep talk and he does not come across as a very good sales person.
Another person who had a less than perfect sales pitch was UK Prime minister Boris Johnson who when talking about the Free Trade agreement that is being discussed between Australia and the UK said “We send you Marmite, you send us Vegemite”. Not sure this is the best way to sell this idea since both countries seems pretty adamant that their spread is the best and why would they want the other. I know that if I had to pick a camp and committee to one it would be Vegemite that would get my allegiance.
This got me thinking about the other things that we give our allegiance to. It is a question worth asking: to what and to who do you have an allegiance? Maybe it is a particular sporting team. Maybe everyone in your family supports a particular team and you were just born into that allegiance. Maybe you picked your team because it is close to where you once lived but despite moving you have remained a supporter.
It is not just sporting teams that we can align ourselves with. We can also align ourselves to particular brands. Are you an Apple or Android person? We can align ourselves to political parties; Liberal or Labor.
It seems to me politicians of all persuasions seem to be pledging allegiance to the economy. Earlier this week as I listened to politicians speaking it struck me that what I was hearing was akin to a sermon being given to those who gather to worship the economy. The economy has become for us an idol, a god that we are to worship and make sacrifices to. It is for the sake of the economy and economic growth that we sacrifice our environment to be stripped and mined of its resources. It is for the sake of the economy that allows ancient sacred cultural sites to be blown up, destroyed, because the economic worth is deemed more important that the historic, cultural and anthropological; that is human society’s worth. We keep feeding this beast that we call the economy buying into the fantasy of infinite economic growth. A fantasy that is destroying the planet.
We keep making these sacrifices thinking that we will be rewarded in return. That the economic growth will benefit us and maybe we are right, it might benefit us but it does not benefit all. There are many people across our world who work incredibly hard to feed and house their families. They only just make ends meet ,and then there are those who don’t make ends meet despite how hard they work. This is true here in Australia too.
In the Gospel reading Jesus asked the disciples for their full allegiance and he continues to ask his disciples today. Will we align ourselves to the Empire of the Kingdom of God? We cannot serve two masters. Jesus said “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24). We need to make a choice. Jesus warns it will not be easy, it will not be without conflict. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). This is not to be taken literally to mean that we can and should be violent. Later at Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus says: “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). Rather we should understand it as a poetic and metaphorical way of saying what is recorded in Luke 12:51; “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
The way of Jesus is divisive. Jesus quotes the prophet Micha saying:
“For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Matthew 10:35)
This is not division for the sake of division but division that is caused by taking on a bigger view of family. A view that is not satisfied with just us having more – wealth, power, status, privilege – but that cares about all having enough even if that means those with the most end up with less. This is not a popular proposal for all and those with the wealth, power and privilege control the systems of power and work hard to silence these radical voices that call out against injustice, racism, exclusion, violence and impoverishment in order to maintain the status quo. As disciples where is our allegiance?