Pentecost 6A
Matthew 10:16, 24-25, 34, 37-39

A Liturgy is also available


Matthew the storyteller tells us a lot about his own particular community
and how they worked and lived and created a sense of community
to keep God’s dream and presentness alive among them.

And he does this is various ways.

A couple of weeks ago we heard his story of the sending out of the apostles
with the invitation to acquire and embrace
new habits of seeing, and
new habits of being.

And I suggested then that as far as we can make out, or guess,
that ‘sending out’ was to be shaped by the broad gospel context of compassion.
        Com- passion.
        Feeling with.
        From the very depths of their person.

As all the biblical storytellers remind us, as they collected the fragments of sayings remembered by the early Jesus movement:
Jesus own experiences with the marginalised and fragmented
        world of peasant villagers, had moved him
        in his ‘guts’, his ‘gizzards’, his ‘womb’ (not to put too fine a point on it!).

Com- passion.
Feeling with.
Helping those same peasant families and workers to resist
the shame and worthlessness with which the
taxation, farming policies, and religious purity codes 
had labelled them  (Bessler-Northcutt 2004).

And where God’s presence and not Rome’s presence was fully established.

Such awareness and sensitivities had to become
shaping factors in individual lives.

Now this week we hear some more of those instructions in our gospel story.
But we also hear something new - a warning:
        'I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves,
        so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves’.

Engaging in community building, or ministry, or wellbeing activities,
which challenges the dominant power structures of a society or group
        can be risky business.

Living out a ‘dream’ which does not neglect the violations
of human rights resulting from
poor housing,
inadequate education and health care,
widespread apathy and indifference, and 
a lack of freedom  (Adapted from US Bishops, Statement on American Indians/1977)
can also shake any ruling elite to its core.

Aggressive, abusive name calling - even violent responses - can result.

So in the spirit of wise serpents and innocent doves
I want to recall an event which happened around this time, three years ago.
        And which I was reminded of just a few days ago.

The event?  A ‘Manifesto for Wellbeing’ was launched in Melbourne.
        And those who put this Manifesto together – The Australia Institute - suggested
        some very interesting and gospel-sounding stuff.

A society’s wellbeing comes from
“being connected and engaged, from being enmeshed in a web of relationships and interests.  These give meaning to our lives.”

The authors claimed that despite all that governments say about tax cuts,
evidence shows the focus on wealth creation
as the foundation for raising wellbeing, is mistaken.

Let me quote from the Manifesto:
"The relentless drive for greater economic efficiencies, which are needed to maintain high growth rates, has been accompanied by increasing inequality, sustained high unemployment, the growth in under- employment and overwork, pressures on public services such as health and education, and the geographic concentration of disadvantage, leading to deeper and more entrenched divisions within society."

This is powerful, and perhaps for some, disturbing stuff!
Enough to perhaps even unsettle our own political persuasions
        and personal core values.

That our collective wellbeing or ‘happiness’ is improved
if we live in a peaceful, flourishing, and supportive society,
          rather than if we have more money
          and more of the things money buys.

Now some of you may remember that when the Manifesto was first release,
        I made copies of it and distributed here at St James.
        I also indicated that I had accepted the invitation to become a signatory to it.

Since then more than 8,500 others have done the same.

While I still have a copy of the Manifesto on my library shelves
I admit it has been a while since I have read it.

So for now, let me revisit the document, and offer an outline of it’s contents…

The Manifesto proposes nine areas of concern.
• Provide fulfilling work
• Reclaim our time
• Protect the environment
• Rethink education
• Invest in early childhood
• Discourage materialism and promote responsible advertising
• Build communities and relationships
• A fair society
• Measure what matters

I don’t have time to deal with all nine categories, even briefly.

So let me highlight just three.
• Discourage materialism and promote responsible advertising

Buying a particular brand of margarine or motor vehicle
cannot give us a happy family,
or deliver us from humdrum lives.
Advertising makes us more materialistic.

• Build communities and relationships

A flourishing society is characterised by vibrant, resilient
and sustainable communities.
We need to value all carers more.
Volunteers need to be recognised and rewarded.

• A fair society

Widening disparities in incomes and access to services
create resentment and disharmony.
Instead of blaming the victims, we should acknowledge
that some people are left behind by the market.

More public funds could also go to overseas aid
to help the poor in developing countries
escape from poverty and destitution.


I asked it of us all a couple of weeks ago.  Let me ask it again today.
What difference does our being a (progressive) Christian make in the lives of others?
        Are the suffering and marginalised better off...
        Are the poor and homeless finding their lives improved...
        Do children have a brighter global future...
                                All because we are on the journey which Jesus first chartered?

Throughout history the various sages and prophets have all counselled
that happiness or wellbeing as an individual or as a community,
        is not a goal but a consequence of how we live.

The changes proposed in this Manifesto could inspire
healthier communities
stronger personal relationships
happier workplaces
a better balance between work and home
less commercialisation, and
greater environmental protection.

Likewise, continuing on the journey which Jesus first chartered
rather than worshipping that journey...
And re-imagining the kingdom or realm or empire of God
from the perspective of gospel compassion...

Can all keep alive the dream and presentness of God,
even in cynical Australia!

As Andrew Hamilton, Jesuit priest and editor of the e-zine Eureka Street said in his editorial,
in response to the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute
index of consumer sentiment, published last week,
“Steady and decent public policies [by Governments] in which we can take pride actually build confidence.  High economic confidence is quite useful.  High human confidence is not only useful.  It is also valuable”  (Eureka Street. 16 June 2008).

Bessler-Northcutt, J. “Learning to see God: Prayer and Practice in the Wake of the Jesus Seminar” in A. Dewey. (ed.) The Historical Jesus Goes To Church. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2004.