We own the world.
Notes on the Sunday address by Rev Ric Holland, 5 March 2017
The apostle Paul, says himself, owns nothing. All the early disciples and this strange bunch of itinerant Christian preachers owned nothing. They were dependent upon others for food, clothing and shelter. So how can he, with his colleague Timothy, possibly say they owned the world?
Paul is talking about a very specific sort of ownership; it’s not about hoarding stuff, or stacking stuff away in savings accounts or dollars. It’s about having something for which you are responsible and connecting yourself with it.
If we own things, we are responsible for them. We show this every day in our ordinary lives. If we own a car, we look after it, we wash it, maintain it, check the oil etc. If we live in a house, we cut the lawn, we clean the windows etc. We wash our clothes and hang them up properly.
And because we’re responsible for these things, they reflect back on us, like the quote in this week’s Order of Service. “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” – Chris Maser (Forest Primeval: the natural history of an Ancient Forest)
The responsibility of ownership means that:
1) We have a responsibility for the world and its environment.
We must be concerned about the declining Barrier Reef. After the worst die off in the reef’s history scientists are worried that high sea temperatures will affect the area again even worse. In 2016 65% of the corals in the northern reef have died and now we see evidence of beginnings in the south.
The Polar ice caps have melted faster in the last 20 years than in the previous 10,000 years.
Because of pollution predominantly to toxic fuels and climate change we presently have over 1500 Australian land based species in fear of extinction.
This is our world and we need to remember that we own it. We have responsibility for it.
2) We have responsibility for each other
Look around you, all the people here belong to you and you to them. We have responsibility for each other. That’s why in this church we reach out through our Contact and Care Team to our fellows needing love, care and support. That is why from this church; through Mingary we touch the lives of hundreds of people under stress.
This why somehow we should reach out to many people who are hungry, exploited, imprisoned, people who are homeless, sick, bereaved, people who are refugees, scared, abused. This who Isaiah is talking about in Isaiah 58 v.1-13; a rag tag bunch of survivors who made it back to Palestine in an attempt to re build their lives.
And by reaching out to others through volunteering we are in fact helping ourselves. In a national survey conducted last year it was identified that 85% of volunteers had improved personal wellbeing through their volunteering. It is a win-win situation.
3) And yes, we have a responsibility to ourselves
We’ve all come across people who “have let themselves go”, who have lost self-esteem, who are not caring for themselves. We have a body which has been described as “the temple of the spirit” and we so often abuse it. We put unhealthy things into it. A national study published by the University of Sydney says “Australia has become a nation of sloths, eating poorly and exercising inadequately”. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation reports that Australians eat three times more junk food than is acceptable to maintaining good health.
Part of our responsibility to ourselves is also about continuing to explore and educate ourselves. The Dalia Lama said, “Everyone you meet knows something that you don’t. Sharing your knowledge is way to achieve immortality”. That is why it’s so important to be open to new ideas and new understandings of the world around us and the very faith that we claim and identify with by being part of this church. We must always be prepared to knock down false Gods. And share that understanding. That is what evangelism is, sharing good news.
I remember speaking to someone and commending the findings of the Jesus Seminar to them. I even lent him a book which recorded the findings of over 150 world class Biblical Scholars and Theologians in their quest for the historical Jesus. He refused to open the book! This attitude is so closed and unhealthy.
We must continually be committed to caring for ourselves both physically and mentally.
4) We have a responsibility for the future
As Theodore Roosevelt said we must cherish our history and in so doing create a future on it from the present.
Don’t just let the future happen. Create it. Direct it. Own it.
This is a message for the church. For this church, to own our future and in so doing it will mean we will have to take a few risks. For me this is what leadership is all about. Sydney Morning Herald reported that over 50% of Australians want strong leaders willing to take risks. We’re not getting it from our politicians so let’s start with where we are and we’re here now.
I’m looking to a future where we won’t always get it right but we’ll give it a go and make a difference in this city.