Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that we all know the saying: The sun shines on the righteous. As those who have ever said it to me will know, Jesus actually says: … he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. The idea that God’s bounty is for the ‘righteous’ alone is in total contradiction to the message Jesus came to earth to share with humanity. The sun and the rain, every aspect of God’s love and grace is for all, and not just for the self-elected few.
Many times I hear of people talking about ‘my’ church. Sometimes I hear others correcting this misplaced sense of possession. But, the words they use are generally: ‘Actually it’s our church.’ In speaking of our church, they are still speaking of possession. The church does not belong to any of us, because it is God’s Church. Our role in the life of the Church is not one of ownership. We certainly have shared responsibility to love and care for our churches, but that does not give us the right to assume a level of ownership that excludes God from the equation.
Both clergy and laity fall into the trap of turning the Church into some sort of club. Despite the existence of a comprehensive rule book (the Bible) they feel the need to impose ‘club rules’ based on human preference and prejudice. They speak the words of scripture and pray the prayers but they also create another layer of expectation which is both non-scriptural and non-Christian.
The message of today’s reading is about the universality of the Church as a place in which all people can gather in prayer and worship, a place where all people can be nourished and strengthened for their lives of true discipleship.
As we reflect on the complete message of Jesus’ words, let us pray that we might not become distracted from his message of love and service. Let us pray that we might not become obsessed with buildings and money, because the Church is so much more than that. Let us pray that we might take our place as vital bricks in the edifice which Christ created on the rock that was his living, breathing and worshipping disciple, Peter. The disciple who certainly got it wrong and yet still enjoyed the full radiance of the divine sun and the spiritual cleansing of the heavenly rain.