Last week we spoke of the kingdom of heaven.  This week we are continuing to explore the differences between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. “in the wisdom of God, the world did not now God through wisdom, God decided through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”   If we look at what the is considered wise or intelligent in Jesus’ time, Christianity was not it.  The cultural need to climb the social ladder and be associated with the privilege was a real focus for people in Jesus time.  The importance of honour, pride, and family status was more important then health, then family, then faith.  In contrast, Jesus spent time with sinners, outcasts, and other social pariahs… like tax collectors, and persons of ill repute.  Worst of all, he died a humiliating and dishonourable death …crucifixion.  So in a culture of social climbing why would anyone want to associated with Christianity?  What could one possibly gain? In the eyes of the world both then and now, nothing.   Even now with Christendom long gone, any worldly gain that one used to get by being associated with the right church has disappeared.  Even being the priest doesn’t garner you any privilege … even at hospitals I am just as likely to be turned away from visiting someone in a collar as out.  In Jesus time there were a number of gods, temples and cults around and you had your pick, You worshiped the god that would benefit you the most.  These days we don’t really think of our religion in terms of what Gods are available to benefit us, but we still tend to base our most of our decisions on what is best for us.  What job we take.  What people we associate with.  What car we drive or what groups we belong to.  IF we have the choice, we as a culture chose what is best for us.  Yet, Christ teaches something quite the opposite.  Christ teaches us to turn upside down of all that makes sense in the world and through the eyes of our culture, and insists that Christians believe and behave in ways that are distinctly counter cultural. Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted, those who mourn…since when?   These are not the people we would aim to join up with, in most cultures eyes we’d be more apt to say ‘blessed are the rich, blessed are the successful, blessed are those held in honour by others.’  But that is not what God says…what Jesus says. So, what does God say?  What is this foolishness does Jesus call us to? In the New Testament we have “Love God and Love neighbour as self”, In the Old Testament we have Micah “(God) has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” The two are quite similar.  After all, if we truly love our neighbour then we will seek justice for them, offer kindness to them and behave with humility.  However, we don’t always do what we are told and in Micah we see that challenge…we see the writer struggling with what God has asked for and what we try to do to appease God instead. “with what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams? With ten of thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn or my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”   Throughout the Old testament it has been made clear what God wants and what is most important, yet we read the people, through Micah sarcastically asking if they should sacrifice burnt offerings? Or offerings of rams or oil or the flesh of your flesh…like Abraham and Isaac.  Why is that?  Why even pretend God would want such extremes? Are the people making excuses or implying that what God is asking is too much?  Perhaps people have made these offerings in the past because it is easier than to follow God’s commands, because they are hard and require real change.  Giving of rivers of oil when your neighbour only has a cruet also makes us feel that we have leverage over God.  That we have done better than others. Now a days we don’t really give burnt offerings but we do give of our wages, which is the modern equivalent. What should I bring before the Lord?  Thousands of dollars?  Give up my car? Shall I sell my house?  Clearly the answer is no, but we are far more likely to donate finances, then to follow the command of God to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. Because it’s easier, it require less change…less work, because doing as God asks does require change, it requires effort, and makes us feel superior.              Yet we know what God wants.             Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right do the following:             Speak the truth from your heart             Do not slander             Don’t complain of your neighbor             Keep your word even to your sacrifice             Do not lend money at interest or take bribes   Now I think we do try.  St Andrew’s has a budget for outreach, and we allocate a certain amount to charity each fiscal year, but I wonder though what percent of our budget that is?  We have a number of groups that rent the hall for a pittance, because these are groups that benefit the community and are part of how we live out our call to love our neighbour.  Yet, we continue to be wary of people who are suspicious looking, lingering where we think they shouldn’t and I question hall we truly used our building and resources to their fullest potential? We open our doors and actively welcome…. whole heartedly embrace our neighbouring parish St Chad’s, but still we complain. We participate in the west Winnipeg group, and I believe we walk humbly with them, but what about the next steps?  How much would we really give? Would we truly sacrifice? Beyond that we are called to actively seek justice for the poor, for indigenous persons, for refugees.  We are called to be kind not only to those who are like us, but to those who are opposite to us.  We are called to be humble, not to boast of our accomplishments, not to show off our wealth, not to one up the person next to us. So what does it mean for us, for St Andrew’s to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly?  We are coming up to our AGM really soon.  In that meeting we will review all that we have done in the past year.            We have all done these before, we know how they go and the format they follow.  The many reports offered in the packages are rarely discussed in depth…what is discussed …at length…is the budget.  When was the last time we discussed the work of the church in terms of Micah’s call?  In terms of the psalmists definitions of what the faithful look like. What would it look like to open up those reports and ask: How has our church demonstrated kindness this past year?  What would it look like to analyze the budget with the goal of How can we ensure justice in the year to come? What if we looked at our place in the deanery among our neighbouring churches and debated how to help them and walk with them whilst remaining humble. What would an annual general meeting look like in the kingdom of heaven.  What would change and what would our priorities be? In the next weeks we are going to be writing reports, nominating people for positions of leadership, creating visions and approving the budget.   We are going to be laying out the foundation for our recently expanded St. Andrew’s; a parish that has a new history with St. Chad’s, a parish that is in a deanery that is struggling and hurting, in a church which is in the midst of major changes and unknown direction. What can we do this coming year, as individuals and as a parish to do as our scripture calls. How can we start our parish year seeing with the eyes of the Kingdom of heaven?  This year let us do justice, love kindness and walk humbly, together with God.