One of the great tasks and responsibility laid on each of us is to pass on the faith to each succeeding generation. This is specifically spelled out in the early books of the Bible where Moses instructs the Israelites to teach their children what is vital and central to the Law.
What is often not noticed in this injunction is that it is often couched in story form. What do I mean? When we come to read the account of the giving of the Law in Exodus 20 (look it up in your Bible), it begins in a narrative not in commands or laws. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery . . .
The Ten Commandments begin in recounting what God has done in liberating Israel from servitude. It tells us that God comes to bring us life and freedom and wants us to grow into that freedom. But it is a different kind of freedom to just doing whatever we like because it is the freedom to echo the actions of God and so to be a people who liberate others.
In recent months and weeks we have seen increasing numbers of women around the world speaking out about the abuse of women by men in different arenas of life, and the inequality and enculturated attitudes in many work places not to mention homes, that resists making the necessary changes which would make women feel safe.
The church is not immune from all this, although the churches that formed the Uniting Church were among the very first in Australia to ordain and encourage women into leadership roles, and our current Moderator and President are a visible sign of that encouragement. However there are other churches that still resist the ordination of women who would do well to listen again to those stories in the Bible that tell of the important role women have played in the story of redemption. Even more powerful is the way Jesus engaged with women.
Luke’s Gospel in particular notices how Jesus treats women on an equal footing to men, regarding Mary and Martha as disciples and encourages them to join in the discussion rather than to be exiled into the kitchen. But Jesus also emphasises to his male disciples that he has called them to service not to privilege. The way Jesus dealt with the men about to stone a woman to death for having an affair, was to put responsibility back onto the men – it takes two to tango – so why just blame the woman. It’s a strong stance and one that we are called to emulate. These stories inform how we are called to live, honouring one another whatever our gender, as children made in the image and likeness of God.
In our readings for Sunday the Prophet Jeremiah speaks about God writing his law on our hearts not just on tablets of stone or modern day tablets for that matter. It’s a passage that speaks about God’s deep longing for a healthy relationship with us and between us which springs from the heart as a response of love and gratitude rather than a duty we must perform. God is not like the traffic cop waiting for us to make a mistake and book us. On the contrary God is like a loving parent whose unconditional love seeks to evoke in us an echoing love, and because it is unconditional, because it is not forced or demanded, gives us the freedom to respond.
Holy Week begins next week and I hope that many of you will come to our services – every night at 7.30pm in the church and 9.00am on Good Friday. I look forward to seeing you