My family and I were very blessed to be able to afford a short vacation, and I excitedly booked return flights to Miami with American Airlines. It was only when I received a confirmation email from the airline that I discovered that I had accidentally booked the return flight for the following month. I had made the booking when I was tired and I guess I simply clicked on the wrong box at some point and misread the dates when I hit the button to confirm. It was an honest mistake and therefore I figured the airline would understand and I would be able to change the flight. How wrong could I be?
After hours on the phone and Internet, American Airlines refused to change the flight. Their defence was that my reason for the flight change was not good enough. It was not good enough that I had made a blunder, and I was forced to purchase a new one-way flight for a considerable sum of money. I literally had to pay for my mistake. I felt deflated, upset, and cross with myself. But more than that, I felt (and still feel) angry that there was no sympathy, no compassion, no understanding, no kindness, and no generosity.
Some of you may think to yourselves, “Well, tough. You made the mistake and so you paid the consequences. Suck it up.” But, is that really the world we want to live in? You see, I think it matters because I do not want to live in a society where avarice, acquisitiveness, and greed are normalised. Some people think that the Church is irrelevant but I suggest that both the message and presence of the Church is of paramount importance. Crucial. Vital. Essential. The Church is the antidote to worldliness. What other organisation in the world (and I use that term loosely) stands for and lives out the Godly values of generosity, forgiveness, and love? Godly values are needed at every level in our society — in our own lives and at a corporate level. The Church — the community of people living under the banner of Christ — proclaim it and they live it.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel — the message of good news. This week we turn to the pages of the gospel written by Luke where Jesus says that those that will be blessed are the poor, the hungry, the grieving, the hated, the excluded, the derided, and the disgraced. But here is the thing. It is not “pie in the sky when you die.” Yes, we know that one day in the future there will be a reward, but Jesus is talking about what happens when God’s Kingdom comes in the here and now. When God’s Kingdom comes the poor are looked after, the hungry are fed, the grieving are comforted, the hated are loved, the excluded are accepted, the derided are encouraged, and the disgraced are forgiven.
Jesus did not come to the world to tell us about a Kingdom that would one day exist in the future. He came to inaugurate it, to establish it, and to invite us to be part of it — that through us, the transforming presence of God might be felt in the world.
Alexander Pope, the 18th Century poet, coined the phrase, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Humans make mistakes. We all do. Some of us make big mistakes and some of us make little mistakes on a daily basis. Some of us, like me, are clearly unable to click the right box on an airline booking system! But still, God has called us to be part of the Kingdom of God and join with him in his mission in the world. Every member of the Church — you and me — are ambassadors for the King.
You might be thinking that you are not good enough, well enough, smart enough, or bold enough to be part of God’s Kingdom, but remember, God has chosen you. He has looked after you so you can look after others; fed you so you can feed others; comforted you so you can comfort others; loved you so you can love others; accepted you so you can accept others; encouraged you so you can encourage others; and he forgave you so you can forgive others.
He blessed you to be a blessing.
And because of this, for those that are poor, hungry, grieving, hated, excluded, derided, or disgraced, the Kingdom of God really is “good news.”