Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Death and the Incarnation

Sermon for the first Sunday in Advent

In Advent,
it is customary 
to think on 
the Four Last Things,
Death, Judgment,
Hell and Heaven.

We do so 
in preparation
for a great mystery:
Word made Flesh
God made Man
Divine made Human.

A seemingly impossible

The immortal
becomes mortal.


Why not just become
an immortal human being?

Why bother to die?


We know that 
sin and death are 
two sides of the same coin.

We sin because we die
and we die because we sin
as St Paul tells the Romans.

But Jesus doesn't sin.

So why does He die?

The Problem is
that we don't necessarily die
because we sin. 

Look at the Holy Innocents
who die 
before they even commit 
a sinful act.

They die
because of someone else's sin
- Herod's murderous paranoia.

Human beings die
because of sin
and Our Lord
chooses not to be an exception
to this.

He embraces full humanity,
empties Himself 
even of immortality
relying on the grace of His Father
to be fully human
and live the human life.

And that means 
openness to death.

But He need not have died.
It is possible that He didn't have to.

The problem is
that we killed Him.


Of course,
it is the perfidious
rulers of the temple
and Jewish religious leaders
who are directly responsible
for Jesus' Death.

They use the crowds 
as an instrument
in their cry of "Crucify!"
and thus the crowd sins 
through ignorance and weakness.

But God knows.

God sees all this
in His Eternity.

knowing that Jesus dies,
God uses that death
as a means of life.

This is the genius
of Almighty God
to use the Death of His Son,
whom the Pharisees 
chose to murder
freely and without coercion,
to undo the power
of sin and death
and give life to all 
who would seek 
to live in Him.


In Adam,
we are separated from God
and at the mercy of a world
corrupted by sin
and, in our weakness,
we die.

Look at the news
and see the connection
between sin and death.

Then look to Christmas Day
and see God Incarnate
born to end sin and death
by making death
a gateway to Eternal Life
in Him.

The world may indeed
go to Hell in a handcart
as the saying goes,
but that is not the fate
of the Christian.

While we may 
be devastated by 
the levels of sin, death,
depravity and decay around us,
we can still look into the manger
just as we have done for 
two thousand years
and see the same hope
that sin and death will pass away
because the Word of God
will never pass away.

The Incarnation does not end in Death:
it ends in our life into Eternity.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

As the darkness deepens

Sermon for the Sunday next before Advent

Who is Jeremiah 
speaking to?

He tells us that God 
"will raise unto David
a righteous Branch,
and a King shall reign,
and prosper,
and shall execute judgment
and justice in the earth."

Is that message for us?


It would seem not.

is preaching to
the peoples of Israel
and Judah
affected by the Great Captivity
and scattering
among the nations.

He tells of the coming Messiah,
the Branch of David,
the Root of Jesse,
the Lion of Judah.

But that's all past.

Jesus has come and gone.

What possible message
can Jeremiah have
for us now?

What can Jeremiah say
to this time
in which there is still
a barbarous war
in the Middle East
in which so much hatred
is being aired
and acted upon
with such great ferocity?


What message does Jeremiah
have for us
in a world in which
there is much 
darkness and depression?

Mankind is becoming
demanding recompense
in order to find some closure
on the pains of living.

Mankind is seeing its demons
in Society,
in the Environment,
in the hearts of others,
in the stars and planets,
in the systems of living
which are supposed to protect
and allow for growth.

Mankind is now
imprisoned in a cage of freedom
which has been fabricated
by our fall from the face of God.

Mankind seems to be losing hope
and the darkness is coming.


But who is Jeremiah
speaking to?

He addresses precisely
those who have lost hope.

His words
are the words of God
- he is a prophet after all.

His words tell us 
of the growth of the Branch
the coming of the Kingdom
the establishment of justice.

He is not presenting
a final end
but the beginning of something
that, for us,
has already been sown
but is growing now
and will continue to grow
throughout Human history.

God's message through Jeremiah
is a message of hope.

God wants us to have hope
and hold it
and allow it to grow
so that faith and love 
may also increase.

God has never, 
never left the people who love Him
without hope.

we may not know what God is doing -
in fact we probably cannot know
what God is doing -
but he tells us to hold on
and continue to dare to hope
in Him
though the stars fall from the Heavens
and the angel trumpets echo 
around the earth,
though the dreaded horsemen
thunder across the nations
and men become sick and faint.

We hold on.


Advent approaches.

This is a time for us
to fast and pray
and to nuture the tiny grains of hope
that we have
because the Kingdom of God
is coming
and is now here with us
and we shall see it again
present with us
in the tiny Christ Child 
of Christmas Day.

The Devil will always
try to destroy that hope
in whatever way he can,
but, while the Innocents may perish,
the Christ Child will not
and He will give all good things
to those who lose for His sake.

The Innocents will receive their justice.

And we will see our hope fulfilled,
because we dare to cling onto it
for the love of Him
Who dares to hope in us
and shares His hope with us.

Glory be to Him 
that sitteth upon the throne
and to the Lamb
now and unto the age of ages.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Making Jesus unclean?

Sermon for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

Let's just be clear about this.

According to the Jewish Law
touching blood
makes you unclean.

if someone unclean
touches you
you become unclean too.

How selfish of this woman, then,
to touch the hem of
Jesus' garment,
just to stop her bleeding.

She doesn't even ask him.

She just does it.

She makes Jesus unclean
without Him knowing.

Not only is Jesus unclean
but all whom He touches
become unclean.

Who knows
how many people
become contaminated
just because this woman
wants to stop bleeding.

Who knows how many people
have had their relationship with God
by one woman's selfishness.


That's the way
a Pharisee might see it,
all fixated on the Law
and the Rite
and the purity.

But there is something
they will overlook.

Does the woman's bleeding stop?

of course.

how can someone unclean
on the outside of society
unable to approach God heal her?

This healing comes from God.

It means that Jesus is 
not unclean.

He notices the power leave Him
to heal her,
but see how He tells her
that her faith has made her whole.

He does not see selfishness.
He sees her trust in Him.

She knows that,
if He is the great Healer
that He has shown Himself to be,
if He is the Messiah
that she believes Him to be,
if He is the Son of God
that He claims to be
then He can never be made unclean.

She has complete faith in Him.

But she is scared 

It's scary having
your faith tested!

The devil likes to put
his little grain of doubt
in your mind.

But Jesus Himself says
that a grain of faith
can grow bigger than anything
and she has that grain of faith
enough to dare to touch Him
and be healed.

She lets go
of the grip of the Jewish Law
with its restrictions
on clean and unclean
and allows the cleanness
of her faith
to bring her to the One 
Who, not only can heal,
but Who wants to heal.

And, to strengthen this point
He goes to a girl
whom everyone says is dead
and who laugh at Him
when He says she isn't.

And this dead girl
he touches
and the Jewish Law cries,

But the girl revives
and is alive 
and cannot now be unclean.

Where has the uncleanness gone?

In Christ
it is nullified
- made nothing.

The only uncleanness
is the scorn
that pours out of
unfaithful hearts.

It is not what goes into a man
that makes him unclean
but what comes out of his heart.


Our faith in Christ
is the beginning of our healing
and comes from the same grace
that God gives to everyone.

We cannot make Christ unclean 
with our presence,
we cannot contaminate His Grace
with our sin.

We can never despair
of the mercy of Christ
Who will forgive the sins,
no matter how great,
that we present to Him
in repentance and humility.

While we are contaminated
by the sins of those
around us,
while our sins can
and do contaminate
those around us,
they are blotted out
through the Love of God.

Our baptism
has made us clean
and started the process
of justification,
and glorification
in us
which will continue
for as long as we turn to Christ.