Sunday, September 19, 2021

Raising a family

Sermon for the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

For many people, the family is a terrible place to be. For some, Dad's an alcoholic who beats Mum when she hides the money. But then Grandad abused Dad when he was a boy. But then Grandad never knew who his father was, but only a succession of men who showed up in his house and treated his mother like dirt.

There is a reason for a family's dysfunction and often it goes back - way back!

[PAUSE]

Of course, we cannot be held responsible for the sins of our fathers, but we are responsible for how we allow the sins of our fathers to affect our life. Dad may be an alcoholic but we need not be. Grandad may be an abuser, but that will not excuse any abuse at our hands. The sins of our fathers provide an explanation for  their actions not an excuse nor a justification for them.

But the sins of our fathers leave us weakened. We need to heal.

[PAUSE]

At first glance, the Church does not seem to be the place to heal. We know well that there has been a woeful catalogue of abuse carried out. Some who have been entrusted with the care of souls have sought the care of their own perverted pleasure rather than bringing the love of God to those desperate to know that they have some value.

But the Church is a family. We are all related to each other by more than our own blood. We are related by the blood of Christ. Jesus is our surname.

[PAUSE]

God chooses to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He chooses His words with care. It is clear that He wants us to think of Mankind's relationship with Him as being a family. This is why He uses the names of Father and Son. In receiving the sacrament, we take into ourselves the true Blood of Christ. We become blood relations more and more as we continue in the Church.

Jesus gives life to the family. See how He raises the son of the Widow of Nain. She who loses a family has it restored to her. He is the means by which the whole Christian family is reconciled to God. This family, dysfunctional, filled with scandals and sin, is restored by Christ Himself Who is ever present in His Church. We sin but we have a way to return.

But we have to play our part in helping this family to heal and grow. If we love Christ, we must keep His commandments. We must love God. We must love neighbour.

And we must forgive other who trespass against us.

[PAUSE]

Just as the sins of the fathers infect later generations so the virtues of fathers can help the healing progress. To forgive truly is an act of rebellion against the Devil and a renunciation of his membership of our family. To forgive the unforgivable is an act of heroism and sacrifice, and sacrifice means to make holy. 

A life that is committed to God, seeking forgiveness and freely forgiving, seeking His love and freely loving, seeking holiness and freely offering sacrifice - this life is the life of the Church and one that we need to embrace in order to find healing.

[PAUSE]

God is a father, but He is not an abusive father, though He will be accused of that by some who do not read the Scriptures carefully and fully. God is Our Father and our surname is Jesus. Whether we like it or not, we are the family of the Church and we will find healing in that family despite the sins of the fathers. Jesus can raise this family from the dead. Indeed, He already has!

Friday, September 17, 2021

A reflection for time

 


A few thoughts on why it is best to keep our minds focused on the here and now in our prayers.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Signalling Holiness

Sermon for the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Do you find yourself being beaten by the good deeds of others?

You offer a man a slice of cake and he says loudly, "oh no! I'm a vegan. I wouldn't dream of hurting animals just for a slice of cake!"

You try to sell a poppy for Remembrance Sunday but the woman says loudly, "don't you have one in this colour? I only support all those in the services who suffer from discrimination from their superiors."

You try to donate some children's bibles to your local school but the head of the PTA says loudly, "we can't possibly take those! We can't be seen to have those. It would ruin our image as an inclusive school!"

It seems that all your good deeds just aren't that good, doesn't it?

[PAUSE]

What is most interesting is that the response to your attempts to do something nice are met with loud voices of refusal. Why are they so loud in saying, "no!" and then giving a reason which makes you seem like the bad guy? They could just either politely say, "thanks, but not for me!" or quietly dispose of what you give them into the nearest bin.

Why be so loud?

To be loud means that they want other people to hear. They don't just want you to hear their disapproval, they want others to hear that they disapprove. They have to be seen to be first in tackling an issue to gain the approval of others or to remain in the acceptable set. They are virtue signalling.

[PAUSE]

Virtue Signalling is exactly that. Those who practise virtue signalling proclaim their disapproval of what is socially unacceptable loudly to prove that they are good people.

Why do people need to prove themselves to be good? Why not just be good and let others deal with their issues?

[PAUSE]

What is interesting is that there is a lot of talk of "being good without God." Of course, you can do good things without believing in God - some atheists have been better philanthropists than many Christians! But nonetheless, what is inescapable is that if there is such a thing as goodness then there is God.

And God wants us to be good, not to be seen to be good.

[PAUSE]

If we seek first the approval of others then we simply will not find any happiness. There will always be some way in which we have to struggle to keep up with the whims of society. Further, we alienate ourselves from others who are not keeping up with the whims of society.

Being socially acceptable falls under the category of Mammon because it is a lust for the approval of others. It is an idol.

Christ bids us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. He bids us to be holy not be seen to be holy. We are to do good because we love God and to make real our faith in Him. Of course, we do need to be worried about the welfare of others - we are to love our neighbour - but we must do so in the context of the love of God, not in the glow of society's nod of approval.

Doing things to be socially acceptable does not help us address our sins within us, nor does it help us deal with our own insecurities about who we are. Only God can deal with our sins. Only God can tell us who we truly are. Only God can transform us into the people that He created us to be and who we long to be. 

[PAUSE]

Jesus bids us to be holy in ourselves. How quietly can you be holy?

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Monday, September 06, 2021

Sunday, September 05, 2021

How the mountain comes to Jesus

Ten lepers, all healed, but only one thanks Jesus in worship.

Why should it matter if this tenth leper - the one who returned to thank Our Lord - was a Samaritan?

[PAUSE]

Of course, the Jews and the Samaritans have been fighting since the time that they were released from captivity in Babylon. The Jews believe that Jerusalem is the place where God is to be honoured on Mount Moriah. The Samaritans believe that it should be Mount Gerizim. This may sound petty, but it's all to do with where the patriarch Joshua begins building the Jewish nation starting with the most important thought about where to worship God.

Once you have a division as to where your people should worship based on your treasured history and treasured relationship with God, then you can see how much this changes things. It not only means that the Jews and Samaritans worship in different places, but they have different scriptures and practices. In each others eyes, the other becomes unclean and to be avoided at all costs.

If Samaritans are to be avoided, and lepers are to be avoided, what must be the life of a Samaritan leper?

[PAUSE]

If the grateful leper is a Samaritan then what we see is something important about Jesus.

The first clue is in His Holy Name. Jesus is the Greek version of Joshua. It is the conquest of Joshua that leads to the establishment of the Hebrew Nation and it is the disagreement about Joshua's conquest that causes the Jewish-Samaritan schism.

And it is Jesus Who presents an end to that schism by making things whole. Notice that the nine lepers are all healed, but the Samaritan leper is made whole by Faith in Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of what Joshua started. Jesus is the King of God's Kingdom and it is Faith in Him that makes the Kingdom whole. It is Faith in Jesus Christ that makes us whole.

[PAUSE]

We, like the leper, are full of incompleteness, brokenness, and divisions. Our flesh wars against our spirit and so we cannot do the good that we should do. The divisions with our society and within ourselves are like disagreements in where to worship God. What matters is that we do worship Him in spirit and in truth.

The divisions in the Church will be healed by the Lord at His Coming Again, and we have to have faith in that. It means that we should show generosity to Christians who have different interpretations of Holy Scripture and end all point-scoring exercises which are designed to hurt, belittle and divide.

It does mean, however, that only Jesus completes the Faith. This is not a fake Jesus on a mountain of our own making, but the real Jesus Who does not sit in agreement with our society's ideas of good and bad, Who does not change His mind about what constitutes sin and Who demands our perfection in Him. It is Jesus Who makes the mountain not we who put Him on it.